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




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 🙂



#Scrum simulation with legos

It is always good to revisit.  And during the revisit there is a new learning, old perceptions are revisited, and clarified.  And I had this opportunity at our meetup this evening.

Working with Legos, being a participant, recognizing how my observation skills about my own team work and how I observe a workflow was a beautiful end to an active Agile week.



One member new to Agile  joined us after we started the game received just one welcome message: “Hi! welcome, join us, and build a bicycle”. She had many questions:  Is this Agile? What are you doing? … and so on, but being a good sport she jumped right into building the bicycle without any hesitation.

Here is a collective learning outcome from our 90 minute session:

1.  It is nice to know what we are doing at-least after some time!

2. We became familiar with the pieces that after sometime it didn’t matter if we had to break them down

3. Do not reinvent the wheel. Ask.

4. What seems uncanny and weird might just be the right solution.

5. Talk to each other please

6. Why didn’t you ask questions?

7. We could have used more clarity. And more often

8. Do not get stuck with the first solution that you had. Life does not have to revolve around it.

9. I could use this model for my productivity training sessions

10.You may not have spoken to each other too often, but were observing and adapting to what the other person was doing

11. Now I have to go home and play with my Legos :):)

And a little bit of Agile and Scrum awareness was shared to folks new to it




Thankyou Brandon,  David, Larissa, Sara and  Vickie for sharing some fun moments.

#agile2014 Bring your #product #idea to life

My session for #Agile2014

Where is the idea for a product born? When does it become a narrative? A story? How does it make its journey into this world?
A song that Sir Paul McCartney wrote from him dreams; A machine, a cure, an app that was designed in a dream – Seems like these products spoke to their creators. Enchanted and filled them with passion; creativity; joy and urgency; and a need to make them a reality.
How would it be if your product spoke to you? Seducing you to make that precious idea in your mind a reality.
Join us to journey into the products life! To live in its persona. To perceive it with the highest regard. To treat it with compassion. And above all to position yourself as its creator and connect with it.

After walking you through real life story of how the concept of “product persona” was born, and its application, you will be given the opportunity to create “product personas” for ideas that want to flow from your mind; or products that you are currently working on.
The essence of this workshop is for teams and individuals – business, product owners, product managers, idea generators to look at their product as a living entity. An entity that needs soulful attention. An entity that wants to be treated with love and care and a sense of belonging.
Thus prompting us to ask:

1. What does this product as an entity wants to be?

2. What does this product wants to do?

3. Where does it want to go?

4. How does it want to be served?

5. Why does it want to exist?

6. What does it want to see?

7. With whom does it want to belong?

8. Who are its friends?
These questions enable us to activate those areas in our brains (which neurobics / and science love to talk about) without doing a sit down session for “Creative session – Product A. Meet at 9:00 am”. Connecting to the product, giving it a persona enables product developers to engage at a subconscious level and allow the flow of thoughts to continue even after consciously disengaging from conversations.
Thus we are attempting to bring into this session:
-Perceive a product differently
-Engage with people who are as uncomfortable talking differently about a product as us
-Break the ice and continue the thoughts (presentor will actively help groups with getting started on conversations)
-Be in that state of mind for the next 75 minutes. Help them realize that during this session they look at an “idea” differently and for those minutes be the star; be disillusioned; be passionate; be in the mind of the product;
-Create stories about a product and believe it reality without using metrics, ROI or competitive analysis.

Session format:
Participants will be encouraged to share their real life product ideas for the workshop
We will also support with narrations of products, unique for each table 
Some examples are:
Mobile app (to secure seats for travel/ or similar) 
Green and environment friendly shoe lace (eg. Bluelace company) 
Mobile app for language translator 
Oral hygiene products
5 minutes – Introduction to the workshop 
5 minutes – Forming teams, selecting a product and a product persona owner 
10 minutes – Raje will do a short presentation on how the concept of Product Persona came into being and the benefits of its application for product development
20 minutes – Create a product persona that addresses questions detailed in the information for review team
10 minutes – Share product persona with the larger group 
15 minutes. Based on feedback received, recreate product persona. Present to a “legacy stakeholder” and attempt to get their buy-in
10 minutes – Q&A
Prerequisite Knowledge:
Learning Outcomes:
A deeper understanding and passion for products that an individual or a team is working on.
Describe a product capabilities and its relativeness to other business units like sales and marketing.
Enhanced ability to “stun the customer” with thoughtful questions, and generate product information.

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.