Archive for September, 2011

The next person in the Who-is Serie is Rebecca Wirfs-Brock. I don’t remember anymore when Rebecca first came on my radar. I know it was when I was learning OO. When I was doing  more and more agile stuff, I noticed that she now wrote articles about TDD. Today in the agile community we have a lot of  people who don’t have a technical background. (I had the feeling this was not the case when I learned about agile.) Although I’m happy for this diversity in our community, I sometimes have the feeling people don’t know how big the diversity is of our community. When I started the Who Is, I explicitly invited people from different parts of our community. I’m really happy Rebecca took the time to answer the questions. And just like with every other answers, I learn a lot about Rebecca.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

My parents were educators. I vowed I would never become a teacher, but I became one…only not a public school teacher.  While I enjoy consulting, I find developing and teaching courses to working professionals equally rewarding. It is a myth that those who can’t do, teach. Teaching is much harder than consulting.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I would have pursued cognitive psychology…and probably ended up as a professor.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge currently is training for the 40th Portland Marathon that will be held October 9, 2011. This is both physically and mentally challenging…the mental part (believing you can run that far) is a huge part of it.

What drives you ?

Come on, you are asking the inventor of Responsibility-Driven Design (and the xDriven-Design meme) this question? My passion is software design, of course. But, more than that, I am driven to improve the lives of software developers by exposing them to tools and techniques for making their software more habitable.

What is your biggest achievement?
Physically: Running the Portland Marathon. I did that in 2004 and have been training to run it this year.
Professionally: Writing a best-selling object design book in 1990 (that’s still in print).

What is the last book you have read?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
If you weren’t at your computer, where would you be?
I’d be outside either running, gardening, or biking.
Alternatively: What’s new with you?
I have been working and thinking about Agile Architecture (why we need it, what’s the role of an agile architect? and useful techniques for managing architectural work on agile projects and programs). Out of that effort has come an Agile Architecture workshop I co-teach with Johanna Rothman.
I’ve also developed a Pragmatic TDD Course with Joe Yoder of The Refactory and Big Ball of Mud Pattern fame. We want people to feel comfortable writing tests along with their code without having to be driven to always write tests first. And if you want to sustain your codebase, you need to pay attention to developing and refactoring your test suites, too.

Who do you think I should ask next?
Joe Yoder of the Refactory and Big Ball of Mud pattern fame

Catia and Marcin started an interesting experiment, they called pair-writing.

Catia blamed me for starting that. I like being blame of things. Seriously. When it is my fault, it means I am in control and  I can do something about the mess people are in. (After all it was my fault.) Next to that, I have been blamed of much worse things then making people pair up.

I told Catia & Marcin I loved the idea, but I did not think it was pair writing. And then things became really interesting. One of them (the names are left out to protect the innocents ) said that before they could be pair-writing they needed first to increase the trust between them. Interesting because brought us back to the end of their discussion.

I have been reading and talking a lot about trust the last years.
My favorite one liner about trust is:


Trust is given, not earned.

Everyone with kids knows how hard this is.
As a parent I give a lot of freedom to my kids. Joppe loves climbing in trees. We let him, even if he climbs beyond the point we still see him. Does it scare me? Yes. Why do I let him do it? Because I trust he can do it. And because I give him trust, his confidence grows and he dares to do it.

Of course I did not trust him to do this, when he was 3. But it did not start when he was six either (when he started climbing trees.)

Now I know I trust people very quickly.  And yes I have already been bitten by that in my life (both personal as business life.) So what , I’m sure that even the biggest paranoids are not bitten less then I am.

Let’s take the example of our “The Core Protocols an experience report”, that article was written by 15 people. Some of them I never met. Yet I gave them all editing rights to a google doc. Some edited a lot, others send me some text and I added it myself to the article.

At some moments I was surprised about some changes. Yes at the end I asked people to be carefull about large refactorings. Yet I never have taken editing rights away. I will say more, I have no idea who wrote what.
Is it what I had in mind when M&T ask me to write the article? No. It is in no way what I had in mind.  It is 3008 % better.

Why? I trusted the people they would come up with good idea’s. Read article yourself and decide for yourself if it was a good decision.

Does this mean I still trust everyone? No. Some people in my life have proven that they can’t be trusted. They are removed from my list of people I trust. Can they get back up?

Yes they can, but depending on how hard they have been untrustworthy it might take a little longer.

Now keeping someone’s trust is hard. This year I have been together with my partner for 15 year. And yes, in these 15 years our relations has not always been as strong as today.

My question to C & M is: when you need more trust to write, why did it work to organize ALE2011?


Update: This weekend I re-read SLACK from Tom DeMarco and on page 152 there is the lovely parents rule:

Always give trust slightly in advance of demonstated strustworthiness.

Update: Although trust should be given not earned, I’m very sceptical when people say: “you HAVE to trust me on this”. To me it sounds like a partner who says: ” don’t you trust me?” It feels like blackmail. And I don’t trust people who blackmail me. And yes I ‘m wel aware of ways to say that, when it does not feel like blackmail. Yet in those cases, there is typically no need to say this. A better way would be: what do you need from me, so that you would trust me with this?

My professional life started in 1994 by doing software support for a small (7 people) IT company.
The company had a DOS program for insurance brokers. Most of their users were people who did not know much of computers.
Philippe hired me to offer free support to these people. Making his customers life as easy as possible helped the company a lot. We went from a 200 (or 300, I don’t remember anymore) customers to over 1400 customers in little over a year.
When I later started my own company in 1998, I decided I would take this to the extreme:

I offer Free Lifetime support on everything I do.

A few examples to show that I take this pretty serious:

Free support for

At ALE 2011 I did a lightning talk to challenge every consultant or consulting firm to do the same thing. If you support this idea, you can tag yourself with this tag at entaggle

As I love recursive things, I do give FLS to this post about FLS.
my SLA? I guarantee a reply in 48 hours. And usually it’s a lot faster then 24 hours.

And now it’s my turn to ask for help: Will you help me finding someone who wants to create a logo for FLS?

Oh and when I say LIFE, I mean mine, not yours. 😉

Time for someone new in our Who Is Series. Nr 14 already. Wow this is going fast.
If I had not typed them all in, I was not sure I had all read them 😉
Did you? You did not just read the famous people did you? (At least that is what my stats are saying.) And actually some of the most interesting answers come from less famous people.
I’m not sure in what category Don belongs to. He is one of these people that the incrowd knows is very important in the coaching scene. Does that make him famous? I have no idea. I don’t even care. I know he is one of the people that I was happy he wanted to answer the questions. And I am equally happy I will  meet him in November when I go to AYE..) Don was invited by Johanna Rothman
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

While in college, I studied Aikido. I spent hours in the dojo learning how to work with other people’s energy. Blending with it, guiding it, becoming part of it and extending it.

This “meeting others where they are” and not colliding with them corresponds to the first two points in Herbert Shepard’s “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents
* Stay Alive
* Start where the system is

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I don’t really know. I almost got started in Electrical Engineering. I did get my Bachelor’s degree in Control Systems Engineering. At one point later in life I was invited to apply for the Physcian’s Assistant program at Wake Forest. I was a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician at the time.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

I tend to get involved in many different areas. Engineering, software, systems, teams, communication, problem solving, personality types, NLP. While my immediate focus shifts based on my context, this breadth helps me as I work with others.

What drives you ?

The gap between what is and what could be.

What is your biggest achievement?

Helping create the AYE community. We started in 2000 after Jerry Weinberg said, “If you could have the conference you want, what would it look like?” At the time no other conference (that I know of) had three hour experiential learning sessions, much less ALL the sessions being three hours and experiential. We focus on keeping the “confer” in our conference by limiting participation making it possible to create connections that continue after the trip home.

What is the last book you have read?

Why Software Gets in Trouble by Gerald M. Weinberg. It’s part his work converting the four volume Quality Software Management series into ebooks. I’m currently reading Maslow on Management, Visual Meetings, and re-reading The Fifth Discipline. Did I mention I get involved in many different areas?

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I’ve heard you have a nice hand with teams. What’s your secret for gaining their trust?
In order to gain trust I have to give trust. I trust team members want to do a good job. If something odd happens, I trust they’ll correct the problem and we’ll move along. I start where the team is, yet create a picture of what the team could be. I provide a positive influence. Additionally I demonstrate I’m trustworthy. Reciprocity goes a long way in establishing trust.

Who do you think I should ask next?

  • Dennis Stevens. I like his approach to introducing managers to both the benefits of improving their work systems and the practical approach of continuous improvement.
  • Peter Saddington has enthusiasm and energy around helping teams become more productive and developers enjoy their craft.
  • George Dinwiddie possesses the rare combination of technical craft and team skills.
  • Esther Derby has breadth and depth of knowledge, experience, and practical tools that add up to insights you can use.
  • And Jerry Weinberg. Like many I’ve had the chance to learn more about myself in his courses. Unlike most, I’ve had a chance to learn from working with him creating the AYE Community. He’s an encyclopedia in a sound bite world.
Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Don’s answer to the question: What’s Next?

At the first coach-retreat, we had a room where you could talk about anything (just like any other room) but you had to be painting while you did.

I did not look at people’s face when I announced it, but I can imagine it shocked some people.

Painting? If we would have announced it, we might have had less participants. I have to admit, I almost chickened out of my first bootcamp for the same reason.

My 6 year younger brother once told me, that a drawing teacher said I was the worst student she ever had. No wonder I never dared to draw anything. She almost killed my creativity. almost/

I’m glad I now dare to paint, draw etc. Let there be no confusion, I’m the worst painter you have ever seen. So what? When I paint, a different part of my brain gets activated and I come up with great idea’s. I’m no sure if these idea’s are more crazy as usual, they sure are more creative.

At a coach retreat were we have the intention to involve the children in the activities, painting is one of these things you can do with everyone.

As I wrote yesterday, the paintings in coach-retreat we threw away, but the conversation they inspired I will not forget…

For next coach-retreats I’m looking for other room idea’s. Other rooms, that use other parts of our brain to kindle talks.

A few months ago Jurgen asked me if I was interested in pair-organising a coach retrait.

Jurgen is a smart guy, he knows if you mention the word pair and coach in one sentence, you got my attention. So I went to his house and we talked about lots of different things and also a little bit about a coach retreat.

yes I admit, the word is a rip-off, of the famous code-retreats of Corey. Why invent a new name when a cool one is available?

Many people asked me at ALE2011, how will it be different from an agile coach camp.

Good question, I did not know the answer. aha, but after the first one, now I know…

I admit I have never been at a code-retreat. Stealing a name from something I have never been to is a risky thing. I have been thinking really hard. How did Corey make code-retreat different from the pair-programming parties we had in Belgium for a few years? Or the coding dojo’s and coding kata’s

One thing that sticks out is the: you throw your code away rule. mm, how can we do this with coaches. What can we create that we can throw away? It’s not like we create anything?

Should we write code, nah then the partners can’t join, nor the kids.

Ah now I had another problem, we said partners and kids were invited, but we wanted them to participate in the main program, instead of a side program.

One thing I love is to combine two problems into one solution.

Tada: let’s create ART are together.

This morning I arrived with a fully loaded car with paint, paintbrushes lots of plastic (to cover the floor of the nice office building we could use.)

We started with a group CHECK-IN. I always find I awkward when I initiate a group check in with a new group. And every time I am happy we did it.

One of the children said: I’m afraid I will be bored. An open and clear message without drama. I love that.

Then Jurgen told everyone the rules of open space. As a few partner and children had joined us, it was good to explain to everyone what to expect.

Before we opened the market place, I told them about an extra rule for one room. In one of the rooms, you could talk about everything, but you had to paint. You could paint alone or together as long as you kept painting while talking. I learned that idea from the McCartney bootcamps. While you paint, you use different parts of your brain.

The different with a bootcamp, was here, as in real code-retreat rule, you can’t take the paintings home. Throw away ART.

I think it resulted in pretty amazing talks (and paintings)

Was everything good?

Of course not, it was a first try out. It was not intended to be perfect. (That’s another spirit of a code-retreat we want to practice. Not show off)

I wanted to have the children and partners involved. And that worked fine. Well for a moment, but after a while kids get bored. We did have lego, we did have paint, we did have an x-box kinect. yet we did not have a nice kids program like at ALE2011.  And we should have had, so that partners and children could choose.

Oh and I wanted to end the day with a circle of questions but I forgot.

I also wanted to do something nice for the partners. I know that being a partner of a coach can be very demanding. I ordered flowers for all the participants. With the intention they gave this to their partner to thank them for their support for their coaching work.

Thanks to everyone who was at this first coach retreat.

(I’ll blog later about some of the great sessions we had.)

Update: The picture are now online

IMG_5053 The 13the person in the Who Is Serie is Jutta Eckstein
Jutta has written 2 books on distributed agile that have  been translated from German to English. She was recently called Nr 87 on Top 100 of Das Computerwoche ranking

I saw a few of her talks at agile conferences in the USA & Kiev. To this day I still use a phrase I learned from her: “With distributed teams you will always pay for travel costs, by bringing the team together or by loosing productivity.” (She said it in a more catchy sentence)
Jutta has been active in the agile community almost since the start. When I started doing distributed agile in 2005, she was the only person I found at the time that said it was possible.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Only a few people know that I started off as a regular teacher. I taught such funny(?) school subjects like sports, arts, craft, design, and technology. That’s probably why I’m still interested in pedagogical patterns, facilitation, and generally education.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?
Well this depends if I have to make money out of this other thing or if I could assume that money is available? If money would be available, I guess
I would spend most of my time under water scuba diving at all the phantastic spots all over the world. BTW in my first year of being independent I decided
that it’s up to me based on which business I will survive. And although I spent  most of my time working on IT projects, I also worked for 2 months for a
scuba dive center in Menorca (Spain). As a Scuba Dive Master (which takes more than a 2 day training class followed by a multiple choice test 🙂
I have done that for a change in Sardinia (Italy) and Egypt in the following years. Meanwhile I have been giving up my pro-career in scuba diving, but I keep doing it for fun. Hmm, and if I would have to make money, then it’s getting difficult. Actually my second study wasn’t IT but engineering. Maybe this would have been something. At least the most interesting IT projects to me are the ones that are very close to hardware and where we can actually see something is happening because of the software we’ve delivered. Just seeing that some data has been read, made pretty, and stored in the database again – is somewhat boring compared to hardware-related applications.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
Honestly, I have a problem with the second part of the question. I think my biggest challenge is not a good thing for me. Striving for perfection is my
biggest challenge. I have tried to learn over the years that perfection is seldom really good, it seldom pays off (whereas good enough or barely
sufficient does always pay off
) and it costs a lot of energy – sometimes so much energy that I had to pay with my health. So again, I have a hard time
seeing anything good in here

What drives you ?
My passion for getting better (myself), for seeing people enjoying their work more than they did before. I have always the greatest times working with
teams once fun and laughter (please note I’m not speaking of cynicism) became part of the work.

What is your biggest achievement?
Getting independent. After six years working as an employed programmer (first C++ and then I converted to a Smalltalk addict) for a couple of companies, I
felt that I wouldn’t like to work this way for the rest of my life (maybe the decline of Smalltalk was part of this conisderation). At first I thought I will only work as an independent for a few months – actually I thought only to bridge some time till I will start working on my PhD and then spending my time as a professor at a university. But then it turned out that being independent is so much fun and so statisfying for me that I’ve quickly given up on that other idea.

What is the last book you have read?
Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge‘ written by Rainer Maria Rilke.
To be honest, I had a long time where I’ve given up reading – I mean real stuff. During these time I read IT-related books only. Well, now it’s the other way round, I hardly read any work related stuff, yet about 30 “real” books per year.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?
Jutta, do you still enjoy your daily yoga practice?
Astonishing enough, yes I do. When I attended last year’s Retrospective Gathering in Tisvildea few of us got together in the morning for practicing
Kristina Malther who organized the gathering together with her mom, Charlotte, pointed me to these great yoga classes for download. Since then I’m practicing
every morning for 30 minutes and it helps me a great deal. Beforehand I just went to a class once a week whenever I was home (which means maybe 20 times a
year), and although I liked it, I just didn’t make any progress (see here it comes again: perfection 🙂 ). So nowadays my yoga travel mat is always in my
suitcase and waiting for me together with the online class in every hotel in the world.

Who do you think I should ask next?

There are a lot of people who are not getting as much recognition as they should. So this is a tough question. My I suggest two? Jeanitta Andrea who
pushed Acceptance Test Driven Development forward.

And my second recommendation (no order here) is Lise Hvatum a Norwegian who moved to Texas in order to make Schlumberger more agile – what a challenge!

This week I was ALE 2011. To remember and share my experience I will write an improvement game

What I like about ALE 2011:


  • I forgot about the failure cake

What I would like to see improved:

  • More people using “The Law of two feet” when they think they can have more value somewhere else. (It’s not restricted to the Open space sessions only)
  • Oomps (Official One Minute presentations about the upcoming talks)
  • Closing oomps: at the end of the day participants talking back what they learned from all the talks
  • an organized way of sharing rooms
  • An organized way of sharing Taxi’s, from and to the airport
  • A date more families come
  • the children room in a more central place
  • the children report back what they have done as part of closing oomps
  • the family program is on the official program (no second citicians)
  • we have a book swashing activity
  • we have bar activities (like agile quiz etc)
  • all groups of dinner with a stranger are smaller then 10
  • I would like to see less “Agile EGO” (We are agilist so we are better then the rest of the world) and more use of prime directive in everything we do.
  • People are funny without cynism & sarcasm
  • everybody understands what it means to have an open space conference
  • More butterflies
  • More Bees
  • No passive aggressiveness against people not from our community
  • a world café
  • more developers
  • more C-level people
  • a book shop
  • make it clear if participants will receive a notebook or not
  • We have 24 hour wifi
  • The Coffee and the rooms are on the same floor
  • the toilets are on the same floor
  • We should have some room for longer sessions (games?)
  • We should help new presenters
  • We should encourage speakers to do dry run’s

Personal improvements

  • I should have used paircoaching on the coffee mugs instead of so that more people understood this was a promoting of an idea and not a company
  • I buy less mugs then participants
  • I can withhold from jokes about Americans (Sorry Brian I was really happy you were at ALE)
  • I listen more when I meet awesome people
  • My family joins ALE 2012
  • My family is active in ALE 2012.
  • My phone keeps working during the conference
  • I check the feedback from my session at the door…
  • I should have thanked the organizers more…


My improvements are worth 1 out of 10 for me.(This means that ALE receives a 9 out of 10 )


Rini Van Solingen has interviewed me for his Groeten Uit Delft vlog.


UPDATE 2013/09/19: Although I started the brand PairCoaching in 2007, based on an article my father wrote in 2004, it turns out that Industrial Logic already used that name to reference how they worked with coaches in 2001. Although my father was already delivering workshops with my mother and with his brother since 1991, I don’t think he used the term PairCoaching before 2004. So the price for inventing the word goes to Joshua Kerievsky and his company.

I found this out after I gave back the website to the community.
This makes Joshua one of the few American’s that I know that did not sue.
(There could have been a discussion that I created a brand (unknowingly) on a name they invented before.) Which proves again to me that the agile community (and it’s leaders) talk before anything else.
Joshua, I bow deeply in respect. Both for your gentle mail and for invented the word that brought me so much joy.