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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….

Are we Agile yet?

What does Agile mean really?  There I’ve said it.

Around half the folks I know and respect are questioning this already.  A lot of folks are even distancing themselves from ‘being Agile’!

With the sudden boom in corporations deciding Agile is the next best thing,  there is a huge increase in demand for ‘Agile Coaches’ and ‘Agile Consultants’.  Where did all of these people come from? Why haven’t I heard of half of them? Why do they not apply the Agile Manifesto, instead coming armed with the ‘right way’ using Scrum or DSDM – when did we get so process driven?

Scrum I can personally live with.  It tends to lend itself well because it is so basic, however when the delivery team (I include developers here) do not achieve self-organisation it’s unlikely to succeed in it’s most basic form – usually ends up propped up by the organisation’s existing governance or standards or so forth.  Problems occur when Agile experts begin to invariably appear within a team – these are often Fake Scrum Masters, of course it distracts them from their task in hand, maybe even coding,  but it also causes problems when they become ‘gatekeepers of the Scrum process’.    I’d say take the basic thing, get it right in terms of producing great software and while you do this have regular retrospectives, fix what isn’t working, add what is truly needed (Scrum doesn’t give you all the answers!) – even if that means deviating from what you are doing now…regardless of what the book may say 🙂

DSDM Atern.  I’m yet to be convinced how this fits into the Agile Manifesto and Principles after reading the manual.  Even some XP practices like pairing – seems to me like process over people.   And worst offenders are the hybrids/fakes – these are where a company takes their existing methods and processes and rewangle them as Agile through the cunning use of some whiteboards, sticky notes and daily meetings – and nothing else!  (We just love making things with paper – we are the Blue Peter generation in the UK remember!)

Not to mention Lean, Kanban, ToC and so forth – I’ve even seen NLP sold under the Agile banner somewhere I’m sure.

If anyone asks me what being Agile truly is I would simply reply use the simplest way to get things right, by letting folks focus on what they do best“.


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!