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Agile Warfare

Smell: how to get boys on board and explain key concepts to them..I often find trying to explain collective ownership, courage, respect and communication can get a few funny looks from the fellas – I can tell they think I’m a hippy!

So how do I convince folks Agile is not simply a love-in but a dyed-in-the-wool way of working better?  I use an analogy of an airforce mission..this exercise takes a short time and has a good impact on how team members work with each other:)

Airforce missions are typically small units of highly trained individuals who all do what they can to ensure success

The team are fighter pilots…pilots deal with life and death..our teams typically deal in software (not always..that is for a later post) Read More

Scrum Master..An Agile Oxymoron

One of my favourite transitions is helping people become a successful Scrum Master.  It’s very heartening to see an individual become a whole human being, not simply concerned with timelines and figures but happy, empowered and delivering to boot.

Too often though this can be the most challenging task and far too often the individual is blamed when the impediment exists in the very title Scrum Master. Let’s consider the top 5 definitions from dictionary.com.


    1. a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something: a master of six languages; to be master of one’s fate.


  1. an owner of a slave, animal, etc.
  2. an employer of workers or servants.
  3. the male head of a household.
  4. a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation,art, or science.
The top four definitions imply ownership or control – the opposite of the Scrum Master Role, and very far removed from Agile.  Not until number 5 do we come even close to what we mean.  A Scrum Master is expected to be skilled in Scrum, to coach and help the team keep a heartbeat, to always strive for better and to feel he can effectively remove anything that blocks the teams progress.  With these descriptions of Master in mind, is it really so unbelievable when the new Scrum Master resorts to command and control.  Or indeed when the organisation diverts his attention to reporting and is shocked when he tries to effect change.


Why Agile? The Top 3 Key Questions to Ask Your Customer

Agile coaching can help companies make valuable changes in their business practices, sometimes even reaching into peoples personal lives in a positive manner too.  However I’ve come to realise that preaching the Agile principles and consulting, are not easy bedfellows.

Many of us in the Agile space have struggled when faced with the realisation that Agile may not benefit a team or customer at all, indeed in some it can even cause detriment (particularly so when faced with a lack of sponsorship, value or direction). Many consultants will carry on regardless, trying to force their particular brand of Agile onto organisations who just plain aren’t ready for change. Worse still are the Agile consultancies who preach Best Practice and continue reaping fees, all the time knowing they are adding no real value.

It may be difficult in these times to turn down regular well paid consulting work, particularly when Agile is seen as the next big thing – eager faces and enthusiasm can be very alluring, as can a regular paycheck.  However all successful coaches pick their teams just as much as their team picks them, and to this end here are my top three questions to consider asking your next customer. Read More

Agile in India

I seem to arrive in India the past few years at the start of monsoon.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s one of my favourite places on earth, a wonderful mix of tradition and technology.

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the Bangalore Scrum user group, kindly arranged by iSense Prowareness.  It was an excellent event, over 70 folks attended and I have to say I was hugely impressed by the knowledge of those present.  Scrum seems to be growing exponentially here since my last trip in 2010 and it’s lovely to be involved, regardless of how small a contribution I’ve made 🙂

One of the hugely positive side effects I’ve witnessed is a leap in confidence amongst Indian professionals, which in turn is resulting in a deepening respect from their customers.  It’s about time I say. Read More

Top 5 Ideas – Intercultural Agile updated

This idea came about as a result of speaking with an interesting guy, Andreas, who is doing his MSc and working in an IT company and starting to learn about and use Scrum. Smart cookie. Anyway here are my top tips for working in intercultural teams and organisations.

  1. Keep an open mind recognise cultures often differ on values, ethics and drivers
  2. Take a broad perspective focusing on people, solving problems and building trust
  3. Be sensitive and consideratewhen in other’s countries, regardless of your role there
  4. Local knowledge for example holidays, festivals, customs, the capacity for chit chat, weather
  5. Local executive sponsorship involve senior people on the ground who can make a real difference
He had pointed out that my previous post included quite stereotypical German traits and I had to agree with a smile.

I believe most of the so called traits of any particular group (or strengths as I like to call them) can be hugely beneficial to teams.  I would add that every team is different and often generalisation in isolation is dangerous.

So what about those German strengths (or stereotypes)?

Detail and structure are particularly good at providing rigor and courage for any team – Agile or not.

However, my previous post’s focus was based on a single intercultural training session and a first foot into German culture. My opinion has certainly matured and will continue to, as I learn more about any team I work with.
Oh! And this particular group did provide great rigor and a lot more besides!

Agile transformation…scary and exciting

Look it up in the dictionary.   Transformation.


1.to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose.
2.to change in condition, nature, or character; convert.
3.to change into another substance; transmute.

The use of words like convert and change appear in the various online dictionaries, and when these are applied in the context of change there is likely to be an overwhelming subconscious reaction from most humans.

A really important thing to consider is how change is perceived by all the people involved.  Fear can be one of our biggest impediments to helping people achieve their potential and we often only hear the headline…”agile transformation” .. it sounds like resistance is futile.

In  the sprit of  keeping it simple I suggest we abandon
“transformation” and “transition” into gentler, non-command based verbs,  possibly “renew”  😉  or even better something that is meaningful to the team or teams themselves.

Pig Consulting – An Agile Challenge?

Now my honesty about such an event may be considered career limiting or perhaps a sign of madness, however Agile principles teach us about honesty, trust, respect and courage – I choose to be honest in keeping with what I’ve always preached.

It came to a crunch for me on a sunny morning in one of the most beautiful parts of England.  I stood frozen in terror with a buggered iphone, a most intense fever and a stomach that mimicked Niagara falls.
I was sick, months of tummy terror which saw me turn down a dream Pig role came into play and that was it.  Over.  My body told me I needed a break.

On a positive note the ensuing hiatus has finally gave me space and time to catch up with folks I kept missing due to travelling
– or being ill.  I noticed that my work type facebook friends are all people I worked directly with.

Those were the people I had a relationship with and continued to collaborate with, have dinner with or chat to depending on locations. All of our programs/projects had a clear vision and value – plus all delivered successfully.

I thought some more.  I was a Pig on all of these great experiences!   I even walked away from a few of those fun roles when I felt my usefulness had been reached and because I could.  These folks really got the honesty, trust, respect and courage.  I felt empowered in those roles more than any others.

Here I come farmyard … back to Pig-dom.

Intercultural Agile continued


Customers in Germany during a recent training session, balloons courtesy of the XP game.

Portia Tung (far right) did a wonderful job and even I walked away feeling energised and refreshed.  It definitely helped that we continually reviewed the course content based on what we were learning about the group in front of us – exciting for the trainers and the trainees.  Possibly one of the best set of reviews I have ever seen post-training.

If you get the chance to see Portia in action grab it with both hands and throw yourself in!

So what is Agile?

Answers on an index card please….

It seems that there are more and more divisions appearing within the Agile community as we grow larger.  On one hand some quote founders as saying ‘if teams are no co-located they cannot be agile” to others who claim that all estimation is simply waste.  Others squabble about whether business teams could be considered agile.

Why so black and white?

Intercultural Agile?

I’ve just been on an intra-cultural workshop on Germans, and am excited and interested to see how Agile can work with a detail-oriented, hierarchical and order driven team.

Iris, our teacher, was an excellent trainer – preferring to take the eyes down approach and let us lead ourselves in discussion – some very provoking images and language differences were used to this end.  Sheer genius, both the materials and the presenter – everyone agreed they had learned something powerful and important – even those who had worked with Germans, some had even lived in Germany for long periods.  (For anyone interested in intercultural training I would definitely recommend KulturAdvantage)
Without disclosing these powerful materials I can only say that her lists and exercises have given me much to ponder…

Uppermost in my mind is how to self-empower and produce creativity in this group…very different from my experiences in North America and Asia to say the least.
Has anyone found decent information on inter-cultural Agile teams..it’s becoming more necessary in recent years but there seems to be little collaboration on the topic….