Archives for the ‘Feedback’ Category

The Team Manifesto – Part 1

TO create a team that delivers value now and in the future
AS A group of individuals
WE NEED to create an agreed way of working.

Immediately after the Profile Card Exercise, we create the team’s manifesto.

The Definition of Team (Duration: 15 – 25 minutes)

We begin by asking the group: “What does ‘Team’ mean to you?” We use the Clustering Exercise to ensure we collect everybody’s ideas.

The Clustering Exercise

  1. Brainstorm ideas: Pose a question to the crowd. Ask everyone to write down their answers in silence, describing each idea or thought in no more than a few words on individual Post-its. Set aside 3- 5 minutes for this.
  2. Share ideas: Ask each member to go through their entire stack by reading out a Post-it then posting it up one at a time. Ensure everyone can see the information being posted up.
  3. Cluster ideas: Ask everyone to group the Post-its by theme. The clustering must be done in silence so that individuals cannot verbally influence one another’s way of grouping.
  4. Identify themes: Select a cluster then read out the individual Post-its one by one. Ask the group to give the cluster a theme. Write down the theme on a Post-it and place it at the centre of the cluster. Repeat this step with each process.
  5. Vote for themes: Count up the total number of themes then divide it by 3. The product is the number of votes given to each member. Ask each member to vote for their preferred themes. If someone feels particularly strongly for a theme, they can allocate all their votes to a single theme.
  6. Spot the top themes: Count up the total number of votes per theme. Note down the number of votes on the associated theme Post-it.
  7. Select the top themes: Write out the question you posed to the group as a heading on an A0 piece of paper. Identify and agree with the group up to top 5 themes to form the group’s collective answers to the question. Write down the themes as a numbered list below the question heading.

Once we’ve defined the team values, we take a break. After the break, we move on to the second exercise to build up our team manifesto.

The Definition of Quality (Duration: 15 – 20 minutes)

Quality is an integral part of everything we do. We’ll have many conversations with the team throughout the project about Quality, so it’s important to define upfront what Quality means to us.

Next, we ask the team “What does Quality means to you?” using the Clustering Exercise. Again, we begin by finding out what Quality means to each individual and then come to a common understanding of what it means to the team.

Why define Quality?

  • To come to a common understanding of Quality.
  • To find out how important Quality is for the team.
  • To tap into the team’s sense of professional pride.
  • It helps team members to stick up for what they believe in, because they’re supported by the team.
  • It’s self-enforcing. Since the team came up with it, individuals are more likely to behave responsibly and encourage others to do the same.

Why is the Clustering exercise useful?

  • It allows introvert thinkers to share their thoughts and ideas without being dominated or distracted by the extrovert thinkers in the group.
  • It shows the coach how individual members behave in a group.
  • It develops a sense of solidarity as a group works together to come up with a collective answer.

Now we have the information for creating two posters that make up the Team Manifesto. Here’s what we do next.

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!

On Becoming Better

K.: Don’t you find the Agile Values patronising?
P.: Why do you ask?
K.: It’s basic stuff. Like things we learnt back in kindergarten.
P.: Do you always follow the Agile Values?
K.: At work. Mostly. I guess I don’t always succeed.

Growing up to be better

The thing I enjoy most about Agile is that it’s an approach founded on People, Continuous Improvement, and Common Sense.

Cast your mind back to your teenage years. Think about your teenage children. Look at those around you at work. Can you spot those who continue to do things exactly the same way they’ve always done it for the past twenty, thirty, forty years? Can you catch yourself doing this?

Growing pains are never pleasant or easy to endure. Especially when you’re an adult who believes you already know it all. Worse still, an adult who knows best and think everyone else desperately needs to change, but not you.

Find the fish in the sea

According to Marshall Goldsmith, the simplest step towards Continuous Improvement is to find one of your trickier customers. This may be a particularly demanding client or a disgruntled spouse or offspring. Ask them this question: ‘How can I be a better [supplier/partner/parent]*?’ Next, identify together an action you’re prepared to take to improve. Be sure that the acceptance criteria has been clearly defined so that both parties will recognise when the improvement has been accomplished (aka Done). Then, set to work and make it happen. Ask again for feedback to verify for positive change. Finally, rinse and repeat.

Just as there’s always plenty of work out there for folks who deliver value, there’s always plenty of room for improvement. For each and everyone of us. You included.

* Delete as appropriate

Selfish Programming in Action

Many thanks to all of you for reading. We’ve made some improvements to enhance this blog’s usability:

  • Full blog entries are now displayed on all pages (instead of summaries) 
  • Previous and Next links have been added to the bottom of every page for easier navigation
  • The Archive month-by-month listing is now displayed in the lefthand nav of every page to make it easier to browse entries by month

Many thanks to Sarah Price for playing The Perfection Game as a way of providing feedback on this blog and a super special thanks to Pascal Van Cauwenberghe for making the changes happen in PHP!

Happy reading!

The School of Bad Management

One of the most enlightening books I’ve ever read on management is ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There‘ by Marshall Goldsmith. This book has helped me make sense of my experience as a manager long after I stopped being one. Most importantly, it has helped me come to terms with what Continuous Improvement really means.

What got you here won’t get you there

Marshall is an executive coach who helps people change for the better. He helps people change by making visible the impact those people have on their colleagues. He believes that most of us can be cured of our bad habits by making small changes.

One of the key tools he uses is Feedback. First he points out our bad habits. Then he highlights the impact our bad habits have on our colleagues. Finally, he demonstrates how, with the slightest of ‘behavioural tweaks’, we could make everyone’s work lives so much more pleasant. 

The Success Delusion

According to Marshall, the more successful you believe you are, the harder it is for you to change. His recommendation is for us to put down our ToDo list and focus instead on our STOP DOING list. Look around you at work. Can you identify the top 3 bad habits of your most irksome colleague? And what about you? Can you recognise your top 3 bad habits?

Dead End or Opportunity?

Sticks and Stones

(During a peer coaching session)

P.: I would like some feedback. Do I come across as patronising?
Agile Coach: Not at all. Why’s that?
P.: Occasionally, certain individuals say they find my sessions patronising.
C.: (Pause) I don’t think it’s got anything to do with you.
P.: But there’s clearly an issue. I ask them for suggestions, but we seem to always be short of ideas.
C.: It’s up to me to decide whether or not you come across as patronising.
P.: (Silence)
C.: Another example is when people feel insulted. I can’t remember the last time I felt insulted. I always assume that people are trying to help me. If they give me information I already know, they’re just being helpful. People decide for themselves how and what they think.
P.: Thanks for your feedback.

Walking the Walk

For me, calling myself an Agile Coach is like painting a target on my back. It forces me to be better than I was yesterday, every day. And that can be exhausting. I push the question about patronising sessions onto the stack of Puzzles I carry around in my head for safekeeping.

I know that I’ll probably have to walk around for days, carrying the question in my head, in the hope of finding ways to improve the way I come across during sessions. I’m confident an answer will manifest itself so long as I’m open to changing myself for the better.

Truly, Madly, Deeply

2008: A Personal Retrospective

Things I’m most grateful for:

  1. My first Agile deathmarch with a casualty of 1. Me. Lesson Learnt: Always agree on Acceptance Criteria before doing anything.
  2. Learning from a diverse bunch of people: my fellow Exxies (folks from Exoftware), my client teams and especially Agilistas such as TJ, Pascal Van Cauwenberghe, Vera Peeters, Duncan Pierce, David Peterson and Simon Baker. Lesson Re-learnt: You’re only as good as the people you work with.
  3. Doing 3/3: coaching, consulting and training. Lesson Learnt: Each type of activity acts as a check and balance to the other two. It’s a great way of getting a fresh perspective as well as maintaining objectivity on what you do, how you do it and, most importantly, why you do it.
  4. Meeting more Social Science Heroes: Seeing Malcolm Gladwell present at the London Business Forum, hearing James Surowiecki present as keynote speaker at Agile 2008, seeing Jerry Weinberg demonstrate his consulting toolkit at AYE. Lesson Learnt: Seeing the speakers in action is one way of verifying the authenticity of what they espouse. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  5. Scoring 5/5: The chance to present The Bottleneck Game with Pascal at the same conference as Eli Goldratt and Neil Armstrong in Paris. Lesson Learnt: The biggest things that come true often start with the smallest wish.
  6. Hearing Isabel Allende talk about magic realism in person as though it were real. Lesson learnt: Turning what you love into your job won’t make it a chore if you genuinely love what you do.
  7. All of you for reading because it keeps me writing. A special ‘Thank You’ to Pascal, David and TJ for their candid feedback. Lesson Learnt: Things that have value must meet a need.

2009: My Wishes

  • I wish to learn more in 2009 than I did 2008.
  • I wish to meet Seth Godin, Tom De Marco and Dale Chihuly. I also wish to meet Eli Goldratt again.
  • I wish to present the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Agile Fairytale in French in Paris.
  • I wish to create a third Agile Fairytale.
  • I wish to try out Agile Fairytales beyond the IT industry.
  • I wish to learn more about Lean and use it more explicitly as part of my Agile Coach Toolkit.
  • 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.
  • I wish to create more Agile teams that endure long after the coach is gone.
  • 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.
  • I wish you a Happy 2009 – may it bring you all that you deserve!

Are you ready for Ultimate Agile?

Congratulations! THE BIG DAY you’ve been training for for the past 364 days will soon by upon us. It’s time to cash in on the benefit of the thousands of Agility exercises you’ve been putting into practice at work. Let’s hope all the agile flexing of both brain and brawn pays off. 

Ho! Ho! Ho! Contenders ready?

If you think Christmas Day is a day off, you’re wrong. The 25th of December is the single day of the year when most of us will be trying our hardest to be true to who we are and what we believe in. If that’s not hard work, I don’t know what is. Welcome to Ultimate Agile (also known as Christmas Day with all the family). Are you ready for Ultimate Agile?

Why not have black swan instead of turkey this year?

The problem with Christmas with the family is this: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll only get what you’ve always got. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future comes in the form of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, who offers us a chance to understand how we can change our fate.

‘History is opaque,’ writes Taleb, ‘You see what comes out, not the script that produces the events, the generator of history.’ Taleb identifies three ailments of the human mind whenever it comes in contact with history. He calls them the Triplet of Opacity.

The Triplet of Opacity

The Illusion of Understanding, where everyone thinks they know everything there is to know about everything when in fact they don’t

The Retrospective Distortion, how we use hindsight to explain strange and mysterious things to make-believe that we are in control

The Overvaluation of Factual Information and the Handicap of Authoritative and Learned People, how we listen to and believe in those who appear to be experts but fail to give practical answers that work beyond textbooks

Wise is she who knows she does not know

In my experience, destructive human behaviour arises out of what Taleb calls ‘agressive ignorance’, or a fear of looking stupid that is greater than the fear of being wrong. For example, being asked something to which you don’t know the right answer is the event. Agressive ignorance is the emotional response. The script invisible to the naked eye reads:

  1. I know deep down that if I’m wrong, I may have to change.
  2. Change requires effort which I’m not sure I can be bothered to invest.
  3. The effort might go wasted if I fail.
  4. If I fail to change, that makes me a failure.

So what’s the antidote?

Whenever I’m in a spot of bother, I remind myself of the Agile Values: Communication, Simplicity, Feedback, Courage and Respect. When I feel comfortable living and breathing the first five in a given situation (Think: ‘Baby Steps’ or ‘Incremental development’), I throw in an extra two: Trust and Transparency.

For instance, before a discussion becomes a deafening shouting match, I ask myself: ‘How can I be a better communicator?’ to which my brain resourcefully volunteers a myriad of options such as ‘Listen more! Talk less. The two of you have reached an impasse, ask for help or clarification.’

The only thing most people seek at family gatherings is understanding. It’s the same at work. Why not treat your work self at home to a Christmas helping of black swan?

Merry Christmas one and all!