Archive for May, 2012

Naresh was proposed by Rashina. She says that Naresh was an important driving force behind the rise of the Agile community in India. I seem to run across Naresh on multiple places on the internet. I have no idea where I met him first. He seems to be all over the place. He is one of these people engaged in more community events then I am. He was, for example, the organizing Chair of the sold out Agile India, one of the biggest agile events ever. Next to that, he speaks 8 languages, some of which I have never heard of. Checking out his Linkedin page, I was surprised to read he won the Gordon Pask award. (Not surprised he won, but surprised I did not remember this about him.)



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

Ever since my childhood, I’ve seen tremendous growth around me. My dad started his business with 25 paisa in his pocket and today is a well know businessman in his business line. My uncle, who left home in search of a job and started as a laborer in a plastic factory, today is one of the biggest exporters of pens in India. Another person I’ve known is a 7th grade drop out from school, today runs some of the most prestigious educational institutes in India.

When one is surrounded by such inspiring stories, how could one rest in peace?

I remember quite clearly, I must have been 9 years old, there was some dirt on the floor and some customers were about to come to my dad’s office. Without a second thought, my dad picked up the broom and cleaned the floor. He could have easily asked one of this employees to do it, but he decided to lead by example. And this was a repeated story with all the successful business tycoons I’ve known.

They don’t just lead by example, but are extremely hard-working (at least 16 hour workdays), very opportunistic, don’t shy away from mundane work and are perfectionists when it comes to quality.

I would like to believe that these qualities have shaped me.

I usually advise people: Its better to burn out than to fade away Its not just the destination, its the journey too…

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

I have no idea, but I would have certainly liked to be involved in creating a documentary for the National Geography channel. Some people say I certainly have a second career as a small-time chef or an event organizer. I used to organize hikes and other outdoor activities for corporations, that’s another thing I would love doing. Personally, I think the sky is the limit.

Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS) is one of the main reasons I got into the software industry. Even though today, I don’t completely agree with his philosophy, he has certainly shown me the way.

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

I’m challenged in many ways. One of my big challenges is that I can’t read. Period! Let it be books, newspapers or articles. As soon as I read a couple of lines, I start imagining what the author was trying to convey. 15 mins later I catch myself day-dreaming.

Since I could not read, I thought let me start blogging, at least this way, before writing some crap, I would go and read some stuff. 9 years later, I’ve only been writing hardly reading.

Along the way, I discovered that organizing conferences and user groups was a fantastic way to learn from people and fill some of the void that was created due to lack of my reading skills. Over the last 7 years, I’ve organized 50+ conferences across the world and I must say, the conferences and user groups have really helped me meet and network with many authors I would have otherwise never met.

Another big challenge I have is, I get bored with things really fast. Which takes us to the next question.

What drives you ?

Since I get bored with things really fast, I use it as a way to drive me to learn and experiment with new things. The desire to explore and see what lies on the other side has been a great driver for me.

What is your biggest achievement?

If I look back, I think the best is yet to come. I’m particularly happy about walking into a difficult situation, understanding the context and changing the direction to get the group out of the difficultly. I’ve consistently done this in different contexts ranging from hiking to adventure sports to event management to teaching a class to coaching a team or dealing with a personal crisis situation.

IMHO everything else is just a manifestation of this underlying force.

What is the last book you have read?

Actually I cheated, I listened to the audio book of Stumbling on Happiness – This really helped me understand certain human behavior that was hard to grok.

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

Currently I’m at a very uncomfortable position in my professional life. I’ve started to question everything I’ve practiced, believed and knew. I’ve started to see the other side of the coin in everything I do.

For example: While I’m a big proponent of self-organization and democratic teams, I’ve started seeing how a charismatic dictator can achieve, if not better, equal results. While I believe basic code & process hygiene is important, time and again, I’ve found extremely successful companies (whose products I love to use and have changed the way I think of the universe) violating every single thing I thought was good.

So here I am, questioning everything and beginning my journey all over again. On this very fact I’m tripping (happy) in my life.

What are you up to these days in terms of your work?

I’ve been trying to transition from a full-time agile trainer/coach to a tech-start-up founder for the last 3 years. Currently I’m heading 2 Tech-Startups. This transition has been really hard, but I believe extremely important transition for me to learn and grow. The thing about coaching and training is, its low risk & extremely easy money. Its hard to leave cash on the table to go figure out a product that may or may not solve a real problem.

Why don’t you want to continue as a full time agile trainer/coach?

The harsh reality of consulting is, after a while you stop learning and experimenting. You try to perfect the art, so you can sell it to others. In the process, dogma sets in and knowingly or unknowingly you become a snake-oil-salesman. I seriously dread that feeling.

I fear going into organizations and preaching them stuff without myself having built successful products from scratch.

Who do you think I should ask next?


I love metaphors, they can help you to understand a situation better.
Yet sometimes we can take a metaphor to far.

Imagine what would happen if you would design a plane for a self-organizing team.
No need for a flightcrew, and the passengers fly themselves.

That is what this video is about. Oh yes I’m well aware, that it’s not the best metaphor to think about a self-organizing team. Yet, I am convinced this metaphor could help us to think differently about a self-organizing team…

A few months ago, Els asked me -after being together for 16 years- to marry her.

So this WE we are getting married.

Because most of my friends live in agile land across the globe (and we are not giving a mega party), I looked for a way to give something back to this community that supported me so much the last years.

This WE, you can buy our “who is agile” book at half the price.

If you use the coupon AgileMarriage, you can buy it for 2.99 instead of 5.49.

The book now contains 65 people. We will continue till the fibonacci nr 89.

It’s an agile book, so when you buy the e-book this WE, you will receive FREE updates untill 89 people.

For the last 19 weeks, we have been publishing an update weekly.

To make it easy, I define WE from 25/05/2012 till 28/05/2012.

Yves & Els

A few years back one of the multiple Belgium agile community organisations invited Bjarte to talk about his book Beyond Budgeting. Unfortunately Yves could not go. As a kind of consolation Yves bought the book. Bjarte is not working in IT and you could say that he is not an agilist. But remember that agile is about the mindset and Bjarte clearly has an agile mindset.

With Beyond Budgeting, Bjarte and his friends from BBRT have done the same to accounting as we are doing to IT and project management. When our friends at ALE2011 were looking for outsiders to invite to the conference, Yves was really happy Bjarte was among the names proposed. And when the conference organisers approached Bjarte, he did not hesitate to accept the invitation and fit a flight to Berlin into his tight schedule to share his message and experience with a bunch of enthusiast.





















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

Although I am a finance guy with some HR experience, I actually have a short “IT career”. In the late eighties I headed up Statoil’s implementation of a new accounting system (Horisonten, a great Swedish system which lasted almost ten years before it was SAPs turn…). We spent half a year fighting IT on how to run the project. We had a few words for what we didn’t want, one being “waterfall”. But we had no name for what we wanted to do instead. But we “won”, and we delivered, our way. Today, what we did has a name and is about to become the new way… It is fantastic to see all the great stuff bubbling in the agile movement. There are so many similarities with Beyond Budgeting, both on what we are rebelling against and what we aspire to become.

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

I would probably have ended up in teaching, where my entire family was/is. In this respect I am the black sheep, but I was forgiven by marrying a teacher! I actually feel my job is a lot about teaching, although the biggest part is fortunately still about learning.

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

Complacency. We get so much positive feedback on what we have done at Statoil that we might think we have “done it”. Very, very dangerous. And not very good for anything, I guess.

What drives you?

Making a difference, and a positive difference, as my Irish neighbour always reminds me about. There is always a better way (and so many stupid ways – so no fear of running dry!)

What is your biggest achievement?

Not mine, but our, and still ahead of us, the day when Statoil has taken full advantage of all the great stuff we have decided and are implementing. Beyond that; being a happy and still relatively healthy guy with a great job. What more can you ask for?

What is the last book you have read?

Let me rather go for the first one instead, the first one relevant for my agile journey. Maverick by Ricardo Semler, many, many years ago. I was blown away!

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

Why vinyl is king and digital sucks. The list is too long!

Who do you think I should ask next?

Henrik Mårtensson

If you like these answers you might want to check out our book: who is agile

Kenji was invited by Diana Larsen and Henrik Kniberg.
I was at Agile 2008 when Kenji received his Gordon Pask award. During the whole week, I noticed asian people doing some strange kind of ritual. I assumed it was a zen kind of tradition. Boy was I wrong. It turned out, they were practising for his speech. He did not want to accept the price alone, he wanted his peers with him on stage. (A least that is how it came across to me.)

I had already noticed him in a session where I was impressed by his knowledge and questions.

It’s great to learn about people from other cultures buying into the agile mindset (although I have to admit, we probably borrowed more from their culture…)

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

There is a temple called “Eiheiji”, the head temple of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism near my home, and I visit there sometimes.

Eiheiji is still an active monastery with around 150 practicing Zen monks. And you can visit and see them. The most impressive thing there is that this education system has been working for over 700 years! An incredibly sustainable system.

On a wall of the corridor I found a panel saying;Without Practice, No Emergence.

Pretty agile isn’t it? In the Zen context, practice is Zen(meditation) and emergence is Satori (individual enlightenment).

You may think Satori is the goal and Zen is the means, but wrong! Dogen Zenji, the originator of Soto sect says that the two are there as one. Thus this coincidence of “thinking” and “doing” is my strong belief that supports my advocacy for agile.

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

I wanted to become a Jazz guitarist. I still like listening to Jazz music a lot. + Pat Metheny + Lee Litenour + Jim Hall + Wes Montgomery

are my giants.

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

Japanese software industry is still suffering from waterfall syndrome and people struggling in hard projects. But it is always wonderful to meet positive people trying to change their environment and also themselves.

What drives you?

One thing for sure is that I like drinking with people celebrating success together. A wonderful moment of life.

What is your biggest achievement?

Japanese Agile community! Please watch my speech of Gordon Pask Award about it. And Astah, a UML and mindmapping integrated tool which is used by 460,000 people worldwide.

What is the last book you have read?

“Be the wind” a Japanese novel about a high school runner.

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

Q: What places do you recommend to foreigners visiting Japan? A: Definitely Kyoto for sightseeing, but try Toyota factory tour. They are open for visitors and English-speaking guides will escort you. I took Mary/Tom Poppendieck, Craig Larman, Bas Vodde, Gabrielle Benefield, Bent Jensen and more than 20 other Agile/Lean leaders worldwide there.

Who do you think I should ask next?

Shintaro Kakutani who is an organizer of RubyKaigi. He connects Japanese Agile community and Ruby community.

If you like these answers, please check out our book: who is agile.
In the book Kenji also answers
Jerry’s Question: What is the meaning of life? 

A few years after we had created our leadership game, my father told me he had a bought a great book that he thought would interest me. He showed me Collaboration Explained.

I had already read the book. At Agile 2008, I followed a session about that from Jean. During the break before the the session she played a few versions of the song I don’t like Mondays. I was a little bit puzzled about why someone would play multiple versions of the same song during a break. I did not realize that the songs were an extra for the people already in the room. She started the session explaining why she hated Mondays. Talking about starting a session with a big bang. In a recent mail conversation Jean told me her definition of living: “For me, living is managing to hold onto all the incredible things in the face of all the challenges.” Ah, what a nice definition.















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

I have been learning about the power of vulnerability as I have sought to be stronger. In fact, I think I no longer seek to be “stronger.” I want to be vulnerable enough to make it okay for others to be vulnerable. I think that is true strength , not the strength I sought before.

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

I studied French in college, believe it or not. To have the opportunity to move into software and into the world in which I now engage is beyond what I could have ever imagined. I am now moving into a world where I am working to support non-profits by guiding them in how I do my work: with facilitation, with Agile, with collaboration. In that sense, I suppose you could say, that is taking me away from software in a way I never could have imagined. This is what I am becoming rather than what I would have set out to do. Now if you really want a “dream”, I would have been that gorgeous blonde former cellist in the Kronos Quartet, Joan Jeanrenaud 🙂 Wow. What an incredible vocation and avocation! What an amazing woman.

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

Learning to let go and to pay attention to my listening skills. This is important both as a facilitator and as a team member. As I get better and better at listening, I can only learn. I can’t help but get more insights and more perspectives. And so, I hold this as a life long challenge. Oddly, coupled with that, when I am around very strong personalities, I find I may hold back my insights so that I avoid what I might perceive as conflict. I suspect these two challenges are related. If I can listen in a healthy way, I don’t need to drop out and give up the insights my team deserves. In this regard, my challenge is to “show up”, find out what has heart and meaning to me, tell my truth about that, and then let go of the result/outcome. That is a life long journey.

What drives you?

I believe in empathy. I want to always check in on my own empathy as I seek to bring out empathy. I am an avid learner. I have so many books I read or want to read. I have a Kindle so that I can carry “my library” around with me. I also very much value helping others grow. I can often trivialize my skills. And yet I discover that when someone asks me to be a mentor, it is an honor. And, the act of mentoring and seeing someone create something bigger than the two of us, that is just so awesome.

What is your biggest achievement?

Being Jean. I think I struggled for quite a while trying to be someone who pleases everyone else at the risk of losing her own identity. I didn’t see how destructive that was. But it was. You lose an ability to reach and stretch. Such a behavior or way of thinking is so hard to break. If you don’t though, you can’t find out who you are, what your gifts are, and how you can nurture them. As I look back on my life from where I am now, I am in utter awe that I get to do what I do and be who I am. I get to be incredibly passionate about my work, my colleagues, and the communities in which I engage. I get to give. And I receive so much. And I do it being Jean. Given that I had set my sights only on others for so long and assumed so little could be true for me, it truly is my biggest accomplishment: that I am really being Jean.

What is the last book you have read?

I’m in the middle of

Do I get to say they are the last books I read?

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

Q: “What do you most value in your life?” A: “I feel so lucky to have met so many wonderful people through my career. I value how much they have taught me. I truly, deeply value my colleagues here at Rally, especially my CTO, Ryan Martens, and my CEO, Tim Miller. They have changed my life forever. I value that I have had the incredible fortune to travel all over the world to talk about things I am truly passionate about. And, I value that I actually get paid to do work that I truly love.

Who do you think I should ask next?

Jim Benson

Brenda Bao

If you like these questions, you can buy the book Who is agile

In the book lots of agilists are answering the same questions. And Jean is also answering:

Dale Emery’s Question: What is the gift that you currently hold in exile?

Henrik was proposed by Mary. Scrum and XP from the Trenches, Henrik’s first book, was a game-changer at multiple levels.

    • The book was available for free on the internet.
  • It was translated into 12 languages.
  • It did not give any theory, Henrik “only” gave examples of what he did.

Henrik also started an iniative to translate the manifesto.

At the moment I am writing this, Henrik is on a 6 month round-the-world trip with his wife and 4 kids. Wow and I thought I was pushing limits moving with my 3 kids to Bordeaux for 6 months.

(Update: he wrote what he learned about the trip here. )

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

I spent the first 15 years of my life in Japan, spending the summers in Sweden. This has influenced me in many ways. My bicultural background helps me see things from different perspectives, and being fluent in English (I grew up attending international schools) has helped me a lot in my current career.

And I’m a pretty active musician. I play a bunch of instruments and record songs and play in several bands. One of my bands does a lot of wedding gigs, we’ve probably done over 100 wedding parties by now! Music has always been my oasis, a creative haven that provides instant flow, and shuts off that voice in my head that is constantly analyzing and reasoning about my current client, my next talk, my next article, or whatever. When working from home I take a short break every hour or so and pull off some riffs in the studio, great way to stay energized!

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

After high school, I thought I was going to become a musician, but then I realized that music might not be as fun if it is “just a job”. I pictured myself sitting in dusty studio hours on end creating silly commercial jingles or something just to earn my keep. I figured that if I have some other line of work instead, I could play music just for fun, and not worry about the commercial aspects of it. So I thought a bit about what other stuff I’m good at and like doing, and decided to pursue computer science. Turned out to be a good decision!

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

Raising a big family while staying sane, happy, and relaxed. With four children age 1-8 that is a challenge! I want to have time for them, but I also want to have time for work, friends, and hobbies.

The good thing about having kids is they keep me from getting over-focused and working too hard. In fact, as I write this I’m on an extended break, travelling around the world with the whole family for 6 months. That’s both fun and challenging!

The kids also help me become a better coach. Raising kids and coaching teams is surprisingly similar – for example, both kids and adult teams are happier and more successful when they are allowed to take responsibility and manage themselves rather than being told what to do. I’m constantly learning things from my kids that I can apply at work, and vice versa.

What drives you?

Learning, creating, and teaching.

These things fit together. Learning helps me to create. Creating makes the learning stick. Teaching drives me to deepen my understanding.

What is your biggest achievement?

I’ll mention two:

1) Raising 4 kids that so far are happy and healthy.

2) Improving the software development profession, and the lives of the people involved. People all over the world tell me that my work has helped them improve things like product quality, team motivation, customer satisfaction, and even work-life balance. I’m proud and humbled (and sometimes a bit frightened) at how many people turn to me for advice, and how many people I’m reaching through my coaching, talks, and writings.

What is the last book you have read?

I recently finished Reamde, an awesome nerd-thriller book by Neil Stephenson.

I’m currently halfway through Welcome to your Child’s Brain. Helps me understand how kids reason and learn, and how I can become a better parent. Very fact-based book, lots of mythbusting too. Love it.

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

You coach, program, teach, draw, raise kids, write books, play music, and build companies. What’s the trick? How do you learn so many things?

1) Follow your heart. Do things that you are interested in, things that make you feel inspired.

2) Be self-aware. Don’t say “I don’t have time”, because you have 24 hours per day just like everyone else. Notice instead how you are spending your time. Ask yourself how you would like to spend it instead. Keep asking that question, and keep adjusting and optimizing how you spend your time. When you do the things that you love doing, you get good at it automatically. Not only that, you feel good too. And inspire those around you.

3) Focus on learning. Every time you do something (draw, write, cook, juggle, whatever), think about what you learned, and how you can do it better next time. Meet others who share your passion, compare notes and help each other improve.

I asked a really good barber once “How come you are so good at your job?”. She responded without hesitating: “Because I love what I do. And because I’ve been doing it for half a century”.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

Here are some quotes that resonate deeply with me. I guess I should limit the list, but I really do like all these quotes so I’ll give them to you and let you filter the list yourself (images/originals/icon_smile.gif) (Note from the Editor: why filter out such wisdom?)

  • “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • “I don’t know what the key to success is, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody” – Bill Cosby
  • “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” – John Lennon
  • “Do or do not, don’t try to convince everyone else.” – Unknown
  • “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  • “Every block of stone has a statue inside of it” – Michelangelo
  • “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand” – Unknown
  • “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” –Charles Kingsley
  • “There are no interruptions, only mismanaged inputs” – David Allen
  • “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” – Clay Shirky
  • “The most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do” – Steve Jobs
  • “A bad leader does the same task over and over. A good leader delegates that task. A great leader makes that task unnecessary.” – Unknown
  • “Imagination is more important then knowledge” –Einstein
  • “Education Is Not the Filling of a Pail, But the Lighting of a Fire” – William Butler Yeats
  • “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery” – Mark van Doren
  • “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle
  • “The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance.” – Randy Nelson, President of Pixar
  • “It is never too late to have a happy childhood”

Who do you think I should ask next?

I’d suggest one of these inspiring fellows:

If you like these answer: you can find more in our book  Who is agile. And the extra answers to

Ola’s Question: What is your favorite question right now?



Dear Friend,
You are receiving this message because I want to ask you a few things.
Currently I spend my spare time (next to organizing my marriage) putting a book together called  “Who is agile”. In “Who is agile”, you can read the answers of agilists to 9 questions.
The nice thing about “Who is agile”, is that it is written in an agile way, with one public release every week. And when you buy the e-book now, you get all the future updates for free.
Who says you can’t write a book in an agile way? If you want to do the same thing, check out our partner LeanPub.

The book has turned into a real community project. And now, I turn to my connections to ask for more help.
I would like your help to

  1. Spread the word of this agile community project
  2. Help us find other community projects that should be mentioned in the book
  3. Help us with the translations of “Who is agile”
  4. Buy the book yourself
  5. Send us ideas on how we can improve the book
  6. Send us a short paragraph about what you like about the book

1) Spread the word of this agile community project
For this community project to thrive, we need, aside from our core contributors, a network of people that publicly support us. Don’t worry we have enough energy to keep this going for a long time. (Our backlog contains 200 agilists.)
Will you please send out a message (mail, twitter, blog, facebook, linkedin) to your friends and ask them to check out this project.

2) Help us find other community projects that should be mentioned in the book
At this moment in the book, we mention 20 community activities. Twenty activities for a worldwide community that has existed for more than 10 years is not enough. I know there are more things going on.
Will you help us find out about them?

3) Help us with the translations of “Who is agile”
At this moment we are translating the book into:
Catalan, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish
These translation teams can use your help. And we would love to create other translations.
Will you help us find other translators?

(If you are French, you might want to contact Fabrice.)

4) Buy the book yourself
That is the easiest one. Will you go to and buy the book? You can set your own price between the minimum price and 29,99 Dollar.
What is the minimum price? Aha – this is where we make it complicated. We increase the minimum price by $0.50 (50 cents) every release (week). This week it is 3.49 dollar. A real bargain for a book that allows you the opportunity to learn about 80 agilists.

5) Send us ideas how we can improve the book
Once you have bought the book, we would love to hear about how we might improve the book. For example, the map, the book list and the question lists are created based on feedback from our readers.
Will you send us your most outlandish idea for Who is agile?

6) Send us a short paragraph what you like about the book
Every good book needs a few pages of people saying what they liked about the book.
We are not looking for cheesy marketing sentences. We are looking for real people expressing their genuine thoughts about our book. Will you send us your opinion about Who is agile?

Thank you so much for your attention and I hope you appreciate me sending this message.

With kind regards,
Yves Hanoulle (who could not have created this book without the help of
Andrea Chiou, Marcin Floryan, Peter Doomen and everyone answering these questions.)

PS A big thank you to Olav Maassen & Chris Matts whose mass mailing idea inspired to write this email. Please check out their Real Options book.

Update: If you are wondering why you are not in the book. Check back with me. You probably are on the backlog. To avoid a big stock of answers and waste, we only ask people when we can publish in the next month or so.

Update 2:  How to reach us? send a mail to whois at hanoulle dot be

Update 3: We have made another visualisation of the people in Who is agile  by using this map