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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….

on agile transformation… train, coach, do

As part of an agile tranformation team  I would like to have a regular standup so that we can absolutely align our efforts across the framework, practice what we preach and create corporate utopia for our customers with our superpowers. Well maybe not the last bit.

Some candidate acceptance criteria:

  • I’d suggest weekly to start in order to show some form of rythm and urgency to the client – keep it under 30 minutes if possible!
  • The team to discuss impediments/priorities in the areas they represent but with focus on the customer vision/problem statement.
  • High value and low hanging priorities to be aligned across training, coaching and executing to ensure the same message is being communicated at all levels and through all channels.
  • Should be private, safe, honest and respectful.
  • Output should be highly visible to interested stakeholders

Agile games – are they too much fun?

I’m here again, coaching – and trying my best to ensure I meet my commitment of making the transition ‘fun’.   I got to thinking about some of my fellow coaches and Agilist’s and the use of games-like events and realised that often the efforts in setting up and playing such games doesn’t result in any kind of value for the business.  (XP Game excluded of course- this is an essential for delivery teams)

Games are fun and may provide some feeling of Agility however I’m coming to the realisation that my preferred way to coach is by example in a delivery type situation.  I find (as do my clients) excessive games puerile and usually have identified more valuable work I could be doing for my clients where I can make some actual difference to their business vision.

In the past I’ve coached under the guise of Delivery Manager to Lead BA and found that setting examples, doing the job and growing the folks around you is more effective and cost efficient than having a coach sit around, giving advice, sometimes being ignored and in general not really contributing to the production of working software. Perhaps this is because clients often don’t know how to leverage coaching skills and experience, not setting the role or expectations properly within the organisation we are trying to coach?

Also standalone Agile coaching often detracts from delivery – we forget that coaching is not an end unto itself, indeed most clients these days simply want to ‘be Agile’ without fully understanding why, or indeed what it means in terms of commitment to change.

In the future I’m sticking with a real job title and getting rid of ‘Agile Coach’ which has become synonymous with ‘Cheerleader/trainer’ – Pigs Unite!