Team Canvas

I love building teams! I cannot lie…I have always had a passion for this and something I take great enjoyment in. It can be any team ranging from a guild, a chapter, leadership to development teams.  To me these are all little eco systems that have to be shaped to achieve the goals of the people and organisation. Kicking off teams correctly forms relationships and set the working agreements to help shape us.

Earlier this week I told you that I was hosting an ADM away day. Well I used this opportunity to run the canvas exercise once again.

What is the Canvas?


So how did I run this session?

So my thinking has really evolved in the last 6 months and I now run it completely different, but hey that’s evolution! I started off the team thinking about their individual values through  the Real Deal exercise I blogged about earlier in the week.

I then got them to think about what they bring to the team or super powers as I like to call it. Also what their aspirations are and who they most admire.  To make this easier for them I created a handy little template.

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I gave them a few moments to have a think about content and then I give them a time box to go around as many people in the group and share this knowledge.  This part gets really noisy and is super fun!

So by this point in the session they now know a good chunk of information about their fellow collaborators and have really started or deepened the team cohesion.

From here I used to take them to the purpose statement, but I found even the best teams struggled to do this straight away,  and so instead I ask the to brainstorm the values they want within the team.  Now …they will come up with many and so use techniques such as dot voting to pick the ones that are most pertinent.  I usually create this into a word cloud and include in the write up.

Next we brainstorm all of the goals we want to achieve. Simple brainstorming and de-duplication works well here. Remember they are goals and so the team needs to be able to measure them.

Then the purpose Smile By now they understand who they are, who the team are and what we want to achieve.  I find the old classic diverge and merge works well. I literally gave the 5 minutes per group per round.  Amazing what you can achieve in such a short time.


After a bit of final word shuffling..we had our purpose! Success!

Finally we moved onto the way we want to work.  You can facilitate this in a number of different ways but I have been favouring a good ole user story of late.  Let them know the problem statements and who we are serving and then let them decide for themselves how they want to work. Then set the terms of the experiment and give it a go!

All in all I can typically get teams to define this in 90 mins max. Usually 60 minutes if they are an existing group.

After this we then write up and make really visible to absolutely everyone. Sadly I cannot post a fully completed one, but here is the style I usually use to make it fun and engaging.


I typically get large posters of these printed  (£10) and get everyone in the same room together. If I am distributed I find the tool Miro works the best.  In fact, Miro is awesome for retros too! #notsponsored

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With anything, as a group you will need to evolve this overtime.

So I hope this has given you another tool to put in your box. Go out and experiment! If you can think of any other cools techniques to facilitate this session. Drop me a line.



The Real Deal–A Values Technique

72 Days till Christmas! My favourite time of the year

Last week I was helping my current client organise an away day for the ADM community. This was really important to me as it was the first time we had come together for a such thing. We finished off the event with some Axe throwing… which was epic!  I can really recommend it as a team building activity. Here are a few photos of the fun.

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I wanted to share with you a kick of exercise I completed. The history of this exercise dates from when I was working at AVIVA. It was one of those things I remember doing wondering what the hell was going on! It was not until many years later I realised the powerful value of this to teams. I have done this at many clients now and always get positive feedback and learn a little something along the way.

The exercise is called the Real Deal. It comprises of a deck of cards which each contains a word. You lay these cards out and ask each team member to pick 4 cards that represent things that are important to them at work. Card examples include things such as trust, autonomy, rewards etc.

You then ask them to each pick a deal breaker. This card represents the one thing that is most important to them and that if this thing is broken, then they effectively checkout.


Let me give you an example of mine:

  • Autonomy – I like the freedom to be able to innovate and get on with my work. I don’t need to be controlled or monitored. When I am no longer delivering value, I don’t hang out my contracts I leave. This is closely linked to my second choice.
  • Integrity – I have strong values in myself and my approach to work. I can only be myself.
  • Respect – For myself and others.
  • Learning – I like to continue to learn. If I am doing the same ole things over and over again, then I will lose interest.

My deal breaker has to be:

  • Fun – You spend so much time at work, when did have to be so serious?!? So I like fun, laughter, social events and spending real time with people getting to know them. This helps break down barriers, but can also help you make some friends for life.

As part of the exercise we discuss:

  • How will we know if your deal breaker has been breached? What will we see or hear?
  • What can we do to change this situation? What would you like to have happen?

I typically run this exercise with the whole group standing in a circle so we can give each other the full attention we deserve. At the end of each contribution I take the opportunity to thank them for sharing.

I find that this exercise helps to form teams by getting to know each other at a deeper level. Understanding each others core values will show how we are all in fact different and need to be treated and respected differently. Maybe someone needs more praise than others, maybe someone needs to feel more empowered than they currently are. The result being a more close knit and aware group of individuals.

So this is a really simple exercise that can support groups that need to work together for any goal.  You don’t need any fancy decks of cards, you could write these words on post it notes and achieve the same effects.

Surprisingly my values have changed very little over the last 7 years (since I first did this technique).  Fun has always been my deal breaker. Remember this the next time we meet

Why not give this a try and let me know your results.



Being A Product Owner

I know, I know..I promised not to leave it so long. Where do the days and months go!?!  Here are a few photos from things I have been up too.

Running Kanban University Train the Trainer Classes

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Running Conference sessions at London Lean Kanban Days (Soon to be at Agile Lean Brighton)

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Running Public Kanban Training Classes

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Coming up with Crazy Retros

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Attending more pure coaching Conferences (with my buddies)

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Starting an AWESOME new client

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And turning 40!!  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…

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There is more, but I will spare you my full years history. Other amazing news – You might have seen that I have now achieved my Certified Enterprise Coach license through the Scrum Alliance. This was super exciting for me, but I will not lie and say it was easy. That Barefoot coaching course certainly came in handy there. Finally I made it on to the top 50 shortlist for the ‘Most Influential Woman in UK Tech’ for the third year running. I am honoured Smile I don’t need to win, the fact I am on it is enough for me.

Anyway, that’s enough about me.

A while ago I wrote a blog called ‘Being A ScrumMaster’ and it’s only now I have got round to thinking about ‘Being A Product Owner’!  Most of my blogs are sparked off by someone asking me something in a training class or with a client. This one came about because I was asked to present at a Product Owner Guild the role I thought Product Owners played. I obviously have my views but I wanted to take the opportunity to have a refresh on the Scrum Guide and see what they say. In my opinion it is rather lacking in detail, but understand it is up to the organisation to interpret this and do further study. I did validate my thinking with my good friends Mark Summers and John Barratt. John said he would score me an A- which I thought was a bit harsh!

As I like to share all my thinking with my lovely blog followers,  here is my work. Feel free to use this and share, but also tell me anything you think I am missing.

Swimming In The Sea Of Feedback

If I asked you what feedback loops you used, I could pretty much guarantee that your top answers will include retrospectives and daily stand ups. This isn’t an uncommon set of answers, but there are so many more feedback opportunities out there that you are potentially missing.

I first discovered this whilst running my Kanban classes and I started to have a think about what I could do about this and to get more knowledge out there.

Most days I have lunch with my good friend Richard Arpino and we like brainstorm all of our new ideas. Some are a little wacky!

Richard had never spoken at a conference and so I thought, why don’t we combine our ideas and present something at London Lean Kanban Days (LLKD17 – one of my favourite conferences).

As children we both loved the game top trumps and as soon as we said it, we knew that it had to be the premise of our talk!

Our idea was to brainstorm all the feedback loops we could think of and to create cards that have stars for these categories:



Ease of Use

How easy it is to set up and apply in your organisation.


Ease of collecting and maintenance.

Value for Money

The cost to set up and run vs the potential you get from it.


How much this might influence continuous improvement.

We also wanted to list all the pro and cons so people could make informed decisions on whether this was the right feedback loop for them. We had totally underestimated this task and the cards became a massive focus over the coming months. It’s fair to say that I was cracking the whip with Richard.

So we came up with the following feedback loops for our cards

  • Waste Tracking
  • Pairing
  • 121s
  • Retrospectives
  • Source Control History
  • Build monitors
  • Tests
  • Performance Tests
  • Monitoring
  • Daily Stand Up
  • Behaviours
  • Other Teams
  • Bugs/Defects
  • Incidents
  • Reviews
  • Code Reviews
  • Customer Feedback
  • Visualisation

We could have continued on for many more, but we thought this was a great set to start with!

We want to thank our good friends for helping us create these. Doug Idle for the images and Vlad Mihailescu for organising the printing.

We were very pleased with the result!


We wanted the talk to be a workshop and centred around the people we had in the session. We have created these cards, but it doesn’t mean we are right. It’s just the context that we are both working within at the moment. So the idea of the workshop was that we do a little introduction and then we have big posters of blank top trump cards around the wall. The group would then fill them in and write the pros and cons.  This would get them talking and sharing knowledge, but also validate our thinking and help us update the cards as well.  The power of many brains!

We had a great turn out for our session with around 25 people. We even got a mention for the loudest session of the conference!

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You can find the slides from the session here

At the end of the session we gave the audience each a pack of our cards so they could take them away to get inspiration and play the games with their organisations. We have given out all the cards now, but we are already revamping with version two ahead of our slot at Agile in the City in June

If you didn’t manage to get the cards and/or wanted to keep an eye out for updates, or give us more feedback we created a website so you could continue to be in the loop. You can find the website here.

Overall after months of preparation we were very pleased with the result and Richard was a great choice of partner. He rocked his first conference talk!


You can hear even more including our favourite feedback loops on my latest ‘Kan Do Attitude’ podcast

Keep an eye out for us at other conferences and you never know, we might have more cards with us.

Also at LLKD17 I ran a coaching dojo. Here are a few pictures from that.

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User Story Mapping Lunch & Learns

I have been getting very involved with the Business Analysis community at my current client ASOS (Mega large fashion retailer). In the absence of a true Product Owner role here, the job they do is absolutely key.

Over the last month I have been running a series of lunch and learn sessions to compliment some education they have been doing with the BCS Business Analysis course. One of those was user story mapping.

I wrote a 1.5 hour lunch and learn for them and a complimenting guide with all my top tips in.  I wrote this with my good friend Richard Arpino, who works as a ScrumMaster at ASOS. The aim of this guide is so that they can continue to run these sessions once I have left them. Whilst it is not as good and as comprehensive as the book ‘User Story Mapping’ by Geoff Patton. It’s enough to spark creativity and a pull for them to know more about this technique.   …

I was quite pleased with my output and so I thought I would share it in a blog.

Remember it’s part Lunch and Learn and top tips at the same time Smile


Story Mapping Workshop

Learning Objective

This session will give you an idea on how to facilitate a user story mapping workshop. Over time you will develop your own techniques and we encourage you to share these as a community’.

This hand-out will detail running a mock session and where you see the numbered bullets, these are top tips!

Scheduling the Workshop

Once you have an understanding and vision for your work, you are ready to start with user story mapping. These sessions are one of the first things you want to do. There is no need to produce separate requirements documents; this is the start of building your Product Backlog. If you do not have a vision, then this is something you can create in this session also.

We value face to face collaboration and so workshops should be booked to include all business and IT teams involved.

  1. Ensure that you have a room with plenty of wall space.
  2. It’s ok to only invite a sub-set of the IT team. However, rotate people to allow everyone to have a chance to attend. They then have the responsibility to take this information back to the teams.
  3. Don’t panic if you need to have 20 people in the room to cover everything. We can cater for this, but we will need to think about how we run it logistically.
  4. Consider how long people can focus for. Working for one day or short bursts over multiple days keep people focussed. With 2 or 3 day workshops, people will get tired and lose energy.

Pre-Workshop Preparation

It is important as a facilitator that you prepare for this session. You will need to:

  • Print and add the Vision to the wall – We will need to ensure that we are working to this at all time.
  • Print and make visible anything that is definitely out of the scope – We might want to add to this or challenge it.
  • Capture Issues, Risks and Actions – Create a flip chart on the wall for each of these. It is a good idea to seek help from someone who can ensure these are all captured and owned. As a facilitator consider yourself as the conductor of the orchestra. You do not want to slow the session down and so having someone else to support with these means you can keep the session moving.
  • Create straw man User Roles – You do not have to do this, but the chances are the people in the room have never ever done user story mapping in their life. This means you might have many blank faces looking back at you. My advice is to prepare a sample of these to give people some context. You do not have to have all of them and they do not even have to be correct. People find it easier to review and amend then create from fresh. If you have a fully experience group, then this can be done in the session.
  • Create straw man User Journeys – The same principle of straw man user roles.
  • Prepare how you are going to explain what user story mapping is in a simplistic, jargon free language. I sometimes practice this with my mother!
  • Create & print a simple user story example for the wall
  • Create a template to assist in the collection of user stories and data (See Appendix)
  • Have plenty of post it notes and sharpies!

Let’s Run an Example Workshop

  1. Take photos of everything! It’s a great reminder of what you have achieved once you have completed. It also helps you to show others when you are explaining the technique in the future.
  2. Time boxes shown vary from workshop to workshop. You will need to have a think about this about this before each workshop.

The Vision

“Our research has revealed that users want a simple email experience. It should be super simple to use and not require a manual or training of any sort. People only want the basics and hate fussy screens with lots of buttons. They want this on their mobile, tablet and computer with a similar experience in each.”

  • Be prepared that everyone might not have the same view of the project. This is a great opportunity to get everyone aligned.

Organise into groups

Split up into groups of 3-4 users. Each of these groups will work together from this point forward as a team. You have 1 minute!

  1. Ensure that the teams are mixed in their skills; you can pre-set these before the session if it helps you.

Explain what User Story Mapping is

Many of your audience will not have completed this exercise before. You will need to explain what they are going to be doing. We can use the straw man examples to bring this to life.

Discover the Users (10 minutes)

In your groups, write a list of types of user that you envisage will use your email app. You have 10 minutes to collaborate in coming up with a list of user personas.

  1. You can either the straw man or do from scratch depending on the experience of the attendees.
  2. Get people to brainstorm as many as possible. It doesn’t matter if they have duplicates.
  3. Walk around the groups giving support if questions arise.
  4. Sense the energy and the state of completeness of the exercise. Don’t be afraid to end or extend the time box if needed.

Merge the User Personas

Each team gets to introduce one persona at a time. The other teams discard that persona if they came up with it or they can challenge the description if they think theirs is better. If none of the teams has a specific persona, everyone can discuss if this persona is useful and decide if they want to add it to the list.

Decide on the most dominant user persona – the one which describes the largest number of users for your app. This is the one we will start to create the story map for.

  1. Consider using different colours for internal and external users.
  2. Rationalise the names to a common list and agree that this is how you are going to refer to them from this point.
  3. We use the process of diverge and merge throughout this exercise. It can be seen as duplication, but you will find that each group gets the opportunity to discuss and each group will bring out different ideas. It highlights consensus and edge case we need to consider.

Discover the User Journey (10 minutes)

In your groups, you need to think of your dominant user persona’s experience of your software. Write down a series of words that describe how they interact with your software in the order they do so, describing their journey through the software. You have 10 minutes to come up with a list in the order that best describes your user’s journey through the software.

  1. Use the straw man you have available or create from scratch depending on experience.
  2. Think verbs. This these are doing words at a high level e.g. Browsing, Searching, Buying.
  3. Typically you will see about 10 in a user journey. Any more than this might be a signal that they have gone into too lower level detail.
  4. These are not cast in stone and can change anytime. Sometimes these merge at a later stage.

Merge the User Journey (5 minutes per team)

Each team gets to introduce their journey. Each team can either place their section under and existing one or insert it between existing sections. The whole team can decide which sections have the best descriptions to create a single merged user journey.

  1. Keep it fun!
  2. You can either the straw man or do from scratch depending on the experience of the attendees.

This is the story journey or spine, and will allow you to organise your software features in these sections. Once the team has decided on the best descriptions and order of the journey, all of the others are discarded.


At this point, talk about what we have achieved so far.

You will now need to introduce Epics, Features & User stories as a concept. During the next stage we are looking for breadth, not depth and so it is acceptable to collect meaningful titles.

  1. You will need to consider as a facilitator where you insert the natural breaks. The next part of the exercise is intensive and you might want a break before this. Again energy of the room will be your friend.

Create the features (10 minutes)

For each section, each team takes 10 minutes to write down features they would need to create to satisfy the dominant users journey.

  1. We found creating a template (See Appendix) helpful because it set the expectation of format, but we could also collect other information that would help us manage dependencies and teams impacted. This will help you at a later stage. These can be re-formatted each time you want to collet something different.
  2. Get them to focus on one section at a time, rather than everything.

Merge the features

Each team introduces the features for the section that we have been working on and introduces them to the rest of the teams. If other teams have the same or similar feature they collectively decide which one to keep and the rest are discarded.

If there are features that only one team has come up with, everyone gets to decide if this is relevant and keep it if it is.

  1. It is key that they own this process and so keep them active by getting them up out of their chairs and presenting back.
  2. Remember you are facilitating from the back of the room. Use your domain knowledge to stop people going into too much detail. Consider If that conversation needs to be banked as part of Issues, Risks and Actions.
  3. It doesn’t matter how important the person is, if they need to be moved on, move them on!

Repeat for all sections

The teams repeat the exercise for each part of the user journey until complete.

  1. If you have many workshops I ensure that I gather feedback from the end of each day. If there is something we can do better, why wouldn’t we.

Repeat for all personas

Now you need to repeat this exercise for each of the other different User Personas you have starting with the next most dominant .If you are lucky, then these will fit into the existing journey. If not, then you might have to review the journey or even create a new one if the journey would be significantly different.

  • It is not unusual to find many personas, but only a few have active roles within the journey. As long as you check these, then all is good.


Take the opportunity to play back to the group what we have achieved so far. We have now got the breadth of what we need to achieve.

  • Stories will get added and removed. This is all part of the process


Prioritisation and slicing helps us to focus on the stories that need to be broken down first. There is no point in getting going deep on details for all the stories if they are not being delivered for several months or could get removed altogether. We want to remove as much wastefulness as possible.

You have a couple of option here

  • Each team takes a column and prioritises the features underneath it. The features at the top should be the ones that we absolutely need, the ones at the bottom should be the ones we could potentially live without. Teams than then swap columns and reprioritise if necessary – any items that are repetitively moved are taken to one side for a wider group discussion. This is a good technique for large groups.
  • Ask them to all gather around and do this together. Another spin on this is to them to do this silently.

By the end you will have columns of priority.


The whole team then look at the map and discuss what could be delivered and what the minimum would look like. They use lining tape to draw a line around the stories in show a slice of functionality. The first of these would be the minimum viable product. The following slices would be increments of functionality.

At this stage we do not know how big these slices are, but it gives us areas to focus on first.

Get everyone to agree that to the best of their knowledge this is ‘it’ for now.

Closing the Workshop

This workshop is only just the start of it; I would always close the work shop with

  • Consensus that everyone is happy
  • A playback of all the Issues, Risks and Actions and how these will be progressed
  • What the needs to be done next to achieve the lower level story information.

Further workshop might need to be booked to get lower level information or we might have enough knowledge, information and contacts to be able to draft these as Business Analysts and then gain consensus from them during the usual refinement process.


Example template


Example template


Burn Up Anyone?

I have been working with a new client over the last 3 months. This has been really fun as it has meant that I get to explore Whitstable, meet new people and of course kick starting the teams on the right path to agility. If I am being honest, working with teams is a real passion of mine and the one thing I miss being an Agile Coach.

The teams and leadership here have got it in such a short time and they have come so far in the time we have had together. I always jokingly say to them ‘we have all the major impediments of a theme park and a zoo’ to quote Jurassic park, but that’s all part of the journey.  When I start panicking, you start panicking Smile

We have had some pretty major projects going on at the same time as the move to Scrum and naturally this caused some unease about when things are going to get done.

Now I am not a tools person, I actively avoid using them on the basis that people change their behaviours around how the tool works rather than what is in the best interest of the team, but my mind has been changed recently by one particular chart.

For those that know me, know that I am not very good with excel and I always envied coaches like Dan Brown who can whip out a beautiful spread sheet full of charts and useful data. Meanwhile I am trying to work out how to add up three cells (slight exaggeration there!) So what I am about to show you is an absolute pipe dream for me.

I introduce you to…..

The Project Burn up!

Yes I know it’s not new, but it’s something that coaches and ScrumMasters have to craft themselves on spread sheets and export data from old systems…often having to access the deep dark depths that no mortals query can reach. Each person then has their own version with different formulas and there is no consistency.

The boys at ripple rock have been beavering away for the last 6 months building something that plugs into your TFS or Jira installation.

This means my clients, with a flick of a button on VSTS  can now have access to be able to forecast based on data and understand where the optimistic and pessimistic date ranges are.

They can run this on the whole backlog and for specific projects.

This has been revolutionary to them and helped them to make decisions about client interactions and live dates. It is also something they can run repeatedly as and when the backlog changes and the teams complete their work.

Here is an example.


Key points about this chart

  • It provide stakeholders with a realistic expectation of when they can expect delivery of a release. It clearly shows that there are two key variables that determine the ‘Landing Zone’ for a project.  The orange bar represents the optimistic and the purple represents the pessimistic landing zones
  • I can clearly see the scope of the work and the through put rate that we are completing at.

As no two teams are the same, I am given the option to change the chart settings.


To name a few things, I can change:

  • The date ranges
  • Sprint length
  • Throughput rate
  • The Scope
  • Overwrite fields

This is exciting for me and for my clients and it truly is ‘Plug & Play’

So boys, you have converted me with this chart alone….(Waves good bye to excel!)

I also want to say I am proud of what you have all achieved in a short period of time.  

So thank you for creating it Smile and my clients are already loving it.

Looking forward to the next evolution!!

(Images are taken from ‘SenseAdapt’)

New Retro – When No One Can Hear You Scream!

I wanted to share with you one of my latest retrospectives.   Well, it’s not that new I just forgot to tell you about it Smile

Continuing my theme of movies from the 80s, I was having a think about other movies that I love and how I could use them to drive continuous improvement in the team. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to ‘Alien’. A retrospective that looks at the gestation of the creature in comparison to the sprint cycle.  You are probably thinking I am a little crazy,  I like to think its about pushing the boundaries and keeping it fresh.

Typically I print off my images, but I thought I would hand craft this time.  In the name of complete transparency I did not draw the end Alien.   I thank Richard Arpino for this.

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I had 5 different stages:

  • Laying the eggs – Sprint Preparation
  • Sucking on face and putting in the Alien – Planning
  • Everythings ok! – Sprinting
  • Chest Explosion – Sprint Review
  • The final Alient product – Delivery

I asked each member of the team to brainstorm their thoughts around the key themes. I used the following ‘Film relevant’ questions to help them when they got stuck.


We then themed, discussed and agreed on the final actions.  Bonus points were awarded for each film line they managed to get in.

Overall appreciation for the retrospective was high and there was definitely jealousy amongst the floor about my team always getting the best retros.

With all my retrospectives they are fun, people want to join in and we deliver real actions out the end.

Keep you retrospectives fun people!

Do let me know if you create any fun ones for your team  Smile

Book Review–The Coach’s Casebook

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 


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

Evolving Organisations

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.


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.


Changing Lives

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.