Web Usability – Advanced Common Sense

Advanced Common Sense is the home of Web Usability Guru – Steve Krug. His website; http://www.sensible.com is a good resource for agile teams, Lean UX professionals, and web designers to leverage on their lean agile transformations. Jeremie Benazra is a smart lean agile coach who recommends visiting Steve Krugs website to assist agile teams to better understand the differences between demo, showcase, feedback gathering and actual time-boxed reviews.

The Advanced common sense website is full of useful advice and practical tools includeing;

  • The do it yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems
  • A common sense approach to web usability
  • Workshops to dramatically improve the web usability and return on investment for your website
  • Interviews on User testing on the web, and mobile use testing
  • Excerpts from Steve Krugs book; Surgery made easy: The do it yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems
  • Common Sense blog also includes pre-writings from his great book Dont Make Me Think

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on lean ux and how better to uplift the capabilities of agile teams so that usability and voice of the customer are part and parcel of everyday way of working.


Steve Krug - Don't Make me think

Create a Connected Corporate Culture to accelerate agile

Building connections among people is essential for creating high powered teams and it is definitely essential for leading cultural change to align with the Agile Manifesto. For example a person can’t actively participate in valuing individuals and interactions over process and tools when people aren’t valued and interactions are assumed only to be control instructions. Many corporations are disconnected not only from their customers but also their own people who serve those customers.


The phenomena of elite performance from groups of people is not a new pop psychology hypothesis; it’s a founding character in human nature. Great examples include ANZACs, sports teams, and even on an individual level Ronald Reagan laid a foundation to end the Cold War by building a personal relationship with Gorbachev. In fact one of his most famous quotes on how he did it was to “trust first, check second” because that trust on a relationship level then allowed a conversation to occur, unified objectives to evolve and agreement on next steps. Sounds like collaboration to me!


Creating unity with-in teams is often done by introducing social sessions, social events and games playing at varying intervals. Playing games and having social sessions are fantastic when the team is co-located and of fairly good social standing but when you’re working with a large enterprise program with disparate relationships, and a strict control hierarchy it’s important to start with the basics; introduction, social values and good behaviour.


In order to create the strong relationships there are three key activities that you can do to establish interpersonal trust and team bonding in your new team planning session; they are,


1. Introductions to bridge personal disconnection and build interpersonal bonds

2. Professional introductions that re-map hierarchical roles to ‘delivery team roles’

3. Review behaviours and create a social agreement so that an agreed way of working together is understood.

4. Reconnecting people with the art of saying thank you and leveraging thank you as a means of breaking down tension, dissatisfaction and rebuilding new connections in the workplace.


In this post I’ll talk through personal introductions then follow up with posts on the remaining items.

Let the fun begin …


The “Say hello” exercise is constructed to be incredibly simply, easily doable and intentionally mindful of human behaviour. If you think about what it’s like being a stranger at someone else’s party; the unfamiliarity, the social butterflies and nervous banter – well, work can be just like that! Especially if it’s the first time the extended program team or release train has come together. This easy exercise intentionally facilitates the calming of nerves and social bonding.


Here’s the process;

1. On a sticky note, write down the top three things you most love to do on the weekend

2. Place your sticky up on the poster

3. Place your photo separately next to the poster

4. If we don’t happen to have your photo here yet, draw an avatar and pop that up. Also catch up with the “co-facilitator” to have your photo done in the break

5. As we progress through the workshop we’ll be play together to identify which items match with which person

6. Let’s try a couple first up before we do the formal introductions…

7. The facilitator picks one sticky and reads out their own so that an example of personal trust and humility can be established… “Here’s my top three…” and so forth

8. Do a couple, and if you are wrong – laugh at yourself, be humble, show humility – all the characters that allow humans to bond and trust you that it is a safe environment to talk. Suggest everyone chats to get to know each other in the breaks so they can do better than you when it’s their turn.

9. As the workshop goes through pick out a few at the start and/ or end of each session continuing to build personal connections among the team

10. It’s also good to start rotating the facilitation of the “game” by asking for volunteers to come up

Sounds simple enough; however, as facilitator you need to be very conscious of guiding the social balance between sharing insight and exposing personal vulnerabilities. In a group situation the personal affects can be accentuated, so I recommend being mindful. Your job is to “reach out” to each of those isolated individuals, enable a safe environment for sharing personal stories, connecting the network of relatedness so that individuals feel united. A unit of “mates” has more strength to create change or swarm despite the challenges of the surrounding organisation.


So why the particular steps above?

Writing the top 3 things you love gives the person focus time to reflect on what’s valuable to them in life. The ‘fond focus’ triggers good memories, endorphin release and calm. Most importantly these are often three things people are proud to share because they inherently make them happy. Besides setting the focus towards valued things in our lives, you are facilitating self-expression which – although it can be vulnerable – is just a simple safe participation act to set the level of comfortability for participating in the future. One of the incredible benefits it achieves is that adults are less likely to be aggressive to each other when they see each other as a father, a son, a brother, daughter etc – as a normal human being rather than just another rank in an org chart they must compete with.


“Although the connections are not always obvious, personal change is inseparable from social and political change.”

Harriet Lerner author of the Dance of Intimacy.

Reading Recommendations:
If you are interested in reading more about ontology, human behaviour, creating workplace connections here are few books to help you think for yourself about creating a connected corporate culture;
~ Wired to Care, Dev Patnik

~ Third Culture Kids, Dr Ruth Useem

~ The Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela

Innovative Business Leaders Understand What Truely Motivates People

Dank Pink is author of a great people leadership book called ‘Drive. He has delved into the world of what actually does ‘drive’ people and provides great insights for innovative business leaders to leverage.

In summary he shares stories from MIT scientific studies that were funded by the USA Federal Reserve Bank. The studies identified surprising results when looking at students solving a series of challenges. They scaled incentives based on performance just like a common bonus incentive scheme in companies.

The results basically showed that; For mechanical skills the performance incentive scheme worked as expected; that is, greater performance then greater the reward. For “Rudimentary Cognitive Skills” the results showed that the “larger the reward, the poorer the performance”

The results were quite a surprise so they replicated the experiment in Rural India. The three tiered incentive scaling was low performance – 2 weeks salary, medium performance – 2 months salary, high performance – 2 months salary. Sounds like an awesome incentive doesn’t it!! AGAIN the results were contrary to expectations that is;

  • For people offered the medium reward did no better than those offered the small reward
  • For people offered the high reward they actually were worse off than the those offered the medium reward”

    So despite all good intentions to prove their original hypothesis correct – that there is a direct correlation between incentive and performance – the studies time and time again show that for any tasks more complex than a simple “If then, you get that” scenario – performance incentives don’t work!

    The other money paradox they found is that “if you pay people enough so they aren’t thinking about the money then they are thinking about the work”. How cool would that be!

    In conclusion what they discovered were three factors that contribute to better performance and personal satisfaction;

        ~ Autonomy – “the desire to be self directed”
        ~ Mastery – “the urge to get better at stuff…because it’s satisfying
        ~ Purpose – “drives inherent desires to contribute to a greater drive”

    As a business leader you can innovate your world of work by creating highly engaged people simply by helping them tap into these three key motivators. A workshop exercise we do with new teams and mature teams at least annually is called Strengths, Passions and Motivations. It’s a fun bonding exercise that helps the leader get to know the teams drivers, and the team to relate to each other on a human level rather than just a task level.

    For some more information on leading greater engagement at work I recommend the below;

    The Job Crafting Exercise™ helps you make your job more engaging and fulfilling. The idea is to view your job in a new way — as a flexible set of building blocks rather than a fixed list of duties. Using this perspective, you create a visual plan for redesigning your job to better suit your values, strengths, and passions.
    ~ http://www.centerforpos.org/2011/07/the-story-of-the-job-crafting-exercise/

    The Surprising Truth about what motivates us Dan Pink Video

    ~ 10 minute animated version of Dan Pinks Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    ~ 50 minute video of Dan Pink – Drive: The surprising truth about motivates Us

    Gallups Strengthfinder 2.0
    Check this great animated snap shot of which highlights great initiatives Atlassian, Australia is doing.

  • The importance of PLAY to agile…to the human spirit

    This is a wonderful short documentary on the importance of play; in essence,

    Play = practice space = relate + communicate + push + pull + explore + bound + what if + solutions = human experience


    Quotes from the video

  • play creates a reason for them (people) want to engage
  • “might we have understimated the value of ‘play’?”
  • How would your life look if seen through a playful state of mind?
  • Practicing in a play state gives the opportunity to build confidence
  • In elementry school it’s understood that ‘play is the way you learn’
  • as you get older…

    play is a time of day

    as you get older…

    time is an object…

    play is a frame

    play is a space that is designed for you to be successful
    Might a playful state of mind enable the strength of our true human spirit?

    Play is such a natural state of being, a good ways of learning that is lost as we grow older. Like many things great in life we unfortunately forget to bring them into the workplace to leverage the benefits for better business. Play can reduce stress – it’s why footy tipping is so popular! People love to have a game as a point of socialisation and building relatedness amongst peers at work. The bonding of workers also has a positive effect on business communications, especially preventing distanced and dysfunctional work places. As an agile coach who works with a multitude of teams I have seen how the absence of ‘joy’ in workplace interactions has directly caused dysfunction in team delivery. The time required to create flow – which comes more naturally to teams that have bonded – is approximately double the time it would normally take with a functional team. A good business coach, executive coach and agile coach will bring play and games into their services to help people more easily adopt learnings, build strong relationships and dissolve excessive stress in work environments.

  • Agile Outliers are never in, no matter how cool agile inliers think they are

    Being at the frontier of an agile change movement can be a hard place to be. There is an old saying that rings true for many cavalier agilists out there and that is “That the first man through the wall is the bloodiest”.

    Or for the geeks in us –  think Star Trek and having to go into the Borg alone. BUT instead of having the most awesome of weapons, scotty to back you up, an amazing crew to rescue you at the last minute and a counsellor to help you cope from the post traumatic stress all you have is your self!

    So how do you cope? How do influence a revolution? How do you teach the assimilated to become un-assimilated and start to think for them selves? Especially how do you engage those who don’t want to be freed from the systematic rhythms of the Borgs that they are now an effective component of?

    One day at a time, one sticky at a time, one conversation at a time you will erode the cubes of the systemic organisation…What does help is to cause the change, the erosion with a team of bots working together across that system to weaken it’s key strong holds. Unfortunately, what can happen at the initial stages of agile adoption is very much the ‘born again’ blind euphoria. This euphoria experienced by those that are baby agilists is wonderful to watch, and really quite enjoyable to experience because you are literally going through a rebirth of you working world. The world that you knew no longer has to be, and a professional freedom is being embraced.

    During this infant stage unfortunately the definitions of value are still not matured so ‘adopting agile’ is purely about winning faster within the old systemic metrics of time, hierarchy and cause I said so – NOT because they are actually driving customer value. I say unfortunately because what happens is those bots become annoying bots, they just want to win according to their boss, win according to the old paradigms and are not excersing the agiles values of collaboration, individuals & interactions etc over plans, documentation or exclaiming or awesome lean principles are without actually practicing.

    This is why I call them inliers – they are part of the in / cool new agile movement and those who are truelly addressing the tough questions, highlighting waste that could be eliminated for example are still outliers. These wonderful authentic characters that appear in our professional world deserve to be nurtured for there ‘whistleblowing’ for they are the true heros of the agile frontier.



    Lean Business in Community Services

    “Far out Freddy!! It’s like panic stations around here and there is a feeling of panic in the air about getting stuff done!! I had to write a figgin agenda for a meeting which is a meeting I am only partially involved in and I’m getting grief from both sides of it, my boss and the other on.
    Jeezzzz I tell ya this is a figgin mad house with people running around in escalation mode 10”

    Dissolving the day to day panic often faced by passionate yet tired staff of community services organisations can seem quite overwhelming.

    It doesn’t have to be. The agile principles of Lean Business and establishing a habitual approach to solving problems using the Scrum Empirical process starts with your state of mind.

    Calm. Assertive. Essential.

    If it’s not essential to achieve today, don’t panic – don‘t even give it attention.
    Ask “ what are my top 3 essential achievements today” and that will give you a boundary to be calm and assertive from!

    Being calm and rather than ‘reacting’ with panic allows that person to breath, and be that which you want others to be. Try it – let me know the responses you receive.

    Assertive not aggressive, not flimsy. Being calm-assertive can be quite a difficult state to achieve for many people. It’s very much like meditation; being able to reach that blissful of nothing takes practice.

    An easy way to start ‘practising’ being a calm assertive leader of scrum or your team is to first think of a place when you truely were in this state. What symbolises that place or time? Recreate the symbol to create a positive trigger for re-focusing on your mind to the positive state of being.