Scrum: Lessons from #leancoffee for team communication

As most Agilists know #leancoffee is a savvy and simple technique that we use to facilitate a session  focusing on top priority items first / and time boxing  conversations.

To the group that met last week in Geekdom, #leancoffee was new. And to some of them Agile was also new, and the “Aha” moments experienced by Rob were the best of all

Everyone wrote the topic they wanted to discuss on individual sticky notes.

And then we went around the circle briefly introducing / describing their topic of interest

Rob went last. And he seemed quite disappointed. “I don’t even have to speak about my topics, others have already spoken about it”.

I was planning on discussing the theory behind ‘visibility and the work place’ and why sessions like these get us into the habit of practicing them but Rob provided me an opportunity to speak sooner:

“Rob, that is exactly why we write our topics down. Everyone gets to make their topic of interest visible.  It is okay that you went last, but that does not mean your ideas are least valuable, or you didn’t get to introduce, or didn’t think about what you wanted to discuss and why you prioritized.”

“In old fashioned meetings, many folks don’t say anything, because someone spoke about their topic. Unfortunately, sometimes it creates a reputation that they have nothing to say. And those folks who spoke first, they continue dominating  future meetings as well.  What we are doing today, is to make an individuals thought process visible and allow everyone to see (notice) first hand their interest. Now if someone has already introduced your topic, when it is your turn, you can make everyone aware that was your interest as well and add on to it. ”

“And if your topic did not get voted up, then you and the other person who wanted to discuss the same can meet later”

We then proceeded to dot vote, and complete #leancoffee.



LeanCoffee @Geekdom

Team communication is all about being heard, listening and understanding the flow of work, and how it fits together. It is about “not living in the head”, but making  thoughts visible, inviting immediate feedback, allowing the thought process  to change, and the team adjusting to the new thought process;

In Agile projects communication is not about conveying or exchanging information. It is about creating opportunities to be understood; It is about developing earliest possible moments to “sense”; it is about paying attention to the signals that are available, and working on them at the appropriate moment



#openspace: conversation and a conflict resolution tool #Agile #Scrum #

After about 30 minutes of introduction from participants I was still not ready to discuss Agile and the theory behind it. This was our first meeting. I wanted to delay diving immediately into discussing what I knew about Agile as a practitioner, and a coach.   I wanted us to discover about each other, endure conversations,  engage in discussing topics that brought us together – like change of career, transition in personal and professional lives, wanting to learn and know more etc.

Thus as a perfect immersion to a collaborative environment,  I decided to model the rest of the afternoon on “open space”.   Each session was for 10 minutes, with 5 to 7 minutes of talking followed by Q&A. We had 5 minutes between each session for regrouping, preparing.  Everyone had to attend and was not offered the option to be a bumble bee or a butterfly!

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Participants were encouraged to negotiate and move a talk to another slot so that they could maximize their attendance. A few sessions were not attended. The host may have been disappointed, but also learned that not everyone had solutions to topics, and that was not a failure. We added these topics to our backlog. Thus by immersing in multiple back to back sessions, people learnt more about each other, offered to help, discovered areas of potential collaboration.

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Participants also learnt how a modification of open space could be used to resolve conflict. By making topics anonymous and gauging interest by dot voting, team leads could facilitate open space around topics, thus eliminating the need for a topic owner.

#agile #coaching #change: Making a small shift

As I re-read “The Power of Habit” I recall some incidents from life:

During the 90’s and upto the mid 2000’s we were heavy Soda drinkers. Our home was stocked with a minimum of 10  liters of Soda bottles and the family raced to finish them every week. We had the fear that there won’t be any left if we did not get to the soda first.  Children would check the levels of Soda bottles first thing in the morning, because it would have been consumed after their bed time. (And probably make a mental check of consuming them when they returned from school that evening)

During one visit to Costco, I got home a case of bottled water, though we were using Brita filter to purify water. This was something new. This led to a dramatic change in our consumption of Soda. Everybody in the household held onto bottled water. Since we did not consume alcohol at home, to keep the taste buds satisfied I bought cases of Fuse for the men in the house.  This led to a dramatic decline in us buying Soda itself.  We limited Soda consumption to restaurant visits or for special occasions / or when we had friends over.   To this day, this habit has stuck.

That is when I realized that everyone wanted to eat and drink healthy, but grabbing a cold soda was easier than pouring water from the Brita filter onto a cup (and the Brita water was not cold, so they had to add ice to it – or if it was the grownups they were so lazy that they always needed someone else to get them a cup of water filled with ice). We were inserting many reasons for not drinking water. But stocking water bottles or Fuse in the fridge was the answer. Now the choice of drinking healthy was easier.

To continue the thought process and discoveries of making a small shift, during  yesterday’s meet-up I suggested we discuss the power of shifting one small habit and identifying the ripple effects and unintended consequences.

This was the first time for my team to articulate in a sequence about a habit and both members present chose to discuss their need to drink Soda.


And we detailed about the Cue, Routine, Reward and Craving.


We discovered that they have been working on changing the habit by doing the following:

1. Limit stocking at home  2.  No impulsive buys 3. Drink colorless soda 4. Drink carbonated water.  5. Focus on health 6. Get noticed by not ordering soda at restaurants.

For one of them the unintended consequences were the following:  1. Her child has reduced her consumption of Soda.  2. Proudly talks about it, and is a cheerleader to her mom.

Thus my belief that “Make one small shift and the world will realign” continues to gain momentum.