Archive for the ‘Agile adoption’ Category

Scale Your Product Not Your Scrum

February 13, 2016 Leave a comment

I published an article on where I discuss how to scale Scrum without adding additional stuff but rather by applying Scrum itself at larger scale.

You can download the pdf here.

Categories: Agile adoption, Scrum Tags:

Finished my booklet EMERGENT

January 27, 2014 Leave a comment

I finished my little booklet called EMERGENT.
It is booklet about Agile adoption. You can find it at


Coaching for Personal Change

January 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Coaching works great for change. Coaching is asking the right questions. It is not about providing answers. Every time you provide an answer to a person or team you take away an opportunity for them to self-organize, grow and learn. You take away an opportunity for them to take ownership of the change and get engaged. In the role of the coach your task is to create awareness and responsibility. Your goal is to help them discover what needs to change, how to change it and to help them actually implement the change.

Illusion Of Control

“The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, for instance to feel that they control outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over.”

An interesting research on this topic, by Langer, Ellen J. published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 32(2), Aug 1975, involves a lottery. People would either receive lottery tickets at random or were allowed to choose their own. Although the lottery is random, when people were asked to sell or trade their tickets, the people who choose their own numbers were less likely to trade their tickets then the people who received a ticket.

The interesting part of this research is that it shows that by having people choose their own lottery number the ticket became something of their own. The experiment showed that Illusion of Control encourages people to take responsibility for the actions they do. And that is exactly what you want people to do during the change. You want people to be the owners of the changes. And you need coaching to achieve it. People change at a much deeper level when people discover themselves what is best to do and decide themselves to take the appropriate actions to change.

Coaching on competences

In most of the companies I work with the development of hard skills is quite good. Often the necessary soft skills and behaviors required to work effectively and joyfully in teams are missing. In the Lean Agile adoption journey the people need to be supported in developing these soft skills. The coaching efforts should therefore focus on helping people develop specific competences. Some interesting competences in an Agile transformation are relational sensitivity, cooperation & teamwork, and results & performance accountability.

Relational sensitivity
Relational sensitivity competence requires the following behavior:

  • Notices non-verbal signs and asks about them;
  • Reacts constructively to verbal signs that are emotionally loaded;
  • Shows empathy and understanding of others’ perspectives on issues;
  • Is aware of irritations and reacts constructively;
  • Gives feedback and demonstrates understanding of information and communication;
  • Demonstrates understanding and acknowledgment of others’ interests.

Cooperation & Teamwork
Cooperation & teamwork competence requires the following behavior:

  • Provides feedback on team results;
  • Values team results;
  • Makes sure relevant information is shared among team members;
  • Starts and actively supports improvement initiatives of teamwork.

Results & performance accountability
Result & performance accountability competence requires the following behavior:

  • Helps team members where needed, so the team succeeds;
  • Assesses team members and oneself on keeping commitments and the manner in which the commitments are met;
  • Takes accountability for one’s own work and the overall work of the team.

In order to stimulate the coaching sessions you need some starting material. In life coaching, the coachee comes to the coach asking for help. Based on the questions of the coachee, the life coach starts to work. Sometimes the people involved in the change come to me with questions but most people do not. Those who are opposed to the change are especially unlikely to do so. You therefore need to create the need for coaching sessions. To have a basis for your coaching sessions, 360 feedback is used.

Competence coaching with 360 feedback

In 360 feedback people receive feedback from the people they work with, such as team members, customers and leaders. The feedback is on the person’s behaviors.  A person receives feedback on the desired competences of relational sensitivity, cooperation & teamwork, and results & performance accountability. Based on the results of the 360 feedback you can start your coaching sessions. As a coach you discuss the results of the 360 feedback with the person and investigate what the person wants to work on. You then coach him during his change. The goal of the coaching sessions is to help the people to change their behavior so that they create and take ownership of the needed changes.

Categories: Agile adoption, Lean, Scrum

Emergent Transformation Canvas

Lean Agile adoption can only be successful when the people themselves create the necessary changes and therefore are really committed and feel accountable for it. The path to Lean Agile adoption can therefore not be planned in full detail upfront. But the path towards adoption can only emerge, the path can only emerge by walking it!

In my little booklet I am writing called Emergent Transformation I discuss how you can go on your agile transformation journey. One of the things I use to make an initial adoption plan is a set of questions and possible answers that I call the Emergent Transformation canvas. The canvas is your guide to create your adoption plan by going through all the building blocks and answering the questions. By filling the canvas you create your  transition backlog. After that you can order it by business objective and there you go; your first adoption sprint plan is ready! You can now use Scrum in your adoption journey.

In this blog I will only discuss the set of questions you can use to make up your plan. See below an explanation of the canvas.

lascanvas transparant

Emergent Transformation Canvas

Business objectives

What are our business objectives? Why are we doing this?

The Business Objectives building block defines the objectives the organization aims to achieve. The business objectives are the reason why an organizations is going on the lean agile transformation journey. As the transformation leader you have to ensure the business objectives are crisp and clear so people can identify with and work towards them. Missing or vague business objectives gives poor sense of purpose and direction to those involved.

In the context of lean agile adoption the business objectives are formulated as a vision story including goals and forecasts.


How do we measure progress towards our objective? Are we moving in the right direction?
The Measures building block defines how the organization is going to determine if the transformation is on the right path. The measures identify how you are going to assess success, measure progress towards the business objectives and learn. In addition the measures are used to discuss whether the transformation process should stop, continue or change direction. Thinking about good measures and quantifying them is very powerful because it forces you to discuss exactly and precisely what you mean with success. This discussion increases understanding among all involved about what you are striving for.

Measures are defined on outputs and on outcomes. For example your transformation could produce shorter release cycles which is an output. The outcome could be that the business can successfully react to opportunities.

Lean Management

How does management support the transformation?
The Lean Management building block describes what management needs to do in order to support the transformation so you can achieve your business objectives?. What is it about our working agreements, policies and organizational structure that has to change? What is it that management needs to do to become a coaching manager and to manage knowledge. What are the changes that need to occur to focus on creating customer value and see high performing teams as a key asset?. You need to assess your current way of managing, decide what changes you are going to make and create your transformation backlog.

From the a lean agile perspective the way to go is to start learning as quickly as possible and use that learning to increase results.

Agile development

Which practices align with our objectives? How do we build the thing right?
The Agile Development building block describes your plan to be able to build the thing right. It is about the practices you need in order to shorten the feedback cycle and support the business objectives.

Below some example practices for software development

  • Test Driven Design
  • Emergent Architecture
  • Pair programming
  • Exploratory testing
  • Inspection charts
  • Collective ownership

Emergent innovation

How do we co-create our innovative solutions?, are we building the right thing?
The emergent innovation building block describes how you are going to engage with your employees and your customers to really understand their needs.  What do you need to do so the people feel comfortable to innovate their ways of working and the company can learn how to do agile?

The teams and organizations have to learn how to apply the practices in their specific context. How are you going to support them to learn and share their capacity to act.

Innovation Games® to build the right thing

February 1, 2013 Leave a comment

The last decade we have had quite some success with agile development. The agile community moved from a 14% project success rate in 2002 to a success rate of 45% in 2012. And Scrum emerged as the most popular agile framework being used 82% of the time in 2011. But there are still some problems to say the least. It is estimated the USA spends 150 billion a year on failed IT projects, the european union around 140 billion and The Netherlands around 5 billion a year on failed governance IT projects. That is serious money. Out of a large number of potential causes I think that the failure to validate early and often is one of the main reasons for failure.

The agile community now knows how to build the product right, but we are still a long way from building the right product. Agile teams are used to deliver working product for validation at the end of each iteration. Frequent delivery of working product motivates people as they experience real progress, provides transparency to all stakeholders so they understand exactly how the project is progressing and short deadlines actually increase productivity too. Frequent delivery also creates the possibility for customer validation keeping you from going of track too far. But all this is not enough to build the right product!

After each iteration agile teams ask themselves the following questions

  • What is preventing us from shipping today?
  • What is our minimal viable product?
  • Which features are innovative and make a difference to our customers
  • What are the real drivers and challenges of our customers
  • Which improvement will have the biggest impact

Validation is not going to provide the right answers to these questions! Not if you are looking for innovative results. For validation to work you first need a correct vision. For validation to work for innovation you have to discover what really drives people, understand their problems and create high customer empathy.

Most methods for understanding customers like focus groups, questionnaires and also validation do not give good innovative results. That is because these methods mostly activate the rational part of the brain. The problem is that the rational part of the brain tries to produce rational answers and those answers are often not the real thing. The real drivers, thoughts and motivations of people that provide you with innovative insights, are formed in the unconscious part of the brain. So in order to really understand our customers and be able to come up with innovative ideas we need to connect with their unconscious brain.

A good method for getting innovative insights  is through serious games. A subset of serious games are the Innovation Games®, these are serious games specialized in getting innovative insights from your customers. For example a game like Buy a Feature helps you answer what the most valuable features to be worked on are. Another game like Product Box helps you understand your minimal viable product. The fascinating thing about Innovation Games® is that they actually produce innovative insights. The outcome of the game is very valuable but lots of insights also come from the conversations and discussion that arise among the people during the games. It is in the game environment when people are really engaged in collaboration with others, moving things around and discussing points of view that their real drivers, reasons and motivations emerge.

Innovation Teams are so 1980s

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The days that innovators could sit in a team disconnected from development, had enough time to analyze, think and propose grand innovation plans are over. The assumptions that you can predict customer interest, reduce risk by extensive marketing analysis and have the wisdom to know what customers really want are fundamentally flawed but are still common practice!
Working from these assumptions brings us long lasting, high risk, high costs innovation projects.

According to Jeffrey H. Dyer in his paper The Innovators DNA there are 5 essential innovation skills.

Five  “discovery  skills”  separate  true  innovators  from  the  rest  of  us.

According the Jeffrey H. Dyer the innovation skills are

Discovery Skill 1: Associating

Associating, or the ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems,  or  ideas  from  different  fields…

Discovery Skill 2: Questioning

…Innovators  constantly  ask  questions  that  challenge  common  wisdom   ….

Discovery Skill 3: Observing

Innovators carefully, intentionally, and consistently look out for small behavioral details—in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies—in order to gain insights about new ways of doing things…

Discovery Skill 4: Experimenting

Like scientists, innovative entrepreneurs actively try out new ideas by  creating  prototypes  and  launching  pilots…

Discovery Skill 5: Networking

Devoting time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals gives innovators a radically different perspective.

Innovation Scrum Team

True innovation progress starts once real customers experience your ideas and provide feedback to validate your experiment. Innovation should therefore be done by teams that cover the whole stream from customer engagement to delivering customer value. Teams that understand the customer needs, experience how their lives are affected and are able to create the solutions.

We therefore need to shorten the innovation cycle of
1. Co-creation,
2. Developing and
3. Validation.

Co-creation can be done in numerous ways. A fun and agile way for beginning with Co-ceation are Innovation Games®. By playing Innovation Games® you can practice all of the innovation skills mentioned above. The Scrum team itself can do the observations and process the results of the games. This will increase customer empathy and customer understanding among the people developing the solution.

Scrum gives you a framework you can use for developing and validating your experiments at low risk to get high value. The Product Owner can be the driver of low risk high value innovation.

Red, Yellow and Green cards for a lean norms of conduct session

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote a post on the importance of crafting a norms of conduct. In the post  I also described an approach you can use to come up with a norms of conduct.

I recently witnessed a leaner version of doing a norms of conduct using the concept of red cards, yellow cards and green cards! This approach focusses on the most important of all values… TRUST.

It goes like this:

Ask the team members to think about and write down on a sticky note issues, problems, actions, used language, anything that would harm the trust they have in the team. Three to five stickies is enough,

Next put a big red card and a big yellow card and a big green card on a whiteboard or wall. Explain that the cards mean:

A red card means totally unacceptable and therefore trust is broken. Do not do this!!!

A yellow card means pretty bad and trust is damaged. If you do this it is costly for me!

Green card means great that is the way I like to see things. Please do this!

Then ask each member to put his stickies at the red, yellow or green cards and explain what they mean. Use affinity diagramming along the way.

Finish the session with a group discussion writing down the top red, top yellow and top green stickies. There you are, first version  of the norm of conduct done.

Categories: Agile adoption, Lean Tags: