Archives for the ‘Kaizen’ Category

BarCamp is Brill!

Day 1 at BarCamp

BarCamp London 2009 is undoubtedly one of the best conferences I’ve been to this year: it’s fun, it’s inclusive and, most important of all, it’s all about people. All this came as quite a surprise since I really didn’t know what to expect.

The Story of BarCamp

Once upon a time, there was FooCamp where Friends-of-O’Reilly got together at an annual invite-only participant-driven conference hosted by Tim O’Reilly. Since not everyone could be friends of Tim O’Reilly, some folks got together and created BarCamp, a place where others could participate by presenting their ideas, too.

BarCamp is described as an ‘unconference’, a conference where the programme is based entirely on material generated by the participants themselves. You really don’t get more inclusive or spontaneous than that!

Open Space Technology in Action

FooCamps and BarCamps are based on a simple variation of Open Space Technology format, where participants post up topics they want to talk about in 20-minute timeboxes. Like successful Open Spaces, the success of BarCamp depends entirely on strangers self-organising around passion and mutual interests.

There are two key rules to BarCamp:

  • ‘When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers.’
  • ‘When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.’

Real Options at BarCamp London

And since I was lucky enough to get a ticket in, I wanted to give something back that would be useful to most. The result: a 20-min session on Real Options, Bottled Common Sense to Better Decision Making. Around 30 people attended out of a crowd of 200. I described BarCamp London 2009 as a Real Option, just as Agile 2009 was a Real Option for me. We even touched briefly on the importance of applying personal values when deciding the value and application of Real Options Thinking. Judging by the quiet yet definite sound of lighbulbs going off in the room, I think Real Options Thinking resonated with many conference participants.

Uncertainty as Opportunity

What I liked about BarCamp London 2009

  • Sessions were run in separate rooms where participants could concentrate comfortably on the session topic.
  • Each room had a mixture of facilities such as projector, flipchart and tables.
  • One Saturday alone there could have been as many as 12  x 9 sessions – now that’s a lot of Real Options!
  • It was great to learn from and meet people beyond the Agile Community
  • A two-day event during the weekend is a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends

What would make BarCamp London 2009 perfect

  • A stationery stash provided by organisers so we be even more creative!
  • An ice breaker that would engage and involve everyone and not just those with a passion for Lego
  • More BarCamps throughout the year – I wish we could have more BarCamps, perhaps mini BarCamps, may be one a quarter to increase learning from one another!

Lego Bridges of London Ice Breaker

Expect the Unexpected

BarCamp London 2009 was exactly what I’ve been looking for. BarCamp has helped me better understand people’s fascination with Open Spaces, something Marc Evers tried to explain to me at ScanAgile 2009. I think I understand now and I want to go to more Open Space conferences!

BarCamp is living proof that the most invaluable learning is about connecting, sharing, courage, learning and having fun. BarCamp is about leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds. BarCamp is a great inspiration where you can expect the Unexpected. And expect to participate. Get to a BarCamp near you. Go, go, go!

And if you like BarCamp, you’ll love XP Days Benelux, a mixture of pre-scheduled sessions and the option of running Open Space sessions!

ScanAgile 2009: A Retrospective

Beautiful Bird House

It’s my second visit to Helsinki and it’s been quite an adventure! It’s been almost a year since my first visit.

What Went Well

  • The location: Getting the chance to see beautiful Helsinki in the fall
  • Over 280 participants attended – and it’s only the second time ScanAgile has been run!
  • The conference was well-organised, everything went really smoothly!
  • Learnt a bit about Beyond Budgeting from Bjarte Bogsnes in his experience report on implementing the techniques at Statoilhydro
  • Being challenged by questions that made me think hard about how I coach and why
  • Meeting Agilists from all over the world, including Brits who now live in Finland!
  • Getting a chance to sample Open Space sessions on Day 2 of the programme
  • The Toyota Way Management Principles session with Pascal: Illustrated how to implement a kanban system using baskets with the help of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves and the Evil Queen
  • Receiving feedback and recommended reading list from Tom Poppendieck (thanks Tom!) on our Toyota Way session
  • The Conflict Resolution Open Space session by Pascal where we learnt that we don’t have to compromise: it’s not either or. It’s  AND!
  • Post-conference get-together with the very warm and friendly folks from Reaktor (voted second in 2009 Best Workplaces in Europe competition)  at their very stylish office (with its very own onsite sauna!)

Day 2 Open Spaces Forum

What Went Wrong

  • Too many theoretical presentations
  • Too few sessions based on real-life experiences of using Agile
  • No list of attendees, where they work and the country of where they come from


  • How do you get the most out of Open Spaces?
  • What’s the best way to hear everyone speak and engage those interested at an Open Space?
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves proved popular with the crowd: Would ScanAgile be interested in featuring an Agile Fairytale session next year?

Lessons (Re-)Learnt

  • I learn more from interactive sessions
  • I learn more when I disagree with the material being presented or the speaker because it forces me to question what I think and why I think it
  • We often ask questions not to find answers, but to merely seek for affirmation of our pre-prepared answers. By asking questions with a closed mind, we limit our capacity to learn compared with when we inquire with an open mind
  • ‘You don’t lose weight just by standing on the scales’ – thanks Bjarte Bogsnes for a great reminder!
  • Fixing budgets once a year is like having banks that only lend to customers once a year. That simply wouldn’t be acceptable nor practical
  • It’s customary in Finland to relax with your colleagues in saunas in just your birthday suit!
  • Design and creativity are a matter of national pride judging by the myriad of colourful shops of handmade goods and crafts!
  • Using Thinking Tools such as the Conflict Resolution Diagram allows us to have our cake and eat it! No more compromises through clear thinking. Hoorah!
  • Instead of eating your own dog food, drink your own champagne instead. Cheers to ScanAgile’s organisers and the humorous participants!

Conflict Resolution Exercise

The Toyota Way Management Principles at ScanAgile 2009

Toyota Loops Attributed Small

I’ll be co-presenting The Toyota Way Management Principles with Pascal this Thursday in Helsinki, Finland at ScanAgile (Scandinavian Agile Conference 2009).

We’ll be sharing lots of stories based on our experiences of how we’ve applied The Toyota Way Management Principles in our work as consultants. We’ll go through each of the 14 Toyota Way Principles for implementing Lean and illustrate how we’ve applied them when working with aspiring Agile teams.

Thanks to all your feedback when we presented this at Integrating Agile back in June, we’ll be presenting a newer and much improved version. I hope you’ll join us! Learn more about the session from

Celebration of Life

What's Your Weather? Team Puzzle

Be the change you want to see.‘ – Gandhi

Agile as a Party

I like to think of Agile as a party. And like any good party, everyone gets invited. It’s then up to you whether or not you show up. And when. If you do, it’s then up to you how much time and effort you want to put in. As to whether you’re a party animal or a party pooper, the choice is entirely up to you.

Process Improvement with The Bottleneck Game

The key is to include everyone on the invite. Agile, to me, is about inclusion. It’s about making-change-for-the-better an option for everyone. It’s the kind of option that has no expiry date.

Party On!

The folks who have the most fun at such a party are those who have an open mind. Folks who’ll give things a go, including that dodgy looking punch that looks too funky a blue to be made from 100% natural ingredients. Or may be you do the Macarena because it reminds you of your first year at university.

And that’s the thing I like most about Agile. I never know upfront what I’ll get personally out of a day’s coaching or consulting. The only thing I can be certain of, right from the start, is that it’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s the thought that gets me started. It’s also the one that keeps me going.

Defining the Team Vision

Take today for instance. I’m on the last day of an Agile Healthcheck engagement with a team who’s Agile Enablement journey began almost exactly a year ago. The team invited me back to help take them to the next level of applying the Agile Values and Practices. We began by identifying a handful of goals, back at the start of September, such as ‘Increase team customer satisfaction’ and ‘Increase team velocity’ and defined acceptance criteria for each goal so we would know when we were done.

A month on, I’m back for a Show & Tell of the Team Improvement kind, to see how many of the acceptance criteria the team has met in 4 weeks (two iterations’ worth) of concerted effort on Continuous Improvement.

A lot has happened. Judging from the smiling faces that greet me, the team’s proud of what they’ve achieved. And so they should be. It’s a humbling moment to find oneself among people who rise to the challenge of becoming better. People who strive to improve despite the alternative, namely, this-is-what-we’ve-always-done-and-that’s-the-only-reason-we-continue-to-do-it attitude otherwise known as Mediocrity.

Learning the Unexpected

So what did I learn today? It turns out today’s Gandhi’s birthday. And how did I get to hear about it? During the ‘Information’ part of the Temperature Reading exercise. It’s exactly this sort of serendipity that makes me smile as I look up at the team’s new poster with intriguing smileys hand-drawn by each of the team member which reads:

  • Everyone has value.
  • You can only change yourself.
     Progress on Team Goals!

Agile 2009: A Retrospective

Agile 2009 has been an educational and uplifting conference for me. See for yourself!

My Top Favourite Sessions

Here are my top five favourites out of the dozen sessions I attended:

1. Mapping the Agile Enablement Battlefield by George Schiltz and Giora Morein – A thought-provoking session on strategic thinking demonstrating The Mapping the Battlefield approach for identifying and dealing with influencers as part of Agile Enablement at an organizational level.

2. “Flirting” With Your Customers by Jenni Dow and Ole Jepsen – A fun, yet serious session introducing an 8-step model for creating rapport with your customer through effective communication.

3. Facilitation Patterns and Antipatterns by Steve “Doc” List – An experiential session that reminds us of the importance of self-awareness, empathy and moderation if we are to play the role of facilitator effectively. (Session summary)

4. How to Develop Your Leadership Power Daily: An Agile Approach to Growth by Christopher Avery – An introduction to The Responsibility Model as a personal responsibility and way of improving individual effectiveness.

5. The Bottleneck Game by Pascal Van Cauwenberghe and me – a simulation of a production line at The Hats and Boats Company where we learned to apply the Five Focusing Steps from the Theory of Constraints.

Each of these sessions have three things in common: they are well-presented, thought-provoking and valuable for individual development and Agile team development.

The Perfection Game on Agile 2009

What I Liked About the Conference

  • Day 1: The Ice Breaker Evening Event – The activities at the event, such as Giant Chess and Jenga, multiple wii game stations and an open space area,  gave attendees a great reason to mingle and network.
  • The Can-Do attitude of the conference helpers and presenters was a good example of collaboration in action.
  • Day 4: Dinner Banquet – The quality of the dinner was superb for a meal served to a table of 8 let along for 1,400 diners.
  • Day 4 Keynote “The Dawning of the Age of Experience” by Jared M. Spool – An entertaining and educational talk on the importance and relevance of user-centred design in our lives.
  • Participants were exceptionally forthcoming with their session feedback which should help improve future runnings of the sessions.
  • Watching Ola Ellnestam and Gerard Meszaros in the finals at Programming with the Stars reminded me of what software craftsmanship looks like in action!
  • Discovering that The Business Value Game doesn’t make learning business value modelling sufficiently explicit.  
  • Getting better acquainted with old friends and making new friends.
  • The city of Chicago provided numerous opportunities for promenades to relax the mind and re-charge the body after a day crammed with learning.

What Would Make the Conference Perfect

  • Find a way for attendees to familiarise themselves with the programme quickly and easily (it took me at least an hour per day to decide on a session shortlist).
  • Find a way of reminding attendees which sessions they attended to fuel meaningful conversations during the breaks.
  • Create opportunities for the different types of attendees to cross-stage mingle instead of enforcing silos by primary interest.
  • Kick off the conference with a facilitated ice breaker exercise to encourage mingling from the start.
    Intersperse the conference with ice breaker exercises to encourage more mingling throughout the conference.
  • Introduce One-Minute-Presentations by session presenters at the start of every day (or every morning and every afternoon) so that attendees have more information on which to base their session choice.

What about Agile 2010?

As Agile Adoption becomes increasingly widespread, Agile 2010 will be instrumental in enabling face-to-face knowledge sharing around the world.  Agile 2009 proved to be such a hit that I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference in Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music. I hope this means there’ll be lots and lots of dancing. Best get practicing!

Meanwhile, Thank You! and Goodbye for now.

Agile 2009: The Bottleneck Game – The Five Focusing Steps


To illustrate the The Five Focusing Steps from the Theory of Constraints, Pascal and I co-presented The Bottleneck Game at Agile 2009. We had a lot of fun as usual and, in return, we’ve received lots of useful feedback to improve the way we run the session going forward.

Find out more about The Five Focusing Steps here.

What I Liked About the Session

  • It was great to have the likes of Henrik Kniberg play the game and give us feedback.
  • It was useful to have the opportunity to run the session as two parallel simulations.
  • The two parallel simulations heightened the sense of urgency/stress (just like work!) because the two teams tried to compete with one another.

What Would Make the Session Perfect

  • Limit the number of consultant players per simulation so players can all focus more.
  • Use the microphones as presenters so that everyone can hear us!
  • Run the second half of the session so we can apply the Theory of Constraints to our workplace (although this would require an additional 90 minutes!) and come up with a process improvement plan.

Feedback from bloggers on the session

Agile 2009: The Responsibility Model Revisited

It was good to hear Christopher Avery re-cap on The Responsibility Model in his session How to Development Your Leadership Power Daily: An Agile Approach to Growth at Agile 2009.

According to Christopher, Responsibility has long been considered as a character trait. Or, depending on your view of the world, a character flaw.

Redefining Responsibility

Newsflash: Responsibility is neither a character trait nor flaw. Christopher describes Responsibility as the way you respond to a problem. Responsibility is completely subjective. It’s also a feeling. This is why Responsibility is so difficult to talk about.

There are six progressive phases in the Responsibility Model:

  1. Denial – ‘Problem? What problem? There’s no problem.’
  2. Blame – ‘I don’t have a problem working with you. You seem to have a problem with me. That makes it your problem. ‘
  3. Justify – ‘I guess it’s possible that I’ve become insensitive to other people’s feelings and needs. I can’t help it though. After all, I’ve been doing this job for a long time. It’s who I am.’
  4. Shame – ‘What have I done? I’m going to look such an idiot in front of the people at work. How am I going to live it down? Why should they help me after the way I’ve behaved?’
  5. Obligation – ‘Tell me what you think I should do. I have no choice but to do it (even though I don’t want to). I’ll do whatever you say. It’s only a job after all (no one can expect to do a job they love).’
  6. Responsibility – ‘I can wait for them to change but that could take forever. No, it’s up to me. I want to fix the problem. So how am I going to be a better colleague? I know! I’ll listen more. And be more considerate towards others. It’s a start.’

What I Liked About the Session

  • It was interesting to see the audience’s reaction to The Responsibility Model since the model was new to the majority of them. I remember feeling uplifted when I first came across it; the algorithm makes the notion of Responsibility explicit as a repeatable process.

What Would Make the Session Perfect

  • It would have been very useful to experience the model as an exercise to internalise it.
  • I would have liked to hear more about the latest research Christopher’s been doing related to the model.

Agile 2009: Day 3 Planning for the Afternoon

Afternoon Timeslot 1:

Afternoon Timeslot 2:

Agile 2009: Let the Agile Games Begin!

Today marks yet another Agile First – It’s the first time Pascal and I are presenting two of our all time favourite Agile games in the United States on the same day:

  • 09:00 – 10: 30 (Grand Ballroom A) – We play The Bottleneck Game, a simulation of  a production line at The Hats and Boats Company where you’ll experience and apply the five focusing steps from the Theory of Constraints and learn about how it correlates with Agile, Lean and Real Options. Maximum 60 participants.
  • 16:00 – 17:30  (Plaza Ballroom B) – We go for gold with The Business Value Game, a jam-packed game where you come to grips with release planning and the role of the Agile customer by playing sales people competing for resources to deliver the highest possible business value for your organisation. Maximum 50 participants.

Bonus! Henrik Kniberg, author of Scrum and XP in the Trenches, has volunteered to help facilitate The Business Value Game (having played it for the first time with us at Agile 2008) so that we can scale it up to 50 participants like we did at XPDay France earlier this year!

We’ve played these games on numerous occasions with our clients and Agilists in Europe, so we ‘re intrigued by how the participants at Agile 2009 will fare compared with our European counterparts! Come to the sessions early to avoid disappointment as places are limited. We look forward to seeing you there!

Where can I find out more?

You can download the games (including full instructions!) from and play them for free with your colleagues and even family and friends. Warning: Having fun can be hardwork!

 All the games on are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license.

Agile 2009: Day 3 Planning for the Morning

Reviewing my plan for Day 2

As Tuesday’s conference day is fast approaching, I’ve reviewed my Real Options for the day.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to plan 1-day ahead which seems to give me a healthy balance of focus on the present day of the conference and enough information just-in-time for making well-informed choices at a sustainble pace. Sustainable pace is key at Agile 200X conferences because of the gargantuan amounts of information around!

Day 3 at Agile 2009

As usual, the sessions with emboldened titles are the ones I’ll be attending!

Morning Timeslot 1:

Morning Timeslot 2: