Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

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


The agile community in Belgium(Benelux) started somewhere in 2001.
There were three kind of ways we interacted:

  • Pairprogrammingparties: People meeting at the backroom of a café/restaurant, where they programmed the whole evening in pairs.
  • agile evening events: companies that had a problem, provide us with a room, food & beverages and we came with a bunch of people interested in agile. We discussed, played a game …
  • the yearly xpday benelux 2 days event

All that was completely self-organized. We had enough companies interested and we lots of different topics.

Gradually, the focus of the regular people came on the yearly event. I think that pretty quick after the mini-xp days (which is basically a best of the previous xp days) was started, the monthly evening events died.

The nice thing about the Belgium agile community is that every times this happens, there is someone who stands up and starts to organize a new kind event.


Years ago we had Jurgen De Smet launching Agile in Belgium.
A few years back, we had Mark, Bruno & Xavier launching the agile beer drink ups.


My lessons learned:

  • As this was taking place at a customer I am currently helping, I did not really wanted to facilitate. Yet I never really made a clear decision and thus no clear communication. That ended into a lot of confusion for many people. That was a big mistake.
  • I had lots of facilitation stuff in my car, I did not bring it to the office, thinking I will have time. When we have 3 hours and lots of games to play, we can’t loose time. Another facilitation mistake.
    • In XP: the customer is the bottleneck. That was a take away that links two idea’s I like.
    • things to think about:  as part of a debrief we discussed that it’s better to start then to think. Someone repeated that as: in agile there is no thinking.
    • While driving home I realized that as these days I do facilitation most of my days and thus when I go to a local event I avoid more of the same. Ignoring the fact that I learn a lot by doing facilitating my own community.
    • As being an agile adapt for quite some times, I am always looking for new games and things to learn. yet sometimes it’s good to remember that a lot of newbies, don’t know the basics games like the XP game, the leadership game or the bal game.

yes I play these games with almost all my customers, yet I should not forget to play it also for the community from time to time.

  • A few years ago, I have decided to drop out of a lot of evening events, in favor of my family. Last year I realized that this decision made me miss a lot of local agile friends. In return I started having lunch with at least one agile friend a month. Tonight I realized I want to open this up. hence: alunch  short for agile lunch. Watch this blog, my twitter feed for an announcement in the next days.



Last weeks Thursday I published another ATQ this one about Daily standups. The questions came from Simon Baker. Here are his answers: (I added my comments with his, to show there is not one truth)

1. What are the goals of the daily stand-up?

a) Share status information.

b) Report progress to the manager.

c) Identify impediments.

d) Set direction and synchronise the day’s activities.

e) Remove impediments.

f) Assign work to people.

Correct Answers:

a) Even when there’s promiscuous pair programming, it’s useful for individuals to hear fresh updates from their team mates (especially at the start of the day) to get a sense of overall progress towards the goals. It’s also helpful to share anything interesting and relevant that people may find  generally useful.

c) Impediments can’t be removed if nobody knows about them. It’s therefore important to make people aware of new impediments and raise early awareness, and also update them on progress to remove existing impediments.

d) With an understanding of current status the team can organize itself to provide assistance where it’s needed and work collectively to maintain the flow of work to done and move closer to achieving its goals.

Incorrect Answers:

b) The daily standup is the team’s forum for communicating the latest useful information to one another and collectively coordinating their activities for the day. It’s not a meeting for people to report to a manager or leader.

e) Removing impediments takes time and happens outside the daily standup.

f) Work is not assigned to people. People volunteer. The team is meant to be self-organizing and should decide for itself how best to deploy in order to achieve its goals.

Remarks from Yves:

F) >> this is were you see that details are important. When you assign the work in the team by the team. You could say it F is also ok. (Although I prefer people sign up themselves)

2. What do people talk about at the daily stand-up?

a) Impediments that are causing delays.

b) Percentage complete on work in progress.

c) What will be attempted today.

d) Solutions to problems.

e) Ask questions to clarify understanding.

f) What was accomplished yesterday.

Correct Answers:

a) People actively working to remove impediments and clear obstacles blocking stories provide updates on their progress.

c) Individuals state succinctly what they’ll be working on today.

e) It’s often necessary for people to ask clarifying questions of others to get a clear understanding of what’s been said. If a discussion develops about problem solving it should be taken offline and continued after the daily standup.

f) Individuals provide a bulletin on the progress they made yesterday. This is headline information and not details. It can be helpful to summarise the acceptance criteria satisfied (providing the acceptance criteria are expressed in a meaningful way).

Incorrect Answers:

b) Progress isn’t reported by the percentage done. As humans, we’re very good at knowing when something is started and when something has been finished, but we’re terrible at knowing anything in-between. It can be informative to talk about progress in terms of the acceptance criteria satisfied or outstanding (providing the acceptance criteria are expressed in a meaningful way).

d) Make people aware of any new problems but the daily standup is too short to fix problems. Discussing potential solutions and agreeing a way forward is done outside the daily standup.

Remarks Yves

B) Depends on how you look at progres. % progress on storys/task I agree.

If WIP is shown by one card per task/story. You do see some progress indication when some parts are done.

3. Why do people standup at the daily standup?

a) Stimulate a higher level of attentiveness.

b) More people can huddle.

c) Helps keep the standup short.

d) It’s easier for people to queue up to speak.

e) Avoid deep vein thrombosis.

f) It’s more sociable.

Correct Answers:

a) Standing up prompts people to engage as their physical movement stimulates a mental readiness, for a while at least.

c) Standing up provides everyone with a physical reminder to be expeditious. When people start fidgeting it’s a sure sign the standup is taking too long.

Incorrect Answers:

b) It might be possible to fit more people in when everyone is standing, and it might even make it easier for people to see the board, but in and of itself it’s not really a reason to be standing.

d) People don’t queue up to speak at the daily standup, the team walks the board, i.e. the story owners speak according to the order of work on the board. Typically, impediments are covered first followed by the stories in progress (including defects, systems work, and technical debt), either working down from the highest value story (story board) or working backwards from the done column (Kanban board).

e) While office workers probably do spend more time on their butts it’s arguably not long enough to develop deep vein thrombosis.

f) Sociability probably has more to do with how friendly people are, how well they know each other, how well they get on together, and whether it’s a safe environment than it does standing up.

4. What are the signs of a good daily stand-up?

a) Everybody gets to speak.

b) It happens at the same time every day, where the work happens.

c) It manages itself.

d) Afterwards, people feel energised and are clear about what they’re doing.

e) Stakeholders come to observe.

f) It takes less than 15 minutes.

Correct Answers:

b) Doing the daily standup at the same time and in the same place removes coordination costs and helps make it a habit. It also lets other people drop by and observe proceedings. A standup first thing in the morning provides a springboard for launching into the day. It makes sense to do it around the board because that’s where the information lives about what’s going on and it provides triggers on what needs to happen.

c) A good standup feels like it managed itself. I’ve seen daily standups done without any facilitation where people get to the point, share information, organise, and jump into the work day with clarity.

d) A good standup gets people energised.Maintaining a clear sense of purpose and urgency to make a difference rather than just get busy on activities reminds people why they’re dong what they’re doing and focuses their attention on what needs to be done to achieve the goals.

e) This may be a contentious view but I think it’s good to have stakeholders and people from other parts of the business present who want to hear about progress or relevant information. I include an ‘any other business’ piece at the end of the daily standup to allow stakeholders a few seconds to share relevant information with the team. Sharing information in the presence of stakeholders removes the need for other status meetings and reports.

f) The daily standup ought to be short and sweet. 15 minutes or less is a general rule of thumb, regardless of the number of people attending. Any longer than 15 minutes and energy dissipates and minds begin to wander.

Incorrect Answers:

a) Nowadays it’s common practice to talk about the stories rather than each person answer the three Scrum questions. Focus shifts from personal commitment to moving work in progress to done. This means it’s not necessary for everyone to speak at the daily standup. Perhaps the current story owners do most of the talking.

Remarks Yves

I do agree in general with the remark about A. Yet on not teams that struggle with commitment I can be good to have everyone speaking. And if people don’t speak, what they have done should have been discussed (f ex if the paired, their pair should have spoken)

Some URL’s about Daily Standups

See what wikipedia has to say about standups

A few years back Simon wrote a popular article about Standup’s.

Jason Yip wrote a few patterns about Standups (on Martin Fowlers blog).

Also Mike Cohn wrote about standups

On the first wiki (from Ward) there is also a page about standups

Even on Methods and Tools has an article on Daily Standups (from Mike Vizdos)

Big Visible has a post on extreme standups

Also the website Extreme programming has a post on standup meeting

Because of my work on the “Who is agile” book I did not publish new ATQ in a few weeks.
A lot of people struggle with a standup. As with a lot of things, it’s simple but not easy.
For this ATQ, Simon Baker helped me out with the questions.

1. What are the goals of the daily stand-up?
a) Share status information.
b) Report progress to the manager.
c) Identify impediments.
d) Set direction and synchronize the day’s activities.
e) Remove impediments.
f) Assign work to people.

2. What do people talk about at the daily stand-up?
a) Impediments that are causing delays.
b) Percentage complete on work in progress.
c) What will be attempted today.
d) Solutions to problems.
e) Ask questions to clarify understanding.
f) What was accomplished yesterday.

3. Why do people standup at the daily standup?
a) Stimulate a higher level of attentiveness.
b) More people can huddle.
c) Helps keep the standup short.
d) It’s easier for people to queue up to speak.
e) Avoid deep vein thrombosis.
f) It’s more sociable.

4. What are the signs of a good daily stand-up?
a) Everybody gets to speak.
b) It happens at the same time every day, where the work happens.
c) It manages itself.
d) Afterwards, people feel energized and are clear about what they’re doing.
e) Stakeholders come to observe.
f) It takes less than 15 minutes.

In the agile world we have a few exercises to show the effects of multi tasking.

Last year I when I did a personal agility workshop with Gerry Kirk, he teached me a new one. He learned it from Alan Cyment

It became my favorite exercise about MT.

We divide the  group in two. The two parts are standing in a row facing each other.
















We do 3 exercises in multiple ways.


  1. a complex hand exchange (like in a child song)
  2. Count from 1 till 10 with your partner using your fingers. (Person 1: shows 1 finger, then person : 2 fingers, person 1 shows 3 fingers…)
  3. “sing” a song. Person 1 says one word and then her partner says the second word and then again person 1.

The first round we do the exercise in sequence. First exercise 1, then exercise 2, then exercise 3.  What makes this exercises harder is that for each exercise you have a different partner. So after you have finished exercise 1, one row shifts one position to the left. (and the first person moves to the last position.) And the same again after you have finished exercise 2.

In the second round, people start the first exercise and when the leader says so, the group switches to exercise 2 or 3. Now this is when it becomes interesting as people have to remember where they were and they have to find their new partner and remember at what part of that exercise they where.

This exercise reminds most participants about their worklife. Always changing priorities, finding partners back. Before you can do a small task, the priorities have changed again.

One of the interesting things about this exercise, is that everytime I did this, in the first round all 3 exercises are finished in less time then finishing the first exercise in round 2.

So switching priorities does no help, not even to give the impression that things move faster.








Rini Van Solingen has interviewed me for his Groeten Uit Delft vlog.


UPDATE 2013/09/19: Although I started the brand PairCoaching in 2007, based on an article my father wrote in 2004, it turns out that Industrial Logic already used that name to reference how they worked with coaches in 2001. Although my father was already delivering workshops with my mother and with his brother since 1991, I don’t think he used the term PairCoaching before 2004. So the price for inventing the word goes to Joshua Kerievsky and his company.

I found this out after I gave back the website to the community.
This makes Joshua one of the few American’s that I know that did not sue.
(There could have been a discussion that I created a brand (unknowingly) on a name they invented before.) Which proves again to me that the agile community (and it’s leaders) talk before anything else.
Joshua, I bow deeply in respect. Both for your gentle mail and for invented the word that brought me so much joy.



This year I am focusing on my work life balance. At one moment I was talking to a customer about project portfolio. While I was explaining why they needed it, I realized that I needed that also for my own life.

My creative mind invents new projects to start every free second. For a lot of these, I have find collaborators that help me to do the project. Last year my colleague Deborah told me that she toughed it was a bad idea to start yet another project. I was not ready for that message.

This year some of my the teams I’m working with, have a hard time stopping projects. Then it struck me. Start stopping projects is exactly what I should do.

There are multiple ways to stop a project.

* Finish it, in a way it goes into production, is the best way.

* Not starting (Saying no to) new projects is another way to keep my life into balance.

* On top of that, a project that is not working and dragging my time should be stopped.

A coaching talk with Johanna (from project portfolio fame) made me realize that it is hard for me to stop a project I believe in. Reflecting on the talk, I though of how Jerry Weinberg writes about writers block. If he is blocked on a book, he starts writing on what he has energy for. It felt totally logic for me when I read it. Until I have to tell people I failed at a certain project.

I know failing fast is good. Failing at a first iteration is good for the project. That does not mean it feels good.

My positive brain rephrases the experience as ‘It’s good as a coach to fail from time to time’ and my heart says damn you positive, it hurts and I need time to digest that pain.

I’m mad, sad, afraid that I failed at the first attempt to create an agile games book. Trying to release a version for agile games 2011 was a good learning experience. I learned an awful lot about myself. Learned about book writing, learned about distributed collaborative working and sustainable pace. The agile practice that is hardest for me.

So what is the future of the Agile Games books?

I will let the DropBox folder live. When I have energy I will add stuff to it. I hope other people will do the same. From time to time I will compile what I have in a PDF.



Ps Michael, Deborah I know you warned me for this. I am glad that I did not listen to you as I learned a lot. 😉


Update: I forgot to thank Jurgen De Smet for the perfect picture match

Last year at Agile Coach Camp Germany, in the evening there was a quiz about agile in the bar.
I was immediatly attracted by the format. I wanted to use this technique at the end of my agile classes. I have been bugging the presenter of the session for months to get the software he used.
This week I was reading Training from the back of the Room on a plane, where Sharon gives an example of a trainer using a pop quiz at the beginning of the training. Wow even better.
While flying, I realized I had been blocking myself, I did not need the software to start doing this. I decided I would create a google spreadsheet to collect questions.
The next morning before I even did this, I received an e-mail from the organizers of XPDay Benelux (As I only help a little bit I don’t call myself an organizer) with a question about a pop quiz… Seems I’m not alone with this idea…

I created the spreadsheet and thanks to a few friends I have already 35 questions.

The idea is to gather questions that if you learn the answers, you learn about agile.
Although it is nice to know how many people initiated the agile manifesto, it’s does not bring you any value.
I want to use the agile community to gather questions and to play the game at different conferences around the world.

I think it is even a good technique to use at CSM or other agile classes.
Read Training from the back of the room, to understand why.

I will create a downloadable version of the quiz that can be used by anyone. (with a creative common’s license)
I don’t want to publish all the questions freely in a blogpost as it can ruin the fun of playing the quiz.

I give access to the spreadsheet to anyone who asks for it.
In return I ask you add at least a few questions.

Update: Geoff Watts asked me who the quiz was for. After rereading I realized that was indeed not clear from this post.
The original trigger came from a conference. That does not help not help much as you have both newbies and experience practitioners at conferences. My goal is that after playing this quiz, people have learned some thing about agile. To keep the quiz fun, everyone should have the feeling they know something and not everything.
I will add a difficulty column to my spreadsheet.

Let’s making learning agile even more fun as it is right now…

Reader: But yves, you have not told us the right answer to the number of initiators of the agile manifesto!
Yves: That is correct. If you want to know the correct answer to that question, count the names you find at the (the first page not
Reader: Why don’t you tell us?
Yves: I’m convinced you will remember it more when you look it up yourself.

Last night I finally played the Business Value Game V2 at Okiwi

I still remember the day I was doing some agile coaching with Vera, Pascal, Johan at a large financial client. They had a large backlog that they had trouble prioritizing.
During one of these meetings Vera said to me, we need to create a game to help people understanding Business Value. It felt so right I was surprised nobody thought about it earlier.

At Agile 2008 I played a pre-beta version of BVG led by Pascal & Portia.

This BVG was a try out for Agile Tour Bordeaux.I’m very happy Fredericdid a try out.
1) I think the best sessions at conferences have been dry runned the week before.
2) I can’t go to BVG at AGTB. (Like it has been the last 2 years)

As with all the games that Pascal, Vera and Portia make, the game has a creative commons licence. Also like all their games that you can download, when you download the game, you have everything to play

(Although I tried to copy that for my leadership game, the fact I use tons of lego can’t of makes that impossible. ==> there is a lesson here for game designers…)

One of the critis about the XPand the BV game, is that they contain too much.
And yet after the game was over, the only remarks Frederic got was new idea on how to make it even more complex.
A few examples:
-have a client that runs away unexpectly
(Now you know when he will walk away
– You have income but you don’t have costs. As Frederic said you are not really encouraged to deliver the first two sprints. In real life, when you deliver a project to your customer, it changes your cashflow. Adding a cost to each sprint would encourage people to deliver fast.
Although this is my own idea and I clearly like to add that to the game to make it more realistic. (This game is aimed at either business people or developers that want to understand more about doing business) I also think that teaching games should be kept as simple as possible.

What puzzles me:

In one of the later iterations there is a story that says if you deliver this story the framework improvement is +1 (instead of +2)
It’s not clear if implementing this moves from +2 to +1. If you had +2 and now another 1 added.
Why would I implement that story when I know my improvements go down?

I remember that after playing the beta version I was very confused about what I had learned. That feeling I had not yesterday.
When I have money for each demand I can clearly see how to create BV.

My biggest challenge is that most of my clients don’t know about the amount of money they will make for each demand.
(Neither did that client when the game was invented, but the client sales people thoughted they knew.)

ROTI of my evening: 4


For the Agile 2010 conference we decided to create Stickers for the Agile Games google group.

we also have created:

I say we, but in both occasions Gino Marckx did the bulk of the work.

After 53 days we have 139 people on the list, + 350 messages. I’m glad I started his.