Archive for September, 2012

This our my slides for My presentation on the Microsoft Webcafe today at PHL.

– Did you recently joined a new team?
– Do you plan to join a new team in the next years?
– Do you plan to welcome a new team member in your team, in the comming year?
If you said yes to one (or more) of these questions, you should watch these slides and you will learn about the power that a junior team member has.
A power that that senior’s don’t have. A power that will help you to grow yourself and your team.
During the preparation of this talk, with all the feedback I have received, I decide that I should turn this into a book.
If you are interested, please go to the leanpub website and tell me about it..

I started looking for people outside Western-Europe and USA. And by coincidence (does that even exist?) Elad came on my radar.

After connecting with Elad, it became clear to me, that he did have an agile mindset.
I think it also shows in his answers.

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

I have a little sister who was born with a relatively rare disease for which no cure has yet been found. This has affected her whole life, including multiple surgeries, and different and complex disabilities. This reality has affected me in so many ways I do not even know where to start, but I think the most important aspect I have learned from this situation is proportion in life. Whenever I encounter a problem in my personal or professional life I am able to look at it in an objective manner, I able to not get emotionally attached easily, which I think helps me and my environment to solve the problems we encounter with a clear thought and without submitting into premature judgement before taking a deeper look and really analyzing the situation as it really is. I have learned from her that giving up is not an option, there is almost always something that can be done to improve reality and no matter how hard it gets, one should always stay positive.

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

As I was interested in computers ever since I was a little boy, I am not really sure what I would have been. I would guess that one option would be a copywriter in the advertising domain. I always thought I am good in using words to transfer a message and at the age of 23 I thought about trying to get into an advertising company, and was even able to arrange a meeting with a senior manager in an advertising agency in order to understand what it means exactly to go down that path, but I recall that after the meeting I thought to myself this is not for me. I am a geek.

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

My biggest challenge is probably the need to know everything, I am always finding something new which i don’t know enough about and feel the uncontrollable need to know more about it even at the expense of neglecting the previous “new thing”. It may be a new programming language, a new approach for testing or even a new tool I can use in my daily work. It is a challenge as it is very hard for me to really dig deep and completely understand every detail of this “new” thing.
It is however good for me as I have a large portfolio of MMF’s up my sleeve and when in need I can dig deeper into the subject which i find that may be suitable for a specific situation.

What drives you ?

Challenges. I would probably take on almost any challenge you give me. Succeeding with a challenge is one of the most marvelous feelings for me. I just love looking at my kids doing things I am proud of, raising kids is probably the most difficult challenge of all.
I just love looking at that IKEA furniture I was able to assemble, which is probably the second most difficult challenge after raising kids.
I put on a really big smile when looking at a team self organize after no one, including the team thought it was possible. When I don’t succeed I will do everything I can to change the situation, learn from my error and request another shot at the challenge.

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement so far is everything in my life. I was not raised with a silver spoon and without any support (no complaints here, just reality) I was able, together with my wife, to build a home and a family, to raise two amazing littlle boys(ages 2 and 4), to make sure that they have everything they need in order to grow up in a happy and pleasant environment. I am lucky enough to have founded my own company (with two partners) doing what I like most. What more could a person want?

What is the last book you have read?

I have just finished Phil Gordon’s “Little Blue Book and am now reading “The Upside of Irrationality” by Dan Arieli. Both are recommended, the first one if you want to improve your understanding of Texas Hold’em poker game and the second if you want to improve your understanding of people and what drives them.

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

You might want to ask me to choose my own question and answer it. Oh, you just did 😉

Who do you think I should ask next?

I hope it’s ok to have three names, these are the people who really helped me to get where I am today:

If you like these answers, please have a look at our book who is agile

After I launched, somewhere around 2007, I received an e-mail from a Dutch guy, asking if I was interested in organizing CSM training classes in Belgium for him. At that time I was not sure if I wanted to organize them. I did not know Bas and I was still wondering what kind of courses I wanted to organize. I let the moment slide and it’s something I regret. Meanwhile I got to know Bas. He has written a wonderfull book. (Actually their book was so big, they wrote a second book and I still can’t figure out which one I like more. Check out their writing on agile contracts.

One of Bas’ most well known artifacts is the Nokia test he invented. The history of the test is also worth reading. It shows so nicely how things get created and start to live their own life.
Bas was invited by Jukka.


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

Well… there is quite a lot that people usually don’t know about me and I’d actually like to keep it that way 😛

Thinking the question over, one thing that has influenced me perhaps most is moving and living in China (for a total of five years, after which I lived is several other countries). Many people know I’ve lived in China but most people don’t know how and why.

More than ten years ago, I lived and worked in Amsterdam. I had a good development job working together with close friends of mine and working on really cool stuff. I think I had a pretty good life. Yet, I felt restless and after a short 2-week visit to Beijing, I decided that it would be an adventure to go and live there. I told my friends and family about it. It came as a surprise for everyone (including myself). I’ll never forget my parents’ reaction which was: “Oh, already? Oh, China?” It was amusing as they knew I would probably leave Holland one day (as I always called myself a ‘world citizen’) but they never expected me to leave for China, and that soon.

I quit my job and half a year later I arrived in Beijing. I had just enough money for a hotel for about one month and a visa for 3 months and no job. This made life really simple: first find a place to live, and second find a job and visa. In that first month, I met my wife and started working at Nokia where I would stay for many years. I’ve never regretted leaving as nearly everything I am and I’ve done can be traced to that decision.

What I’ve learned from that is to appreciate the things you have. Many people don’t realize what they have until they lose it. And these can be very basic things, such as sitting on a toilet. I never appreciated that until I lived in a house with just a hole-in-the-floor-toilet. Likewise, I never really appreciated being able to adjust the shower temperature until I needed to run to the kitchen to adjust it (which isn’t nice in the winter).

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

I’ve actually considered that. When I was young, I got fired from working on a flower farm because I couldn’t do repetitive work without thinking. From that, I concluded that whatever I’ll do, I’ll need to do it using my head. I do love creating and building things but whenever I touch something physical, it tends to break.

So… I honestly don’t really know. Perhaps something related to economics

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

My biggest challenge is to fit all the things that I want to do in the time that I have. It is incredibly frustrating but it is a good thing for me as I’m happy that I can actually choose between things that I actually want to do.

To give an idea of the kinds of things that don’t fit:

  • I spend a lot of time teaching in East Asia as I had set myself the goal to introduce Agile development in East Asia and have been working on that for the last 5 years or so.
  • I enjoy thinking and working on our company Odd-e, which is an experiment in building a company that is not based on traditional organizational assumptions. An organization where people are truly free and can focus on the things they want to focus on.
  • I’m an active developer. Most of my development work is either internal or open source. We have so many ideas, I could actually do that full time!
  • In our company, we’ve talked about building a product ourselves. We have lots of ideas, but not too much time to implement them 🙁
  • My son is now 2 years and I wish I could spend all my time with him. It is great to have an excuse building things with Lego.
  • I’ve been working with some clients for many years and I wish I could spend more time on their transformations.
  • I got a library of over 1500 books. I didn’t even read half yet!

I try to do everything, but I can’t. I have to balance it but also make sure that I don’t lose focus either.

What drives you ?

I guess what drives me most is learning. I’m interested in almost anything.

The second thing that drives me is creating. I guess that’s why I like software development so much, it allows for lots of learning and lots of creating.

What is your biggest achievement?

I hope I didn’t achieve it yet.

I guess my biggest achievement is enjoying the life I have right now.

If I think about my professional achievements:

  • a couple of open source projects
  • worked on some cool products
  • lead a large agile transformation program
  • introduced agile in east asia
  • coached and mentored several really good people
  • wrote two books,
  • built the dream company for every developer (at least, for us)

then I wouldn’t call any the biggest

What is the last book you have read?

The last book I read was The Chip which was a wonderful book about the history of the integrated circuit invented by Bob Noyce (founder of Intel) and Jack Kilby. I like reading history books and “The Chip” was one of the better ones. The story and how it influenced our world today is something that every engineer ought to know.

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

This question is pretty good and this is the answer… (aaaah… stack overflow !)

Perhaps: “What are you doing right now that excites you The answer:

At this time I’m quite excited about Odd-e, which is a company that I started originally 15 years ago. Last year it started experimenting in new ways of organizing itself. The company is structured around self-managing teams with profit/loss responsibility. Currently we have 3 teams, one in Singapore, one in Japan and one in China. The company has no management nor any support functions, which creates interesting financial transparency. We try to structure the organization around the values and principles that we promote and it has been a lot of fun discussing in our company about how we could work differently. We might be starting two more teams in two more East Asian countries this year. Then we’ll have a rare company with rare coverage of Asia (as Asia is very diverse).

Who do you think I should ask next?

I think you should ask two people. They are my colleagues, but I recommend them for their experience and what they have done within their community.


Did you like these answers?

You might want to check out our book:who is agile

Alistair was invited by Henrik, Michael and our 100th reader : Volha Ikhelis
Does Alistair still need an introduction? He was one of the co-authors of the agile manifesto and one of the co-organizers of the event that led to the manifesto. The more I get to know Alistair the more he surprises me, or should I say, the more he surprises me, the less I am surprised by him?

Alistair hardly ever choses the easy path (and I only say hardly, because I’m trying to never say never again, damn done it again…)

Writing about:

[You might disagree with how he does it, I believe he is doing it for the right reasons. (Or as I heard Jerry once said, certification will happen, you can’t stop it, you might as well do it yourself and try to do it right. )]

What I liked most from him, is his explanation about shu-ha-ri and the shoe-box

Update: this was posted on my blog, the day that Alistair did his first class in French. Being succesfull as he is, he is not afraid to start from scratch and risk to fail. RESPECT

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

Living around the world as a visitor in so many different cultures (8 countries and more cultures) makes it nearly impossible for me to impose my own culture on anyone else. Hence, my Crystal Clear work is so culture-accepting and culture-adaptive, as is pretty much all of my advice.

Being continually rejected by schoolmates after moving from Dacca (Bangladesh) to Cincinnati made me trust in myself for my own actions.

As a result of these two, I am almost entirely self-contained in forming my own opinions, and almost never try to convince anyone else to follow my ways.

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

Either a psychologist or a technical salesperson / manager. Understanding how people think is my main interest, so quite possibly there. The technical salesman thing was a likely way for me to get a job, and we all know how easy it is to get stuck in a job. Don’t do it.

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

Challenge in what respect?

  • At age 3, I was in a fire that nearly killed me, and spent the next year in the hospital, and had skin graft operations for years after. And why was it a good thing for me? My mother says I was a little thug before the fire, and well behaved afterwards. Imagine how I’d be today if I hadn’t become “well behaved”!?!
  • At age 7, I moved from a British grammar school in Bangladesh to grade school in Cincinnati. I dressed differently, spoke and move differently, had been taught different material up to that point, and was two years younger than my classmates. That was tough. And why was it a good thing for me? Because it taught me it was OK to be different, to trust my own opinion of things.
  • I twice had to tell my boss or sponsor (when I was a consultant) that he/she was asking for something completely non-sensical, and put my job on the line, once just shortly after I moved my family to Switzerland, once on my first freelance consulting job. Both were career threatening. And why was it a good thing for me? Because it taught me it was OK to be honest about giving my boss bad news.

What drives you ?

Curiosity. Why does this work and that doesn’t? Might it be possible to do <something or other>? Can it be done better? My first boss said, “If there’s a known way from A to B, Alistair will find another way.”

People. I have a fascination with the way the mind links with reality. It manifests as a person does almost anything. I used to refer to it as the boundary between mind and computer, but it’s more general than that. It is also the boundary between a person’s mind and mathematics, the boundary between rational thinking and emotion, the boundary between a person and a problem the interface between a person and a piece of software, the interface between a person and almost anything.

What is your biggest achievement?

Probably helping kick off the Agile movement, which has revolutionized software development around the world; currently, defining the learning roadmap for the International Consortium for Agile, which may have a similar effect for education standards beyond just software development.. I have a hard time imagining achieving anything like that in the first place, so it’s hard to imagine anything bigger.

What is the last book you have read?

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

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

“Choose one word to describe people.”

Rubber-band: it’s not being itself unless it’s being stretched. (Ditto people; ditto rubber-bands)

Who do you think I should ask next?

Jeff Patton

May, 2012

If you like this, you might want to check out our book, which contains similar answers from 89 people.Who is agile

When we talk about thinking outside a box, lots of people have the tendency to say we should not have a box.
I used to think I was very open minded and I did not think inside a box. That in itself is “a box”.
The last years as a coach, my questions are more around helping people realizing they are always inside a box. (or actually more boxes)
Once they know that, we can work on finding the boxes.

When I was reading Personal Kanban, I read about a pedometer. A small device that tracks my steps and helps me visualize how much movement I make (or not make).
When I read it, I was convinced, which is funny as I gave that to my brother-in-law a few years ago as a (requested) gift and I was not convinced at the time [box 1]

When I had mine, I quickly realized that my movement was even worse then what I assumed. (the biggest value of Visual management) as the problem is always worse then what you think of.

When I realized that, I started looking how I could move more.

I could hardly find any:

– I work full time for my clients
– I have a company to run
– I have 3 young kids
– etc etc

>> Yes: all kinds of excuses. Easy to see from a distance, but when you are in the situation, they all look valid. (And they are valid.) [Box nr 2]

So I shifting my coaching question to myself.
The internal conversation went something like this:

Why do I try to coach myself? Why don’t I wait to ask my personal coaches, to help me on this one?
Nah, I am waiting on a train, I have some time to think about that.
True, but with my coaches, thinks might go faster
Mm, I feel some resistance here. Let’s drop the resistance. [Removing box 3, that says I need a coach to change myself]
Ok, if I can do this myself, let’s see what box I am in.

After a while (no idea how long) I found a box:

One box, is that I can’t move more with my current life. [Box 2]
Part of that box, is that all these movements need to be large movements. [Box 4]
Haha, but that is why I have the pedometer, to see the total of the day.

– I already take the stairs instead of the elevator at work as much as possible.
– I go by foot or bike to the trainstation.

What else can I do?
And then it struck me. I was standing at the train station and I was waiting already 10 minutes.
Instead of standing still like everyone, I might as well walk while waiting.
And so I did.

More important, I did this the last 6 months every day I took the train.
Every morning when I arrive at the train station I walk in circles/ellipses while waiting.

side effects:
I don’t rush to get my train anymore.
If I arrive a few minutes earlier, it’s no longer a loss. It’s a gain.

Still left to improvement:
I don’t have the same habit in the evening. I do it from time to time, but not as regular.

Update: Other options would be to have a treadmill desk. Read a diary of one user here.

So what box are you in?

Here are the slides of my ALE2012 Presentation about all the online collaboration projects I started.
Unfortunatly on the slide I only have pictures of 68 people. somehow I did not find out how to create a picture of 146 people in google picassa.
The presentation was originally called: “What I learned from Who is agile”, but when the ALE2012 organisation to talk for 1 hour instead of 30 minutes, I started thinking about more projects then just the book creation.

Yuval is one of these people that I encounter mostly online. I have been following him on twitter, we talk on Linkedin. And somehow, Yuval and I seem to be interested in the same things: visual management, Leanpub books, we seem to be looking in the same direction.
























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

People don’t know this although they might guess… I’m a very Visual thinker. I have visual memory, Drawing was quite a serious hobby of mine as a child and to this day I?m fascinated with all things Visual – Sketchnotes, Kanban boards, Story Maps, Post-its, all kinds of Gamestorming activities which emphasize the tangible visual style of things. To top that it is rare to find me without some sort of camera trying to find a good photo of an exercise/meeting? I?m still trying to find my own Visual/Design style for presentations and free-form whiteboard sessions. It?s a hit and miss exploration but I enjoy it a lot.

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

I always wanted to be a fighter pilot but my health profile meant I was destined to be a keyboard jockey rather than a stick-jockey? Really though my passion is finding solutions to complex problems involving systems and people so I guess I somehow would have found myself leading organizations and dealing with systems design concerns.

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

I?ve had many years leading from the front including many of them hands on. Being a servant leader coaching your people and then a full-time coach/consultant with the aim of helping people get to the answers themselves is an ongoing challenge. I?m often on the verge of handing out solutions or urging to go and implement solutions myself. Sometimes I even fall victim to these urges. I believe this search for the) right involvement level challenges me to find creative coaching approaches and exercises while conveying to my clients that I really care about their problems enough to want to get involved.

What drives you ?

I want to make a difference – have an impact. When working with a client – to look at an organization before and after my involvement and be able to say – yes, there is a certain impact to my efforts. They are now better, and even more importantly they will become better and better over time because of the thinking tools I gave them. When working with the world-wide and Israeli agile/kanban communities – every time I see a blog post or presentation that touched somebody and sparked a cool conversation or idea, it drives me to invest more time in writing and presenting. I invest a lot of effort into making AgileSparks a world-class lean/agile coaching team because I think as a team we can have much more impact and because I enjoy working with my friends on the team so much. In general, working with bright, fast-thinkers that are able to challenge me is another great driver. Over the years I had the luck to work with many great people whether peers, managers, reports or clients. I noticed that I thrive in the company of these people.

What is your biggest achievement?

Some people say I had a considerable role in opening the Israeli hi-tech market to the concept of Kanban and evolutionary change towards agility. I want to think that my work on Kanban and pragmatic agility in general has helped Agile cross the chasm to mainstream product companies and IT organizations in Israel.

What is the last book you have read?

Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky. Not a classic Lean/Agile book by any means, but if you look closely, you will find concepts such as extreme focus, optimize the whole and other cornerstones of what we believe in. Other than that I spent the year reading all I can about Complex environments:

are very interesting books I enjoyed and want to get back to.

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

What is my next big hairy audacious goal? Creating a system that helps organizations consistently and effectively adapt and improve. I personally believe we are just scratching the surface with what Lean/Agile can provide organizations. Most of our work is helping people climb the first hill of the improvement journey and many of them get stuck there. I?m spending much of my time with community leadership, the AgileSparks team and visionary clients working on a disciplined approach for addressing this. Kanban is one building block. Lean Startup is another. These are very exciting times…

Who do you think I should ask next?

Jeff Anderson. I find his work on Kanban and Change Leadership in Deloitte Canada answers?

If you like these answers, please buy our book: who is agile