All Posts By

Joe Combs

A Fresh Look at Integrity

By | Community, Culture

Think you know what it means to have integrity? When asked to define integrity, many people immediately search for synonyms: honest, ethical, or a person of high moral fiber. While these definitions are certainly true, there is a second definition of integrity that completes the picture of who an SEI consultant is. In this blog, Joe Combs discusses what true integrity looks like and why it’s part of our “collective soul.”

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Backlog Blunders

By | Agile, Communication, Demand Management, IT Implementation

For a successful agile team, a proper backlog is as important to success as air is to breathe. Neglect the backlog and allow disorder and non-precedence to creep in.  The result?  Teams who thrash – trying desperately to determine what to work on, suffering from bad habits once extinguished, and losing the the agile culture and mindset you’ve worked so hard to foster begins to falter.   Teams who are led astray from their backlog are not uncommon, but there are a few categories of mistakes and mis-steps that seem to repeat themselves most frequently.  In today’s blog we’ll review these common challenges and discuss best practices to overcome them.

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Kicking in the Agile Afterburner

By | Agile, IT Implementation

A while back I was chatting with a friend in the aviation industry and he offered an interesting explanation of how a jet engine works. In any combustion engine there are four distinct steps (strokes if you’re a gearhead):

Intake: Air is pulled into the intake feeding the compressor
Compression: The turbine compresses the air mixture to the optimum pressure for combustion
Combustion: Fuel is added and ignited. The rapid expansion of this controlled explosion pushes the air to the exhaust.
Exhaust: The exhaust gases produced by combustion propel the engine while fresh air is pulled into the intake continuing the rapid, highly efficient cycle.

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What the 1988 Bengals Taught Me About Being Agile

By | Agile, Leadership

The two minute drill has been a staple of football since players were strapping on leather helmets. While it has produced many dramatic finishes to football games over the years, the two minute drill is equally likely to end in disappointment. In the 1980’s the Cincinnati Bengals took this concept and turned it on its head by asking “what if we applied the underlying concepts of the two minute drill to the preceding 58 minutes of the game?” The result was an offensive juggernaut that by 1988 would land them in the Super Bowl. Although I didn’t realize it at the time as I watched the Bengals season unfold week by week, I was learning lessons that would ring as true in my work as an SEI consultant as they do on a Sunday afternoon in front of the TV.

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Thriving in an Agile World

By | Agile, Collaboration, Project Management

Agile methods show great promise, delivering business value in environments where traditional (waterfall) models struggle.  Despite a growing number of success stories, many projects can still be classified as failing or, at the very least, challenged.  Over the years I’ve observed many teams with varying degrees of success.  Of those most successful, I found a few common traits stemming from a fresh mindset both organizationally and individually.

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Re-Treading: Not Just For Tires Anymore!

By | Culture

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steve Covey tells a tale of two woodsman cutting logs.  One works feverishly at his task while the other pauses periodically to sharpen his saw.  In the end, the woodsman who pauses to sharpen proves to be the more productive of the two, a lesson on the importance of investing time to keep on top of your game.

In the spirit of the saw sharpening woodsman, I recently had the opportunity to attend our new hire orientation as a “re-tread”.  Re-treading for SEI isn’t really a remedial course or a simple refresher.  It’s a complete re-immersion into the “why” of SEI in order to help consultants re-connect with what attracted them to SEI in the first place.

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Trust Based Engagements

By | Consultancy, Culture, Ownership

I’ve learned a lot in my professional career. While much of it has been hands on skills, the greatest lessons and the greatest growth have come as I’ve mastered the intangibles of being a solid professional. At a recent staff meeting, consultants from our Cincinnati office spent some time after we had covered the usual business at hand to do a deep dive on what makes a good consultant, one who provides true value to the client. With a little help from some reading material (refer to footnote) that some of us had recently reviewed, we arrived at several key ingredients for a trust based relationship:

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