Sharing agile successes and failures

Ron Swanson is a consultant for Ranstad Technologies, with 25 years of experience managing and consulting diverse teams ranging from small to large multi-million dollar projects. He’ll share experiences – good and bad – with the Eastern Iowa Agile group. Find details and RSVP on…

Partnership between Kirkwood and Iowa Startup Accelerator aims to ‘exponentially’ spread Agile in the Corridor

Newly-minted ScrumMasters will work with Iowa Startup Accelerator teams Thanks to a partnership between Kirkwood Community College and the Iowa Startup Accelerator, the Corridor has around 30 new ScrumMasters this week. A ScrumMaster is a key role in Agile project management strategies. Agile methods break large tasks (such as developing a new software product) down into small to-do lists, and self-organizing teams constantly adjust and re-prioritize. There is an emphasis on quickly delivering iterative versions of the product to the customer, rather than creating one final version over a longer period of time. Scrum* is one method for organizing Agile practices. Within this framework, the ScrumMaster traditionally keeps an eye on the process itself – minimizing distractions and leading key meetings. The 30 new ScrumMasters took part in a three-day training by Agile For All, a Colorado-based company that has worked extensively with Geonetric on their Agile practices. Geonetric CEO and Iowa Startup Accelerator Managing Director Eric Engelmann has been one of the Corridor’s most vocal proponents of Agile methods, personally leading meetup groups and giving other businesses an inside-look at Geonetric’s processes. Kirkwood sponsored the training, by sending 15 faculty, staff and students. (Kirkwood officials did not disclose their monetary investment, but the list price for individual tickets was more than $1,500.) Nine of those new ScrumMasters will work with the startups in the Iowa Startup Accelerator for 20 hours per week throughout the fall cohort. They will focus on removing obstacles and moving the teams forward – the traditional role of a ScrumMaster. Several of those are students in Kirkwood’s project management certificate program, who completed an...

Innovation Index: This week in Creative Corridor startup news, June 27

Welcome to the Innovation Index! Each week, I’ll round up links and stories from around the web relating to startups, innovation and entrepreneurship in Iowa’s Creative Corridor and around the state. You can help! Email me news and notes.   Quotable: “Policymakers shouldn’t be trying to copy Silicon Valley. Instead, they should be figuring out what domain is (or could be) specific to their region — and then removing the regulatory hurdles for that particular domain. Because we don’t want 50 Silicon Valleys; we want 50 different variations of Silicon Valley, all unique from each other and all focusing on different domains.” — Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in “What it will take to create the next great Silicon Valleys, plural.“ News & notes: Geonetric is bringing back their agile coach, Richard Lawrence, for another round of intensive agile and scrum training. For a cool $1,500, participants in the three-day workshop can be certified as scrum masters. Register today for the early bird rate at agilecorridor.com. The program will also be one of the first to be hosted in Geonetric’s new building. Andy Stoll, Amanda Styron-West and the Seed Here crew spent this week on a road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship in the heartland. The Rise of the Rest tour, featuring AOL founder Steve Case, visited Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville this week. Catch up at riseoftherest.tumblr.com. Des Moines entrepreneur James Eliason, CEO of Goodsmiths, blogged “You have to get lucky.” He gives a shoutout to JPEC at the University of Iowa for kickstarting his entrepreneurial journey. Iowa Workforce Development received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to place Iowans in “apprenticeship based occupations...

Engelmann: Geonetric’s first year without managers

It has been a little more than a year since we took the radical step to eliminate traditional management entirely. Because we declared we’d be open about the experiment, it’s about time to revisit where we are, what’s working and what’s not. What’s Working Well Client satisfaction is higher than it has ever been. Communication is much faster overall. Most decisions are made more quickly — teams can and do make decisions all the time that required various meetings and approvals before. Teams learn and improve faster. There’s no manager or organization chart to fall back on when something isn’t going right. Another factor that we think is driving the speed of improvement is that they have complete line of sight to how they deliver ultimate value to the market. Time dedicated to learning can be prioritized specifically against deliverable work, and it is, frequently. Team dynamics are much stronger — there’s more trust and candor than before. Conversations between peers, with candid feedback, happen much more frequently now. Politics and drama have been reduced greatly. My hypothesis is that most workplace drama comes from power imbalance or fear-based management practices. Pairing is an incredibly powerful tool for a work force to realign its efforts around the demand for work rather than funneling it by specialty. Self-organizing teams are hugely liberating for a business owner. I have much, much more time to think about strategic issues than I did before. HR and culture are strategic weapons. Previously, I think we were conflating culture with cutesy perks and events. Having a foosball table and no dress code is not the...

Agile Beyond Software conference comes to Cedar Rapids in March

Intro to Agile Beyond Software, a two-day conference focusing on bringing agile techniques to all types of employees, will come to the Hotel at Kirkwood March 19-20. The conference is hosted by Agile For All, a consultancy based in Aurora, Colo. Agile is a collection of techniques focusing on self-management and iterative projects which started in software development circles. However, as the name implies, Agile for All helps companies spread the agile philosophy to other departments. “I’d say that it’s all about making a mental shift towards getting the right things done,” wrote Kevin Reiter, agile coach at Geonetric. “You learn how to respond to change effectively.  You make work and results transparent.  The focus goes away from someone’s job title, toward working on the most important things your team needs to accomplish.  It’s really more of a culture shift than anything.” “One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen is just understanding how different personality types learn.  Engineers, in general, learn very differently than someone in Marketing, for example.  The output of each team is different, but there are many parallels you can take from one team’s transition to the next…you just have to find out what works.” Geonetric builds and markets websites for hospitals. They have publicly experimented with agile techniques throughout the organization, and a year ago, abolished all managers. The company has worked with one of the founders of Agile for All for two and a half years. “It’s interactive learning, it’s tangible, and you learn from each other.  It’s definitely not boring,” Reiter wrote. For more information or to register, visit the conference’s eventbrite...