Conversations with a team member: Yes, #agile and #scrum are new to me. But…..

Even coaches have Aha! moments.  And that moment  can be a joyous one. It happened  to me recently, and I felt a great desire to share it with the community.

I am  known as a coach who enables JIT training; I also believe in group learning, because we are inherently intelligent and we absorb learning when it is felt and not just intellectualized; I have realized the amazing potential of pervasiveness, and when harnessed correctly, transformation is  a joy to watch.

Here is a conversation with a team member:

Me:  Hi, You are new to the team. We started off with a  one-on-one Scrum framework  recently, since you wanted to get that curiosity satisfied. I am sure you have more questions. What would you like me to help you with right now? And in the process we can also discover what we must do.

Her: I think I understand a little bit. I also noticed that some ceremonies that you spoke about do not occur until next week. And I am not in a rush to know more about them. I am used to work being given to me, but now I have to generate it side by side with the business.  That should be okay, because  when you mentioned that we work on one small bit at a time – it caught my attention, and I am looking forward to it. So that doesn’t bother me. In fact it is a relief, because beginning next week I am here, with all of you. Doing just this piece of work. I am also going to learn a new technology. I am also going to be mentoring others about what I know. This is exactly how I like to work. I am happy to get rid of a lot of “stuff” that we did in waterfall. I have thought about the idea of thin slicing all week. Then I remembered that in earlier projects, many years ago.. we pushed to production every 2 to 3 weeks.

(She continued providing more feedback for a while longer; Weighing in on the pros and cons; Thinking about all the adjustments she has to make. She looked around the new work space. It was open and inviting. Many passers-by were curious. She must have made a mental note of how to scale down her personal belongings from her previous cubicle to this new Agile open area; and many other adjustments she might have to make soon)

She sighed and said, “This is not that bad”.  And smiled, and said “This is not bad at all” and continued:

You see, “Agile and Scrum” – They are new to me. But change is not.

I bring with me decades of professional expertise. I have survived layoffs, survived time between jobs. I have punched cards. I self taught coding very early on because no one wanted to code where I worked then!  Put me in a place and allow me time to learn; I pick it up. And once I learn, I teach. I mentor. That is what I am.

I looked at her, and replied very lovingly:  It is an honor to be coaching professionals like you; working with you side by side. Do we ever have to be concerned that anyone else on this team will have inhibitions about shifting to Scrum? They will just absorb what you are. How you carry yourself. How you be.

I  had just met yet another Star Woman in Agile.


#agile2014 #product discovery

YES!  it is time to discover more about your product. This years’ #agile2014 track on working with customers – is bringing to us many creative sessions on product discovery, customer interaction and product owner.

My topic The Ultimate Enchantment: A product whispers toBusiness and Product Development teams  is aligned towards the creative process of uncovering our perceptions about the product. It enables an understanding  of why this knowledge is useful for the individual and how it benifits the team, the product and the customer.

During the session, I hope that each individual is able to articulate and realize

1. Their relationship to the product  they are currently engaging with  (or an idea they have)

2.  Their levels of passion

3. Their levels of  ownership

4. Their depth of knowledge about the product

And finally, why and how this knowledge can better equip them to build / serve or retire their product!

Here is a quick conversation with my friend Alan Dayley, as I explain the essence of my session:

In additon:  Here is the link to the conference presentation on slide share:

So get the caffeine going and join me 🙂



Bookend your #definitionofdone #agile #scrum


From the picture above, it is clear that the session has ended. But is the session really done? Has the host left the cleanup task to someone else?  Has he / she assumed that a clean up crew was on its way? Or perhaps, the next host would clean the mess up?

Last week, I asked my cohort to give me rapid fire answers to “Bookend” .  Here is their response:   Complete, This is what you get, No false promises, It is flexible (I am assuming they meant it is adjustable), shelf, weighing down, colors, hurling at us, strong.

Now what about bookending your definition of done?

Definition of Done can be described as a state when

“Conditions are met: and when something is considered complete”

But we are not able to verbalize it. Pen it down. Why? We assume a lot.

Because of the nature of complex lives and tasks we take on day in and day out –  and seamlessly flow in and out of them, a definition of done seems too silly. and bookends seems a waste of time. First,  a team should agree to a definition of done. Then they have to agree whether it is to a story or a task or an iteration!

For the session host above, it is clear that a missing activity to complete their session is “clean up”.  That is what I am attempting to reiterate when I mean Bookending DoD.  Why is it important?

-It shows that the team has left no stone unturned.

-Their work is considered complete and firm.

-Their work is weighed by the quality of their definition of done.

-They are not delivering anything in excess or less than what is written.

-They adjust their DoD based on the work that needs to be done.

-If they do not follow their DoD, then their work spills over, just like books in a shelf that do not have bookends.

I always ensure that there is some DoD up in the task board, even if it was scribbled at the last minute with a few chuckles. I then wait. Around the 3rd and 4th iterations, teams start realizing the value of this scribbled document. Then it gets a new lease of life.  And then adding clean-up tasks and bookending DoD makes complete sense.

#personalkanban and #definitionofdone

During the Jan session of PK flow and tasks,  Bob had a thought:

“We use Kanban and Scrum at work. And we have definition of done written down.  I am sure to benefit more by writing down a definition of done for tasks in my PersonalKanban board”

“Sure, why not?” I responded quite enthusiastically.  He knew the principles behind visual tools, had just not created a personal board for himself.  There were others in the session who were new to the concepts of kanban and definition of done.

Thus I had an opportunity to deliberate with this phrase. “Definition of done” exhibited  proudly near a teams’ card wall is a self directed indicator of the quality of work. It is represented at a goal, deliverable, user story or at a task level. It enhances accountability, promotes dialogues and well intended interactions.

How does an individual translate this board to maximize interactions and usage?

For example, a backlog item or a goal could be:  “Lose / Gain xx pounds this month”.

The associated tasks may vary from: Gym visits, drink liquids, avoid xx, eat 123, follow abc diet. A blocked item could be “rains this week -missing gym”

But let us say there is a clear intent behind the backlog item (or goal) of “Lose / Gain xx pounds this week” like:

-Become healthier, reduce sugar craving, brisk walks in nature, improved breathing – which are often unspoken / unsaid or not made visible.   A simple well formed “Definition of Done”  reflects this intent.  It is a wholesome qualitative reflection of what we intend to do. The tasks then are its quantitative representations; Tasks in blocked column require constant monitoring.

Maybe abc diet is not the one if healthy weight change is the goal.  Brisk walks might need a sunny days and a good friend.  We reach out to a friend to check their availability; we plan accordingly; We are able to position ourselves to “conquer that task”; Brisk walks tell a story of improving health, even if no weight change has happened. We know our strategy to choose a sunny week and that kind friend was a “win”.

IMG_3291Intentions help us strategize better. Now, the board is user friendly and fun to use. We are creative beings – We have staged one man shows since our dreamy childhood and it is upto us to bring that joy of creativity into our daily lives!

Caveat:  Just  be sure the board does not remain “still and silent”. If the board does not flow or if you are not interacting  with it minimum once or twice a day – then it has become static and something is being missed. Or maybe you are just downplaying your capabilities and need challenging tasks. It is probably time to revisit some of the backlog items!

#agile #scrum Finding connections and changing a habit

During the couple of years that I was involved in efforts that needed deep involvement with CMMI and SDLC. We “had” to get our CMMI in place. During the  appraisal, though the effort was long and intensive I realized the following: If we were not able to find an artifact or a process was not completed, we could trace it back to something else, that should have happened sometime ago / or some steps ago and done by someone else!  I like  to call this phenomenon: “the thin thread that united us”.   Yes! Even in intensive processes the lines are thin, fragile, and exposed.

Isn’t it the same in Agile today?  The lines that connect us or separate us are thin, fragile.

To quote Charles Duhigg from his book “The power of habit”  – There are 4 aspects that  are needed to create a habit: A cue, A routine, A reward and A craving.

The cue is the same (initiate work).  The reward is the same (complete work). We just changed the routine. (from legacy to Agile). And to change the routine we need a new craving

We are attempting to replace the  routine that allowed us to hide behind intensive documents by open conversations and collaborative work environment.  Achieving this act seems simple on paper (or while we speak and read) but in reality we need to peel layers and layers of masks that we have accumulated over time – gathered from various aspects of our lives.

Sometimes we change our routines by making new connections, letting go of what we have currently. The cue remains. The reward remains. We just get bored of existing routine. We just changed how we get to the reward. Maybe there was new craving that gets introduced.

What is the craving in Agile that makes us create new routines? new habits?

People don’t crave for change. Or crave to be vulnerable. For many being connected is not a craving.  Neither will they buy into an artificial craving of being special to someone, or be recognized. Then what is it?

In Agile the craving is self awareness. There has to be a craving for self worth. A sense of being whole. Of feeling valuable to oneself. We need to find paths to create that craving.  That is when I feel we as Agile Coaches are not really change agents! or personal transformation agents!  We are facilitators to enable self love, self worth and self awareness. And we help identify one habit. Change its routine. Identify the ripple effects and the unintended consequences – and help individuals and teams cope with the ripple effect that one small habit change causes.

#agile #dailyhuddle #scrum: How do I listen?

After about 2 weeks into coaching and getting to know each other, my tech lead finally approached me and asked, “I know we need to listen when someone is talking. But I am not able to.  I am either ready with a solution for his problem, or ready to defend why I was not able to respond to her immediately.  My mind is ready with answers”. “How do I listen?” “What is listening in Agile?”  “What is different with listening in Agile projects than other projects?”

“Yes” I responded and we headed to Starbucks to get our lattes and have a chat. I asked “How do you listen to your children?” “No that is not the issue”, he responded. “I can’t listen at work”.  I repeated “How do you listen to your children?”. “I know what they want when they cry. I know why they come to me. I know when they cannot finish their meal or homework”.   “How did that happen?” I asked.  “Well, I care about them. I pay attention. I know even before my child gets sick, that it is coming. I know when my child is going to fall. I know their sounds. The tone of their voice.”

Me: “Well then what is different here at work?” “Do you care less?”  “What is your expectation?”

He: “No no no no.  I care deeply”. “I want to help them”. “I want us to succeed.”

Me: “Then when should you listen?”


He: “All the time. By paying attention. By seeing the pattern of how the day emerges”. “I have to understand that the team is not different than my kids!”

YES!  Listening does not happen during the daily huddle or just during a meeting. It happens all the time.  These predetermined sessions are for “data sharing” or “data gathering” of what we have listened to between the two sessions. Changes that have happened. How to reorganize our thoughts. Enable listening to certain situations more than the others. We never have a conversation to justify a predetermined thought process or to validate a decision that we have already made. To me that is a form of cheating!  That is a fake conversation. Why have a conversation if you have made the decision?

Listening happens when we are genuine. Show interest. Pay attention. And have an open mind.  A closed mind will not want to listen. It doesn’t want to be proved wrong.

#Agile #ProductOwnership: Their thought process on Iteration Demo

What are they thinking / feeling / wanting to share quite light heartedly:


It was interesting to observe one persons dichotomy on “questions” and why would that be? – There is a need to show their work and wanting feedback.  There is also a need to ask everyone in the area to allow for the flow of the demo to be completed before speaking up.

This is again a sign of  “Can you please listen until I am done. And when you are listening, do not form questions or opinions. Be with me. Absord whats happening. Be in a state of suspension. Understand why we are here”