Archives for the ‘Team’ Category

A Winter’s Tale

A Winter's Tale

London has been one big ice rink since Monday. After lots of rain, a few rays of sunshine and even more rain, the lovely white snow is finally trickling away as muddy slush today. Lucky really, since a white Christmas would have led to many celebrating Christmas alone. Imagine the numerous Christmas presents that would have been left unopened! Think of the mounds of brussel sprouts left to go cold!

The Gift of the Present

Thanks to the adverse weather (snow in winter, who would have thought?), the usual sprawl of seasoned shoppers has been tranformed into units of special forces of gift givers. These gift givers are prepared to travel near and far to obtain gifts of value, ranging from socks and gadgets to timeless kitsch.

As I trundle through the snow and slush, I notice how everything moves in slow motion. The slowness gives me time to live in the moment, to take in the white landscape in spite of the damp and cold. Instead of hurrying and scurrying, I am Here. Instead of being dragged down by the Past or distracted by the Future, I am in the Present. Things are somehow easier and within moments I have accomplished what had seemed like Mission Impossible even in the best of weather: I have a sackful of valuable gifts for the ones I love.

This is the same experience my teams and I go through when we apply the principle of ‘If you’re rushing, slow down’. With baby steps, we move forward, placing one foot in front of the other. We deal with impediments as they come up, prioritising them and removing them one a time. Before you know it, we’re making good progress, better than we’ve ever done before. And that’s how we turn each Mission Impossible into Mission Most Possible.

Slow for Safety

Make the Most of Now

Be in the Present. Learn from the Past. Create the Future. That’s the advice from Spencer Johnson, author of ‘The Present‘. According to Spencer, by focusing on the task at hand, you become fully engaged in the present which leads to higher quality work which, in turn, leads to greater personal satisfaction and success. And there’s your virtuous cycle in motion.

So as the holiday season begins, slow down. Give the Gift of the Present. To you and your loved ones.

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!

Agile 2009: Mapping the Agile Enablement Battlefield

‘Change happens. It cannot be controlled. It can only be influenced.’

One of the key criteria for successful Agile Adoption is to make it grow and endure throughout an organisation. To overcome this challenge, George Schlitz and Giora Morein show us how to navigate organisational relationships using an approach called Mapping the Agile Enablement Battlefield presented at Agile 2009.

Storytime: The Story of Jorj the CSM Pig

Once upon a time, there was a friendly and happy pig called Jorj. Jorj the CSM Pig was part of a great team of pigs. Together, they delivered a successful project.

Shortly afterwards, a curious thing happened. Jorj and his team were reduced to bacon.

The moral of the story, according to Giora and George, is that organisational change is difficult. In Jorj’s case, it was very difficult indeed. It’s perfectly possible to be successful at project delivery yet fail in the overall Change effort.

Put your Strategic Thinking Cap on

For Agile to endure in an organisation, it needs to be part of an organisational change programme.

Agile Adoption fails at an organisational level when we:

  • Focus on delivering while ignoring the importance of organisational change
  • View organisational change as a distraction
  • Insulate ourselves from change beyond the team
  • Too much practice – not enough principles being applied

According to Giora and George, the key to the kind of Agile that endures is:

  • Develop a strategy – Find out where and when to exert influence.
  • Understand that Change is War (in that it requires a strategic approach).

The Objective: Agile Team Leads (aka Scrum Masters) need to be Change Agents. As Change Agents, their objective is to identify how to invest some effort and resources on the Change effort.

The Approach: Using a ‘Mapping the Battlefield’ approach, team leads can visually represent a system of influencers by identifying influencer types, such as ‘Ally’, ‘Supporter’, ‘Neutral’, ‘Threat’ and ‘Enemy’.

There are 3 Influence Strengths:

  • Undetermined influence
  • Strong influence
  • Weak influence.

Identifying the System of Influencers

Day 1: Establish the Perimeter – Create an alternative view of the organisational diagram in terms of influencer types.

  • Identify known influencers surrounding the team – Start with the closest people to the team
  • Identfy positive and negative influencers – Assess based on direct interaction as well as hearsay
  • Update your map as new information arrives.

Day 2: Assess the direct influencers

  • Focus on direct influencers (those who interact directly with your team)
  • Add in more influencers as you identify them.

Day 3: Assess indirect influencers

  • Indirect influencers that influence your direct influencers
  • Influence your perimeter by influencing others
  • Start with second-degree supervisors.

Day 4: Continue information gathering and analysis

  • Rinse and repeat.

Putting the Action Plan into Action

The Response Strategy is to focus on the proximity and strength of the influencers.

Priority 1 – Enagage with the strongest direct threats.
Priority 2 – Enagage with the strongest indirect threats.
Priority 3 – Enagage with the weak direct threats.

My Takeaway

The ‘Mapping the Battlefield’ approach is about information gathering and analysis and strategic thinking. It can be used as an effective thinking tool so long as we live the Agile Values and behave responsibly. As always, the most useful thing to do is look within yourself and change for the better first because true leadership is by example.

The Power of Play

Let the fun begin!

Games make learning fun instead of only growing pain. As children, we learn through play. And because play is so much fun, we play some more until a virtuous circle is formed where we play and learn to play to learn. In my experience, adults learn most effectively in the same way.

By learning through play, we pack in the practice at doing the things we enjoy and so we begin to achieve, getting a little (or, in some cases, a lot) better at what we do every day. Think ‘baby steps’. Little and often.

And when practice brings results, it gives us a sense of achievement and so we practice some more until doing what we do becomes a habit, becomes part of who we are.

By making practice a habit, we’re able to discover what we’re really good at and eventually, all those hours add up to make us proficient at doing the thing we enjoy doing most.

Add in the necessary ingredients of support, guidance and courage, and the moment you attain proficiency should collide just-in-time with opportunity. That’s when you suddenly realise you’re doing what you love or at least loving what you do. And getting paid for it. There’s your TADA! moment. And it feels like magic.

And because your Fun Flywheel is already spinning, that breakthrough will fuel your courage and desire to achieve even more, so you’ll continue to practice and, because you know the secret to practice is through play, you’ll never tire of training to become better every day.

The Enduring Memory of Play

Why turn work into play?

  • Breaks down organisational boundaries – Such as when senior managers haggle with developers, as a team, over whether building a Mars station will bring in more business value than a Castle
  • Connects people – Creates a shared experience that lasts way beyond a 90-minute gaming session into daily work
  • Creates a sense of common purpose – Unites people from different teams and departments, sometimes for the first time, towards a common, tangible goal
  • Increases understanding between colleagues – Clearly demonstrates how everyone has strengths and can use the strengths of others to overcome their own weaknesses by working as a team
  • We can’t resist having fun – Opens our minds long enough to challenge what we think so we can grow

It is these kinds of mementoes that help form a team, so that when the going gets tough, we can help one another through the storms to become a high performance and happy team.

The Definition of an Agile Team

TO improve the effectiveness of the customer and users of the product and maximise the value of the organisation
AS AN Agile Team
WE NEED to leverage the strengths of each team member and create valuable products now and in the future.

 Acceptance Criteria

  • We apply the Agile Values at all times
  • We apply the Agile Principles and Practices
  • We take responsibility for the work we do
  • We prioritise our work to maximise value, taking into account risk, effort and dependencies
  • We do the work that bring the most value to the team
  • We take responsibility for the team’s results
  • We update the team on the progress of our individual work 
  • We raise impediments, risks and issues as early as possible 
  • We help remove impediments
  • We believe in collective wisdom: we trust the team to make the best decisions possible based on the information available 
  • We understand how quality contributes to the overall value the team delivers 
  • We ensure quality is built into everything we do, as defined by the team’s definition of quality 
  • We minimise keyman dependency
  • We’re committed to Continuous Improvement.

Attributes of an Agile Team

  • Generalist-Specialists – Each team member has a set of specific interests, skills and strengths. You are a Generalist-Specialist when what you do goes beyond these.
  • Self-organising – The team work out what needs to be done and members sign up for work.
  • Cross-functional – Each team member is a composite of roles, skills and experiences.
  • Continuously learning – We always strive to do better.
  • Responsible – We win together, we fail together. We share responsibility.
  • Committed – We give 100% to everything we do.

How you know you’re doing it wrong

When you say:

I’m not doing testing. That’s not in my role description.‘ – No one wants a ‘Jobsworth‘ in their team. Demonstrate your commitment by doing whatever it takes to help the team deliver value.

I can’t do that task. I’ve never done it before.‘ – Sign up for the task and ask to pair with someone who does so that you contribute even more value to the team.

An Agile team is supposed to be self-organising, so sort it out!‘ – Take collective responsibility. Give help instead of passing judgment.

It’s his fault. I knew he’d mess it up.‘ – Take responsibility by offering to help. If they reject your help, improve your interpersonal skills so that others want to pair with you. 

How you know you’re doing it right

Put the 5 Agile Values plus two more into action.

  1. Communication – We consult one another and contribute to discussions and debates on matters arising.
  2. Simplicity – We deliver exactly what’s needed, no more, no less, with the least amount of effort.
  3. Feedback – We give and take on feedback and use it to improve our individual performance as well as to elevate the performance of the team.
  4. Courage – We create and sustain an environment where we can all be courageous. We support one another when confronting the brutal facts in the belief that we will prevail.
  5. Respect – We acknowledge that every team member is an individual. We leverage the benefits of diversity.
  6. Trust – We trust each member to do their best for the team.
  7. Transparency – We share everything we know to create the maximum number of options. We do so to maximise our chances of success and minimise waste.

What does ‘Team’ mean to you?

Latest Edition: The Role and Responsibilities of an Agile Team

Many thanks for all your ardent feedback about the role descriptions! Since being published for the first time last week, they’ve been revised, amended and much improved. We hope you’ll continue reading and look forward to receiving more feedback.

Here’s the latest edition published on Happy Reading!

The Role of an Agile Coach

TO create a team that delivers value now and in the future
AS AN Agile Coach
I NEED to help people to reach their full potential.

Acceptance Criteria

  • I apply the Agile Values at all times*
  • I apply the Agile Principles and Practices
  • I apply the servant-leadership style of working
  • I have excellent facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills
  • I have extensive experience of Agile projects
  • I take responsibility for the Agile process being used
  • I take responsibility for team improvements
  • I provide 1-2-1 Agile Coaching to team members
  • I identify people and process issues
  • I raise impediments, risks and issues as early as possible
  • I help remove impediments
  • I update the team on the progress of my work
  • I believe in collective wisdom: I trust the team to make the best decisions possible based on the information available
  • I prioritise my work to maximise value, taking into account risk, effort and dependencies
  • I do jobs that bring the most value to the team
  • I’m committed to Continuous Improvement.

What Being an Agile Coach Means to Us

You’ll notice the emboldened criteria are identical to those of the Agile Team Member. Pascal and I spend a lot of time thinking and learning about the different types of Agile Team Members we want to work with and the kind of Agile Coach we want to become. The Agile Team Roles and Responsibilities remind us to set the bar high for the kind of Agile Team we want to grow and be part of.

You can find out more about the other Agile Team Roles and Responsibilities here.

The Role of an Agile Tester

TO know the state the project is in and identify where the team can improve
AS AN Agile Tester
I NEED to provide information on the state of the project.

Acceptance Criteria

Those of an Agile Team Member plus:

  • I have strong communication and analytical skills
  • I can perform different types of testing.


  • I assist the Agile Customer to define acceptance criteria and acceptance tests
  • I help clarify any ambiguity until it is understood by the team
  • I capture and keep acceptance tests up-to-date.

Agile Estimating

  • I provide estimates to the required level of accuracy for user stories and tasks.


  • I execute manual test scripts throughout the software development process
  • I run automated test scripts throughout the software development process
  • I provide up-to-date test results
  • I analyse test results
  • I automate test scripts
  • I collaborate with the team to answer queries and resolve issues and defects
  • I help the Agile Customer prioritise issues and defects.

You can find out more about the other Agile Team Roles and Responsibilities here.

The Role of an Agile Architect

TO help teams deliver business value now and in the future
AS AN Agile Architect
I NEED to ensure the team implements good techniques and practices.

Acceptance Criteria

Those of an Agile Developer plus:

Development and Testing

  • I help disseminate good techniques and practices
  • I help review designs from a strategic point-of-view
  • I help teams align their techniques and practices
  • I help make sure what different teams build integrates well
  • I provide insight into the way things are done and what is being produced
  • I ensure quality issues are addressed
  • I have experience of Agile Design and Architecture.

You can find out more about the other Agile Team Roles and Responsibilities here.

The Role of an Agile Developer

TO deliver business value now and in the future
AS AN Agile Developer
I NEED to implement  stories with high business value using good techniques and practices.

Acceptance Criteria

Those of an Agile Team Member plus:

  • I have a good understanding of software engineering practices.

Development and Testing

  • I ensure I have enough information to estimate user stories
  • I ensure I have enough information to write unit tests when implementing user stories
  • I ensure I have enough information to design and develop code
  • I test deliverables against a user story’s acceptance tests
  • I ensure Continuous Integration and Build is in place
  • I perform peer reviews
  • I collaborate with architects and other developers to produce just enough design
  • I ensure just enough technical documentation is provided
  • I help remove technical impediments raised by the team.

Technical Backlog

  • I write technical user stories
  • I clarify any ambiguity with the Agile Customer
  • I collaborate with the Agile Customer to assign business value to technical stories.

Agile Estimating

  • I provide estimates to the required level of accuracy for stories and tasks.

You can find out more about the other Agile Team Roles and Responsibilities here.