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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Jim McCarthy and 11 Commitments For a Shared Vision

Jim McCarthy and 11 Commitments For a Shared Vision


1. Jim welcomes the attendees at his Agile2008 session on the Core Protocols.

Thank you very much for coming to this room on this day with 40 sessions to pick from. I'm very flattered and somewhat surprised that you would pick mine. I've got to say that I'm really glad to be the first one in the morning - 8.30- because everybody knows how developers love to get up and program first thing. It's not like they are now working all night long. We got an hour and a half together, and I want to make it as pleasant and as entertaining and as fruitful as possible. So let me just get started by setting up a few things here.

First of all, we got 100 of people or something like that - I haven't counted - but you're worthwhile money, your time is very valuable. So we've got 100,000 $ meeting; that's a lot of money. I don't know what you are all paid, mine is 150$, so I don't want to blow it. It is very important to me to do a good job and to provide you with information you ask or you came expecting to get: which is some new tools, new arrows for the Agile quiver and how to get there hard in, now you got their head in. That's what I'm in going to be covering and I'm not going to use slides.

I'm just going to be going through the actual tools and talk about them. And you don't have to worry about writing anything down or taking any notes, or whatever, or following any slides, because when you walk out the door, my colleague is there to hand you one of these papers. So you will walk out of here with the tools I am going to be talking about. Now I just want to take another second to ask this question: How many of you have ever experienced resistance to pure ideas? It's a fairly common thing, at least for us Agile types, I guess. I want you to do something for me, so we can really have a good time here. I want you to just relax for one second, sit back in your seat, get comfortable, and if you would be so kind as to humor me by closing your eyes for one second, and taking a deep breath and picturing that little spot in your brain that is the choke point - the place where you resist to new information. We all do it all the time.

Now I want you to picture that choke, picture it relaxing and the flow starting up again. I am going to ask you: are you in position not to resist this stuff, just flow it for a while? We've got 1 hour and a half. I promise I won't hurt you but I am going to be saying some stuff that's new and it's not psychotic or anything, but it is new.


2. Jim shares a personal history of how he arrived here, starting with his Radio Shack TRS-80 computer.

When I think about being here this day, I think of when I started this business a long time ago. My first talk on software process was 20 years ago. It was at the second SD Shop - software development. And those days the process wasn't very 'there'. There was no Agile, there was nothing, really. There were a couple of writers that were pretty good and there was Fred Brooks and Jerry Weinberg and Constantine and DeMarco, and that's about it. I developed a little talk called "Slipping without falling" - that was the only process talk at the SD. That was not a very optimistic title, I think, but that was our view of software. It was a miracle that this stuff ever got done. How many of you have been on a late supper project? [I don't know why I have a table here. What am I going to do? Have a banquet or something? No, we are going to have a panel discussion. This is the department of schizophrenia panel discussion. I guess I could do that: have a panel discussion with myself.]

Since 20 years ago, I've been working on software development. I bought a computer in 1976. I was an English major, creative writing. I knew nothing about computers, but something made me do that. It was Real Shack Model 1. It just came out. I called all over the state of Illinois looking for one. I had no money, but I had five hundred dollars left on my credit card. It was Christmas time and I decided to screw the kids. I am not proud of it. They got some back later. I went to that Radio Shack and I saw a computer and I had to have it. It had a cassette recorder, 4 K of RAM, whatever that was, it had it's own CPU and a keyboard that could only do uppercase. I asked that guy: "What can this thing do?" and he said "Oh, that thing? That can do anything". I said "It can do anything??" "Anything" "I'll take it".

New house, new wife - it didn't work! I opened the computer, I set it up in a spare bedroom and I saw they add a program to do something. But it didn't just come there, you know, show up and start functioning. I opened a little book on the introduction to Basic and I started to learn to program. I was sitting in that guest bedroom with my little TRSAD TRS-80. I went in there to learn to program reading this book and I've been in that room ever since, I never left. I've really never taken a break. All I ever wanted to do was make computers do something, do anything and I pursued it to the ends of the Earth. I really did. It's has been a long hall.

My first job was just I ... my computer around and showed people they could have computers. I thought "I'll go to the accounts, they'd like a computer". And I made a deal with Candy Radio Shack to be a dealer, so I would go around and sell all these computers, then I said "I'll write all your software, too". I didn't know what I was doing. To this day these guys never got a bill out. Because they said "What can it do?" and I said "Imagine you could do almost anything." I said 'almost' because I had discovered some limitations.

But for 5 years I made money off of that. Enough money to have a living, walking around in the middle of Illinois with a toy computer under my arm and all the accountants laughing: "That's not a computer! You've got a minicomputer." It's nice remembering those old days. I mean I don't want to be like the old timers' meeting here. I already went for the schizophrenia thing and the feedback. But I do want to tell you where I came from. I started programming and I loved programming. It just hooked me. Has anyone here been hooked on programming? Yes, it's like addicting, isn't it? What's the deal with that? I mean how does that work? I could go anywhere. I pursue that path, that programming.


3. Jim's heady days at Bell Labs and Microsoft.

I taught myself how to program, then I went to Bell Labs and talked them to let me in there without the right degrees. I became a software tester, then a software developer and applications engineer, and then I wrote a program and published it on my own, called Logic Gem. Then I went to a company called White Water where we made the first object oriented programs, programming languages for Windows, Windows 1.0 - that was a funny thing. We had to ship our product with Windows, include Windows in our product. Microsoft was riding our back. I guess they still are in some sense.

Then I went to Microsoft, after White Water I did about 20 products, had a good time there, did some consulting for Borland, the object Windows library for Borland, got their Windows tools going and they just collaborated with Microsoft. Then I went to Microsoft and said "I'm the guy who's helping Borland collaborate with you, so why don't you hire me?" and they said "OK". Because they had been humiliated in the market. That Phillipe Kahn from Borland used to play the flute and laugh at us. Microsoft did not like that. I got to Microsoft and I got my welcome mail from Bill "Dear Jim, you guys in the languages business unit are the stupidest guys in this company.

Welcome". If not from the irony of getting the mail from Bill, I would have just as well skipped. It was awful. We were the oldest group at Microsoft, the languages, that was the start of Microsoft. We had gone to all and everything the first 10 years of Microsoft. I say "we", it's "they" because when I came, they were already there. I must have had 50 millionaires working for me. This one guy was pretty hard to motivate - "What are you going to do? We don't get a bonus here?". One time they were developing FORTRAN, and the FORTRAN customer says "It got to be done this week", so Bommer Ballmer says to this guy "If you do it this week, I'll give you 100,000 options. He says "100,000 options? OK". He got it done that week.

Bommer Balmer gave him 100,000 options. By the time I got there, he had a million options, because the stock doubles, and the stock was going up 1 $ a day, so everyday this guy was making 1,000,000$, and he didn't come in. He was hard to motivate. What are you going to say? He would like to program, but he wouldn't do anything anybody asked him to do. Now and then I see Bommer Ballmer and he goes "Are you getting anything out of that guy? He is the richest guy in the United States, for he's writing FORTRAN. You got to get something out of him." "I don't think so".


4. Anyway, I want to tell a few words and stories and stuff like that just because it's fun. The tools I am going to talk about are simple, it's not going to take 1 hour and a half for you to get them.

Some of these sessions have been hard, with great speakers. Don't you feel like you are part of something great here today? I know you are, we are. I am, I get to be here, again. And I say "again" because I was here a while ago and it was the beginning of the PC revolution, and I got to get talks at conferences and I was so excited to go there and see people who really love to program. They came from all over, with high school degrees, a couple of computer scientist now and then, a guy that could actually do assembly language, the rest of us were slugged with level 2 Basic and we were happy. We had 16 K of RAM and we were lucky! That was a good life - 16 K of RAM and then 4 MHz! What next? I suppose I'll come out with a 2,000$ Diablo printer, because that's what everybody lusted for. "If only, only, I could get letter quality" and none of us wrote.

I bought a 5000 $ Diablo from a leasing company, it was used, and I didn't have a nickel to my name, but I sure did love to program. I went out in the woods in a camper, plugged my computer in and said "It's time to really teach yourself" and I look at Kernighan and Plauger, Elements of Programming Style. Have you ever heard of that? Boy, that's a great book and I learnt how to program. It took me a long time to come out of woods, it was in the winter too, that was not good camping and free port Illinois in the winter and this is trailer out there in the middle of the woods and it's buzzing the color of the television. But I taught myself to program, and I was happy and I chased that software just like you are chasing it now, just like we are chasing it together now. This is a new software. Do you get that sensation that this is not like an add-on to the PC business that you are doing here?


5. This is a whole new world of software you are starting. Culture by design, I'd like to call it. That's what you are doing: you are designing a culture. Think about that.

"You mean, we are going to make cultures that are not accidental? You mean, the way we interact, we are going to design it so that it works?" Any group that can build the Internet, who get together and have PC PIP almost always work. What is that? That is a miracle! We are all connected - anytime, anywhere we want. It's amazing. We haven't got anything better to talk to each other, but that's happening here, right here. I don't know where you are all from but eventually you are all going to end up in the same place like Silicon Valley. From my point of view, my involvement starts here, today, it starts now. There is a whole new way of becoming.

You listen to all those New Age people and all the people talking about 2012 and all sorts of craziness stuff, but in the consciousness gurus, you know, Oprah's guys and stuff. And they all talk about "There is something new going on in the old ticker" and I say "Yes, there sure is. There is some new software on the ground, buddy. We are running some new code."

What attracted you to Agile? It's just because it was cool? Wasn't it a feeling? How many of you were attracted by a feeling for Agile? You get into it and as Ron Jeffrey said "It's just common sense. But common sense isn't very common". I'd like to add to that and say, in fact common sense is only common, it's only when we get together that we have it. It's something we hold in common. When someone says something, you go "Well, obviously that's true!" The Obvious Truth is your friend, not your enemy. "Come on aboard, Obvious Truth, we don't have to argue about you, or fight about you, or debate about you or vote on you. You are obviously true." When you run into one of those, you grab on.


6. This is a big deal. This a turning point in history. There will be other Agile conferences but this is the one where you went mainstream, wouldn't you say?

I didn't go to the other ones. Let me explain. I've already got that job at Microsoft, and I started doing software teams and running software teams at Bell Labs and elsewhere, and I loved the management of software teams. I loved that more than programming, almost. And I came into that same feeling that the PC gave me, that the VisiCalc gave me when I saw VisiCalc on the computer. Anyone remember VisiCalc? It's like Excel only it was cool in its days. The guys who wrote that were really smart. That was the first real application. That's what sold to Apple 2 and Real Shack computer.

And you look at that thing and you go "Wow, what a stunning machine! I want one of those!" The numbers all changed at once and they had random access to the cursor and stuff, memory mapped. People were programming and that was very exciting, because programming was par. One thing that I resent about our computer culture is that they say we are nerds and that nerds don't get along with people. I think that's just insane. We are not just nerds, we are nerds, I mean, look at us! But we are not just nerds, we are like the priests or something in the Middle Ages, we are the Lords and Ladies of Logic. We are in charge of rationality for our era. We are bringing common sense and good practice and sound judgment and aggregate wisdom and glory to everyone.

That's our job. And it's especially true with Agile, because Agile is the first movement of a global new culture, explicitly. And I am excited about that. I couldn't pull together 15-20 people except by talking about Slipping without falling, because they are all slipping. At contests I take pause. "OK, who has been the latest?" "I've been 2 years late" One of the army guys goes "I was 6 years late. We were 6 years and 4 billion $ over the budget." That's a lot of suffering! And I said "You were stucked there the whole time. You did it, it's on you".

About 1995 I had met Microsoft for 4 years. We did really well. We turned around, we beat Borland. We had a great team, and I was leading it, and I was doing a good job. It was awesome! We could ship whenever we wanted, we could ship anything we wanted. We were so good we couldn't believe it, because we had been so bad - the dumbest guys at Microsoft.


7. By the way, if you ever get a job offer to manage the dumbest group, grab it!

There is nowhere to go but up. Anytime you get a turnaround opportunity they say "Oh, God, yes, you want to turn around?" That means they know they suck. That's the end of resistance. Now, you've all stopped resisting me, according to your promise and we are going to pretend.


8. Will you pretend with me that what I am saying is true?

The way we are going to meet the resistance stuff is I am going to ask you all "Will you pretend with me that what I am saying is true?" We are just pretending. And then, if it's not true, at the end of this session will flow ourselves out. But in the meanwhile we pretend that the world works this way, that I've discovered something, that I got it here in my hands and you are going to walk out of here with it in your hands: a new design cultural kernel - software for your head - Addison-Wesley, 2001.


9. I am going to go back and forth on this stuff a little bit with you. As excited as I am about Agile and the fact that we have emerged from the impulse, that feeling that you all felt, same feeling that the PC guys felt. I was there, I felt it, I got the same feeling now, and I am feeling it hard. I'm feeling it hard at this session, I'm feeling hard while listening to Linda and Ron and really smart people telling the truth without excessive hindrance.

Now I know you really make it, we are really going to be on top of it when we go from noon to midnight. But I'm on the go from 8 till 8 right now, because that's a lot better, because you've got that cool room, that cool stone little room. Gem Room? What is this? Burning men Man for software gas? Pretty soon we are going to start doing stuff like that because that's what happens when humans meet together - the beauty is irreplaceable. The art flows when a civilization blooms. And you'll see it more in next year and you'll see it much more a year after that.


10. On Jim's transformative experience of making a team effective at Microsoft.

I'm going to watch it because when I left Microsoft, my team was so good that we went from shipping zero times per year, once every 2 years, and lost 40 points of market share with 200 people, to about 125 people shipping on a subscription hitting everyday, doubled our revenues and put Borland out of the C++ business. And the difference was that we had a team with a shared vision.

Access was the name of the Microsoft old database. They were going in the database business and fight DBase. And they were having the hardest time. They got 20 people on it for 2 years, then they had 50 people on it for another 2 years, then they had 400 people working on this database and they could not get it out. And you are going down the hall and there are 4 guys writing Excel. Now, tell me, how does that work? Shared vision, that became a mantra.

It worked because the 4 guys in Excel knew what they were trying to do. It worked in the C++ because we knew what we were going to do. When we went to C++ Visual 1.0, we said "We are going to make it easy to start using C++. We are not going to make it easy to finish using C++", because we want you to buy and extra release for that. So we made a little wizard called AppWizzard. You press a button and you got an application like Excel and suddenly you've got Print Preview, such stuff. That's cool. That's worth screwing the kids for Christmas, if you are a programmer. (Nothing is worth that, of course!)


11. Jim McCarthy takes lessons learned at MS to other teams, asking his students to "build the course they need," and BootCamp is born.

I saw this magic team - I've always been pretty good with teams - and I said to my future wife "Look, there is a company that wants me to teach them how to have a team like a Microsoft team, like our team specifically. Why don't we just take that contract and go start a company to do that, to learn that. Let's go start a lab, a team lab. Now, where were we at that point? Just to give you a little history. I went over to a little bookstore here and bought one of my old books which I published in 1995, called Dynamic Software Development, because I wanted to read it over, because I wanted to see where was I in 1995 in relation to Agile.

What am I learning about it now? I don't know, I think we are pretty agile. We had a kind of a Scrum like behavior practice - we call it the war room, but it was basically a Scrum like thing where you ask people "What's blocking you?" We were able to ship to the day with sprints, like every week was a new sprint, in Scrum terms. We had a data built; in fact I think that in my book it was the first time the idea of data build was mentioned. I stole it from David Collar. You got to steal good ideas if want to win in life. Now you are all pretending with me that I went and did something great. So let's get to it.

Because I went to start a team work laboratory. What an idea! And I did a little search on the web then, looking for team work laboratories and what had been done with them. And you know what had been done with teams in a lab? Nothing! I couldn't find anything. Maybe some stuff I'm missing, but I couldn't find anything, that was 13 years ago. 13 years ago no one had really studied teams in a lab. Not the Army, not Marines, no one, no one that I could find. They might be out there.

We started a lab and we said "What should we do with this lab? How should we start with team work?" Well, these guys want to get a team turned on, they want to get 20 teams turned on. So I happened to sent people to this lab and they will be great when they leave. Magic happens here. We were teachers and all we knew was we could manage software development projects, and we could ship on time, which these guys couldn't do. That's why we got this big contract.

The first 20 came along and said: "What do we have to do? We are not going to lecture. I am not going to write 1000 slides and stand up and talk to people. We can't do that. Let's do a simulation. Let' do a product development thing. We know we can do a product development. We do a product development simulation. Yes, that's a good idea! And we'll be the bosses. We'll put on a black hat; when we wear the black hat we are the bosses. When we are done, we'll be consultants and helping them out. Perfect: we don't have to do any pre-work.

All good ideas result in less work. Effort is boring. Never give anybody an A for the effort. This is, by the way, a free tip. If you give somebody an A for effort, what you are saying is "Well, you failed, but at least you spent a lot of money". And guess what: you get more of when you reward effort? You get more effort! At Microsoft there was more effort than you could shake a stick at, and do you know who was working hardest? The 600 guys on that database that would never come out. It finally did come out, of course, good database even.

But it had total 6 versions inside, and they were working hard: 80 hours a week because they knew it sucked and it wasn't going to work and the only way they were not going to get blamed was by working harder than the next guy. You want to do less work, more results. Results over effort -that's the thing to watch. And that's what you are watching in this lab. So I said "What should we assign them to build? They got to build something. What do we need built?" And then all of us in the room said "This course" and we assigned them to build this course. We came with this assignment "Design, implement, deliver a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to ship great software on time, everytime".

That's a good assignment. I was quite pleased with myself and went to bed till the course started. Teach yourself, you design and build the course. You design, build and implement it. That's perfect. And it turned out to have been very clever indeed, because it was recursive. So they come into the course and then they get this assignment to build, design, implement and deliver the course, and only people that have been through can tell you what that's like. It's going into recursion world and you don't have a stack, you can't crash your stack, you just keep going levels, you are infinite.

When you are in recursion world, it's a very insightful place to be. And you got pressure to ship, just like in the real life. That was our team work laboratory. We called that "BootCamp" and we were the first class to call BootCamp after the Marines, who gave us a call, by the way, and that call went like this: "What are you doing with my boot camp name?" and I said "Is it trade mark?" "We were just kidding, I wanna come."


12. The Core Protocols are an emergent artifact, being refined and improved by every BootCamp over time: a set of interpersonal protocols, patterns.

In the BootCamp, this really cool thing started happening over a long period of time. We keep doing the same assignment every time and gradually we came to the idea "Hey, why don't we tell the next guys what the last guys learnt?" That took us a year. We were just not very bright. We watched them reinvent everything all the time from scratch, for a year. We could get further if we told them what had been figured out so far. So we started writing a book to go with the BootCamp. We would republish it every BootCamp and we had everything that the last guys learnt.

And basically, we started making it against the rules to suck. Because we were playing a game here, and it was against the rules to suck. Because we were about Agile kind of level, in terms of teams, like a good Agile team, we tried to get that in a week and you could do that if you really push it. We had an assignment, and there were amazing things starting to emerge, because these teams would form up, get to a state of shared vision and it was like a whole new consciousness and it was kind of miraculous (now you are pretending with me, right?).

Go ahead be skeptical, don't be cynical. Cynical is just an idealist hiding out because his feelings were hurt. I don't blame them. I find reasons to sigh every day. But what started to emerge, what do you suppose it was? Software, interpersonal protocols, code. The teams were creating code, so we would write it up and put it in tabs and type it up in English and use it ourselves and put in the next one and use it in the next team. So we were able to do experiments.


13. Teams with shared vision beat "average" teams, hands down.

Let's do a little experiment right here. I need some data. Whoever might have been on a team that was in a state of shared vision, please stand up. (It could be in high school, grade school, whatever you want.) If the next thing I say is false, please sit down. Being on a team in a state of shared vision is at least twice as good as being on one without. Being on a team in a state of shared vision is 5 times as good as being on one without. Now you are aware of what you are telling me, right. That you are aware of a state of being that can go to a team that is 5 times better. Shall I really try and ... those guys?

Let's try again. Being on a team in a state of shared vision is 10 times better than being on one without a shared vision. If what I say next is true, you sit down. Being on a team in a state of shared vision is incomparably better than being on one without. If that's true, you sit down. If it's not true, work with me, I haven't got anywhere to go. I got 100 or so people from the Agile world, some Agile masters, gurus that I presume you are who said they are aware of an exponentially better state of being than - frankly what I believe - is the typical state of being on a team.

I didn't define "good" or "better" and I didn't define "shared vision" but we all have the same sense of those words. 10 x! That's what I thought it's going to be. An average in this room is under 10 x. Will you please pretend with me for a moment that things were 10 times better in your life? Let's even say your family could be a team like that - 10 x. The team is 10 x, our products are 10 x, our work is 10 x, our family is 10 x. What is 10 x? Isn't 10 x the difference between a full belly for every human being on a planet where 3rd to a half is starving? Wouldn't 10 x give us that? Would 10 x get us a great civilization that had abundance for all and limitless prosperity? What would you do if you went from here to 10 x in a week, or month, or today, or right now? 10 x is a miracle and I had to pretty much push you back in your seats.

It's just a whole lot better and that's what I sensed when I was at Microsoft, and that's what I knew when we started this lab and that's what started happening when these teams started a state of shared vision. They started to aggregate their virtues and collect their intellect. Aggregate their creativity, each team became basically an infallible genius. Pretend with me that we discovered how to do this, that we stumbled into it by being smart and lazy. Each team really could make no wrong, and that's how our protocols where made by 300 or so teams all over the world in every major culture, thousands of people working on code for people. That's what I've been doing since 1996, and meanwhile you've all been building this great thing called the Agile, which I just think is really wonderful.


14. Introduction to the "Core Commitments."

I was talking to a friend of mine the other night. He said "You forked in 1995 and now you want merge. And I do. It's going to be a simple merge, it's going to take place as you leave the room. You are going to pick up your copy of the Core, it is called The Core, this system, and it's very simple. There are 11 commitments, personal commitments, kind of a Constitution and there are 11 protocols and the whole thing is on 11 pages. I am going to go a little back and forth on these protocols and commitments, because it's not even very hard. You might have heard some of these or seen some of them.


15. These core commitments were designed to be inarguably true.

If there is not one that's not obviously true, we got a mistake, we got to fix it, because you got to be able to hand these commitments to someone, and they looking at them to say "I agree". Because if they do that, ladies and gentlemen, they are doomed to be great. There is no way to escape this code. If you go run, you are screwed, in a good way. And that's how you go run - you say "I agree with these commitments" That's your header file, actually more than a header file, but it more a constitution, where the law is the law, but it changes all the time. Constitution is kind of hard to change. These are just 11 commitments. I am going to bounce back and forth and tell a few stories to make it amusing so we get tucked up.


16. Commitment 1 - "I promise to engage when present".

The number one commitment "I promise" - is implied. "I promise to engage when present". That is to say: if you see me or if you see my cursor in a chat, or my login, I'm engaged. Right now there are some deceptions that are going on about that - that people are present but not engaged. All I'm asking is that when you are not engaged, don't be there. I don't care. You know when to be here and when not to be here, you are big boy or girl. Have you noticed they are all giving in the work-at-home stuff? Am I wrong? Once they give in, just a little bit, just a few of them, they all got to - it's a case of the parade. I mean things are going to change about the workplace. Workplace is going to be a lot at home. And you need to be closer together when you are at home, psychologically speaking.

You got to engage one present. Engagement has some terms that go with it, like I expect someone I am engaged with to pretty much continuously know and disclose what he or she thinks, what she/he feels and what she/he wants. Here is the theory: that we are connected beyond our comprehension and if I know what you feel I am learning something about my own state, and if I know what you think, I am aggregating you IQ, if I know what you want, I understand the basis of your behavior and I can always hold you accountable to what you say you want. There is no accountability without volition, you've noticed, right? You can't go "You got to ship that by November 1st and I am holding you accountable". It doesn't work that way.

You can't hold someone else accountable, you've got to hold yourself accountable. It's just like you can't motivate someone else; you got to motivate yourself. And the more that you motivate people and hold them accountable, the more infantile they become. I am talking about maturity of work here. People ought to disclose that, and how they do that? One way they disclose what they feel is a protocol called Check In. That goes like this: I am going to check in right now. There are a bunch of people in the room that know it. I feel glad to be having this talk and I got off a little bit, I am running, I'm happening, because that's not a sure thing and that's because of the good vibes of your pretends, your willingness to cooperate with me - that's your energy. I'm really glad that that's here because I was worried about that.

I'm scared that I got a too short time to tell too much and it might not work, but I'm pretty sure it will. I'm mad about some things, but I'm in. What you here them say is "Welcome", and that's the end of the Check In protocol. That's all there is to it. And there is only 4 feelings that you could say: mad, sad, glad or afraid. Those are Piaget's 4 feelings and you can pretty much call together any other feeling by using those as primitives, like RGB. Excite, it might be glad plus a little scared, a spice of scared in that glad and that's exciting. That's the Check In protocol and you use that whenever you want to state the feeling or whenever you are starting a meeting or something - our team has been away for a while. It seems hulky, this welcome thing seems totally hulky, like a bunch of robots. We've tried it without "Welcome", we've tried it every way. Everything I am telling you from here on in is purely empirical, there is nothing that's been invented, it's all been developed in a lab and in situ, in corporations.

Now you can also Pass. There is an entire group of protocols around presence and engagement. You can pass. Pass, in the case of Check In, goes like this: "I pass, I'm in". Then goes Welcome. The deal with Pass is that you got to be able not to do anything. You got the freedom. You can't just pay people be monkeys and shout stuff, you got to use this tool. In fact, I've often wondered about Agile itself and Extreme Programming and things like that. How do they ever get adopted? What is the mechanism of adoption? Maybe I'm just missing it, but how does the team say "I want to be Agile?". How does it bootstrap? We'll come to a protocol for that in a moment. You got to be able to pass. Another sign of engagement is that I will always seek effective help. Asking for help is a no-can-lose deal. Something good is going to happen.

I could tell you a little story. My parents would go vote. The voting day would come around and my dad would go "How are you going to vote this year?" And she would go "Straight democrat, of course" and he would go "I'm voting straight republican. We can stay home. That's called nullification. At least they took advantage of the nullity of their political alignment. That's what teams do, is they know one another.


17. Always seek effective help.

Always seek effective help. We have a protocol for that - real hard. It goes like this: "Will you X?" It has to start with "will you" because they got to be able to say "No". You can't be like "I could use a little help here. Give me a hand". You got to say "Will you...?" and they got to be free to say "No". You got to promise that if somebody is asking your help you are promising to say "No" when you don't want to help. The only legal responses to a request for help are "Yes", "No" and/or alternative.

The client to offer (this is not a hallmark of engagement) refuse to accept incoherent emotional transmissions. What is an incoherent one? Is one that's not named. Someone sits in the room and all the time you are talking won't meet your eyes. That's incoherent. Instead that person could say they're mad or angry, at which point they become safe, because you see that they have a conscious awareness of their feeling state versus the entirely physiological responsive awareness - acting out.


18. There is the whole question of ideas when you are being engaged. When you have or hear a better idea than the currently prevailing idea you promise to say it right now.

Because I start to say "Here is the theory" we are connected, so the ideas are coming who knows where, who knows who's got them. If you don't say it, they might not get said. How many times have you sat through a meeting going on and on and thought "This doesn't seem right. Why should I do this?" You are just talking to yourself the whole time and then someone says "I think we ought to do this" at the end and you say "Yes! What he said!". If you had said it an hour earlier the good universe would not have had to penetrate his brain, which was apparently more responsive and more conducive to ideas.

If you take care of ideas, they spread the word. Look at it from the ideas point of view. The ideas just want to be realized and incarnated. They are not going to flow to the people that are not saying them and take care of them and treasure them. And in a team, you don't know who's getting the ideas and if you have an idea that you think is better than the current one, you got to say it. You'll immediately propose it for decisive acceptance or rejection and/or explicitly seek its improvement. And you promise to personally support the best idea, regardless of the source. This is an ecology of ideas, it's not a hierarchy of persons. We are after the best ideas, regardless of the source, at all times. Then we start to aggregate.

What do you suppose Mozart's IQ was? Certainly his musical IQ was off the scales, like the shared vision versus not shared vision thing, was just so high as to be ridiculous, let's say it's 1000, the most gifted musical person ever - 1000 IQ points, if we could measure it that way and that's a silly measure anyway, but it's kind of fun to contemplate. Now let's say I had 10 of you on a team, what's the IQ of that team? Maybe 1000 with some loss, if everything is operating well. That means your infallible. If you got 1000 IQ points, you are as good as your teamwork you are working on, as Mozart was at the piano, so to speak. I guess he composed a little, too. We are going to aggregate, not nullify like my mom and my dad, right? And then we make a multi-person.


19. Now this is the theory that I want you to pretend: there is a multi-person, we have no loss of identity, but we have no head gap.

The head gap is closed, the gap between the heads. The head gap is the space or the extra cost that requires me to use your gifts versus using my own. The goal is to get the head gap cost down to zero. So that I know your gifts, and I know how to ask you to use them, because I ask for help and asking for help is the head gap eliminator, it's the universal psychological distance solvent. The reason that most of the time, when you join a team, the first thing that happens is your IQ loses about 30 or 40 points is because the head gap is so high and people are just crazy.

Crazy and immature. They want to talk about anything for any reason. I mean I got into a meeting and I just can't believe what's happening. You got to really think about these things. They would sit there with ideas and not say them, and then they go back and say "I was going to say that idea but I didn't know if you liked it" or later they go "Well, you know, I mentioned it". If you mention an idea, that's not being faithful to your source of ideas, that's being a worm.

Mention an idea? You got to stand up and say that idea loud and clear, until everybody hears it and acknowledges it, and then you got to say "Now I got this condition, I'm just stating it now, it's an API. When I say an idea, I don't sit down on that idea until you make it better or adopt it or reject it. But my idea has got to be respected because I expect more ideas, I need more ideas. I like ideas. So those are some of the ideas of engagement.


20. Unanimity as a decision-making method.

Let me go talk about the next big protocol. The political system that evolved in our laboratory - that is to say how was power, our decisions made and recorded and so on - was that, I would say it this way: unanimity precedes action. Unanimity is the most efficient political system we have devised. Majority rule is really bad, because what you are saying is everybody votes, a bunch of people vote this way, there is just not a majority of them and what that means is you carry forward with a significant percentage of people against what you are doing and they are in charge of doing it.

How dumb is that? Is that dumb or am I wacky? It is dumb to take your outwires forward. You are carrying them, you are struggling with them the whole time. It's a huge cost, half of the team is not in, third of the team's not in, 20% of the team is not in. So we use unanimity. I don't know why world never used unanimity much. I guess they figured "We can never cheat that". But that's what's achieved in our BootCamp routinely and in the companies we work with. It's called Decider. Decider goes like this: "I propose"; when someone says that, the whole world has to shut up. That's a good rule. Someone is going to say "Let's act!".

If you are going to say "Let's act!" we all got to shut up and listen, because you got an actual actionable idea. "I propose X", then they got to go "1, 2, 3!" And everybody votes at the same time with their hand. If you don't go "1, 2, 3!" a human being will never vote. They just become paralyzed. I don't know why, I don't understand it. But we tried it without "1, 2, 3!" and they won't vote, they just sit there. Because they know they are going to be on the hook if they vote. Then you could vote "Yes", you could vote "I support it", you may not want to put me in charge but I'm not that high on it, but I promise not to sabotage it, it's basically "Yes" but I am kind of pissy about it, but it's a "Yes", counts as a "Yes".

And there is "No". There are 2 kinds of "No" - once the vote is taken, the proposer goes to the no-votes, called outliers, has a discussion with each one of them in turn, each one that voted "No" and the topic of interest is only one: "What's it going to take to get you in?" He doesn't do that if there is a majority of "No", he doesn't bother, but if there are some outliers that are a minority, the proposer will ask, one at a time, "What's it going to take to get you in?" Now, if you are an outlier and there is nothing he could do to get you in, you say right away "I won't get in" and then that proposal is dead. It is gone, you have stopped that idea, you have killed it, you have made the show come to a halt. So you are in charge. How do you like that?


21. An accountable "No" is respected, but it's got to be accountable.

You can say "No", but no, you can't go away without a better idea. Because if you don't have a better idea, then that's the best available idea and you always act on the best available idea. You can always change it tomorrow, or next week if better ideas come around. But, by definition, if you don't have a better idea, you have to vote "Yes". So when you stop the show you are expected to carry the next vote, which happens immediately. And this makes people say "No" much less.

Because when there is ability that has been negative without consequences of negativity, it's unaccountable. If I can say "No" without anybody carrying, I'll say "No" all day long. And then when it doesn't work, I'll say "I told you it wouldn't work" "I've been saying all year it wouldn't work. Every day long I've been doing something dumb on purpose". That's another commitment "I promise never to do anything dumb on purpose. I am going to do some dumb stuff. God knows, I am going to do a lot of dumb stuff. But if I know it's dumb in advance, I'm not going to do it."


22. Your primary error-handling routines are Protocol Check and Intention Check.

So, I'm not going to sit, let you talk, wasting time. I'm going to use a protocol, called Protocol Check. This is your air error-handling routine, your primary air error-handling routine. There are 2 of them: one is Protocol Check and one is Intention Check. Protocol Check - you go "Protocol Check" and then you say chapter and verse where you are of order. It could be on a commitment. For example there is a commitment to seek to perceive more than I seek to be perceived.

That's one of the commitments. And when someone is not trying to perceive more than they are trying to be perceived, you can call them out of order. Another commitment is "I promise to take timely and effective use of Protocol Checks." Like you can protocol check me, I invite it, because I want to be on the program. I like the program. I'll never forget the woman from Microsoft. I was walking through the teams room. They were working at a BootCamp, and she is good friend of mine, great woman and she goes "1, 2, 3" and I look up to see her voting [by pointing up but moving her head from left to right].

I said "Sue, what are you doing?" and she said "I told them (something)". "But you are voting like this, you are saying 'Yes' and 'No' at the same time. That's illegal, I think. It will be in the next version. It's funny what you catch: my daughter says "Let's check in". So, we all check in, it comes her turn and she says "I pass". Guess that will be illegal in the next version. I know what you guys are feeling.


23. Decider, that's the third protocol.

We don't recommend the using of it in 20 people teams. It's a 5 person team type of protocol, 6, 4 people, and unanimity is not that hard to get and you can even work it through a 20 person team often, because it's surprising how much aligned you are before you start talking. Something, some day, is got to do something about discussion. There ought to just be a log instead. "Well, let's discuss that". "No, let's not!" Let's either do something or go away from each other. Like this idea of "Anymore discussion before we vote?" - that's a kind of parliamentary idea.

If you take the vote first, you have got almost 100% "Yes", almost always. People are in a natural state of alignment. And then you can discuss and they'll all fall off the wagon and start fighting. Intention protocol check is when someone goes "I propose..." and they say 10 ideas, and protocol requires one actionable idea. So they got 10 actionable ideas and someone goes "Protocol Check!, one idea per proposal". That's how it works. And it's just common sense. But how do these teams get to that state of shared vision? They get to it because they go through a process called alignment. Alignment is just kind of a jargon and I wish I had a different word for it because it's basically about one thing: what do you want.


24. When you ask someone what they want, you are using another protocol to do it called Investigate.

It has a special meaning for a team, because the idea is for everybody on that team to know what everybody else wants and to have a deal with them to help them get it. Isn't that smart? Why don't we want people to tell us what they want and ask us to help them get it. And also they can spell out the evidence they will have when they get it. That's called a personal alignment. The funny thing about this is, when you did that with someone, they don't want something superficial, experience teaches. They want something that's virtuous, that would do the whole team good. That if a team only had more of that, they could bring that into the team, we need that. The single most popular alignment is courage. The second one is passion, maybe wisdom, joy, fun, peace, self-care. Things that the world would do good to have.

They don't really want your project or your responsibilities. If they would be living in a world where best ideas prevail, there is no petty turf issues. They only want the best ideas for their product, their piece of it and everybody else's. They want to heal to the best idea. But something happens when people tell you at a deep level what they actually want, because they are going vulnerable. Here is a phenomenon I've observed: vulnerable attracts. If you go "I'm not very good when other people lead", which is true of me, as it happens, but if I admit that vulnerability, I'll draw attraction. It has just happened 3-4 days ago when I admitted that vulnerability to my wife, because my personal alignment is: I want self-awareness.

I want to be aware of what I am good at and what I am not good at, what I am feeling and what I'm not feeling. Self awareness is the default alignment because if you don't know what you want, you definitely want some more awareness. You got to know what you want. How else would you organize your life if you don't know what you want? Do you organize it by what I want? Do you organize it by what your parents want, what your kids want? Organize it randomly? You got to organize it somehow! And what you want is like the voice of God. I mean it's a very personal thing.


25. A web of commitment.

And what you want is what you want because it's what you want. When you take a team of people and put them in a room it takes 2 days for 10 or 20 people to figure out what each of them wants and what would look like if they had it and how will they help each other by doing the following. And when they've all done that, they'll have - let's call it - a web of commitment which came about because one team, when they have that done, they just grab the ball of yarn and they went around the circle in order and said what they wanted to each other.

And they asked for help, ritually. And then they put a spiral web, and so they went "Hey, it's a web! A web of commitment!" Because everybody exchanged commitments to help each other. When all of a sudden all these people you are working with, that you don't like ordinarily or that you don't understand their motivations, get attracted to you because they are vulnerable and you want to help them. Everybody wants to help. I mean, almost always when you ask for help, a person says "Yes". When they get vulnerable, they get attracted to you, something starts to happen on the mechanics or the dynamics of the team - the chemistry. Everybody starts being attracted to everybody. It's like a crush. It's collaborative intimacy.

Vulnerability is a value. Strength repels. "I don't need anything" Except a polectomy! And when everybody starts being attracted to each other and they all start working on these virtues, which, in summary, are what the team wants - the aggregate picture of what the teams wants is this list of individual wants -. There is a mathematics here and that is that greatness, which we haven't talked about much, but that greatness is what we are after. Great products on time, great software on time, great services on time. Greatness is the sum of all alignments.


26. What everybody wants is what they are missing to be great.

Once they ask for it, once they acknowledge it, there is a big infusion of it. That virtue just starts showing up in that person automatically because they've done that thing what we did when we did our resistometer off. They turned their resistometer off on virtue, invited it in and said "I want it" and they start celebrating when they get it. The y get a signal that goes "I'm courageous now!" or whatever. And then everybody goes "You go girl!" They have all signal response going.

They are working on their alignments and some flow, some very special flow of love starts to go around because there is this influx of virtue all at once over the team and then there are people acquiring virtue after virtue on the team. And then they are also newly attracted to each other and that's kind of the magic that happens here. Is that right BootCamp people? And when they left off like that they don't have any trouble getting to a shared vision, which is the goal, remember now, we are after the shared vision. Because that's 10x.


27. To become a great team, become great humans.

This person told me once "Oh, you want to be an artist? A great artist?" "Yes" "That's easy! Become a great human being and then paint." I found that to be good advice. Difficult to follow, but conceptually simple. And the same is true of shared vision: become a shared being with the ability to decide as one, with the awareness of all that is needed for, with the awareness of your role to help get it, secure it, decide as one, act as one, unanimity prevails, reveal, disclose yourself - all your ideas, feelings and beliefs. None of these introverts can and extroverts have to do it too much - that's against the rules. You have to do it when you have to do it.

When you do all those things, you become a multiple being with no loss of individuality, no diminishment rather enlargement of your identity and a composite aggregate pool of your virtue, and that, I think, is what we are inching toward in the Agile movement and that's what this world is inching toward, a little bit at a time. And the way they can get there is by having a TCP/IP between and among them, that is our job to develop and promulgate throughout the world to make a great society. How many people do you think made Greece and what was that all its majesty when it was peaking? How many people were in Greece? Or Athens? I'll tell you: 27,000. And what did they give us? Democracy, drama, philosophy, geometry.

They killed their philosophers, had slaves and women couldn't vote. But they gave us those things - our patrimony from Greece. 27,000 people. Do you suppose they were really that different from us? Or do you suppose maybe they decided to be great? Intentional greatness is possible. I've seen it time and again. There are teams of people who are discordant, unruly, not creative, dysfunctional and undesirable and unattractive, yielded the greatness intentionally in a week. And by greatness I mean (I have a keen eye for this) the historically significant.

And the state of things being what they are, I am not going to go into a bunch of stories about it, because we are about out of time. But I am going to tell you that, when you connect in this fashion, and maybe other fashion, we are just beginning, this is the kernel, the core, is a little tiny bit. 11 pages, 11 promises, 11 protocols. But when you program your culture, when you design your interaction, you put intention behind your life, you can be great, no just on time, but we could build a great society. Most people that go through this experience say that it works most in their family. My children took Check In to show in town. They always had a language for their feelings. Teachers loved it.


28. Jim thanks the audience.

I am done ranting and promising, but I'm not done pretending, because I'm in the city where John Lennon said "All we are saying is give peace a chance". And you've given me this chance today to give you some information about some extraordinary thing that is possible and for that I will for ever be in your debt.

Oct 24, 2008

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