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!

Can you certify a Mindset?

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There are a lot of discussions around the Agile Community about certifications. Most people with a lot of Agile experience don’t give anything about a certificate for attending a two day , or longer, training course. But why? You can do a certification for Scrum, for professional communication, for different coaching techniques. But what conclusiveness has a certification when you get one just for attending a training or even after doing a test about what you have learned?

certificationA certification is just a confirmation that you know some rules, skills, styles or techniques. But it has absolutely no significance about understanding and living the mindset which is beyond the topic. You’ve learned some basic rules, some techniques, styles or some basic knowledge and perhaps you did some novice practice. It’s like doing the driving license. You know the rules on the street, you know the meaning of traffic signs and that you are not allowed to drive faster than 50kmh in a city. It’s like having a starter kit, not more. The statistics reveal that most accidents on the streets are made by young people between 18 and 25 – in germany. All these people have a driving license but not enough experience and practice when it comes to challenging situations in traffic or they just overrate traffic situations or even themselves. They have a driving license and are allowed to drive a car on public roads. But for participating in the Formula 1 you need more than a driving license. You need lots of practice and years of experience to be a good driver.
And even people with years of experience in driving cars are still after years no safe or even good drivers.

On the other side of the coin, there are people having a lot of experience and practice in what they are doing but did never participate in a  certification program. They are enthusiastic and passionate about what they are doing. They have the mindset of giving their best, do continuous learning and practicing and are just professionals in their area of responsibility.

mind knowledgeSo, what’s the value of a certification? As already mentioned, a certification is an official confirmation, a starter kit for having some knowledge about basic assumptions for a special role or practice or a confirmation of certain characteristics of an object or an organization. But it gives absolutely no information about the mindset of a person or an organization if the values, which drives the certain special topic which is certificated has really a high level importance for them. In addition, it depends on what you are doing with the knowledge you’ve gained or confirmed by doing a certification.

I think certifications are important, I did several! But if they are only used for making money with certification programs, which is not unusual, than a certification is a waste of money and probably a waste of time as it is the mindset which drives people and organizations. And a mindset can not be certified but you can live it and that’s what is more important than having a certification!

What is your opinion? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about certifications, I’m highly interested to gather some opinions about that topic.

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