Archives for the Month of April, 2010

The Marshmallow Challenge

Stay Pufffed!

Spaghetti and Marshmallow

The Marshmallow Challenge is a simple team exercise that requires a group of people to build the tallest possible structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape and 1 marshmallow placed on top.

Based on a talk by Tom Wujec on, business school students create some of the worst structures while kindergarten children rustle up the tallest and most innovative of standing structures. Unsurprisingly (and luckily), the winners are architects and engineers, people who have specialist knowledge in structural engineering.

So what does this challenge teach us? That building things iteratively brings us closer to success with every attempt we make. That prototyping works by helping us put Plan-Do-Check-Act into practice. That specialised skills plus facilitation gives us a greater chance of success. That keeping the goal in mind by testing your structure by placing the marshmallow on top as you evolve a structure is why kindergarten children do better than business school graduates. That fun is fundamental to the forming and continuous development of a healthy, well-functioning team. Put all these observations together and what do they spell? Yes! Agile Delivery in action.

Are you ready to take on the Marshmallow Challenge as a team?

On the Eve of Mini XP Days Benelux 2010

Welcome to dinner on Mini XP Days Benelux Eve!

‘Tis the eve before the second Mini XP Days conference and I find myself thinking back to the first time I came across the XP Days Benelux conference. It was around 2 years ago. Pascal and I had just begun pairing on conference sessions and he happened to mention that XP Days Benelux as something he was involved in.

Needless to say, I had lots of questions such as ‘What makes the conference different from other conferences? What value could I add? How could I contribute?’ To which Pascal replied in his usual matter-of-fact way, ‘Vera and I started the conference because we needed a conference we wanted to go to near where we lived. You could help by making it a conference you want to go to, too.’

I accepted the invitation and began to contribute with baby steps, first by reviewing conference sessions, then by submitting my own and by helping out on the days of the conference. I’ve learnt so many things through helping out over the years.

What makes a high value conference?

1. A conference tells you a lot about the people who organise it. It’s difficult to distinguish between the organisers and the participants at XP Days Benelux. This is intentional. It highlights the fact that we all have something to learn from each other. Some presenters say that the feedback they get from the participants go a long way to amplify and accelerate their own learning.

2. Effective learning begins in an environment where everyone can be courageous. Many of the participants are equally as helpful and enthusiastic as those who organise the conference. It’s this sense of camaraderie, willingness to muck in and courage to expand one’s comfort zone, that has made this conference the kind of conference I thrive on participating in.

3. Self-organisation is a key characteristic of a successful team. I was able to witness self-organisation firsthand by working as part of the group of diverse volunteers. I noticed there was no one telling the others what to do. When I mentioned this to Pascal, he said, ‘It’s up to all of us to decide and agree on what we want to get out of the conference. Then we can decide how much and what we put in.’  That’s when I realised that there isn’t just one leader in a group. Everyone’s a leader. To be a good leader, you have to lead yourself first. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

Nicole and Vera know to take a look from the other side

A Gathering of Adventurers

Participants of XP Days Benelux share a few common traits:

  • Open-minded – ‘Aikido breathing exercises to start off the day? Go on then, I’m willing to give anything a go!’
  • Good listeners who question everything – ‘Will you qualify your approach? What makes you describe people as “blockers”? What can you do to help?’
  • Continuously Learning – ‘What works well? What’s going wrong? Lessons Learnt? And puzzles?’
  • Continuously Improving – ‘Thanks to our conversation at the last conference, I’ve helped introduce pairing to my team. What else can I do to improve? How can I add more value?’

If you’re ready for this kind of learning, we hope to see you on Monday and, of course, at the 2-day XP Days Benelux conference on 25 – 26 November!

Webinar: Enterprise Agility

Learning London

emergn will be hosting a free one-hour webinar titled “Enterprise Agility” on Tuesday, 20 April at 10 a.m. EST US (3 p.m. BST).
It’s going to be an exciting webinar featuring Mike Croucher, British Airway’s Head of Software Engineering, and Alex Adamopoulos, emergn CEO. Mike and Alex will be sharing with you their experiences and lessons learnt on scaling Agile and Lean to meet enterprise requirements and overcome pervasive challenges.

You’ll learn how to apply some of the techniques used by British Airways and those employed by emergn within your own organisation. Join us to learn how to:

  • Overcome inefficiencies due to traditional ad-hoc agile approaches
  • Attach tangible value to your efforts
  • Align business units and set enterprise-wide goals
  • Develop an enterprise-wide Agile adoption framework.

Register quick!

What do you want to learn about Games Facilitation?

Dear Reader,

I’ve been invited to present a 90-minute session about Games Facilitation at Deep Agile 2010. And so I would like to exercise the Wisdom of Crowds and ask you this: what do you want to learn about Games Facilitation and why? Reply by submitting a comment (or two!) and I’ll convert them into a set of presentation goals with acceptance criteria.

All ideas by 1 May please! Many thanks and hope to see you at Deep Agile 2010. Be there or be square!

Help grow a Learning Tree!

SPA 2010: 16 -19 May 2010

SPA 2010 will take place once again in Covent Garden, London. It’s a 4-day conference running from Sunday to Wednesday jam-packed with sessions from London agilists and those from Europe and beyond! What better way to enjoy London than to combine the visit with an Agile conference?

Pascal and I will be co-presenting 2 sessions this year: “Solve Conflicts Without Compromise with the Conflict Resolution Diagram”, and “Pinocchio – On Becoming a Lean Leader”. We hope to see you there!

Make It a Happy Ending!Tickets are still available for 1-day, 2-day and the full 4-day conference. Buy them here!

Deep Agile 2010: 15 – 16 May 2010

Play two games from!

The theme for this year’s Deep Agile conference in Boston on 15 – 16 May is ‘Empowering Teams with Agile Games’, a marvellous idea thought up by Brian Bozzuto and Michael de la Maza.

This will be the first ever Agile conference dedicated to the application and invention of learning games to help us all learn, improve and work.

I’m really looking forward to making new friends and exchanging ideas with the conference organisers in person!

I’ll be presenting two games from the Agile Coach Toolkit: “The Yellow Brick Road – Agile Adoption Through Peer Coaching” and “The Bottleneck Game – Process Improvement with the Theory of Constraints”. Is it possible to have so much fun under one roof? We’ll have to wait and see!

There are still some tickets left for this 2-day weekend of fun in Boston. Sign up quick before April 16 to qualify for the Early Bird discount! I hope to see you there.

Mini XP Days Benelux: 26 April 2010 – SOLD OUT!

 A Production of Fun and Learning!

Mini XP Days is an action re-play of the favourite sessions from XP Days Benelux 2009 as selected by you, the participants and the conference organisers.

This will be the second ever Mini XP Days conference thanks to the resounding popularity of last year’s conference! This 1-day conference will take place in the inspiring and beautifully architectured country estate of Kappellerput in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

You’ll also get the chance to refresh your body and your mind with a set of Aikido exercises in an enchanted forest led by Olivier Costa.

I’m looking forward to faciliating “The Yellow Brick Road – Agile Adoption Through Peer Coaching“. My favourite bit has to be the telling of this Agile Fairytale based on the Wizard of Oz!

Read more about the conference from Pascal here.

April Smarts

 Be an artist today!

Ahead of Marketing

It was great to have celebrated this April Fool’s Day by seeing Seth Godin present ‘Ahead of Marketing’ live in Antwerp, Belgium. The event was organised by Flanders DC (District of Creativity) with around 1000 attendees awaiting with bated breath to hear words of inspiration from one of the most famous marketers around.

Seth Godin in Short

Seth shared 7 core messages with the audience:

1. Abandon instructions. According to Seth, we’re all conditioned to strive for mediocrity from school age. It’s this conditioning that stops many of us from daring to be remarkable. We set our own limits.

2. Do work that matters. Seth urged us to make a difference regardless of our job title. Make solving interesting problems a key part of our job.

3. Become an artist. Make a splash of genius by solving a problem like no one ever has before. Make people think. Instead of treating our jobs as a mere means to an end, we should use it as a platform for our ‘art’.

4. Real art demands courage. ‘Art that matters always involves going the other way,’ said Seth.

5. Ship! Ship! Ship! Real artists ship their creations. Ship early and often.

6. Give gifts. Paint pictures. Make the world better.  Give away your art often. Giving makes you create more.

7. Teach people to lead. Seth invited us to begin by leading ourselves. And to encourage others to do the same.

My Takeaway in Market Speak

Practice the gift of giving. Be generous to be better.