Archive for the ‘Checkin’ Category

As a coach one of the things I run into a lot is the limited budget that companies have these days for training.

I’m always looking for tricks (let’s call them hacks) that will allow my clients to get more value out of their limited budget.

When I ran public training with (Before I gave the domain away), I quickly discovered that hiring public training rooms upfront was not smart for my business. Either the rooms were not needed, when I could not sell a certain training. Or they were too small when I had a huge success.
The hack I discovered at the time was to not book a room and then a week before the training was due, to contact a company I knew, and ask them if they had a training room available for that day and offer them a free place in the class in return.

I discovered this hack, when totally unexpected, I received new subscriptions for a training a few days before it was due. I had no idea what to do with the request. I was ready to send an e-mail to reject the subscription. As a last crazy idea I ask the question on twitter, does anyone have a room available on this date? And less then 5 minutes later, Jo replied to me: I have a board meeting in 5 minutes, let’s talk tomorrow (it was 8 pm at the time)

My luck had turned, instead of rejecting an interesting order, I now would do a training, in an office that is close to my home.
Even better, their office was at 300 meter of my children’s school. I could park my car with my training stuff on their parking lot, take my kids to school, and come back and install myself for the training. But wait, that was just the start, it got even better, during the break of the training, I started talking with Vincent. Vincent had started to work agile at OneAgency. We stayed in touch -remember I give free life time support on every talk I have- and a few years later One Agency became a client.

I’m telling this story because I want to turn on the heat on this way of working.

I know that when I deliver agile training, it’s best to take a team offsite. Teaching a team in an offsite location, changes the dynamic totally.

1) Everyone takes the training more serious

Managers think that when they do a training in-house, they can find the people when there is an emergency. That is 3589% true. Unfortunately in most occasions the interrupts are not emergencies. Sometimes, they are urgent, yet not important. Sometimes important, yet not urgent. Over the 15 years that I give training, the times that an interruption was urgent and important I can count on one hand. And I’m sure that in these rare cases, the people would have been able to contact the people in the room if we would have been offsite.

2) part of an agile training, is also building the team together. An offsite helps in creating such a team.

3) With some of my training, we do crazy stuff. Play with lego or blow up balloons, even -dare I say it-, even talk about emotions. All that stuff works so much better offsite. People are not afraid that the CEO will walk in and ask what they are doing. Especially if the training room is a nice glass room.


Now in the current economics most companies can’t afford an offsite training anymore.

As a change agent, I understand this dynamic and I want to see if I can’t turn these disadvantages on it’s head.

What if one company would offer their training room for free to another company, that would in return do the same thing for the first company?

It’s like professional CouchSurfing …

What do you think? Are you interested in this?



This week was my birthday (According to my 5 year old daughter I turned 14…)

As all of you, I received ton’s of messages on my Facebook wall.

If I look at twitter, I received about half of that on my twitter account. Which is remarkable as I have about 5 times as much “friends” on twitter.

I received 2 google+ messages, which is not surprising as I hardly use that channel.

Yet one of them was one of the nicest message I received. A youtube message from Marcin

I received a (scheduled) digital card from Plaxo. Ah, I get a few plaxo reminders every day. I prefer to send a personal message on the day itself. Looks like I’m not alone.

Another nice surprise was a card (yes a physical card) from the people of 10to1

I have lots of twitter interactions/conversations/chats (can we call that twats from now on?) with both Tom & Koen. Although I think I only met them one or twice, it feels like I know them for a long time, with all these digital interactions.

Receiving the card impressed me. They went all the way to figure out my adress, figure out my birthday and then schedule the card. Nothing extremely difficult, yet a lot of dedication.

I received also 20 Skype chats. Which I all used to connect deeper with the people.

My reply was always along the lines of :
Thank you.
And how is live for you?

With some that resulted in a polite short answer, with others (typically) people in a team I am currently coaching] that ended in an interesting conversation.

In the company I was today I brought pastries . And put them on the
desk next to me. That resulted in some interesting and even very personal talks.
A college remarked that this was better then the usual candy, as with candy people take a one and leave, with patries, they say hi.

This time, at least 3 problems were solved quicker because of that. Well worth buying the pastries.

The most personal  chat I had with  my mother congratulating me by -big surprise-, by phone .

This all reminded me of what my friend Jim Mccarthy said at ALE2012: “You agile people have it all wrong about the need of F2F.” He added: “you are right that we need large bandwidth communication. You are right that so far the best know way is F2F. Yet I’m convinced it’s not the only way.”(he of course said that with much smarter words, then what I remember.)

Yes, I feel very connected to many people that send me a message, even if some live halve a planet away. Twitter, FB, YouTube, Instagram, Foursquare, tell me so much more then what I heard from my friends in the pub. Combine that with the debt of Checkin

For me in the future the companies that use this kind of open communication best, will have it easier to scale beyond the normal team boundaries.

What channels do you use to connect?

PS And while I was writing this article I received this HB video . This was a great message, because in the last conversation I had with Leen, I had mentioned vegetables. So she linked my birthday with vegetables and hup a video that reminded me of our conversation. That’s how deeper connections happen.

Here are the slides of my ALE2012 Presentation about all the online collaboration projects I started.
Unfortunatly on the slide I only have pictures of 68 people. somehow I did not find out how to create a picture of 146 people in google picassa.
The presentation was originally called: “What I learned from Who is agile”, but when the ALE2012 organisation to talk for 1 hour instead of 30 minutes, I started thinking about more projects then just the book creation.

Yesterday Oana Juncu and me organized a Coach Retreat in Paris. Lots of people asked me about the format. This is version 2 of the Coach Retreat format. I expect it to change a lot the coming years, only step by step. We have already lost of idea’s and the trick will be to be patient and only change in small steps.

In agile we use a lot of double loop learning. While writing this up I realize that CoachRetreat is quadrupple loop learning. Not because I want mine to be bigger/better etc, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.

Rachel Davies invented Coaching Dojo.

Coray Haines co-creator of Code Retreat.

Coach Retreat = Coaching Dojo + Code Retreat
(Oana invented this tag line, did I mention already I love working with people smarter then me?)

Very nice yves, could you know become a little more practical?

Yes: 1 hard rule, at coach retreat we speak the local language. (In this case French)

We started with a group Check-in

We had 6 situation agile coaches encounter at clients. These 6 situation we put on the walls of our retreat center. We asked our coaches to DotVote on the situations. The winning situation we worked on the whole day.
Really? Work the whole day on one situation?
yes, one situation. That works fine for code retreat, so we do the same.
Well you don’t have to copy everything from Corey do you?
True, but we should not reject anything without trying too. Actually the coaches in Paris initially had the same reaction you had. Yet we stuck to our plan.
That does not sounds really agile…
I actually think it was, read on and then judge.
Just like CodeRetreat we work on the same story but with different techniques.


We experiment with one technique during 65 Minutes.

5 minutes explaining the problem
10 minutes of working
5 minutes local debrief
10 min replay with the same actors
5 min local debrief
10 min replay with the same actors
5 min local debrief

15 min of group debrief (retrospective)

>> this is the first learning loop (actually the second but that will become clear later)

Then we redo the story with another coaching technique.
In total we do 4 to 5 different coaching techniques==> this is the second/Third learning loop.

His were the coaching techniques we used this CoachRetreat


We ended the day with a Circle of Questions

The click rewind is where the first learning loop comes into play. Because anyone can stop what is gong on, while it is going on and people replay what they did, you have a learning loop right in the action.

The fourth learning loop is when we will have more CoachRetreats. Then we loop at CoachRetreat level.

Already after the second sessions, people that said that they did not wanted to replay the same story the whole day had changed their mind. Participants found lots of value in the replaying of the story and experimenting with coaching styles.

One of the places were people did coach, we asked everyone (even observers) to paint.

I have also created a google group for CoachRetreat:

something I forgot:

  • use #MyDailyThankYou
  • mention I give FLS (Free Lifetime Support) on everything I do.
  • mention that I’m writing the Who Are agilist book with answers from Oana, Rachel & me (together with already 27 others..)

I already received a request for a CoachRetreat in Bordeaux & Lille, Montpellier. Where do you want to organize one?

Last week I published Vickie Gray’s questions about The Core Protocols.

Here are her answers.

1. What are the two main steps you MUST take if you Check Out?
a. Say "I’m checking out" and then physically leave the group.

2. What is the first of the Core Commitments?
c. I commit to engage when present.

3. What is the one protocol that you cannot Pass on?
d. Decider

4. Which of the following statements is TRUE of the Ask For Help Protocol?
a. The best time to Ask For Help is when things are going well.

Jim McCarthy added an extra question in the comments. Here is his answer:

What do you do when you think someone needs help, but doesn’t ask for it?

I think the safest correct answer is a). You are least likely to do harm with behavior a). 
However, behavior b) can sometimes be effective, and therefor correct, too, as others have pointed out. 
So this means, the next best answer is c), either a or b.
Finally, d) can also be correct, especially in cases where you yourself are in harm’s way. To rescue yourself is never the wrong move.  As with so many situations relevant to the Core, good judgment is ever valuable.

Perhaps it is safe to say this: when it comes to other adults (and many or even most situations involving children), a posture of general supportiveness,  consisting of good will, receptivity, curiosity and a readiness to help when asked might be the most effective and beautiful basic attitude to maintain.

Resources the core:

Methods And Tools article: The Core Protocols, an experience report (Part1) & Part 2

These article were written with the help from Jim & Michele McCarthy, Els Ryssen, Paul Reeves, Christopher Thibaut,Adam Feuer, Ralph Miarka, Mary Poppendieck, Gino Marckx, Alistair Cockburn, Philip Almey, Lilian Nijboer, Esther Derby & Michael Sahota. A big kudo’s to Emmanuel Gaillot who initiated the conversational style.

Live In Greatness
The McCarthyShow

Links on my own blog:

Click Rewind: how to stop when you said something stupid
Deciding by e-mail
Optimizing your sex life using the perfection game
Tired of Long meetings without decisions?


Creating Time from Vickie Gray
Dynamics of Software Development from Jim & Michele McCarthy
Fearless Change from Linda Rising, Mary Lynn Manns

Software for your head from Jim & Michele McCarthy


Ask for help
The Perfection Game
The Perfection Game in French (With piece of “Stairway to heaven” in it…)

There is a mailing list dedicated to the core protocols on yahoo

At XpDays Benelux, we used some Core Protocols like the perfection game, click, click rewind. The Core Protocols are seen by some as the future of agile and by others as the for-fathers of agile. Although maybe technically they are not part of the agile movement, I know lots of agilist, who love to use them to enhance teams. When last week so many people learned about the power of the core at XPDays, I thought it could be a good idea to have this weeks Agile Thursday Quiz about the Core Protocols.

That is why Vickie Gray, who was one of my trainers in The Core Protocols, and author of Creating Time an upcoming book about the core protocols, created questions about the Core Protocols. Here are her questions.

1. What are the two main steps you MUST take if you Check Out?
a. Say “I’m checking out” and then physically leave the group.
b. Say nothing and then physically leave the group.
c. Say “I’m checking out” and tell everyone why.
d. Say “I’m checking out” and either stay or leave – it’s your choice.
e. Say “I’m checking out” and put your earphones on to listen to some music to relax.
f. Say nothing and stay in the group but just don’t participate in anything – saying something about being checked out would just distract the group.

2. What is the first of the Core Commitments?
a. I will speak always and only when I believe it will improve the general results/effort ratio.
b. I will use teams, especially when undertaking difficult tasks.
c. I commit to engage when present.
d. I will offer and accept only rational, results-oriented behavior.
e. I will never do anything dumb on purpose.
f. I will disengage from less productive situations.

3. What is the one protocol that you cannot Pass on?
a. Check In
b. Personal Alignment
c. Perfection Game
d. Decider
e. Ask for Help
f. Investigate

4. Which of the following statements is TRUE of the Ask For Help Protocol?
a. The best time to Ask For Help is when things are going well.
b. You shouldn’t Ask For Help from someone who is busy.
c. You should only ask for help from someone you know has the answer.
d. If you get asked for help it’s important to be polite and give whatever help the asker needs even if you don’t want to help.
e. Never leave the team to Ask For Help when the team is really busy and time is running out.
f. You should always withhold help from someone who asks a lot because they’re probably just being lazy.

A few months ago Jurgen asked me if I was interested in pair-organising a coach retrait.

Jurgen is a smart guy, he knows if you mention the word pair and coach in one sentence, you got my attention. So I went to his house and we talked about lots of different things and also a little bit about a coach retreat.

yes I admit, the word is a rip-off, of the famous code-retreats of Corey. Why invent a new name when a cool one is available?

Many people asked me at ALE2011, how will it be different from an agile coach camp.

Good question, I did not know the answer. aha, but after the first one, now I know…

I admit I have never been at a code-retreat. Stealing a name from something I have never been to is a risky thing. I have been thinking really hard. How did Corey make code-retreat different from the pair-programming parties we had in Belgium for a few years? Or the coding dojo’s and coding kata’s

One thing that sticks out is the: you throw your code away rule. mm, how can we do this with coaches. What can we create that we can throw away? It’s not like we create anything?

Should we write code, nah then the partners can’t join, nor the kids.

Ah now I had another problem, we said partners and kids were invited, but we wanted them to participate in the main program, instead of a side program.

One thing I love is to combine two problems into one solution.

Tada: let’s create ART are together.

This morning I arrived with a fully loaded car with paint, paintbrushes lots of plastic (to cover the floor of the nice office building we could use.)

We started with a group CHECK-IN. I always find I awkward when I initiate a group check in with a new group. And every time I am happy we did it.

One of the children said: I’m afraid I will be bored. An open and clear message without drama. I love that.

Then Jurgen told everyone the rules of open space. As a few partner and children had joined us, it was good to explain to everyone what to expect.

Before we opened the market place, I told them about an extra rule for one room. In one of the rooms, you could talk about everything, but you had to paint. You could paint alone or together as long as you kept painting while talking. I learned that idea from the McCartney bootcamps. While you paint, you use different parts of your brain.

The different with a bootcamp, was here, as in real code-retreat rule, you can’t take the paintings home. Throw away ART.

I think it resulted in pretty amazing talks (and paintings)

Was everything good?

Of course not, it was a first try out. It was not intended to be perfect. (That’s another spirit of a code-retreat we want to practice. Not show off)

I wanted to have the children and partners involved. And that worked fine. Well for a moment, but after a while kids get bored. We did have lego, we did have paint, we did have an x-box kinect. yet we did not have a nice kids program like at ALE2011.  And we should have had, so that partners and children could choose.

Oh and I wanted to end the day with a circle of questions but I forgot.

I also wanted to do something nice for the partners. I know that being a partner of a coach can be very demanding. I ordered flowers for all the participants. With the intention they gave this to their partner to thank them for their support for their coaching work.

Thanks to everyone who was at this first coach retreat.

(I’ll blog later about some of the great sessions we had.)

Update: The picture are now online