Archives for the Month of January, 2010

I Capture the Castle

How are you going to capture the castle?

Yesterday, as night falls, I finally make it to Edinburgh castle. We knock, but nobody’s home. It’s my third visit to Edinburgh and I still haven’t seen the inside of the castle. I’ve been wanting to visit because I hear it’s a great place with lots to see, do and learn.

Up, Down and Around

Little did I suspect that what began as a casual evening walk to the nearest pub would turn out to be one of the best tours of Edinburgh. ‘We can go this way if you don’t mind climbing a slope,’ says Mark, the Agile Insider. ‘It’s going to be steep,’ he repeats. ‘No problem,’ I reply. ‘I love going for walks!’ As it turns out, the slope was steeper than I expected, and when I finally catch my breath, the sight of the towering buildings that make up Edinburgh Castle takes my breath away once again.

When you really want something, you’ll always find a way

The philosopher Seneca said, ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ Take my stumbing upon the castle as though by chance. It fits Seneca’s saying beautifully.

For the past couple of weeks, the Agile Insider has been scouting out the area while touring Edinburgh for himself. Then last night, we decided to meet up and go for a pint. Once the Agile Insider realised that we both enjoyed going for walks, we extended the walk a bit more. After all, our goal was to catch up and it didn’t much matter if we were sat in the warmth of a pub or tramping out and about in the cold. And since the climbing pace was comfortable we extended the walk a bit further still until – lo and behold – I found myself in front of the castle!

Luck is Yours to Make

Next time, I’m going to plan my visit to the castle. I’m going to phone ahead to make sure someone will be in. May be we can even have tea with the Queen if I bring some biscuits. How are you going to capture the castle?

XP Days Benelux Organisers 2010 Team

Epitome of F-U-N!

We love Tuesday mornings!

This Tueday morning marked the kickoff of the XP Days Benelux organisers 2010 team. Together, we’ll be bringing you Mini XP Days Benelux on 26 April, 2010, followed by XP Day Benelux (a 2-day conference) in November 2010.

We’ve got a great team and if the fun we had on Tueday is anything to go by, I wouldn’t want to miss Mini XP Days Benelux for the world! To top it all off, we’ve got an awe-inspiring venue this year. Here’s a sneak preview of the venue: Kapellerput in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. It’s got an outdoor barbeque, a human bird-house, garden chess and even a dinosaur made out of rubbish to remind us of the importance of eliminating waste!

Battle of the Beasts

Make Work Fun and Fun Work

We’re currently finalising the programme for Mini XP Days Benelux, a 1-day session containing great sessions selected from the XP Days Benelux 2009 program based on participant feedback. There’ll be something for everyone interested in learning from and with Agile practitioners.

For First Timers: A chance to sample what an XP Days Benelux conference feels like at maximum value and minimum cost. It’s a one day conference at an affordable price with great sessions selected from last year’s programme based on participant feedback.

For Old Timers: A chance to catch up on the sessions you wished you’d gone to at XP Days Benelux 2009 because you couldn’t be in more than one place at any one time. And, of course, a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones!

We’re looking forward to implementing Keith Braithewaite‘s concept of a ‘WTF factor’, also known as a ‘Wow! factor’ or ‘Tada! factor’ where learning happens through shock and surprise.

Our Vision

Meanwhile, find out more about XP Days Benelux here. Tot ziens! Watch this space.

Snowman No More

Here Today, Remembered Tomorrow

Agile Apprentice: Why do I always feel so afraid?
Agile Coach: Fear helps us live and breathe.
Agile Apprentice: I’m sick and tired of feeling afraid.
Agile Coach: Fear keeps us alive.

If We Don’t Speak of Vital Things

Life’s about Balance. Balance, by its very nature, is constant.  Like treading water in order to stay afloat, we need to constantly work at maintaining that balance. Why? Because things change. Because People change.

Embrace Uncertainty

One Agile adage is ‘Embrace Uncertainty’. Like it or lump it, Uncertainty pervades our lives. Most of us have a tendency to make decisions too early. For fear of Uncertainty. For fear of looking indecisive. For fear of looking the fool.

One way of making the most of Uncertainty is by postponing making decisions until the last responsible moment. The trick is to know when you have to make the decision. Given a deadline and the time it takes to execute an action, we can use Real Options Thinking to identify a decision point, the point at which a decision needs to be made. Why do this? To buy us more time so that we can gather more information. Why gather more information? Because more information leads to better informed decisions which, in turn, produce better results.

First Accept Impermanence

Before we can truly embrace Uncertainty, we need to first accept the Impermanence of Life. Things that exist today may not exist tomorrow. Accepting the impermanence in life provides a healthy perspective on Now. Instead of being stuck in a perpetual Blame Game, ask yourself ‘What can I do right now to change? How can I make things better (instead of worse) now?’

Resolve to Change For the Better

Be courageous! Make the most of Now by using The Responsibility Model to transition yourself from Denial -> Blame -> Justification -> Shame -> Obligation -> Responsibility.

Be mindful! Make better decisions Now and in the Future using Real Options Thinking. A Real Option is where Value > Cost. A Stupid Option is one where Value < Cost. Doing nothing is also always an option. The key is to take responsibility for your decisions by conscious decision making.

Be full of heart! Always practice the Agile Values of Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage, Respect, Trust and Transparency to create more happiness for everyone to share. After all, none of us exist in isolation. Everything we do has a cause and effect that impacts others and, ultimately, ourselves.

Winter You

Compete with yourself!

Dear, oh, dear. It’d been a dreary past few days as the final traces of pristine Snow White was replaced by its cousin Grey Slush. The rumour of Winter Blues had turned into tabloid fact. Nothing was going to be able to shift this slippery muck of seasonal gloom. Nothing? Really?

Until this morning that is. Yes. The snow is back! The dusting of snow reminds me of a conversation I had with a colleague in Boston last week.

How much snow have you got?

‘Happy New Year! We’ve got at least three inches of snow!’ I said. ‘Happy New Year to you, too! We’ve got six inches,’  John said. It suddenly dawned on me that the novelty of snow depended on who you are, where you grew up and where you are now. I remember feeling a fleeting sense of foolishness at what must have seemed like much ado about nothing. After all, Boston had six inches of snow and London only had three. I brushed the thought aside. We had snow in London and that was what mattered to me most. Or was it?

Life as a Competition

All the time I’d been growing up, I’d believed that life was a competition. Not just any competition. It was a competition against other people. To be the winner, there had to be losers. That was just the way things worked. The fact was there were plenty of children bigger, smarter, faster than me. Just like there are plenty of adults bigger, smarter, faster than me now.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to make sense of the Game of Life and the myth that ‘To be the winner, there had to be losers’. I could see how competition can drive things forward, help us achieve things we never thought we could, so competition in itself is not a bad thing. Yet the rule of having a winnner and losers still didn’t make sense. More recently I observed that ‘I am my own biggest impediment’. Don’t you sometimes just hate being right? As I thought more and more about this assertion, I realised it wasn’t the answer to the conundrum either.

What Lies Within

As I peer through the flickering curtain of snow, another thought light as a snowflake forms in the snowdome of my mind. It’s never been about me and the others. The invisible rule to the Game of Life is this. There is no other. You are both the winner and the loser. You are competing with yourself.

Plain as the Nose on Your Face

What do you smell?
Two snowmen are standing in a field.
One says to the other, ‘Can you smell carrots?’

Out in the Field

Imagine. You wake up. It’s Friday. It’s almost the weekend. The first thing you see is a blanket of bright white snow. With a deep breath, you take in the tranquil setting. You feel quietly envigorated. A thought light as a snowflake forms in the snowdome of your mind. Yes. Today’s the day. Today marks a fresh start. A new beginning.

And the thought? It is this: ‘I can be better than I was yesterday.’ This thought always takes me back to the Agile Values. Seven simple words. Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage, Respect, Trust and Transparency. How many of us know these words by heart? Words that trip off the tongue so smoothly when times are good? Those same seven words that become a thorn in our side when we come under pressure, leaving us deflated?

Thinking, Being and Doing

In Agile, Retrospectives are a good way to take time out and reflect. To have a good root around our minds to make sense of what we have done, what has come to pass and what we intend to do going forward. It’s a chance for others to show you what you cannot see for yourself. It’s an opportunity for putting those seven values into practice.

And what about the actions we can take to improve? We don’t have to wait for snow. We don’t even have to wait for a new day or  a new year. The moment is Now.

Warm Reading for Wintry Days

A cuppa hot chocolate?

If snow makes you think, here’s a collection of entries featuring the white stuff in various guises:

Wrap up warm! You don’t want to catch a chill.

An Agilist for All Seasons

The Beauty of Snow

The snow arrived in London several hours later than predicted and by bedtime last night, many of the suburban roads were covered, including some sleeping policemen. The good news is that London has been transformed, yet again, into a place of beauty, with all its carbuncles and pimples smoothed over by Nature’s white collagen.

London’s Learning

The better news is that London’s learning. This second time around we managed to stock up enough grit, mobilised the various gritting units in time and by early evening last night, most of the roads were gritted, to the relief of drivers and pedestrians alike. There’s also enough food in my cupboard in case of a snow-in.

Prepare to Enjoy!

The result? We can enjoy the snow this time around instead of seeing it as an impediment or disaster. A classic example of the Girl Scouts’ motto in action: ‘Be prepared!’ – intended to be an instruction, warning and wake-up call. By being prepared, we can turn obstacles into challenges, adversity into opportunity, strife into collaborative achievement. The trick is to train hard and ‘Be prepared!’ What do you do to keep your tools sharp and varied?

Go to to furnish your toolkit!

Morning Sunshine!

Wakey, wakey!

Do you love what you do?

Percy: Do you think it’s possible to do what you love and get paid for it?
Agile Coach: Of course.
Percy: But work’s just work. You show up then you go home.
Agile Coach: What do you do inbetween?
Percy: You get on with stuff. It’s madness to think people could do a job they love!
Agile Coach: I think it’s madness to do otherwise.

Worthwhile Work

I’m inspired by a vision of people making the most of their time at work. By this, I mean transforming the workplace into a place where people get excited about being there, are fully engaged and are thoroughly enjoying themselves. And, of course, we always strive to work a sustainable pace.

Why? Because we each of us spend around 75% of our waking hours doing something work-related or being at work. That’s a lot of time to simply fritter away. What an awful waste of life! Imagine all the other things you could be doing instead.

Now if you were to enjoy yourself during those hours, think of the things you and your team could achieve. Think of the possibilities! And since we spend the majority of our lives doing something work-related or being at work, it follows that a fulfilling work life leads to a happier life. This is my inner quest.

The light’s on, but is anybody home?

According to Lynda Gratton, author of Glow, Each of us can make a real difference through our behaviour, competencies and skills. Linda defines ‘Glow’ as people ‘radiating positive energy – [are] able to excite and ignite others and through their inspiration and innovation are able to create superior value and success in the workplace’.

People who Glow, according to Lynda’s research, are those who have mastered 3 distinct areas of their life:

  • They Glow because they have built deeply trusting and cooperating relationships with others.
  • They Glow because they have extended their networks beyond the obvious to encompass the unsual.
  • They Glow because they are on an inner quest that ignites their own energy and that of others.

People who Glow also understand what they have to do in 3 different contexts: as an individual, as a team member and as a member of an organisation that encourages them to Glow.

Now that you’ve packed away the Christmas lights, isn’t it your time to Glow?

2009: A Personal Retrospective

The Giving Tree

Highlights of 2009

It’s been a tremendous year! Here’s my whirlwind tour down Memory Lane 2009:

Friendly XPDays Switzerland organisers 

Followup on My Wishes from 2009

To DoSpeed networking with friends

  • ‘I wish to meet Seth Godin, Tom De Marco and Dale Chihuly. I also wish to meet Eli Goldratt again.’ I look forward to hearing Seth Godin speak live in April 2010!
  • ‘I wish to try out Agile Fairytales beyond the IT industry.’ I look forward to introducing the Agile Fairytales to people and places such as teachers and students in schools!

In Progress

  • ‘I wish to create a third Agile Fairytale.’ Two new Agile Fairytales are being developed as you read this: Pinocchio – On Becoming a Lean Leader (for SPA 2010) and The Emperor’s New Clothes – Meaningful Interactions in Stressful Situations (submitted to XP 2010).


  • Team at Play‘I wish to learn more in 2009 than I did 2008.’ I learnt that the best way to keep learning is with a little help from my friends! I also re-learnt that I need to be more patient and respectful to others and with myself.
  • ‘I wish to present the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Agile Fairytale in French in Paris.’ We ran the session partly al fresco at XPDay France on a fine Spring day in Paris!
  • ‘I wish to collaborate with Agilistas such as Pascal and Vera to create A-W-E-S-O-M-E Agile games that help us all become a bit more agile every day.’ Pascal was one of the many people who helped to make the new release of The Yellow Brick Road – Agile Adoption Through Peer Coaching possible!


  • ‘I wish to learn more about Lean and use it more explicitly as part of my Agile Coach Toolkit.’ I’ll continue to consult and coach using Lean as the basis of enduring change. Presenting The Toyota Way with Pascal has helped us to explain how we apply Lean when we work with teams.
  • ‘I wish to create more Agile teams that endure long after the coach is gone.’ I’ve helped to coach a number of teams and seen them flourish and learnt a lot along the way.
  • ‘I wish to receive requests from you, the Reader, on questions you want answers to and the reasons why you need an answer. Think Selfish Programming: The Radio Request Blog.’ Thank You! for all your candid feedback on this blog. I look forward to more feedback in 2010!

Pairing rocks!

A Life Less Ordinary

A Secret Message Behind Closed Loo Doors

I feel under the weather. May be it’s just a passing chill I’ve caught. Truth be told, I’ve not been feeling my usual cheery self of late. I just don’t feel right.

But that’s enough about me. How have you been? How are you feeling? May be you’re a bit fed up with it all. Are there times when you wish you had more money? Or may be you dream of being revered by the masses? Perhaps you wish you could hide the signs of ageing? If your answer is ‘Yes’ to at least one of these 3 questions, then I have some bad news. You may have contracted Affluenza, the nastiest of viruses to be sweeping the English-speaking world. Don’t worry though. We have plenty for company.

A Society Under the Weather?

According to Oliver James, author of Affluenza, the Affluenza virus is defined by a pre-occupation with money. The Affluenza virus values consist of Money, Possession, Physical and Social Appearances and Fame. The virus is the product ‘Selfish Capitalism’ and leads to emotional distress such as anxiety and depression. This emotional distress, in true consumerism ‘Compete-by-Eating-Your-Own-Convenience’ style, further feeds your hunger for Selfish Capitalism. Selfish Capitalism, in turn, magnifies your preoccupation with the virus values. And hey presto! That’s how this vicious cycle keeps going and growing.

But wait! Before you despair because you’ve been lying awake at night wondering why you’ve been feeling so glum about life as you know it, there’s Hope.

Be Brave, Be Bold

Hope comes in the form of returning to the basics. It’s about addressing everyman’s fundamental needs to lead a fulfilling life.

  • Feel secure. About who you are and what you have.
  • Be authentic. Be yourself and be true to yourself.
  • Be autonomous. Do what you love. And do more of it – even if it means you go solo.
  • Feel competent. Have confidence in your own abilities. Get in the practice to help that confidence grow.
  • Be part of a community. Participate and contribute. Have fun in great company.


Oliver James recommends the following:

  1. Have positive volition (not ‘Think Positive’)
  2. Replace Virus Motives (with intrinsic ones)
  3. Be Beautiful (not attractive)
  4. Consume what you need (not what the advertisers tell you)
  5. Meet your children’s needs (not those of little adults)
  6. Educate your children (don’t brainwash them)
  7. Enjoy motherhood (not desperate housewifery/husbandry)
  8. But authentic (not sincere), vivacious (not hyperactive) and playful (not game-playing)


If, like me, you’re one of the infected, you need to act fast. Get lots of fresh air. Do more physical exercise. Burn off as many calories as you consume. Do at least one thing you love every day. And, as a friend just reminded me, take stock of all that you have and be thankful for such riches.

How will you transform this winter’s discontent? What will you do to make yours a life less ordinary? Make 2010 a Happy New Year!