Archive for the ‘PairWork’ Category

As much as I like reading, my deepest way of learning, is by doing.
Yet if I have to learn everything from my own doing, that would be a local optimisation.

One of the reasons I like to do pair work , is that by pairing with another coach, I learn by tapping into her knowledge/brain. This year, I’m working with a large client, together with +15 coaches. And next to pairing, we also teach each other by swapping (war) stories.

The last months, I wondered if other people would be interested in these kind of stories and would like a community book with tips for coaching.

So I have two questions for you:
– Would you be interesting in buying such a book?
you can tell me at the leanpub waiting page
– Are you coaching people and would you like to share a story or two?

please leave your name and e-mail here

As I have already a large WIP with current community project, I will only start this one, when I have many people interested in the book, both from a reader perspective and a writer perspective.

This year it’s 10 years ago that I started working full time as what we now call an agile coach.
Agile coaching is change management, it’s helping people from where they are to somewhere else.
That somewhere else, is a place neither of us know.
Partly because I don’t know yet enough what is their current place, partly because they don’t understand what agile really means.


So one of the typically questions I get is: give me an example.
In these 10 years I have worked for the industry automating food factories, healthcare, postal service, banking, insurance, energy services, consumer service and a few more.
When I gave examples in the first years, I was giving examples about one of these companies I helped.

Yet, when I speak for a few hundred people, most are not in the same industry as most of my examples. And even when they were in the same industry, people came with excuses why my example was wrong for their company. For me that was fine. My examples were never intended to be used as best practises in your company. Their are intended to inspire people, so that they can adapt them and find their own solutions.

So gradually over the years I started to use a different story telling technique.

Most of my examples are now about my family.
Because I consider my audience smarter then me and capable of translating examples of my personal life, to their work situation and find their own solution.

I have the impression this works better.

yes, there still are laggards who don’t want to change and think that some of the new idea’s in this fast changing agile world are crazy and won’t work in their company.
That’s fine. I prefer to spend my energy helping people who want to change, that is still most part of the world.
(And they prefer to spend their time with something they know. That is fine too.)

Look at the picture above: I’m pair working with my daughter. Who is the expert on the picture? yes it’s my daughter. Although I have build a lot more castles then she has, and I have a lot of years more experience, she was really the expert. Next time you are pair-programming , think about my daughter and what you can learn from her …
I don’t even have to explain you what you can learn from this situation. I know you are smarter then me and you will find the lessons you need.

Or as my father says: you don’t have to believe in the sea to get wet, you do have to get in to get wet. Meaning, what you learn of a situation is related to the energy you put in.

If this post inspires you, please share your personal stories. How do you apply agile in your life?

This is the video of my presentation with Joppe at Agile Eastern Europe 2015.

The slides can be found here

Last week I spoke at Failing.FWD
Although I speak regular at many events around the world, this was a special one for me.

Partly because it was about failing. Dealing with failure and seeing failure as something positive has been one of my favourite topics since I burned down my parents house in 1991.

Yet that was not the main reason why this presentation was special.
I had a co-presentor. Now for those who follow me, know I make a lot of publicity for PairCoaching, so having a PairPresentor is also nothing new. What made it special, was it was my 12 year old son who joined me on stage.
And we did the presentation in English. A language he did not learn at school yet. So his English is mainly “television & music” English. Ah, it’s wonderful to live in a country where most television has subtitles and is not dubbed.

During the day and the weeks before I received a lot of questions from friends about this presentation, I wanted to group some of the answers here.

How were you invited to this conference?
As Greet De Keyser said in her presentation, people should ask what they want.
When I saw the program of the Failing.FWD conference, I tweeted something like: Damned this is a conference I would have wanted to talk. And then Karen one of the organizers replied: oh you were on our list and we still have an open spot.
Getting what you want, is that simple!

Did they agree on bringing your son?
This is a nice example of “asking for forgiveness instead of begging for permission“.  I’m a professional speaker. It’s my responsibility to make a great talk. I don’t need to ask people if the content or style of my talk is ok.
yes, I did tell Karen I wanted to bring my son and I told her it was possible that he would be on stage with me. I guess, she trusted me. A BIG THANK YOU to Karen, Ann and the full Failing.FWD team for trusting me.

How did you prepare?
The million dollar question.
After I got accepted and before I started to prepare my talk, I received an e-mail from Joppe’s school that the school would be on strike.  So I asked Joppe  if he wanted to join me in going to a conference -that was in English-. I assumed his English would have been good enough to follow a few sessions. He said yes. And he said yes with an enthusiasm, that triggered me in asking him if he wanted to join me on stage. Without blinking he said yes. I replied, you realise we will talk in English, he looked at me and said yes with a big smile on his face. Ah, the youth and it’s innocents enthusiasm.

I prepared this talk like I prepared all my talks.

– I created the draft of the presentation on index cards. (alone)
– Then I rehearsed the presentation using cards (alone) a first time. (And adjusted the cards.)

I did these steps alone, not because I did not trust him.

In 2011 he helped a lot in creating our joined presentation about our life in Bordeaux, I knew having helping me to create the presentation would be a great asset. I did it alone because he still had some large tests at school and my partner did not want that I distracted him. (WorkLife balance is also challenge for him…)

Then I created slides from my cards. I had +40 slides for a 20 minute presentation. Although that scared a few presenters around me, it’s part of my presentation style, which uses a mix of presentation Zen, Pecha Kucha and training from the back of the room.

I tried it a few times alone and then talked with Joppe about it. Just like last time, he had some great idea’s and the presentation grew. And then last Friday we rehearsed a few times & some more on Saturday. The first time saturday morning, was one of the first times the rest of the family joined in watching and he froze. he stopped after 5 minutes and refused to continue.
We talked a little bit about what to do when this would happen at the conference.
I still don’t know exactly what happened, yet I don’t want to pressure him in sharing something that scared him. I did tell him to not worry, if it would happen on stage, I would take over.

Next time we rehearsed the whole family was out. Although they came home while we were halfway, this time he continued and everything was fine.
In the meanwhile I was a more worried about the nr of slides (we had already 50 by now.) I got worried because a lama listening to the name Sofie (or is it a Sofie listen to the name Lama?) asked me about the speed of the presentation.
Sofie is the kind of women that with just a few words turns my world up side down (no, not that kind of upside down.)
I’m the kind of man that has a big EGO, yet I also know that I need to listen to women smarter then me. (I live with two of these)
In the dry-runs with Joppe, I realised that Sofie was right. In some places the speed was wrong.

So on Sunday, me and Joppe we worked on the pace and the order of one part of the presentation. Joppe’s help was crucial here, although at first I thought he did not well remember some of his lines, he made me realise that I got some parts mixed up.
So I went back to my walking desk and started to type out that part of the presentation. It was hard, now Joppe & Sofie were independently of each other partnering up “against me”, yet more importantly in favour of a great presentation.

It was already 15:00 and we needed to leave. I had agreed with the people from Failing.FWd we could do a try out on the real stage.
And then everything fell together, yet when we tried it out, I noticed again it was hard to remember the correct order (remember we had already been practising this talk a dozen times.)
And then I did the probably the opposite of what Sofie would have done, I added 3 more slides. And boom, it felt right. No time to rehearse the full presentation. I uploaded the slides to Slideshare, loaded the luggage in the car while dropbox synced and of we left for Genk. We were half an hour late, yet the lovely Ann Dries from Failing.FWD came out to let us practise on the real stage.

I wanted to do this, so Joppe could feel the stage and I hoped that feeling this he would talk louder. Joppe is rather introvert and when he talks to me, while other adults are in the room, I can hardly understand him. Ok, this is probably partly due to hearing loss as a DJ and some other ear damage, yet he talks rather quite. We practised a full Dry Run, without microphones and with my computer in front of us. I asked him to talk louder then he did and probably wanted.
We agreed with An that we would practise another time Monday morning , now with microphones etc etc..

Although lots of things went wrong (I’ll blog about these in the next days), we had a blast on stage.
Joppe spoke loud enough and it felt to me that the audience loved his style, right from the start.

So it was no surprise to me he got a standing ovation of the full audience.

Thank you Filip Bunker from Pitslamp for the great pictures


For me it seemed that at #ALE14, failing was one of the themes.

When I noticed that many people said: yes talking about failing is easy when it’s only a small failure, but what about a real big failure?
That’s the moment I decided to have a lightning talk about the moment I burned down my parents house in 1991.

The people that know me, know, I have been talking very openly about this event for years. I even did a talk at a few agile conferences called: what I learned from burning down my parents house.

Yet at #ALE14 talking about it (almost unprepared) on stage and feeling the reactions, made me very emotional.
Thank you. I’m still get tears in my eyes when I think about the support I felt from the audience .

As a thank you, I want to talk some more about failures.
About some of my failures during #ALE14. I learned from the fire that failing is OK. And although I learned that from a big event, I want to use the small failures I made at ALE14 to talk about how I deal with failures now.

It started with my proposal for ALE14.
I made 3 proposals for ALE14. They all needed more work. Work I did not do: FAILURE I

I don’t know exactly why it happened, yet I also did not follow up on these proposals: FAILURE II

I also got feedback on one of them, feedback I did not understand. I asked a question. And did not follow up on that either. > FAILURE III

As a result my sessions got rejected. (One session got resurrected during my holiday, I guess I was lucky)

Last year I did sponsor ALE13 to promote the idea of PairCoaching. This year I forgot to contact the organizers FAILURE IV
On top they decided not to contact the old sponsors, and when I found out, I left it like that (FAILURE V)

I knew already for a very long time I wanted to go to ALE in 2014, yet I only booked my plane like in the last week FAILURE VI

At the first edition of ALE, I shared a room with Chris Matts and that was a wonderful experience. So ever since I decided to do this again when I can, only know I completely forgot with who I would share a room this year FAILURE VII

After a day or so and a few embarrassing tweets where I had to acknowledge this, I finally realised I found the person thanks to a message on linkedin and I found back I did that with Sergey (For me FAILURE VIII as I should have realised this earlier)

I thought I had the address of our apartment noted in my agenda, turns out that was of the venue FAILURE IX

The address I did found back while being outside the hotel, was not complete and did not work with google maps FAILURE X

In the end I never paid Sergey (FAILURE XI)

And while writing this blogpost, I realised I still did not mail Sergey to fix this FAILURE XII

Also with Sergey we hardly talked when we came at the apartment so my apartment sharing did not get the results as before . that is because we did not really exchange expectations FAILURE XIII

When I arrived in Krakow I was extremely tired and most of the first day, I felt I was in zombie mode FAILURE XIV

At the last day, when I did my 30 second pitch for my talk, I asked people to think about a bad habit, and then I asked them to share it with a neighbour. That was bad. I should have said: if you feel comfortable, it would be nice if you can share it with someone else in the room, that you trust. Asking people to share a bad habit with a random stranger, is good for some people, yet others prefer it do it with someone they know. Thank you Paul Klipp for calling me out on this. > Failure XV

I have not posted the blog post about the ALE14 books yet as I promised. >> FAILURE XVI
And the biggest of it all: I did not call my children on the first 2 days while I was at ALE14. >> FAILURE XVII
I can continue for a while like this, and I already know what the default reaction of a lot of people will be: Yves these are not all your fault. Some of them could be blamed on -FILL IN THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BLAME-

I don’t play that game. I prefer to blame myself. Not because I’m on the SHAME stage of the responsibility model.
I do that because if I look at a situation from a point of view that I failed, I can also see what action I can take to avoid this in the future.
And that is the game I’m playing.

This is why I like to say: “blame it on me”, some people think it’s a joke. It’s not. I like to be blamed. Especially when the critic is concrete. That means I can look at the situation, see my part in it and turn it around.

So, where did you fail lately?

As I wrote some time ago, the next 2 years, I want to learn by working a week at certain companies. The idea is that working a week at a company, will teach me stuff I can’t learn by following a course. Last week I spend at Spotify.
Usually, when I learn something, it takes me a while to see what I have learned.

This month will be crazy with a reorganisation and a lot of community activities.

As it might take some time to write stuff down, here are already my first impressions:

The question I received most was: how did you get in?

That’s easy. I asked.

When you want to know how it is to work at a company, ask your network for help.

  • Spotify invests a lot in making a great working environment
  • Spotify has whiteboard walls everywhere; yep you can take that literally.
  • Meeting rooms have a large screen and video camera, to connect to the other offices
  • Almost all desks can be turned into standup desks. (Unfortunately I saw no walking desks)
  • Don’t bother breaking in to steal machines, the employees that don’t take their laptops with them, they put them in big safes.
  • The company is growing very fast
  • They hire smart people from all around the world.
  • Having a coach lead a retrospective as part of the hiring process is a smart way to learn about her.
  • Spotify is a very creative company, with a lot of ideas.
  • The squads focus mainly on adding value
  • Hackweeks with people from multiple squads seem like a great idea to try something
  • I never saw so many people wearing T-shirts from their company. Lots of people really proud that they are working at Spotify.
  • When I go to my profile page, I (we) can now undelete lists that I mistakenly have deleted.
  • They understand what MVP means. I saw a demo of something a Squad has implemented. A very cool idea, working for only a few bands. Lucky for me, one of them is one of my favorite bands. Unlucky for me, it was only targeted at US customers. From what I understand the way it was implemented, was totally not scalable, yet, they could show how the feature worked.
  • Writing an (interal) improvement game document seems like a good idea.
  • My personal idea, is that their biggest problem is they have more ideas than time and people to make them. (Nothing really surprising. Most companies have that problem.) They attack it by hiring a lot of people and let them work in self-organising squads in sprints.
  • When I go working one week in a company and the weeks before it’s clear that my main contact will be ill, I should make sure I have a backup for my backup contact.
    > On Wednesday, my two main contacts were both ill. I was not prepared for that. In the end, everything was fine, yet I think I could have been more productive for Spotify.
  • I should take more pictures. Now I have ideas of what I should have taken pictures of.

All in all, I was very happy that I did this.

A: the experiment was successful

B: Spotify is an awesome company, and a perfect choice for this experiment

One of my main drivers to start my own company was that I wanted more training than my previous employers gave me.
For 15 years I had a rule that I invested 10 to 20% of my revenue in training.
It was a combination of reading books, evening events, conferences, training & coaching.

The last years I have added community activities to that. I have learned a ton from creating

and mostly the teams that helped me with them.

Actually, I learned so much by working with great teams and their trust, that I decided that the next years, I want to experiment with how I will learn new things.

I want to learn by doing, instead of purchasing training. I will be helping multiple teams or organisations for a short while. This means I will contact companies that work in special ways or are doing stuff in a creative way. My current idea is to do actual work for them for a week.

Last week I came up with the name Au-PairCoaching for this and then asked on twitter what that made people think:

Here are the reactions:

Nicole Rauch: To me that sounds as if the coach would move into my house and live with me for a while.


  • Holger Oem: The coach is very young, has no experience on his job but is willing to do anything to help
  • Zurcherart: 19 year old learning a foreign language by coaching your children
  • George Dinwiddie Someone cheap to spend all their time babysitting the children (development team) for years.
  • Leo Exter :  Um. The stuff cheap-and-nasty romance novels are filled with.
  • RonJeffries: A young woman who doesn’t speak my language, won’t watch the kids very well and will get mixed up with my husband.



Nicole reaction, was in sync with what I thought. It’s not moving in in your house, yet moving in with your team/company.

Holger’s reaction is both good and bad.
– Although I still see myself as young, I doubt my children agree with that.
– I do have experience, I actually think I will bring lots of value.
– yes, I come to learn at the same time
– yes, I am willing to anything to help

Steve’s (Zurcherart) reaction makes me think, I burned down my parents’ house at 19. Not sure you want that 19 year old person in your company 😉
I consider working people as adults, I don’t want to treat them as children.
I want to learn, yet more the company culture then the language.

George reaction: mmm, not really want to be seen as cheap, usually people don’t listen to people they consider cheap consultants.

Leo’s reaction: I wonder if that is good or bad. these novels are popular.

Ron’s answer is really disturbing. (Thanks Ron, I like it when people push me.)
The part about not speaking the language will be true most of the times. I might miss local nuances. (It’s the main reason why we say that a CoachRetreat is done in the local language.)
I really want to do the job well. I wonder, is this the general experience with au-pairs or just rumors?
The last part; it took me 16 years to convince my wife to ask me to marry her. I’m not going to jeopardize our relation buy fooling around. And I doubt that is what au-pairs actually do. (Although It might be a secret wish of some men hiring an au-pair.) I will check with my wife to see if she has some similar concerns.

Do you know of other people doing this?
When I asked for help on the draft of this talk, I learned about a people who did something similar.


So Yves, how is your initiative different, how is it unique?

  • I’m talking about coaching, while most others was about programming
  • I have 3 children (and a lovely wife) that I want to give a lot of love, attention and support. This means I don’t want to go away for months in row. Just like with the training I want to replace, it’s maximum 1 week every 2 months.
  • I will be picky on the companies I pick. I want them to be a-typical. As I will have regular clients at the same time, I can afford that.
  • With that family to support, I won’t work for free
  • I will do paircoaching: One of the things I am really careful about is so called seagull coaching. dropping some shit on a team and moving on without seeing the consequences.
  • I give freelifetime support in this week
  • As I haven’t been part of what the others done, I don’t know, all the differences. I will write about it at the end.


Do you care if people are actually using what you are saying? You said it was about learning, so if you learned something and the company is not taking your advice, are you happy?

Great question.
Yes, it’s about learning, but learning as a coach: when I learn something that clients don’t use, I have not really learned anything. One thing that is constant in my life, is that I want to become more effective. Also  as coach. Not learn fake stuff, this is partly why this works better than training, I still have to be able to use what I learned in real life. In that sense, my learning will also be verifying assumptions that I already have.
or as Nicole rephrased it so nicely:
“Your notion of ‘learning success’ is when you learn something new, apply it and see that the other person reacts in a way that they feel helped. Of course, then you need the other person to be interested in what you are applying.”


You are talking about learning and you still want to earn money with it. Isn’t this some cheesy marketing scheme?

That is a hard question and one I have been struggling with for a while.
Let’s start by making clear, this is not about finding new regular clients. I will keep doing the work I am normally doing. For my clients in Belgium. If this blogpost is related to marketing, it’s about finding companies that I could learn from. The companies I am looking for, are different than my usual clients, if only because they are outside Belgium. For full transparency, the first of these companies I have already contacted and they have said yes. I will be helping them in October. After I come back to Belgium, I will do a retrospective with the coaches I have helped and plan a next iteration with another company.

The money part: can I charge for learning?
When I was at university, I had a friend who was studying at the conservatory. He practised playing guitar on the streets. earning money while he practised. He even told me, it helped him to practise longer and better. As long as he brought people value, they paid. I think that was smart. I’m sure you can find people around you that earn money while this perfecting their craft.
Update: It took me a while to realize his money scheme was different. His “customers” pay after the delivery of the songs. And they decide how much they will pay, after he has delivered. I will experiment with that.


Will you always move to the country, what about distributed teams?
Good question. I just finished reading: A year working without Pants from Scott Berkun. A wonderful book. In 2005 I was coaching an agile team that was distributed : partly in Belgium, partly in Yekatarinaburg. I loved doing that. I am interested in helping out a full distributed team like Berkun did. On top of it, it would be nice if I can work full time on my walking desk.

What do you hope to learn?

  • My current modus operandi; is to do long term assignments. I observe teams for a week and only then start giving ideas. Working for one week, I will need to change that.
  • Most of the companies that are calling for help are companies that want to change the way they are working. You can see it as a therapist helping people in trouble. I want now to work with companies that are doing great and that I will help to become even better.
  • I don’t know what I don’t know…

From the twitter remarks, it’s clear that the name au-pairCoaching is not the best name.
Will you help me find another name?

Current proposals:

  • BYOC (Bring your own Coach)
  • CoachOnTour
  • JourneymanCoach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • JourneyCoach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • CoachOnJourney
  • Distributed Coach
  • Remote Coach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • StageCoach: invented by Martine Vos
  • CollaborationArchitect: now used as part of Innovation Games certifications
  • CollaborationCoach
  • RemoteCollaborationArchitect
  • RemoteCollaboration
  • RemoteCollaborationCoach
  • CreativeCollaborationAgent: this is the name I have been using for a while…

After some soulsearching and discussing with friends. I decide to use Remote Coach. It fits well in all situations.

Do you know companies I should do this with?
Please tell me



Some years ago, I started

  1. I wanted to make publicity for coaching in pairs
  2. I wanted to make publicity for workshops done in pairs
  3. making publicity for the brand “Yves Hanoulle”

Since 2007, I have distributed  more then 5.000 coffee mugs and probably +1.000 t-shirts.


I think that it’s fair to say I succeeded in 1. A lot more people are considering pairing and the ones doing this before me, start to use the name PairCoaching.
Read the update I added on the PairCoaching video, to know who invented the term)

All using the same name, helps in selling the idea.
At ALE13, I explained I sponsored the t-shirts, because I wanted to promote 1. It was not about promoting the website with 2. (There are actually no workshops on the website at this moment. )

Figuring out if  I succeed in 2 is a lot harder. In a sense yes, I lived for a few years from those workshops. I still have requests based on the workshop on the website even if I don’t do any publicity for it. yet, my idea was to have lots of workshops and people on the website, with the only requirement, that the workshops were done in pair.

(Today I would add and using some training from the back of the room techniques.) If you look at the website, yes it contains lots of people, yet, the only person actively using it is me. Some years back I had some talks with JB, Johanna, Lisa and David (and others) about working together, yet I never fully went for it.

And I know why; although I’m pretty good at selling, I hate it. I could hire an admin to to all the boring stuff, still my business would be around organizing training. That would remove time from working with teams. These days I prefer to work with partners that organize the training and I create and deliver the training. On top of that, when I have an idea to get some great international person to Belgium, I drop a hint to my friends of co-learning, iLean etc, and they do everything. I don’t earn any money on this, yet they are much better at this, and we get all these great trainers to Belgium, which is more important to me.

I think with 3 the paircoaching website helped, but since 2010 years, my main website is htpp://

Add to this that at events like AgileCoachCamps, Ale 2011/12/13 and CoachRetreat’s people ask me if there is a place to discuss paircoaching. So far my answer was: No not really.
After a lot of doubting, I’m ready to give away the domain and have it used by the community for:

  • explaining paircoaching
  • discussing about how paircoaching can help you
  • give tips on how to sell paircoaching
  • maybe even some kind of public training offering (based on public services like f ex  eventbridge) (not just my events but from people around the world) >> to be discussed by the community
I will keep sponsering the T-shirts, and coffee mugs, making twitter publicity, yet I don’t have the time to work on the website.
If you are interested in helping out, leave me a message. If you think I am completely stupid to give away something I created say it as well.
If I talked to you about this the last years, I hope you understand, it took a while to take this decision. If you advised me against doing this (Yes, Johanna I’m looking at you. I hope you understand that for me doing well is more important then being business savy, …)

PS I don’t know if I had 50 coffees over the last 2 years, it sure feels like it…

Last week I published an Agile Thursday Quiz about PairProgramming.
(You can found previous quizes at ATQ )

The quiz was created by Sallyann and you can find her answers below.

1. Which of the following has Pair Programming as a core practice?
b. Extreme Programming. Although pairing is useful in any other the others is it only described as a Core Practice in XP.

2. When pair programming, the most regularly used names to distinguishing which person is currently typing are: 
c. Driver and Navigator. Some say the Driver types, while the navigator looks at the broader problem / real world level. I (Sallyann) dispute this though

3. In Jim Coplien and Neil Harrison’s book “Organisational Patterns”, pair programming is referred to as:
c. Developing in pairs. Illustrated with a lovely ‘Two Amigos’ picture.

4. Pair programming has not been shown to have a helpful effect on:
b. Pair programming has actually been shown to lengthen the amount of effort required to develop a feature, however this is considered a cheap price to pay for the eventual time saved through not having to fix the extra defects found in solo-developed code.

Do you want to learn more about PairProgramming?

Brian Marick wrote a nice post about pairing with Corey Haines 
A Pair Programming Experience by Randal Jenson
You might want to spend a while on Wikiwiki: (If you have never been to the first wiki, make sure you take some time to look at everything written here.)


Remote pairing: 


You can also find these links and other on my delicious page for PairProgramming