Archive for the ‘Agile’ Category

Today Emilie tagged me in an answer to a tweet from Maria Kedemo

I’m always flabbergasted when I’m tagged as an answer to a conversation. Especially when it’s a conversation between two smart people like Emilie and Maria. I have been following both of them for a while. If you are not following them on twitter, stop reading and follow them. I’ll wait.
Done? No, I’m serious, please go do this, it will make your live better.

yes I understand Maria’s concern. I love feedback after a talk. I need feedback to improve. Yet just a score does not help me.

At least 10 years ago the xpday benelux conference, started to use the core protocol: perfect game as a feedback mechanism of the conference.

The agile program board of #xpdays . The card double as feedback forms...

On this picture, you can see the full schedule of the conference hanging as cards on a board. At the front of the card, you have a description of a talk.


People were encouraged to take a card as a kind of entrance ticket for the talk. For each talk we had a maximum number of cards as the session could host people.

Yet the most genius part was the back. It had a perfection game on the back.  


I don’t have a picture of such a feedback form. so this is a picture of how the perfection game works.

For those who want to learn more about where the perfection came from, you can read an article I co-wrote on methods and tools about the core protocols.

Our little family wished you (and your family / partner) a witty 2018.
We do this traditionally by video. (I think after 10 years I can say it’s a tradition)

We moved at the end of November 2017 to the minimum viable version of our new house.
The MVH 1 contained features: heating and a place to sleep. (In our previous house our heating system died somewhere around February 2017)

After a week, feature library and walking desk went live.

A month after we moved, feature kitchen was delivered. For us this meant that MVH 2 was feature complete. We hope that this week, feature shower and storage room will be usable. (MVH3)
After which we consider ourselves really moved as we now use both houses)

Features telephone and television should be delivered at the end of the month. Due to a misunderstanding of work for this feature by one supplier, the delivery of this feature was postponed for a month.

Feature: cell phone coverage in our house, has a high priority although we did not find a suitable system that we can afford, yet.

Features ventilation, solar roof, solar water heater have been postponed by our supplier for unknown reasons.

Other features like bell, music, ramp, garage, attic, training room, full bathroom, did not get a priority yet.

I know at many levels building a house and building software shouldn’t be compared.
Still I learned a lot about delivering with multiple -sometimes competing- teams these last two years. Things I hope to share with you in the coming years.


In 2011 I learned about the concept of dinner with as stranger.
At ALE2011, the organizing sofa of the dinner party had a few month to organize a large dinner party for an unknown number of participants (it was the first time of the conference) .
The concept of dinner with a stranger was their solution.

Dinner with a not so stranger

I love the concept. And when I love concepts, I try to replicate them.
I started what I called dinner with a not-so-stranger.
That is me having a one-two-one with an ex-collegue or someone I know from the community. For a few years I did at least one such a dinner every month. Working in an hard-to- reach-office put that to a temporary hold. I will restart that when I leave this client.

Yet yesterday I started something I will call dinner with a peer.

Let me give you some context. I’m part of a team of coaches working with 35 teams.
Every two weeks we work together a full day. I have regular 1-2-1 with my manager. And of course I have the occasional chat with my peers.

I realized that I (and probably most people I know) never had an regularly organized way of asking feedback from peers.
So from now on, I will experiment with “dinner with a peer”. On a regular basis I will go have a meal with someone in my team to ask for feedback.

Will you perfect that idea using the perfection game?


We wish you a empathic 2017.
This is the 11 year in a row we created a video version of our life.

2016 was a rollercoaster year. After we realized that the technical debt of our current home was too big, we decided to build a new one in our garden. We started building that house in 2016. To limit the projects in progress, Yves put most community work in the freezer. We took similar hard decisions on family “duties”. The building of the house goes slower then when we would have been in our twenties, yet we managed to keep our family life rather sane.

This was our life in 2016, we are very interested in yours.
Will you share with us what gave rise to the highest emotions in 2016?
yes, we are serious. Let’s turns this blog post into a nice dialog.

Yves, Els, Joppe, Bent, Geike
Hanoulle – Ryssen

PS After ten years we have a small number of families and teams inspired by our video’s. Will you join us?

A few weeks ago at #ALE16 I gave a lighting talk to ask people to think about introverts in an agile world. Before I go into my idea’s I want to clarify what I consider an introvert.

For me, an introvert is a person who gets energy from spending time alone. (Doing whatever she wants.)
An extrovert is a person who gets energy from spending time with other people.

I do believe that introverts can act out extrovert behavior yet it costs them a lot of energy.
(Just like when an extrovert writes ideas down without talking, that is possible, yet it costs energy.)

I read everywhere...

That said it’s also spectrum, where people can be more or less extrovert or introvert depending on the environment they are. F ex: I think everyone in my highschool would probably call me an introvert. Where many people in the agile community could call me an extrovert. And both would be right.
Because in school for me talking to people did cost me a lot of energy. I was reading day and night (alone) and that was what brought me energy.

These days at most agile conferences, I get energy from talking to people.
I can spend almost a full night talking at a bar with agile friends, sleep less then four hours and still have energy (the fact that I don’t drink alcohol does play a role in that 😉 )

That’s why I call myself an ambivert.

Now that I have my definitions clear, let’s go back to my #ALE16 message.

Over the years I have seen our world more and more encouraging extroversion behavior.

We encourage our children in school to speak up. We have more and more group work in lots of parts of the world all encouraging extroversion.

And yes in the IT world, agile is doing it’s part of making our world more extrovert.

We want standup’s, we have retrospectives, we do lots of all hands meetings, we have pair programming, even mob programming these days. Open office plans*, all to use the power of groups.

When I look around me in the agile community, I see a lot of (great) agile coaches, and a lot of them are extroverts. At a level it feels like most of them are extroverts. That was not the result of my (short) #ale16 questionnaire. I expected 80% would say they were extrovert, and yet it was probably more like 50%.

I personally celebrate diversity. I know that some of the best scrummasters I have worked with were introverts. Yet they always had a harder time selling themselves (they hated doing that if they already saw the point in doing so…)

In IT (just like in any other world) we have lots of introverts. Somewhere between 30 and 50% of the people depending on what study you believe.

This means, that for team activities you have to take both introverts and extroverts into account.


  1. start by ordering Susan Cains quiet: kindle, dead tree or audible versions. (I have all three. that should tell you a message. )
  2. extroverts figure out what they want to say while talking. where introverts want to think things through. So how do you make them talk together?

    A simple yet powerful retro-activity is this:
  1. Let everyone talk in the first 5 minutes: let them state one word how they feel today. (Random order gives everyone time)
  2. Give everyone some post it’s.
  3. Give everyone a few minutes to write one or more post it’s (around a theme.)
  4. let one person state her most important post it.
  5. If someone else has the same, let them give it to you
  6. then do a tour around the table everyone stating their most important idea.

>> this way extroverts don’t have to wait too long before talking and introverts have time to prepare and you make sure everyone talks .


If someone does not want to talk, I ask again making sure I tell them their idea’s are important, yet I do respect their choice of not wanting to talk.

That is probably more shyness than introversion, or maybe they really think they have nothing interesting to add to the conversation, yet although I know that is almost always wrong, I respect their choice. By respecting their choice, they feel heard also. And some people need to hear the message of “your choice is important” a few times before they will speak up.

This is just one way of respecting introverts. yet it’s a technique that works in every meeting. More ideas can be found in a classic work of my friend Jean Tabaka.
Her book collaboration explained was my only/most important book in the first years I worked as a coach.

It sometimes feels like a lesser known book now, yet it is for me one of the must read book for every scrummaster, product owner and agile coach.

* I don’t want to go into the discussion of Open Offices and if they are good or bad for introverts. I think the main message  to share here, is that most open offices are not designed the way Open offices have been invented. When Open Office have been invented, they were surrounded by private offices, talking bubbles and even larger meeting rooms. Most Open Office I have seen, lack these features.

Thanks to Albina Popova, Gitte Klitgaard for reviewing this post. 


Today it’s 25 years ago, that I did something that at first looked like my biggest mistake up till then. I was 19 years old and for the first time in my life, my parents were on holiday without me.

I felt an adult. I had been living more or less on my own the year before at university.

Although 1991, had been a tough year, by the summer I felt like I finally had control again over my life and everything was about to get better. I had again a girlfriend, my parents trusted me to stay home in their house. In my hometown I had been going for the first time in my life to 10 days of partying at Gentse Feesten. And I was doing volunteer work with children at a playground. I felt at the top of my life.

And then 1 august 1991, around 19 hours, fate struck, or was it desitiny?
I made my own French Fries, and with that I burned down my parents house.

I was 19, all alone, no cell phone, without a number to call my parents, no house, wearing nothing but underwear and a pair of jeans. No t-shirt, no socks, no shoes. I went to my neighbor and I called my girlfriend, unfortunately her parents had never seen me, and they did not believe  that a boyfriend they officially did not knew she had, had just burned down a house. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do.

I felt very very lonely.

I was 19, although my life was not an open book to my parents, I realized then, there was no way that I could hide this from my parents. And even postponing this, would not help me.
Yes that evening I learned the value of transparency and default to open. 
First thing my mother did when she came home, she did not say a word, she hugged me.  That hug told me; yes you failed, and no you are not a failure.

The newly kitchen burned down before it was finished...
It was a healing hug and it was the start of a long journey, that makes it possible that I can say that for the biggest part of the next 25 years, burning down that house was one of the best things that happened to me.

No, I’m no advising you to do the same. I’m advising you, to look at the failures in your life and see what you can learn from it.
What do you gain from hiding them? Most people gain a life of fear. Fear for being embarrassed. I had just burned down a house and everyone around me, knew about it. I had no place to hide. not literally, not emotionally. Yes there were (Tons of) people that made fun of me. I even had a friend who yelled at me. He yelled because, yeah because of what? It wasn’t clear to me at the time, now I would say, he yelled because of his own fear. Today, I’m ok with it, very OK with it. It told me he was not a real friend. The kids and colleagues at the playground on the other hand turned out to be gold.

Today I will celebrate the fire. Celebrate at work, and celebrate with my family; I’ll make some French Fries and I’ll explain to my son why burning down the house turned out to be ok.

And next time I make a mistake, I’ll do a #FailureBow. If you haven’t decided what to eat today, have some French Fries and think of your failures. 

I’m a book lover.
For me, agile does not make much sense without technical excellence.

Two weeks ago two friends had an interesting discussion on twitter.

This conversation inspired me to publish lists of technical books to read.

As I have not been programming a lot the last years, I only know must read technical books from years ago.

 Instead of this being a problem I thought let’s turn this into a positive thing, so asked a few agile technical friends if they could send me their list of top 10 technical books to read. With the reason why….

 The idea is to publish these lists on my blog, about one a week. (similar to how who is agile started).

This was the list that Christophe tweeted:

Imagine a professional bicycle team.
All very experience cyclists, that have won many times.


The last years they have been losing more and more because this team is still driving older bikes. Most people in the team love their bike. After so many years they really know the good and bad parts of their bike. Although they weight more, the drivers are now doing power training, and the teams explositivity has doubled the last 10 years.

More and more people said they should change bikes, even a few people in the team have a different bike at home. Although most of them love it, some feel it’s not robust enough to be a professional bike.

Usually the day before a new tour, their sponsor makes a big speech and brings their customer made t-shirts. This year the day before the tour the France, their sponsor even made a bigger event. They brought a total new set of bikes.

These new bike are great, they are much more aerodynamic, they have a new kind of suspension and the steering wheel has some power steering. The teams tries the bikes for the first time in front of the cameras on the parking of their hotel. 
One of them falls of his bike, they all have a good laugh and they blame the champagne. Yet in reality these bike really demand another way to drive: they are so much more sensitive, so the cyclists are oversteering when they are going into bends. On top of that, because of the new suspension they have a different feeling on the cobblestones. All in all they have to sit different on the bicycle to use it to it’s fullest.

Now you have a team of 28 cyclist that will learn how to drive a new bicycle, all while running a race. (Against other teams that also drive this new bike, only they have been learning this for months before.) They are not the last to switch, some of their competitors are still driving old bikes, and to the people who are against the switch, it feels that these teams are more productive as they have won already a few jerseys.

That is how an agile transformation feels to most people inside companies.

Luckily the sponsors brought some bike doctors along to help give advice on how to use the bikes. These people are among the best around the world, the bikers feel frustrated because they have the feeling that these doctors tell them to do things that their own bodies gives them the opposite message.

A few sideline stories that sometimes happen with agile transformations euh I mean bike switches. 

The timerider is frustrated because the sponsor listen to the mechanics to buy all the same bicycles which was easier to maintain the bikes. Yet for timeriding it would have been better to buy at least a few time riding bikes.

A big thank you to my friend and colleague GertJan who inspired this metaphor and who’s e-mail conversation made this a lot better.

Another Thank you for Olivier Puffet who was the direct trigger.

Do you like this metaphor?

What could make it better?

Inspired by Bart De Waele’s last post a list of what I typically take with me every day.

– an USB headphone, that I can use to talk on Skype when I work with remote people.
– charger for my MacBook pro
– a physical book. I spend at least 1 hour every day on a train, when I usually read a lot. Although I prefer reading in my kindle, I always have a physical book with me as backup.
Jimmy  Cards, to use with teams or individuals.
– a device to do digital banking. (For when I need to make large payments I can’t do on my phone.) I always have a spare one with me.
– a clicker for presentations (Logitec)
– in ear plugs for listening to music on the train or my bike.
Deborah Hartmanns Fearless Journey cards (based on Linda Risings  Fear-less change book.
– My Macbook pro with gothic Snowwhite. (I have this picture to make sure I recognise my Macbook)
Jurgen Appelo’s delegation poker cards.
– A small pack of glass cleaners.
– two adapters so I can work on my laptop with a second screen.
– my kindle.
– my scarf. As a coach, trainer, presenter, my voice is my most precious instrument, you will hardly see me outside without my scarf. Yes even in the summer, I’m very sensitive to wind.
– My kisika (yellow jack), as I drive with my bicycle to the trainstation and I want to set an example for my kids, I will always wear this. (I just realised, left out my bike helmet because it was not in my rucksack. )
moving motivator cards (also from Jurgen Appelo)
– a small set of gongs. They take up very limited space and at least once a week I can use them when I did not expect it.
– post it’s and Stattys. There is not a meeting that I don’t use them. (I prefer Stattys over post it’s)
– a small solar charger for my phone. (I just realised my cable was actually in use when I took the picture)
– a marker.
– a small notebook
– something I use on plane or train to block light on my eye so I can sleep.
– my Iphone 5S (I agree with Bart, I never buy the first form factor of a new device)
– the phone is inside a small cover that also contains the cards I take with me.
– a wireless trackball (that I can use also todo presentations with)
a handshoe mouse: the last two device or some of the many mouses I use. Since I invested in that I no longer have trouble from a RSI that had started.
This are just the things I always take with me.

When I go abroad I also take:
– a powerstrip, so I can connect many devices in my hotel.
– a small bag full of international connectors
– a neck pillow for the airplane
– passport
– a digital photo camera (Canon)

What I don’t take might be as interesting:
– I hardly have cash with me.





I read everywhere...
The last years, I noticed that I explain dimensional planning more and more.
I learned about dimension planning from Koen van Exem, one of the early Belgium agilists.
It’s one of these early germs of (Belgium?) agility, that unfortunetly has been mostly forgotten.

Last night JB (Rainsberger), Alistair (Cockburn) and myself  had a small discussion about it, that made me realise that I still have a nice story that I had not shared on my blog yet.

Before I do that, let me explain the basics of Dimensional planning.
The idea of dimensional planning, is that we slice our stories in different implementation dimensions.
We do this because as JB says, a lot of  clients want a Lexus by the end of the week. We might not be able to do this, yet we might be able to offer them a toyota by tomorrow, most clients love this offer till we can deliver the Lexus. (Aka very fast ROI)

I prefer the dimensional planning theory like Koen explained it to me.

Imagine you have a client that wants a highway between Amsterdam and Heusden.
You are good at making highways, so you start building right away. After a few months you are ready and you proudly let your customer use the highway. She arrives at Heusden and she does not have a happy smile on her face. You go over and ask about the gas stations and and if she liked the picknick area’s and the exits every 20 miles ect etc. Although she answers positive on all your questions she seemed to get annoyed more and more. And finally she burst out: this is not the city I wanted to get to.

You look around and notice the city sign: Heusden. Did she not want to go to Heusden? Yes she did.
Turns out there are two cities of Heusden.

After this your company and the client lawyers have long and large discussions about who’s fault it is and who will pay of the not useful highway.(If you have a good lawyer, your client will pay and then never come back…)

You could also use dimensional planning. When you do, you start by building a dirt road between Amsterdam and Heusden.

After less then a week that would have been finished and you would have discovered that you are going to to the wrong city. You say no problem, we both knew up front we would encounter misunderstandings. You look around, find the new Heusden and build another dirt road. You deliver that one after another week and wow, you discover together with your client that even that is the wrong one. Turns out there are 2 cities in Belgium and 1 in the Netherlands that are called Heusden. Who knew?
After another week, your client is happy that she has a dirt road between Amsterdam and her Heusden. (A lot faster then the original few months.)
Although she does not have all the features yet, she has already return of her investment as she can start sending cars between the two offices of her company. It’s not a great road, it goes rather slow, yet a lot faster then the previous road that had a detour of 100 km.

The day after you delivered the correct dirt road, you started working on a cobblestone road.
After another 3 weeks, you deliver that one.
You can also create a tarmac or asphalt version and a highway version.
Yet in a lot of cases the clients don’t want to highway version another more when they already have the ROI of the previous versions.

Because we all know that when we ask a customer if they want a highway they always say yes, and developers love working on all the features of a highway.

Yet going back to the car example as JB said so nicely yesterday,  most people would prefer a Lexus over a toyota, except if they need to pay for the Lexus, suddenly a toyota (or even a lada -Thx Rik D’huyvetters *2-) is enough. Just like not every developer likes to pay constant attention to all details the way a Lexus demands.

Reader: Well Yves, isn’t it pricy to deliver 3 dirt roads, a cobblestone road, a tarmac and a highway?
Yes it is more pricy then just a highway, yet as we all know errors are made and delivering all that is cheaper then delivering 3 highways, as we almost always seem to do in product development.
Reader: Oh but in my methodology, we prepare so much that we never make mistakes…
If you are sure and you take that risk, be my guest. Even if you are correct (which I doubt will happen in 100% of the cases) I’m pretty sure that by the time you have started creating your highway, a lot of customers have already changed their minds. And our dirt road projects are delivering ROI already after just a few weeks, months before you even have started.

Reader: All nice theory Yves: how does that work in practise?
Ah glad you asked, I almost forgot, I started this blog with the promise I made to JB to blog about one of the nice real life examples.

A little disclaimer, I did change a few details of this story, to protect the client.

This is large company that already has a website, yet the website is totally in a demilitarised zone of the company network. They have created a small thing they are going to sell over the web.
The CFO was a big supporter of this product and wants to see the websales on a continuous basis.
To do that, they would need to breach to security zones and insert the sales data into their SAP.

At such a large company, that is a large project that will take 6 months of development and to prepare, we will start with meetings with at least 20 people in the room. (Security experst, SAP experts, webdevelopers and then lots of  managers all the way to the person below the CFO)

At another meeting, the CFO shares concerns about lacking visibility of the sales progress for the pet product during the first crucial 6 months. I propose a temporary side projects, using dimensional planning. (where we consider the highway version the other project. )

The dirt road version:
Every day, we generate  a pdf report on the webserver that we put on a floppy disc. (Remember  this server was disconnected from most of the network.)
Everyday we print the PDF and bring a copy of the papers of the sales to the CFO office and have an intern typing in all the data into our SAP system.
The PDF report is created by one of our developers on the same day as the product goes life. By the end of the day, we already have the data for the CFO.
First problem noticed: the CFO wants something extra, something our website did not ask our customers buying the product. The developer that had proudly shown the report herself to the CFO, went back to her desk and less then 30 minutes later, the website asked the extra info, and the new report was generated. (Missing the data of the first day.) Right in time for the newspaper article that was published the next day, when a large number of customers buy the product.
The next day, while these numbers come in, our intern tries to add the data to SAP. We discover our second Heusden. Turns out that we were targeting the wrong SAP table.
This fix takes a few days. The CFO keeps getting his report, yet nothing in SAP the first week.
By Friday of the first week, our intern is able to upload data.
Yet it’s very boring work and is totally not scalable. (We have a few thousands sales the first week.) Time for our

Cobblestone version:

This time we are going to generate the report in a cvs format (Remember, this is before xml was popular.) Every day the first developer arriving at the office, wil physically go to the webserver, generate the report and copy it to the floppy disc.
The same developer will take the disc and upload the data to our SAP system.
This version is more scalable, no matter how much we sold our product the previous day, the action for our developer is the same. Even in this version we have a small glitch: one of the fields is marked as text instead of number. (Just a normal bug).

It’s a manual action every day, not automated and is only updated once a day (for the previous day.)

While this solution is in place, the meetings continue for the highway version. At the end of such a meeting, I ask the collaborator of the CFO, how they use the data and if they are happy with the numbers. Almost by accident I discover that the CFO is only looking at the data on Friday.
(So not on a daily basis ) and he even does not care that he does not see the full sales of the day/week.

Luckily I have a meeting with this same collaborator and the CFO the next day. We talk about the progress of the highway project and how it’s really blocking people from working on a high priority legal project. I gently propose that we might keep the cobblestone project in place for now, and put the highway project in hibernate. A lot of people at this company are unhappy, because they had hoped to work on this super duper cool project. The security officer on the other hand is very happy, because she can keep the webserver in the safe zone, without temporary breaches.
In the end, the company saves 6 month of development for a highway, that is putting their network at risk and that would not really be needed.

A few years later I meet the CFO who tells me that the highway project was probably a little overboard as the product they sold online, never got any sales that even came close to what they would have had to spend to deliver the highway project. And thanks to the dirt road project, they discovered very early that the missing e-mail addresses of their customers and that turns out to be the best investment every. This e-mail list has helped them the next years to up sell some of their services to these customers and that has saved the company from going bankrupt.