Xpdays benelux is my crowd, my community. In 1998 in my spare time I created an screensaver that counted down to the year 2000. Now testing a screensaver is very boring. You have to compile the executable, rename in to .scr, copy it over to the windows system32 folder and wait. Wait for the screensaver to kick in, and then wait some more till the action you wanted to test happens.

Being an active person, I did not like that. I looked for a different way to test what I wrote. I started to write functions that tested the output of the functions I wanted to test. And run these test as part of my executable. I was rather proud of my invention and proudly told colleagues. I don’t remember anymore who, yet one of them told me what I did was already invented and it was part of XP. HE advice me to read more on wiki.c2  . (I don’t know if the first edition of  Kent’s book was already out. ) I love what I read there and devoured it all. Fast forward a few years, I ‘m part of a small community that organises evening events at companies to discuss problems they have. The community is so small that to organise the 2003 day event, it’s co-organized with Dutch colleagues. XPDAY (Day not days) is invented. The first edition is inside offices at football club

When I want to buy tickets, my client at the time, give me a delima. You can only go that one day, if you don’t work that whole week. This boss, manipulated me, knowing I’m already complaining he does not give me enough work, I don’t go and start planning to leave the company.

The next year I went and I have been to conference even single year since. Most years I was presenting. Except last year, barely a week after I moved to a new house with still many things to take care of, aka I had different priorities.

2018 edition.

I’m happy to be back. When the submission season came around I decided to do something different this year.

Let me explain why. The days I’m presenting, I know I’m focussed on my talk, most of the time I’m not good at taking-in new ideas.(And the hour after my session, I need to decompress).

I decide that this year, I will not present and when I’m going to sessions, instead of focussing on the content, I’m going to have a meta focus.

My focus at XPdays Benelux 2018 was on:

  • Would I be interested to deliver this content?
  • Do I already know this content?
  • Why didn’t I never think about offering this as a session?
    • I don’t want to brag, yet the last then year I have been to sessions, that I never considered giving myself, only to realise that I had more experience as the presenter and it was a topic that interested a lot of people.
    • aka my version of imposter sydrome
  • What technique works well for me as a participant (for this presenter+workshop)
    • Would this technique work for me?
    • What do I need to adopt for me?
  • What technique would work better for me as a participant
    • What do I need to learn to apply this technique (as a presenter)
  • what else can I learn from this workshop?
    • a technique
    • a nice slide
    • a sentence I can quote
    • a book I should read
    • new people around the table?
      • I was very deliberate in selecting tables:
        • 1 out of 2 with no-one I knew
        • 1 out of 2 with only people I knew.
        • Advantage of this
          • no showing off
          • full trust
          • no need to understand the way people are.

 

2018-11-30 08.13.12-1

What did I learn?

 

The biggest thing I learned was something that should be obvious, yet I think many workshops and training do this wrong. 

I learned it after reflecting about two workshops I followed the first day. (And not surprisingly I realised it while talking during a break. )


When you teach a new technique in a workshop, make sure that the context and probably the full product that people design is clear to them. So they can focus on your new technique.

 

Imaging teaching impact mapping at a conference.

Typically at a conference I have 20 or more people in a room.

Imagine that most people are completely new to impact mapping.

At your table there are 4 other people. All of you have experience with similar techniques. yet no one has been in an impact mapping session or even read about it.

 

If the exercise I’m giving you, is to design a product that does not exist, and I don’t have the time to be at your table to be there as a full time stakeholder, my workshop will fail.

Your discussions will be about

  • the new product,
  • the impact mapping
  • probably other similar products: in user story mapping we do this. so it can’t be that.  (Where this and that, might be the exact difference between impact mapping and user story mapping and why you want to combine them later on)This was a reason why I like the xpgame so much.
  • It did not teach people to write good user stories, you were giving user stories.
  • It did not teach you to invent business value. The business value was given.
  • It teached you have to plan and to get feedback on your plan.
  • It let you experience at least 3 sprints in one evening.
  • With every implementation of a user story, I learned I did not ask enough questions. As a developer I had the nickname FAQ, as in frequent asking questions. And still the most important lesson I learned was I did not ask enough questions before estimating and implementing the stories.

 

I recently heard again the feedback that some agile games are silly, why do they use things like fold airplanes? They do because they build on the knowledge you know, to teach you something you don’t know. And they use the knowledge that people learn best and fast, when they have fun and play.

so two lessons for workshop facilitators:

  • when you teach people a new technique, let them build something they know
  • explain to your praticipants why you do that. Yes they know what are the features of existing ATM’s, cars or houses and that’s good. that knowledge is needed to learn your fancy new design technique.

 

Today Emilie tagged me in an answer to a tweet from Maria Kedemo

I’m always flabbergasted when I’m tagged as an answer to a conversation. Especially when it’s a conversation between two smart people like Emilie and Maria. I have been following both of them for a while. If you are not following them on twitter, stop reading and follow them. I’ll wait.
Done? No, I’m serious, please go do this, it will make your live better.

yes I understand Maria’s concern. I love feedback after a talk. I need feedback to improve. Yet just a score does not help me.

At least 10 years ago the xpday benelux conference, started to use the core protocol: perfect game as a feedback mechanism of the conference.

The agile program board of #xpdays . The card double as feedback forms...

On this picture, you can see the full schedule of the conference hanging as cards on a board. At the front of the card, you have a description of a talk.

IMG_3004

People were encouraged to take a card as a kind of entrance ticket for the talk. For each talk we had a maximum number of cards as the session could host people.

Yet the most genius part was the back. It had a perfection game on the back.  


perfectionGame

I don’t have a picture of such a feedback form. so this is a picture of how the perfection game works.

For those who want to learn more about where the perfection came from, you can read an article I co-wrote on methods and tools about the core protocols.

Our little family wished you (and your family / partner) a witty 2018.
We do this traditionally by video. (I think after 10 years I can say it’s a tradition)

We moved at the end of November 2017 to the minimum viable version of our new house.
The MVH 1 contained features: heating and a place to sleep. (In our previous house our heating system died somewhere around February 2017)

After a week, feature library and walking desk went live.

A month after we moved, feature kitchen was delivered. For us this meant that MVH 2 was feature complete. We hope that this week, feature shower and storage room will be usable. (MVH3)
After which we consider ourselves really moved as we now use both houses)

Features telephone and television should be delivered at the end of the month. Due to a misunderstanding of work for this feature by one supplier, the delivery of this feature was postponed for a month.

Feature: cell phone coverage in our house, has a high priority although we did not find a suitable system that we can afford, yet.

Features ventilation, solar roof, solar water heater have been postponed by our supplier for unknown reasons.

Other features like bell, music, ramp, garage, attic, training room, full bathroom, did not get a priority yet.

I know at many levels building a house and building software shouldn’t be compared.
Still I learned a lot about delivering with multiple -sometimes competing- teams these last two years. Things I hope to share with you in the coming years.
yves

 

In 2011 I learned about the concept of dinner with as stranger.
At ALE2011, the organizing sofa of the dinner party had a few month to organize a large dinner party for an unknown number of participants (it was the first time of the conference) .
The concept of dinner with a stranger was their solution.

Dinner with a not so stranger

I love the concept. And when I love concepts, I try to replicate them.
I started what I called dinner with a not-so-stranger.
That is me having a one-two-one with an ex-collegue or someone I know from the community. For a few years I did at least one such a dinner every month. Working in an hard-to- reach-office put that to a temporary hold. I will restart that when I leave this client.

Yet yesterday I started something I will call dinner with a peer.

Let me give you some context. I’m part of a team of coaches working with 35 teams.
Every two weeks we work together a full day. I have regular 1-2-1 with my manager. And of course I have the occasional chat with my peers.

I realized that I (and probably most people I know) never had an regularly organized way of asking feedback from peers.
So from now on, I will experiment with “dinner with a peer”. On a regular basis I will go have a meal with someone in my team to ask for feedback.

Will you perfect that idea using the perfection game?

Hi,

We wish you a empathic 2017.
This is the 11 year in a row we created a video version of our life.

2016 was a rollercoaster year. After we realized that the technical debt of our current home was too big, we decided to build a new one in our garden. We started building that house in 2016. To limit the projects in progress, Yves put most community work in the freezer. We took similar hard decisions on family “duties”. The building of the house goes slower then when we would have been in our twenties, yet we managed to keep our family life rather sane.

This was our life in 2016, we are very interested in yours.
Will you share with us what gave rise to the highest emotions in 2016?
yes, we are serious. Let’s turns this blog post into a nice dialog.

Yves, Els, Joppe, Bent, Geike
Hanoulle – Ryssen

PS After ten years we have a small number of families and teams inspired by our video’s. Will you join us?

A few weeks ago at #ALE16 I gave a lighting talk to ask people to think about introverts in an agile world. Before I go into my idea’s I want to clarify what I consider an introvert.

For me, an introvert is a person who gets energy from spending time alone. (Doing whatever she wants.)
An extrovert is a person who gets energy from spending time with other people.

I do believe that introverts can act out extrovert behavior yet it costs them a lot of energy.
(Just like when an extrovert writes ideas down without talking, that is possible, yet it costs energy.)

I read everywhere...


That said it’s also spectrum, where people can be more or less extrovert or introvert depending on the environment they are. F ex: I think everyone in my highschool would probably call me an introvert. Where many people in the agile community could call me an extrovert. And both would be right.
Because in school for me talking to people did cost me a lot of energy. I was reading day and night (alone) and that was what brought me energy.

These days at most agile conferences, I get energy from talking to people.
I can spend almost a full night talking at a bar with agile friends, sleep less then four hours and still have energy (the fact that I don’t drink alcohol does play a role in that 😉 )

That’s why I call myself an ambivert.

Now that I have my definitions clear, let’s go back to my #ALE16 message.

Over the years I have seen our world more and more encouraging extroversion behavior.

We encourage our children in school to speak up. We have more and more group work in lots of parts of the world all encouraging extroversion.

And yes in the IT world, agile is doing it’s part of making our world more extrovert.

We want standup’s, we have retrospectives, we do lots of all hands meetings, we have pair programming, even mob programming these days. Open office plans*, all to use the power of groups.

When I look around me in the agile community, I see a lot of (great) agile coaches, and a lot of them are extroverts. At a level it feels like most of them are extroverts. That was not the result of my (short) #ale16 questionnaire. I expected 80% would say they were extrovert, and yet it was probably more like 50%.

I personally celebrate diversity. I know that some of the best scrummasters I have worked with were introverts. Yet they always had a harder time selling themselves (they hated doing that if they already saw the point in doing so…)

In IT (just like in any other world) we have lots of introverts. Somewhere between 30 and 50% of the people depending on what study you believe.

This means, that for team activities you have to take both introverts and extroverts into account.

 

  1. start by ordering Susan Cains quiet: kindle, dead tree or audible versions. (I have all three. that should tell you a message. )
  2. extroverts figure out what they want to say while talking. where introverts want to think things through. So how do you make them talk together?

    A simple yet powerful retro-activity is this:
  1. Let everyone talk in the first 5 minutes: let them state one word how they feel today. (Random order gives everyone time)
  2. Give everyone some post it’s.
  3. Give everyone a few minutes to write one or more post it’s (around a theme.)
  4. let one person state her most important post it.
  5. If someone else has the same, let them give it to you
  6. then do a tour around the table everyone stating their most important idea.

>> this way extroverts don’t have to wait too long before talking and introverts have time to prepare and you make sure everyone talks .

 

If someone does not want to talk, I ask again making sure I tell them their idea’s are important, yet I do respect their choice of not wanting to talk.

That is probably more shyness than introversion, or maybe they really think they have nothing interesting to add to the conversation, yet although I know that is almost always wrong, I respect their choice. By respecting their choice, they feel heard also. And some people need to hear the message of “your choice is important” a few times before they will speak up.

This is just one way of respecting introverts. yet it’s a technique that works in every meeting. More ideas can be found in a classic work of my friend Jean Tabaka.
Her book collaboration explained was my only/most important book in the first years I worked as a coach.

It sometimes feels like a lesser known book now, yet it is for me one of the must read book for every scrummaster, product owner and agile coach.


* I don’t want to go into the discussion of Open Offices and if they are good or bad for introverts. I think the main message  to share here, is that most open offices are not designed the way Open offices have been invented. When Open Office have been invented, they were surrounded by private offices, talking bubbles and even larger meeting rooms. Most Open Office I have seen, lack these features.

Thanks to Albina Popova, Gitte Klitgaard for reviewing this post. 

 

Today it’s 25 years ago, that I did something that at first looked like my biggest mistake up till then. I was 19 years old and for the first time in my life, my parents were on holiday without me.

I felt an adult. I had been living more or less on my own the year before at university.

Although 1991, had been a tough year, by the summer I felt like I finally had control again over my life and everything was about to get better. I had again a girlfriend, my parents trusted me to stay home in their house. In my hometown I had been going for the first time in my life to 10 days of partying at Gentse Feesten. And I was doing volunteer work with children at a playground. I felt at the top of my life.


And then 1 august 1991, around 19 hours, fate struck, or was it desitiny?
I made my own French Fries, and with that I burned down my parents house.

I was 19, all alone, no cell phone, without a number to call my parents, no house, wearing nothing but underwear and a pair of jeans. No t-shirt, no socks, no shoes. I went to my neighbor and I called my girlfriend, unfortunately her parents had never seen me, and they did not believe  that a boyfriend they officially did not knew she had, had just burned down a house. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

I felt very very lonely.

I was 19, although my life was not an open book to my parents, I realized then, there was no way that I could hide this from my parents. And even postponing this, would not help me.
Yes that evening I learned the value of transparency and default to open. 
First thing my mother did when she came home, she did not say a word, she hugged me.  That hug told me; yes you failed, and no you are not a failure.

The newly kitchen burned down before it was finished...
It was a healing hug and it was the start of a long journey, that makes it possible that I can say that for the biggest part of the next 25 years, burning down that house was one of the best things that happened to me.

No, I’m no advising you to do the same. I’m advising you, to look at the failures in your life and see what you can learn from it.
What do you gain from hiding them? Most people gain a life of fear. Fear for being embarrassed. I had just burned down a house and everyone around me, knew about it. I had no place to hide. not literally, not emotionally. Yes there were (Tons of) people that made fun of me. I even had a friend who yelled at me. He yelled because, yeah because of what? It wasn’t clear to me at the time, now I would say, he yelled because of his own fear. Today, I’m ok with it, very OK with it. It told me he was not a real friend. The kids and colleagues at the playground on the other hand turned out to be gold.

Today I will celebrate the fire. Celebrate at work, and celebrate with my family; I’ll make some French Fries and I’ll explain to my son why burning down the house turned out to be ok.

And next time I make a mistake, I’ll do a #FailureBow. If you haven’t decided what to eat today, have some French Fries and think of your failures. 

I’m a book lover.
For me, agile does not make much sense without technical excellence.

Two weeks ago two friends had an interesting discussion on twitter.

This conversation inspired me to publish lists of technical books to read.

As I have not been programming a lot the last years, I only know must read technical books from years ago.

 Instead of this being a problem I thought let’s turn this into a positive thing, so asked a few agile technical friends if they could send me their list of top 10 technical books to read. With the reason why….

 The idea is to publish these lists on my blog, about one a week. (similar to how who is agile started).

This was the list that Christophe tweeted:

Hi,

We wish you an exceptional 2016. Just like the last 9 years we want to do this using a self made video about our life in 2015.

During our (Yves & Els) life, our group of friends grew and spread over the whole world.
Although we can’t send a personal mail to each and all of you. We do want to bring a personal message.
Newyear is a moment to make personal connections stronger.  For some that is with family, for some with physical close friends. For us it does not matter if you live in our village or in Australia.

2015 was a moving year, for the world and for our little family. Yves tried to fuse his life and work even more. (He does not believe in worklife balance, he loves work life fusion. ) so he took Joppe with him to talk in Kiev, Sofia and even Antwerp.
Joppe exceded everyones expectations.
All three kids continued to go to CoderDojo and gradually took more friends with them.

We finished 2015 by launching our own android game (www.anguis.be)
Anguis started as a summer parent pair programming project from Joppe and Yves. Programming one hour every day during our summer holiday. And it grew into a full blown family project. Bent and Geike turned out to be real good testers. (I wonder if bringing Lisa Crispin and Johanna Rothman to our house a few years ago had anything to do with it 😉 )
And grand father Ignace came up with a new algorithm to generate our own letter frequency.
And just yesterday Joppe’s Godfather Wim had an idea that made the ergonomics and UI a lot better.

Does this give you a desire to anguis? (yes in our family it already became a verb) we hope so.
www.anguis.be to download the game. (The game itself won’t bug you fro a rating, we hate that just like anyone else, yet we do hope you will give us a rating when you like the game.)
Unfortunately we don’t support English yet. Yes it was designed as a real MVP. In a full lean-startup way we will first add more features gradually grow our audience and once we are happy with the game, we will create a version that lets you choose English words.

Meanwhile Yves has his walking desk for 3 years. He already made 15 million steps since December 2012.
All while he works from home on projects like:
– CoderDojo GENT
– CoachRetreat
– Retroflection
Agile conference calendars
he co-published 3 books

Joppe limited the hobbies in progress and gave up his music lessons in favour of his basket.
Bent switch from circus to Rugby.
Geike took the musical aspirations from her brother over.
And is Els keeping this family together.

That was our life. We are also interested in yours.

Please share with us, what are you most proud of from your life in 2015?

Yves, Els, Joppe, Bent, Geike
Hanoulle – Ryssen

PS: Every year more people join us in making a video. Will you join us this year?
PPS: The kids might not see all the mails we get as answer, they do regularly look at the videos. so if you want to leave them a message, give it a like or a comment. Thank you

Imagine a professional bicycle team.
All very experience cyclists, that have won many times.

 
BikesHanoulle
 

The last years they have been losing more and more because this team is still driving older bikes. Most people in the team love their bike. After so many years they really know the good and bad parts of their bike. Although they weight more, the drivers are now doing power training, and the teams explositivity has doubled the last 10 years.

More and more people said they should change bikes, even a few people in the team have a different bike at home. Although most of them love it, some feel it’s not robust enough to be a professional bike.

Usually the day before a new tour, their sponsor makes a big speech and brings their customer made t-shirts. This year the day before the tour the France, their sponsor even made a bigger event. They brought a total new set of bikes.

These new bike are great, they are much more aerodynamic, they have a new kind of suspension and the steering wheel has some power steering. The teams tries the bikes for the first time in front of the cameras on the parking of their hotel. 
One of them falls of his bike, they all have a good laugh and they blame the champagne. Yet in reality these bike really demand another way to drive: they are so much more sensitive, so the cyclists are oversteering when they are going into bends. On top of that, because of the new suspension they have a different feeling on the cobblestones. All in all they have to sit different on the bicycle to use it to it’s fullest.

Now you have a team of 28 cyclist that will learn how to drive a new bicycle, all while running a race. (Against other teams that also drive this new bike, only they have been learning this for months before.) They are not the last to switch, some of their competitors are still driving old bikes, and to the people who are against the switch, it feels that these teams are more productive as they have won already a few jerseys.

That is how an agile transformation feels to most people inside companies.

Luckily the sponsors brought some bike doctors along to help give advice on how to use the bikes. These people are among the best around the world, the bikers feel frustrated because they have the feeling that these doctors tell them to do things that their own bodies gives them the opposite message.



A few sideline stories that sometimes happen with agile transformations euh I mean bike switches. 



The timerider is frustrated because the sponsor listen to the mechanics to buy all the same bicycles which was easier to maintain the bikes. Yet for timeriding it would have been better to buy at least a few time riding bikes.

A big thank you to my friend and colleague GertJan who inspired this metaphor and who’s e-mail conversation made this a lot better.

Another Thank you for Olivier Puffet who was the direct trigger.

Do you like this metaphor?


What could make it better?