Collaboration lessons from the marshmallow challenge
Jun 14th, 2011 by Joca


  • Groups of 4 people
  • 20 sticks of spaghetti
  • one yard of tape
  • one yard of string
  • a marshmallow

Time constrain: 18 minutes

Objective: tallest freestanding structure


  • Who consistently performs worst? Recent business school graduates
  • Who consistently performs well? Recent kindergarten school graduates. Not only the tallest but the most interesting structures.
  • Why kindergarten school graduates do better than business school graduates? First, none of the kids spent any time trying to be CEO of “Spaghetti Inc.”. Business students are trained to find the single right solution. Kindergarteners build prototypes several times, get instant feedback of what work and what doesn’t and refine.
  • The very best group? Architects and engineers, thankfully!
  • CEOs with an executive admin perform significantly better than just CEOs. Why? Because they have special skills of facilitation. They manage the process.
  • Specialized Skills + Facilitation Skills = Success!
  • Incentives + Low Skills = no success.
  • Incentives + High Skill = Success!
  • Every project has its own marshmallow.
  • Shared Experience + Common Language + Prototyping & Facilitation
  • Sometimes a little prototype is all it takes to transform an Oh-Oh moment into a Ta-Da moment!
  • 1 person likes this post.

    Leading is similar to being a doctor
    Apr 27th, 2011 by Joca

    Those who has been following my posts know that I like to borrow ideas from medicine and relate them to software development an management. Below are two posts that make comparisons between medicine and software development and management:

    The surgery

    By the end of February/2011 I was submitted to a cervical spine disc replacement surgery like the one shown below (it’s just an animation with no actual blood):

    The result is in the x ray images below:

    frontal x ray

    frontal x ray

    x ray side view

    x ray side view

    The doctor did the surgery on February, 25th. However, the healing process will take months. According to the doctor, it can take one year until all the symptoms that motivated the surgery disappear.

    The comparison

    What caught my attention is that the surgeon only did an intervention but all the healing process is done by the body. The same happens when a doctor prescribes a medicine, which is also an intervention, but again is up to the body to actually heal itself.

    Leading a team is quite similar. The leader should do some interventions when necessary but is up to the team to do the work in order to get to the goals.

    Agile leadership

    Leadership is topic that I really enjoy studying and discussing. It’s one of my top topics in this blog with more than 40 posts so far. And I already discussed about agile leadership in some of these previous posts:

    In one of my reading session on leadership I found an interesting comparison between leadership and gardening made by Jurgen Appelo, who writes frequently about agile management:

    I often compare managers to gardeners. An unmanaged garden is typically full of weeds, not beauty. From a biological perspective, there’s no difference. Either way, the ecosystem in the garden is self-organizing. It takes a gardener (authorized by the owners of the garden) to turn an anarchistic garden into something that the owners will enjoy. Likewise, it takes a manager (authorized by shareholders) to steer self-organizing teams in a direction that delivers value to the shareholders.

    Even though I like this comparison, it considers that the gardener/manager has to constantly interfere, which I don’t believe is an appropriate behaviour for a manager. In my view, a manager’s interference should be done only when needed and, after the interference, the team should work by itself to solve things out with little or no intervention by the manager. Hence my comparison to a doctor who interferes only when needed by prescribing change of habits, medicine, physical therapy and / or surgery and who let the body do the work and be in charge of the healing process.

    Next time you are in a team, either as part of the team or playing the role of leading the team, think about the leadership role similar to the doctor and the team work similar to the healing process carried out by the body. It helps understand the roles and responsibilities.

    3 people like this post.

    Delegation levels
    Apr 4th, 2011 by Joca

    Just found a very good article on delegation by Jurgen Appelo.

    Here’s a very concise summary. The main idea is that delegation is not a binary decision where you either delegate or don’t delegate. There are other levels of delegation between those 2 extremes and each of these other levels should be used depending on the context, i.e., the issue to be solved and who will be working on the issue.

    The seven levels are:

    1. Tell: You make decisions and announce them to your people. (This is actually not delegation at all.)
    2. Sell: You make decisions, but you try to “sell” your idea to your team. It is delegation by informing your people of your motivation.
    3. Consult: You invite and weigh input from workers. It is delegation by consulting your people before coming to a decision.
    4. Agree: You invite workers to join in a discussion and to reach consensus as a group. Your voice is equal to the others.
    5. Advise: You attempt to influence workers by giving them advice, but you leave it up to them to decide what to do with your opinion.
    6. Inquire: You let the team decide. And afterwards you inquire about their motivations, or you ask that they actively keep you informed.
    7. Delegate: You leave it entirely up to the team to deal with the matter, and you don’t even need to know which decisions they make.

    The author made a nice image to illustrate the 7 levels:

    The 7 levels of delegation

    The 7 levels of delegation

    Here’s the author explanation on why he created the 7 levels of delegation:

    The Seven Levels of Authority improve upon the four “leadership styles” of Situational Leadership Theory by clearly distinguishing between informing and consulting (as suggested by the RACI matrix). It also adds an extra final level which is not covered in Situational Leadership Theory, because in Agile Management this final level is the ultimate goal.

    If you have time, the article is worth the time investment. It gives more details on each level as well as provides examples that show where and how to apply each level.

    1 person likes this post.

    Agile management
    Mar 4th, 2011 by Joca

    When we implemented agile methodologies at Locaweb, the same way that some developers asked to leave because they were not willing to adapt to some of the agile principles that we decided to embrace, some of the existing managers also didn’t adapted well to the changes in their roles and responsibilities and asked to leave.

    At the time, I discussed this topic with people from other companies and they mentioned that it’s not unusual to have developers and managers leaving the company when moving to agile. I remember even someone mentioning that in average 10% of developers leave. That was back in 2007 / 2008. I’m not sure if this tendency have lowered lately, since agile is becoming more and more mainstream.

    I also read – and continue to read – a lot about the topic. One of the sources I’ve been reading and enjoying is Jurgen Appelo’s posts about agile management. I’ve been reading his posts for a while, since the time he was the CTO of a dutch company. I really like the way he connects agile methodologies and complex adaptive systems theory.

    Now he is 100% focused on his agile management coach career. He recently launched a book entitled “Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders“.

    He also provides Agile Management courses that seem to be quite interesting:

    Checkout also his presentations on slideshare. Checkout this presentation on authority and delegation:

    Other posts about the same topic:

    1 person likes this post.

    Interesting stuff
    Feb 19th, 2011 by Joca

    • Customers shouldn’t be the ones who define your products; they should be the inspiration for your products definition. (via @sjohnson717)
    • In general I think that anger is a sign of weakness and tolerance a sign of strength. (via @DalaiLama)
    • Very good article by @simonsinek: Good Marketing vs. Bad Marketing – http://bit.ly/f4kuna
    • …people spend most of their time either jumping to conclusions or else taking no notice at all of facts. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
    • Different modes of behaviour on the part of the wise are to be regarded as due to differences in individuality, not of quality. (via http://bit.ly/guRxQw)
    • Anyone “software professional” who is not humble about the software business is is not actually a professional. (via @JerryWeinberg)
    • Really beautiful REAL Google Earth FRACTALS! But missing Brazil though… http://bit.ly/hja6PX (via @cristobalvila)
    • Interesting notes on entrepreneurship: http://bit.ly/dNS8ga
    1 person likes this post.

    The three ways of getting things done (hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy)
    Sep 20th, 2009 by Joca

    I just finished reading a very interesting book named “The Three Ways of Getting Things Done“:


    by Gerard Fairtlough.


    It is about hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy in organizations.

    Gerard main thesis is that the human being is addicted to hierarchy and, because of this addiction, we are unable to consider other options for getting things done. He says that people organize themselves into groups (organizations) in order to get things done and since we are addicted to hierarchy, we believe this is the only way to get things done.

    The first paragraph of the book:


    The book explains not only why we are addicted to hierarchy, but also that there are other option to hierarchy besides chaos. He introduces two concepts:

    • Heterarchy: “is the divided, supported or dispersed rule where control shifts around depending on the project and the personality, skills, experience and enthusiasm of those who can make things happen. Much of the project work that is becoming common in large technology companies fits this kind of arrangement.”
    • Responsible autonomy: “an individual or a group has autonomy to decide what to do, but is accountable for the outcome of the decision.”

    Hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy form the Thriarchy. Gerard says we should use a mix of the three forms of getting things done, instead of sticking to only one:

    There are three ways of getting things done in organizations and the combination of the three is called triarchy, which means triple rule. The Three Ways of Getting Things Done: Hierarchy, Heterarchy and Responsible Autonomy in Organizations.When I was young I thought hierarchy was the only way to run organizations. Although in those days I’d barely heard of the great sociologist Max Weber, I unknowingly shared his belief that an organization couldn’t exist without a hierarchical chain of authority. Now, after over fifty years working in organizations of many different kinds, I’ve come to realise there are two other, equally important, ways of getting things done and that it’s vital for us to understand these other ways. We also need to understand why hierarchy always seems to trump the others.

    Today almost all the organizations use hierarchy almost all of the time. According to Gerard:

    There is good evidence to suggest that, in the 21st century, organizations are significantly changing the way they get things done. The result, triarchy theory suggests, will be a gradual move away from hierarchy in organizations.

    Thiarchy has strong links to sociocracy, Peer-to-Peer theory, complexity theory and Spiral Dynamics.

    It is a must read book on the participative management subject.

    For those willing to read its first 2 chapter, you can use Google Books:

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    Sobre gestão de desenvolvimento de produtos de tecnologia
    Oct 7th, 2008 by Joca

    Esse post é só para fazer um link para um texto muito interessante do Akita sobre vários temas que ele e eu temos conversado ultimamente sobre gestão de desenvolvimento de produtos de tecnologia:

    Off-Topic: O Manifesto Ágil, ou Como se Tornar o Google

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    Poupando tempo com audiobooks
    Sep 27th, 2008 by Joca

    Akita recentemente me deu algumas dicas muito legais de livros:

    Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means
    The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
    The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin & Reward

    As dicas todas vem do post Off-Topic: Matando a Média do blog do Akita.

    Tem a ver com temas como caos, complexidade e emergêngia de comportamento organizado em sistemas complexos, temas esses que têm aplicação em áreas tão diversas como mercado econômico, origem da vida, administração de empresas, organização celular, sociedades, entre outras. É muito fascinamente. Há até relação entre a teaoria de sistemas complexos adaptativos e as metodologias ágeis. Outro texto sobre essa relação não está mais disponível no endereço original, mas sobrou uma cópia no cache do Google.

    Mas enfim, esse post era para falar sobre audiobooks, então vamos lá. Com tantas coisas interessantes pra ler, o difícil lé achar tempo. Foi quando Akita me deu a dica de usar audiobooks. Estou ouvindo o livro Linked e realmente é ótimo. Dá para aproveitar momentos em que não se consegue ler por limitações físicas, por exemplo, quando se está no tr^nsito, ou quando se está comendo sozinho. Esses são excelente momentos para o audiobook, e de quebra, damos oportunidade para nosso ouvido praticar ouvir inglês.

    Fica a dica para aqueles que querem ler mais do que conseguem! 🙂

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