Born curious and stayed that way. As a journalist, helped people understand their world. As an employee communication specialist, helped people understand their work. As a communication coach, help people understand their interactions. As a trainer of agile coaches and facilitators, help people understand each other. I love my work.
What made you start your company?
It’s Understood started, 15 years ago, as a web site – a portal for ideas about communication and conversation. Over time, people who liked what I had to say asked me to do work for them. And, surprise, some of them paid me! I was an accidental entrepreneur and it grew more solid with time.
Was there a single moment that sparked the idea for your company?
In my days as a journalist, I went to a workshop where we looked at our work based on its outcomes. I discovered that what I wrote or said was less relevant than how the audience understood it. I was not in the words business; I was in the understanding business. I still am.
What services/products do you offer?
It’s Understood’s learning programs focus on the first value of the Agile Manifesto, “individuals and interactions.” Our ICAgile-accredited courses in coaching and facilitation focus on the people skills needed for the agile workplace. Our newest course, Agile Fundamentals: Real World Agility, examines the foundations and rationale for agile practices and the mindset shift required to add value in an agile organization.
What do you see as the role of management in agile transformations?
I think the role of managers in agile transformations is to create an environment for doing good work. To do this, they need to understand what’s involved in agile work and resist applying outdated and inappropriate management practices. They can use some help with this. They also can make the business needs come alive and provide meaningful context for the people doing the work. They need to be interested and show their interest without “micro-managing.” They need to be ambassadors for agility and supportive champions of the people they manage.
What type of estimation techniques do you teach?
My specialty is communication, not code. I teach people to be very clear about what they say. An estimate is an opinion, an approximate judgment. It is not a promise. It is not a contract. It is not a fact. It is not a commitment. It is not something anyone should bet on. It is more accurate than a wild ass guess because it is based on experience and observation. We need to find a way to up-level the conversations we have about dates and find a way to satisfy both those who want dates and those who don’t want to lie.
What do you think is the most important innovation in your life, thus far?
Mobile phones. And Post-It Notes.
What book are you reading now.
I’m re-reading “The Geek Leader’s Handbook: Essential Leadership Insights for People with Technical Backgrounds” by Paul Glen and Maria McManus. It’s the sequel to “Leading Geeks,” which may be my favourite book ever.