Archive for the ‘Scrum’ Category

As an agile coach, I am using idea’s coming from multiple methologies. I started this coaching 8 years ago and my first agile book I read more then 10 years ago. As a result I mix terminology when talking about agile.
This week I was told I should not use “demo” when talking about scrum.  Although I personally like the word demo (It’s the same word in Dutch, French, English, the three languages in which I am coaching) I do understand that it creates confusion among clients. And yes it’s better when everyone uses the same terminology when talking about the same thing.

As I wanted to be sure to stop doing that, I created a document with the correct scrum terminology. (These days I mainly coach scrum)

Then I realized that I’m not the only person who might be interested in it.

Here is the document: agile words

Will you help me in adding more words?

I have added extra column so you can add words for

  • Crystal Clear
  • EVO
  • FDD
  • DSDM
  • XP
  • … >> feel free to add a column to add others

Yes in a later stage we should add links explain. It might even become part of the scrum alliance agile atlas or agile alliance guide to agile practises or anywhere else, that is for later versions.

Feel free to steal it.


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

Last week I published an Agile Thursday Quiz about Scrum of Scrums
Here are my answers:

What is the purpose of a Scrum Of Scrums
A, B, C, F
Allows clusters of teams to discuss their work
Informing other teams what slowing your team down
Informing other teams about team decisions
Inform other teams when you will be put something in their way

A: I see A also as a correct answer as it’s usually one of the only places were teams interact. Yes if the discussion takes to long it should be taken offline and be discussed in another meeting. (This is why multiple choice is bad for agile quizes..)

F: That last sentence has confused lots of people. Yes it is said in a negative way. Hopefully you will inform another team also when your team does something that unblock them. But when you would block hem, it’s important to let them know ASAP.


Who attends the Scrum Of Scrums
Preferable D (at worst C)
One designated person of every team
A rotating role within every team

Everyone else is free to follow; Yes usually Scrummasters and ProductOwner follow a SoS, yet, it’s not intented for them.
Communities of Practise might be other places for likewise people to meet.


Links about SoS
Boris Gloger has 3 secrets for a good Scrum of Scrum
Xavier Quesada has tips to make the Scrum of Scrum info visual
Mike Cohn has some advice on how to conduct the Scrum of Scrum

What is for you the purpose of a standup:

B,C, E
Inform your co-workers what you are working on
Ask for help when you are stuck
Know what your co-workers are working on

Taking decisions could be part if you do it quickly.
It is a place where you can discover that a decision should be taken. (That is not the same)
>> In that sense you could say that my answer is different from that of the SoS.
(Which is OK for me, I don’ think one size fit’s all answers are healthy)

Links Daily Standup:
Wikipedia on Stand-ups
Martin Fowler on why it’s not just about standing up
Mike Cohn on the Daily Scrum

What is the role of a ScrumMaster

B, D, E
Teaches the teams about agile (scrum)
Removes impediments for the team
Facilitates meetings

Links Role Scrummaster

Role of the Scrummaster
7 responsibilities of the Scrummaster
John Hill wrote about the empowerment of the team by the Scrummaster

At a client we did a ScrumOfScrum to enhance the communication between teams.
These different teams work in different places of the building. (Part of the problem)
This had as an effect that the SoS always started late. One team member took charge and started to gather everyone at the start.
Although it only removed a symptom, it worked.
(I support idea’s from teams to encourage them to come up with more idea’s.)
And then that person moved to another part of the company. (For reasons not related to the SoS)
Now the SoS started even later. I once waited longer then the time it took to hold the SoS.
The next one I canceled after waiting for 5 minutes.
I had a mail in my drafts for a few weeks explaining What is a Scrum of Scrum etc…
I did not send it as I did not like the patronizing message it would send.
I do not like mail, because of the distributed way of teams, mail was a good way to distribute the message.
Then a teammember send a remark about the SoS. That triggered some questions in me.

And then I realized I had been planning to create a large agile quiz, to use with this team. And I had been postponing it.

Combining two challenges into one solution, I created a small quiz about Scrum of Scrums.

This is the quiz. (multiple answers possible)
Please answer in the comments. I will publish my answers later, together with a few links.
The idea is to create discussions.

What is the purpose of a Scrum Of Scrums

A) Allows clusters of teams to discuss their work
B) Informing other teams what is slowing your team down
C) Informing other teams about team decisions
D) Report progress to management about the project
E) Give management time & place to put pressure on the teams
F) Inform other teams when you will be put something in their way

Who attends the Scrum Of Scrums

A) Scrum master of every team
B) All team members of every team
C) One designated person of every team
D) A rotating role within every team
E) Product Owner of every team
F) R & D manager

What is for you the purpose of a standup:

A) Report to management
B) Inform your co-workers what you are working on
C) Ask for help when you are stuck
D) Take decisions on issues
E) Know what your co-workers are working on
F) Have a time to chat with eachother

What is the role of a ScrumMaster

A) The manager of the team
B) Teaches the teams about agile (scrum)
C) The secretary of the team
D) Removes impediments for the team
E) Facilitates meetings
F) Is responsible for teams commitments

I plan to publish one small quiz about every week called Agile Thursday Quiz

This week I was ALE 2011. To remember and share my experience I will write an improvement game

What I like about ALE 2011:


  • I forgot about the failure cake

What I would like to see improved:

  • More people using “The Law of two feet” when they think they can have more value somewhere else. (It’s not restricted to the Open space sessions only)
  • Oomps (Official One Minute presentations about the upcoming talks)
  • Closing oomps: at the end of the day participants talking back what they learned from all the talks
  • an organized way of sharing rooms
  • An organized way of sharing Taxi’s, from and to the airport
  • A date more families come
  • the children room in a more central place
  • the children report back what they have done as part of closing oomps
  • the family program is on the official program (no second citicians)
  • we have a book swashing activity
  • we have bar activities (like agile quiz etc)
  • all groups of dinner with a stranger are smaller then 10
  • I would like to see less “Agile EGO” (We are agilist so we are better then the rest of the world) and more use of prime directive in everything we do.
  • People are funny without cynism & sarcasm
  • everybody understands what it means to have an open space conference
  • More butterflies
  • More Bees
  • No passive aggressiveness against people not from our community
  • a world café
  • more developers
  • more C-level people
  • a book shop
  • make it clear if participants will receive a notebook or not
  • We have 24 hour wifi
  • The Coffee and the rooms are on the same floor
  • the toilets are on the same floor
  • We should have some room for longer sessions (games?)
  • We should help new presenters
  • We should encourage speakers to do dry run’s

Personal improvements

  • I should have used paircoaching on the coffee mugs instead of so that more people understood this was a promoting of an idea and not a company
  • I buy less mugs then participants
  • I can withhold from jokes about Americans (Sorry Brian I was really happy you were at ALE)
  • I listen more when I meet awesome people
  • My family joins ALE 2012
  • My family is active in ALE 2012.
  • My phone keeps working during the conference
  • I check the feedback from my session at the door…
  • I should have thanked the organizers more…


My improvements are worth 1 out of 10 for me.(This means that ALE receives a 9 out of 10 )


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 week I gave an inhouse Advanced Agile training for 40 people from 4 different countries. Together with Deborah Preuss, Ralph Miarka & Olaf Lewitz. This was one of the few presentations we gave (most of the time we played games or did exercises.)

As a coach I invest in myself by following multiple trainings every year.

At ACCDE10, Deborah Preuss, said she that although she is a CST, she followed CSM classes with multiple people to learn about new techniques and ways of doing scrum/Training.

In the last 12 months I followed a Coaching class of David Hussman, part of an SM class of Robin Dymond, and a full PO class with Jeff Patton.


One of the people still on my list is Tobias.

When I saw this video earlier this week, a course with him moved higher on my courses backlog.


Using post it’s with the course agenda is something I learned from delivering courses with Vera Peeters.
From what I see, Tobias has more “Do as we do, not do as we say…” idea’s…

I love it.

Enjoy the short video.



So what is PairCoaching all about? Is a question I get a lot.
A few years back, when my father and I did a retrospective on a leadership game we had done earlier that week, we noticed that some of the leaders we ask to lead in a certain way, had trouble doing it.
So we talked about how we could support them more.
(In one part of the game, the leader had to be command-and-control, in another part we needed a proces leader)
While talking about that, my father suggested to use a pair of leaders.
It seems very logical to do so, as we did our session also with two people.
(And I know he does all of his workshops with someone else.)
Somewhere in the conversation he dropped the term PairCoaching.
He wrote a nice article about it, that we distribute to the players of the game.
Since that moment I have been talking more and more about PairCoaching.
I think that the quality goes dramatically up when you have two people doing a job. For important jobs I think it is good to have a pair doing the work.
Pilots are always with two in a cockpit. Is it overhead? Sure it could be, I think all the passengers of the flight 61 (Brussels Newark of 19 june 2009), are really happy there was a co-pilot, when the main pilot had a heart attack.
Leading a family of 17 children
In corporate life the default leadership style is one leader,  that leads a team somewhere between 5 to 500 people.
In personal life the default leadership style is two leaders, that lead  a family of 1 till 17 children.
Oh yes you can lead a family on your own. I have friends who are single parent, they do a great job, and they’ll tell you it’s tough alone.
I propose more people should try leading a team with 2 people.
In some sense people are already doing that in the agile world:
A scrum master and a PO have some kind of leadership role. Yes both roles are different, just like a mother role and a father role are different.
And sometimes a PO does more SM tasks, and a SM jumps in and helps on the PO taks. Like father and mothers switch roles also from time to time.
In a good running family, the mother and father consult each other on important decisions.

Another example I see in corporate life is at the top of companies:
you have a CEO and a president of the board.
Both roles are different, they share the responsibility for the company.

Update: A few weeks ago there was a session at an Agile Coach Camp about PairCoaching. Read the transcription here.

I noticed something strange the last months (year?).

Last year there were lot’s of discussions on agile mailing list about agile vs Agile.
We also had discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of certifications.

David wanted to write a new manifesto.

We had discussion if Lean was agile.
At Agile 2009 there was a Open Space session is Scrum evil?

Ken resigned of the Scrum Alliance he founded (the foundation to support “his” scrum)

Joel writing a post against TDD vs Uncle Bob’s response 
Tobias writing a blog post to stop doing XP.  vs Steve reaction’s to keep doing XP 
(Read Tobias answer in the comments to understand the whole discussion) 
I could add a lot more if I wanted, and so could you.

It looks like we have a lot of discussions where we question ourselves as an industry.

I have the feeling it is the first time this happens at this scale.
Maybe I’m too young. Maybe I ‘m more in the middle now or have more idea’s myself on who’s right or wrong.
Maybe it’s the always connect, twitterly, blogging world that makes these discussions so more public.

This reminds me a lot of the storming phase that exists in a team live cycle,or the chaos phase in Satirs model.
So from a point of view of a coach these discussions and where this goes is interesting.

In these discussions, there is clearly no leader. Or let me put it in another way, no leader that everyone would accept.
So this is a self-organizing team.

Who’s is part of this team?
I guess everyone involved in creating software.
Some are seniors, some are juniors. Some are good in communication others are bad at expressing what they think/feel, but have good idea’s. Some have great idea’s and don’t say/write anything. Some turn of heir browsers and start writing code.

What is the goal of this team?
mmm? That is a hard one, and as long was we don’t have a shared vision, I doubt we will agree on a lot of stuff. Anyway agreeing should never be a goal.
The creation of the agile manifesto was also not done without discussions.

My personal goal would be that we as an industry end up get better at writing great software.

As a coach I’m interested to look at META position and see how we behave as a community. And how the outside world looks at us during these discussions.

Do we scare people away because we argue?
Do we attract people because we listen to each other and argue politely?
Maybe it is too early to ask these questions, and I know that switching to and from meta position can influence the discussions. 

So lot’s of questions. And too much happening that I can take a look at on my own.

So I wonder, what is your idea? How do you feel about this?