Agile Coaches go nuts

4 Comments

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…

Play4Agile – #p4a

1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

… 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

Leave a comment

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…

how I became a certified StrategicPlay® Facilitator

Leave a comment

standard LEGO brickWhen I was a child, I was addicted to playing with LEGO®. It wasn’t unusual for me to wake up at 4-5 o’clock in the morning, even before going to the kindergarten or later to school, dump my tons of LEGO® in my whole playroom and start building models, spacecrafts, airplanes, fantasy buildings – whatever came to my mind.

This didn’t change until I get my first computer – at the age of 11!

I sold all my LEGO® for next to nothing at a flea market when I was 12 years old and never was sorry about that until nearly 2 and a half years ago.

LegoStoreAt that time, I had a walk through the city of Cologne and discovered a LEGO® store. I stopped gazing at the showcase and was totally fascinated to see Star Wars models built with LEGO®. I just had to enter the store and at that moment my mind changed immediately into the mindset of a young boy.

I walked through the store and was looking at all the bricks with the eyes of a 10-year-old. Incredible!

After this event I found myself more often in the toy department when I went shopping. And even more often, I bought LEGO® bricks or sets instead of buying food.

One year ago a key event happened. As I have been an Agile Project Manager and Certified ScrumMaster for about 3 years now, I was participating in an agile training in my company in spring last year as we are currently working on an agile transition to change the way we work.

We had a three-day training on agile principles and methods with external coaches. On the second day there was an agenda topic which was strangely called hands-on solutions with LEGO®.

I was delighted by the prospect of playing with LEGO® but had no idea which serious background this might be.

Olaf Lewitz, a StrategicPlay® Facilitator, did a workshop based on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™ (LSP). InStrategicPlay logo the beginning Olaf explained that LSP is a methodology for exploring and dealing with real opportunities and issues in real time and that it’s a process for groups and teams for thinking, communicating and problem solving. Amazing!

We had an interesting session with lots of fun in team building with StrategicPlay®. What a great experience. We used LEGO® for getting insights we never would reach by a simple discussion. My brain starts sprinting by these exercises. Awesome!

After this three-day training on agile principles which I helped organizing, Deborah Preuss, one of our agile coaches, asked me if I would be interested to help organizing a conference for agile games. I was delighted that she asked me and as I love to play serious games it was a pleasure for me, even if I did not know how such a conference could look like.

Some weeks later I was invited to participate in a two day planning workshop for that conference.

Hamburg WappenI arrived at a Friday morning in Hamburg and was a little bit late. When I entered the office where all the organizers for that conference met, I started to realize where I was: It was the office of Jens Hoffmann from Hoffmann Consulting and his wife Katrin Elster from StrategicPlay®. They share a big office. Was that real? I was at the heart of StrategicPlay®, the heartbeat of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™? I was overwhelmed and daunted in once and a little bit nervous. There were 10 people sitting around a large table and I took a seat too.

This was the beginning of two days full of creativity, inspiration, energy and pure passion. Katrin, Mrs. StrategicPlay®, facilitated the planning workshop as a large StrategicPlay® session based on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY™. It was incredible; we created the vision for the unconference for games for agile teams.

Katrin did an amazing job. After some warm up exercises with LEGO®, everybody started to build his own vision for this unconference. Afterwards we all build a shared model together where all individual relevant vision parts were put together to one common and broader vision. The Play4Agile was born!

We all had a great weekend in Hamburg and at this point I’d like to thank all participants for this experience which was unique for me. Thanks to Katrin Elster, Christine Neidhardt, Deborah Preuss, Ilja Preuß, Jens Hoffmann, Olaf Lewitz, Martin Heider, Jens Korte, Heiko Stapf and Andreas Thier. From the start of these two days I felt like arriving at home!!!

Some weeks after this impressive experience, Olaf facilitated a second, more extensive session with LSP in our R&D Site in Trier at my employer. Topic: ‘How to build a framework fit for feature teams’. And the outcome was one more time absolutely incredible! All critical voices from the beginning, ‘we don’t want to play LEGO®, we need to work on our issues’ went silent. Out of this second session we extracted guiding principles we’re still following.

My third session with LEGO® convinced me that I had to learn these StrategicPlay® Facilitator skills because it is such a great tool for gaining insights about oneself, impacts you’re struggling with and how to solve them. It creates a valuable outcome which no human brain is able to obtain by discussing, brainstorming or even just thinking about. You design strategies you should concentrate on for reaching a special goal. And most of all – it seemed that this tool was especially created for me!

passion in StroyTellingThus it was unavoidable that I participated in the StrategicPlay® Facilitator training by Katrin Elster and learned how to use this fascinating tool in a serious way. Last week I received my Certificate as a StrategicPlay® Facilitator and I’m looking forward to create my first workshop on my own to help teams and organizations to focus on realizing goals by using creativity.

In addition, at the last weekend the Play4Agile (#p4a11) unconference for Games for Agile Teams, which we started planning last year in Hamburg based on StrategicPlay® took place in lovely Rückersbach, near Frankfurt. It was a great success, participants loved it and I see so much overwhelming comments on Twitter about #p4a11. Great!

Today, three days after this unconference, I’m still totally energized by this happening, meeting friends, new friends and most of all we are all loving Serious Games and also some silly games which were just fun.

Yes, Serious Play rocks and I’m looking forward to facilitate my first workshop with LEGO®! Huuuuuuaaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!