Archive for May, 2013

When a client hires me to help their team or company, I do a lot of one on one coaching.
Coaching of developers, VP’s, testers, CEO’s, scrum master, CIO’s, Product Owners, coaches, teammembers etc…

Lately I started also doing coaching of individuals, outside of team or company work.
F ex: A small yet growing company, with no experience with teamleads or managers, asked me if I wanted to help, 2 of their long term employees in growing in such a new job.
Next to that, I also started to coach a few people I met at conferences.

I received quite a few requests from lovely people from other parts of the world. People whose timezones make it actually easy for me to help them.
yet the difference in currencies, make it harder. I either ask them something that is a fortune for them, or they pay me so little I can’t even buy a bread for an hour work.

After I have been struggling with that for a while (ok, I admit, too long) I asked for help to one of my coaches. (In this case Johanna Rothman)
Without missing a beat, she said: Yves, not everything is about money.
What else could you ask?
We talked for an hour, bouncing back idea’s. I’m not sure who came up with the original idea, (which is for me a sign of  good coaching.) yet I decided to offer now
an hour for an hour.

I coach a person an hour and in return I ask that person to help me with something else I would do myself.

Yves, what does kind of work do you talk about? That really depends on the skills of the person that contacts me.

That coaching talk was exactly one month ago, and in less then one week I found my first client that pays me this way. That’s the power of coaching and why I waited to long.
Oh well, I’m not perfect and I’m happy I did the coaching.

After posting, I got some reactions on twitter on how to subscribe.
Please add a comment and I’ll contact you.
While you wait on me, please think what you can offer in return.
If you don’t want to do this public: ask me by mail, skype (YvesHanoulle) , or DM me in twitter.


On Tuesday 2 July 2013, the manual of our leadership game, was released as leanpub book, as a result of “an hour for an hour coaching” I did with Meike Mertsch. You can download this free book at leanpub
So now, the community has advantages of my coaching.



When comparing building software and building houses: the designing of the house, is like the creating of the code. The difference between building software and houses, is that the actual building of software, is the compiling. You can redesign software and recompile: cheap changes. Now, we can do the same with houses.

This presentation about open sources houses, puts architecture back where it belongs, for all the people and not 1% of the world. Lots of crazy idea’s, yet as Steve Jobs used to say, the world is not going to change by doing what everyone else does.


Update: This video about printing a house in 20 hours is also incredible.

Last week I blogged about how I helped a team decide if they wanted to split.
This week I will write about how I helped teams to do their split. By now, I have been using this technique with multiple teams, their sizes vary from 40 till 7.

If you want to use this technique, I want to stress that it’s crucial that the team itself wants to split. I was myself part of a group where this technique was used, when we were not convinced that the split was needed. That was a disaster. If you don’t want to take the time for a team to decide if they need to split, you might as well decide on the split yourself.
Update: ok disaster was a little harsh. One of my teammembers told me, it did work, yet we spend a lot of time discussing after the fact and a few people where really hurt. I’m convinced we lost more time after the split then we would have if we discussed before. For me as a coach I learned a lot, as a participant, not really.
F ex not everyone realized that the groups needed to be resplit. (there was a real need, yet not everyone was aware of it.)

Please read my previous post, to have an idea how I did that in one occasion.

Ok, by now your team has decided that they want to split. In a lot of cases, they will come back to you and say, please help us, we don’t know how to split our self up.
In most cases, what they mean is: make the decision for us.

Or to put it more bluntly: “I don’t like to say to person X I prefer these other people over you.”

People have told me, they did not like that, as it made them think of in school they had to select someone for sport or other activities. As someone who was bad at most sports and frequently selected last, I can see people don’t like that.

This technique is different, it does not let one person select, and there is no one selected first or last. Also this technique won’t help you as a manager or coach to select your dream team.

The team does not want to do it. You can’t either.

With this, you will help your team to self–organize in multiple sub-teams.

What you need: a large empty room.
I have used meeting rooms where we put all the tables and chairs to one site.

Then I ask the team to walk around in silence.
I ask them to feel the atmosphere. I tell them that won’t give them any criteria to decide. I also tell them I will not ask them to discuss criteria. The reasoning behind that, is that when you discuss criteria, you are looking for an agreement up front, and then people will come up with lots and lots of criteria they want everyone they agree upon. Which only slows down the process and usually does not help. (If you disagree, please read on, and at the end I will explain how I solve this.)

I ask them to form groups. (In some cases they agreed up front in the decision part about splitting up, how many teams they want. Yet I have seen teams split up in a different number and feel ok with it.)

I tell them that the way we will select teams is by physically standing together.  As long as they are not happy with the TOTAL result they should be moving.

That simple? Yes that simple. Yet as most simple things not easy.

How long does this take?
I have seen a team do this in less then 30 minutes and another team needed a few days for it.

How many facilitators does this need?

2. One to help the group stay quite and sometimes facilitate some questions. And one to talk people who have a hard time.

Does this get emotional?
yes. This is why you need a second facilitator that can have a person chat with people for who this becomes to emotional.

Does this guarantee the best team split?
No, not at all. Yet I know this is a much better split then any manager of coach can come up with.

What if there are some real constraints on how to split up the team, like every team should at least be able to do x?
For that I trust the people of the team. I know that there are multiple spoken and unspoken rules that these new teams have to follow. When you start discussing these rules -especially the unspoken ones- you have discussion and create separation in the total group.
When you don’t discuss them. The people that care about a certain rule, will not be happy with the end result. These people will keep moving. In the end, everyone will be happy, even if people might not agree on all the rules that everyone individually had for herself.

If you prepare people for the split, won’t people create alliances before? 

Cool question invented by a member of  my group, (the one that did not receive time to understand they needed to split)

For me this does not really matter. The fact we walk around and feel, these things will become very explicit.
When we see everyones pre created alliances, two thing can happen.
– Things won’t change: this basically means that the pre-split alliances are accepted by everyone. >> Great.

– Things do change:
Now people see that the created alliances don’t make sense for everyone. This might make people mad (remember the emotional part?) At least the not followed alliances are also very visible to other in the alliance (and outside).
Making things visible, make it possible to deal with.

Did the question to split came from the team?
I think this has been partially answered by my first post. Yet maybe not enough.
One of the teams had an external customer refusing to work with a sub-team. To reorganize the team was a team decision for them. The team were I explained the process of deciding, there I was hired to see if I could help the team splitting. I have no idea who came up with the original idea. Yet it was 100% the decision of the team to split. If they would have said no, it would have been no split. One of the things I guaranteed also was that after x time (x decided by themself) we would reevaluate the split. (That evaluation was also positive and I will post  that as a third post).

Could you give a few examples when things get tough?
Good question. yes I can and will.
1) It’s their fault
In one of the teams, the original problem that let to the desire of splitting up, was not solved after one of the moments that people stopped moving. (They wanted to split up a sub-team that customers complained about. And these people where still together, now with a few more people. )  When I asked if everyone was happy, one person complained that the people where still together and that they boycotted the process. I told him that although it was true that these people where together. I disagreed that it was only their fault. As everyone had been moving. So if everyone really wanted the split, they should all behave like it.
This seems to be typically. People prefer to put the blame on others, yet they don’t see how their own behavior had also on influence.

2) It does not work. Yves, you have to choose the team split…

This was a funny or maybe sad reaction. The team where this reaction came, they had been discussing before about the reasons for changing the team. One of the main reason that came up why the last set up did not work, was done my boss and the person who was in my job before. When someone said: “it does not work” (and multiple other were nodding)
I looked at them. I could not find my words. I looked at them for a full minute, and then I said something like: I don’t understand. You wanted another team split, as the previous one was done by x & y. And now you tell me I have to do it?
No. I refuse to. I have told you when I started, that I would give you tools that would help you to take decisions on your own. I could not explain then, what I ment. Well this is one of these tools.
When I said that last sentence, I looked around. I could see in their eyes, that it clicked. They started to walk around and some time later, they ended up with a team I would never have selected. Later a few team member told me, that was the moment she first understood what a self-organizing team really was about.

Agile is about self-organisation. Yet self-organisation does not mean self-creation.

Yes, agile teams can take all the decisions they need to make, yet sometimes, especially in the beginning, they can use a little help with it.

One of the ways I am helping teams is playing games.

We have agile games that are good at teaching people new skills, like leadership, iterations etc. And we also have so called serious games.

Serious games, don’t teach people stuff, they help do stuff. And sometimes what needs to be done is take a decision.

In one of the teams I coached, there was the option to split the team in two.
In the team, we had people in favor, and we had people strongly against it. Which is good, at least it did not let people indifferent.
Taking a decision like this, should not be taken lightly. To help the team take this decision, we took the time.


Let’s  have a look at what we did.

1) As a coach I had F2F with everyone on the team (which was normal as I had been joining the team only recently, and I asked every team member his or her opinion.

2) In the coaches team we had long talks about:
– the why (Remember Why over how)
– was it the right time? (is it ever?)
– Did the team have a choice? (yes they had)
-etc etc…

3) It was not the first time I had helped a team split up. I knew a technique that was really good at helping a team split. Yet this blogpost is about the decision, does the team want it.
I will post a few follow post on how to do a split. And how to evaluated it, 8 weeks later.

4) On Thursday after the standup I announced that we would have a workshop about the split on Friday. (Instead of a “normal” retrospective, whatever that is…) I wanted to do the announcement earlier, I let slip a few occasions, were I could have done it. In retrospective it was a good moment to announce the workshop (not a perfect one, as one team member was missing at that time.)

We had lots of idea’s and made a few plans on how will we help them decide.
In the end, we chose the challenge cards game, I had played this before with my friend Jurgen De Smet, yet then he led it, now I would be in charge. My PairCoach would be an observer for this exercise.

I asked the team to split into 2 parts. (I made clear that this was not the real split)
One part would write on pink post it’s why splitting the team was a bad idea.The other would write green post it’s why splitting the team was a good idea.

People sat at opposite sides of a large table.
Lots of laughter, funny idea’s and some real good serious ones. We had it all.  We did this workshop, after the demo (Show & Tell), so we had chocolates and beverages on the table.
After that, I asked the groups to change places.  Now thye replayed the exercise, yet from the reversed position.

After that we played the real challenge game. People could choose the site they wanted.

I did a decide to see if they had all the information to take a decision.
They did not. A few questions where still unanswered. I let them write down the questions.
We let the team go to lunch and the coaches team + management met, to gather the answers.
After the lunch we (actually management) answered all the questions.

When I then asked the team to decide, they could not. Discussions went in multiple directions, yet I felt they needed some space alone to discuss freely.
So I proposed we (coaches team + management) would leave the room for 15 minutes . This would give them the option to speak clearly.
And so we did.
We left to go to the roof of the building where it was sunny and windy. It was my first time at this roof and it was good as I felt I was tense.

When we came back. The team had not decide, yet it looked they were close, so we left them for another 15 minutes.

After 10minutes they called us. They had decided they wanted to split.

In retrospect, I think it’s dangerous to leave a team without facilitator to discuss such a hot topic.
It’s good as it shows a team I trust them. As a “media is the message” it is strong.  Yet I have seen a lot of teams having a hard time to take decisions without a facilitator. It was a risk I took.

I also think that the small timeboxes, helped them to focus.

Update: if you are interested in this, you might also be interested in how I help teams split up


Last week I published the Agile Thursday Quiz about Retrospectives.
Here are the answers from Ben Linders. (who created these questions.)

1) When do you normally do a retrospective?
b is the best answer, all others are wrong or do not reflect the real intention of a retro.

2)  Who should attend the retrospective?
a and c are both valid answers, this questions aims to trigger reaction if the PO should or should attend the retro.

3) What is the best way to do a retrospective?

4) What happens with the actions that come out of retrospectives?
b is the correct answer, e is not wrong but doesn’t emphasize enough that it is the team who takes action

Where to learn more about Retrospectives:



A few of my example Retrospectives





For this ATQ, Ben Linders helped me out with the questions.

1) When do you normally do a retrospective?

a) Just before the start of a sprint, to prepare everything that is needed to do the sprint
b) After the sprint review of each sprint, when you have all the input that is needed to reflect and decide upon actions
c) As a servant leader you only do it when the team asks for it, and as often as they think they need it
d) The retrospective is a part of the sprint review, where you reflect on the product and the process
e) Between the planning game and the sprint review, so that you can do improvements during the sprint

2)  Who should attend the retrospective?

a) All team members
b) The scrum master and some of the team members
c) Everybody in the team, except for the product owner
d) Everybody who is attending the sprint review, to get as much feedback as possible
e) The product owner, team members, and their managers


3) What is the best way to do a retrospective?

a) There are many good ways to do retrospectives, the facilitor usually proposes a way to do it depending on the team needs and the issues at hand
b) You can use the the four key questions from retrospectives, as a minimum ask the team what went well and what should be improved
c) There is no best way to do a retrospective, as the purpose of a retrospective varies in agile projects
d) Team members should submit problems before the retrospective, and the scrum master decides what is most urgent to discuss
e) Most teams use sticky notes to collect actions what should be improved

4) What happens with the actions that come out of retrospectives?

a) They are given to the project manager so that (s)he can plan the actions and assign people
b) Team members will pick up these actions during the next sprint, to continuously improve their way of working
c) The scrum masters collects them and documents them in a report
d) There shouldn’t be much actions coming out, as the next sprint is already filled up with user stories
e) They are documented, and will be discussed in the next retrospective to check if they are finished

 Please add your answers in the comments and on monday I’ll publish Ben’s answers.

One of the ways I am coaching companies, is that I offer what I call free mini agile training sessions.
These are brownbag sessions, something I learned from Linda & Mary Lynn great book: Fearless Change

Today these are 1 hour (optional) sessions for anyone in the company that wants to learn about agile.
Depending on how much time I spend at the company, I do them once a week or ever x weeks.
Sometimes they are workshops I am doing for a long time, sometimes they are try out’s of something new.

This is an example of a such a try out-session.

I show a picture of a kanban board similar to the one below:
(I took a different one, so I can keep mine for my exercise 😉 )

Scrum Board

I gave everyone post-its and a 5  to 10 minute timebox to write down what they saw.

Then everyone could present one post-it and in a round-robin way we went around the table. (After we have done one round, we turn again, until most people have no post-it’s left anymore.
Depending on how many idea’s there are, we look at all of them.

Every time a person presented a post-it. I asked everyone if it was a fact or an interpretation.

let me give you an example:
– people are already working on the second story before the first is finished.
> actually the first lane is a priority lane, that is working with support tickets.

Ok, I admit that is hard to figure out from a picture that is not complete. let’s look at a next one.

– Alex is working on too many stuff.
mm the fact is, there are 3 post it’s with a small post it Alex on it.
In this case, the team leaves a post it in the WIP colum, untill the next stand up. Yet they do a blue Done sticky, when finished. Alex is actually only working on one thing.

by this time people start realize that seeing facts is really hard.
yet at the same time they do miss a lot of obvious facts. So obvious that we ignore them.
The board uses black tape to make the squares. this might seem trivial and not important, untill I tell you that this is the black team and the color of the tape is making the difference on the boards.
Other facts: some post it’s are yellow, others are green.

When I did the tryout of this exercise, we had a team member joining this workshop  rather late.
This turned out very fortunate, as I told this person the exercise and when he presented his post it’s, I asked the already present team members to replay the exercise with him.
It was very nice to see what they had already learned from the previous time.

When I tweeted about the exercise, I was reminded of the ladder of Inference
An adapted version of the exercise could be, to not only select fact or interpretation, yet to see if you can come up with post it’s for all 7 layers of the ladder.  As a first exercise for team members that have to learn about the difference between fact and interpretations this was already cool.

Topics that came up during the workshop

I show this list of topics, to show that a small workshop that is only loosely facilitated, can bring up many interesting topics, where the students choose themselves in what they are interested in.
For me, the power of training from the back of the room