Retrospectives and lunches

We have all heard it many times.  We are churning too much for two week iterations. Things are going so well, we really don’t have anything else to say! Things are going so bad all the time, we already know the problems, we have been discussing every day..there is nothing new to discuss…..

It was almost lunch time when the sprint review ended.. and the team received raving reviews from the product owner, thus prompting the team to allow the business to stay on for the retrospective. It was like a pat on their back.  They had worked very hard with the team.  Sensing a good opportunity, I offered to facilitate their retrospective so that their Scrum Master could also be a participant.

Everyone had to write three points:

1.  What was one moment during the iteration that they thought went well?

2. Instances where they (or someone else) could have done better / differently?

3. What is their thought about a probable obstacle for the next sprint and how do they intend to resolve it?

Other simple rules: 

Form a pair, spend enough time to tell what has been written down.

Listen to the other person.

Break and find another person to talk to. (yeah.. yeah.. something like speed dating!). 

Talk to atleast 4 people.

Everyone was enthusiastic. They started sharing with each other.

When I sensed that they might have finished talking to four people, I suggested that we can be done with the session, collect our notecards for data gathering and split. To my surprise, they didn’t want to end.  They wanted to talk to every member of the team

With a smile of contenment I quietly slipped from the room, knowing very well that at-least a few pairs would have gone off to lunch together in deep discussion or having found a new topic.. or actually found a new friendImage





Software Craftsman: Paired wurdle

A friday afternoon flight is something that weekly commuters must be wary of.  The day is not done, but work is. My mind is still racing with all the coffee, discussions and getting ready to transition to family and personal life.  I am not too sleepy, but also want time to ponder. There is a forced silence in the aircraft.

When I am in this state of mind, I grab my iPad and play wurdle.  It takes me a few hours to get to about 20% to 30% of words, and then I get bored and start a new game.

During this particular flight my co-passenger (seemed like a weekly commuter, equally disenchanted with the afternoon sun, too bored to even chat) had his eyes closed and was resting against his seat.  As I drew my ipad, he half opened his eyes. careful not to disturb him, Istarted playing wurdle. And them I hear him shift in his seat. He sat up. Started observing. Probably his first sighting of the game. About 5 words later,  he pointed to a word. I smiled. I pulled the snack tray. Perched the iPad for both of us to see and use.  We started forming words. As a natural cadence, we allowed one word per person and took turns.  Within about an hour or less (or more) we had completed 20 to 25% of all the words.

We lost interest in the game. Words were not being formed. We tried to chit chat. It wasn’t interesting. He went back to closing his eyes and resting, while I started to play sudoku.

Later as I pondered this event…. I realized this is what Paired work / paired programming is all about.  Developing a cadence. A rhythm between two people and two sets of eyes, and the work.  The rhythm is the art at play here.

Scrum teams: “Catch them doing something right!”

When my daughter was about 5, I relentlessly complained that she never ate anything. It was difficult for me to cook for her. And on and on I would go on a guilt trip!.  During one of these ramblings.. she stopped me mid sentence, held her arms firmly and counted with her tiny fingers.. all the items she liked to eat!  The items grew beyond her tiny fingers. We then got a sheet of paper and started writing down every single food item that she loved to eat. Though the list included chocolates and chips and icecream… It was revealing.  She had listed the vegetables she liked to eat. On it were some fruits, and beans and rice.

What the list clearly showed us was how she would like to eat and how the food needs to be delivered to her plate!  We never had to go through the ordeal of food, but as her mom I just had to get creative about cooking and serving her healthy meals.

I carry this discovery and revelation with me.  The conversations are not about a 5 year old anymore and it is not about what she likes to eat.

It has morphed into teams and Scrum.  What do teams want to do? What do they like? What needs to be discovered about their talents?

For some time now, I have been using the phrase, “Catch them doing something right!”.  And then when we figure out how they are doing these right, it is a celebration. We go to identify more things they do right, we then improve on them.

Now coaching is not about why their stories are not grammatically correct,  or if they pointed before prioritizing; or if their Scrum Master murmured during the stand-up.  Coaching is about “lets get the right things done at the right time!”.  When the list of doing things right grows,  the list of things not being done correctly vanishes on its own. Team finds it own way. Because people are intelligent. Thoughtful. It is just that as an agile coach we should not engage in a guilt trip of “I have to get things my way!” or “I know more because I am a coach”….

When we can learn from a 5 year old just by pausing and paying attention, why stop learning for a bunch of professionals??




Bold or Blonde – My #Agile Leader?

“Hi, Ray!” I greeted with some leftover energy that I could muster. “I could use some caffeine to get high on energy”

With a mischievous smile he asked, “Bold or Blonde?”

I replied ,”Bold please”.

He grinned, as if he knew this was what I was going to ask for. As a Starbucks barista, when he needs more caffeine, he always makes a blonde and laces it with sugary syrup.  He patiently explained.. “Until I became a barista, i never knew that bold coffee just has a bolder taste.. and as you roast it longer… it starts losing its caffeine!.  Milder the roast, stronger the caffeine”.  And he reiterated…

“strong flavor is from deep roasting and strong caffeine is from mild roasting”

Isn’t this how we choose our leaders as well?

I would love for my Agile leaders to continue having the caffeine kick in them long after the infatuation with Agile is transformed to a relationship of dating and then to  a rhythmic marriage.

I would love for my Agile leaders in organizations to not just make noise during the beginning, but stay strong without losing their caffeine kick, during the long haul of re-organization and then the journey.

Noise makers and good. They help create the flutter. Their flavor is bold. But the gentler souls are whom I see as lasting longer in these journeys. They retain the true Agile spirit in them. I look for such type of leaders, and cherish and nurture them. Their caffeine lasts longer.