Agile 2019 – Day 2

Anytime I can combine worlds I love it. I’m a gamer and love EDM and Agile. When agile and gaming come up together, I’m there. In this case, I was thrilled to see League of Legends creator Riot Games had two men giving a great speech about creating the KDA Popstars, a fictional band created of LoL characters, that destroyed the charts last year.

Came away with the idea of summiting a mountain – Camp “n” model, shown below:

Teams that are built around them with the goal of getting them not necessarily to the top, which can be the decade away, but to the next camp.

The mindset shift is from protecting the company from its crazy employee ideas, but how to do we enable it, and place guard rails so they don’t kill themselves. KDA was a coalition of the unwilling. They were able to blow through legal work in six months. They leveraged the BAI framework as a guide but only loosely.

It’s not transactional – innovation is not transactional. These are long plays. Agility requires craft excellence that continually improves over time, is the most impactful to creating value. Try and experiment and learn. This is at the heart of it. What does it take to focus on the customer? We are player focused? What struck me is that you grow abilities long before there is an ROI on it. This is the key. This quote is a key takeaway: “The customer is always moving. So saying that we’re customer-focused is to say that we are always moving. This is why we need to be agile.

Fishbowl on Agile coaching – 2-3:15 Shane Hastie and Evan Laybourn

Interesting experience with this one. People would get up and enter a circle with some coaches. Agile practices may not work in things that are not technology directly. So, the mindset could travel to finance for example, but not the practices.

Interesting question about the younger generations coming into agile, which I thought was good. I don’t see the troubles coming from the younger generation but the older ones. Keeping a growth mindset is very important to teach.
-> Look at 13 characteristics of Agile? Couldn’t find it? Evan has a book that sounds interesting.

-> Agile Manifesto for HR? Gotta look that up.

Talk to HR about the things that get in their way and what about the agile mindset applies? We need to solve their problems, not impose our frameworks, processes, and practices.

A lot of transformations fail because of the top changes. We have to affect the board. The board is the furthest away from the customer. Is agility entering the boardroom? Need to look at this model…. the second time I’ve seen it. MBA’s are still aligned with the old school. Get in front of these MBAs, or training orgs to bring agility and growth mindset from day one.

Love this: what are the new management styles needed for this new, always moving, customer? What about value streams – they are better at it than silos. Brand loyalty is weaker than ever before. The conversation pulled out the data that we need to watch how the awards of a system are given out, e.g. salespeople rewarded for sales, rather than customer satisfaction. He didn’t succeed where he was because he didn’t have top-down support. Watch out for local-maxima – when a transformation gets you to a place. We do SAFE, we do Scrum, then LESS, repeat. It’s okay! just get them moving to that next place. It was a good talk! business agility institute is where to find more.

Facilitating Distributed Teams – Mark Kilby

Super excited about this one since I’ve been coaching a fully distributed team for over a year now. He’s an excellent presenter, and I love that he’s run against the Agile establishment regarding co-location. My thoughts are his – distribution is not our idea…but we’re gonna have to deal with them. I love the way he used Mentimeter during the entire pitch. Seamless, and added to the presentation. It’s quite a tool! Below are my random stream-of-consciousness notes:

Open space works with distributed teams and that way you don’t have to be at everything! Teams own their collaboration.

Meetings are a bit more fluid – Connection and Collaboration. Allow for connection!

What can I do about timezones? – 4-5 hours to collaborate per day. We don’t have that. It’s better if you use Kanban or at least a value stream if you have less. Scrum is very difficult in this situation.

Three types of work arrangments:

  • Satellites – one person
  • Clusters – groups of people in locations
  • Nebulas – everyone working remotely buffer, WordPress, etc. This is becoming more common.

Three approaches :

Backchannel – all frequencies open. What do they use? What’s working? KEEP IT. Update presentation about tools! slack and teams as a backchannel. invite the teams to look out for each other. In the meeting, chat tools are bad because the questions are lost. Backchannel can be used for a backup for online meetings. Zoom and backup google meetings. Reminder about retro safe checks.

Buddy system – each remote person has a buddy in the main location. So, if there are a few people in the call of a mostly in-person meeting, have a representative.

Co-pilots – someone who can help you facilitate the whole team meeting. Facilitation (equal ) pairing

Host and Producer (handles logistics) . This requires a little upfront planning. Add the steve”backup facilitator” note in my story.

Where the Action is – J. Elise Keith . Book reference – human connection and focus on the work product

Have a Plan B (and maybe C)

Goal or process not right?

Technical issues

You as a facilitator have an unexpected event

How to read the room?

  • I need instruments! I’m in a capsule!
  • Meeting checkin
  • Account for different styles – Introvert, extrovert. Introverts like to type more than not.
  • Build your own cockpit – Multiple channels always.
  • The question is map all five senses into the virtual space?
  • Combine async and sync.

Try new tech! Collaboration tools change monthly! Keep up.

Choose one thing to try of the list we learned.

One on one videos when you start.

Take away – try the open space with them, do the facilitation book, and the control panel approach.


Agile 2019 – Day 1

Great first day to Agile 2019. I thought the keynote was good, though I wasn’t familiar with the speaker, Chris Bailey. He’s got a book called Hyper Focus, which looks interesting.

Went to a Beyond Agile variant called BOSSA nova. It’s Beyond budgeting, Open Space, Sociocracy, and Agile. It’s a very interesting model that I’ll look into for sure. It was a bit too much to fit into an hour, and I found myself a bit lost. There’s a book here, so more research is needed. Love the idea.

Circles and Soup were mentioned at Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby’s talk today this afternoon’s great talk on Agile principles that work remotely or colocated. Here’s a link:

Part of my focus is remote coaching due to my current client, and you’ll see that throughout my session selections. Mark and I spoke a few times during this day and on day 4 (when I’m updating this). He has this wonderful take on teams and tools and time that I’ll be writing about. But the overall tone from him and others in this remote space are that it’s here to say and we might as well get good at it. Here’s Mark’s book on the topic.

I tried to get to the Mike Cottmeyer speech on Organizational Transformation but it filled up FAST, showing significant demand, so I flipped over to a session on Kanban Cadences. I’m always trying to brush up on Kanban stuff because I think it’s evolving pretty fast, but also really quiet, unlike other hyped methods. 🙂 I liked the two techniques, Operations Reviews, and the Risk Reviews, two of the most powerful Kanban Cadences according to the presenters, and I intend on reviewing the processes for future use.

Overall the vibe of day one was as positive as I remembered from years ago. The conference seemed organized and professional than before, but that chaos could have been my emotional state when I attended last. 🙂

I spent a bit of time at the evening ice breaker and will upload pictures later. My biggest takeaway from the hall was that BP and Lockheed-Martin were there! I think it’s great to see “client companies”.


On the ground and checked in at Agile 2019!

I’ve been to this conference five or six times over my career. My first time way back in 2007, I wanted to understand more about my role as an agilist/scrum master and it was at this same location – the wonderful Gaylord National in downtown Washington D.C.

A Town…inside the hotel

After I managed to get a quick nap after my red-eye, I stumbled into the blazing heat of D.C. to find caffeine. I actually got an iced coffee, which is as close to sacrilege as I am comfortable with. Downtown has gotten even more beautiful, and I had a wonderful crab cake down on the waterfront.

This beach is super cool!

Memories flood my mind as I walk this hotel. I remember meeting with people in the little town they built inside the hotel. I’m telling you, the thing is massive.

I’m excited to get back to my roots, to get some pure oxygen of a conference like this. I’ll post daily about what I learned here and on Twitter.



Welcome to the Virtual Agile coach!

First post – I want to review and recommend the excellent book: From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver by Johanna Rothman and Mark Kilby. Coaches facing remote teams or team members are in luck. This book, published this Spring, collates a lot of the wisdom around the coaching community regarding remote teams.

The advice ranges from the somewhat obvious, such as having sufficient overlap hours, to the obscure, like tips are a bit more obscure, like meeting in person a minimum of a week per quarter for distributed teams. For teams that cannot collocate for at least a week, they suggest “visualizing the team’s value stream and measuring the team’s cost of delay.” Great advice!

Remote coaching is an exercise in trade-offs. You get the flexibility of a global workforce and an ostensibly happier group of people (commuting is energy sapping), traded for the benefits of in-person communication and the strong social ties that come from people working in the same space. Agility is no different. With the new tools and techniques, you can deliver much better than you could when the manifesto was created. That makes their book so much better. Think about this, the Agile Manifesto came out in 2001. This is what the cast of Harry Potter looked like in 2001:

2001 – Radcliffe was eleven. Watson was ten.

Since 2001 (when the Agile Manifesto was signed), our world’s operating system has been upgraded: Slack apps, global wireless broadband, handheld computers called “phones”, a bevy of agile tools, and social media networks. Generationally younger workers are going to be used to ignoring distance and will be confused when their employer insists on a 40-50 hour work week all in person, not including commute times.

Agility will change. In my next installment I’ll discuss how I leveraged the Agile Fluency Model to bring some of my own sanity back to a challenging remote engagement.


Virtual Agile Coach is Live!

Kept this for posterity. You were here when…. 🙂