Archive for June, 2011

I’ll do an improvement game on the video:

What I like about it:

  • It shows a lot of the problems you encounter when going agile
  • It shows how you can tackle most of these problems
  • The person manages to release a first version of the project in two weeks (or so it seems)
  • Luke is as persistant as the other people in the company
  • It shows the typically reactions of people that don’t understand agile

To get a 10 what I would like to see

  • The goal would not be to do an agile project
  • The remark of “this is not what I wanted” is accepted and celebrated (knowing that after 2 weeks is gold)
  • the video has more respect for the people who don’t understand agile yet
  • Luke helps the team by asking questions instead of forcing them to pair

The next person is my series of Who is is Laurent Bossavit also known as Morendil. My father followed Laurents session at XpDay Benelux 2004. Actually his session was one of the inspirations to our leadership game.  Next thing I know he invites us to the first edition of Xpday France and wins the Gordon Pask Award.
Laurent is one of these people that has invested a lot in bringing agile to a wider know audience.
When I send him the questions he created this video as a reply. Again Laurent sets the bar higher for everyone.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
I was abducted by aliens at an early age, and that is why I’ve sometimes had people tell me I was from another planet.

OK, I was kidding there, but there’s a grain of serious truth in that. Almost as long as I can remember I’ve been a total sci-fi nut. It explains a lot about me.
I litterally learned English as a teenager so that I could read my favorite authors in the original text; I started with Asimov, not so much because he’s what I like best, but because my dad’s sci-fi books were sorted alphabetically.

That early passion is related to the way I am curious about many things, and especially about futuristic topics from space ships to robots. To this day I have a yearning to figure out how the universe works, how our brains work. And I became curious about computers in particular, and when I was young working with computers was still something very sci-fi, though they are much more commonplace now.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
If I’d had the patience to stick with my studies, I would possibly have followed in my parent’s footsteps and become some kind of scientists. No, wait, the better way to say that is to say that in some alternate universe, a different version of me did become a scientist.

I’d like to think that this version of me went on to work in artificial intelligence, and made interesting contributions to figuring out how our minds work, and how something made from mere neurons can be so diverse and creative. One of my favorite authors was Douglas Hofstadter, who wrote several wonderful books about these topics. He’s still a hero of mine, I’d like to meet him someday.

Instead, though, I learned as an autodidact. For many years the only degree I had was a bachelor’s.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
My biggest challenge now, and for several years, has been to improve myself.

One topic I found fascinating when I was a younger programmer was self-modifying code – that is, programs which would write to the memory locations where their own instructions resided and then later jump to the modified parts. I first encountered this when I was programming for the early Macintosh systems – that was back in the 90’s so it was System version 6 or 7; that old.

Back then that was viewed as a naughty, naughty thing to do. Obviously it’s a very low-level thing to do, and it’s going to make debugging very hard, and it’s going to make understanding what the program does even harder. If you’re a computer science person you’ll hate the notion of self-modifying code: it is already very hard to formalize and understand, mathematically speaking, what ordinary code can and cannot do, but self-modification raises this to yet another level of complexity.

But with my early interest in artificial intelligence I viewed my own mind as something very like a software program, and it’s obvious that self-modification is a huge part of what we do as intelligent minds. Every time you learn something, you self-modify. And if you think about it, the part of your own mind you would most like to change is the part that makes you better at changing yourself! Because you would then have a recursive improvement loop, which should give exponential returns on your efforts.

Sadly, our source code is very hard to access. It’s a tangle of neurons and maybe even other kinds of brain cells. We can only hack it very indirectly. But because of this connection between minds and programs I’m very interested in learning in general.

Of course, becoming smarter isn’t the only thing you can improve. It’s also a challenge, for instance, to try and become more happy. Or to try to become a better person, someone who contributes more to others being happy. Or to try to become a better parent to my kids, and so on.

What drives you ?
I’m very much driven by wanting to do things that I’ve found to be necessary, and not doing things because someone else told me to do them.

I can totally understand people who have a regular job, and I see it as one of the great attractions of a normal job that you don’t think all the time “what should I do next”, you can go ask someone for instructions. Sometimes I feel totally insecure and I feel like having that kind of a job would be a great relief.

And yet, for better or worse, I find that this makes me very uncomfortable. What I prefer is to decide for myself. What I like best is to work within a community, because that has the best of both worlds: I can make up my own mind about what to do next, but I still have other people around who can check my thinking.

What is your biggest achievement?
I’d like not to be the sort of person who goes around measuring achievements and trying to put everything on a single scale, so I’m not going to answer that directly. There are things I’ve done that I’m proud of, along many different axes.

One of the things I tend to be more proud of is when I have an original idea, or even when I add something to an existing idea, and I see the idea spread and other people are able to grow, and achieve something of their own, by building on the ideas I have improved myself. That’s a really nice chain reaction; it is like the self-modifying code idea, but applied to cultures instead of individual brains.

One thing I’m quite proud of in this respect is having invented the Coding Dojo and turning that idea into reality, with Emmanuel Gaillot. I’ve seen the effects on many people who tried it, who came to the Coding Dojo every week for a long time, and became obviously better programmers. It was really striking.

What is the last book you have read?
It’s “Feeling Good” by David Burns, a book on the cognitive and behavioral approaches to treating depression which was recommended to me by J.B. Rainsberger.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
I’m stumped, frankly. Often I do my best thinking when people ask me questions, but I sometimes find it difficult to ask the right questions on my own. That is one reason I think community is important. So what I would like to ask instead is, if anyone viewing this video interview has a good question to ask me, can you please get in touch by email? (Note from the editor: please add your question in the comments for everyone to read and see the answer… )

Who do you think I should ask next?

There are so many people I could name. Emmanuel Gaillot whom I mentioned earlier is one; or you could find out more about some of the people who have been attending the Coding Dojo, I’m thinking for instance of Jonathan Perret. Or our US colleague Dale Emery who I always think of when I think of good questions, though he really is as good with answering questions thoughtfully as with asking them.

Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Laurent’s answer to the question: How do you balance your family and your work?

Agile Games Promo with Sponsors from Lollie Videography on Vimeo.

I missed again Agile Games this year, this video makes me regret it even more…

This morning our family has presented how we live in Bordeaux for 6 months At BarCampGent 4. Here a (older) 3 minute version with French music.

When Jurgen announced his rewards for reviewers:

  • my first reaction was: cool, it might encourage more people to write a book review. (I read tons of books and have only written a few reviews.)
  • My second reaction was: mmm, I don’t believe in external motivation.
  • My third reaction was: ok but there is no guarantee, that you win. And as I wrote earlier, irregular feedback works better.
  • My forth reaction was: I hope someone wins who has already given a review before he announced this.

Tonight Jurgen twittered that I had won the price because I wrote this review. (For the record yes I wrote this months before Jurgen announced his contest. He did not even ask me to add my opinion to amazon)

Update: Another example of why it’s never good to write blogpost late at night and post it without someone re-reading it. (Then why do I edit this after midnight again?)
Let’s make it clear, I am happy that Jurgen did this action. I do accept the price. Thank you Jurgen for that. What this blog post is about, is what will I do with the amazon check.

I’m puzzled what to do with it.

There are a few reasons why I think I should not accept this price, accept the price and give it back to the community.

1) At least once a week I get phonecalls for jobs offers, when I am not interested, these recruiters always ask if I don’t know anybody else who fit the profile. And then they try to bribe me into selling people out. I think this is unethical. When I know a good person that is looking for work, I will forward them the job offer and I don’t want to receive any money for that. Giving money for this is a short term solution. It means that some people will be tempted to give away either names of people they don’t respect, and kill their own reputation. Or they give the names of good people they are now working with (or previous worked with). When these people are not actively looking for work this is distroying a team/company etc. Don’t get me wrong I do forward the jobs to the good people I know are looking for a job. I just don’t like the selling out principle. I do tell the recruiters I am not interested in their money for this kind of unethical acts.

(Update: Let make this clear I think that accepting the money is unethical. I’m not talking about offering the money. I don’t care, that is their responisbility.)

Similar to this, it feels that keeping money for my review makes it less valuable (and the same for all the other reviews I made on amazon or linkedin.)

2) When I was studying, I was living of wellfare. I had about 375 euro a month to live from. The first year I did not even had a computer (kinda hard considering I was  studying IT). For a few years I had the idea that I would like to “sponsor” a few kids that are in the same situation I was. And give them 10 good IT books to get them started. (Books that I wished I had read before I started.) I was thinking about these 19 non IT books or these 10 agile books. Although I think I contacted a friend who works at the local wellfare office, I never started the idea for real. This could be a first step.

For them these 200 dollar wurth of books would make a huge difference.

Reasons to keep it:

I could use the money to buy my wife or my kids some nice books. They are the once that suffer from all my extra curriculum activities (Instead of writing the review(or this blog post), I could have hugged them instead.)
(This is not entirely true as amazon does not sell many Dutch books)

So I turn this into a community thing: do you have any other idea’s what I could do with the amazon gift?
Although I don’t give you a reward  for answering, I still hope for a lots of idea’s.

I will decide myself what I will do.

Update: To make clear Jurgen does not give 200 dollar, he gives an amazon gift for 200 dollar to buy books.
Update 2: What was not clear, I am very happy that Jurgen does experiments like this. I see my blogpost as a way to get feedback about this experiment. I did not say properly thank tou to Jurgen about the offer. For which I want to apologize.

Thank you Jurgen for the offer.


I asked Lisa Crispin to be the first in my list of “Who is”. See my post of yesterday of why I started this list.

Why Lisa?

Ever since I met Lisa she has been a great  (most of the time the biggest) supporter  of innitiatives I like.  Her energy has boosted our community in more ways then we can imagine.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
When I tell people I am painfully shy, they don’t believe me. I’ve had to adopt a more outgoing persona in order to accomplish my goals. It’s extremely difficult for me to get up and present, or even worse, call someone I don’t know well (or even someone I do know well) on the phone. I think the struggle takes some of my energy and holds me back some, but perhaps it makes me more empathetic to other shy people.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
I have an MBA with a specialization in organization development, and I worked in that field for two years after I got my degree. I really loved this work and always thought I’d be an OD consultant someday. However, a layoff and a recession led to the accidental programmer trainee job. After getting into IT, I never seriously considered doing anything else, at first because it was fun and I was too lazy to think about anything else, and then I realized I was really passionate about what I do.
What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
See the answer to Q1.

What drives you ?
Self-interest, I guess. Years ago, a teammate told me “Job security is all in your head. If you believe you can get another job, you have job security.” I love working on an agile team, so I’ve worked hard over the years to help other people learn how to work this way. My goal is for more and more teams to work like my team does, so if I ever need a job, there will be lots of good places to look. Also, I love to learn, and one of the best ways I learn is by going to conferences and talking to other practitioners. I can’t go to a conference unless I am invited to present, so I had to have something to say and get good enough at presenting that information so conferences would invite me. As long as I feel I have valuable skills, and there are lots of good teams on which to practice those skills, I’m good to go.The other part of this is that so many people have helped me over the years, especially in the agile community, I believe I must pay that help forward to other people. It sounds corny, but I really believe it.

What is your biggest achievement?
The obvious answer is co-writing a book, that was really hard work, and I’m very proud of what Janet and I did, as many people tell us they find it helpful. But maybe my biggest achievement is being part of an awesome team for most of the past 8 years that has delivered an unbelievable amount of high quality software and has truly delighted our business people and helped our company succeed.

What is the last book you have read?
Well, honestly, it was an eBook about how to get your kids to do household chores that my teammate is writing, she asked me to review it and give her feedback. I have also started reading Uncle Bob’s Clean Coder book, and I am also reading a murder mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series. I multi-task too much in reading books.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
“Lisa, how are your donkeys?”
“Why, thank you for asking, they are having a lovely summer. This weekend we are going for a trail drive, then we will go have a beer together on the patio at the new brewpub in which my husband and I are 1% investors.”Or more seriously,
“What are you looking forward to most in the next few months?”
“So many things, including Agile 2011 and Agile Testing Days, but I’m most excited about attending Agile Coach Camp U.S. in Columbus in September, which includes an Agile Gamesday and two days with awesome coaches and practitioners, I know I am going to learn a ton of stuff that will in turn help me help others learn.”Who should be the next person to answer these questions?
Hmmm, so many choices.  There are so many people I’d like to know more about! But if the goal is someone an agilist should know, I think the person of the moment is Gojko Adzic, and I will tell you why I picked him. My big goal for 2010 was to find ways to teach testers good code design skills so they could write more effective, maintainable automated regression tests and truly free up their time to do exploratory testing. I worked really hard at improving my own design and automation skills, and wrote articles and prepared tutorials to help impart these skills to testers. But in recent months, Gojko has convinced me that our goal should be getting programmers to do the test automation tasks, which they can do quickly, and free us testers up to do what we do best. We need to take tester-programmer collaboration to the extreme. This is where my writing and presenting efforts will focus in the near future.  I’m seeing other practitioners writing and presenting about this too.


Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And an additional answer from Lisa.

I was lucky to be selected in multiple initiatives created by agilist.

After all that attention, I thought I should do something back. I liked Olaf’s idea of one person per post.

Instead of me saying why I like that person, I have decided to ask some questions and let the persons answer them and say some more about themselves.

In the coming weeks and months you will read answers to the follow questions:

  • What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?
  • If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
  • What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
  • What drives you ?
  • What is your biggest achievement?
  • What is the last book you have read?
  • What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I wouldn’t be me, if I did not turn this into a community thing. Instead of me selecting all the people who you will read about, the last questions I asked was:

  • Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

I hope you like this series as much as I do. As a teaser, I can already tell you that I learned something from everyone by reading their answers.

Update: This idea is really taking of. Due to the succes, I have more people answering to quickly publish all answers. Read more about that here.

Update2: the list of people with published answers has been move to a seperate page

Yes, I stole this title from a popular book in the 80ties. I think this is one of the books I heard my parents recommend most to other people.

Over the years I came to realise this is one of the major mindsets of agile. Think positive of everyone involved.

When we give feedback, it’s about the actions of people and not about the people. Same thing goes for receiving feedback, when people criticize me, I know they are actually criticize my actions. (Even if they tell it in a personal attack.)
There are multiple techniques that help in creating feedback. I prefer my own improvement game(which is an adaptation of the perfection game).

Let’s do a little exercise:

Think back about your work. Do you think that most of the time you do the best work you can, considering your knowledge and the circumstances?
When I ask this at a conference, between 80 and 90% of my audience puts up their hand to say they do.

Now think about the people around you. Do you think they are doing the same? From these same audiences, about 50% of the people who raised their hands, drop it. Statistically that is not possible.
You can be all (of the 80%) doing the best you can and at the same time 50% else is not doing that.

I see a few reasons why there is this difference.
– only great people come to my talks. 😉

This reminds me about a question Dr Covey asks in his workshops: “Who thinks her boss should be here in the workshop instead of you?” At the workshop I was, 80% raised a hand. Just like Dr Covey I think I have a the right people in the room.

– people are lying about their own performance.
I don’t believe this.

– people overestimate their own enthusiasm. If that is true, it won’t be for 40% of the people
– people underestimate their colleagues performance.
I think the chances are much higher that people underestimate what others do (and overestimate what these people can do considering the circumstances), they over estimate their own work.
Part of that is because we value other people based on our own situation. Now neither the knowledge and the situation of the other person are like ours. So we think that the other person is misbehaving/ underachieving based on assumptions. (Called fundamental attribution error.)

The prime directive is about this difference. It wants us to see people with respect.

Yes I am aware that 1% of the population are psychopaths. I might even have met one. As long as I wanted to work with there, I took the responsibility to think as much as possible positive about him (I could not do this the days he asked me to lie to customers.)
Learning about transactional analysis helped me to understand difference between the dynamics I see in a good agile team and those of a bad agile team.
I learned that in good agile team at least one person is able to cross transactions and not stay stuck in a paralel transaction.

The whole TA also helps to see how people are talking. If they are acting as a child, a parent or an adult. (I’m using the TA meaning of P,A,C. All these terms are positive terms. )

Remember next time someone does something you don’t understand (or agree with): I’m OK, you’re OK.

I have written before about how an ask for help can help any person or any team.
This is a small video I found on youtube that shows the Ask For Help protocol

As an agile coach I try to apply agile principles to a lot of parts of my life.
One of these places is reading books.
As you can see on my libarything or my kindle read page, I read a lot of books.
95% of these books are non-fiction.

I love reading and I also love my time.
When I read a book and I don’t have the right state of mind for that book. I stop reading it. Then I select another book that has a better match with my mood.

To do this with dead-tree books, I needed at least 3 books in my backpack.
And a few dozens at home. To be able to select what I want to read when I started reading a new book, I bought almost every book that interests me immediatly.

The problem with this, is that it costs me a lot of money at a moment I did not have time for a book. In lean we would call this inventory.
This invenory becomes waste when a new version of the book comes out before I have read it. (I have at least 10 books like that in my library)
Its even worse when a I loose interest in a book before I read it.
This happens (a lot) when it’s a book about a technology that I no longer use.

When I bought my kindle I changed my buying pattern. My kindle offers me the opportunity to buy a book whereever I am. And I have the book, in less then a minute on my kindle.

To keep track of the books I want to read, I download the sample of the book.
I have at this point 194 sample books on my kindle. I know because I add them to a category “ToRead”.
When I want to start to read a new book, I read the sample book. If it is what I want to read, I buy the book and add it to a category “Reading”. (I remove the sample book at that time.)
When I have read the book, I add it to a categoy “Read”.

The effect is that I never buy books anymore that I don’t read.
Except for the books that don’t exist on kindle. Yes I still buy some of those, but unfortunately for these authors, I don’t read them. [hint hint]

Although this looks bad for the book business, I don’t think it is. I actually read a lot more books then before. And books that I have read are books that I recommend. (OK only if I like them 😉 )

Now I don’t only limit the number of books I ‘m buying, because I have a category with books I’m reading, I am reminded about the other books I am reading.
When I want to read something else, I have more chance of restarting one I already started.
Because it is visual I now try to limit myself to reading 6 books at the same time.

Let’s recap what agile idea’s I’m using to read more books:

Reducing waste
Limit read/books in progress
Stop starting, start stopping
Visual Management