Food For Thought #46: Agile Autonomy, #NoManagers, Anti Patterns, Show Work, Product Mojo & Scaling, AI

Age of Product’s Food for Thought of June 19th, 2016 provides the argument for agile autonomy and manager-free agile shops and lets Basecamp’s CEO explain that the noble purpose of leadership is to establish autonomy, not control. We learn that team happiness is overrated, and how to fix some prevailing Scrum master anti-patterns.

We also explore, why open office spaces may not spark creativity—it’s okay if you want your cubicle back—, but make sure, that everyone can steal your work anyway. Speaking of which: scaling is no excuse for losing your product mojo, and that the CEO turn back the clock and fight bureaucracy. (Listen to Nancy Duarte’s great story.)

Last, but not least, we learn about a framework that might turn brainstorming finally into something useful, and that going Lean works in large organizations, too. Finally, we enjoy The Atlantic’s portrait of Ev Williams of Medium and learn about AI and machine intelligence from Mr deep learning at a16z, Frank Chen. Have a great Sunday!

Essential Reads

Ev Williams (via The Atlantic): The Forrest Gump of the Internet

Ev Williams, founder of and CEO of, became a billionaire by helping to create the free and open web. Now, he’s betting against it.

Railroad, electricity, cable, telephone—all followed this similar pattern toward closedness and monopoly, and government regulated or not, it tends to happen because of the power of network effects and the economies of scale…

Frank Chen (via Andreessen Horowitz): AI, Deep Learning, and Machine Learning: A Primer

Frank Chen, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, walks us through the basics (and beyond) of artificial intelligence and deep learning in this slide presentation: From types of machine intelligence to a tour of algorithms.

Agile Autonomy & Scrum

Rob Wortham and Andy Cleff: Complexity, confusion, and dysfunction: Managers and Agile and Riding an Elephant

Agile autonomy: Complexity, confusion, and dysfunction: Managers and Agile and Riding an Elephant

Andy Cleff on agile autonomy, and the overlap between the role of the traditional manager and a self-organizing agile team. It creates unnecessary complexity, causes confusion, and creates dysfunction. While there’s a place for leaders, there is no place for managers in an agile shop.

Jason Fried (via Medium): You don’t have my permission

Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, on his learnings from L. David Marquet’s leadership book “Turn The Ship Around”: Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.

Katherine Kirk (via Lean Agile Scotland): Why Team Happiness can be the Worst Thing to Aim For

Katherine Kirk suggests a very different kind of approach to get to cultural ‘nirvana’ by using 3 specific models as lenses – drawing from fresh ‘warts-and-all’ practical stories of her last year spent transforming IT culture in the wild.

Luis Gonçalves: 8 ScrumMasters Antipatterns in Scrum

Luis Gonçalves on common anti patterns in Scrum masters, and how to take small steps to correct those problems.

Jami Oetting (via Medium): How To Keep Your Open Office From Killing Creativity

Jami Oetting on the hypothesis, that openness, shared desks, glass wall meeting rooms, and few — if any — truly private spaces increases collaboration and creativity. But: What if your open office plans are actually a detriment to the creativity of your staff?

Jonah Bailey (via Atomic Spin): Kicking off an Experiment in Agile Family Management

Jonah Bailey of Atomic Spin is looking forward to testing David Starr’s agile family principles in his own family, which includes an eight-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter.

Lean & Product

George Aye (via Medium): Always Show Your Work: Why designers write on the walls (and why you should, too)

Always Show Your Work: Why designers write on the walls (and why you should, too)

George Aye on why it is absolutely essential for any creative strategy to make stealing easy, no matter what kind of space you work in. Even if you’re stuck in cubicles, or under the strict watch of a facilities manager.

Jeff Gardner (via Intercom): Who are you building for?

Jeff Gardner of Intercom on why a company scaling often results in teams losing sight of who they’re building for. With siloed teams and a lack of communication, customer empathy becomes so diluted that it’s just another poster on the wall. Watch a 12 min video on how not to lose your product mojo.

Nancy Duarte and Chad McAllister: Effectively pitching your ideas and influencing others

Nancy Duarte, CEO of, shares how product managers can effectively communicate ideas and influence others to support their ideas. She takes us on a journey through story telling, movies, and tribal traditions, sharing what it means to be an idea Torchbearer through five stages.

Jonathan Courtney (via Smashing Magazine): A Framework For Brainstorming Products

Jonathan Courtney on Brainstorming’s bad reputation. It is notorious for being unstructured and often unactionable. The problem is, even if there are great ideas in the room, there is often no clear-cut way to decide on what ideas to take action on. But help is on the way: try Jonathan’s framework.

Tomer Sharon (via User Experience Podcast): The importance of invalidation: Tomer Sharon on Lean User Research

Tomer Sharon talks in this podcast about lean user research, agile, and the importance of invalidating hypotheses for long-term product success.

Jeff Gothelf: Can you practice Lean Startup in the Enterprise?

Jeff Gothelf on scaling Lean at project, program, and portfolio level of even large organizations. (The post includes a link to a great 90+ slides presentation.)

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