2 May 2018

Speak Up!

I took a three-day course on transformation, agility, and leadership. It was called Agile Transformational Leader. There were lots that I learned throughout whole three days. It was a great stop on my professional journey, to step back, and be more mindful of where the journey is taking me. I was in the course with some of the greatest thought leaders of Canadian, and even World, Agile World.

One of the highlights of the three days was to be coached by Michael K. Spayd. I was giving him a hard time, and I was transparent in front of 15 people. It was a first for me. I didn't hold anything back regarding the situation I had. It was a true turning point for me. I was uncomfortable thinking about sharing a real-life situation and be coached on the spot on it. However, it is those moments of uncomfortableness if you cherish and push yourself through that you can grow. People helped too. One of the greatest group of people that I saw gathered, which benefited me to navigate through the uncomfortableness.


The biggest highlight of the three days for me was learning to Speak Up. Throughout the whole three days, I was learning, being encouraged, and was being asked to Speak Up! There were instances that my team encouraged me to speak up. It was moments that I spoke up and observed the reactions. Even if people didn't understand my thought process, it wasn't a very big deal. They asked more. However, the feeling of me contributing to achieving was far more elusive, when realized, to lose it again and again. Even if it ended up diverting conversation in a different direction than intended, it was a greater feeling of accomplishment rather than holding in.

You might think to yourself, why is it a big deal? Could it be? To go on a three-day course and the biggest takeaway is to learn to Speak Up. It was for me, and I tell you why. It was the single most feedback I received throughout my professional career. I have been told several times that I know a lot of things, and I need to speak up for others to know. If I keep it to myself, not many people can figure out based on the chain reactions what led to it, and appreciate my part in it. It took me a personal journey to internalize that and be changed in the moment and amongst the trusted friends.

Put this alongside what I learned at Agile Transformational Leader, Speak Up, with what I learned at Problem Solving Leadership back then, Ask Questions, Please! and it becomes a magical recipe for success.

It is worth mentioning that other people that took the PSL had the same thought and reaction about this course as myself. We were mentioning that this course could have similar effects on our journey even after three days of the in-class training.

15 April 2018

Highlights from the Agile Games 2018, Boston, MA

If you are not in the Agile world, It might sound like a gaming conference and a very fast one! It might be! Depending on what session you attend and your perspective. Agile Games is an annual Agile conference in Boston, Massachusetts; held by Agile New England.

I was invited to the conference as a speaker for two sessions; "User Stories by Collaboration" and "Modern XP Game", the latter one co-delivered with Carlos Oliveria. If you want to learn more about the sessions please visit User Stories by Collaboration and Modern XP Game on my homepage.

This post includes the highlights of the Agile Games 2018 from my perspective. I hope it is valuable to you. 

Tim Ottinger - Opening Keynote - Somewhere Between Frivolity and Dread: Psychologically Safe Training Games

The AgileGames2018 started by Tim Ottinger's keynote. He talked about Games, how we are using them & mainly safety around it. Games are fun, engaging and can easily transmit the message you want to deliver. They even can end up with very unexpecting results.

However, it is very easy to dive into the game and forget the main point. You don't want to facilitate a session using lego on Scrum, and when the team members go back to the work and their boss asks them what they did, reply we played some lego! The games need to have a goal attached to them.

Also, a great point to consider about designing a game or running activities is safety. Don't assume safety. When you are taking a picture, you might be making one person uncomfortable. When you are asking about the worst fear you can imagine in your facilitation, you are doing a very unsafe act. There are many aspects that you want to take into consideration.

You don't know what people have gone through. Tim shared a personal experience of himself, which was very touching. Don't assume safety. It's very hard to design a safe game/simulation. But good ones are out there and you can find them.

Woody Zuil - Coding Dojo

I attended a session with Woody Zuil. Based on the request of the people in the room, Woody has facilitated a coding dojo. We picked converting numeric numbers to roman numbers. We have gone through some discussion about coding, pairing, and mobbing. 

Woody talked about Driver and Observer v.s. Driver and Navigator. A navigator is a person that it thinking and navigating the development. However an Observer is a person that is sitting silent, and mostly thinking in their head, look at this idiot, he/she is not doing it right. I could have done a better job. You don't want to become an Observer. Keep in mind that the driver is just an extension of the keyboard. He/She is an extension, a smart extension, to the input.

We also have gone over the rotation, and how it works. How the next navigator is thinking of solving the problem and how the navigator at the time becomes the driver next time to have some time off. 

Some of the learnings from Woody:
  • Any idiot can learn to program.
  • You learn the rules by doing the game! 
  • Read by refactoring
  • As developers, we tend to develop alone, so much that when it comes to collaboration, we don't have many skills to do so.
  • Excellent idea, do what others are suggesting/doing. 
  • Navigator + Driver is similar to car race drivings. 
  • Navigator: Only one person in pair programming (not Mob). 
  • The Driver is the extension of the computer.
  • Navigator, wait to navigate. 
  • When things get though, take baby steps!
  • Least experienced at the keyboard first! 
  • Reg Green Test, just the system working, the coach doing this the first thing. 
  • This is called programming: copying and pasting. 
  • Coding by Intent. 
  • Before testing call out your intention, are you expecting it to pass or fail? 
  • Why are you programmers if you don't want things too hard? 

Ellen Gottesdiener - The Contracting Two Step: Patterns and Actions for Successful Collaborations 

Ellen talked about contracts and how social contracts in teams work. We started talking about trust, trust interactions and how does that help team. She introduced a canvas for people and teams to use to build social contracts. The canvas introduced was very similar to the skills marketplace introduced by Lyssa Adkins. 

Alex Harms - Cultivating Psychological Safety: the Hard Parts

I didn't take part in Alex's session. However, I learned from it. Through a very clever set of questions that gets into you, it helps you understand the situation better and connect with the conflict that you have at hand. 

Dana Payelava - Closing Keynote - Team Up To Eradicate Fear!

Dana talked about fear and how to deal with it. She introduced to us some tools. One of the tools is the "Fear Resetting Plan". In this plan, you think of the one fear that you want to face, or you can face. Then you think of different aspects of it and find three ways to deal with it. Then you decide on one action. It was very nice seeing Dana delivering her first keynote. I was so excited to see her talk as the keynote speaker. She handled a stressful situation of running out of time, or the assumption of it raied from the volunteers very well. 

She then introduced us to another set of cards on fears. This is a set of cards that can get you toward dealing with fears in your organization, and gives you some suggestions called "Safety Enhancement Cards". It is a nice game to play for and in a safe situation to talk about potential unsafe ones.

The closing keynote, as always when Dana facilitating, included lots of discussion and group activities.

The image above was just one of the rooms for the keynote. This conference would not have happened with the great work of Agile New England and its volunteers. Thanks to them a lot. 

In addition to the people, I mentioned above, It was very nice to meet old and new friends of Johanna Rothman, Paul Boss, April Jefferson, Richard Kasperowski, Carlos Oliveira, Jon Odo, Andrea Chiou and many other great people there.

30 March 2018

My Notes from Christopher Avery's Responsibility Process

It isn't enough how many times you hear about Responsibility Process. I have learned it years ago when Christoper was giving his keynote at Toronto Coach Retreat (it was the same session I presented Simple Coaching Model as well). However, I decided to refresh my knowledge and attend one of his webinars, in which he talks about the Responsibility Process and he is trying to convince you to buy his educational module. This is a great personal tool to use for yourself. However, coaches, scrum masters, and other leaders please do not try to use this on others.
  • That just it is around here! Justify usually has Just in it.
  • The smarter we are the better stories we create for blame and justify, unrelated to IQ, culture, race etc. 
  • Shame is just "lay blame" on self! 
    • I should have ...
    • Getting out of shame: Ask yourself how long you want to beat yourself up being a human
  • Obligation:
    • If you stop beating yourself up
    • have to, don't want to
    • trapped, being stuck
    • do you have some stupid meeting you are going to? you have to?
    • do you have some stupid paperwork you have to? have to have to have to? 
    • how many time of the day you say have to? 
  • language reveals a lot about our cognitive processes 
  • you are the architect of your own reality! 
  • catch yourself saying have to, what else to say? I am going to go to this meeting (instead of having to)
  • Responsibility 
    • choice and freedom 
    • the ability to respond
    • overcome something big in your life 
  • Responsibility Process:
    • there is nothing to change it (the process is there)
    • move bottom to top every time
    • develop a responsibility practice
  • 3 keys
    • intention: wanting + belief 

6 March 2018

How Would You Measure an Agile Coach? Metrics for an Agile Coach

How Would You Measure an Agile Coach? This question is very tricky. The obvious answer is a question. What dimension are you talking about? Are you talking about the height or length? or the Volume? Then you need to have the proper tool to measure an Agile Coach. After all, all human beings are being measured the same; Usually, with a measuring tape, stadiometer and a weight in doctor's office would do the trick.

If you heard such an answer, you were most probably talking about a very unique version of a human being, an Agile Coach. They tend to ask questions rather than answering questions, and when answering, you find many questions that you need to ask next.


Jokes aside, I want to talk about how to measure an Agile Coach and how you can make sure if that person is effective or not. It is a very hard task but I'll do my best to give you the best possible answer. You don't need to look no further. There are many people that are asking what a good coach looks like, and once for all I want to make sure they have their answers.

Metrics for an Agile Coach

The following are the factors you need to consider:


As an Agile Coach, you need to have capabilities to lead people. It has to be coming from inside. You don't want to and can't go on a course to learn those. If you don't have this, then it is not for you. Forget it all at once. Leading means you can get things done and make people get it done for you.


As an Agile Coach, you need to be able to motivate people. They know how to do their job. You are not there for just watching them and thanking them. You are there to motivate them to do their job better and produce better results. If you don't have this, again, you are out of luck for being an Agile Coach.

Process Friendly

As an Agile Coach, you need to be very friendly with the process. You don't want to change it that much. You want to move it become friend with it and change it here and there, only and only if most people are ok with it. If they are not, you probably have not motivated them enough. Go back one step.


You need to have the capability of managing people. As an Agile Coach, you are going to work with Scrum Masters mostly. If not, then who you are coaching? The teams? There are going to be so many changes in them that you don't want to coach them. You need to have authority on your Scrum Masters and be able to order them into Agile.

Change Agent or Chaos Master

As an Agile Coach, you want to change people, process and whatever you see in your way. If you are not changing, people might ask questions why do we have the coach still? Everything is stable and very productive. A trick for the unstableness is to make chaos. So when I am writing Change Agent, please read it as Chaos Master. You need to create chaos, in order to lead and motivate people.

Community Architect

You want to have a strong community behind you. Whatever you are suggesting, you want all your Scrum Masters and others that might be reporting to you (also usually referred to you by resources) agree to. You would want to build a community of people, that when get together and at the end of each session, have an action item to work on.

Last Thoughts

You have other thoughts? You don't think these are perfect measures for an Agile Coach. Yes, you are right. Not all of them has the same weight. In some circumstances, you might want to have a more managerial side of an Agile Coach and in some, you want to have more of the Community. For sure, there are always negotiations for which one has the most weight. However, there is no other factor that you can think of that is needed for an Agile Coach to be measured on.

Still not convinced? Don't take my word, go ask an Agile Coach and see how they are measured. I am sure you'll find something very close to this.

For the Sake of Measuring?

I hope you read this and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The factors above might be a factor for an Agile Coach in an organization. It was all for an imaginary organization. However, I don't be surprised to find one. One thing I am sure about, I don't want to be part of it. If you are looking for Metrics for your Agile Coach, you'd better ask yourself in the first place what was the reason that I was looking for an Agile Coach. Could I at that moment tie my goal to a measurable metric? If so, how much the Agile Coach helped me to reach that goal? 

If you are just measuring your Agile Coach for just the sake of measuring it, stick to the recipe above! 

For the Sanes

How can you measure coaches? If you are asking this question, you might have to the point that your need for a coach has been resolved already. They have assisted you with whatever situation you had. Now, you are asking this question to make sure you have a justification to have them around. You might like them, want to learn more from them, or just simply have the obligation to keep them employed. Ask yourself, what need has been fulfilled now that you are asking that question. And if you have to hire an Agile Coach tomorrow, what needs you would hire them for? Have an honest conversation with yourself, and them. They are very good listeners and questioners. They can even help you figure out your next need.

22 January 2018

Whatever Agile Is, It's Not Religion!

Everyone has an idea of what Agile is and what it will look like. It depends on their journey, what they knew before introduction to Agile, where they want to go with it, what they like about it, how they are using it and so many more factors. Some people might not even use it correctly.

You must have heard discussions about what Agile is and what it really means a lot. Some people argue it is a Verb. Some might even argue it is even a Gerund. Some even is expanding Agile and making derivatives from it, i.e. Modern Agile. For one, it might be mostly about the Product and not really about development. For some, it might be more about learning from a feedback loop. For others, it might be about technical best practices and DevOps. I am not going to argue which one or ones are the most suited from my perspective. 

What I want to advocate is to keep in mind that Agile is not a Religion. True, some might not even understand Agile correctly and believe they are practicing it and they are expert at it even. However, their interpretations of whatever Agile is is working for them. Let's assume it is a Religion for a second. Even then, unless you build a strong relationship with that person, you can't convince them to convert. 

Photo by Sander van Dijk on Unsplash
Dakhma (Persian: دخمه ; Avestan: lit.  “tower of silence”), also called a Tower of Silence, is a circular, raised structure built by Zoroastrians for excarnation.
I am writing this as it happened to me twice in my career, once as a Scrum Master and once as a Coach. While back, I had transitioned from a developer into a Scrum Master. When facilitating Retrospectives, or having 1-1s with team members, I tend to provide them with solutions, instead of building trusting relationships and then together digging in what could have been done/improved. I preached to them what the best way of performing is, compared it to their problem, showed them what their approach was and where in their thought process was not aligned with Agile (i.e. at that time XP practices). It was very hard to move away from providing solutions and believing on the team to get to their solutions. It was much easier to do the prior. However, if you can do the later it is immensely more powerful.

I have once more caught myself as a Coach to act as a hard extremism. I got into discussions about who shall facilitate the daily stand up; who needs to be in retrospectives; who can be standing at the daily scrum; and what a sprint goal might be. What I lost sight of were the underlying reasons why we are having these conversations. I jumped into my perfectionist mode, tried to provide my audience with reasoning to convince them into my way of Agile. What I should have done, was to listen to them, ask questions, understand where they are coming from, maybe even walk with them in their world of Agile and then suggest very subtly a new way of doing things. 

What I am glad at, is that I was self-aware about my behavior way back then as a Scrum Master and now as a Coach. It is true that in the eye of other observers this might have been a normal conversation. However, the fact that I could see a great potential that I couldn't reach it through the conversation satisfies me that there was a better way. 

To remember it, I will always keep in my mind the following (and I suggest you do too):
  • Agile is Not a Religion. 
  • I won't try to convert people to my way of Agile.
  • I will have a true conversation with them; I will actively listen to them, ask powerful questions, and empathize with them.
  • I will be open-minded & receptive to their definition of Agile. 
  • My definition of Agile is going to change throughout time.

8 January 2018

Better Meetings Canvas V2.1

Better Meetings Canvas is not anything new. It is what every good facilitator knows by heart. However, it is not easy to rely on your heart all the time. Sometimes you want a straightforward structure to follow, or maybe when in doubt to rely on, or use when delegating the facilitation to someone else, or keep a secret recipe of how you run your meetings.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/jhIQlYem7CA

I have introduced the Better Meetings Canvas in "Effective Yet Effortless Meetings". I have been using this model myself facilitate sessions, and also teach other facilitators to become better at what they do. Throughout these, I have come to update the canvas to have a very important part "Feedback Mechanism During". I have also updated the questions and the descriptions below each section.

If this is your first time using the canvas, read it from top to down, left to right, and answer the questions in that order. And always ask yourself the first question "How important is to have a meeting really?".

You can also find a Google Docs version of the Better Meetings Canvas V2.1.

1 December 2017

Want to Make Change Happen & Stick? You Have to Try a Community-Driven Approach. It's a True Challenge!

You are in the business of Change1. You are influencing the change of people's behavior and/or processes2. You have many tools in your toolbelt to introduce change, make people aware of the change, help them through change, let them experiment with change, and even empower them to be the change themselves.

You are knowledgeable about different strategies including but not limited to McKinsey, Kotter, ADKAR, Deming and even Lean change Model. In some circumstances, they worked really well, and in some, they didn't bear the result you intended. I don't want to debate on which is better than the other or give you hints on when to use which3. However, I want to introduce you to a concept that can greatly improve your ability to influence, drive and make change happen. It's the one and only Community!

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you considered yourself part of a community? How many times have you felt the need for a community? I bet there were even times you were part of a community and didn't realize it until some time.

Picture 1 - A Happy Community
As humans, throughout the history, we relied and continue to rely on communities for many reasons. It might have been because of satisfying our basic needs, helping each other, built around an interest, or even virtual communities. No matter what format and shape a community take, it is a very powerful social tool to rely on.

So why are we not relying on them even more? What is holding us back thinking and relying on them a lot more when it comes to the change space? Why communities are not our go-to solutions?

You might think there might be consequences. There isn't! There is no real harm in building and flourishing communities. A community will self-correct (evolve) itself or even die out naturally if the need is satisfied. You don't need to worry about it a bit. You just need to let go. It is not hard to build a community. It only takes someone to initiate it (i.e. a community initiator) and someone to follow that person (i.e. community member) around a similar need, which they want to be satisfied. For such a cheap investment, why are we not building them more often? You might think a successful community is a community with lots of people involved. I wouldn't agree with that. A successful community is a community. Communities are successful if we (i.e. people in & around the communities) don't tamper with their lifecycle.

We need to build communities more and more often than ever. What I would like to propose to you is a challenge. Whatever change you are working about in your role, I want you to think of a community-based solution as your go-to solution. I want you to think of solutions that have communities built-in into them. It might not be easy to initiate a community, start it, support and nurture it, and even let it evolve. That's why it's a challenge. For doing so, let me introduce you to the definition and lifecycle of a community.

Definition of community below is the one that I like to use.4

The figure below illustrates the lifecycle of the community.

Figure 1 - The Community Lifecycle

I do not want to go into all details of this illustration. I just want to talk about the most important point in the lifecycle of a community, the Evolution. As you can see, there are many directions that a community can take from the Evolution stage. And that's the main challenge working with communities. As a person with an interest in a community, you would want to shape the community in a way to have the shortest loop possible after the Evolution phase. You would want the community to be in the loop of "Motion-Evolution", rather than "Evolution-Start", and rather than "Evolution-Initiation".

The challenge here is not really how to start or build a community. The main challenge is when the community is in Motion, how to understand its needs, how to support it, and how to nurture it. How can you make the shorter loop exist? The shorter the loop, the less community member you lose, the more momentum you have and more people's needs are being satisfied.

Communities are very fragile. They need the correct type of support5. Many people, in and out of the community, can affect the community in positive and negative ways. It doesn't take that much to see a community fade away. Without the right structure in place that let the community to go through its natural lifecycle, you won't be having a community at all. You might have a group that you are calling it a community.

I would love to hear your thoughts on communities. Even better, if you give it a try to build one and what you learned from it. At last, we are all part of the community that helps each other learn more about communities.

1- You are even if you don't believe that. The only constant is the change in the world we live in, and you are a part of it!
2- You might direct a change, focus on the process v.s. people or many other approaches you might take to introduce change.
3- Even if I want to, I  don't consider myself qualified and knowledgeable enough to do so.
4- Part of Community-Driven Change talk, as presented with my colleague Shawn Button at AgileDC 2017.
5- The best type of support which as a person you can provide for a community is to take part in it, or even better coach people of the community and facilitate sessions for the community.