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The Central Ohio Agile Association (COHAA) Welcomes Stephanie Ockerman and Wendy Jacobs to its Board of Directors


The Central Ohio Agile Association (COHAA) is pleased to announce that Stephanie Ockerman and Wendy Jacobs have joined its Board of Directors effective January 1, 2017. In addition to her Board position, Stephanie will be assuming the role of Secretary for COHAA, which is a position previously held by Mike Kaiser.  Mike resigned from his position from COHAA as Secretary and Board Director effective January 1, 2017 to pursue new personal and career opportunities.  Wendy is filling a new Director-at-Large position within COHAA in response to the organization’s continued growth.  Both Wendy and Stephanie will assist the existing COHAA leadership in expanding outreach and focusing on current and future trends in the business and technical communities.

“Mike has been a visionary leader within COHAA, and we will miss his collaboration and contributions to our community,” said Jennifer Bleen, COHAA President and Board Chair. He has been active in our events and community outreach, and we wish him the best as he embarks on his next adventure.

“As we looked at our growth and the value we can add to our community, we wanted people with deep experience who thought beyond agile and to future management and organizational trends.  Stephanie and Wendy bring deep agile experience and specialization, innovative ideas, and a drive for results that will benefit our community now and in the years to come.”

Stephanie Ockerman is a certified Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) and a Curriculum Steward for the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) Course, carrying forward Ken Schwaber’s vision and working with the PST Community to continuously improve the courseware. Stephanie is also a Coach Training Institute (CTI) Co-Active trained coach and currently works with Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, and agilists who are committed to amplifying their impact and leveling up their agile leadership skills.  She has over a decade of experience delivering technology solutions for banking, insurance, retail, government, and energy organizations and has played many roles including Project Manager (PMP), Solution Lead, and GSD Expert.  During the past several years, Stephanie has focused on a career grounded by Agile values and principles, creating a minimalist lifestyle, and experiencing the world. She is passionate about helping others discover a path to fulfilling and joyful lives.  You can find Stephanie writing on and speaking at meetups and conferences.

Wendy Jacobs, JD, is an Agile Coach and Product Owner with Cardinal Solutions Group.  She has over 18 years of product development experience, specifically in Product Management.  Her current focus is on coaching all levels of Product Owners and Management on how to maximize the business value delivered.  Wendy is passionate about mentoring others in Agility, Product Ownership and Product Management as well as delivering training courses, and presenting at conferences and meetups. 




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Talking the Talk with Faye

At a recent COHAA event, Faye Thompson talked about speaking at Agile events. In her 20 years of industry experience, she has done several speaking engagements, so it was nice to hear some of her stories. For example, once Faye and our very own Jennifer Bleen drove through a snowstorm to deliver a talk on retrospectives to an enthusiastic audience, who, I suppose, powered through the same nasty weather to attend. The event was a hit, and the discussion so good it ran past its scheduled time.

But back to retrospectives. Hasn’t everything already been said about retrospectives? Well, no, not everyone’s unique experience with them has. Plus, you might be surprised how many people don’t know much about them, or the recipe for how to do them well. That’s the thing. Just because you might be super familiar with a topic doesn’t mean others are. And just because books have been written about something doesn’t mean you can’t speak on it and add value too.

Faye asked us to think of a topic that we might like to speak on some day. Crickets. I must admit. Some topics came to mind, but I rejected them out of hand, thinking, everyone already knows about this. Thankfully, one brave fellow in the room who put up an assumingly tired topic voiced what I was thinking. “What’s that?” I said about his topic. “Yeah, what’s that?” someone else said with equal interest. We’d never heard of it. See?

There are all sorts of speaking styles out there. There’s your traditional presentation, where you speak and the audience listens, with some Q & A at the end. But this isn’t the only way. Rather, you could facilitate an open discussion with the room, get them to do the heavy lifting. Who knows, if you do your job well, they might forget you’re the one presenting and you can slip out for a bite.

You don’t have to always roll with the initial room set-up, either. Faye said she likes to rearrange the chairs sometimes to serve her purposes. You might want to, too, as long as it’s OK with the event coordinator.  

Oh, and this is cool. Have you ever heard of a fishbowl? It’s where you set up four chairs in the center of the room, one chair left empty. Only those in the hot seats can discuss the topic at hand, while everyone else watches. It’s better than Survivor. Anyone can join the discussion, but here’s the catch: to do so, you must sit in the empty chair. When you jump in, someone else jumps out, effectively opening an empty chair for the next brave soul.   

Speaking at local (and non-local) events and conferences is a good way to get your name out there. And the platforms are many. Besides COHAA, there are tons of local user groups in existence. Just check out TechLife Columbus, and if you want, you could “eat pizza every night of the week.” By the way, a good way to pack the house for your speaking engagements is to accumulate a following beforehand by blogging and doing podcasts.

Faye gave us some tips on how to submit a presentation proposal for an event – what to include, what not to include. Tip #14: Make sure your bio pic reflects how you want to be viewed. Some are all business, while others could be straight from last summer’s karaoke night. You decide. 

Faye gave us other tips as well. I’m not there yet, but if you’re ever slated to speak at the end of an all-day event, like the Agile 2017 International Conference, say, take time to enjoy the conference. Don’t coop yourself up in your hotel room all day fretting over the details of your presentation. You might psych yourself out and have to leave on a stretcher. I added that last part.

In fact, I got an email from Agile Alliance the other day calling for speaker submissions for their Agile 2017 International Conference. That might be a little too big league for me right now. However, after hearing Faye speak, I could more easily see myself speaking at a COHAA event in the future. What about you?


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We Have Two COHAA Events this Week and You’re Invited!

Hey, if you’ve ever been interested in speaking at a COHAA event, come Thursday night to learn how. Those who typically speak at events are local Agile practitioners, like you. You don’t have to be an established speaker or anything like that, just willing to share your Agile experiences and expertise. Many professionals in the area could greatly benefit from what you know or have picked up along the way. So, if you’re interested come and learn the ropes. 

If speaking is not your thing, come anyway. COHAA events are always a good opportunity to network with like-minded Agilists and find out what they’re up to. And who knows, maybe at the end of the evening, you’ll decide that, actually, you would like to speak someday. 

Can’t make Thursday night? That’s OK. If you’re more of a morning person, this Friday a.m., COHAA is kicking off the Agile Coaching Circle. This is the first of ongoing monthly meetings where Agile coaches and those interested in Agile coaching can meet and talk about… well, Agile coaching. It’s a great way to hang out with people who do what you do (or want to do) and learn from each other. See you there!


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Is Your Software-Delivery Team Effective?

Last month’s COHAA event had a good turnout. Those who attended got to eat Bibibop, hang with local techies, and hear software developer and tech lead Jason Blackhurst speak on effective team building.

So, what’s the secret to having an effective software-delivery team?

You might conclude that the best teams simply consist of a group of your company’s most talented people. Not necessarily so. Google did a study on effective team building and identified 5 traits that effective teams have:


People want to know that their work matters. Effective teams grasp the tangible impact their collaborated efforts have. Teams that know this tend to produce better work. They are focused on the positive change they are producing, which boosts self-worth.


People also want their work to have personal meaning. Effective teams have team members who personally buy in to the roles, plans and goals of the team. Team members also believe that their role is important to the team’s success.

Jason mentioned the “Hero Developer.” You may have one on your team. Heck, you may even be one. This is the person everyone, perhaps even unconsciously, goes to to get stuff done. Because this person is so effective, the hero shoulders most of the work while his teammates are reduced to mere supporting mechanisms of his or her efforts.

This is bad. Others on the team feel their work is less meaningful, which leads to lower moral, less team collaboration and, ultimately, lower quality work.

Structure and clarity

Effective teams have structure and clarity. Team members with clear understanding and agreement of their roles and responsibilities can confidently pour their energy into tasks they own, rather than waste time trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing or, worse, duplicating another team member’s work.


Team members must be able to depend on each other. A short-timer who is counting the days to retirement and has stopped pulling his weight can do serious harm to a team. Never mind that you now have five people doing the job of six. If the team perceives no one cares about the slacker’s work ethic, the problem can become contagious. Others might think it’s OK to let their work slide some too.

When Jason asked the room to share our experiences, one guy shared a story about a co-worker at an old job years ago who had an offsite manager. This person had gone to great lengths to doing nothing. For instance, he figured out a way to systematically send out pre-written emails throughout the day to look like he was working, when, really, he was out taking a “long lunch.”

Jason said that sometimes an honest conversation is in order. Talk to the offender privately about his or her work – or lack of work – and see if this turns things around. Are these conversations awkward? Sure. But at least you’ll save your team.

Psychological safety

The most important team trait, however, is psychological safety. Team members must feel safe enough to speak up. Effective teams make it comfortable for everyone to be vulnerable, ask questions (even “stupid ones”), express concerns, offer ideas and so on.

A person in the room offered up a personal story about a time when the scrum master was also the manager of those on the team. This hurt the team’s psychological safety because people felt reluctant to say things that the manager might not like.

When every team member can freely engage in the conversation, teams become more unified, and better solutions, creativity and problem-prevention result.

If your team is underperforming, or even if it has room for potential, try focusing on these 5 Google traits. It could lead to happier workers and better software, which is no small thing.

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The Path to Agility Conference 2016


Registration is now open!!!


COHAA is excited to announce our 2016 The Path to Agility Conference, featuring The Path to Craftsmanship. The conference will be held on Wednesday, May 25th and Thursday, May 26th.


The conference website is continually being updated as we add more sessions. We have an exciting lineup of speakers, workshops, and panels scheduled. We will also have Open Space sessions and a code retreat covering practices and lessons learned in Agile, Lean, DevOps, and Organizational Change Management frameworks.


The conference will be held at the Ohio Union. The venue page on the conference site does provide a list of hotels and restaurants located nearby. The conference retrospective & happy hour (After the Path) will occur on Thursday at the Big Bar immediately after the closing keynote on Thursday.


The speaker and session content is being updated on a daily basis, so please check the website regularly.


We have several authors speaking this year. Our closing keynote will be Jason Womack, international speaker and productivity expert. We plan to include a free copy of his latest book, How to Start When You’re Stuck (Wiley, 2016) to the first 250 registered attendees. A book signing will be planned on Wednesday. We plan on providing additional books from our other speakers, so please do register early to be eligible.


If your organization plans to send a number of associates to the conference, we can help facilitate the registration process. A conference redeem code can be created based on the num ber and type of tickets you plan to approve. An invoice will be generated by COHAA and payment must be received by April 30th.


The redeem code can be used by your associates during the registration process. We can provide a report of individuals signed up with the registration code on request.


Contact to setup.


See you in May!