Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

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. 


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:

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.





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.

While driving back from the first European IgSummit (Innovation Games) I was thinking about what I like about this event and what is my prefered event.

  • A 2 or 3 day event with maximum 200 (preferable 160) people
  • The event happens in a nice environment, not a chain hotel:
    • koningsteen
    • SeminarZentrum Rückersbac
    • the organizers are staying at the hotel(except if they live nearby)
    • I can arrive on the first day and leave on the last day without having to loose another night not at home
    • WIFI is everywhere available for free (except in the restaurant, then people should eat and talk to eachother )
    • Coffee and other beverages are available all the time for free
  • the people:
    • 30% of the people I have never met on or offline.
    • 30 % of the people I only met online and never yet met offline.
    • 30 % I have met before.
    • 30 to 60 % of the participants are female.
    • 30 % of the organizers are female.
    • 30 % of the participants are not from the country the conference takes place.
    • 30 % of the organizers are parents.
    • 30 % of the organizers are single.
    • 30 % of the organizers are new to the organizer team.
    • 30 % of the participants are active developers
  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
  • at the start of the conference the law of two feet and other OpenspaceTechnology idea’s are explained and people are encouraged to use it all the time
  • a 30 minutes “keynote” from ThoughtJockeys. I have nothing against thoughtleaders, yet I prefer to learn from people who implement the idea’s from thoughtleaders and mix it with other stuff. Only 30 minutes as this forces people to prepare really well and to concentrate what they want to say. After that I want this keynote speaker to propose a OpenSpace Session in the afternoon, to have discussions about his idea’s.
  • Funny OHMPs (Official Half minute presentations about the talks)
    • a break of 20 minutes.
    • 6 x 15 min talks in 4 break out rooms.
    • announced 5 minutes breaks in between, so that people in the hall ways know when the next talk starts.
    • a one hour walking dinner:

      • that has food for everyone: vegies, carnivors, cheese lovers, allergic people etc…
      • people can take the food from different tables, not one or two lines.
    • a few 3 minutes lightning talks (without slides) in the mainroom.  No talks decided up front, no breaks
    • the rest of the afternoon, open space market
    • the event has a program for the children of the attendees. The childrens program is as much about fun as it’s about learning (just like the adults event)
    • the keynote speaker  of the first day has to deliver a workshop to teach the children what he talked the first day.
    • dinner with a stranger in the evening
    • second day keynote is delivered by a child, paired up with either a parent or another child.
    • rest of the day is like the first day
    • if a 3 day event, the second evening we do 3 hour games night
    • we end the last night (before the last day) with meetup at a karaoke bar where people use text related to the event instead of the original song lyrics.
    • At the end of the event a 30 minute keynote from a thoughtjockey that was at the event all the time and that has created a presentation, mixing thing she learned at the event
    • if the first keynote speaker was female, the closing one has to be male.
    • books:
      • everyone brings one book to the event and that is used in a swashbook reading session
      • a local book shop sells books, with a lot of books available of the speakers and participants
      • Authors offer Faq sesions on their books
    • During the full event an application is being developed that is put into production using contiunous delivery. The developer table is in the middle of the conference and dashboards about the application are visible at every location of the conference.
  • Feedback:



Yes I know this is THE list of the ideal conference for me. I am very well aware this is the blue sky scenario and these are only MY idea’s.
(Hey it is my blog )

  • A few years ago at AgileCoachCamp2010 Marc Bless walked around and asked people to give them a name of a book. just one book. He had one extra rule. The book could not be on his list yet. I stole that idea and recreated booklist with people at conferences like
  • agile 2010
  • agile 2011
  • aye 2011
  • Stoos Stampede 2012


So I’m created a list for ALE2013. Same rules apply:

  • You can only present one book
  • it can’t be on this list (or any of the other lists.)
  • it should not be an agile books (it can be)


What book do you want to put on the ale2013 list?





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

I read tons of books.

When people asked me how they could learn to read more, I told them I read X nr of pages a day. When I was 13/14 I actually read 1 book a day. Although it was an unhealthy habit for multiple reasons (I had to repass exams during the holidays to mention one) I learned a lot about creating habits.

When I started to work, I gave myself the limit of 30 pages a day.
When I got kids, this limit became 10 pages a day. A lot less, yet still +3600 pages a year. A lot more then most people I know.

My advice to people these days is to start creating a habit of reading a nr of pages every day, even if it’s only 1 page. 365 pages a year, is one book a year. Better then nothing.

For that I realized lately that there is a better way to create habits. A chain calendar.

This year I participated in a creative initiative, where people are encouraged to create one creative idea per day. ( )
And every day you did that, is counted. When you don’t publish an idea, the next day you start back at 0.

Such a creativity chain is very addictive. The first few days were very easy for me, I had a lot of creative idea’s. By the end, I felt stuck, yet, the fact that I had already such a long chain, I did not gave up.
In the end I published new idea’s for 64 days in a row (The maximum period.) Not because I am a genius. I could do it, because they have put a great system in place.

While I wrote this post, I realized that I have been using similar systems in most parts of my life.

  • Nr of steps I am talking (on my walking desk)
  • the weekly blogging of my who is serie 
  • my weekly republishing of who is agile
  • I think that Foursquare reward system is also a habit creating system
  • My daily tweets at @Retroflection (I hope you agree that 1264 days in row is a nice chain

What habit have you created to enhance your life?


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

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

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

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

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

Where to learn more about Retrospectives:



A few of my example Retrospectives





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

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

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

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

Scrum Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topics that came up during the workshop

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