Professional Scrum Master training 3-4 juni Utrecht, Nederland

March 21, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ll be giving the Professional Scrum Master training in Utrecht on June 3 and 4 2013. The training will be  in Dutch.

Please see AgiliX for additional information on the training.

You can register for this course at here at

Categories: 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.

Certified Innovation Games Training on 22-23 april in Utrecht

February 21, 2013 Leave a comment



On april 22-23 I will give the certified Innovation Games® training for Customer Understanding in Utrecht.


You can register here.



Why serious games enhance creativity.

February 4, 2013 Leave a comment

New product development needs innovation if you want to really make a difference. And innovation needs creativity simply because you need to discover new information. The problem with innovation is that it is unpredictable so a defined process with upfront planning is futile. You need to create lots of ideas and then reduce the number of ideas to those that make sense. You need to think creatively!.

Distributed cognition

Experts in cognitive proceses like Seymour Papert and David Kolb describe a similar model for learning, discovering and creative thinking. In short it comes down to people learning by building a theory internally and then validating their theory in the material world. A group learns along more or less the same process.

Working in a group can significantly increase creativity of individuals [Gerrard Fischer]. Listening to others opinions, discussing different perspectives and looking at problems from different backgrounds stimulates the creation of new ideas. As a group you more easily explore a broader solution space.

In order to get to creative results as a group you need a setup of minimal structure and minimal constraints. Innovative results emerge rather then come from upfront planning. In addition the group needs to work with external artifacts like e.g. post-it notes, or drawing on a whiteboard. These external artifacts also known as externalizations enable groups to more easily go from vague mental ideas to concrete representations, enables a group to create a shared memory that in turn enables to create common understanding and a way to work together. [R. Keith Sawyer]

Emergent creativity

According to R. Sawyer creative results are by definiton results that emerge. To get emergent creativity you need to

  • Understand at a abstract level what you want to achieve but not know how to achieve it.
  • Have actions of people be dependent upon the actions of others. People must have a large number of possible options to take  in reaction to the actions of others in the group.
  • Have the possibility to change the effect of another’s action or even undo it  by future actions.
  • It has to be a collaborative process where everybody contributes evenly, so no hierarchy.

The common approach of running a meeting is far from this and therefore creative results are rare. The problem is that common meetings have someone to run the meeting, have an agenda and there are no externalizations for people to work with and create distributed cognition [R. Keith Sawyer].

Why do serious games enhance creativity?

Serious games cover all prerequisites discussed above for enabling group creativity.

A serious game consists of a game space where all the action takes place. Often it is some kind of metaphoric picture with a canvas, quadrant or something else to emotionally connect to. Then there are the artifacts to work with (mostly sticky notes), a common goal to achieve (what features should be put in our next release?) and finally there are some rules of play. The rules, game space, artifacts and goal form the externalizations and help a group create a distributed cognition as described above.

Serious games have a goal but the path towards it is open and emerges though collaboration. In a serious game everyone is equal and can contribute equal. On every action a person takes others provide feedback, others can build upon it or can change its effects. The use of externalizations like post-it notes, written information, drawings, pictures and discussion make you use more parts of your brain. As a group and as an individual you’re creating new ideas that build upon others ideas and then you are reducing your ideas, you are thinking creatively as a group. All this makes serious games also in line with the prerequisites for emergent creativity as discussed above.

The topping on the cake is that games create a safe environment. An environment where people are equal and people are more likely to say what they really think. It is easy to provide and receive feedback and you see real progress towards the goal. This makes serious games not only very productive but also much fun to do.


  • R. Keith Sawyer – Distributed creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts © 2009 American Psychological Association 2009, Vol. 3, No. 2, 81–92

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.

Slides of my talk at the Innovation Games summit 2013 in Silicon Valley

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Last week I attended the Innovation Games summit in San Jose CA and also gave a talk. The summit was great, full of interesting people and new ideas. Plans are to have another summit in Europe this year, already looking forward to that.

My talk at the conference was about engaging people using serious games. You can get the slides here IG Summit 2013 Engaging people

Categories: Scrum

Professional Scrum Master training on april 15 & 16

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ll be giving the Professional Scrum Master training in Utrecht on April 15 and 16 2013. The training will be in Dutch.

You can register at here at

Please AgiliX for additional information on Agile training & coaching.

Categories: Scrum