# Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The joy I get in my job is through seeing other people flourish. This means that coaching is something that I am very passionate about. When I train or mentor ScrumMasters I teach them how they can coach themselves and others for success. The skills I learnt myself and teach have come from years of practice, reading the right books, knowing the right people and going on courses.

Whilst my job title is an Agile Coach and I am there to help an organisation evolve using my experience, a great part of what I actually end up doing is dealing with peoples behaviours. This is something that an Agile method wouldn’t teach you. So where do you get this?

I came across a new book recently as I saw the author speak at The Agile Coaching Exchange. I purchased this book but didn’t immediately read it as I wanted to save it for my holiday Smile 

coaches

Coach's Casebook: Mastering The Twelve Traits That Trap Us – Geoff Watts & Kim Morgan

The book takes a look at 12 traits that as coaches we see every day. We most certainly will have some of these ourselves, I know I do!

The structure of the book lends itself to easy reading with each chapter kicking off with a true life dialogue between coach and client. What I love about this book is that you can clearly see the coach is in a learning role themselves, because they too have a coach who they share with and receive feedback from. This to me shows the authors vulnerability and authenticity.

Once the author has established the case study, plus their thought process. They explore different models and methods to help the client, which they later consolidate in fantastic matrix to help you to pull out the right tool for the right situation.

They then conclude with an interview with someone in the public eye, who also displays one or many of the traits and how they have got where they are today.

I literally read this book on my flight back from Croatia because it was an easy read and something that I was engrossed in.

Whilst the book is not agile, the content is most certainly relevant to what we do in our profession. So those that do not get the same opportunities to learn to coach like I have, should consider this a great place for them to get insight and techniques to use.

I have a reading list that my mentees tend to work though, this is most certainly one of them moving forwards.

A great and worthwhile read!

You can find out more about Geoff here http://inspectandadapt.com

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Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:35:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 04 August 2015

One of the questions I am often asked is ‘How do I sell an organisation agile? The answer is I don’t… The business has often decided they need to change because something is no longer working for them, or because their current way of thinking is no longer meeting the needs of the organisation or the customer. As an Agile Coach I do not go into a client with the mind-set of a particular method, more that I need to hear what their motives and their problems are to help them lead them to the right solution. Sometimes that might not even be agile or the method they initially asked for.

Much of the work I do is helping clients change. I am careful not to use the word ‘transformation’ because many companies do already have good practices in place as well as good people. It’s my job to help them to evolve the way they work and think in a more Agile and Lean way.

I never really know what I am going to arrive to find, and each and every organisation is different in the way it runs and is structured. Saying that I still have a thought process that I follow as an Agile Coach and I wanted to give you all a glimpse into what that is.

The easiest way for me to do this is to show you a mind map. I may not do all these items listed, but they serve as a reminder for me to think broadly about what I am trying to achieve.

The mind map that I am sharing is very much based upon a Scrum evolution. I would have different ones for different methods, Kanban for example. My mind map is also based upon my experiences and will naturally have holes.

Evolution

Evolving organisations is a tough job and involves blood sweat and sometimes tears. It is important like any project you are running to have a vision. That vision will evolve over time and will likely be in stepped increments. You can’t go from zero to a hundred in one swoop. So I have a vision of all the different aspects. A vision to maybe prove that we can run Scrum in their environment, we call this a pathfinder team. The vision might also be to advance the principles and practices of your existing team. I use Evolutionary Stages for this as my vision and end goal.

Whatever change you embark on with an organisation, it is important to make sure that you understand where you want to end up and make small incremental and iterative changes along the way, banking the items you want to maintain and learning from any failure you have.  You will see one of the items on the mind map is how you communicate progress of what you are doing. This is absolutely key and one of the the things people fail at early on.  Good news needs to be published and shared.

So there is lots to think about in the mind map and so over to you. If there is something specific on there you would like me to blog about further. Leave me a comment and I will get on it.

Enjoy!



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Tuesday, 04 August 2015 16:25:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 31 July 2015

I was getting my usual taxi to work this morning and I got a driver I didn’t know. We exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me what I do for a living. I normally way up my answers, if I say Agile coach I then have to spend the next 10 minutes explaining what that is and if I say project manager for ease, that is really a lie. Today when he asked me I said ‘I help people change their lives’.

I did not say this for reasons of arrogance, I said this with a sense of pride.

There were two things that happened to me yesterday that has left me a little emotional. I am not usually one to show much emotion, but there are times when I struggle to keep it contained.

Event 1

I have been working with my client for about a year now. I call this ‘Going in deep’. Rightly or wrongly as a coach when I am in deep I form strong emotional bonds with people I coach. This is part me being their mentor, coach and then eventual their friend and peer.

I work closely with these people challenging the way they think about the work they do and how they do it. Most importantly I challenge the beliefs they have about themselves.

My overarching belief about everyone I meet is that they are a bundle of potential that just needs to be released. I will not make assumptions about them and I asked the same about me.

Most of my time my work is about building confidence in them and giving them the knowledge, tools to do their work and support.

I love to champion the wildcard and the underdog, I look for that spark in people that I know I can work with. I can teach you everything you need to know, but you have to want it and work hard for it.

Richard and Doug at my current client are my wildcard and underdog. Richard is the wildcard because he came to me as a developer with partial ScrumMaster experience and Doug as the underdog because he was very vulnerable when I met him.

I am so proud of both of them. I have seen Richard grow so much and there is so much potential there. We certainly have a coach of the future here.

But my story is about Doug, that unsure person who I first met a year go, who did not really know where he was heading or even if he was on the right path. The Doug I know today is knowledgeable, confident and completes his role with ease. Yes he makes mistakes, but so do I!

I have been watching Doug grow now for over a year and I knew it was a matter of time before he is ready to fly the nest and find his new challenge. Sometimes people need to change something to develop confidence further and to extend knowledge in a different environment.

Doug has found a new nest to fly to and I am so proud of him and the journey he has made. It makes me so happy when I see this happen, but it also makes me sad at the same time because I am seeing him go. This is why coaches should not get as attached as me, but it is part of who I am and part of how I teach, coach and mentor.

I know Doug and I will remain friends and I will always be here for him. He doesn’t know this yet, but I am going to ask three things of him.

1) Always be confident in yourself and your abilities

2) Never form beliefs about people

3) One day you will meet someone whose life you can influence. Don’t walk away from that.

My life was influenced by Margaret Morgan, my Agile yoda. Without her I would have not been an Agile Coach and I would probably still be working at Aviva.

Event 2

It was the Kanban Coaching Exchange in London last night and was facilitated by my good friend Dan Brown. I had seen this talk before and so I had one ear open, while quietly working in the background. His talk was about coaching and the comparison to what we do as Agile coaches and what they teach him as a rugby coach. I have to say that 20 minutes in I had to close my laptop and listen because in what he was saying was true nuggets of inspiration mixed with him being humble about his journey and his belief about himself as a coach. He laid himself bare and vulnerable to the audience as he talked about his experiences coaching. So why did this hit an emotional chord with me? Because I had forgotten how much influence coaches have on peoples lives. How our beliefs, behaviours and moods can influence people for the positive or for the worse. To quote a film ‘With great power comes great responsibility’

Both of these events made me take another look at my life and be thankful for what I have. It also makes me think about my behaviours and the influence I have on others.

The best bit about my job is not Agile, it is watching people flourish.

Have a think about how you influence others around you?

PS: Not forgetting my other fledglings: Ben Cooke, Gareth Waterhouse, Chris Houlden and Duncan Smith.



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Friday, 31 July 2015 17:39:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]


# Wednesday, 17 June 2015

People don’t always understand the role of the ScrumMaster……..What is more shocking is ScrumMasters don’t always understand what their role is!

The Scrum Alliance in its literature and certified course material gives us good guidance.  I guess it’s then up to individuals and organisations to interpret it for what they want.  But all to often I meet mini project managers or people so laissez faire that the team is running rings around them!

People are obviously getting a little lost along the way.    As a coach my belief is ‘I am here to help people and organisations realise their full potential’   I do this by pulling on my experiences and a number of different methods that I practice.  When I meet ScrumMasters my mission is to make them coaches of the future. 

I started thinking about myself as a ScrumMaster and the different parts I play in the team.   I have broken these down to the different ceremonies and wider elements of the role.

I wanted to share this with you.   Naturally this is my interpretation based on my experiences of what being a great  ScrumMaster and a coach of the future is.  I am sure I have missed out many points and feel free to shout them out.

Here goes……

 Change Agency

  • Seen as an Agile ambassador for the organisation - the go to guy for coaching and mentoring help on Agile values, principles and practices
  • Understands trends across teams and actively looks to remove waste from the whole value stream
  • Works at all levels in the organisation to remove organisational impediments
  • Works with other ScrumMasters to ensure that organisational changes make sense for all teams
  • Develops communities that will grow/share knowledge and skills across the organisation
  • Works to grow his/her own skills, knowledge and competence that will benefit the organisation
  • Remorselessly eliminates waste
  • Coaches the team towards continuous improvement of quality and performance

User Story Creation

  • Promotes The 3 C’s (Card, Conversation & Confirmation)
  • Promotes INVEST (Independent, Negotiable, Estimate-able, Sizeable and Testable)
  • Encourages use of simple language to encourage conversation
  • Understands the relationship between Epics, Themes and Lower Level User Stories
  • Understands Minimum Viable Products and Minimal Marketable Features
  • Facilitates (if required) User story workshops using techniques such as User Story Mapping, including persona gathering techniques
  • Supports creation of well written, vertically sliced and valuable stories. Facilitates & teaches how to do this using their understanding of different patterns
  • Ensures User Stories are written from a customer view point
  • Works with the team to drive well-formed testable acceptance criteria
  • Ensures that functional & non-functional are covered
  • Understands & can coach the value Behaviour Driven Development
  • Looks to identify issues, risks, constraints, assumptions and dependencies from user stories. Uses techniques such as blocker clustering and adding to sprint backlog
  • Drives out when a Spike is required and ensures this is a time boxed activity
  • Ensures that continuous story refinement happens and that a team has seen a story at least 2 times before it gets accepted into a sprint
  • Works with the Product Owner to ensure that the team has 2 or 3 sprints worth of stories ready in advance of Sprint Planning

Story Estimating

  • Understands and able to articulate different ways to estimate, such as Story Points, Ideal Days & T-Shirt sizes
  • Uses multiple techniques to facilitate estimating activities, such as Planning Poker, Affinity Ordering, Ouji Board estimation
  • Drives conversation to deepen knowledge and bring estimate to a consensus
  • Looks to establish Calibration Stories with the PO, revisiting these as work changes
  • Drives the team to have stories smaller enough to enable rapid flow across the team board
  • Understands when User stories need to be re-estimated as new details have emerged or been clarified
  • Ensures that estimates are end to end effort – not just development

The Product Backlog & Release Planning

  • Makes sure there is a Vision and all work aligns to that vision, encouraging the team to question value
  • May facilitate visioning workshops with the Product Owner, stakeholders and teams
  • Has techniques for helping stakeholder discuss the value of the work
  • Has sight of the Product Backlog and the priority of work, working with the PO to ensure the team has enough work based on their velocity. Aims to have 2 or 3 sprints worth of work prepared at any given time
  • Understand and can coach a PO on the creation, value and use of the Product Burn down
  • Understands ‘Dark Matter’ and how it effects the Product Backlog growth/forecasting over time
  • Collaborates with the PO to create an Agile Release Plan. Regularly feeds into plan to keep it up to date and it is shared with the stakeholders and team

Sprint Planning

  • Helps the team and PO to establish the sprint length. Understands the benefits and negative aspects of having between 1-4 week sprints
  • Protects the sprint length and understands patterns on why requests would arrive to break these, such as not being able to break work down and so we need a 3 week sprint
  • Understands the different ways to facilitate a Sprint Planning session to get the most interactive and collaborative session as possible
  • Establishes a team capacity and monitors trends
  • Draws out issues and risks, following up on the resolution of these
  • Ensure the estimates are agreed within the team and that no task is greater than a day to enable flow
  • Ensures the delta between commitment & delivery is at the right tolerance
  • Empowers the team to reduce reliance on the ScrumMaster
  • Guides on uses of different visualisation techniques to ensure the team board radiates as much information as possible
  • Empowers the team to make a reasonable commitment, educating them that they will need slack to be able to deal with uncertainty, as you start to do the work you discover more things

Every Day Working and Daily Scrums

  • Promotes the Agile Manifesto, Values, Principles & Practices at all times
  • Practices the use of time boxes to keep activities focused
  • Makes sure the team has a Definition of Done that is reviewed at least every three months or when the nature of the work changes
  • Call out and makes visible any team working agreements
  • Works with the team to ensure they have everything required to complete the sprint
  • Understands, resolves or escalates impediment. Impediments to be visible to the whole team and the wider organisation
  • Understands and mitigates day to day risks with the team
  • Monitors and removes wasteful activity by using a method to categorise, such as 7 categories of waste, waste snake, Kanban categories of waste
  • Promotes collaboration and cross learning
  • Continually understands if the work in the sprint is achievable using charts to support. Such as the burn down or the cumulative flow diagram
  • Encourages swarming as a practice in the team to ensure the team is focussed at all times on delivering the most valuable story first, to the definition of done
  • Protecting the team from outside distractions
  • Facilitates the Daily Stand up Meeting using the traditional three questions or walk the board style
  • Encourages team ownership of the visual board and recognises if flow or blockers are happening across the board
  • Understands and can coach when engineering practices can best be used
  • Is mindful if the team is creating technical debt. Working to eradicate this and to reduce any existing in the team/organisation
  • Understands and monitors the quality of the work.
  • Observation is a key tool to understand the dynamics of team
  • Coaches and supports the team towards the goal of the Sprint

Reviews

  • Creates an environment where the review is a collaboration of all team members
  • Enables the space for the team to prepare the session, providing guidance on how effectively they can use the time and make the sessions valuable
  • Works with the PO to advertise and promote stakeholder attendance, such as posters, emails, social media, dragging people away from desks to drum up attendance
  • Actions and additional stories are capture for consideration and actioning
  • Ensure the team receives the required recognition for the work they have achieved
  • Drives cross team knowledge sharing by publishing the teams achievements
  • Understands root cause analysis of any potential delta between committed and delivered stories and supports the team to put actions in place to reduce this.

Retrospectives

  • Keeps the format fresh and provides the appropriate type of retrospective for the situation at hand. Such as deep dive, broad, milestone
  • Facilitates the session to include the maximum amount of participation from the group. Get them up and active and gather insight
  • Facilitates from the back of the room to utilise reading body language and tone of voice to drive out things left unsaid
  • Practices root cause analysis such as the ‘5 Whys’ to help the team drive to what the challenges really are.
  • Practices ‘Powerful’ questions to drive out learnings and improvement opportunities
  • Drive the team to continuously improve working practices, taking actions from each retrospective to complete in the next working period
  • Makes a record of the outputs of the session and ensure that points are not just forgotten, but banked for future retrospectives. Such as creating an improvement backlog or agreeing with the PO to have these in the main backlog
  • Works to remove actions that are low hanging fruit to support the team
  • Monitors team trends and shares these with other teams to identify organisational trends

You can see there is lots and I am sure I could have kept on writing Smile

Final Thoughts

I want you to thinking about the role you play as ScrumMaster and ask yourself:

  • Do you do the majority of these things?
  • What can you do differently to maximise your contribution to the team and the organisation?

ScrumMasters need to continuously improve, the same way we expect our teams to. ScrumMastery is a leadership role and we all need to step up to that.



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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 11:30:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]


# Friday, 12 June 2015

For my sins I love Bon Jovi!  Maybe not so much the recent stuff, but they have some real classics.  I have seen them in concert many times and I have to admit they are a real crowd pleaser and play for about 3 hours.

Whilst thinking about my teams retrospective this week and the fact I like to inflict upon them my sad hobbies and obsessions, I decided to do one on Bon Jovi.

I am going to keep sharing these with you because I want people to experiment and try different ways of helping teams to continuously improve.  They can also be fun if the sprint has been a hard slog.

Here are the headings that I used.  

image2image3image4image5image6

I rated moral as follows:

image1

I did have the music playing to motivate, but we did have one anti Bon Jovi fan.  I might do AC/DC next as that is his favourite band.

I gave the team extra kudos if they could get song titles in their thoughts and comments.  Ultimately we ended up with a set of actions for us to take forward in the next sprint.

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If one was not enough…

I did a second retro this week for a different team.

The team has recently merged together with another team and are still looking to refine their ways of working together, and so I wanted the retrospective to be based upon how they work as a system.

I used a Scrum Image and asked them to use sticky dots to put where they thought the problems lie. They got two green dots and a red dot with signified a major problem. Green dots are still issues in this example, just not as bad as red.

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I then got them to give me the headlines of the problems they encountered. An example of this might be ‘User stories are not coming in regularly enough from the clients’.

I got the team to then break into three groups and we used A3 thinking to look at the problem and come up with potential counter measures.  A3 thinking is great because it means we can post them on the team wall and then validate the learning's at the end of the next sprint.  I also wanted to teach them a different technique and really get them thinking about the challenges we have have.  Quite often the problem in front of us is a symptom of a deeper root cause.  Techniques such as the 5 whys can help the team delve down.

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All in all I had a great couple of retrospectives this week.    I will need to keep an eye on the teams as sometimes actions do get overlooked, but a little poke every now and again ensures that they keep driving them forwards.

One of my ScrumMasters come across this great website on retrospectives. It is worth checking it out for new idea.

Keep improving people!!



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Friday, 12 June 2015 12:14:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 09 June 2015

It was the annual event of ‘Meek Week’ last week. This means it was my birthday and made all my friends treat me like a princess for the whole week. I am pleased to confirm they did not let me down!  We had lots of meals, giggles, mini golf and of course cocktails! A few photos of my besties Smile

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Every now and again I get the opportunity to be a ScrumMaster, rather than just the coach.   I actually quite enjoy this because it means that I can try out new things with my teams and there is also something exciting about being part of a delivery. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a coach and trainer but sometimes I believe we have to go back to the battle grounds, just to remember how hard change can be in organisations.

In one of the teams I was looking after I was fortunate to be able to kick off a new project with them.   As we are client facing we are often asked to look at ideas based on little information and give them a rough size of effort. I had been talking about using risk factors for a while in conjunction with story points, and so this was my opportunity to really put it into practice. We were asked to create a high level estimate and so we didn’t have anything more than potential epics at the time. 

There is much misconception about what story points represent and many people believe they are based upon complexity, when really they are based upon effort.  I wanted to make this really clear to my team and so I introduced 2 numbers during story preparation to help signal when more complexity is involved, and to help us manage these and the risks and impediments that might follow. 

I created a simple scale, though you can use whatever words work for your team.

1 – Low risk (there is never none!)

2 – Moderate

3 – Increasing

4 – High

5  - Significant

I then asked the team to discuss each story, vote using story points and then vote on the risk factor.  Due to the fact that we were very early on and some of the stories were just high level ideas  I made sure that any assumptions were captured.

I was then able to ask them on any items with a risk factor greater than 2 to articulate the risk, so we could then look to mitigate it.  A example of a couple of entries.

SnipImage

After completing the exercise the Product Owner and I were instantly able to look down the list and understand what items were large due to lots of unknowns (so high risk factor), and them systematically work through them until the team was happy to split and reduce the complexity.  We could also tell which items were just big, but understood in how were are going to deliver it.

I also had a list of assumptions that we could have to aid conversations with clients and what’s  as equally important is I had a list of risks and technical decisions that we needed to have sight of and mitigate. 

On presentation of these estimates  to the architecture group and the CTO the team was told ‘These are the best I have seen to date’ We were even taken to the pub to celebrate.

So a very simple technique that has made discussion, understanding, risk and potential decisions far more visible than the previous way they were doing things.

As a ScrumMaster it is important to me that I understand all the areas that could become a potential impediment to me. ScrumMasters often to forget to manage the risk and so then just fire fight impediments.

Final Thoughts

However your organisation decides to estimate and understand risk (trust me they are all different). It is important that you have the conversations to stimulate actions and visibility.  Whilst Agile is about flexibility, it doesn’t mean we don't have to exercise some level of control.

Ask yourself and your team today  ‘Do you know what the risks are of what you are delivering?’



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Tuesday, 09 June 2015 14:43:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Monday, 25 May 2015

You will all know by now my love for cheesy 80’s films and how they often appear in my retrospectives.

I have now created one based upon the film the Karate kid.  I thought this film was epic when I was younger and used to watch it all the time.   All these remakes don’t do me any favours in the old age stakes when I say ‘I remember and prefer the original!’  As usual I have downloaded the soundtrack and plan to use it for activity time boxes. Naturally the music is very motivating and I am hoping to get the team up and active.  The main song is…’You're the best!’

I am still waiting for my all female team to bust out a retrospective on ‘Grease’ or ‘Dirty Dancing’! I suspect I will be waiting for some time.

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I couldn’t resist having a little tweak of the wordings on this poster ‘She taught them the secret to scrum lies in the mind and heart. Not the hands’

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One tip I always teach my mentees about running retrospective is ‘Never be the one at the front with the pen or post it notes in your hand’   You want your people up and active and get them to write, group or theme the post it notes or even write the actions. As a facilitator your biggest tools in the box is observation and the art of powerful questions. You need to be focussing on these.

If you want to learn more about running kick arse retrospectives, then feel free to get in contact with me, or ask me about when my next retrospectives course is running.



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Monday, 25 May 2015 15:42:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 27 March 2015

Everyone always asks me why I very rarely give meet up talks, despite looking after two user groups.  I guess part of it is, why does anyone want to hear me talk? But when I do actually push myself to do them, I absolutely love it!  So more recently I have been putting myself out there. 

I recently got the opportunity through the work I am doing with Learning Connexions to visit Romania!  Not your number one holiday destination, so i immediately wanted to go.  I was asked if I wanted to do a couple of talks at a local ‘Colors in Projects’ conference and I was more than happy to help out.

Lesson number 1….always validate what you are being asked to do!

My small conference talk turned out to be a keynote speech, and my session turned out to be a one day workshop.  Never the less I was excited and nervous at the same time.

I decided to do my key note on something that I have been using with my client called ‘Evolutionary Stages’. Effectively it’s a team self reflection tool to look at how Agile they are, and what practices they should consider focusing on.  My topic tackled the continual question I seem to get ‘How Agile are we?’

I am not sure I have ever publically said this in my blog, but I have an irrational fear of balloons. Literally before I took the stage there was a group exercise which involved blowing up balloons with your name in (to win a prize) and then throw them to the front.

Cue my keynote standing amongst these balloons whilst freaking out!!!!!!

The other thing I really hate in life is snow……….second day…….it snowed!

Never the less I felt it went really well and I even got a few laughs from the audience

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I was most happy with my prize as a talker and he has currently moved into my house.

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Whilst I was excited about delivering my key note, I was even more excited to try out my ‘Art of Retrospection’ one day workshop that I had created.

OMG, it was awesome!  I had such a great bunch of attendees who really threw themselves into all of the practical exercises and simulations we done.   People know I have a passion for retrospectives generally, and so to see it all come together was fantastic for me and I got some really good feedback.  I now want to see how I can incorporate this into an everyday offering through ‘The Rock’

One of the new metaphors that I have picked up was from one of the groups….Lord of the Rings.  I find my students so inspirational in the ideas that they have.  Two of them have already written to me to tell me, and send me images of how they are starting to use this in their teams now.

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Here are a few images from the day.

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Final Thoughts

I am not sure I have a hard hitting message for you today. I was just so excited about some of the stuff I have been doing, I just wanted to share with you.

I guess if I really sought out a message, it would be ‘Have confidence’ in what you do, and we all have something valuable to share with others. Even though we may feel it is not important.

Watch this space

I have started creating my ‘Karate Kid’ retrospective and will be excited to share it with you soon!!



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Friday, 27 March 2015 15:43:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What I enjoy about my work is the autonomy I get to try new things and the support that I get from ripplerock (whatever the outcome).  I guess that much of what us Agile coaches do is experimentation and then inspecting and adapting from there. Ultimately this gives us patterns which we can re-use.

My latest little experimentation was a collaboration with Mark Summers and Stuart Young on what we called the ‘Week of Fun’. Ultimately it was a series of training events where we ran a Certified Lean Kanban Foundation Course and/or Certified ScrumMaster, combined with a free day of visual artistry.

All right, so the first two aren’t new, but the visual artistry workshop certainly was!

I met Stuart some time ago through a mutual friend at a meet up group and I was pretty impressed with his illustrations and his work ethic.  From that point collaboration with him became a regular thing, and so when Mark and I wanted to do something a little different and creative, we gave him a call.

Our experiment was. Is there value in having a graphic recorder at the Certified Courses and would anyone sign up for a free ‘Learn to draw’ class? and maybe even pay?

Over my two Kanban days Stuart set about recording my training with the following output. Overall it was a massive success and we had many comments on the feedback forms for how it helped people remember and learn concepts in a fun way.

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The free visual artistry day was also a massive success. I actually attended this class as a learner for myself as I have hid away from drawing images, but always envied those beautiful posters I see people create at conferences.

I rated my drawing ability as zero and I am pleased to say I am already much more confident. On a recent company day I even did it as my show and tell item. Check me out !

So I started the day looking a little something like this  (imagine the Tony Hart gallery music playing in the background)

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and by the end of the session I was busting out these, which have much improved since i have been practicing them. It is all about building a bank of images and practice, practice, practice!

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ok, ok, so I am not going to be giving Stuart a run for his money or quitting my job, but it actually made me really happy Smile and something that I can use and get value from.

One of the most fun parts had to have been the graphic jam. We brainstormed a group of words in the literal, abstract and agile space, and then we all picked one and had to race to draw an image. This demonstrated many of us think the same way and speed to be able to do this at pace in practice. Some totally stumped me, and one particular image by Mark made me cry with laughter. You do not want to know what Mr Blobby was doing to the stick man !!

Final Thoughts

Experimentation is good. You might succeed or you might fail, but you certainly learn along the way and that is what helps is grow. Many of the worlds multi millionaires went bankrupt many times before they achieved their success. Keep pushing to learn something new and inspect and adapt from there.

I also learnt, I can draw and that visual artistry is cool!

Naturally with all this learning, came much reflecting. Here is us reflecting hard….Cocktails' always help us think Smile

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I will try not to leave it so long next time before my next blog (Thank you Sarah for poking me into action). Coming up I have an exciting key note, conference, talk at BCS Agile day and new one day workshop offering on the Art of Retrospection, so watch this space for more of my ramblings and my successes and failures along the way.



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Tuesday, 24 February 2015 20:38:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 26 September 2014

I have been at the Scrum Gathering Berlin over the last few days and I had a really good time. Not just is it a great place to learn and float new ideas, but it’s also an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. If you have not had the opportunity to attend a Scrum Gathering on your journey to date, I really recommend it. 

My good friend Mark Summers and I were selected to host one of the sessions. Retrospectives are a passion for both Mark and I in terms of running creative ones and using the best facilitation techniques to really get the group flowing and the learning's aired.

So we ran a session called ‘Building Metaphors for Retrospectives’

The session was an opportunity to show off some of the creativity from Mark and I, but also to get the audience to create their own. Once we created a new metaphor, we got the audience to run a retrospective on retrospectives to have an opportunity to share best practice, learning's, tools and techniques.

The session was positively received and we got some great instant feedback.  A few of these you would have seen from some of my earlier blogs, but always worth sharing again to get your inspiration juices flowing.

1) The Boat Retrospective

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2) The ‘Top Gun’ Retrospective. Based on my love of 80’s films and Tom Cruise (At the time!)

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3) Mountaineering Retrospective – Created at the request of one of my clients. I now give them sometimes a choice and I will create based on the teams interests.

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4) The ‘Rocky 4’ Retrospective. This is my latest one and has been very popular with my clients. I always look for films with motivational sound tracks as I love to play the music to the teams. I find that music drives them and we have fun.

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5) ‘Nothings going to stop us now’ Retrospective. As a challenge on the day we proved that you could even use music songs for a basis. We challenged Benjamin Cooke to create one around Marks favourite song. Considering he spent 15 minutes on it, we had so much innovation and ideas.  We made him listen to the song at least ten times while creating it and Mark was doing his dad dancing around the room Smile

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So now we have some of the Scrum Berlin groups output. Thank you to everyone at the gathering who helped to produce these.

1) Up – I love this idea and won the prize for the best metaphor. A great film and so many items you can relate to a team.  Eliminating waste by releasing the balloons and not forgetting the cone of shame Smile

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2) Driving – Simple yet effective. I quite often one similar to this with Kanban teams.

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3) The Zoo – The spidery looking thing is a peacock.  I thought this was great because it made the team laugh and got us talking as a group. You don’t have to be a great artist and having a giggle can actually break the ice!

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4) Travel – Watch out for those Sharks

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So as promised some really great ideas out there.

Final Thoughts

I recognise that metaphors are not for everyone and some teams respond to them better than others, but as ScrumMasters we have a duty to continually drive improvement. Nothing worse than a scrummie running the same retro over and over again. The retrospective is a key meeting and there for a purpose and so we need to be creative in keeping it fresh and bringing out the important points.

So I challenge to you to think about the quality of your retrospectives and how you could facilitate them better.

A few other photos for your pleasure

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Friday, 26 September 2014 20:34:50 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]