Archives for the Month of October, 2009

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!