Are you doing what you love?

When you get up everyday to go to work, are you doing something you love? I’ve had a lot of people ask me lately about the gaps in my employment. I’m guessing some people think I had no choice when in fact, most were a result of specific and intentional choice.

I have always enjoyed this quote:

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” Marc Anthony.

Since 2008 after a very wise mentor, entrepreneur and manager encouraged me I decided to resign from a job that while yes, I loved it very much was changing. I had taken the team and company to the point that I wanted it to be, he would be leaving and he had founded the company. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of reporting directly to him at that point and I had a succession plan firmly in place. I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish and it was time to do something different. It was a difficult decision but he was supportive and encouraged me to go embark on a new adventure. What was the adventure? I wasn’t sure. I was stepping out into the unknown with a potential opportunity but nothing firm. The economy went BOOM! The opportunity went away and the job market went dry. Still, I had never felt so energized and free! I was in pursuit of doing what I loved doing and I was being encouraged by one of the very best leaders I ever had the  pleasure of working for. As far as I was concerned, leaving a secure position to the great unknown was not unwise, it was the only thing to do. There was no looking back! This is how I got to where I am today and I have no regrets despite the downturn in the economy and despite the sometime gaps in employment.

I love what I do for a profession and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I get to get up in the morning and help people do what they do and find ways to do it better and have fun doing it. I enjoy solving complex problems, teaching others how to do the same and watching while they learn and duplicate the process. I most enjoy watching individuals and organizations become what we’ve come to know as “learning” organizations and knowing that maybe, I had some part of that. I am a life long learner, I enjoy observing and seeing what I can learn, and some of the most valuable lessons have come from people who have worked for me.

I am a coach/servant manager in the software industry. I have spent decades specializing in the Software Quality Assurance area but have also spent considerable time delivering projects, teaching/training individuals, teams and organizations on different ways to deliver software that have aided in their ability to become more efficient/effective. I’ve done some time teaching Customer Service and being in the role of Customer Service when the companies were small enough and we all had more than one job. I’ve performed in pre-sales consultative process roles assisting companies in understanding their process or developing a process before they spent time, money or energy on tools that were likely not going to solve any problems. At one time I developed and delivered software and a long time ago and today on a limited basis recruiting. I enjoy finding talented people and helping them find great companies. I’m a people person. If I can help you, I will. If I can make your job easier, I’m here to help you figure out how to do that. I’m pretty certain there hasn’t been a problem I’ve turned down or have not at some point figured out how to solve if given a real chance.  I solve problems for a living and set direction and strategy. I can cut through the noise quickly and see the path and I can show others how to do the same. I listen and collaborate and realize that the solution developed collectively might be better than the one I have found. There is power in crowd-solutions.

It has not always been easy, there has not always been a job and I have chosen to not settle for just any job and hence, employment has sometimes been hard to find. I could have “settled” but instead of doing something less than, I would go back to studying, researching and seeking continued education until the “right” opportunity arose not just any opportunity. I’d help others in their career paths, perhaps teach a little but everything was inline with what I ultimately wanted to continue to do.

Some might question this decision while those who also do what they love understand it. Either way, this is a conscious choice. I have rejected many opportunities to stay on this one dedicated path and to not be distracted for the sake of eliminating gaps in employment or to make a piece of paper look good. I study constantly and I’m always open to learning new things. I can’t afford to be distracted by doing something completely different. I take risks, I try new things and fearlessly move about the country but I stay in my lane as far as my career goes. I know what I love and because of this certainty, it keeps me on track able to identify those near perfect opportunities.

I have occasionally taken a role or two that was not always perfect because yes, the reality is that there are bills to be paid but I never get fully distracted or make full time commitments to solve temporary problems.

Are you in a situation where you are not able to find a job in your field and people are trying to persuade you to take a different job, perhaps even give up altogether and switch fields? Ask yourself, are they doing what they love? Are they happy when they go to work every day? Listen to what matters to you and decide what will work in your situation. Get a career coach you can trust and find people who can assist you into getting back to doing what it is you do love to do.

If it’s something you’ve never done before but want to try, find people who are doing it and who are doing well. Most people want to help. It is a great joy to coach and help others and successful people will want to do that so seek out successful people in your field and ask if they will help you get started.

Sometimes you have to do something for a short period of time for financial reasons and that is understandable. Sometimes you can weather the economic storm and hold out. Whatever your decisions are if you can manage to take money out of the equation and focus on doing what you love, chances are you’ll be fine economically because you will become so good at it, the rewards will follow. You might have to cut back on lifestyle but the reward will be a lifestyle of outrageous happiness with your choices instead of compromises.

I recommend that you choose outrageous happiness!



Resistance to change – and how to help people through it

With a group of people highly vested in identifying the problem(s) you’ve collectively identified what the problem is with some sharp facilitation skills and key problem solving tricks. You’ve identified data that supports your theory of what the problem is now solving it should be easy right? Simply execute the solution into the workplace and WHAM! Problem solved… but wait….

It wasn’t quite that simple was it?

What did you forget? Ahhhh.. Resistance to change maybe? But why would people resist something that would fix something you ask? Good question. Complicated response. Abbreviated response follows.

Not everyone thought the “thing” was broken so not everyone bought into the solution. Your team did but that was a small sampling of maybe 1800 people or maybe even 20? The effort it takes for people to make a change to how they are doing something is enormous. Do not underestimate it. Don’t believe that simply because it make sense, data says the change will make things better that people will be willing to do it. They won’t. It is still a change and change is difficult for most people even under the very best of circumstances. We could write books on the subject of change and books have been written but here is a quick cheat sheet to get you started.

Solutions by definition mean something has to change and people sometimes resist change, even good change. Change causes fear, fear causes resistance. What now? The simple solution or solutions you came up with may be simple but they are not easy.

Why logic and data will not move change forward and why people are not motivated to change based on these things

Remembering these few points will help when you enter into a situation where you have been asked to help a person, team or organization go through a change or solve a problem:

  1. People in the organization achieved their level of success doing things exactly the way they have done them in the past. Until they “feel” an impetus to change, they won’t. They must come to the conclusion that they need to change on their own or perhaps encouraged by their manager. If this doesn’t happen sometimes someone from the outside that has no bias at all can talk about the feelings someone has about what will happen if a change takes place. Once everything is in the open, a meaningful conversation can take place to ensure those fears are dealt with because fear really is False Evidence Appearing Real but it is very real for the person experiencing it. There must also be something real about the change that must appeal to the person – something they can relate to, something in it for them.

POINT: Change is not easy for everyone and not everyone thinks problems need to be solved.  It is critical to understand this. You must help people through the transition.

  1. Just because the process or change makes logical sense and the data supports that it will be more effective, and people nod their heads and say yes, they still won’t change. Empirical and factual data can sometimes make people feel embarrassed. There are times when data is not very helpful but it’s good to gather it and share it privately with the people who ask to see it. Why is this the case? Here are some possibilities to consider, maybe you’ve felt the same way:
  • People in the organization would have to admit to themselves and possibly to others that they were there when things went awry.
  • Solutions that once solved problems no longer do
  • Something has to change or things will get worse, or worse stay the same

None of these points are comfortable for anyone. Consider this when approaching the subject that a system has to change. People are the system. Focus on the solutions and focus on the people to help them through the changes that have to happen.

Understanding these points will also help you become more effective in helping people through change:

  • They know how to solve the problem, they created it and they know exactly what to do to solve it
  • It may have taken someone else to say exactly what they’ve been saying all along. Think how that might feel.
  • Tread lightly and respect this. They know it better then you do. Be respectful.

Your role is to coach and facilitate the conversation and if very lucky, help bring about a positive change to their workplace. Respect your role, their knowledge and contribution.

Inspect & Adapt – Rinse and Repeat

Many aspects of an empirical process make it different than a defined process. The one difference that is critical to improved project success is the “inspect and adapt” element. Since my early days teaching and implementing total quality concepts I have often stressed the need to do a few things over and over and while they are easy often times I see them missed:

1. Try stuff out
2. See if it works and solves the problem it was intending to solve
3. If not go back and revisit the problem statement, make sure you understand the problem you are trying to solve
4. If yes then
5. Try some more stuff out
6. See if that stuff worked
7. Repeat until you see the result you were looking to achieve

I used to refer to this as the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle and there is a lot of literature on this. It is no different than what we refer to as Inspect and Adapt in Empirical Control Process Theory. Moreover, it just makes sense.

I often teach that most problems do not get better with time. Most problems don’t age well. The longer you wait to solve one often the worse that problem will get. There are many studies showing the later in the software cycle you find a defect the more expensive it is. Do you want to find out you have a problem when you have less time to fix it or more time? For this topic we’ll use software defects and changing requirements because there are some problems that if you don’t solve will in fact go away if enough time passes. So to keep this simple, we’ll think in context of software projects and whether or not it would be useful to know if we’re delivering what the customer wants with an acceptable level of quality to that person sooner or later. Inspect and Adapt.

Most delivery teams want to know this sooner versus later.

We all want more time to adjust to ensure we are delivering the “right thing” but are we willing to be uncomfortable with less planning up front to gather real data upfront vs. pretending to know all the answers up front knowing the questions will change?

We know from experience that requirements are emergent and fluid. People on the teams will come and go, reorganizations will happen, our companies might merge with others. When we are talking about a creative process such as software development responding to a creative and ever changing world, we know we must be flexible and able to adapt to a world economy and an enviroment that is quickly becoming driven by our ever emergent new technologies. Even the technologies we use to build products are changing. The one thing we can be sure of is things will change when we set out to build a product. It’s clear we’d be destined to fail or at least limit our chance at success if we tried to fit this creative process into a defined and predictive process. The statistics have proven this time and time again.

So let’s try something different, not because it’s SCRUM, not because it’s Agile but because we are working in an environment we know will evolve quickly and we want to succeed in delivering what the customer wanted, with a level of quality they envisioned in a manner timely for competitive advantage.

How do we immediately apply the Inspect/Adapt concept to help achieve these outcomes? Let’s look at the language we use in Agile/SCRUM and see if it will help?

Frequently!Look at the emerging product with the person who is receiving it

1.Often, weekly if possible together with the team ask the Product Owner or the person responsible for speaking for the PO, is this what you expected? Want? Are we getting close? Are we way off?

Show the Product Owner the product. Not on paper but show them as soon as you have something working, even if it’s partially working. People are people, we don’t know what we want until we see it. It’s very hard to know what we want looking at something on a piece of paper but when we see it working, even if it’s just partially working we get an idea. From an idea we engage in a more knowledgeable conversation. We have a place to start.


The more frequent the inspections the more on or off track you will know you are. You’ll get data/information from the Product Owner. Take the information and do something with it (in the PDCA model this would be the A-Action part of the cycle). Act. Adapt. This is also subject matter information. You’ll be learning more about the business. This is a serendipitous benefit of working closely with your customer. If you’re able to do this enough soon you’ll become a trusted advisor knowledgable in both technology and their business able to partner with them in helping them stay as competitive as possible in their sector of the marketplace.

1.Adapt the changes as needed, you might have to reprioritize the backlog refine the backlog, taking items off, putting new items on. You might even decide to release the product now as is or cancel the sprint. But you will have information to make informed decisions. You didn’t have that in the prior process model. Prior to you had a pile of documents and estimates. Now you have either a partially working product mid-sprint or a fully releasable piece of a product if you’ve completed a sprint or enough of a product depending on which sprint you’ve completed. You have more than a pile of paper.

Inspect and Adapt – Rinse and Repeat!

You can now be proactive/strategic versus reactive.

Which would you rather be? Which is sustainable? Reactive or Proactive behavior? Working long nights and weekends or a repeatable rhythmic pace?

When you had a mad dash at the end to retrofit a huge system that would likely need massive amounts of testing and would risk being dropped into production in an unstable and fragile state did you feel as though you had control over the process or the project? Also likely not close to 100% of what the customer wanted because you waited too long to ask and now you can only do a portion to get it right. You’d spend weeks fixing the system to get it to the barely acceptable level while also introducing new features and breaking more functionality and still having a barely acceptable level of quality and working/acceptable functionality. By acceptable I mean, what the customer wanted. You repeated that until your system had so much technical debt you debated for weeks, maybe months whether you should rebuild the entire thing. You might have inherited this problem and are having this conversation right now, do we scrap everything and use the latest technology and build an entirely new system or do we take what we have and fix it. Either way the answer as to how you get there is still the same, use an empirical process. Do it in small increments. Know more about the system now versus later. Which process gives you more information? Is more information giving you more control earlier on to make more informed decisions?

Why do you want to change from a defined/predictive process to an empirical process?

In the Standish group’s 2011 CHAOS Reported stated that more than half of software projects failed or were challenged. Only 14% were successful using a defined process but using an empirical process 42% were successful.

What process do you want to use?

Inspect and Adapt – it’s easier, it makes sense, less surprises, find out fast if you’re successful or you need to make course corrections.

We want to hire you to help us go Agile

There is a saying in the entertainment business

 “The best day for a musician is when you get called for a gig, the worst day for a musician is when you get called for a gig!”

I think that can apply to what many of us do. I have been paid to play Bass in a band I also ended up managing. I always had a great time playing but it was never my sole source of income, perhaps that is the difference.  Now back to my sole source of income, software delivery, making software delivery fun for the masses!

I want to hire you to help us, no make us Agile!!  Of course I will..I think.. Wait a minute..let’s pause for a moment. When we’re done we’ll talk about this a bit more.

“I need a moment” – J.Cage – Ally McBeal. – Cageism


Taking a moment

Taking a moment


Should I drive up in my Scrum-mobile and whoosh off we go to Agileville? Well okay – let’s go! A little tongue in cheek humor, are you with me? I should start by saying right away, I can’t help or make you go Agile. I can’t. I can do a lot of things but one thing I can not do is make you do anything. I can help you with the change, I can help coach, train and facilitate. I can do all these things IF. We’ll start with the IF. It’s a bit like the old IF – THEN  – ELSE  statement with an OR thrown in for fun. I’d draw a picture but that would be boring because I’m a terrible artist!

Questions race through my mind. Why do you want that? What value is it going to add? Is there a financial reason to make this change because if there isn’t, if there are no business drivers, why would you make a change in a business? I ponder some more.

People? That’s a good reason to make a change. A true agile environment has been known to be a very enjoyable one in which to work. When people are having fun while working they tend to be more productive. When people are more productive this benefits the company but – it still involves change. And change is not fun for some people. So – have you thought of that? It is going to affect many people in many different ways. You’re going to have to hire someone who knows how to help people through change not someone who holds a CSM, CSPO, other certificates or degrees and has never coached people, teams and organizations through such a significant change. You’re going to need people who understand the mindset of what change does to an organization and the people in it as well as how to implement your agile flavor of choice. If you miss out on that part, you’re missing out on a critical success factor that is likely to determine whether or not the change will be successful. It is the most common mistake I see today. It is the most common mistake many of my colleagues see. Training, coaching, facilitating, knowledge of the art, knowledge of change and the affect of change in an organization are vital skills that the person you hire must have and have deep experience with. If you hire for titles, certificates and degrees, you’re likely going to miss these other critical success criteria. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Changing how your organization develops software or changing your organization for total optimization for people and company. These are very different goals. What is the destination? Can I help you figure it out?

Change is the most challenging part of implementing anything new. So where does this discussion really start?

This discussion starts with why. This is how I ask it. Interesting. Tell me why you want to do something different than what you are doing now. I’ll want do know what it is about me that made you think I’m your person to do this. Based on your responses, we may continue or we may not. If we continue I am going to do my best to help you understand, through a series of questions and based on your responses, if I am your person and if this is a good fit. From that I’ll likely give you a framework of where one might begin or continue. My goal is to depart information, not necessarily to get the job. In all cases when the call ends, my hope is that you know more than when it began. If we decide to work together in the future, this will have set the foundation.

I won’t know what Agile means to you or how much you already know. Where do I start? Where are you in your adoption process and what flavor are you using or are you using a hybrid? Why do you want to adopt any flavor at all? If you don’t know why you are doing something any something will get you there. You have to know where you are starting from and where you want to get to. A destination, a goal, something. I’ll start to think about a few things as I ask some questions. Here are some of my thoughts and questions:

Can I help you – as you’re speaking this will always be in my mind

  1. Is there someone else I know more appropriate for this role
  2. Was someone else doing it and was there an issue? Is this a replacement role or a newly created position. If this is a replace, can you share some of the previous challenges so I can understand what we’ll have to overcome
  3. What problem(s) are you really trying to solve by hiring this role, give it to me straight – what is keeping you up at night. Did someone dictate this change from above and say we’re going to go Agile now get with it? Did it start organically? Are you trying to scale and realize that the old way you did things will not get you there and you heard of this thing called Agile or SCRUM and it sounded good. The more you tell me the more I can understand if I can help or not
  4. What is working really well that we’ll have to be sure to let everyone know we’ll keep doing to mitigate that fear of everything is changing
  5. What is not working and needs to be resolved now, in the next 30 days, 60 days, 90 days.
  6. What do you see as obstacles to success
  7. What is the single most important characteristic that this person you hire must possess and why
  8. What do you want to work differently or better that has caused this position to become open
  9. After all of these questions, do we both feel I am still the right person

Maybe I am, maybe not. Depending on the outcome we might start walking in the same direction and I’ll help get you to the next step. We’ll map out a plan based on what we know today and go from there knowing that as things change, and they will, so will the plan. Our plan to move from where you are today to where you want to get to will be an agile one. We will use the same methodology and way of thinking to get you where you want to get to that you want to implement. This way you’ll learn the mindset behind it. That is perhaps one of the most important  tips to depart. The tools, the charts, the how-to’s, that’s the easy stuff. The mindset shift, a little bit more challenging. But we’ll use the new way to create the plan and move through it.

We’ll live it, day to day, that is how I’ll show you, and we’ll inspect and adapt every day as we learn more about how things are going.

So you want to learn how to go agile – live it. You don’t do agile, you live it. Just like a lifestyle change. You don’t go on a diet and start exercising, you decide to eat healthy and exercise for a lifetime of health. Same idea. It’s the journey, not a destination. You will hit plateaus and you’ll hit walls. You’ll take data and make changes.




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Marjie Carmen 978.609.4552
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Ken Steinberg
CEO, Cambridge Research & Development

Marjie clearly lives, eats, and breaths her work. Her knowledge and compassion for all things Agile is readily apparent. Her knowledge of how to apply Agile techniques combined with her many years of experience make her the quintessential consultant. Embracing Agile is not for the faint of heart but if you want to get it done, Marjie will get you and your team there!