Archive for October, 2011

This is the saddest of all Who Is that I am writing. Only a few weeks ago I met Grant for the first time life. I had heared so may good things about him. I was delighted when I received his #WhoIs. Such a lovely man. Music, history, etc . He was also one of the few who gave me a lot of links. And if I felt we needed more diversity, just look at his list of next people to ask the questions…. Grant was proposed by his friend Bob.

And then today I read on FB and it was confirmed on Linkedin that Grant died in a sailing accident. I don’t know what to say… I had planned to publish another Who Is today, I’m not sure I will still publish this. Here is the one of Grant.

I withheld myself of adding fun links today. …

Update: Here are two video’s from the events I saw Grant. this might be the last moments of Grant on tape.

Understanding Effectiveness: Rightshifting and the Marshall Model

Realizing Value: How to apply Rightshifting


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

I was enrolled as a Wolf Cub at the age of 8, was a Scout, helped found possibly the first mixed-sex Venture Scout Unit in the UK, was a Cub Scout leader, an Assistant Scout Leader and a Venture Scout Leader. I believe I learnt more about team work and servant leadership from my mentors in the Scout Association than ever I have from the world of business.
It was through the Scout Movement that I became interested in the folk music of the British Isles. That encouraged me to participate in folk clubs, especially Croydon Folk Song Club, where I met Susan Donaldson  (who was fool enough to marry me). My brother Keith, Sue, our eldest daughter Lyndsey, and I have for 24 years played in our family folk band, Pig’s Ear. We have 7 CDs available and run an annual Folk Ale . I play the Appalachian mountain dulcimer.


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

I would have become a lumberjack, tree surgeon or estate manager, as I planned to study Forestry at University. Fact is, I got into programming in 1972 via a holiday job, which in many ways I’m still doing. I often wonder what I’ll do when I grow up.


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

People are definitely the biggest and most interesting challenge. As is learning from them and attempting to communicate with them.
It seems to me that a technical solution or work-a-round can generally be found to most problems. But much technical effort is expended to address the wrong issues. People prefer to work on technical stuff because, I think, it is easier than understanding the real, underlying problems, which are nearly always people-related.
Why is it good for me? I suppose because people present a challenge that is forever mutating, that cannot be solved once-and-for-all, but which pulls us to strive to find better ways to help people explore, discover their issues and work together on solutions.

What drives you ?

Hmm. Dissatisfaction with the status quo, disgust at the dysfunctional nature of our socio-political-economic system, and a belief that everyone ought to contribute according to their means, and be supported according to their needs. Homo sapiens can achieve so much more. But we have yet to demonstrate that we can achieve a sustainable, fair, global system.


What is your biggest achievement?

My best achievement is to have shared, with Sue, in the upbringing of our daughters, Lyndsey and Helen.
Work-wise, I think I’ve made some minor contributions to structured programming, software measurement and lean systems thinking for software, but how worthy these are is for others to judge and say.  I guess I am most proud of the work we’ve done on SMS’ Lean & Agile Method for Improvement Teams (SLAMit) and Outcome-Based Agreements (OBA) for those using agile practices.

What is the last book you have read?

Well, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the ‘last book’ I read, but the book I’ve completed most recently is Kenneth & William Hopper’s book, ‘The Puritan Gift’. This is a ‘must read’ for everyone interested in business management, politics and/or modern history (which ought to be everybody). It explains so much regarding how and why the human world dominated by western economic behaviours has got into its current state. And, importantly, gives clues on what we must do to move to an improved future state.
Since my teens I’ve been a big fan of science fiction, so it’s worth saying I’ve just finished my monthly ‘fix’ of ‘Analog Science Fiction and Fact’ magazine. And then of course, there is my quarterly ‘Dulcimer Player’s News’ .
One thing I’ve noticed is that I get through fewer books nowadays, I think because I read more, shorter stuff on-line. Time spent on blogs and Twitter is time I’d previously have spent reading. I’m not sure I have a sustainable balance worked out yet.


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

I guess you could ask, “If, after looking at the world of software systems for 40 years, and analysing the current state, you think you have some solutions worth modelling, what are you doing to get them tested, evaluated and implemented?”
And I’d respond, “As Deming observed, the performance of a system is mostly designed into the system, and is affected only a little by the individuals who crank the handles. Politicians, executives, managers and workers are all trapped in the system of work (which with a few exceptions is mostly dysfunctional and less effective than it might be). However, it is the explicit responsibility of politicians and executives – our leaders – to work upon the system of work to make it more effective (and thereby improve life for everyone). So much of my current activity isfocused on engaging with those folk in leadership roles who can remove the impediments that obstruct the majority. Tom Gilb, Peter Leeson, Bob Marshall, Chris Woodward, Sue, myself, with some others, have formed Orchestrated Knowledge, an organisation that we intend to use as a platform to leverage proven know-how, to create synergy where we can, to assist leaders to reduce the waste of human creativity and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.


Who do you think I should ask next?

During my nearly 40 years in software, I’ve observed two problematic tendencies:
1) a predilection to continue along a course of action beyond the point where there is irrefutable evidence that that course is ineffective (and as Albert Einstein observed, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.) – making out everything is a ‘project’ is one example; the ‘big design up front’ approach to specification is another.
2) a focus on technical detail, programming language and tools, rather than on principles, methods, patterns and problem solving – which has infected education to the degree that I fear newly trained developers today are on the third (maybe the fourth) cycle of re-invention, simply because the history of software engineering seems to be ignored. This encourages the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. Yet even Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

So while I can think of many current practitioners who it would be good for you to invite, I’d like you to engage with one or two of those I consider ‘giants’. So I suggest:

Update: As you can see in the comments Grant friends are reading this page and learning about his work. If you knew him, please also leave a comment here, so everyone can have a even more complete picture of him. (I assume people from the Folk community won’t have access to the linkedin groups where I see comments about him.)
Update2 : here is the Grant Rule Memorial Lecture

I created this video as part of my FLS for our Personal Agility Workshop.

I read tons of books. If I can learn something from a book, I will do so. I prefer a book, because I can read at my own time and at my own speed.
And yet, I spend an insane amount of money on trainings.
Why do I do this?
I do this because some things cannot be learned by reading a book.

Let me give you an example:
Imagine that you would tell your children to read a book, to learn how to ride a bicycle.

Yep once you know how to ride, you might get some idea’s on how to improve your style, still you would have to practice these idea’s before you would be able to do that.

What about a video?

Can you learn how to ride a bicycle by watching a video?

The only way to learn how to ride a bike is by practicing.

The same can be said about agile. You can only learn to be agile by practicing.

What about “side wheels”. Do they help?
I think that depends on the personality, some people feel more comfortable with side wheels to leanr the techniques, and once they can do it. They trust themselves enough it will work (at least be much easier.)

Agile games are the side wheels to practice agile in a safe environment.   It’s not the same thing, but the closest experience to the real thing. And at one point you have to do it alone…

Some kids learn how to drive all on their own, some kids needs a coach to support them.
You might know how to drive, but that does not make you a good coach to learn people how to drive a bike.

In our house, my partner was the person who was best to teach my children how to ride a bike.
At first I felt bad about that, I coach people all kind of hard stuff and then I am not able to teach my kids how to ride a bike? Now I am proud my wife is great at it and me, well it does not hurt my ego to be comfronted with things I can’t do.

And you know what is the best way to become better at driving a bike?
Riding a bike. Yep that’s right, practicing is the only way to read the feedback the bike is giving yo earlier and reacting to it faster.

PS Did you know there are 175.000.000 hits on google about learning how to ride a bike? Why is that? You still need to practise… 😉

Update: this is also why I think a book like Who Is agile is important. Not to teach people agile, but to give them an insight in who are these people that call themselves agile. To show them some of the pleasure of being agile.  (And a side effect is that it show that agile leaders are no super-humans. They have doubts and weaknesses like anyone.)



Gojko Adzic is the next in my serie of “who is?” As requested earlier by Lisa Crispin. Gojko wrote a few wonderful books about specification-by-example. Gojko took a 2 months holiday last summer. Even if he is considered a big upcomming name in the community. Only for that he is already my hero. Yes Slack is important.

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

When I was 23, I became editor-in-chief for PC World for Serbia, which suddenly gave me an editorial staff of 20 people to run and they were all older than me, mostly 10 years or more. This had a profound influence on me in terms of understanding team psychology, communication problems and systems thinking.

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

This was never an option for me. I got a C64 when I was 6 and never wanted to do anything else than programming.

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

I have too many interests, ideas and things I’d like to do and the day only has 24 hours. My biggest challenge is coordinating and prioritising things with so few time. I guess this is a good thing because it makes me continuously evaluate whether I’m doing the most important things.

What drives you ?

I’m hyperactive and get bored quickly. Continuously learning new things and working with different teams feeds my hunger for change. I guess that drives me. Money is a good short term driver as well, but it cannot work even mid-term if I get bored. That’s why full-time employment never worked out nicely for me.

What is your biggest achievement?

I don’t think I’ve achieved this yet

What is the last book you have read?

I’m currently reading Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making (Gary Klein) and Beautiful Visualisation (edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky)

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

Being from Serbia, the question I get asked all the time is “Is it very cold there?”. The answer is “Nope, you’re thinking of Siberia“.

Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

Dan North
Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Gojko’s answer to the question: What are the insights that guide your behavior?

Today I did the keynote of SDEC 2011 (Version 14).
The talk was designed for this conference, but I have given earlier versions at
ALE 2011 (Version5) :I was asked if I wanted to do a talk about a week before the conference
Lean & Kanban Benelux 2011 (Version 7): I proposed this talk to replace a speaker who had a delayed flight, 5 to 10 minutes before this talk was scheduled.
Agile.Net 2011 (Version 9) : after the good experience at LKB11, I was asked to do this as the closing keynote at ADN11.

Like with any talk or anything I do, I offer FLS (Free Lifetime Support) on this talk.

(I decided to only have one version of the slides anymore on Slideshare. That way, this page will always show the last version of the slides.)

Update: A video of version 7  is now online

As a coach I have been lending my books for years to my customers. With kindle books I could not do this, until today.

Read my review for Jurgen’s book on amazon.

(Read more on Jurgen’s post on why and how he offered money)

Time for another publication of “Who Is” answers. This time I chose Esther Derby.  Esther was proposed by Johanna Rothman & Don Gray

Esther has the wisdom of a 90 year old, with the body of a 16 year old. When I write it down, it feels more like an insult than a praise. But when you read her answers, you will see that she worked hard on both parts. Of course her goals were not based on 90 or 16 year old’s. But she had an end in mind when she began and more important, while she worked on herself.  I hope Esther forgives me for talking about her that way.

Esther was the first author I asked for help without knowing her. I no longer remember how she reacted, but I still ask strangers for help 😉
I once saw her doing a 1 (or was it 2) hour presentation with only 3 slides. One of which she had a formula on it and no words. The word presentation is actually wrong as it was more a dialog. Although the content was not new to me, the refreshing style helped me in forming my mind. Her Agile Retrospective book is one of the books I have bought dozen’s to give away.

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

My fore-bearers on my mother’s side came to this continent in the 1600s to escape religious persecution in Europe. I’m not sure what their beliefs were….there have been a number of changes in religious affiliation down the generations, all of them sincere.
This history makes me less inclined to hold onto One Truth–and not just where religion is concerned. Our belief systems always involve choices. Those choices play out on two levels. First, there’s the choice of a frame or belief system guides our life. Second, there are the choices that are shut off by our chosen frame and the choices that open up that frame.

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

I have no earthly idea. At university, I studied studio arts and art history. I figured out pretty quickly, though, that

  1. there weren’t many jobs in the field
  2. I wasn’t cut out for the sorts of jobs that were available.

So I thought about what I liked to do, and what I was good at: seeing patterns, solving problems, thinking logically. And I remembered the flow charting template my father gave me when I was 9 years old–perhaps it was all set in motion then.

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

I have this little voice that sometimes asks “Who do you think you are, Sister, acting like something special?” On one hand, this voice can undercut my confidence–if I let it. On the other hand, it keeps me from turning into an egotistical fat head who believes all the praise quotes and press blurbs— and thinking I’m more special than anyone else.

What drives you ?

I don’t know if “drive” is the right word to describe what motivates me. Perhaps “What pulls me” is more accurate.
Many years ago, I spent some time thinking about the life I wanted for myself. Then I set about creating it.

My endeavor is to stay on course with that vision, and think about the choices that will get me there. Those choices are the guide star.

Let me give you an example. One of the choices I made was to maintain fitness and flexibility. Now, I don’t always want to go to the gym at 7:30 in the morning. It’s easy to choose the newspaper and another cup of coffee over the gym. But rather than get hung up on the secondary choice (go to the gym), I focus on the primary choice, maintaining fitness. Once you make a few primary choices, the secondary choices are pretty easy. When the primary choices are clear, both my conscious and unconscious minds are tuned into them.

I check back on my choices from time to time, and my picture of the life I want to live. I may make some adjustments, either in my vision or in my primary choices. But for the most part, I’m living the life I want, and most of the time I’m insanely happy (though since I’m extremely introverted, it might not show).

What is your biggest achievement?

Oh, that voice is is telling me I’m not so special and that if I did it, it must not be a big deal! Shaddup!

Let’s see.

I unlocked the golden handcuffs at a big corporation, walked away from a pile of options that were two years out from vesting and started my own business. I’ve co-authored two books. I’ve written over 100 articles. I learned how to ski at age 38. I’ve got a great life and I’m happy.

What is the last book you have read?

More than I have kept my books, my books have kept me.

I’m currently reading Building Trust by Solomon and Flores (business), Lonesome Dove (pleasure, got sucked in by the mini-series while visiting the in-laws last week), The Bush Tragedy (civic participation), and listening to The Culture Code (while running).

I the last month or so, I read Leadership and Self-Deception, Beyond Budgeting, Cutting for Stone, and The Political Mind.

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

“What brings you happiness when you work with others?”

Ah, interesting question. I don’t always like getting on a plane to go to work, but I do like the people I’m with once I arrive. I enjoy helping people see different options that will help them operate more effectively in their lives, on their teams, and within their organizations. I really get a kick out of helping someone see their organization as a system and discover a whole new range of explanations and possibilities. I find that when I’m not happy at work, it’s usually about how I am choosing to frame something….

Who do you think I should ask next?

George Dinwiddie. He brings a unique set of skills, intelligence, curiosity, kindness, and playfulness to his work.
Rashina Hoda, who has done some really interesting research on self-organizing teams (her PhD work on self-organizing teams is available online).
Jukka Lindstrom, who has boundless curiosity about how people and organizations tick.

Last Monday I did an introduction with Jürgen Desmet (AgileMinds) about Real Options, after which the Real Real Options guys took over. These were our slides.
We also talked about Dimensional Planning and Story mapping.
Dimensional Planning and Story mapping are for me implementations of Real Options.

Update: a video of the presentation can be found here.

The next person in the “who is” serie is Jerry Weinberg. Jerry was proposed by Don Gray
Writing Jerry introduction feels like the hardest of all.  It feels like Jerry does not need an introduction, as he had so much influence by all of his books. Even people that have not read one book of him, are using idea’s like the orange juice test he made famous.
He might not need it, I still think it’s important to introduce him. And that is my problem. I have never met Jerry. Oh yes I read lot’s of his books.  In his books he uses examples of what is happening around him, then goes to meta level and distracts a rule out of that. I love it, when I am coaching I’m doing the same thing. The problem with reading Jerry’s books, is they give me the impression I know who he is. Which I don’t. Ok enough disclaimer.
Jerry is a person who has written a few books that were disruptive for what he was writing about. So disruptive publishers -knowing his track record- were too afraid to follow him.
Next to that, I think he is also a pretty humble man. On a few occasions I have send him a mail asking for help. In all cases he answered, and he answered quicker than most people I ask for help out of the blue. Jerry is behind two initiatives I still want to go to. The Aye conference and PSL . At the end of this month I will finally going to AYE.
At Lean & Kanban Benelux 2011 I have been discussing AYE & PSL . It seems that people in Europe are interested in PSL. If you are from Europe and interested in PSL, shoot me an e-mail and I see if I can convince PSL trainers come to Europe one more time. We could do it at the wonderful location of Koningsteen.
(Update: already 4 people are interested.)
(Update2: In April 2013, I was on PSL in Albuquerque. Jerry can’t take a plan anymore.)
Jerry has almost written more books then the whole agile community together, and for sure he has influenced more people. (If only by influencing a lot of the so called agile leaders.
What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

I had a brother who lived only three days, and I never saw. He was the only brother I ever had.

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

I would have been a billionaire protege of Warren Buffett, and died at an early age. Really.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?
To act in a way that’s congruent with my beliefs. It’s a good thing for me because if I don’t, I feel really crappy.

What drives you ?

Nothing drives me. I’m not a driven person.

What is your biggest achievement?

Staying alive.

What is the last book you have read?

I don’t believe I’ve read my last book yet.

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

What is the meaning of life? I don’t know the answer, but seeking it seems a good thing to do.

Who do you think I should ask next?

Yves Hanoulle
Update: if you liked this, please buy the “Who is agile” book. It contains similar answers from other agilists. And Jerry’s answer to the question: If you could have any super power, what would it be?