dear CEO, tear down this wall!

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On the 12.th of June 1987, the then US President Ronald Reagan held a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin near the Berlin-wall. The wall separated to different kinds of ideology, the east and the west, state-directed economy and free market economy, the communism and the capitalism, state control and liberty.

The Berlin Wall, as part of the iron Curtain, was an impressive emblem of the cold war from 1945 to 1990. The Berlin Wall was an emblem, a landmark for separating, for ‘protection’ and for being intransparent.

Today, the Berlin Wall is part of the global history and notwithstanding we have to face the idea of the iron Curtain nearly every day. Almost without recognizing it.

We call it ‘the black Wall’

I’m talking about meetings, particularly business meetings. We all have to attend business meetings almost every day. The appearance of a modern bussiness meeting looks like this, a meeting room with one or more tables, chairs and lots of notebooks and mobiles.

the Black Wall

I experienced such kind of meetings for the half of my life. Being in a meeting and having the feeling that we are all hiding ourselves behind a little computer. Looking in a lot of eyes without being able to see a complete face, most people are busy with themselves, people are typing something in their notebook. Having a notebook or mobile in front of us is a kind of protection, helps us to do something different – if the current speaker is boring or I’m not interested in the topic etc. …

We protect ourselves from being in a real and deep contact and connection with all others. A basic requirement for fruitful conversations and dynamic dialogue.

You might want to say, ‘but I need my notebook – all information I need is available on it’. Ok, if this is the case why do you need a face to face meeting and what is the purpose of your meetings? Why do you attend? Is there a better way to achieve results?

What’s the purpose and what do you want to achieve?

Way too often we attend meetings without being aware of the real purpose of that meeting and if it is really needed. Could we have the same outcome with a different technique, maybe by sending an email, post infos on the intranet or having a Skype-call?

The purpose of a business meeting is about talking and exchanging ideas and opinions to come to a decision. The purpose could be also to strengthen the connection between the participants so that they can work as a team or to solve conflicts. There are thousands of serious purposes for having a meeting. So why do so many people complain about their company culture and how they handle meetings?

Way too often we have the feeling of wasting our time in a meeting. If you experience exactly that please allow me to ask you, who is responsible that the time in a meeting is used effective and efficient? The meeting organizer, your boss or even the whole company? I’m sorry, it is you and everybody else who is in the meeting!

If you are going to a business meeting and have the feeling it’s a waste of time, you need to talk to all others and to the meeting organizer how you can handle your meetings more effective and more efficient. Have you ever done that? If not, please start with it!

What can I do to improve my own meetings?

  • Tear down the wall first – get rid of notebooks and mobiles during a meeting – get rid of everything that can consume attention so tht people are fully present and can focus on what they want to achieve.
  • Agree on some meeting rules like everybody is responsible for the outcome of the meeting, listen carefully and talk with intention etc. (ask your attendees what they think is reasonable.)
  • Retrospect about your meetings. Reserve 10 minutes at the end of your next meeting and talk about how to improve it. Inspect and adapt.
  • Invite a Facilitator to create a setting for your meetings and to moderate it.
  • Try it ‘the Circle Way’ – have a circle of chairs – without tables
  • Get rid of presentations like PowerPoint-slides – visualize important information on a FlipChart or MetaWall.
  • Try serious games (yes, SERIOUS GAMES!) It can be so much fun to discuss or work on topics in a playful way

the Circle Way

I’d like to challenge you to tear down the wall, the black wall. It is the first step to transform the way you work with others. Tear down the wall and find a new way of dialogue. Tear down the wall and experience a new connection with your colleagues. Tear down the wall to find a deeper relationship with your peers. Tear down the wall as a first step for improving your meeting culture. Tear down the wall for success!

Further reading

death by meeting by Patrick M. Lencioni

the Semco System by Ricardo Semler (sorry, no link available)

the Conflict Dojo

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About half a year ago I announced the Conflict Dojo on my blog and asked volunteers to try out the format. Before publishing the instructions for everybody I thought I could need some help for improving this new format.

Conflict Dojo

I’d like to thank Andrea Chiou, Ruud Rietveld,  Nils BernertSilke Rothgänger and Stefano Klinke for giving me feedback and helping me to make the format more simple, more safe and now it can be fun as well! =;-)

The Conflict Dojo is still easy to scale

You can arrange settings from 4 up to xxx people without having a facilitator for each table. Now one Facilitator can easily handle settings up to 20 people. If you have more, count one facilitator per 20 people.

As I’ve created the format as part of a 2-day conflict handling training for Agile Teams, you’ll need at least 90 minutes to run the basic version of the Conflict Dojo. The more time you have, the better it is as you’ll be able to play several rounds. On the other side of the coin, even one round can be very exhausting due to intense discussions and can take up to 1 hour.

Preperation

Create settings with tables for 4 people, 3 can be ok as well if needed. I recommend and prefer 4 people per table. For each table you’ll need to prepare the following:

  • tabletoys
  • 1 dice
  • a pile of plane A5 index cards – red – called challenge cards
  • a pile of plane A6/A7 index cards – yellow/white – called strategy cards
  • marker
  • 4 prepared plane A6/A/ index cards in yellow or white (strategy cards) with
    • fight back
    • ignore & avoid that there is a conflict
    • solution focused questioning
    • NVC (Non-Violent-Communication)

prep cards

Connection

Let everybody take some red and some yellow index cards and a marker. Build pairs. Let the pairs talk about the question ‘remember some old or current conflicts’, write down each conflict on a red Index Card – one card per conflict. Now think about how you’ve handled these conflicts, did you had a solution, have you made the conflict worse? What was your strategy? Write down each strategy / handling-type on one yellow index card. Elaborate what you have written down with your partner.

Concept

Introduce the ice-berg-model and explain how conflicts emerge. As a little help, here is the description of Paul Watzlawick’s model of communication:

A conflict exists, when the Iceberg’s collide on the level of relationship. Pure contentions on a factual level are almost handled as solvable or not solvable problems and challenges or seen as a conflict of opinion or dispute.

Tension and differences are becoming conflicts when involved parties are not able to handle them constructively anymore.

IceBerg Model

Reconnection

Find a table, 2 pairs at each table. You have 5 minutes to introduce your conflicts and strategies. Try to explain why in each situation the IceBergs’s did collide.

Concrete Practice

Arrange all red challenge cards on the table so that you can read all the conflicts. Build on pile of cards with all strategy cards, now integrate the prepared cards as well. Shuffle the pile of strategy cards. At the end place them on the table, face down.

Give a short explanation of the prepared strategies:

fight back
you feel offended and do what ever is needed to protect yourself and fight back with words
ignore & avoid that there is a conflict
try to ignore all direct addresses and speeches, talk about something else
solution focused questioning
try to find a solution, ask questions, be empathic
NVC (Non-Violent-Communication
explain the 4 part process of NVC

All 4 players role the dice ones. The player with the lowest points will start the first round of the Conflict Dojo. The first player can now choose a conflict he would like to practice. Normally this will be a conflict the player currently has.

All three others at the table take one strategy card without showing it to somebody else. They will also role the dice again to find the second player – count clockwise if you want. When the second player is found, the 2 others put back their strategy card at the bottom of the pile and they become observers.

Before starting the role play, give all 2 players about a minute to prepare and sink into their roles. The first player will have to address the conflict with the second player. As the second player will have to act as the strategy card tells him, his reaction might be not his normal reaction.

tabletoys

The player who addresses his conflict can change his strategy during the role play, the second player should stay at his ‘card-given’ strategy. The observers make notes during the conflict on an index card.

The current round is over as soon as the conflict is solved or one player shows his stop sign. A stop sign can be a raising hand, a prepared card or whatever you agree on upfront.

Conclusion

After a round is finished, make a debriefing – this might take a few minutes as all 4 players will discuss what happened and how their behavior was influenced.

When the debriefing is finished, the player to the left of the previous first player will become the new first player. All others will take a strategy card and role the dice again until the new second player is found. A new round of the Conflict Dojo is about to start.

final conclusion

After the last round is played, let participants pair up, if possible with somebody they haven’t talked to so far. Give a timebox of 5 minutes for everybody to have a walkabout and discuss the question, ‘what do I take with me out of this session and how will I integrate it in my daily life?’.

connection before content – get the fire startet first

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‘Good morning all you supernumeraries’ said one of the participants of a team development workshop to his colleagues when he entered the room.

colored pigs

Their boss already told me upfront that this workshop will be challenging and that there are some problems with the relationships between the participants. That is one of the reasons why their boss thought, ok, we need an external facilitator for a team-intervention as the relationships in the team are highly crusted over. Every piece of work feels like a little war fight and communication, better not to mention communication – people in the team prefer to write eMails to each other while sitting just on the other side of a desk or shoot each other if they are angry as they have soft-air-guns (!?!) in the office…

the Challenge

I knew, the very first challenge w’d be creating a safe space for all participants – without such safe space, where people feel comfortable to state the painful and to talk about the home truth, I could skip the day and w’d end up in what some poeple would call – ‘just another wasted day’. During the briefing for the workshop I was informed that this team already tried several things out and one of the biggest problems was, that past activities concentrated on visualizing the problems and dysfunction in the team with the outcome of some action items. At the end, any appearing motivational energy fizzled out after a few days back at work. Does this sound familiar?

sail boat

Ok, challenge accepted, I just have one sinlge day to transform a highly dysfunctional team into something new, where dialogue is possible and the motivation to change something on the current situation should last longer than a few days. I am aware that I can’t change the complete world of a team that has dysfunctional grown over the past years in one single day, even I’m not able to change their behaviors for one day, but maybe for the duration of the workshop. So the only chance I’ve had is to create an impact, a tiny little thing that could be the starting point for making a huge difference.

When I started to think about the design of the workshop, I asked myself 2 simple questions – which I always ask myself when creating a workshop, training or even just a meeting:

  • Connection: how to connect participants related to their status quo?
  • Content: when participants leave the workshop, what has changed, what is different for them than it was in the beginning?

Connection

Visiting…

  • …a foreign city and asking the way.
  • …a conference where I know absolutely nobody in person, all I know is the theme for the conference and that there’re a lot of experts in the room – so as I.
  • …a grandmother and all others of the family for a family afternoon.
  • …a best friend to talk about the girl you’ve just met.
  • …a colleague to discuss the upcoming project.

In all of these situations, there are different kind of cennections in place, a different kind of a relationship. If you imagine you meet all these people/situations listed above, try to imagine for every single situation:

  • what kind of relationship is there?
  • how does this relationship influences the way I talk with the other person about the subject?
  • how would the talk be different, if I simply replace the existing relationship with one of the others?

perspective

You don’t need to have an outstanding power of imagination to grasp the fact that different kind of connections will have different kind of impacts to your behavior, and even to the behavior of yours opposite. It doesn’t matter what kind of topic I talk about with somebody else, the first and biggest impact on our communication is our connection! A second important impact on our connection and communication is the environment, but the impact of the environment to our communication is a different topic – and a different post…

Content

Did you know, there is a purpose why people have meetings? Yes, it’s true! I know, for some people this sounds very surprising as they discovered meetings in the past as a complete waste of time… But there’re meetings that are different, they very often feel like little workshops and without any surprise, successful workshops, meetings and trainings have something in common, not just the environment nor the connection, no, somebody had deep and powerful thoughts about the content, about the message being transferred, the one and only piece of knowledge that makes it possible for me to see more or less of my entire world totally different than I did before.

key

Content, like connection, is key. So, one of my most important part of work when designing and creating a new workshop or training is, to answer the question -‘ at the end of the workshop, participants will…?’

What is very interesting, recently I’ve learned that exactly this sentence is also the most important question for any public speaker when creating a new speech… I just realize what public speeches, meetings, trainings and workshops have in common…

WorkshopDesign

After evaluating all information which were available, I ended up with a design using tools and methods from LEGO® SeriousPlay and parts of the discovery-phase of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). My Agenda was to create an environment where people can overcome old habits and feel safe to try new ways of collaboration so that participants are able to create solutions in a way they never did before – with a complete new perspective and connection with each individual and the entire team, that was my mandate.

For discovering individuals, the team, it’s purpose and to create a team identity we used StrategicPlay® based on the tools and methods of LEGO® SeriousPlay. So, for the purpose of building a new connection across the entire team I choosed to use a very playful and safe environment to break the crusted over connections so that new and fresh ones can occur.

For working on the content – topics were around how the team works and behave together – I choosed the discovery phase of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). One of the core principals around AI is to concentrate – and put focus on great experiences and what people want to have more of in their life instead of concentrating on all the problems which are present and how to tackle them. As working on the content was up to the participants, I decided to choose the AI framework to create an environment where participants feel safe to share their thoughts.

You might think, phew, this won’t solve the problems they have. Sounds like another waste of time… I need to disagree! On a short term current problems won’t be solved, yes. What is much more interesting than tackling current problems is how to behave and how to avoid situations that leads to these problems – as most challenges that we call ‘problems’ have patterns in common, we start to learn a new culture, a new way how to deal with situations which are challenging, a complete new behavior! While we create a new kind of culture, we also start to deal differently with the current challenges. This norm

As we just had less than half a day left to start the content phase, I didn’t explained the whole AI approach. For time savings I just explained the challenges for an appreciative interview, what is the first part of our AI-approach.
After the interviews were held, we gathered in groups and I gave a short introduction in the upcoming process as it was about to choose a top story the groups wanted to work on and then to discover the situation of the interview, find out success factors and possible action items to get more of that in the current team.

team rafting

That was more or less the whole day!

Debriefing

At the end of the workshop we gathered in a circle of chairs, by the way there were 13 ProductOwners of an international IT company.

After a harvesting of the AI-discovery phase I closed the workshop and invited the participants to give a last comment, feedback or anything they would like to say and how they would like to continue.

Most of participants liked the complete new approach they discovered over the day and they had the feeling that this was a milestone in their development phase. Some were sceptic as they discovered in the past that after such a great workshop the motivation which occured during the team intervention disappeared a few days later when people were back at their daily work. This fear clearly was present. One participant stated clearly that he has didn’t like the morning while ‘playing’ with LEGO and that for him this was a complete waste of time. But the afternoon has made it up.

It made me happy when all participants committed to continue the team development work upcoming monday – the next appointment was in place, good.

I totally respect if somebody does not like something about the framework I deliver, even if the dependencies between the exercises are not clear in detail for everybody. Important for me is that at the end, the framework made a difference, created new possibilities and opened the bridge to new perspectives and communication.

Connection first? why?

Remember the beginning of the post when I gave the examples of visiting a situation. Do you remember how your behavior changed when imagining the different situation in different relationships? Most people discover that as more powerful the connection is , as deeper and more fruitful a conversation can go. You can challenge the content, never challenge the connection!

That is why it make sense to build a connection first before I start to talk about crucial topics. That does not mean that I have to feel love or lots of sympathy for everybody! What is important is that I respect everybody in the team, I need to understand them, how they behave in different challenging situations and what kind of connection we have together so that I’m able to adapt my behavior if necessary. If such a connection exists in a team and teammembers are committed to the same targets and environment, communicate open-minded and have the courage to let the leopard change his spot, a team will learn how to fly!

very little aviation

Epilog

Last week I’ve received a mail from one of the participants of the workshop of this post – about 7 weeks after the event. The Team has still some problems but something crucially has changed, they work together differently than the years before. They are more respectful with each other and still work on the outcome of the workshop – towards of what they want to have more of. It seems that the fire is still burning and that people in this team have discovered that nobody is a supernumeraries, our team is star!

the 4 rooms of change – basics of Agile Evolution

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4 rooms of change

Science has shown that each individual, teams and companies as well, pass 4 different emotional stages when going through a change process.

At the end of the 1960’s Claes Janssen, a swedish psychologist, found out that to adapt something really new – what is somehow a kind of a personal evolution, we typically pass 4 different emotional stages before we are able to make something new our own so that we are able to grow and flourish. Yes, I’m talking about change!

It means that we learn something really new what changes our personal life, behaviour or even culture – in tiny bits or sometimes in the whole.

As a Coach and Facilitator I’m a companion of different kind of change processes. Doesn’t matter if it’s the experience with private players which I accompany as a Co-Active coach, business people, teams and whole companies which I accompany as executive coach and facilitator. These 4 different emotional stages can be seen in almost every single peace of my work – and even it’s effects and it’s my daily work to accompany my customers through all these stages, that’s my passion.

I know that a lot of people are tired to hear and talk about change and I don’t want to challenge the word ‘change’ or something like that. What is important in my opinion is that change is our nature. we’re born to change permanently, every single cell of our body changes and renews several times during our life. We life the evolutionary process in every single day, even if we are not aware of it… so also our life is based on change, what makes a difference is how we handle it.

Becoming aware of these 4 different emotional stages, which Janssen calls ‘the 4 rooms of change’, makes change and adaption a bit easier for almost everybody involved in a change process. Change is never a simple challenge. It’ means we have to leave our comfort zone, got to learn new things and behaviours or even need to relearn something.

room of comfort

the room of comfort

In this stage we’re completely in our comfort zone. We celebrate our status quo with ourselfs and just want to keep it. We do the best of our situation, feel safe and usually no kind of pressure around us. We’re in control of what’s happening around us. We usually try to keep this status and emotional stage as long as possible. That’s why normally just a few situations are able to force us to leave this space of safety – our comfort zone.

There might be an unknown or a complete new experience, a changing environment or circumstances or a changing context. These situations force us to leave the room of comfort and we enter:

room of denial

the room of denial

What happens when something from the outside challenges our comfort zone? There is somehow something around us that puzzles us, something that challenges our foundations, our knowledge, behaviour or even culture. We don’t want to admit what’s going around and we avoid to face the situation. We still want to hold onto our status quo. We don’t want to see that there is something that threatens our status quo.

That’s when we usually enter the room of denial. Here we’re able to do so like everything is still ok, we still think we are under control of the situation. Nevertheless, deep inside of ourself we feel unease, anxiety and frustration. Sometimes even fear. To the outside we start to show defiance and resistance.

There’s a fight starting within us. A fight against ourself. It becomes harder and harder to deny the signals of what’s going on around us. The situation starts to disaffect us and makes us impatient.

When the level of suffering becomes too high, we confess that we have a problem, that there’s a real challenge and that we don’t know what to do!

room of chaos and confusion

the room of confusion

Entering the room of confusion we are concerned and feel huge fear. It becomes clear that our old believes and truths are not valid anymore and that there is no way back to our former comfort zone. Nothing is safe anymore, the old is gone and the new is not in view. This is when our emotions take over control. We feel uncertainty, awkwardness and a sense of disempowerment.

Being at this emotional stage, individuals will just go forward when they are sure that the past ‘values’ really don’t work anymore and that there is at least a sense or hunch of something new, at least a potential vision of the future. As stronger and clearer this vision is, it becomes more easy to overcome the room of confusion and all the emotional suffering which comes with it.

Reaching the rock-bottom of suffering, we start to be poised for the new. At least at this point we become open to get into something new. This is where the most learning happens, even if we pay a huge price for it.

When we start facing the new, little by little, the fog will be lifted and we are about to enter the room of renewal.

room of renewal

the room of renewal

Here is where the revivalism starts. We experience new ways, try new things out and start to learn from failure. We regain orientation, certainty and our capacity to act. We regain self-confidence and become able to open the door to the room of comfort. This is where the circle of change closes until we’re ‘threatened’ to start a new round on this circular course.

conclusion

Some people might think, hm, why not go directly from the room of comfort to the room of renewal? Unfortunately this is not possible as all the 4 emotional stages need to be walked through to adapt a change. Once in a room, you can’t go back – you just can go forward! In addition, this emotional model scales. Individuals can run through all 4 stages within a day for ‘smaller’ insights. Beyond that, it also scales to teams, companies and even whole societies. As the culture of a team or a company is shaped by the sum of all individuals, an organisation is from a cultural view the sum of all individual behaviours. So even a company, team or complete society has to go through all emotional stages for an evolutionary change process!

House

If you are involved in a change process, it can be very helpful to create awareness for the 4 rooms of change and it will make your life easier to pass all the emotional stages to reach the new and become something new.

There’re also some other models available which describe phases and stages of change processes. But as they are all much more complicated, I like this model most as it is simple, easy to understand and explain, evident and it makes mapping to our own change-experiences easy and obvious.

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…

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!

Agile Golf

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Time: ~ 90 min

Requirements: StickyNotes, IndexCards and felt-pens and hour-glasses

For continuing the ‘Agile Olympics’, I created Agile Golf. You can use this exercise for Retrospectives, ‘blue sky thinking’-sessions and strategic meetings.

Agile Golf drawing

Basics

A golf course contains normally a track of 9 or 18 holes. In this exercise of ‘Agile Golf’ we played for 6 holes, but you can vary and take more if you have enough time!

Please feel free to adapt this exercise to your own needs!

Preperation

Preperation

An ‘Agile Golf’-hole represents a topic you want to improve or perfect. In this exercise we used the following topics as golf holes:

  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Environment
  • Management
  • People
  • Process

First, prepare the wall with your ‘golf holes’. Make sure there is enough space below the topic to post IndexCards. In addition, make sure there is enough space between all topics as there will be also StickyNotes posted.

Hide all topics with a white sheet of paper so that nobody can see what comes first and will be the next topics – this is important for participants to concentrate exactly on one topic at a time – the one you’re trying to ‘hit’.

Room Preperation

Make IndexCards available for the team and reveal the first ‘Golf hole’-topic. In our exercise it’s ‘Materials’. Set a timebox of 1 minute and ask participants what should we do to perfect the materials we’re aroking with? Each participant should create 5 topics at least!

arrange topics

After one minute, let participants post their topics below the ‘Golf hole’. Let them remoce doubles and make a dot voting on the topics. Find out what are the ‘top 3’ and remove all other topics from the wall.

dot voting on topics

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Reveal the next topic and repeat the process of creating improvements until you have found out the ‘top 3’ improvement for every single topic.

You can see the three topics of each ‘Golf hole’ as a challenge you need to tackle in order to perfect that ‘Golf hole’-topic. You have now prepared Agile Golf Course! This should be handled within 30 minutes.

In the next step, you introduce the golf clubs on StickyNotes to the team, there are 3 available. The colours you are using are important as each colour represents a special golf club!

Golf Clubs

Every patricipant has these 3 ‘golf clubs’ available. These are called ‘company’, ‘team’ and ‘personal’. After introducing these golf clubs you can start the Agile Golf Tournament.

You start at the first ‘golf hole’. Provide the coloured StickyNotes. Each participant need to have enough StickyNotes of the three golf club colours.

Again, you set a timebox of 1 minute. Now the challenge is that each participant need to create as much solution-combinations as possible. For each improvement a valid solution-combination means to have used all three golf clubs for providing a valid proposal. For example, for improving a topic, I could/should do… (green StickyNote for persoanl), the team could/should do… (orange StickyNote for the team) and the company could/should do… (pink StickyNote for the company).

As a variation you can use more than three golf clubs – just use additional colours for additional roles like Management, Sales, Marketing… Feel free to adapt as it’s useful for you!

Agile Golf TournamentLet participants post their solution-combinations of StickyNotes diretcly beside the relevant topic of the golf hole improvement as you can see it on the right picture! As you can see, there is just one valid solution-combination for the first improvement, non valid for the second and 4 valid solution-combinations for the third.

That does not mean that the non valid solution-combinations make no sense, absolutely not – perhaps I don’t need an action from one of the roles to solve/improve a topic. On the other side of the coin, this exercise has the intention to involve all roles represented as golf clubs!

Each participant should now explain her solution-combinations shortly – no discussion about it at this point!

As a ‘little motivator’ you can give candies for each valid solution-combination.

Repeat this for each single ‘Golf hole’. At the end you’ll have a wall full of improvements, possbile solutions and roles of people need to be involved in order to improve/perfect a special topic. It’s now up to you and the participants what you’ll do with that outcome. You can ask each participant to take responsibility for one single topic, let them decide by their own which one. You can keep the outcome for more discussions or futher improvements. …

Feedback from participants

  • great to have golf clubs representing roles in the company
  • awesome structure for generating creative ideas
  • candies
  • results are concrete actions
  • little time for thinking
  • tough timeboxing
  • creates spontanous outcome

Variation

Use as much roles as possible and don’t take care of valid solution-combinations to find out which roles need to be involved to improve/perfect a special topic…

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