LAST Conference Canberra 2018 – Mind the Gap: Realising the Value of Agility

My presentation from the LAST Conference 2018 in Canberra called “Mind the Gap: Realising the Value of Agility” is available on Slideshare. Huge thanks to John Connolly for inviting me to be part of the program!

Agile has well and truly crossed the chasm and every organisation large or small seems to be in the middle of some sort of Agile transformation. Yet, look behind the covers and we have to ask ourselves the tough question of how well we are doing and how agile are we really?

So all aboard as we acknowledge some of gaps many organisations are facing and we question the true value we are delivering. More importantly, we will discuss how we might start to these issues, both inside our organisations and as individuals flying the agile flag.

Here are some of the Tweets from the talk as well:


LAST Conference Brisbane 2017 – Mind the Gap: Realising the Value of Agility

My presentation from the LAST Conference 2017 in Brisbane called “Mind the Gap: Realising the Value of Agility” is available on Slideshare.

Agile has well and truly crossed the chasm and every organisation large or small seems to be in the middle of some sort of Agile transformation. Yet, look behind the covers and we have to ask ourselves the tough question of how well we are doing and how agile are we really?

So all aboard as we acknowledge some of gaps many organisations are facing and we question the true value we are delivering. More importantly, we will discuss how we might start to these issues, both inside our organisations and as individuals flying the agile flag.


Business Agility: Creating the Future

AgileBrisbaneAt the March 2017 Agile Brisbane meetup, we were lucky to have Pat Reed, an internationally recognised Agile transformational leader in Adaptive Leadership and Value Innovation, present on “Business Agility: Creating the Future”.

She provided a copy of her slides, and here are my notes from the evening:

  • Every leader at eBay (440 of them) are Agile Coaches, it’s the third round now for them, imagine the change if you get frozen middle on board
  • We need to thrive through uncertainity
  • Elon Musk practices first principles ways of thinking
  • Compasses are what we need to thrive on uncertainity, we cannot leverage maps because it is an unknown future
  • Don’t do more with less, do less, to execute in uncertainity
  • Change is changing, we need time for learning and innovating
  • If you demonstrate belief in the team and give an environment of safety, the team will believe in their potential – stop telling teams what to do, ask them what they think what we should do
  • Safe to fail is critical – we were all born with an Agile mindset (Carol Dweck) but our work and experiences push us towards a fixed mindset – if people can’t learn and thrive, your transformation will fail – as a coach we need to provide air cover
  • Keep timelines short all the time – the size of the iteration accelerates the learning cycle and the faster the learning
  • Using David Marquet’s Ladder of Leadership model at Ebay – cards you can download, when your employee says this, you say that
  • NeuroLeadership Institute – “Why Organizational Growth Mindset Matters
  • An adaptive framework – believing is seeing at centre, need to see awareness and understand the problem, need to process options through discovery (really short time frame, as for 3 value experiments), taking action (learn by doing not thinking), transform learnings into collective knowledge
  • DTA has some great tools around discovery
  • There is a cost to value, we won’t do anything that doesn’t have x% value, we need to stop being order takers and become value shapers
  • Principles for Navigating the Future  (Joi Ito) from the Media Lab at MIT, doing interesting stuff
  • Your organisation is not a machine, you can’t fix it – most organisations are setup to work how they were intended to work
  • Innovation, growth and transformation does not happen without tension – learn to identify good and bad tension
  • What could we do if we knew we couldn’t fail – embrace that
  • Do Stanford free Design School program online – same as the expensive in person program
  • Polarity Management – polarity is when you think you nailed a wicked problem and then it comes back to bite you, need to find the best win-win from any scenario, if you try to solve it traditionally you make it worse
  •  VUCA is here to stay, learning is our competitive advantage
  • Microsoft’s CEO Sent an Extraordinary Email to Employees After They Committed an Epic Fail
  •  Measure real value, speed to value and cost of value, need relative value not precision because it doesn’t serve us – Case Study and spreadsheet to calculate value

Tech Connect 2013 Brisbane Review

Tech Connect 2013With thanks to my very good friends at SlatteryIT, I headed off to Tech Connect 2013 in Brisbane this week to network with the Brisbane startup community.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk kicked off the day by reaffirming the Digital Brisbane strategy which already has seen the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer, a visiting entrepreneurs program and a strategy to attract more startups in Brisbane. He was keen to see more success stories in Brisbane, following on from start ups like Halfbrick, the inventors of Fruit Ninja.

Here are my notes from the sessions.

Enabling Entrepreneurship

Tyler Crowley is the first speaker to be brought to Brisbane as part of the visiting entrepreneurs program. Tyler is a well known and respected entrepreneur, best known to me as the co-host of the This Week in Startups podcast. I am not sure if there was meant to be any direction to this session, but it turned out to be a rambling question and answer session.

  • bring awareness to the community by getting people to tweet for being at an event – you will be surprised how quickly the city will get recognised
  • startups tend to congregate in the same area – in San Francisco it is around the Twitter office, in Palo Alto it is around University Avenue and in Los Angeles it is around Santa Monica, places that have startup centres benefit due to the cluster effect, cities like Stockholm are suffering because of a lack of this
  • River City Labs is probably currently the nexus of the community in Brisbane
  • the crowd funding model is still on the horizon and should be awesome for startups outside Silicon Valley, AngelList just got approval to have a crowd funding model from the SEC in the last week
  • another company getting acquired in the next 6 months will really put Brisbane on the map
  • attracting VCs – LA does content very well, San Francisco does social networking very well, so attract the kind of startups to the industry that you do well and get that message out
  • Brisbane has incubators like River City Labs (private) and ilab (government / university)
  • documentarians are important – TechZulu in LA and Scobleizer in San Francisco – provides a window to everyone outside, TechZulu is a great model, it took two years as a labour of love until it became profitable, the mainstream media follows when it becomes popular and it will explode
  • Brisbane is in the frustration phase of funding and media coverage – they will take notice when they become embarrassed by the success of startups and documentarians – currently at the tipping point, it is inevitable!
  • if your city had a blank canvas – getting a nest is important, support the documentarian, support angel events, support local meetups and events!, hold regular monthly events, calendars and job boards, strategy to attract outsiders to get the “Apple Store effect”
  • This Week in Startups – is the global meeting place to inspire people
  • build a startup map of Brisbane, one exists of Australia, maintain a database like CrunchBase
  • it is time for the banks to wake up and support startups like Silicon Valley Bank who are now spreading as the major banks are asleep at the wheel, there are opportunities for supporting industries to step up

Think Big!

Matt Barrie is the creator of Freelancer, which is the worlds largest outsourcing marketplace. I was really looking forward to seeing this talk and it did not disappoint! His presentation is also available online.

  • software is eating the world – the biggest bookstore in the world is digital (Amazon), Scrapbooking (Pinterest), Evernote, maps, music, yellow pages, fashion, money, real estate, jobs, etc, etc, etc…
  • 66% of the worlds population are yet to join the Internet
  • demographics are changing and aging – lots of opportunities in this space as well
  • lots of online learning opportunities – you can design logos easily via Envato, Stanford University had 170,000 online students enrolled in an Artificial Intleligence course that normally attracted 250 people and the highest achievers were outside Harvard, there are also options like Coursera and Khan Academy amongst others
  • created – we are now a service economy, the world is becoming very globalised, crowd sourcing (outsourcing has now turned to crowd sourcing eg. logo design)
  • Exposé the logo! – crazy pushing the boundaries of crowd sourcing, also Kickstarter and the Pebble Watch – wanted $100,000 to build, raised $10 million!
  • Kickstarter funds more projects in arts than the US government, the next big thing is musc
  • The World is Flat
  • parabolic growth comes from distribution firehoses eg CityVille growth in Facebook, Viddy for reading news in Facebook, Google, Reddit
  • you need to strike early, before the idea gets crowded eg. games in the AppStore like Angry Birds who owned the market early
  • the new metric is growth – referrals are extremely important – see Startup Metrics for Pirates
  • all the software you need is free or cheap
  • ha a sub-site for everything
  • sites like RetailMeNot started with $30, Digg started with $60
  • the first dotcom bust was due to bad business models and a strong reliance on advertising, but in reality we are still in the original boom
  • Zynga – 96% of users don’t buy anything, the 4% that bought a cow to impress thir friends raised them $1.2 billion
  • many companies are not ready for growth, a mess internally and financially
  • there is lots of potential to replace people with algorithms and insights
  • in Australia we need to find a way to build technical businesses in the financial sector, like we do for mining
  • enrolments in engineering is down 60% in the middle of a technology boom, we need to start seeding interest back at school level
  • any job that can be described by an algorithm can be turned into software
  • Australia is a good place to base a startup, easier to hire people and start a network, but our exchange rate is crippling and if it rises it could become a major problem
  • you can build a big business targeted at the local market (eg, but always think global
  • Mary Meeker presentations should be used more in presentations

Money To Grow

This panel included John Hummelstad (Ephox and Concept Safety Systems), Sean Teahan (Nimble) and Doron Ben-Meir (Commercialisation Australia).

  • options include borrowing from friends, earning a buck first and investing your own money, earning from the bank (usually $2 million and up), funding by credit card, selling something, grants and R&D concessions, pay in 60 / collect in 30 days, angel network, information memorandum by getting close to OEM’s particularly those who you might potentially sell to, Venture Capital but this is decling, crowdsourcing
  • fund like minded companies to work closely with you
  • relationships at a strategic level are hard, but can bring rewards in the long term
  • CFIMITYM – “cash flow is more important than your mother”, business owners are awake at 2am worrying about cash
  • lean startups work very well for technology types of businesses, cash hungrier models need to exist because we still need to build products like iPads
  • figure out who in the supply chain cares about your type of business – they are good areas to look for investors
  • the large amount of successful businesses do not have venture capital funding – should only consider this if it brings value
  • essential that you break every rule in private funding that you can’t break in the public market
  • Australian Government has uncapped 45c / dollar R&D tax incentives (quarterly in arrears), then you move to incentives from Commercialisation Australia
  • Enterprise Connect is great way to take your business through the washing machine – your business needs to be able to stand up to audit
  • getting a commercialisation grant – it is your onus to prove that your invention works, once that is proved the commercialisation then needs to be tested
  • make sure when meeting potential funders that you can answer how you are going to solve their problem, also make sure you know all about them, use tools like LinkedIn and be educated, it is just courtesy
  • important to have front foot sales to fuel the fire but most importantly to get validation from the customer base, it also builds credibility by reinvesting your profits, biggest issue with technical companies in Australia is there an aversion to being a saleman, it is all about selling and if you are not prepared to do this then don’t start!, you are selling yourself not the product
  • selling is learning – you need to learn what your customer wants and your value proposition

Accelerating Growth

This panel included Natasha Rawlings (StreetHawk), Ric Richardson (inventor of software activation amongst many other thing) and Steve  Baxter (River City Labs). Ric mentioned that he gets lots of attention from his appearances on Australian Story (The Big Deal and A Done Deal).

  • your first role is not to be the CEO but the Chairman of the Board (looks at the business to ensure they have the ideal CEO and are delivering to plan)
  • find the right people and partner with people who have done his before and hold them to their agreements
  • the right investors can bring you the introductions to partners, even if they decide not to invest in you
  • always deliver a good product and don’t piss the customer off – service is still important
  • raising equity starts with a plan – do this only when you need the funds, it should be the last resort, ensure you have a capitalisation (cap) table so you can understand what will happen to your equity – start with 30% for founders, 30% for management and 30% for investors
  • always start a business by looking at what it will look like when it is finished
  • Stanford University has a useful entrepreneurial course, be disciplined when following the Lean Startup model and have a plan
  • build a better prototype and often it will sell itself, other people will tell you quickly what it is worth
  • network deeply, meet people twice, ask questions even the ridiculous ones
  • investors are there to support and provide leadership, when you start pulling out agreements you know things are going wrong, like to know that they have listened

Setting Up for Global Success

This panel included Brendan O’Kane (OtherLevels), Jeremy Colless (Artesian Venture Partners, which was spun out of ANZ) and David Israel (UniQuest)

  •  base yourself close to your prospects
  • important to think global from day one, particularly in the technical field, be worlds best rather than Australia’s best
  • take advantage of the Australian talent spread across the world, utilise international students particularly those from north of Australia

Building Value

This final panel included Anne-Marie Birkill (OneVentures), Bob Waldie (Opengear) and Steve Baxter.

  •  people are cheap – premium prices do not work, people care about price
  • service is key – give good service
  • businesses are not charities, lifestyle is not a sustainable currency, you need to make money
  • ideas are not traction – get off your arse and learn what you don’t know
  • when looking for value, you are looking to triple an investment
  • success is building a valuable, non-charitable business, a second round of investment is not success
  • don’t think you can take a great technology idea to a crappy service industry eg taxis – they are not interested
  • make sure you formalise arrangements, in case things go bad, write down the exit conditions and make sure you are aligned

Overall a great day of presentations, panels and meeting new and interesting people in Brisbane technical and startup community.

Lean Software Development Workshop with Mary & Tom Poppendieck

YOW! 2010I was cleaning up some old files, and came across my notes from a workshop I attended with Mary and Tom Poppendieck entitled Lean Software Development – Leaders Workshop at the YOW! 2010 Australia Developer Conference in Brisbane. Obviously the slides and commentary have a wealth of information, but here are some of the key takeaways I had.

  • stop doing stuff that does not deliver value, not laying people off
  • spend time doing the right stuff, not the wrong stuff
  • think systems, not software – Southwest think employees, customers and then shareholders
  • optimise the whole system (software is just a layer) – Amazon is structured around it services (2 pizza teams of 8-10 people)
  • a separate testing team is silly – just handoff / afterthought, need to build quality into your product
  • need to understand value before you deliver value – understand what your customers value, not what they want and build the right thing before building the thing right
  • setting up a new product is a set of learning loops
  • watch for what is making people uncomfortable
  • understand your customers not by bringing an idea but by taking the team to understand the problem
  • there is always demand in a service company – fix issues as fast as possible, but that is not the game
  • consumability – how much effort does the customer need to go through to get value?
  • customers decide value… and therefore decide waste
  • measure productivity on value delivered, not features
  • work in progress is waste – customers are not interested in your long list of things to do
  • good Agile teams have a low number of defects
  • map end-to-end flow to find the biggest opportunity in your end-to-end process
  • 40-90% of the cost is maintenance not delivery, the cost of quality is way higher than the cost of building quality in, don’t put defects on a list (track them, fix them immediately), root cause every escaped defect, determine why every one happened
  • problem with readable specifications is that the text is not refactorable – any text page will have hundreds of ambiguities
  • every organisation that calls itself professional should be doing TDD
  • legacy code is code without unit tests, use Martin Fowler’s strangler pattern or the Mikado method to refactor
  • expertise takes 10 years / 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, need a teacher to challenge, feedback and dedication (The Road to Excellence)
  • marketing leader – for a successful product you should be able to name this person
  • technical leader – keep two top engineers free to roam around and give guidance
  • Empire State Building – on time and under budget, had to manage the flow of materials not tasks, had two alternating mills to keep up schedule and remove failure point
  • people who have dome something before should know how to deliver within the constraints
  • when managing an organisation you need to manage the capacity, you need to have a stable flow
  • kanban – reduce work in progress to expose problems (don’t crash your boat on the first day, keep your limits high then lower your limits and remove your problems one at a time
  • kanban board – every column is handover to the next column, the next column (downstream process) gets to define done
  • 5 why’s – the cause of the cause of the cause of the cause…, The Team Handbook has good process improvement practices, as do the Six Sigma tools
  • delivering value – read Competitive Engineering by Tom Glib and Value Driven Development
  • product-centric development – 54% of Fortune 500 companies are heading in this direction
Here is a picture of an exercise we did to map the cycle time of a particular company (it highlighted some of the issues they are having around approvals).
From Miscellaneous

Finally, a huge thank you to Nick Muldoon from Atlassian who helped me out with a space on this course. Also to one of my colleagues who reminded me that we should ask forgiveness not permission when I was dealing with some competing priorities!

Agile 2011 Day 1 Review

Agile 2011It was great enthusiasm that I set off to Salt Lake City last month for Agile 2011. In the lead up I was a reviewer on two stages (Testing & Quality Assurance and Working with Customers), plus I was lucky enough (and apparently the only submitter) to have all three of my original submissions accepted (although conference rules, for good reason, restrict speakers to two sessions). Whilst its a been a month since the conference (I took some time afterwards to spend time on both the east and west coast of the USA), I wanted to ensure that I posted my notes.

Here are the notes from the sessions that I attended on day one.

The Product Partnership: Using Structured Conversations to Deliver Value

Mary Gorman and Ellen Gottesdiener led this tutorial. They started by taking about requirements by collaboration and leading a discussion on things that hinder and help.

From Agile2011

Things that hinder: access to the right people, thinking about the solution rather than what needs to be done, multitasking, people not listening, customer not clear of needs, backlog too big, stories too big, missing product owner

From Agile2011

Things that help: centralised repository, short backlog, story maps, clear business goals, UI mockups part of the story, clear priorities, crisp acceptance criteria

From Agile2011

To set the stage we need:

  • a sponsor, product owner / champion, customer, technology
  • a shared understanding of vision, much like an infinity loop we: discover –> prepare –> deliver
From Agile2011
From Agile2011

They then went on to speak about value:

  • conflicting voices for value – not just from the customer but technology value, we need to listen to all the voices
  • evaluate requirements – value, risk (such as technology risk, team risk, outsourcing risk) and dependencies (dependent on other teams or external vendors and requirements and dependencies where value violates the way we would like to build the system)
  • benefit – IRACIS (increase revenue, avoid cost, improve service) needs to be balanced with cost, time and delivery
  • table stakes – the things we must deliver to stay in business
  • differentiators – point of difference in the marketplace
  • up sell revenue potential
  • foundation for long term savings
  • provides revenue for future
  • frequency of use
  • automate labour intensive tasks
  • no viable manual workaround
  • reduces pain for end-users
From Agile2011

This led to a discussion about backlog:

  • we want to build the most valuable things first
  • two states – credible (it has some kind of value) or buildable (it has been prepared and is sliced, groomed or right size as well as understood well enough to estimate, test and document)
  • incorporate UX into preparation, collaborated workshops
  • slice for value – starts with a glean in someone’s eye, then it gets bigger because we have a bunch of options, so we need to fit based on value to contract the list
From Agile2011

And finally onto requirements:

  • product provides value to users – who will receive value from the product
  • what actions need to be performed – what are set options
  • what is the data (noun) and the type and state of data
  • what are the constraints – policies or controls that need to adhered to, business rules

The example for this tutorial was getting to the Agile 2011 conference. We first ask the question: what do we value.

From Agile2011
    • customer value – convenient parking, staying in conference hotel, cheap flights, etc…
    • business value – people stay at conference hotel, one stop shopping on the website to save aggravation for Agile Alliance as well as attendees
    • user roles – travel explorer – individual attendees (speakers, sponsors, volunteers, attendees) and corporate travel agencies for group travel
From Agile2011
    • actions – hotel information, distance to the venue from home, distance from other hotels
From Agile2011
    • data – link to hotel (official hotel plus local hotels), Salt Lake City information
From Agile2011
    • control options – the business rules, such as when you need register by, etc…
From Agile2011
So we start with the requirement:
I need to: register
User role
  Type options: member*, non-member, group, academic
  State options: active*, inactive
From Agile2011

Then the actions:

Action options
  cancel / transfer
From Agile2011

Then the data:

Data: Fee
  Type options: regular, early bird, super early bird
  State options: available, sold out
Data: Payment
  Type options: credit cards, payment order, check
  State options: paid, pending, not paid

We may also visualize this as a data model or a state diagram

From Agile2011

We then need to look at the business rules and prioritise them.

From Agile2011

Once this is complete we can now we slice for value and write a story. This needs to be the silver bullet / tracer bullet, then you can break down from there. At this point you can write the stories and throw the sheets away. This all leads to:

As a... I need... so I (value)

Requirements leads to examples which leads to tests. We can now link this to given when then:

 Given: pre-condition (state), fixed data
 When: action, business rules, input data
 Then: output data, post condition (state)

It is recommend that you come to these workshops with some pre-planning but be under the agreement that they are draft and often wrong. These could be release or iteration planning workshops.

Now the forgotten heroes, the non-functional requirements:

    • design and implementation constraints – the givens, the parts of your technical infrastructure that are dictated or restricted – worth pausing and discussing if there are any options
From Agile2011
    • interfaces – human, other systems and device interfaces such as messages (you could use a context diagram to illustrate this) – with the diagram you can start discussing the options / choices / possibilities
From Agile2011
    • quality attributes – things like speed, stability, uptime, security, scalability, usability, extensibility, etc…, need to be testable and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based) – eg. recover from user error in x clicks, x time
From Agile2011

You can do this at the big view (business process, features, MMF, scenarios), pre-view (user stories, user story maps where you lay out stories left to right, scenarios) or the now view (buildable, scenarios). The granularity will change.

From Agile2011

Plans in an array matrix – the anchor is the action dimension

From Agile2011

Need to have a structured conversation to communicate effectively. Face to face is the most effective and get a shared understanding of the highest value.

Overall, this was an enjoyable session. I really liked the templates for mapping out the requirements (despite the fact that these were essentially just aids for the workshop) as they helped focus the conversation and gave our group something to focus on. Mary and Ellen are currently writing a book based around this content, so I look forward to seeing that in the future.

Coaching Success: Getting People to Take Responsibility & Demonstrate Ownership

Christopher Avery (creator of the Leadership Gift and author of The Early Admissions Game: Joining the Elite, which apparently is 10 years old and still in print) led this extremely packed session, the essence is contained in this publication available here (as well as here).

From Agile2011

We started the workshop by competing in a spaghetti challenge (based on the Marshmallow Challenge) which consisted of the materials of just 10 pieces of spaghetti and a  line of tape. The team I was working with constructed a tower of 35 inches, which ended up being the second tallest in the room.

From Agile2011

There is a pattern in our mind that kicks in every time something goes wrong – creates angst and anxiety – responsibility process – a descriptive model:

  • QUIT – the pressure of responsibility and obligation can lead us to quit, an avoidance move, a lack of completion, active disengagement
  • RESPONSIBILITY – call yourself on obligation so you start looking for solutions – start saying “I get to go to this stupid meeting”, means you have a choice – we were taught that doing stuff we have to do makes us responsible
  • OBLIGATION – I have to go to his stupid meeting have to but don’t want to – leads to resentment
  • SHAME – how could I do this, how could I be so stupid – laying blame on self – premise is the problem, you can’t learn
  • JUSTIFY – it was raining, I dropped my keys – story makes it just – “that’s just the way it is around here…”
  • LAY BLAME – who took my keys? – not a solving position of mind

3 keys – descriptive model

  • INTENTION – wanting to get something done, get to RESPONSIBILITY around every problem in your life
  • AWARENESS – be aware of which level you are in
  • CONFRONT – ability to face, taking yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, comfort zone = current capability, confront = expanding capability – every person you know was once a stranger

Example coping mechanisms are: learn to live with it, it worked on my machine, they just don’t get it, it’s the vendors fault, it’s too hard, you’ve been here long enough to know that’s not going to happen, murphys law, we did exactly what they asked for, …

We then did a “Be With” exercise, which was essentially sitting knee to knee with the person next to you, in complete silence,  for 30 seconds, to feel the others anxiety. Ultimately, it’s not the other person that makes you feel bad, it is yourself.

Confront is the angst of confronting yourself. If you want to change something you need to poke it, and observe the change.

Accountability Responsibility:

  • accountability is the number one tool of management – it’s the way we manage commitments between two parties – its outside of us because it is us and someone else
  • responsibility is about how we respond – internal to us, and different for all of us
  • what people are signed up for is greater than what they are responsible for
  • what people are responsible for is greater than what they are accountable for <– We want to be here
  • they are both equal

Where’s the bottleneck?

  • what if you had to reproduce the code, if you had the same team and resources?
  • what percentage would be more efficient the second time?
  • modal is 70%. You would be better because you have solved the problem before. Learning takes time. Essence of agility is to learn and take feedback.

There is lots of feedback in agile practices such as retrospectives, showcases, standups, etc… If you are not going to do anything about it, stop investing in the feedback loop. The fastest way to learn is to take ownership.

Fastest way to elevate responsibility in a group is demonstrate it yourself. If you are saying people around you are not displaying responsibility, then you are just laying blame.

Exercise coaching responsibility. The responsibility process only works when it is self applied! You need to teach it so others can self apply it. Counter not being good enough yet to teach this yet:

  1. Give yourself forgiveness, forgive yourself for being human
  2. Teach this with a light tone. Make yourself the brunt of all the jokes that are below the line
  3. Don’t go into agreement (“but I do have to go into that stupid meeting”) – don’t confuse the facts with the mental position – take time, breathe, count 10 seconds and answer – validates they raised a good question and allows you to respond – ask if you can push back on them a little bit, and ask them to identify where they are on the chart
  4. Make sure you support – need to forgive yourself, let go and move onto a better future

Taking responsibility is owning your power and ability to create, choose and attract.

Responsibility is the design space. What do we want from this? Be clear with what you want and be clear about the consequences. Responsibility gives you power but also potential consequences.

There is a difference between choosing something and avoiding something.

As a coach you get to intervene in situations, so you need to act from a position of responsibility and check where you are coming from (move through the model as quick as you can). Ask yourself if your message is clear and does not sound like blame.

Advice is seldom effective so stop giving advice. You are transferring responsibility from them to you. If it doesn’t work they perceive it as being your fault. Instead:

  1. Resist giving advice. Tell me what you have tried, tell me what you haven’t tried
  2. If you must give advice, give three alternatives so they have to choose, putting responsibility on them. “If I were in your shoes I might consider a…, b…, c… What do you think about those?” One coaching company advises 10 alternatives, so you really think about the responsibility.

Finally, play the “Catch Sinner” game to learn the process:

  • make a score card
  • choose a word for today
  • make 2 columns – “get off of it” and “it got out”
  • throughout the day, everytime you catch yourself in a position of “blame” mark your chart
  • 10 points for the left and 1 point for the right column
  • build tremendous awareness for each word at least for one day

There are a bunch of resources at Christopher’s website, in particular he encouraged us to get a copy of the teaching poster and empowered us to teach the process to our peers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this session, as I had heard good reports from this session when it was help in 2009, and this year it was listed as one of the most popular sessions. The responsibility process is something I would really like to work on personally.

The Agile Manifesto 10th Anniversary Reunion: The Big Park Bench

This was one of the highlights of the conference where 15 of the 17 original authors of the Agile Manifesto got together on a big park bench to discuss the writing of the manifesto.

From Agile2011

There were heaps for great stories but here are some of the snippets I took away:

  • started with XP Immersion
  • at the XP Leadership meeting, rejected idea of creating a group
  • Bob Martin and Martin Fowler sketched out an idea for the Lightweight Methods conference
  • Jim Highsmith noted that there us nothing about it that he would change and would not get back together with these people to do it!
  • Ward Cunningham would change the colour balance of the background image
  • Brian Marick noted that individuals and interactions can often be a beat up for people who appreciate tools
  • Jim Highsmith commented when asked about the next 10 years that agilists don’t predict!
  • they never expected that something written in a couple of afternoons would be this big
  • Brian Marick recalled that the stated objective of the meeting was a manifesto and it seemed miraculous that they left with a good framework . Bob Martin was just surprised that he has been to one meeting that worked!
  • Martin Fowler did not want to call it agile, he wanted a wackier name
  • Agile Manifesto nailed it as a baseline – they might have added “we really mean it” or “we are not kidding”!
  • when you gel with a team you get what can be summed up in 3 words: high quality work
  • great teams change people lives. “The manifesto changed our lives, and probably yours too”
  • many people who may have survived under waterfall may not survive much longer under agile, as it is flushing out bad practices
  • other potential names for agile were: adaptive, hummingbird, lean (used already), PPP, a bunch of acronyms, did not want a word they would have to wear pink tights and a tutu to explain!
  • Agile was a coincidence – people following lean in the 1990’s were saying agile is the future, which was good because agile has a meaning in the business world
  • the most argued item on the manifesto – iteration timeframe, executes terminology
  • the principles were harder to arrive at
  • biggest disappointment – everyone wants to be agile but too few people want to do it (when they wrote it they really meant it), the scrumbut
  • biggest success – uses outside of software (for example Pragmatic Programmer publishing), wanted teams to be able work freely in a way they wanted to work
  • need a revolution in middle management and need a similar framework for agility
  • Agile is not the “not-waterfall” – it’s about teams and delivering software
  • Agile stands as a beacon of hope, for it to disappear would mean the evil empire has won
  • in software, we still need to ask how do we do a better job?
  • an Agile process of inspect and adapt is what makes lean companies great
  • Jim Highsmith particularly called out Jeff Smith, the CEO of Suncorp Business Services as being someone who got promoted from CIO to CEO through the success of Agile
  • consider lean inside the same heritage as agile
From Agile2011
From Agile2011
From Agile2011

A reunion site has been setup in conjunction with this event.


Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 1 of the conference.