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Being Transparent: A Q&A with Richard Ziebarth

Agile coach, Richard Ziebarth, will be speaking at the next COHAA evening event, this Thursday (10/26), on the importance of transparency. Come check him out. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him, and this is what he said:  

Tell us a little about yourself.

I started out as an obnoxious business analyst desperate for human interaction in an email driven world (2007), that was just around the time my organization was experimenting with the scrum framework.  I asked to be put on the team and it changed my career path for the better.  I have since been an agile coach for multiple clients around Columbus and bring a passion for value driven software development with a focus on quality and continuous improvement.

Tell us about the topic you will be speaking on.

The importance of transparency in the way we work and communicate.  I am a big proponent of candid open communication.  I think the more accurate/timely the information is within your team and your organization the more informed your and others decisions can be.  I speak about how a lack of transparency can stifle agility and how to get back on track if you feel your team or organization needs work in this area.

Who should come hear you speak?

Anyone who works in a collaborative team environment or manages one.  IT managers will probably get the most out of it since they have a greater ability to positively affect change from a cultural perspective.

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

The ability to identify a lack of transparency and the confidence to communicate to their peers as to why/how it is impacting their team/org.

Why should organizations care about transparency?

Sounds cheesy, but “information is power.”  The more timely and accurate information you have the better you are going to be able to make quality decisions.

What does good transparency look like?

A commitment to openness (2 scrum values).  Team members in your organization should feel comfortable and always be willing to share their thoughts and perspectives on the work they are doing and the people they are doing it with.  This is all built on a foundation of autonomy and trust.

What does lack of transparency look like?

Team members are afraid to be candid and share their perspective for fear of ridicule.  Less collaboration, people doing extra work to cover themselves in case a mistake is made.  People hoarding application knowledge for their own personal benefit.

What is a common thing you’ve seen organizations do that impedes good transparency?

Use accountability like a weapon to distribute and deflect blame.  We should all be accountable for the quality of work that we do, but we should be accountable to each other and as a team.  Assigning accountability at the individual level divides team members that should have a common interest or goal.  it forces people to care only about their little piece, which naturally hurts collaboration and transparency.

What change might you advise an organization that practices poor transparency to make first

I could go on forever on this topic and the presentation focuses heavily on this, but to simplify it I would say the org needs to make a cultural shift towards shared accountability and goals across team members with a culture that espouses trust and autonomy.

How have you seen organizations, teams, and individuals benefit from a culture of transparency

They work smarter, collaborate more, therefore they build stronger working relationships which makes work more fulfilling.

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7 Agile Coach Don’ts

At this year’s Path to Agility conference, agile coach Dustin Potts, gave a talk titled Seven Deadly Sins of Agile Coaching. What was it about? Well, if the title didn’t give it away, it was about seven bad practices or false beliefs any good agile coach would want to avoid. Here are a few “sins” an agile coach could make… ready?

  1. Agile coach = boss
  2. One size fits all
  3. Won’t compromise
  4. Blow it up! (change everything)
  5. Forget about improving
  6. Everyone wants to change
  7. Think you can beat the culture

Dustin had lots of good things to say about each listed item above. For example, #5: Forget about improving. “Agile transformation is not a landing spot.” Even the best agile teams have more waste to eliminate or improvements to make. Agile coaches should focus on cultivating a lean culture. A practical way to do this is to create action plans for continuous improvement at your retrospectives. To hear about the other six agile coaching don’ts, see Dusting Potts’ presentation on Seven Deadly Sins of Agile Coaching.

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#NoEstimates: A Q&A with Ryan Ripley

Ryan Ripley is a speaker at this year’s Path to Agility 2017 conference. He is an agile coach and a blogger. Ryan also hosts the popular podcast Agile for Humans. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him, and this is what he said:

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

This year I am presenting on the #NoEstimates Movement.

Why did you choose the topics you will be discussing?

All of my topics stem from ideas that I am passionate about. I truly believe that estimation processes can be damaging to organizations and want to have that discussion with openminded agilists in the community. By modifying our thinking on estimates and predictability, I believe we can better serve our customers and help make our teams and organizations awesome.

Who should come hear you speak?

This talk is for anyone curious about alternate ways of making decisions in agile projects.

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

I hope that people will walk away with a clear path to improving the outcomes of their work and reducing the risk in the agile projects and portfolio.

How have you seen teams apply the things you will be discussing? 

Certainly!  I’ve worked with many teams who have decided to use forecasting instead of traditional estimates to monitor their work and generate insights in to better ways to deliver software. #NoEstimates is no longer theoretical. Major agile shops have embraced these principles. Agile thought leaders including Ron Jeffries (The Nature of Software Development) and Johanna Rothman (Predicting the Unpredictable) have written about #NoEstimates, and we see tweets almost every day from agilists across the globe who are having success with #NoEstimates ideas.

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

I am an Agile Coach in Chicago, Illinois.

Tell us about the podcast you host, Agile for Humans.

Agile for Humans is the top agile podcast on iTunes and is centered on the individual and interactions that make agile work. We bring many of the top agilists in the world together to talk about the diverse issues and happenings in the community. The show is free-form, so the conversations go in many interesting and new directions. We love getting listener feedback and try to incorporate their questions and comments into the show.

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

My website is:

What else can you tell us?

Path to Agility is one of my favorite conferences to visit each year. COHAA is a class act team that treats their speakers very well and makes sure that attendees are well taken care of and get a lot of value out of the conference. This year’s keynotes – Esther Derby, Tim Ottinger, Christopher Avery, and Jodi Womack are going to be amazing. If you’re on the fence or have not gotten a ticket yet, I highly recommend you get signed up before Path sells out.

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Getting Momentum: A Q&A with Jodi Womack

Jodi Womack is a keynote speaker at this year’s Path to Agility 2017 conference. She is an executive coach and owns an online coaching and training company with her husband. She also is a co-author of the book Get Momentum: How to Start when You’re Stuck. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jodi, and this is what she said:

You will be speaking at this year’s Path to Agility, what are some things you will be sharing?

Please come to my keynote presentation so that you can learn 5 real-life tactics you can use to get momentum. I’ll share ways you can take care of what’s in your immediate control and how to build a community of influencers and mentors who’ll support you through the challenges you’ll face in life and at work. 

Do you ever wonder how successful people seem to have the energy, focus and drive it takes to be in charge of what’s in their control? Would you like to know how leaders lead effectively and managers manage efficiently when chaos is all around? I coach clients around the world to build momentum when they need it most.

Conferences are GREAT for learning new ideas and getting re-inspired. But what do you do when you return to your office, they’ve piled mountain of work on your desk and everyone’s pulling on you in different directions? 

We’ve all been there before; either we’re stuck in a bad place (at work or in life) or the opportunity of a lifetime was just added to our project list. I will share specific strategies and tactics you can use to achieve success. 

Who should come hear you speak?

During my keynote on the morning of Day 2 I will share advice that is applicable and useful for anyone looking to implement what they learn while they’re at the conference! These folks know they need the time, energy and focus to be better and more effective. I will share practical ways to do just that.

More than 5,000 people worldwide have read the book Get Momentum, and over 200 GET MOMENTUM Leadership Academy members are practicing these techniques every month. Our clients have told us that this information makes them more productive, more effective and happier at work!

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

Momentum is a feeling you have at least some control over… you can do very specific things to create the conditions for your greatness – both in your professional and personal life. That may sound lofty, but too often people get and stay stuck thinking that have to figure it all out by themselves. 

You don’t have to go at it all alone.

If you’ve ever been in that stressed out, overwhelmed and stuck place, it’s not natural to simply “motivate” yourself. You need tools and processes that work to get you that feeling of momentum you know you need. I’ll share some practical ideas you can use to take care of yourself and make the small, incremental changes that lift you up and propel you forward.

How’d you get into the executive coaching business?

I have been putting together events since I can remember – whether I was throwing a dinner party for a recently promoted friend or hosting the Women’s Business Socials around the world – I know the power created when people come together. 

Our company of 10 years ( provides workshops, keynote presentations and executive to Fortune 100 companies, startups and government organizations whose employees need cutting edge leadership and management training. 

Anyone who’s attended a training program has experienced the rush of enthusiasm and the significance of exposure to information they can use right away. However, information isn’t always enough. Working one-on-one with our executive coaching clients over time, we help them identify specific tactics to implement and coach them how to over-deliver on their plan. 

What can you tell us about your online company,

Not every organization can provide an executive coaching program for every employee. So, in 2012 we founded the GET MOMENTUM Leadership Academy. After identifying the key skills that effective, efficient and productive leaders must improve, we created a high-touch, highly personalized, blended learning program. Monthly webinars, MasterMind Coaching Calls, and experiential activities provided in print, video and audio formats, our members continually improve the skills they need to succeed. 

Just a few of those skills include: (June) Create an Inspiring Workplace, (July) How to Be a Resilient Leader, and (October) Building Better Habits and Routines.

Members who get the most from the program are mid-level managers that have something in common: A year from now, they will need to be better leaders than they are today. Not only that, but their personal lives are shifting too, and they need skills to manage the chaos and complexity of life. 

My husband, Jason, and I bring a unique perspective to this coaching and management development program. We have worked together for more than 20 years. We current co-manage 2 businesses, have written a book together, and we provide unique and custom coaching advice to every member who joins GET MOMENTUM.

What led you to start

Leaders who learn look for opportunities to improve their management skills. Often, they register for conferences like PATH TO AGILITY, buy the books their colleagues recommend and even binge-watch leadership videos online. (Sound familiar???) We recognize the needs of these life-long learners. 

After more than 15 years of facilitating onsite leadership workshops, 5 years ago we founded the GET MOMENTUM Leadership Academy to provide training in the 12 management and leadership skills necessary to achieve success today. 

Surprisingly, most of our members apply what they learn at GET MOMENTUM in the workplace as well as in their personal lives. These members continue getting better, year after year.

What’s one of your favorite coaching success stories?

My favorite stories are when very successful, senior people find time for the people they love. They’ve dedicated their lives to breadwinning and care-taking at the financial level. When they stop to think about their loved ones, they realize that’s their motivation to be more productive… so they can spend more quality time with the people they care about…

The day after one workshop, an executive in Zurich, Switzerland said he left work early to take his family to the park. He had never done that in his entire life. And he said because he had done the work to manage his projects, he felt confident in being 100% present with his wife and 2 little girls.

Another entrepreneur in Santa Barbara, California said, “I was being pulled away from my family at night and on the weekends. My business was growing, and during a single GET MOMENTUM coaching session, I completely changed 2 business processes; and, within 6 months, I was spending more time with my family than the year before.”

You also co-authored a book with your husband, Jason, titled, Get Momentum: How to start when you’re stuck. Tell us about that?

After about 3 years of facilitating webinars and Master Mind coaching calls, our members asked us for more… they wanted the philosophy behind the activity. For a year, we interviewed leaders across industries and asked, “How do you get momentum when you need it most.” 

Surprising, it wasn’t so much what they did. Our research proved that what creates momentum – and keeps it going when times are tough – is a self-reflective process made up of asking personal AND strategic questions. 

In May 2016, readers around the world began asking themselves the 5 Momentum Questions, starting projects and making changes they had previously only dreamed of. During my keynote, I will highlight 3 of the most popular questions our members ask themselves.

Anyone who thinks that more is possible will benefit from reading GET MOMENTUM, whether it’s a personal project or a professional goal, you can use the GET MOMENTUM philosophy to get ahead.

Real quick, without spoiling what you intend to share at Path to Agility, what are some practical things we could do to get momentum and work more productively?

I’ve always believed that we know more than we lead on. Intuitively, everyone knows what they should do. But they don’t always DO what they know they NEED. 

During my keynote, I’ll share a story of how I gained control working for a tyrant boss, as well as when I pitched and published a book with a New York publisher in just 364 days. 

Attendees will get ideas they can use in their professional and personal lives. 

Practically speaking, everyone at the conference will be getting momentum by the very nature of coming together. I know that when like-minded people gather, and are willing to share stories of both the wins & losses and the lessons they learned, it builds community and a supportive network. 

Toward the end of my keynote, I’ll share with the audience the single most important tactic that I’ve ever come across to work more productively. I call it The 30/30 Rule and I promise, you’ll like it.

What else would you like to say?

For anyone who’d like to know more about the GET MOMENTUM Leadership Academy, you’re invited to be our guest, for free for 15 days. Visit to sign up for the free trial membership. (No credit card required. No obligation.)

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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.