#Womeninagile #agile2016 : What was in it for me?

I was heading out to dinner with  a few friends who were participating in Agile 2016  and one of them exclaimed,

“Gosh! I would have so loved to attend the Women in Agile workshop. I was already here. I had not paid, and was not sure if I would be allowed. So I did not attend”.   I                      then asked her,”What would a man do?” And then we had conversations around this for a few more minutes.

This is exactly why we need a ” Women in Agile” workshop, and more of them. To remind,  to educate, to extend an helping arm, to help a women  discover and learn her own strength and expand her capabilities.  In some way, we need to begin “thinking like a man”; After all we are living, struggling and surviving in a world built by men. The Agile world co-exists in organization structures and its DNA, where we need to discover, nurture and expand more women thought leaders, including business and IT leaders.

An email invite to participate in the  short 4 hour Women in agile workshop was quite irresistible for me to pass up. The workshop may have been intended for the Agile 2016 conference attendees, since it is held in the same location, same time frame, etc. As  a non attendee to the larger conference, the 4 hour session offered a safe environment, and just enough conference energy that I was open and ready to receive and share.  It gave me just the right atmosphere and environment to plant the seed of becoming relevant and reinventing myself all over again.

As we remembered Jean Tabaka, her kindness, and her way of coaching, it offered me an another opportunity  to re-establish my self identity, claim myself as a woman in IT – Because I am here – because I have chosen to be here. I know I have so much to offer. I have so much to learn.

As Cindy Moore spoke about her transition to Agile, I see a world filled with opportunities for women working alongside with their male colleagues not just as allies, but as comrades and team mates. Women executives, coaches and Scrum Masters are not embedded in teams to be passed of as someone who takes notes, or just sets up meetings. She comes with clarity of mind, and has her own strategies for planning or execution or to meet a release deadline.  She knows to interpret data.

While in breakout sessions this is what I heard from other participants about a Woman in Agile:

-She will bring with her skills that she discovered and learnt while bringing up her children, either as a single parent, or as a family with her husband or wife.. But bring she will and it is time we begin taking notice.

-She recognizes that she is not ‘fighting a battle’ for just one skin color or race. Recognizing that women of all colors, race and culture are equal, she raises her voice for all of us. She wants all women to reach out and ask for help or offer help – to mentor, to be mentored.

-She wants to create an environment of learning not just at her work place; but at schools and colleges – so that the child that will become a women one day gets her grounding early on. She wants to coach women to express their ideas,  become excellent speakers, who in turn will create more energy and set a rippling effect.

-She understands what softness is. What firmness is. She wants to explore Agile career paths. She is curious about how other organizations create women thought leaders. She wants to network. She wants support. She wants to support. And again, men are not just allies. They are partners, ‘comrades’.

And we as Women in Agile want to gain momentum, sustain and grow.


I have had the opportunity to observe Natalie’s passion and dedication to Agile in the past few years, and her keen sense of building a community around the struggles of women in Agile.  Agreed, that not all of these struggles are due to gender inequality, but calling this out specifically will allow more organizations to open doors for Women thought leadership.


What was in it for me?

I found  a sisterhood. Found a band of hearts, ideas, thoughts that resonate and will journey together..

See you all in Florida for Agile 2017, as we see our ideas take form, and as we plant them right now, right here :):)

Happy journey Sisters!





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.

#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!

PersonalKanban and Presencing: #agile #scrum #coworking #firecatstudio

Current trends gaining traction in leadership coaching about mindfulness, compassionate listening, and conscious consumption prompted me to combine these practices and host the Firecat First Friday coworking session in the following format:

1. Becoming present-  Participants gathered to “becoming present” thus preparing themselves to focus and articulate their vision for the year.

2. Creating personal backlog (a brain dump of sorts) – Using words and sketches participants generated stories that define their expectations of the coming year.

IMG_3165 IMG_3166

3. Communicating the personal backlog- Once the stories were visualized, they had to find a partner and share their intentions. When listening, individuals were encouraged to make gentle eye contact, to not provide feedback, avoid forming opinions, be open to stories being told, show empathy and kindness. While speaking individuals were encouraged to narrate with pride, believe their thoughts and avoid self criticism .  Each person had to repeat the cycle at least 5 times to enable self direction, articulation, and gaining confidence about their vision.


4. Regroup for presencing- A second iteration of presencing enhanced their ability to feel and accept their heightened awareness about wants, clarity about intentions, and shift in perceptions.

5. Discover Personal Kanban and create boards- The presencing method, creating and communicating the backlog enabled participants to create / design physical board that resonated their current wants. Since most of our participants were solopreneurs, entrepreneurs  and WFH professionals – relating Kanban and Kaizen to what they already do in their professional lives made complete sense.

Session feedback- Listening is hard. Listening without forming opinions is painful. Listening without providing feedback is evil!

Self direction is necessary to be self organized and be accountable.  Maintaining a Personal Kanban board shows a high level of self-respect and an ability to strategize based on the patterns of flow.

Work that needs to be completed might be messy, but requires attention.

The biggest lesson of all:  We probably just opened a can of worms!! :):)