Archives for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Uke the World

The Lost and Foundlings

“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Nietzsche

When I was little, I was taken to Yamaha piano classes every Saturday. I remember sitting between two mini world talents as I banged at the keys, vaguely wondering how the other children managed to translate those tadpole scribbles into beautiful tunes.

Then one auspicious day, my mum asked, “Would you like to stop going to piano classes?” To which I replied, “Yes!” And that was one of my earliest memories of the sweet taste of liberation. And many other things besides.

The conclusion from this experience was stored in perpetuity in my brain’s computer. Because my computer was efficient, it readily replayed its recorded message at every opportunity: “I am not musically talented. I will never play a musical instrument. I cannot sing…”

… Until the day came when I became a parent and learned that, as a parent,”You can only give what you have”. Suddenly, from across the misty distance of time and space, I heard the familiar sound of banging keys and I was paralysed with fear. Of not being good enough. And this time, my child’s fate is at stake.

Then somewhere from deep within me, amidst my chilling and profound sense of loss, a gentle and defiant voice spoke up. “Wouldn’t it be nice to make my own music? To sing and play with all my heart?”

Without knowing how or when that wish would come true, the most important thing had happened, a pre-requisite for all wishes before they can come true: my heart had made a wish.

Within days, my friend Vira offered me the gift of music in the form of the ukulele so that I could share music with my little girl. And what better way to celebrate life than by sharing the gift of song?

Play for Your Life

I hope you’ll be able to join our uke jam keynote (our uke troupe’s called The Lost and Foundlings) at BCS SPA on Tuesday, 28 June where we’ll be supported by The Fleas who’ll bring along ukuleles so you, too, can have a go. No previous experience required, just the willingness to play!

And if you already play an instrument, do bring it to the conference with you that day because uke jams sound even better with all sorts of different instruments!

And if you’ve always had a longing to learn to play the uke and you fancy buying one to bring along, then a decent starter uke costs around £20-£30 (we recommend Kala or Mahalo available from Amazon and good music shops). Let the music play!

Growing Up

Birthday Baby

A New Season’s Greetings

September has always been a special month for me. It’s a month of new beginnings, ranging from the start of a new season to that of a new school year, throbbing with the promise of excitement and adventure.

September is also the month of my birthday and I’ve had to make special preparations this year given I’m about to turn 40. The big 4-0. And I think this impending event has blown a circuit or two in my head.

Birthday Baby

Looking back, I now realise I not only suffered from acute thrisis (mid-life crisis in my thirties), I also had a similar short-circuiting experience just before I turned 20. And it turns out I’m not alone.

According to one theory about “9-Enders“, people who’s current age ends in a “9” such as “19”, “29”, “39”, “49”, 9-Enders find themselves searching for answers to the big questions: “What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? What does it mean to be happy? What makes me happy? What’s my life plan?”

What’s more, research shows that most people respond in one of two ways when confronted by such questions. One group will become more determined to make the most of their life while the other group concludes that “my life sucks” and grows increasingly despondent.

Becoming Better with Age

Just as September marks the end of something old, September marks the start of something new. So long as we continue to stretch ourselves by expanding our comfort zone, we can keep going strong.

If you’ve become unstuck with the big questions or even small ones, or simply want to feel re-energised and inspired to get a move on with your dreams, join my friends and I in a bunch of fun-packed and thought-provoking conference sessions in the UK this autumn:

Agile Cambridge: 30 September, Cambridge, UK.

Agile Tour London: 23 October, London, UK.

Playmaking While The Sun Shines

Go to work to play

“Screw work let’s play!”

Do you sometimes wish you could goof off work and play? I’ve been invited to present “The Power of Play” at GOTO Copenhagen on May 23.

Join us in a playful presentation where we’ll explore why play isn’t just essential for creativity and innovation, but crucial to our survival and overall well-being. We’ll begin with the definition of play followed by an exploration of why we play and how we play. We’ll investigate the relationship of work and play and demonstrate how, instead of being mutually exclusive, both are necessary for personal and group creativity and achievement. We’ll finish off with useful guidelines for bringing more play into your life. And if you play your cards right, you’ll leave with plenty of ideas to achieve your recommended daily amount of play!

It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be!

If you’d like to come along, then there’s more good news! You can now take advantage of a speaker referral program, get a discount AND GOTO will make a donation on your behalf to “Computers for Charities“.

All you have to do is:

  1. Register for the conference here.
  2. Enter the promotion code: tung1000.
  3. Make your purchase.
  4. Hey presto! You’ve just saved DK 1.000 AND GOTO will make a donation of DK 1.000 to a charity.

Can signing up for play get better than this? I’m sure we can think of something…

Meanwhile, looking forward to playmaking with you and your friends at GOTO Copenhagen in 2012!


The Emperor’s New Clothes Online

What's your "goto" stance?

Meaningful interactions in stressful situations

See the Emperor in all his glory! Which role do you play? We all interact with different types of characters in our daily lives which may lead to stressful situations. Together, we can learn how to communicate more effectively with others, especially at times of stress, by transforming our behaviour from incongruence to congruence.

Learn how to begin transforming your behaviour from one of incongruence to congruence by thinking about interactions in terms of Self, Other and Context.

Regain and maintain your sense of balance

Begin your happily-ever-after today

Jenni and I recently played this game with a bunch of friends at Play4Agile. Participants were surprised at how well the coping stances matched real-life behaviours when we’re put under stress. By applying the concept of Congruence in our everyday lives, we can all become more effective and efficient while reducing stress!

If you like this..

… You’ll love these. More Agile Fairytales at

Create the Place Where You Long to Belong

Synchronised Origami

A Hundred Years of Solitude

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always yearned to find a place where would I truly belong. A place where I’d spend most of my waking hours actively participating in what I call the 3 Cs: Communication, Collaboration and Community.

Communication: A place where my finger’s always on the pulse, a place where people say what they mean and mean what they say.

Collaboration: A place where people work together, play together, win together, working towards a common goal.

Community: A place where we care about one another, look out for each other and create opportunities together.

Then one lunchtime, as I peruse the shelves of business books at my local bookstore, I stumble upon a book to help me turn my dream into reality. To create a place where I long to belong at work.

The Power of Tribes

Tribal Leadership” by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright is a book based on the ancient concept of tribes. In it, they describe how organisations operate in a 5-stage model based on organisational research from numerous U.S. companies. The book is packed full of practical tips of how to “upgrade” your tribe from its current stage to the next in order to create an organisation that doesn’t merely survive, but thrives.

According to Dave and his co-authors, a tribe consists of a group of between 20 – 150 people who would stop and greet each other when their paths crossed. A small tribe (the equivalent to a small organisation) is between 20 – 50 people large, whereas a large tribe (a larger organisation) is between 50 – 150 people. The concept of “tribe” scales in that a large organisation is made up of a tribe of tribes. And what do all tribes in a single organisation have in common? Organisational culture, of course.

What Dave’s research tells us

The supporting research of Tribal Leadership is based on workplaces in America.

5 Stages of Tribal Leadership

Stage 1: A person at Stage 1 is usually alienated by the world of them. Around 2% of professionals are at this stage. People at Stage 1 take shotguns to work. Tribes at Stage 1 are reminiscent of prisons in culture.

Stage 2: A person at Stage 2 is constantly complaining, wondering “Why me?” Dave refers to this stage as the “ghetto of corporate despair. Around 25% of workplaces operate at this stage. According to the model, Dilbert is at Stage 2.

Stage 3: A person at Stage 3 is all about “Me! Me! Me!”. Knowledge is power and they hoard it and keep it for themselves. A whopping 49% of workplaces are at Stage 3.

Stage 4: Individuals and tribes are value-driven at Stage 3. Around 22% of workplaces make up Stage 4. Interesting fact: people at Stage 4 require a common enemy against whom the tribe focuses in order to be better. Reminds me of classic James Bond movies where Bond needs baddies in order to be a goodie.

Stage 5: A person at Stage 5 “makes history”. People at Stage 5 take full responsibility for their words and actions. They are driven by leadership, vision and inspiration. Around 2% of workplaces make up Stage 5. Graduates begin at Stage 5 and usually regress to lower stages.

Tribal Leadership session at XP Days Benelux

For those who know me, one of my favourite hobbies is turning theory into experiential learning to help bring the theory alive and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with Tribal Leadership at XP Days Benelux last week.

Copycat Origami

What Dave says about the session

Dave has seen the presentation and says, “Amazing work! Would you be open to our posting this on our website? It’s really outstanding!” Having seen the pictures from the session at XP Days, Dave adds, “This is really fun! Love the pictures. Looks like you get people really involved.”

I hope you have as much fun looking through the presentation as I did in building it with help from my tribe!

Where can I find out more about Tribal Leadership?

Special Thanks!

Tribal Trade

To Dave Logan and his team for giving permission to re-use his model and snippets from the great book “Tribal Leadership”, not to mention all the really useful feedback and input to clarify the role of ego in the different stages.

To my tribe at work for playing along and giving the gift feedback. It sure helped to turn the BETA session into something much more challenging, meaningful and fun!

To the 40 participants at XP Days Benelux who took part in synchronise peace crane paperfolding and are living proof of how even perfect strangers can learn to tribe in as little time as 90 minutes. And for their gift of feedback. Looking forward to playing again next year!

XP Days Benelux: 2011 Christmas Edition

It’s that time of year again, Christmas is just around the corner, people are talking about the possibility of snow on Christmas Day and, of course, it’s almost time for XP Days Benelux, the friendliest and most fun Agile conference I know.

I’ll be presenting a brand new session about Tribal Leadership based on the book by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fisher-Wright. I’ve had great fun experimenting with the theory, so I hope you’ll enjoy it!

5 Stages of Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership – Create the place where you long to belong

Do you hope that one day all the office politics will be replaced by a common and worthwhile cause? Do you wish you could be part of a winning team? Do you dream of working in a place where you belong?

Every organisation is made up of tribes, naturally occurring groups of between 20 – 150 people. And even though each tribe is different they have one thing in common: organisational culture.

Join me to learn about Tribal Leadership, a practical model for leveraging natural groups to create organisations that thrive. Learn how you can help transform your work experience into what you want it to be by focusing on language and behaviour within a culture.

You’ll get the chance to identify the stage you and your tribe are in and the next stage you want to move towards. Working in pairs, triads and as a whole group, you’ll leave the session with a roadmap of your own to take your tribe towards “Innocent Wonderment”.

Find out more about the session here.

Looking forward to the fun and games at XP Days Benelux and all the invaluable learning and sharing!

My Agile Pilgrimage

Beautiful Snowbird

Begin with the end in mind

I still remember the moment when I first heard that Agile 2011 was going to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was during an announcement at the end of Agile 2009.

At the time I wasn’t sure how I’d get there and with whom I’d go, but two things were certain.

Firstly, I thought it would be nice to re-live history by visiting the room where the Agile Manifesto was created 10 years ago. Partly out of curiosity and partly out of respect to the 17 visionary-signatories without whom I probably wouldn’t have a job I love doing and related to IT.

Secondly, I would have to go with a group. After all, Agile is fundamentally about people working together. It would be odd and sad for me to show up and no one to relive the historic moment with.

Almost everything I’ve ever experienced with Agile has been remarkable, so it came as no surprise that our journey to Snowbird was equally serendipitous.

Mission Possible

As soon as I arrived in Salt Lake City, I started polling for interest about a visit up to Snowbird. My mission was clear: to get a bunch of people up to Snowbird to celebrate the manifesto‘s 10th birthday. I didn’t do it in a fanatical way. Rather, I offered it as an option.

Some people would smile politely and nod, agreeing that it was a good idea in principle. Others would stare bemused since they felt it unnecessary; we were already at the conference, isn’t that all that mattered? May be for them, but not for me.

Snowbird Souvenir

Two days into the conference, I only had one other person seriously interested in making the journey – Carsten Ruseng, a friendly Dane, from Systematic.

Over the course of the next couple of days, we tried to create and evaluate options for making the visit possible. We both wanted to make the most of the conference AND we wanted to visit Snowbird. I felt confident that we could achieve the mission if  only we applied Agile and Systems Thinking to the problem.

Information Gathering and Agile Planning

Meanwhile, I needed to find out the exact location of the room. Fortunately, I bumped into Alistair Cockburn during the conference and he gave me precise directions. It’s Lodge at Snowbird, exit 3. The rooms’s just above the reception. That was the most crucial piece of information I needed to complete my mission.

Then finally, last Thursday, on the evening before the last day of the conference, Carsten and I committed to executing the mission (the last responsible moment). We’d meet bright and early the next day (at 7 am to be exact) and go to Snowbird. It would mean that we’d miss Kevlin Henney’s talk but I knew Kevlin would understand.

Without a goal, it’s hard to score

Throughout our planning conversations, we always went back to our goals for the mission. In Carsten’s words, “We’ve already come all this way for the conference. Not going would be like not seeing Niagara Falls even though we were in Toronto.” Since we’d both managed to visit the falls independently during Agile 2008, I understood what Carsten meant.

But we were still only two. Given that three’s a crowd, I wished for one more person to join us on the pilgrimage. Just when I’d almost given up hope late Thursday night, Carsten texts me to say that Henrik Kniberg would like to join us and would that be OK. OK? I said. Most definitely!

Carpe diem

We arrive at 07.50 outside Lodge at Snowbird. When we get to the reception, I look the gentleman behind the desk straight in the eye and begin to explain why we are there.

We’ve come to see a very special room, I say. We’re in Salt Lake City to attend a conference and 10 years ago, a bunch of people created a manifesto related to the conference. They created the manifesto in the room just above your reception, I explain.

In search of the manifesto

At first, the gentleman stares at us blankly and then he starts to ask us a whole bunch of questions. What’s the conference about? Where do you all come from? Why is seeing the room so important?

So close, yet so far

Just when I think he is going to decline our request, Monte tells us that 10 years ago, he left the IT industry. He tells us how, at the time, he thought there must be a better way of developing software and he even wrote an essay about it. He asks us to tell him a bit more about the manifesto. Have the lives of IT professionals improved, he asks. Are they happier? To which we reply things have improved, but with improvements come greater expectations. We’re doing our best. We’re always striving to learn, we tell him.

Still in search of the manifesto

Monte ushers us into the office so that we could look up the manifesto online. Henrik had come up with the idea that we could double-check we’re looking at the right room based on the background picture of the manifesto with the signatories stood in a circle.

History is what we make it

Everything from there is history. Before taking our group picture, we scribble up the 4 values as though they were fresh from yesterday. We start joking and laughing at our adventure. At first, we ask Monte to take a picture of us. Then we set the camera on auto-shoot so that we can get a picture with Monte in it, too. This is the crowd I was hoping for.

Meeting Monte

We spend the next half hour strolling around Snowbird. It’s not difficult to imagine how such beautiful scenery would inspire people to come up with something like the manifesto, Carsten remarks. During the walk, we exchange more of our memories accumulated over the last decade. We talk about getting lost, following and leadership.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…

Stroll in Snowbird

The overarching theme of that day has to be closure. Henrik mentioned it several times. He explains how he was going to go on a family holiday soon for six months and has handed over the Agile Manifesto translation project to Shane Hastie, newly elected on the Agile Alliance board. Henrik describes how by initiating a translation project in a certain region or country, it has brought people together, in debate and discussion about what the manifesto really means. Translating the manifesto into a different language usually marks the start of something important.

Making work matter

For me, closure has resulted in a new beginning. One that builds on the past while clearly looking into the future. It reminds me of Tom Peter‘s frustration when he wonders out loud why it’s taken so long for us to realise excellence, and we’re not there yet, even though he wrote the book “In Search of Excellence” more than two decades ago.

And my answer is this. Everyone knows what’s right, but only the Spartans do it. That was the lesson I learnt in history class all those years ago. We can go around claiming to be “agile”, but everyone else recognises when we’re not. To make progress, we need to first be honest with ourselves. How agile are we really? Most importantly, why should it matter? What do we want to achieve, now and in the future? How will you make work matter today?

We made it!

Agile Fairytales go to Agile 2011!

Suits you sir

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The brand new Agile FairytaleThe Emperor’s New Clothes” will be making its first appearance in the US at Agile 2011 on Tuesday, August 9! It was first shown at XP Days Benelux 2010 and has been travelling around Europe with Jenni Jepsen and me ever since!

Meaningful interactions in stressful situations

See the Emperor in all his glory! Which role will you play? We all interact with different types of characters in our daily lives which may lead to stressful situations. Together, we’ll learn how to communicate more effectively with others, especially at times of stress, by transforming our behavior from incongruence to congruence. We’ll learn to recognise incongruence by role-playing the 5 Coping Stances based on the Satir Model, then learn how to begin transforming our behavior from one of incongruence to congruence by thinking about interactions in terms of Self, Other and Context.

Places are limited to 30 participants, so come early to play, de-stress and improve!

Personal Growth

Continuous Learning

Only a mediocre person is always at his best” – Somerset Maugham

Personal Development

I started my career back in the days when we celebrated the launch of new products with champagne and strawberries on a weekly basis. Back then, the going was good and everyone was encouraged to invest in training in order to deliver more value through personal development.

During the boom, I attended conferences such as JavaOne in San Francisco and TheServerSide Symposium in Las Vegas where I learnt a great deal from peers and thought leaders.  In spite of being a software developer, I even attended a course on Project Management where I gained invaluable insight into how project management can add value when it is applied correctly. All the training I participated in helped me see the bigger picture beyond writing code, my core competency at the time.

Then came the crash and organisations no longer seemed to care about the return on investment when it came to training. When the training budget eventually shrunk to almost a taboo, I got creative.

Get creative to learn

During the crash, I got into the habit of investing in my own personal development with my own money and holiday. At first, it was by setting aside a modest book budget. Then I extended it to include conferences. As a result, I learned a great deal by focusing on value when others were busy concentrating on budget cuts.

Nowadays, my learning budget includes events and trips that help increase the value I deliver. It’s not a big budget so I make sure I get the most value out of what I invest in.

Get personal about your development

Over the years, my attitude and approach to training has evolved immensely. My view is that training is a means to continuous learning. This means that anything which helps me learn qualifies as “training”.

Tip #1: Take responsibility for your own learning
You are your own greatest asset. Learning increases the value of that asset. Since you are the primary beneficiary of your personal development, it’s up to you manage that development, not your manager or anyone else.

Tip #2: Put your money where you mouth is
If you truly believe in the value of personal development, you need to invest, be it through time, money and/or effort.

Up close and personal

Here’s a list of things I do to maximise my investment in personal development.

1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Most organisations have a training budget. Find out how much of it can be invested in you. Get details of training options, from training providers to ways of learning such as courses, conferences and 1-2-1 mentoring.

2. Identify your learning preferences to maximise the value you get from the different ways of learning. Do you prefer lecture-style learning or interactive learning? Get smarter by mixing and matching what your learn and how you learn.

3. Think of each training request as a business case. Identify the value you and your organisation will get out of the investment as well as the costs. How will you give back after getting training?

4. Present your training request as a set of options with varying value and costs. For instance, I like to come up with between 3 – 5 options for each course or conference I attend with the aim of getting the training request approved. My goal is to ensure that my request contains so much value that the cost is negligible by comparison. Think “Value for Money”.

Ways to increase your value proposition

For many people, learning is a passive activity such as being an “attendee” at a conference. The key to increasing the value of an investment is become an active participant.

Here are some ideas on how:

  • Define your goals and success criteria before the course/event and regularly track progress in terms of your goals and criteria throughout the course/event. It’s also useful to reflect afterwards to determine the estimated vs actual ROI
  • Active participation during sessions through personal contribution – This helps you exercise the theory of what you’ve learned right away and increase the effectiveness of the learning cycle
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues through a series of lunch-and-learns – This helps generate conversations with others or give rise to new ideas
  • Submit a proposal to the conference – This is a great way to get feedback as well as learn how to receive feedback and take improvement actions
  • Present a session at the conference – Similar to submitting a proposal and at least 3 times more valuable in terms of learning through session R & D, public speaking and face-to-face networking. For me, it’s a great test of personal agility

Ways to reduce the cost of training requests to your organisation

  • Become a conference presenter (presenters usually get free entry) – It’s a great WIN-WIN formula, as a presenter you get more value AND it reduces cost
  • Offer to pay for one or more of the following where the number of $ denotes the relative and estimated cost of items: conference entrance fee $$$, accomodation $$, travel $$, expenses $ and days off work (by taking it as holiday – the value of holiday differs from person to person) $$

Learning as a personal investment

Something sobering happens when you start thinking about learning as a personal investment in terms of time, cost and effort. The most poignant moment is when you translate what you’re personally prepared to pay into $$$ value for an opportunity to learn. You know you’re serious about learning when you really put your money where you mouth is.

How much have you invested lately? How much will you invest this year?

The First European Agile Games Conference in 2011

Love Lego!

Play4Agile is the first ever European Agile Games Conference, set to take place next year in Frankfurt, Germany on 18 – 21 February.

It’s a conference designed by and for Agile and Lean coaches, experienced facilitators and game experts who want to exchange questions, ideas and experience on using games in teams and organisations. Find out more about the participants here.

An Open Playground

What I want to learn:

  • New games to play with my teams so we can become better than we were yesterday every day
  • About games facilitation (and share what I’ve learned about it)
  • How to design short, effective games (less than 30 minutes)

And also to:

  • Meet others who want to create a game together!
  • Share a game or two (and apply what I’ve learned from the conference to improve them lots) so that the games can provide even more value to future gamers!

I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting the folks from StrategicPlay, the team who’ve turned playing into a serious business!