A great example of agile style teamwork in a non-software environment

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I am regularly asked for examples of where Agile Practices could be used that are not related to software development.

I recently came across this video and just had to share the link to it.

The company encourages all team members to participate, keeps things time-boxed and makes appropriate use of subject matter experts.

It’s awesome to see what can be done in 5 days.



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Agile Jobs in Beautiful Saskatoon!

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From time to time I am happy to list positions that are available in organizations that are becoming agile or already are agile. For what it’s worth, this position was described verbally to me as being much like a Scrum Product Owner. Here is the position information:

Project Manager at zu
Closing date: Monday, May 30, 2011

Our new Agile PM will manage full life cycle website/application development projects using the Agile methodology, work closely with our strategists, designers and development team and other stakeholders to manage requirements, scope, milestones, timelines and budget.

As an Agile Project Manager at zu, you enjoy working with other talented people and succeed when we deliver a project worthy of being called “zu-made” to a client. You live to under promise and over deliver.

You have a passion for Agile Software Development. You are eager to work with and share your experiences with a team transitioning to Agile. The thought of finding new ways to adapt Agile to an existing team excites you.

As a team leader, you inject enthusiasm into the combined zu-client team, adding transparency and candidness to communication in all directions. Using your natural ability to develop rapport with all types of people, you liaise regularly with the client and team, keeping progress on track and delivering on expectations.

You are excited by the idea of creating things that have never existed before, that learning and teaching are everyday occurrences, you don’t mind dressing funny from time to time, or bringing a dish to the potluck.

If you have the required experience, pride yourself on being extremely well organized, have a magnetic personality, sense of humor and are eager to be a part of an evolving company, then what are you waiting for? Drop us a line!


Post secondary education in business or technical field
Minimum three years related work experience
Knowledge and experience with Agile software development, processes and methodology
Ability to work effectively on concurrent, multiple tasks and projects
Ability to effectively manage priorities in an ever-changing environment
Outstanding leadership and teamwork skills
Clear and concise documentation skills; you can write mean user story
Strong verbal and written communication skills


Document, learn and support all aspects of projects: scope, risk, schedule, budget, quality and communication
Manage client expectations and co-ordinate and deliver progress updates to ensure the successful delivery of projects on time and on budget
Manage all project related requests with the client
Ability to guide and direct production teams to keep them on budget and schedule while continually inspiring them to innovate and provide the best solutions for our clients
Work with development teams on a daily basis to clarify requirements and to provide feedback
Facilitate developing user stories based on requirements
Prioritize and prepare product backlog and facilitate estimation meetings for strategists, designers and developers
Communicate project status with stakeholders and gather feedback for review and implementation

For more information about zu, head to our website: www.zu.com/live/careers.

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Paul @ Scrum Gathering Seattle – Day 3 Recap #sgsea

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Wow! The 3rd and last day of the Scrum Gathering in Seattle was epic! I am tired and thrilled to have participated in such a great day, and such a great conference. Thank you to all who made this happen.

Un-Conference Sessions Using Open Space Technology
This was something that I had some reservations about. What does this mean that we all decide what will happen and how it takes shape? However, this was, by-far, one of the most interesting and engaging parts of the entire conference. Here are the 4 principles of Open Space: (1) The right people show up (2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could (3) It starts when it starts (4) It’s over when it’s over.

There is one law to Open Space: If you are not learning or contributing where you are, find a place when you can learn or contribute.

And there are two roles in Open Space: (1) Bumblebees – these people bounce around to other sessions and add new ideas. (2) Butterflies – these people sit somewhere and look beautiful, and may not attend sessions. I guess that I was neither a bumblebee or butterfly, like most of the participants.

So we were encouraged to come up with topics that we wanted to facilitate and/or learn about and pick a time slot and location. This happened quite naturally – which was added to the marketplace for the participants to choose which sessions they would like to attend and contribute to.

Open Space - one participant adding his session to the wall
Open Space - one participant adding his session to the wall

My 1st Session – Team Estimation Game by Chris Sims
This is the first time that I had the privilege of seeing Chris in action. He is a dynamic and very effective teacher and facilitator. The game is another method for teams to estimate effort for User Stories (in Scrum) or Value Drivers (in OpenAgile) or whatever you use for your particular Agile method.

He had us form small teams to estimate effort on consuming various types of fruit (which were on cards) including: grapes, orange, durian, pineapple, apple, blueberries, pomegranate, and coconut.

Step One: This was carried out by each person taking turns and doing one of two things: (1) placing a new card on the wall or (2) changing the position of one card. This was pretty easy and allowed us to have conversations on what we meant when we did an action.

Step Two: Then the team had to add numbers (also on cards) as a way to categorize the effort that would be done. Now each person had three options: (1) place a new card number, (2) moving a single card on the wall, or (3) passing which means that you agree with what is currently on the wall.

Chris Sims (on left) showing the Team Estimation Game
Chris Sims (on left) showing the Team Estimation Game

My 2nd Session – How to Launch a Team by Roger Brown
Roger showed us a few things to keep in mind when helping to launch an Agile team (usually done by him in a 3 day training on-site).

A ScrumMaster or Coach has certain things to do during the various stages of a team’s development: (1) in Forming, he needs to be directive and tell the team what needs to get done, (2) in Storming, he needs to focus on conflict resolution for the team, (3) in Norming, he needs be a facilitator and observe and then offer ways to improve, and (4) in Performing, he either needs to work on organizational obstacles or move on to another team.

Roger explained how the constant sprint length for a team helps it to get into a rhythm and get data such as the team’s velocity (the speed at which it gets things done). He also offered a great tool for people to use called the Market of Skills which comes from Lyssa Adkin’s book “Coaching Agile Teams”. Other things to use include a team working agreement, team vision, and a definition of done. He said that he likes to spin up 2 or more teams at a time to that they can learn from each other.


Notes from Roger Brown - How to Launch a Team
Notes from Roger Brown - How to Launch a Team

My 3rd Session – Collaborative Work Spaces by Skip Angel
Skip made this session very collaborative and got us to add own challenges and questions to a flip chart page and then get us to share how we would solve each others challenges.

Insights included: share visual stories to help the team see benefits, promote outcomes, tools to use for collaboration. Some tools and useful sites: http://sococo.com, http://onemoreagileblog.com, http://cocoo.com, and http://agileadvice.com !

Skip Angel on Collaborative Work Spaces
Skip Angel on Collaborative Work Spaces

Here is the format that he shared for a User Story: As a (type of user) I want (something) so that (value). Enter the things within the parentheses ( ).

Here are the 4 techniques for splitting stories that he shared: (1) Conjunctions / Connectors – words such as if, and, but or even commas. (2) Generic Words – eg. activities which could be broken into sports, dancing, and board games. (3) Acceptance Criteria – which is a list of pass/fail items that if agreed the story is done. (4) Time-line – which are steps of sequence to get something done.

Met Chris Sims
I spoke for a few minutes with Chris. We talked about David Parker who used to work at Berteig Consulting (where I work) and now works at Agile Learning Labs (where Chris works). Chris had nothing but praise for David!

Sharing by Participants on the entire Scrum Gathering
Each person shared something that they like or enjoyed about the conference. I shared three things: (1) the humility of the Certified Scrum Trainers (CST) and the Certified Scrum Coaches (CSC) to share with all of us their knowledge and their ears, (2) the wisdom of everyone at the conference, and (3) the amount of smiles and laughter that was the reality of all of us who attended.

Closing Keynote by Joe Justice and WikiSpeed
Joe gave an epic keynote on his team that built a car that gets 100+ MPG. It was amazing and super inspiring! I don’t even know what to say about it. He and his distributed, collaborative, and highly Agile team of volunteers did incredible things. I hope to buy one of their cars when I done with my current car. It is that good!

Joe Justice showing the WikiSpeed Car
Joe Justice showing the WikiSpeed Car

Final Thoughts on the Scrum Gathering in Seattle
So this was my first Scrum Gathering and it was amazing. From the people to the food to sessions to the Open Space to the Certified Scrum Trainers and Certified Scrum Coaches to the people who it made run so well – Fantastic! I hope to attend another Scrum Gathering in the near future. I already plan on attending the one in London, England in October 2011.

Warm regards,
Paul Heidema

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Paul @ Scrum Gathering Seattle – Day 2 Recap #sgsea

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So after another day at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle, I am tired! Not just from the sessions, conversations, and the learning but also from waking up in a time zone that is not my own. I live near Toronto which is 3 hours earlier than Seattle. I am slowly getting used to it. Especially that today is a sunny day.

Mastering the Basics of Leadership Storytelling by Steve Denning
Steve Denning showed us how the art of storytelling can uplift and help people to see why a change is needed. He got all of us to do an exercise (1) What’s the problem? (2) What would the world look like if the problem was fixed? (3) Tell the story of the person who doesn’t want the change.

When I did the exercise I though of a client that saw that there was value in using Scrum and Agile but was unable to see the need for organization to adopt them or the urgency to make the change as soon as possible.

Steve also spoke about 3 good ways to get peoples attention: (1) share something unexpected (2) share something relevant to the audience (3) and make it negative. I understand what he is saying but I am more motivated by a positive outlook instead of scaring people by harsh realities. To each his own I guess.

Steve also shared the 7 rules for performing storytelling: (1) maintain eye contact (2) maintain open body stance (3) don’t hide behind notes and podiums (4) use gestures using your whole body (5) dare to pause! (6) practice, practice, practice and (7) be there, be present by planting feet on the ground.

Steve Denning - Leadership Storytelling

I will co-train with Carlton Nettleton
I met again with Carlton Nettleton who is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) out of San Diego. I am excited that will be co-training a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training seminar sometime in Toronto during the month of August or September. So… keep those dates open! He is very interesting guy and I have no doubt that he is a great teacher and trainer.

I also met Mike Cohn
If you don’t know who Mike Cohn, I recommend searching for him on the net right now! He is a well-known author, trainer and coach in the Agile and Scrum world. We spoke about our experiences and some of our learnings. I also shared how Mishkin Berteig and I have used OpenAgile to help C-level managers and upper managers to be an Agile team so that the teams on the ground see the example by the leadership. He is open and kind man.

Agile Coach Self-Assessment: Where Do You Stand on Competencies by Lyssa Adkins
This is by far my favourite session that I attended in the first 2 days of the 3 day conference. She got all 30 participants to stand and be players in the session. This is what we need more of in conferences that are in the Scrum and Agile world.

Lyssa Adkins - Coaching Competencies

She placed 8 phrases on the ground that were quadrants coming from a centre point that represented parts of an Agile coach. The 8 phrases were: (1) mentoring, (2) technical mastery, (3) transformation mastery, (4) teaching, (5) facilitating, (6) Agile Lean practitioner, (7) business mastery and (8) coaching. We had to do a few things. First, figure which section we were strongest in. Second, choose which section which we wanted to be in. Third, decide which will be our sections to work on (we had to choose 3 in priority) and then choose on section that we would let go.

I also met Vibhu Srinivasan who is one of the newest CSTs (just become one on Sunday). He lives in India and is an extremely nice guy. We were asked to work with one person at the end of the session with Lyssa and then check in with each other to see what progress we made.

Second day was great! Tomorrow we get to be part of the “un-conference” sessions where the participants choose what is important and then prioritize that stuff and work through it together. It should be great!

Warm regards,
Paul Heidema

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Paul @ Scrum Gathering Seattle – Day 1 Recap

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I have now just returned from Day 1 of the Scrum Gathering in Seattle. This is my first Scrum Gathering and it is turning out to be great!

Participants at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle
Participants at the Scrum Gathering in Seattle

This is what I did throughout the day and some take-aways and learnings that I have gathered:

The Business Case for Agile: What Every Executive Needs to Know with speaker John Rudd
– there are now fewer constraints, with more variables in our world
– example of horse races, move bets to the horses in front
– use examples of failures in your organization to encourage the change
– benefits and ROI model
– waterfall: 15%
– agile: 30%
– agile with reduced scope: 50%
– People that I met in the session:
– Bill Rosner from Capital Group who is on a Scrum team in California
– James Kauffman who is the ScrumMaster near Seattle

Do We Have a Good Coach or a Bad Coach? with speaker Alan Atlas
– all about learning: good or bad
– results for a coach: direct (eg. launching a Scrum team), indirect (eg. less bugs produced)
– the SKERT framework: Skills, Knowledge, Environment, Results, Type of coach
– get feedback on coach throughout the year

the SKERT framework by Alan Atlas
the SKERT framework by Alan Atlas

30 Minute Chat with Alan Atlas
The Scrum Alliance set up this great thing: Scrum To Go. A participant can sign up for a private session with an experience Scrum coach, I believe that all of them were Certified Scrum Coaches (CSC). So I signed up to speak with Alan Atlas. He was very kind and knowledgeable. I asked him about becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and many questions about helping teams to use Agile and Scrum. He offered three things to help when team members are not buying-in or becoming empowered on the Scrum team. (1) Team members to convince themselves of its usefulness and validity. (2) Peer pressure from other team members to become active participants. (3) Cheap coaching tricks such as putting those against Scrum in charge (you are now the ScrumMaster) or getting those team members to research something and share it with the team. He said that we don’t like to do bad work, so they will try to get the task done.

Scrum To Go: coaching sessions
Scrum To Go: coaching sessions

Met Other Great People
Talked with Roger Brown (a CST) about the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) process and how it has evolved. I also asked him about co-training with him for me to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). I also met Vernon Stinebaker (a CST) who lives in China and was trained by Mishkin Berteig, my colleague, many years back. I had the honour of meeting Lyssa Adkins (a CST) in person for the first time. I spoke with Lyssa, emailed back and forth, and I was part of her Agile Coaching Circle which took place over conference calls and emails. She is a wonderful person who is extremely motivated to work with coaches who, in her words, are the change catalysts in organizations. She introduced me to Carlton Nettleton (a CST) who I spoke with about co-training with him to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).

Overall it was a great day. I look forward to learning more and meeting more great people. My take away for the day: Scrum people just like helping!

Warm regards,
Paul Heidema

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Paul @ Scrum Gathering Seattle – Airport 2

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Now I am in Vancouver only one step away from Seattle, which is the location for the Scrum Gathering. I will go tonight to the hotel and register. I am excited to see the layout and look into the sessions.

I just read that the 3rd day of this 3 day conference has many sessions called “un-conference” open sessions. I like that this is a creative way to hold sessions which are normally setup with a speaker and a bunch of learners.

I hope that we will experience what we train. An environment where individuals interact to learn things, instead of a bunch people that have cups needed to filled up by an expert.

More to come!

Warm regards,
Paul Heidema

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Paul @ Scrum Gathering Seattle – airport

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I, Paul Heidema, am currently waiting at the Toronto airport for my flight to Vancouver and then to Seattle where I will be attending the Scrum Gathering. This will be my first Scrum Gathering, so I am excited, curious and a little nervous. What will it be like? Will I enjoy myself? What talks should I attend? Will I feel lonely? What is expected of me? These are just a few questions that I have rolling around in my mind.

Usually when I attend a conference, Agile or not I am with others that are familiar with the movement of the event. Not this time. However, my wife Laila is coming for the trip which makes it that much more enjoyable even though she is not attending the conference.

I hope to meet many trainers, consultants, people new to Scrum and all kinds of unique and wonderful people.

I am also in the process of applying to become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). I hope to meet other CSTs and learn from there experience.

I will post more throughout the event.

Warm regards,
Paul Heidema

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Upcoming Scrum + OpenAgile + Kanban training – Edmonton

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Just a quick note to let people know that there are spots available in the seminar we are delivering on May 25-27 in Edmonton, Alberta. This seminar includes Level 1 of Scrum: Certified ScrumMaster & Level 2 of OpenAgile: Certified OpenAgile Team Member plus Kanban.Details can be found here.

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Teams, People and “Resources” – The Culture of Agility

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In an Agile culture, it is considered rude to refer to people as “resources”. People are not fungible – you cannot just take any old developer and plug them into any old project. Skills, personalities, likes, talents, potential all are so dynamic and unique for each individual person. So any management theory (including traditional project management) that treats people as “resources” like oil, gold or computers, is making an unjust simplification at the expense of the people working in the organization.

Yet organizations need to be able to plan where to spend money, and certainly the people working in an organization are often one of the largest costs. From a financial perspective, from a business perspective, it makes sense to somehow treat people costs in the same way as other operational costs… and this often leads to dehumanizing people to the point of treating them like resources.

So how can these legitimate organizational needs for budgeting mesh with the equally legitimate approach of Agile to treating people as unique actors be merged? It is actually quite simple, but the ramifications are deep: treat TEAMS as resources. Teams become the fundamental building blocks of an organization. Teams move from project to project or program to program or operation to operation. There is still a need to support the individuals in an organization, but it is done in the context of teams.

An Agile team is cross-functional, but also constantly learning. Individuals on the team learn skills based on their own interest, but also based on the needs of the team for redundancy, parallelism, and expansion of capacity to take on new, more challenging work. Cross-functional teams can more easily (and more sanely) be compared for their value to the organization by looking at things such as their ability to produce finished product/services, their flexibility in serving the needs of the organization, and the quality/consistency of the work they produce. Teams can compete in a healthy way by striving for excellence in delivering value to the organization, whereas often competition between individuals can be quite unhealthy.

From a budget perspective, teams are easy to manage: each team has a fully loaded cost based on salaries, space, equipment, etc. The cost is (or can be) relatively stable or grow predictably, and can still be handled operationally. As well, unlike individuals, it is much easier to treat a whole team as a fungible unit: you feed work to teams based on their availability rather than based on a detailed analysis of their skills/capacities/allocations.

In Agile organizations, teams are resources, people are not.

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