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!

Creating a Vision for ALE – the ALEnetwork with StrategicPlay®

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ALE logoIn April this year, Olaf Lewitz asked me if I would like to facilitate an envisioning Session with xp madrid logoStrategicPlay® for the ALEnetwork at XP days in Madrid in May 2011. Primary, Olaf wanted to facilitate this Session by his own, but as Olaf is beside Jurgen Appelo one of the original Drivers for creating the ALEnetwork, several people asked Olaf to participate the envisioning Session and add his Ideas to a Vision for the Agile & Lean network Europe – the ALEnetwork. Thus he would not be able to facilitate it by his own. As Olaf knew, I’m also a Certified StrategicPlay® Facilitator and knew that I’m passionate about the techniques of LEGO SeriousPlay® he decided to ask me.

warm up exercises with StrategicPlayI was very delighted to be asked. Not only that I really love to facilitate Sessions using StrategicPlay®, it was a challenge for me. I was already experienced in facilitating, but what was special and new for me was to facilitate a Session for an audience of experienced Agile Coaches and Facilitators. Wow! I accepted without even procrastinating for a second.

storytelling for individual visionsStrategicPlay®, based on LEGO® SeriousPlay is a 3D visual thinking tool based on the power of hand-knowledge. It was the perfect tool for creating a vision for the ALEnetwork. About 40 Participants from 17 countrys all over europe attended the envisioning Session and every single person had some unique ideas to add for creating a pan-European open network for people passionate about Agile and Lean practice and thinking. All together, we created the vision for the ALEnetwork!

storytelling for individual visionsAfter some basic but necessary warm up exercises, I asked the participants to create their personal vision for a perfect Agile network.

building a shared Team modelA very important step by using StrategicPlay® is storytelling. As we started with several Teams, each participant has to share his personal vision with the Team.

After some additional steps, each Team was asked to build a shared vision. Afterwards, each Team had to do a storytolling for their shared vision and present it to the other Teams.

Team visionsAfter all Teams presented their individual model to all other participants, we started to build a shared model out of all Team models.

At the end we finished the session by having a shared model of all participants, the vision for the ALEnetwork.

Have a look at the following video, we taped the storytelling of our vision for ALE, a network for collaboration of Agile & Lean thinkers and activists across europe!

click the picture for the video on youtubespecial thanks to Ralph Miarka for co-facilitating the session

Striving for Excellence in an Agile environment

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Doing Retrospectives and following the ‘inspect and adapt’ mechanism is one of the most important and effective tools and outcome of being Agile, following Agile rules or doing Scrum.
What kind of Retrospectives do you know? Most people think of Sprint Retrospectives, Kaizen or Lessons Learned after doing or finishing a Project or in a medical context.
I want to concentrate on Retrospectives in an Agile environment, especially doing a Sprint Retrospective in Scrum. I think this is the most familiar kind of Retrospectives in an Agile context. It help Teams to improve constantly on their performance and behaviour.

But how do ScrumMasters and ProductOwners or even Agile Coaches improve their work and behaviour?

It make sense to ask for Feedback after every Meeting. This is a kind of short-termed improvement what really make sense. In addition, I recommend to do Retrospectives for ScrumMasters and ProductOwners on a regular base. You do Retrospectives with your Team after each Sprint what give Teams the Chance to look back, inspect and adapt – the core mechanism of change to strive for excellence.

If you are a ScrumMaster or ProductOwner, or even an Agile Coach, you should use the same machanism for your own improvement and striving for excellence. You don’t have to do that after each Sprint. But you can do a Retrospective regular on a three-month period. All what you need is a Facilitator so that you can participate the Retrospective by your own. You can ask a ScrumMaster of another Team to run such a Retrospective. The core Topic should be something like ‘how to improve the skills of our ScrumMaster/ProductOwner/Coach’ or something similar according to your experiences of the last quarter.

This does not only give you the possiblity to particpate a Retrospective by your own. It is a great chance to receive Feedback from your Team or other invited Stakeholders on a differnt level than getting Feedback for facilitating just a meeting! It is the chance for yourself to look back, inspect and adapt and improve your personal work, skills, behaviour and MindSet!

Agile Bowling

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Time: 80 minutes for 5 participants

Requirements: sticky notes, IndexCards and felt-pens

Preperation

Agile Bowling - preperationPrepare a space for every single participant. You can use FlipCharts or use a dedicated wall-space:

Agile Bowling SetUp

Be sure you have enough Sticky Notes available and Markers or felt-pens as well.

Start the Game

Ask Participants ‘Regarding the last Sprint, what would I like to change in the next Sprint?’ Create 20 Ideas/Topics within a strict TimeBox of 5 minutes. Use one StickyNote for each Idea/Topic (5 min)

Agile Bowling - create topicsWhy 20 Topics at least? This sounds challenging. The reason for this challenge is quite simple – Participants need to do a real Brainstorming and be creative. If you want to be creative and collect as much Ideas as possible you’re not allowed to judge on an Idea as it come up. If you start to judge your Ideas during creating Ideas you kill Creativity! Write down everything as it pop up in your mind!

Let Participants do this in silence!

By forcing yourself to come up with 20 Ideas/Topics in a short TimeBox, you put your internal critic on hold and write everything down, including the obvious and weak. The first third will be the same old Ideas. The second third will be more interesting and the last third will show more insights, curiosity and complexity. (Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko)

After this ‘Blue Sky thinking’ regarding change, give Participants a TimeBox of 3 minutes to prioritize their Ideas. (3 min)

Let Participants write down their 3-Top-Ideas, having the highest Value, on IndexCards – each Idea on one Card. (2 min)

Start Bowling

Ask a volunteer to start the Agile Bowling. The Volunteer read aloud her Idea/Topic with the highest value and let her give a short comment on that – TimeBox (1 min)

Now, give all other Participants a TimeBox of 3 minutes to create at least 10 effects – question: ‘If we change this Idea, what effects will have that to our Team?’

Write down every effect on one single StickyNote! (3 min)

During this TimeBox, let the Volunteer post her Idea/Topic on the Wall. Make sure their is enough space for the upcoming StickyNotes!

Agile Bowling step 1Now, let Participants post their StickyNotes with the effects below the posted IndexCard. When all effects are posted, let them read aloud the effects and let them remove all duplicates!

Make a dot-voting on the effects, every Participant has 3 dots. Let them dot-vote on the effect with the highest value for the Team.

Write down the count of all effects on an extra StickyNote and post it under all the other StickyNotes. Below the count, post the effect with the most dots, as this is the effect with the highest value for the Team. (6 min)

Agile Bowling step 2Now, repeat this Agile Bowling with every Participant. Make sure that every Participant has a unique Idea/Topic – that’s the reason why People choosed 3 top-ideas with the highest value!

After finishing Agile Bowling with all Participants, you can calculate the score. For calculating a score for a Participant, multiply the count of effects with the count of dots on the effect with the highest value.

The Participant with the top-score wins a bar of chocolate.Agile Bowling step 3

Winning a bar of chocolate is just for fun – it has nothing to do with the overall outcome!!!

At the end, ask every Participant to take their effect-StickyNote with the highest value for the Team and let them make this effect happen in the upcoming sprint.

Agile Bowling step 4

Debriefing

Make a debriefing of this Retrospective and let Participants give you Feedback on the exercise.

Participants may feel exhausted, as it is really challenging to be creative.

As I did this Retrospective with a Team in Germany, the points on the following picture are in german. Read the translation below!

Agile Bowling Debriefing

  • strung out
  • exhausted
  • creative
  • productive
  • inspired
  • happy
  • motivated
  • guilty conscience about using so much StickyNotes

The Feedback of the Team was awesome. There was just one negative point as some People had a guilty conscience about using so much StickyNotes!

Variations

You can use Agile Bowling also as Empiric Experience, just modify the questions! In addition, you can play more than just one round of Agile Bowling, depending how much time is available!

Agile Tennis

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Time: 70 minutes for 6 People

Requirements: HourGlasses, sticky notes and felt-pens

Agile Tennis SetUp

Introduction

Based on the concept of Tennis, I created Agile Tennis for creative problem solving and usage in Retrospectives and Team Meetings

Agile Tennis draw

The Purpose of this Empirical Experience exercise is to create discussions among Participantsin a ping-pong style for grasping different perspectives for challenging situations which need to be handled. In addition it trains TeamWork.

Constellations

Depending on the count of Participants you can do single Agile Tennis or an Agile Tennis Tournament.
For a Single Match you need 3 People – TennisPlayer A, TennisPlayer B and one Referee.
If you have 5 Participants, you can create Tennis Teams playing a ‘double’ – Team A (TennisPlayer 1 & TennisPlayer 2), Team B (TennisPlayer 3 & TennisPlayer 4) and one Referee.

See the following Picture for Constellations:

Agile Tennis Constellations

  • the min. of Participants is 3 People
  • Having 4 Ppl, you have the Set of 3 plus one Observer
  • Having 5 Ppl, you can play a ‘Double’ as shown in the Picture
  • Having 6 Ppl, you can play the ‘Double’ with one Observer or twice the 3-constellation
  • Having 7 Ppl, you can create one regular 3- and one 4-constellation (3plus1 Observer)
  • Having 8 Ppl, you can create one 3- and one 5-constellation

Preperation

First, give all Participants some IndexCards and a TimeBox of 5 minutes to create as much as possible ‘Problems’, ‘Challenges’, or ‘Situations’ they are/were confronted with. Let them wright them down in keywords. Let them do this in silence so that every individual collects her own ‘library’ of ‘ProblemCards’

Let Player A and Player B, resp. Team A and Team B, sit on a table facing each other. The Referee is sitting at the table too.

The Referee has a basket with little ‘motivators’ – some sweets -as she gives each Player who wins a Point one ‘KinderSchokoBon’, representing that Point.

Referee

The Referee has also two different colour of StickyNotes available, a pen and a hour glass for 30 Seconds – you can also use a watch, but it’s even better when every Participant is able to see as time goes by.

Start Wimbledon

Start the first Game – you play two Sets of 5 Minutes each.
In the first Set, Player A (resp. Team A) serves first, in the second Set, Player B (resp Team B) serves at the beginning.

To Serve means to state one(!) Problem/Challenge/Situation. The Referee writes down that Topic on a red StickyNote. Players have exactly 30 Seconds to state their topic. After the Serve of a Team, the second Team has now 30 Seconds to state a possible Solution for the Serve of the first Team!
The Referee writes down the possible Solution on a green StickyNote. Now it’s the first Team’s turn again and they have to state why they can’t do or accpet the Solution of the other Team. The Referee writes down the Refusal again on a red StickyNote and afterwards it’s again the turn of the second Team which needs to state a possible Solution for the Refusal, Referee writes down and son on…

Rules

In worst Case, the whole Set, ‘5 Minutes’, every Player – or Team – try to win the Set and states a Problem, Solution, Refusal, Solution, Refusal, Solution and so on until the Time is over. That’s exactly the point where the rules need to be applied.
There are just 3 simple rules:

Agile Tennis Rules

  • The Statements should be ‘spontaneously’, despite the Preperation of the Individual-List in the beginning
  • The Statements should be ‘OpenMinded’ and People should OpenMinded during the Game, let the flow flow!
  • All Participants go for ‘FairPlay’ (Statements – must be realistic and should be accpeted when appropriate)

The Referee has the last word – if she decides to score a Team or Player then it is as it is – could be discussed after the Game, not during!
The Referee controls the HourGlass, when 30 Seconds are over she turns it or has to decide if a Team / Player scores.

When does a Player / Team score?

  • If a Team / Player wasn’t able to state within 30 Seconds, the other Team / Player scores
  • If a Team / Player accepts that a Solution is appropriate, the other Team / Player scores
  • If a Team / Player accepts that she don’t has a Solution for a Problem/Challenge/Situation, the other Team / Player scores

The Referee can and should decide if one Team / Player need to accept the Statement of the other Team / Player
When one Team / Player scores within the Set, she has now to Serve and continue by stating a new Problem/Challenge/Situation.
The Referee distributes the Sweets when a Team / Player scores.

After the first Set of 5 Minutes, the second Team starts the next Set by Serving a Problem/Challenge/Situation. The Facilitator keeps this TimeBox of 5 Minutes and is the overall responsible as there might be more than just one Team Playing Agile Tennis at a Meeting, maybe you’re doing an Agile Tennis Tournament…!

Visualizing the Outcome

For visualizing the Outcome of this exercise, create a ScoreBoard, as known from regular Tennis, or create something similar which fits you.

Agile Tennis - visualizing the outcome

Debriefing

At the end of the Meeting you make a debriefing with all Participants

  • How do you feel?
  • How did you felt during the ‘Tennis-Discussion’?
  • How did you felt when Referee decides to score the other Player / Team?
  • Did you felt as a TeamPlayer?
  • What shall we do with the outcome?

Agile Wall Street

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Time: 60 minutes for 5 people

Requirements: a stopwatch, sticky notes and flip-chart paper

Agile Wall Street preperation

Introduction

This Game is inspired by the ‘Give- and Take Matrix’ mentioned in the book ‘Game Storming’ and was initially inspired by techniques used in engineering, chemistry and design.
Agile Wall Street works for TeamBuilding, motivation, diagnostic of flow and energizing your Team.

I adapted it a little bit to my requirements and it can be used for TeamBuilding, Motivation in Teams and also for Retrospectives. I just call it ‘Agile Wall Street’. It is a diagnostic tool and helps players explore value flows through the Team or a Group.

Agile Wall Street Agenda

Creating the Matrix

Create a Matrix as shown in the following Picture. Make sure you have the same count of rows and columns – one row and one column for each Participant.

Let every Participant write down her Name on a large StickyNote, two times and put them on the Matrix as shown. Make sure to post the Names vertical and horizontal in the same order!

Agile Wall Street - the Matrix

Write down the personal Motivation

Now, ask all Participants to write down their Motivation of beeing in the current Team on a large StickyNote, take a new colour for that.

Let Participants post their Motivation-Note along the diagonal, where every Individual intersect with themselves.
In addition, call the vertical ‘Give’ and the horizontal ‘Take’.

Agile Wall Street - the Matrix - motivation

Open the Agile Wall Street

Give Participants a short moment to choose the first TeamColleague they want to start with. Each Participant can start with any other TeamColleague she would like to start.

Ask the Participants to write down a short statement about the Person they have choosen regarding the question: ‘what could I contribute to this Person, how could I support her or what could I offer to her?’

Give a Timebox of 5 minutes!

After finishing for the first TeamMember, ask the Participants to continue with the next TeamColleague, answering the same question on a StickyNote. Again provide a TimeBox of 5 minutes. Let Participants repeat until everybody has an personal offer for all other TeamMembers.

Let Participants put their StickNote-offers on the Matrix, everybody puts her notes in a horizontal row at the intersection according to the names:

Agile Wall Street - the full Matrix

The Stock Exchange

When the Matrix is completed ask Participants to have a seat.

Now you start to facilitate the ‘Wall Street’ offers. Start with the first TeamMember from the horizontal. This Person should listen carefully what her TeamColleagues want to offer, without commenting. Ask all other Participants, one after another, what they want to offer to this Person and let them shortly explain what they have written down.

After all offers are explained to a Person, ask her how she feels right now. Probably this Person will have a smile on her face and just feels good.

Repeat this until all TeamMembers have introduced and explained what they would like to offer to their TeamColleagues.

After this exercise the whole Team will be enrgized and TeamMembers will follow up to the offers they received self organized. If the Team agrees you can put the Matrix somewhere in the Team room.

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