co-creation of Ewan McGregor

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As a second post about the first Agile Coach Camp in the Netherlands, end of April 2012, I’d like to tell the story how the Ewan McGregor game was born.

elephanjt in the room

The elephant is in the room

One of the most challenging situations for a team coach or even a team itself, is dealing with an ‘elephant’ in the room.  In reality I need to say – avoid dealing with the ‘elephant’ in the room.

What is an elephant in the room, sometimes also known as the pink elephant? In simple words, it’s an obvious situation within a human social structure, nobody wants to talk about and even avoid facing this obvious situation. It’s also a part of teamdynamics. You can read on wikipedia: elephant in the room

I’ve experienced several situations in the past, where there was an elephant in the room – in Teams, in relationships – private and business, even within whole departments or companies. But how do you deal with such situations? Do you confrontate, what can be very hurtful, or do you deal with symptoms? My experience is that you need to be very sensitive when dealing with such crucial topics – and never forget, there is a reason why a problem has reached the level of an elephant in the room!

A background of such situations is based on fear of conflict and a lack of trust – the two most important issues of dysfunctional teams, as well as fear of loosing status. During a coaching session, while reviewing such an ‘elephant in the room’-situation, I had the idea of creating a game where such a situation will be simulated and players need to deal with it. My intention was to create a safe environment which allows players to explore such sensitive situations and learn how to deal with them for the purpose of creating awareness.

I was thinking about different approaches to achieve that game but unfortunately a promising idea was missing. But hey, this is a perfect topic to explore during an open space session and the Agile Coach Camp Netherlands was just a few weeks ahead.

Agile Coach Camp Netherlands – 2012

So, during creation of the OpenSpace marketplace I offered a session for co-creating an interactive game to deal with an elephant in the room. Fortunately approx 10 people showed up for the session – wow, that was much more than I hoped would come.

What happened now, I don’t know how to describe it best, let’s just say – what happened now was just magic!

The game was evolving out of an empirical process of simulating an ‘elephant in the room’ – in the true sense of the word! We created a huge obstacle with chaotic piled chairs in the room and taped a real tight space around this obstacle.

We then simulated some situations where a team of participants had to deal with daily work while they had to move within the tight taped space around the piled chairs. After simulating some real world examples of team-issues we removed all the chairs so that just the taped space was remaining on the floor. We asked the team to repeat all team situations in the room, imagining that the chairs were still in the room.

As an Agile Coach Camp is an OpenSpace unconference, there were Bumblebees and Butterflies dropping in the session room by chance. You might be able to imagine that this must be a funny situation for an observer who does not know what’s happening in that team, where people move within an empty space and make strange movements like a pantomime.

When we asked the newcomers what they observed, they told us that it is strange, it’s obvious that there is something wrong in the team but that they’ve had no idea what’s going on and why the hell the members move so strange within their teamspace . We then invited the newcomers to start coaching the team. What happened next surprised everybody attending that session. Remember – the team members move around an non-existing chaotic pile of chairs!

When asked by an observer what they are doing there was just a simple answer – ‘we are working’. When asked why they move so strange, the outrage of the team about that question became obvious – we don’t move strange, we’re just doing our work as usual. The team members started to defense and became more or less angry about some questions of the observer/coach. Very interesting emotions and a very dangerous situation for the coach emerged. With one single wrong question you can ‘close the door’ for gaining trust of the team. The coach is an ‘outsider’.
What is very interesteing, each time when I facilitated that game, and as far as I know other Facilitators made some similar experiences, almost the same emotions show up, created virtually. Teams start to defense the way they work, even if it’s obvious that there is a problem. Even if it’s just a role play, participants tell that they feel a need for defending themselves, they feel the ‘hot air’ etc.

It was amazing, we created a virtual ‘elephant in the room’ and were able to discover all the emotions which occur also in real situations of this kind.

We then started to concentrate on coaching such a situation and how this uncomfortable experience can be handled. That’s were the real work starts!
When appropriate facilitated and coached, this game can be a great eye-opener for dysfunctional teams and can create new insights, options and opportunities for dealing with crucial issues in teams.

After all

We haven’t published the game-instructions so far. But we asked via the LinkedIn-group ‘Agile Games’ if somebody wants to try out this new game and lots of people did. Several Coaches all over the world have already tried out the Ewan Mcgregor game and gave us some interesting feedback. In addition, I facilitated the game also several times so far. What we’ve found out is, that this game is very helpful and provides a lot of learning experiences and insights in team-dynamics. It’s not just for teams, also for coaches it is an awesome experience to be in the role of a team member and experience the emotions when an ‘outsider’ starts to coach a team on such a crucial topic…

Feedback

If you’re interested in running that game please give me a ping or have a look at the ‘Agile Games’-group on LinkedIn. Beyond that I will publish the game instructions Facilitation Flash Cards.

If you have already tried out the game I’m very curious to read about your experiences – please leave your comment here!

Postscript

A lot of people are asking why ‘Ewan McGregor’ – isn’t that a famous actor?

Yes, that’s true – he is an actor and I need to say that his name has no direct connection to the purpose of the game! During the co-creation session we found out, that when running this simulation with a team which has to deal with such a real ‘elephant’ issue, it might be not a good starting point to introduce a session called ‘the elephant in the room’ – it just could influence the outcome or behaviour of individuals. So we just called it ‘exercise without a name’. And as this naming did not sound appropriate to us, we had the idea to just use a shortcut of it, so we ended up with EWAN. And as somebody called instinctively cool, let’s call it Ewan McGregor… that’s it… =:-)

Agile Coaches go nuts

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At the end of April 2012, I attended the first Agile Coach Camp in the Netherlands. Thanks by the way to the organizers for a great ACC in a very cozy hotel with a warm and nice atmosphere. I really enjoyed the time I’ve had with you, my dutch friends!

background

I was driving from cologne to the netherlands by car which was fully packed with LEGO® and I was totally excited to meet good friends and lots of new people. Frankly, I’ve expected a great conference as I know some of the organizers and know about their passion for agile and our community.

Beside having a really fantastic and great time with the awesome dutch agile community, I’ve made some very great experiences during that conference. In this first post I’ll write about some interesting experiences we’ve gained during one of my LEGO® sessions. In a second post about the Agile Coach Camp Nethlerands I’ll write about co-creation of the Ewan McGregor game – but this will follow a bit later…

my offer

During the Open Space marketplace I offered a StrategicPlay® session based on LEGO® SeriousPlay as well as the Scrum LEGO® airport. The Scrum simulation I offered for saturday evening, as an offtrack session starting at 09:00 pm – drinks are allowed.

accnl - marketplace

I’ve created the Scrum LEGO® airport about two years ago and ran it already on several conferences all over the world, at different companies and within trainings. So nothing special. Just one fact was differrent this time. All the times I’ve ran this Scrum simulation before, lots of the participants were newbies to agile with little to average experience with Scrum. Sure, there were also agile-grey-hairs which also gained lots of new insigths, and not all but most of the attendees I’d call newbies. This was the first time that I’d run it just with experienced Coaches, Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters. So I’v expected something different this time, not sure about what in special, just something different.

the set up

The first surprise happened when people entered the room for my session. As we were about 50 people at that conference, all attendees were already experienced agile practioners and I proposed the session for saturday evening, I’ve expected about 10 people max to come.

When we started, we were 27 participants, splitted up in 4 teams.

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport setup

We did 3 full sprints within a complete Scrum framework with 4 teams, 27 people and 22 requirements for a complete airport, 4 ScrumMasters, 4 ProductOwners and 19 developers. What do you think have they delivered after 3 sprints?

You’d expect a complete airport? Yes, I’ve expected the same!

delivery

What they delivered was an ambulance car. One single ‘lousy’ ambulance car made of LEGO! Ok, a Scrum simulation with LEGO might be a little bit different to your daily work of SoftwareDevelopment. There is just one but – all Agile values, principles, the Scrum framework and the whole agile mindset is not just focused on SoftwareDevelopment – you can apply it in nearly every – let’s say manufacturing and production process as well as to build an airport with LEGO!

Ok, it’s normal in the simulation that teams fail in the first sprint. This is a regular learning phase. But normally they learn with every single sprint as we do retrospectives and the customer is available for questions. So I’m used to see teams improving already after the first sprint as they start to communicate and to deliver.

what happened?

So, what happened with my dutch colleagues? They’ve made every single mistake you can make and most important, they didn’t communicated with the customer, they even didn’t talked between teams. So they were’nt able to find out the right priorities for the airport, did not adjust cross-team development and every team built what they liked most and thought is most valuable (in their opinion!).

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport swarming

And, no surprise, during the Scrum Reviews the teams tried to sell the customer (me) every single requirement they’ve built. Starting from a Helicopter which doesn’t fit on the Heli-pad they’ve built, an Airport Tower without any space for workers and which is as tall as an airplane and so on. And every single product they’ve built had a special value – unfortunately not for me as the customer, so I had to refuse all built requirements, sorry guys! =;-)

inspect & adapt

During the third (!) sprint the first team started to ask and talk to me as the customer. Hooray, they found out that security has the highest priority for me – so before any landing-field, building or whatever is build, security like ambulances, fire-trucks and police must be available on demand.

accnl - Scrum LEGO airport - review preparation

et voilà – after the third sprint, exactly this team was able to deliver an ambulance car and fulfilled all acceptance criteria. Surprise, surprise, it was accepted! By the way, this team was the only team that delivered something!

Agile Coaches go nuts

After 2 hours of playing with LEGO the discussions between participants reached a level I haven’t expected. For the rest of the evening, this session was the top topic at the bar and people talked about what happened and why the hell nobody of all the experienced Coaches did not practiced what they pray and coach on a daily basis?

Whatever the outcome of all these discussions was, I think everybody had their unique point of view and outcome. For me it was totally great to provide participants a great time, 2 hours of serious play with LEGO, lots of fun, learning and new insights which made them think. Wow, what an awesome conference, thanks everybody I’ve met there!!!

And, if you were one of the participants, please leave a comment and some of your insights…

Learn to walk as a Coach

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Team Coaching

Antecendent

I started with team coaching in 2008, without having any experience in coaching. The only advantage, I’ve already had a deep knowledge of human nature. My approach was to change the complete development framework of a software-development team towards agile.

At that time I was not aware that I was doing team coaching, I experienced this later.

In 2009 I get more and more in contact with the term coaching itself as I started to go to agile conferences and become active in agile communities. It is usual in the agile community to work with coaches.

I was very interested in learning, practicing and experiencing professional coaching skills. But not only for becoming a professional Coach – it was also important for me to experience the role of a Coachee and experience how powerful coaching can be.

Reality

In the beginning of 2010 I started working with a professional Coach. I was coached on a regular basis and was able to help the Coach working with other teams as she was hired as an internal Coach for the company I was working for at that time.

Now as I experienced the magic of coaching to the full, it became more and more clear to me that I’d like to do a vocational training on coaching. But wehre shall I learn all these skills and tools, there are so many coaching institutes out there, lot’s of them say they are the best… hm, somehow this didn’t sound serious to me. In addition, I knew that there are also lot’s of bad coaches out there and I wanted to make sure that I get the best education I could get.

After some investigation on the web, I was able to take a step further. I discovered the ICF Code of Ethics.

The ICF – the International Coaching Federation – founded in 1995, is the leading global coaching organization and it’s core purpose is to advance the art, science, and praqctice of professional coaching.

Looking for a training on coaching which is accredited by the ICF decreases the relevant coaching institutes to an overlooking amount of addresses.

At the same time I received the recommendation from my Coach that a training on Co-Active® coaching could be a great next step for me. Ok, normally Coaches don’t provide any recommendations, but in my case it was ok and I asked for it.

The next step

In 2011 my plans became more concrete, by investigating on Co-Active® coaching I found out, that Co-Active® coaching is a registered method of CTI® – the Coaching Training Institute. And, what a surprise, I already knew some Coaches who finished the Co-Active® coaching training. So it was easy for me to follow their footsteps for a while and learn the skills I need for becoming a better Coach – and, last but not least, to start feeling comfortable by calling myself a Coach!

I discovered that there is a Co-Active® coaching Intermediate programme which could fit my needs perfectly. This programme contains 5 modules and is not really cheap. In addition, my employer, even if he profits from me doing this training, was not willing to pay for that training. So, I’d have to invest ap. € 7.000,–, lots of money, so how can I make sure that this is really what I want to do and to keep the risk as low as possible not to invest money in something wasteful?

Luckily, CTI® had a really great solution for me! The first module out of 5 is ‘Fundamentals‘ and this is the only module of that programme which can be booked separately! What does that mean? I was able to attend the Fundamentals module without booking the full course. This reduced my costs to a minimum and I was able to find out if this programme is really the right one for me.

Part of the Fundamentals-training is the Co-Active® model. There are 4 cornerstones in that model, I don’t want to go to much into detail – this is part of the programme – but I want to mention them shortly:

  • people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole
  • dance in this moment
  • focus on the whole person
  • evoke transformation

These 4 cornerstones are carried by 5 areas – listening, curiosity, intuition (yes, even men have intuition!), self-management and deepen/forward. The core of the whole model are fulfillment, balance and process.

Co-Active-Model by CTI

Beside getting a deep understanding for the Co-Active® model and it’s requirements, the fundamentals training also contains an introduction into coaching, the core competencies of coaching, differentiating between being and doing as well as the three levels of listening. Beside learning all these stuff on a theoretical level the training contained also lots of time for practicing.

For me this already sounded very promising so that I was sure, ok – investing in 3 days of fundamentals coaching training is a good decision. Whether I continue the programme or not.
And, it turned out that it was worth the investment and after these 3 days I was sure that I’d like to continue with the full programme.

After 5 month I finished the whole Co-Active® Intermediate course, packed with lots of tools and experience – during the whole training course you will perform as a Coach as well as a Coachee. This means as an attendee I profit two times – I learned and experienced professional Coaching skills. In addition, I was coached by other attendees.

Coaching Experiment Time

If you want to find out if coaching is the right way for you or if you are passionate about coaching and want to find out how to take the next step – I can highly recommend the Co-Active® approach – even if you find out after the Fundamentals that coaching is not the right way for you – it’s worth the effort!

Play4Agile – #p4a

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What is the most attractive, easiest way to promote learning, create valuable meeting outcomes, motivate and boost teams, raise commitment and just get the best out of every involved person? Right: through play!

Dr. Brian Sutton Smith – Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and leading proponent of play theory explained in his book ‘Ambiguity of Play’ that the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression!

Pat Kane, writer, musician, consultant, player, theorist and activist states in his book ‘the play ethic’ that play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value!

Play4AgileLogo

In May 2010, Olaf Lewitz did a StrategicPlay® session at Agile Coach Camp Germany. Inspired by this session Martin Heider had the idea to create an unconference concentrated solely on the topic of serious games for agile teams. Organizers for such an unconference were quickly found – it turned out that a lot of coaches had already discovered the value and fun of games played in a serious context, and used them regularly.

A first in-person meeting of organizers to create an unconference for serious games took place in summer 2010. For 2 exciting days we created our first joint vision for Play4Agile and started planning. Not surprisingly that these two days were tremendous fun, as we created our vision and planned using StrategicPlay® facilitation, powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™!

play planet drawingAgile conferences and unconferences are popular meeting places where coaches, trainers, and all people interested in agile topics, learn from the experiences of like-minded people and exchange knowledge. Play4Agile sets itself apart from other agile un-/conferences in a couple of ways. Not just that participants are having fun and learning from each other by exchanging serious games for 3 days in a cozy hotel in the country. Also, every evening participants enjoy playing games in the bar. This is not a must, but each participant likes to do it! At the bar it’s ok to play games just for fun, without any serious context.

FLUXX at the BarThis whole mood of playing games together for 3 days leads to irrepressible spirits and gives the unconference the character of a magical, familial event.
Furthermore, there are no keynotes, no lectures, mostly interactive sessions and the OpenSpace is facilitated by participants on a daily rotation.

It’s not only a perfect place to learn how to practice and use serious games for agile teams, it’s also the perfect place to create new games, as all participants are passionate about testing and experimenting with new game ideas and prototypes! For example, Fearless Journey, Nobody’s Perfct, Towering Options and Lean Procrastination – the last reponsible moment game are all games invented at Play4Agile.
Moreover, we have lots of other activities like theatre games, learn how to design and make a game or how to create games to solve problems. The whole event transforms into a huge playground!

Open Space Marketplace

The Play4Agile unconference is completely based on Open Space technology and took place for the first time in February 2011 with the theme ‘Serious Games for Agile Teams’. In 2012 the motto was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and 70 participants from all over the world enjoyed this special unconference. As Play4Agile 2012 was already booked after nine hours, you should mark your calenders, because the date for Play4Agile 2013 is already fixed!

To put the Play4Agile spirit in a nutshell: Play, have fun & learn!
www.play4agile.org

2 great TED talks about the importance of play:

Stuart Brown’s TED talk – play is more than fun
Tim Brown’s TED talk – creativity and play

I’ve written this article for the ‘whoisagile’ project by Yves Hanoulle and it’s published in the 13th version of the ‘whoisagile’ book. Thanks to Deb and Martin for proofreading end editing!

Dragon Lady

The Agile Actor – Agile Stroytelling

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… or: how to bring more daily-fun in your daily Scrum!

In agile teams it’s usual to use storyboards for visualising your work and to create transparency about the progress and what’s happening. It doesn’t matter if you are using a storyboard as a Scrum team or if you visualise your work by using Kanban.

snoopyA lot of teams I met in the past worked also with avatars on their storyboard. Instead of having a name-tag on a magnet, you can use an avatar, a character from your favourite cartoon, movie or adventure. Just print out a picture of your avatar, cut it out and stick it on a magnet. Now you can use your avatar on the storyboard. Some teams put their avatars on the task they’
re currently working on. This leads to more transparency as you can directly see on the storyboard which teammember is working on which task.

The Agile Actor – Agile Storytelling

Some weeks ago I was searching for something new to bring more fun to the daily work. I was thinking about how to use the avatars more intensive? People love their avatars, they love the characters and stories around them. Thus, people have a special relationship to their character. They know their behaviour and their special skills. They know what perspectives their characters prefer.

How to use it, how to play:

Use your avatar-team during your daily stand-up. Ask each teammember to participate the daily-Scrum in the role of their character. Each teammember should give their status-update to the team from the individual perspective of their avatar.

Positive effects:

  • each teammember will learn and train the power of storytelling
  • fantasy will be stimulated which can lead to more creativity
  • more fun in your daily work
  • looking at your daily challenges from a different perspective can lead to new insights

In addition, you can ask your team if they want to extend this kind of role playing game. If your team is crazy enough you can ask your team to participate all Scrum meetings in the role of their characters.

For more diversity and to avoid wearisome repetition you can close each role playing game iteration (sprint) within your retrospective by asking all teammembers to find a new character they’d like to be and start the new sprint by printing out a new avatar and stick it on their magnet… be crazy, be creative and have fun…

Discover your inner Planet (at) Play4Agile 2012

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Play4Agile Logo

Last weekend, the Play4Agile 2012 took place at Seminarzentrum Rückersbach, a beautiful venue near Frankfurt. Our theme this year was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and as the first Play4Agile in 2011 it was a great success again. The event is reinvented itself and that makes the unique power – quote of Christine Neidhardt.

On the 2nd day of the Open Space event, Jenny Jepsen, Martin Heider and I did the session ‘Discover your inner Planet‘. The idea was to run a session with a technique from CoActive® Coaching combined with StrategicPlay® powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™. Jenny, Martin and I are all StrategicPlay® Facilitators. Moreover, Martin and I are currently doing our vocational training for becoming a CoActive® Coach.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - towerWe designed the session during a lunch break and ran it in the afternoon with 20 participants. We started the session with skills building exercises. Skills building are exercises for becoming familiar with LEGO® and reaching a metaphorical flow.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - tower - storytelling

First, participants were asked to build a tower, share what’s special about their tower with all other participants, the storytelling, and then adapt the tower to an agile tower. Again, participants had to share what makes their tower agile with all other participants.

To reach the next metaphorical level, we then asked the participants to build a model which describes they’re passion about attending the Play4Agile Unconference.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12 - 1Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12

These two pictures are models which were built by participants, showing their passion for attending the Play4Agile Unconference 2012.

Again, each participant had to share their model through storytelling.

Now, everybody was in the right mood and flow to start their journey to their inner planet. This journey is a mental one and a technique from CoActive® Coaching, which is used as a tool for discovering individual fulfillment.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - journeyWe asked all participants to close their eyes and relax. We turned on some chilling out music and started the mental journey to the inner planet by telling an inspiring and visionary story for the mental journey. This took about 5 minutes.

At the end of this mental journey, we asked the participants ‘how does it feel to live on your inner planet’, open your eyes and build a model which describes this feeling.

You may ask youself now, hm, how can you build a feeling with LEGO® bricks. Indeed, this is challenging. But if you once have the chance to attend a StrategicPlay® session, you’ll discover how this works and I’m pretty sure you will be surprised and amazed!

Here is a picture of such a model which was build by one of the participants:

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - how does your planet look like, how does it feelThis model was a rotating one, turning on it’s own axis!

As we just had 60 minutes for our session, we had to stop after this exercise. You can build up to this by start to extract individual guiding principals, fulfillment goals or start to discover your personal inner team which lives with you on your inner planet and guides you through life…

Agile is more than just…

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I love that video! It’s an expression of what lot’s of people think Agile is about. To speak freely, there are lot’s of people who have no clue that working with Scrum or Kanban has nothing to do with being Agile. In addition, doing a daily meeting has nothing to do with Scrum!

Agile is a buzzword

First, let’s have a look at the term Agile. Most common, Agile is used as a generic term for Agile practices for Software Development like Scrum, Kanban, TDD or XP to name some of the most popular. Some people also include Lean. In my opinion, this is not correct as I understand Lean as a term which coexists as an equivalent to the term Agile, or vice versa, even if Lean concentrates more on management and production. But I don’t want to mix up Lean and Agile, even if they have some common basics.

What I think is important is to know that Agile is much more than just a collection of practices, values and principles for Software Development – in my opinion!

If you have a look at the Agile Manifesto or the 12 Agile Principles, you will recognize that Agile is primary used in the context of Software Development. It was created in 2001. Today, 11 years later, the term Agile has developed further.

Agile evolution

Even if most people stille use ‘Agile’ in the context of Software Development, for me it has evolved that ‘Agile’ is much more than just practices, values and principles’ for Software Development. In my opinion, Agile is a MindSet, a worldly wisdom, a philosophy and a way of living a passionate, fulfilled and valuable life!

A base of Agile, as well as for Lean, is the core of the inspect&adapt mechanism and the continuous improvement approach. And this is exactly the point why I think that Agile is a way of living and a philosophy. If you start to map and adapt the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Principles to your own live, perhaps by starting to find a Coach who can help you by achieving this approach if you’re not Agile by nature, you will discover that you should follow your passion and use your natural talents for striving for a fulfilled and valuable life!

Stop doing Agile and start being Agile!

If you like the video from the beginning, you will like this as well! =;-)


And if you want to do Agile Software Development, and know why, be careful to talk to the right recruiters:

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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