Archives for the Month of April, 2009

The First Five Steps to Become Really Agile

Linking Games with Our Work

This year Pascal and I are creating new conference sessions to demonstrate the bundles of tools and techniques we use when coaching Agile teams.

What Agile Means to Us

Agile is about delivering the highest business value possible faster by focusing on people and Continuous Improvement. While collaboration remains a key theme in everything we do, something more elemental has emerged out of our creative sessions: the importance of mutual understanding.

So what’s new?

‘The First Five Steps to Become Really Agile’ session is made up of 5 tools designed to help create a team out of a bunch of strangers and strengthen the relationships among an existing team. Each tool aims to help us better understand ourselves and each other.

This session was first presented at XPDay Switzerland in French earlier this month and has been subsequently presented in English among strangers now friends.

Meeting the Team

Imagine. Today was the first day with your new team. It wasn’t until after the Profile Card Exercise that we discovered: 1) most of the people know each other by sight; 2) none of them really knew each other at all. Judging from the smiles around the room, the ice breaker was a great first step in bringing us closer together. We always begin Day 1 with an icebreaker like the Profile Card Exercise.

The Profile Card Excercise (Duration: 10 minutes)

  1. Ask everyone to form pairs. Suggest they pair up with someone they don’t already know.
  2. Give them 5 minutes to produce a profile card for one another with the following information 1) their name; 2) a pet love; 3) a pet hate and 4) their contact details (email address and may be a phone number). Ask them to also include a photo-quality portrait of each other. And the acceptance criteria for the portrait? They should be able to recognise one another from the drawing.
  3. Ask each pair to introduce their pair partner to the group.

We post the profile cards in the team space to serve as a pleasant souvenir from the team’s first day together. The cards help to brighten up the team space as well as attract the attention of those curious about what being part of an Agile team means.

Portia says: The Profile Card icebreaker is an old favourite of mine. The combination of creativity and group interaction gives people a great excuse to get to know one another, transforming the usually dull and dreary round-the-table self-introductions into a fun and exciting experience.
Pascal says: It helps me put names to faces! And it helps me get better at drawing.

Why the Profile Card ice breaker is useful

  • To bootstrap conversations among a group of introverts
  • To create an opportunity to talk about common interests
  • To share personal information with others
  • To attract visitors to the Agile team space
  • To create the first shared experience fundamental to the development of a healthy team

Next, we take a giant step forward by creating our Team Manifesto.

SPA 2009: A Retrospective

What I liked about the conference

  • Recognising familiar faces from last year’s conference and getting to know the people behind the faces
  • Seeing new faces and getting to know those folks, too!
  • Pitching Agile by David Harvey and Peter Marks – David and Peter made us think hard about what the Agile way of working brings in comparison with other approaches and how to scale the Agile Enablement in large, distributed organisations
  • Pairing: Beyond Programming by John Daniels and Dave Cleal – the session was an excellent mix of facilitation and different types of individual, pair and group activities to encourage us to develop a deeper understanding of why pairing is valuable
  • Catching up with Agilistas from XPDays Benelux and XPDay France
  • Running a followup workshop to The Business Value Game with Pascal and Vera where we learn to apply the game’s principles and techniques
  • Running the conference as a non-residential conference
  • Learning and improving: the conference has improved significantly as a result of last year’s feedback
  • SPA provides a friendly place where folks can be courageous and try things out

What would make SPA perfect*

  • Practice the Agile principle of ‘signing up for work’: Invite session presenters and shepherds to match themselves up to improve sessions together
  • Include details of the session format in the programme session description
  • Give presenters the option to present a 15-minute (abridged) version of their session prior to the conference to practice and receive feedback
  • Re-introduce Official One Minute Presentations (OOMPs) at the start of each day to help participants decide which session to go to
  • Non-residential and residential conferences provide different experiences – perhaps we could alternate between the two one year from the next?
  • Have a mix of shorter and longer scheduled sessions to increase the diversity of topics, perspectives, presenters and participants

My conference takeaway

Agile is about delivering the highest business value possible faster by focusing on people and Continuous Improvement. To change the organisations we work in (or with) for the better, the most important question to answer is this: ‘What’s the smallest action we can take as an individual to become more agile today?’

* The format of this retrospective is known as The Perfection Game. It’s a great way of sharing feedback, bearing in mind that ‘Perfect is something we aspire to, it’s elusive by design‘.

XP Day Switzerland 2009 – A Retrospective (version anglaise)

What Went Well

What Went Wrong

  • We didn’t expect to have 60 participants in our session – the session was designed for between 20 – 30 people
  • There wasn’t enough room to network comfortably during lunch
  • One day is too short for such a great conference!
  • There weren’t enough interactive sessions
  • We didn’t do a dry-run of our session with volunteer participants


  • Where will next year’s XP Day Switzerland be held?

Lessons Learnt

  • Set a maximum limit to our sessions
  • Our personal agility is better judged by others than by ourselves because it’s usually difficult to evaluate ourselves objectively
  • The Agile Values are just as important for beginner-Agilistas as they are for expert-Agilistas
  • We become agile by always living the Agile Values
  • Hedonism means finding what you love to do and doing it such as egalitarianism, community and friendship
  • Being agile means knowing we don’t know it all
  • Suisse fondue is made with three cheeses (Gruyère, Vacherin and ?). Now I have an excuse to return to Switzerland to find the answer!

This entry is also available in French!

XP Day Suisse 2009 – Une Rétrospective (version originale)

Qu’est-ce qui était bon?

  • Les organisateurs étaient très accueillants
  • Les organisateurs faisaient un bon exemple d’une équipe agile – cela veut dire qu’on s’entre-aide l’un et l’autre
  • Les participants étaient enthousiastes
  • Les conversations ouvertes autour les valeurs agiles et notre agilité individuelle
  • La diversité des sujets des sessions
  • 60 sur 96 participants ont suivi la session Pascal et moi ont crée: Les cinq premiers pas pour devenir vraiment agile
  • On s’est bien amusé ensemble
  • On a bien ri
  • Le rôle du facilitateur principal joué par Vincent Raemy
  • Le dîner aux oubliettes au restaurant Les Armures où on mangeait la fondue comme les hédonistes
  • On a même joué le jeu de Blanche Neige et Les Sept Nains avec quelques participants ludiques

Qu’est-ce qui était mauvais?

  • Il n’était pas prévu qu’on serait aussi nombreux dans notre session – on n’attendait qu’entre 20 à 30 personnes
  • Il n’y avait pas assez de place pour la circulation pendant le déjeuner
  • Le congrès ne durait qu’un jour!
  • Il n’y avait pas assez de sessions intéractives
  • On n’a pas fait une répétition en avance avec les volontaires

Les questions grandes et petites

  • Où se tiendra XP Day Suisse l’année prochaine?

Ce que j’ai (re-)appris

  • On décide à la limite de participants dans nos sessions en avance
  • Notre agilité personelle est jugée par les autres parce que normalement nous ne sommes pas assez bon juge de nous-mêmes
  • Les valeurs agiles sont aussi importantes pour les débutant-agilistes que les agilistes expérimentés
  • On devient agile en vivant les valeurs tout le temps
  • Dans l’hédonisme il s’agit de trouver et de faire plus ce qui nous fait du bien, comme l’égalitarisme, la communauté, l’amitié
  • L’agilité cela veut dire qu’on sait qu’on ne sait pas tout
  • On fait la fondue avec trois fromages en Suisse (le Gruyère, le Vacherin et ?). Maintenant je suis obligée de retourner en Suisse pour trouver la réponse!

Voir ici pour ce billet en anglais!

Hark the Herald of Spring!

Question: How many Agilistas does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer*: Two. One to change the lightbulb. And the other to embrace change.

Herald of Spring

For some, today’s a bit of a joke and for others it’s the Herald of Spring – a day when the sun shines and the skies are a beautiful blue. For me, today’s a day for recognising the efforts of the blooming flower beds after what always seems like a long winter. And all of this, just in time before the April showers. How did you celebrate today with your colleagues?

* Thanks to Nat Pryce for this answer. Isn’t it funny how if you ask a question, you’ll always (eventually) get the answers. Ask the What and the How will find you.