Archive for the ‘PerfectionGame’ Category

Today Emilie tagged me in an answer to a tweet from Maria Kedemo

I’m always flabbergasted when I’m tagged as an answer to a conversation. Especially when it’s a conversation between two smart people like Emilie and Maria. I have been following both of them for a while. If you are not following them on twitter, stop reading and follow them. I’ll wait.
Done? No, I’m serious, please go do this, it will make your live better.

yes I understand Maria’s concern. I love feedback after a talk. I need feedback to improve. Yet just a score does not help me.

At least 10 years ago the xpday benelux conference, started to use the core protocol: perfect game as a feedback mechanism of the conference.

The agile program board of #xpdays . The card double as feedback forms...

On this picture, you can see the full schedule of the conference hanging as cards on a board. At the front of the card, you have a description of a talk.


People were encouraged to take a card as a kind of entrance ticket for the talk. For each talk we had a maximum number of cards as the session could host people.

Yet the most genius part was the back. It had a perfection game on the back.  


I don’t have a picture of such a feedback form. so this is a picture of how the perfection game works.

For those who want to learn more about where the perfection came from, you can read an article I co-wrote on methods and tools about the core protocols.

In 2011 I learned about the concept of dinner with as stranger.
At ALE2011, the organizing sofa of the dinner party had a few month to organize a large dinner party for an unknown number of participants (it was the first time of the conference) .
The concept of dinner with a stranger was their solution.

Dinner with a not so stranger

I love the concept. And when I love concepts, I try to replicate them.
I started what I called dinner with a not-so-stranger.
That is me having a one-two-one with an ex-collegue or someone I know from the community. For a few years I did at least one such a dinner every month. Working in an hard-to- reach-office put that to a temporary hold. I will restart that when I leave this client.

Yet yesterday I started something I will call dinner with a peer.

Let me give you some context. I’m part of a team of coaches working with 35 teams.
Every two weeks we work together a full day. I have regular 1-2-1 with my manager. And of course I have the occasional chat with my peers.

I realized that I (and probably most people I know) never had an regularly organized way of asking feedback from peers.
So from now on, I will experiment with “dinner with a peer”. On a regular basis I will go have a meal with someone in my team to ask for feedback.

Will you perfect that idea using the perfection game?

At one of my clients after a we did a work retrospective, my PairCoach and I decided to launch another work retrospective, yet now concentrated on the demo. We planned this after the team had been receiving negative feedback on their demo. For the record I have to mention that the demo (or show and tell as they call it), the team did just before the retrospective, was one of their best.
At the start of the retrospective I told them I liked the demo, yet, I was sure they could still improve. So the theme of the retro was now:

“Invent the demo you are proud of.”

Just like the work retrospective, the format was quite strict.

  1. Set the stage: here we asked about how safe they felt inside their team/company.
  2. Select a partner with who you will work this retrospective. To make an even team, the Product Owner joined the team.
  3. As a (full) team select one story that we demoed this morning
  4. With your partner prepare a new demo for that story
    ( 5 minutes)
  5. explain Perfection Game
  6. First duo does their demo (the rest of the team writes a personal improvement in the format of a Perfection Game while the first team does it)
    (max 5 minutes)
  7. re-prepare your demo based on your previous plan and the PG both of you wrote down.
    (max 5 minutes)
  8. second demo + PerfectionGame for others
    (max 5 minutes)
  9. re-prepare your demo based on your previous plans and the PerfectionGames both of you wrote down
    (max 5 minutes)
  10. third demo+ PerfectionGames for others
    (max 5 minutes)
  11.   re-prepare your demo based on your previous plans and the PerfectionGames both of you wrote down (max 3 minutes)
  12. fourth demo

Although the team was annoyed about doing a demo retro after a much better demo, they took the challenge and they did 4 very creative demo’s.
They selected a kind of technical story about webservices. If you would ask me, I would not even demo this. Why?  Client don’t understand it, there is no real business value etc etc.

In retrospect, that is exactly why this was a perfect story to do this kind of demo retrospective.
Why? I saw people role play what is happening behind the scene. I saw people explaining with a physical map. etc etc.

To some people it’s annoying to do 5 times the same demo in less then 1 hours yet, that is exactly how most music bands rehearse. Playing the same 3 minute song over and over and over and over …. I like a good rock concert.

The French group Indochine, did a major gig in the Paris “Stade de France” on June 26 2010.
Although they had just finished a tour in France and they had perfected their setlist during that tour. They decided to rehearse in a separate location, where they could mimic the size of the location. As they had never played this size of stadium, they rehearsed offsite in a real size location for 4 days.
That’s the way to create great gigs and great shows. Now you know you have some idea’s how you can do the same for your teams demo…



I briefly walked into Deborah’s “Getting Unstuck, No More Buts!” session to pick up some Fearless Game cards 

Turns out that I walked in while she was talking about me.

I hesitated walking in,  to not disturb her class to much, turns out I was more surprised then she was…

That’s what Jim McCarthy would call a “Call Wood story”. (I can’t find an online reference, but somehow the people who are busy explaining the core, at one time are talking about another person, and that person miraculous shows up…)

Anyway she was talking about the perfection game and asked me if I had some references on my blog.


Here are a few references:

From 23 till 28 September We will have again a Open European Bootcamp In this camp people will learn a full week about creating teams.

Actually all the core protocols, were not created by Jim & Michele.

Jim & Michele decided 15 years ago to only do courses about creating teams.

They started out without a manual. Doing a one week training, were a groupd of people had the assignment to create a team by the end of the week.

After a few of these courses, they noticed, that similar things came back. So they started to write them down, and hand them on to the next group. And that is what they did for years. When things did not work anymore, or the current teams found something better, they left the old thing out and add the new thing.

After 15 years, I can assure you that the core is a powerfull set to use with teams.

I have to admit I am biased as I am a trainer now, but I can assure you, I would not have done that, if I would not have witnessed myself that in any training I followed I was teams emerging in less then a week.

let me repeat that:

You put a bunch of strangers together on sunday, and by Friday (And sometimes already by Wednesday) you have a rock solid team. And these teams, trust eachother more, than some of the groups I know that have been working together for 10 years.

And for those who doubt, yes that happened EVERY single time I saw a bootcamp. In a predictable way.

I know it sounds like a silver bullet. It’s sounds like sales oil.  yet that is my experience.


I first met Portia at SPA in 2007. But it wasn’t until she started creating games with Pascal & Vera that I learned about her passion for games & fairy tales. Another nice example of someone following her passion and coming out with great products. Portia is a passionate coach who understands the language of C-level managers having been one herself. When you meet her, you won’t forget her. And I would not be surprised if she would not forget you.

And now it’s even better. Portia wrote an agile book. And what a book. I’m convinced The dream team nightmare is THE best agile coaching book.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

I didn’t always study and work in the field of IT. My first degree was in English and French during which I spent a year out in Paris, France as an English language assistant.

My most memorable moment was during my first lesson when an African young man asked me, in French, “Will you give me a lower grade because of the colour of my skin?”

My brief language assistant training hadn’t prepared me for this. I was so surprised by the question that I had to re-parse his question several times in my head to be certain I’d heard correctly. I’d grown up with prejudice in many different guises, so his question struck a chord.

And so I drew on my limited life lessons up to the tender age of 19 and replied gently, yet firmly, “When you are in my class, the only thing that matters is how much you want to learn. I will help you if you are willing and your grade will reflect your endeavour.”

Looking back, that year abroad marks the starting point of my passion for the love and science of lifelong learning. That’s when I began my lifelong pursuit of realising human potential, that in others as well as in myself.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

Most probably a teacher and a writer related to social enterprise. In practice, I have similar roles in IT: as a trainer, coach and international conference speaker (presenting in English and sometimes even in French!) as well as being a blogger and storyteller of Agile Fairytales.

As for the social enterprise element, I collaborate through giving and sharing what I have whenever I can by making my games available under the Creative Commons licence. It’s my small way of “doing good”. Great things can come from humble beginnings I’m told.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

It’s tough to admit this, but my biggest challenge is myself. I’ve come to realise that the only thing standing between us and our dreams is ourselves. It’s easy to make excuses about why we don’t have the things we feel we deserve.

Using the concepts from Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, I’ve come to realise that both our span of control and sphere of influence are much bigger than we think. If we put our heart, mind and body into our endeavours, we can achieve what we need to be happy.

I’ve also come to realise that the value of our life’s journey can be amplified with love, patience and understanding of others and, most importantly, of ourselves. After all, only you can change yourself for the better.

What drives you?

The thought of succumbing to the fate of an adult sea squirt. Did you know that once an adult sea squirt finds a rock or some place to live out the rest of its life, it ends up devouring its own brain and nervous system since it no longer has the need to think and learn?

To avoid becoming a human zombie, you have to use it or lose it. This can be hard work at times and that’s why I invest so much effort in making learning fun. It keeps me growing regardless of which way the tide is flowing.

What is your biggest achievement?

To love what I do AND be doing what I love.

It’s taken me years to realise that I’d always had the power to create my dream job. Bit by bit, with each day that passes, I’m realising that dream to a greater degree. Work is the means by which I become more competent, develop my creativity and my ability to innovate. Most importantly, it’s the main vehicle by which I achieve my life’s purpose of serving others.

My work requires me to be many things, such as trainer, coach, speaker. It’s also a source of great inspiration for my blogging and storytelling.

I have a theory that for a human being to make the most of their human potential, they have to love what they do and do what they love. For most of us, one eventually leads to the other. In my opinion, these are the two pre-requisites for achieving “flow”. Flow, in turn, leads to achievement, excellence and fulfilment.

What is the last book you have read?

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about the journey and adventure of a woman experiencing a thrisis (a midlife crisis in one’s thirties). Elizabeth is a funny, quirky and talented storyteller. She tells it like it is, warts and all. Although I’m not a religious person, Elizabeth’s story has helped me better see the interconnections between spirituality and Systems Thinking, how we are all part of a greater whole. It has shown me how we can apply the principle of Global Optima, not just to our decisions and processes at work, but to our daily lives at large.

I strongly recommend seeing and hearing Elizabeth Gilbert in action on

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

Q: What is your worldview? A: “Enough is enough” by which I mean I think there is enough of what we need to go around. And if we choose to share, then we will discover there is actually plenty. That’s how I strive to operate at work and at home. Instead of hoarding resources, information and opportunities, I choose to share. I call it “sustainable philanthropy”.


Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

  • Martin Heider: A larger than life fun-seeking and appreciative coach who constantly challenges people to be the best they can be.
  • Katrin Elster: A fun-meister who’s crazy about creativity, people and play 🙂
  • Vera Peeters: For co-creating The XP Game, the first Agile game I ever played and marked the start of my personal and professional Agile adventure!
  • Pascal Van Cauwenberghe: For co-creating The XP Game and showing me that doing what you love is a reality we can all make happen if we choose to!

If you like these answers, you might want to check out our books. Who is agile
Portia also answered Jenni’s Question: Where do you go to learn? in the book.

Crucial confrontations

View more PowerPoint from Yves Hanoulle
At Xpday Benelux in November 2011 , our session was selected among the 12 best sessions.
So Christophe Thibaut and me, we were asked to redo our session at Mini XPDays benelux 2012.
It was as fun as in November. As we warned our participants we had one exercise too much (we were still hoping we could do this, but we should have known better…) Anyway here are our slides.
As we said, we give Free Life time support.
The technique that was most appreciated was the click protocol


When I started the “who is” serie, I wrote all the introductions. While working on the book version, I started asking people who proposed other people if they wanted to write the introductions.

At that moment our team started to wonder if we make clear what introductions I had written and which were written by other people. And we started experimenting with some of the introductions.

Will you have a look at these two introductions and tell us which one you like most. And if you want to give more feedback, please use the perfection game.

Version 1 written in third person.

Chris was invited by Liz Keogh Like Liz said, Chris is one of these guys we wonder what he will come up with next. He is also one of the people that you could (will?) run into at a bar at an agile conference and talk with until the morning. Yves has talked with Chris for hours about all kind of subjects, and not one minute was boring. Even ordering drinks is funny and you might learn something about agile or the financial world he lives in. During these talks, Chris will most definitely tell you jokes about other agilists. Don’t confuse that for not respecting the people he talks about.


Version 2: written in first person.

Like Liz said, Chris is one of these guys I wonder what will he come up with next. He is also one of the people that I can (will?) ran into a bar at an agile conference and will talk with untill the morning. We will have talked for hours about all kind of subjects, and not one minute will be boring. Even ordering drinks is funny and you might learn something about agile or the financial world he lives in.
During these talks, Chris will most definitely tell you jokes about other agilists. Don’t confuse that for not respecting the people he talks about.


Please leave a comment about which version you like most? (and why?)

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.