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 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…

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.

Agile Speed Dating

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Time: 70 minutes for 6 participants

Requirements: IndexCards, felt-pens and a flip-chart

First, all Participants need a Topic they would like to improve or a Problem which need to be solved, their personal improvement Topic for this Retrospective.

Give Participants 5 Minutes to write down up to 5 KeyWords/Sentences on an IndexCard which helps them describing their Topic they want to improve or Problem to be solved. (5 min)

Afterwards you ask Participants to flip the IndexCard and give them again 5 Minutes to draw a Picture, a Metaphor, for their Topic which helps them describing their Topic in a best way. No prizes for Artwork and nobody else will see their Picture, it’s just a reminder for themselves. (5 min)

Start the amazing Speed Dating

Agile Speed Dating exerciseAfter this first exercise, which takes about 10 Minutes, you have all Participants in the right flow and mood for a discussion about their Topic. You have activated both sides of their brain, the left side for rational thinking by writing down the 5 KeyWords/Sentences. And the right side of their brain, the creative part, by drawing a Picture. This is the best starting Point for what is coming next.

Let Participants pair and give them a strict TimeBox. Every Pair has exactly 10 Minutes. First 5 Minutes to discuss the Topic of Person A and finding possible Solutions or Improvements – write them down on your IndexCard – if needed take a new Card.

After 5 Minutes the Pairs change, what means that now Person B will discuss her Topic and write down possible Solutions or Improvements.

After 10 Minutes you build new Pairs and start the exercise again, first Person has 5 Minutes and Person B has 5 Minutes as well. Build new Pairs and repeat until every Participant has talken exactly once to all other Participants!

Debriefing

Agile Speed Dating Debriefing

  • how does it felt, how do you feel right now?
  • what was different?
  • what outcome have you created?
  • can we improve this Process?

Action Planning

Agile Speed Dating - Action Planning

After the Debriefing we start the Action Planning. Every Participant should have at least one IndexCard with possible Solutions or Improvements for her personal Topic.

Ask every Participant to choose just one Action she would like to adress in the next Sprint, choose the most powerful Action and write them down on a FlipChart – Topic, Responsible and due Date.

Variations

If you have an odd count of Participants just invite another Stakeholder or a TeamMember of a different Team. This Person has no own Topic to discuss but can contribute, comment and add Value from a complete neutral point of view!

Instead of doing Speed Dating with pairs you can also ‘pair’ with three people if you have some more participants. In that case you can call the exercise ‘Agile Swinger Dating’… lol

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