Posted on

Engaging an Aggressive Curiosity: A Q&A with Tim Ottinger

Tim Ottinger is a keynote speaker at this year’s Path to Agility 2017 conference. He is a consultant, programmer, tester, teacher, agile team coach, manager and writer. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tim, and this is what he said:

What will you be speaking about at this year’s Path to Agility conference?

I’m speaking about Engaging an Aggressive Curiosity, which is a more in depth, fun exploration of continual learning and continuous improvement.

Why did you choose the topics you will be discussing?

My friend George Dinwiddie summed this up a while back in a blog, where he stated, “The number one problem I see at clients is that there is no time to learn.”  This has long resonated with me.

Back in medieval times, we expected to hire development team members who were fully formed and who needed no improvement. They were hired for what they already knew how to do, and no investment was made in further developing their talents. Any changes came through staff turnover. What I have seen in great teams is that curiosity is welcome, and harnessed to improve the work system in many ways. The flow of fresh ideas, lessons, and realizations is important to remaining truly agile.

Who should come hear you speak?

If you are a manager over one or more teams, then you can come because we are going to explore techniques and mindsets that will help you lead people who think for a living.

If you are a person who thinks for a living (which includes managers, testers, coders, operations, sales, and about anyone else), then you might want to come and learn a few ways to add to your effectiveness and productivity.  If you like pictures of cute fuzzy animals, I might have something for you too.

What do you hope people will take away from your talks?

Their empty coffee cups and gum wrappers. 😉 I hope that they will leave with their natural curiosity engaged and the ability to grow it.  I especially hope that they will be “primed” for learning from the other amazing speakers who will be presenting later in the day.

More than that, though, I hope they’ll have practical ways to ignite and apply their creativity to become more productive and human in their daily work.

What results have you seen from teams that have applied the things you will be discussing? 

I’ve seen teams go from being exhausted and burned out to being engaged and excited and mentally fresh all day.

What do you do professionally when you’re not speaking at conferences?

I am not primarily a public speaker, though I love and appreciate the opportunities brought through public speaking. I am a trainer, agile coach, and programmer. I help teams solve people’s problems using software.

I help managers and executives revise their work system so that effective software development is possible and maybe inevitable.

I write a lot of stuff, too.

Tell us about some of things you have written.

I also contributed to Clean Code (see chapter 2, on naming), and I started and co-authored Agile in a Flash with Jeff Langr (the web site, the book, and the podcast series).

I also wrote a free book on Vim, titled Use Vim Like a Pro.

I have written or co-written a lot of articles at various places such as Smart Bear, CIO, Pragmatic Bookshelf, Info Q, etc. This would be a good google search.

Mostly, I contribute to the blogs at and

I’m also on a number of podcasts, including “Agile for Humans”, “Path to Agility” (familiar-sounding name), and “Developer on Fire”

Where can we go to find out more about what you do?

The primary place to go is  I work with a number of exceptional people, headed by Josh Kerievsky.  We are all skilled in technical and process consulting, and can help companies to make their people and customers awesome through continual learning and delivery.

You can read some of my more fully-developed ideas at the Industrial Logic blog, or some of my nascent ideas at AgileOtter.Blogspot.Com.

I have a moderately-high-volume agile-related Twitter feed (@tottinge). I tweet about software and software culture rather than flippant commentary on the line at the coffee shop.

What else can you tell us?

I’m always interested in a little adventure; hiking, flying drones, interesting foods and libations, photography, new ideas, new places. Contact me if you have something interesting to do and I’m likely to be in your area.

My curiosity has led me to become a bit of a connoisseur of BBQ, chili peppers, olives, coffees, and whiskeys (never to intoxication). I never know what I’ll get interested in next.

And if you’re in the northern Chicagoland area, I’m occasionally available to share a meal and/or a nice chat.

Posted on

Making Great Leaders: A Q&A with Christopher Avery

Christopher Avery is a keynote speaker at this year’s Path to Agility 2017 conference. He is an author, a speaker, and a CEO of Partnerwerks, Inc. Christopher is dedicated to helping people become great leaders. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him and this is what he said:

You will be speaking at this year’s Path to Agility conference. What do you hope people will take away from your talk?

That they already have the power to overcome any problem or challenge, no matter how daunting it seems.

Who should come hear you speak?

Only people who want to take ownership of their life, to stop coping with problems and start growing.

What is The Responsibility Process?

The Responsibility Process® is a simple pattern in our mind that helps us process thoughts about taking and avoiding responsibility for our lives, actions, and situations (see attached jpg). As you learn about The Responsibility Process and how it works, you realize that we are each far more powerful and able than we usually give ourselves credit for.

How’d you come up with the idea of The Responsibility Process? 

It is not my original idea. The Responsibility Process® was derived from phenomenological research over many years. I was introduced to the research by one of the team members many years ago. I already had advanced degrees in social science so I had studied lots of models of normal psychology. This was the most powerful model I had seen. So, knowing that I was a speaker, he challenged me to never again speak to a group without teaching them about responsibility. I’ve been true to that pledge. That’s why my name is associated with The Responsibility Process.

You’ve written some books. What are they and what can you tell us about them? My latest title is The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power. It offers three potent tools you can use to bring more freedom, power, and choice to your life. Some lucky attendees will get a copy of this book at the conference and I’ll be pleased to sign it if asked. My first book, Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility, is now a classic. It introduced industry-leading principles and practices for shared leadership and shared responsibility. FORTUNE magazine called it the only book on teamwork that you need to read.

How have you seen people take what you’ve taught and apply it to their lives?

I’m blessed to be associated with such great material. I’ve had the good fortune to witness hundreds of people take charge of their lives and produce such joy and freedom for themselves and others. Just today an agile coach who trained with me last month in Toronto told me how liberating it was when he noticed that he was in Quit (one of the mental positions of false responsibility) around a significant and longstanding problem in his life. He said the number of options that opened up for him was exciting. I often hear from very talented and outwardly successful professionals telling me that before learning The Responsibility Process they did not know that there was life beyond Obligation. And now they find tremendous joy in their work, and they shape their work to produce greater value for others and bring more joy to themselves. There are COHAA board members who have such stories. And thousands of teams around the globe practice ownership and freedom at high levels because they adopt The Responsibility Process as a shared language for sense-making.

How’d you become interested in leadership? 

I learned early in my career that leadership and management were not the same. You can be a leader without managing. And you can manage without leading. So I became interested in lower case “l” leadership. Leadership as a behavior. And what I learned was that leadership is a natural side-effect of being in motion toward a goal or purpose that is larger than you. When you embody a larger vision and purpose, one that you need help to achieve, then a part of your character turns into a leader — a natural leader. Not a title or an assignment, but a role dynamic. Everyone has this capability. It is innate. So, if I can help you identify what you care deeply about, and pursue it, then there is a good chance you will demonstrate leadership.

What is something that can hinder people from being good leaders? How can they overcome it?

You know, we all have dark sides or shadow sides of us, as well as light sides–bravado, arrogance, envy, scarcity-thinking, invalidating others, etc. I recommend that we learn to know and love those dark sides as well as the light sides. Use The Responsibility Process to face and overcome the dark sides. When we do this we can focus more and more on creating value and abundant opportunity for ourselves and others to step into.

Where can we go to find out more about what you do?

The most important website is Beyond that, I recommend searching on my name (Christopher Avery) and “responsibility”.

What else can you tell us?

Your life can be very different in three months, when you actively practice The Responsibility Process. Also, you may be able to attend a workshop with me in Columbus in the near future. Stay tuned.


Posted on

Building Great Teams: A Q&A with Richard Kasperowski

Richard Kasperowski is the guest speaker at our next COHAA event (2/23). He is an author, speaker, trainer and coach, and he teaches a class on Agile at Harvard. I interviewed him over e-mail this week, and this is what he said:

You are the guest speaker at out next COHAA evening event, what are some things you will be sharing?

Hi, Joe! I’ll be talking about high-performance innovative work teams and how to get your team there on purpose. I’ll start by introducing the science and research behind high-performance teams. The research includes Google’s work with psychological safety, as well as other important work on team emotional intelligence. From there, we’ll do practical hands-on activities to learn some of the Core Protocols. We’ll practice a few of the behavior patterns that high-performance teams use. We’ll experience how they get your team into a state of high emotional intelligence and psychological safety, which causes high performance.

Who should come to this event?

Everyone should come to this event. Everyone is a member of a team of some kind—any group of two or more people with a shared goal is a team. It might be you and your partner, or you and your family, or you and the people you work with. Every group of people deserves to know how to be their best, and that’s what we’ll talk about.

What do you hope people will take away from this event?

I want people to appreciate the science and research on high-performance teams and know that it’s all about safety and emotional intelligence. And I want them to get a taste of the practical skills for getting to high performance quickly and on purpose.

How do you know if you have a low-performance team?

Well, we usually know in our gut when we’re on a low-performing team. It doesn’t feel good. The people on the team act like they’re not friends, they act in ways that are at odds with each other and their stated goal.

And they’ll have measurably low performance. When we work with teams in industry, we measure their performance. The best team performance metrics are objective, and they measure outcomes like revenue. If you have objective metrics, it’s easy for a team to gauge their performance. They can use that information to guide whatever changes they want to make for themselves.

Where have you seen low-performance teams transformed by applying your principles?

We’ve begun an original research program to test whether these principles are effective. Steven Wolff and I are collaborating on the research. Steve is co-author of the Harvard Business Review article on team emotional intelligence. In one of our studies, we track a group of teams over a six-month period. The teams and their leaders undergo training and coaching in agility and emotional intelligence. We observed significant improvements over the duration of the study—improvements in team emotional intelligence, agile fluency, and performance. It’s quite remarkable!

How long have you been in the industry and what positions have you held over the course of your career?

I’ve been working with innovative technology companies for almost 30 years. The companies range from tiny start-ups to some of the largest companies in the world. I’ve played pretty much every technical role as well as in various leadership roles. These days, I work primarily as a speaker, trainer, and coach, and I teach Agile at Harvard University’s summer and extension programs.

What’s an experience you had with a low-performance team? What have been some of you best team experiences? What made it good?

I typically work with lower performing teams that want to improve. The teams and their leaders are willing to study and practice ideas like the Core Protocols and Agile. It’s great to watch them transform from low performers to high performers. When they’re in that state of high performance, they can get anything done. They love each other, they love their work, they love their customers, and their customers love them. It’s awesome!

You have a book out titled The Core Protocols: A Guide to Greatness, tell us about it.

The book is a concise introduction to the Core Protocols. The Core Protocols are the work of Jim and Michele McCarthy. I’ve combined their material with the instructions for a short workshop that you can use to introduce your team to practical emotional intelligence skills that you need for high performance.

What led you to write this book?

I wanted a book that I could hand to a friend or a client. I wanted something you can keep in your back pocket as a reference on the Core Protocols, the behavior patterns for high-performance teams. It didn’t exist, so I created it. And I have another book in the works. Now that we have research results and a couple of years of practical experience guiding teams through these practices, we’ll be sharing that in an upcoming book.

What else would you like to say about your upcoming event?

I’m grateful to the folks at Central Ohio Agile for inviting me to visit this week. I’m excited to make some new friends and share with them the best of what we know about high-performance teams. And be on the lookout for a full-day class in Columbus on this material. If you want a high-performance innovative team, you’ll want to be there!

Posted on

Call for Speakers for The Path to Agility 2017


The Central Ohio Agile Association is gearing up for the 2017 Path to Agility Conference, which will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, May 24-25, 2017 at The Ohio State University Ohio Union.  

You have the opportunity to present at the conference on a topic of interest to the Agile and Lean communities.  We are looking for people who offer presentations that are both engaging and informative.  The topic should relate to Agile or Lean, and you should be passionate about your subject.  You don’t have to be the foremost expert on your topic — you just need a compelling story to tell!

To let us know you are interested, please submit the following information here:

  • Title – Your first opportunity to make a great impression with both the submissions committee and attendees
  • Photo – High-resolution photo that will be included in conference marketing
  • Speaker bio – Includes information about your agile knowledge and experience, your prior speaking experiences, and whether you have delivered this presentation before
  • Abstract – Description that will be used in conference marketing, and will entice attendees to choose your session to attendees
  • Session Details – Any additional information that you would like conference organizers to consider. For example, you might include an agenda, timings/schedule, why you are passionate about this topic, or anything else that paints the picture of your session.
  • Learning Objectives – Statement of what participants will take away – please include at least two
  • Track – We are looking for content for 4 tracks:
    • Leadership
    • Product
    • Coaching
    • Craftsmanship
  • Audience Level
  • Preferred Room Setup


All submissions will be reviewed by the submissions committee and judged on the merits of the topic and the presenter’s ability to connect with the audience.  Submissions should be completed no later than Sunday, 19 February 2017.  Presenters receive a complimentary registration to the 2-day conference.


Submit your session here or follow this link:

Posted on

My First Time at a COHAA Event

Have you been to a COHAA event? I attended my first one a few months ago. Before then, I’d occasionally visit their website, note an interesting upcoming event, and merely imagine going. Then one day, I actually went.

My first mistake was eating beforehand. They had grub there. For the first half hour, people ate and networked. There was a good crowd there, about 30 – 40 people. All were interested in everything Agile, as was I. I didn’t eat, but I met some folks who were eating.  

The presenter of the evening sat nearby, so we chatted a bit. He gave a good talk about the makings of a successful teams. He got those in attendance to share their experiences as well. People were eager to share. I bet almost a dozen people shared their own Agile stories.

After the presentation, I met a few more people. I met some COHAA volunteers, an Agile coach, a QA guy, and a Business Analyst whose team is adopting Agile. People were friendly and readily gave me their names and numbers. I appreciated the contacts, because I need all the help I can get.

I was happy I went. My goals in attending the event were to learn something new, to meet some fellow Agilists, and to take some first steps in getting involved in the Agile community. I believe I met those goals. I left that night excited about COHAA’s next events and opportunities.