Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aqua Doodle as Presentation Tool

Several days ago we bought a new toy for our 15 months old son. It's a drawing toy called "Aqua Doodle" and has a magic canvas: when the water filled pen touches the canvas it becomes visible and gradually disappears again within the next few minutes.

Image: the canvas and the water filled pen.

This is great tool for kids... but only for kids? I think this could also be used for presentations, moderation, creative group work, and unfocused people: there's a few minutes timebox to come to the point and sell your idea, nothing more.

Images: disappearing illustration.
The images were shot with three minutes gaps.

What's the big advantage? People need discipline and focus to reach their conclusion within the given timebox. And it should be an entertaining experience for the audience.

There's only one disadvantage: if you're really good at presenting quickly, the time until things disappear might be too long, so you'd better bring a hair-dryer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book: Rachel Davies - Agile Coaching

Everyone supporting agile teams has to read this book!

Authors: Rachel Davies, Liz Sedley

Rating: highly recommended!

More and more developers and project managers suddenly have to take over the role of ScrumMaster these days. All our agile frameworks and methodologies are easy to learn and understand so people become facilitators, supporters, and coaches of an agile team--without knowing anything about how to do that effectively. 

This book covers many important aspects of coaching an agile team.

Starting with coaching basics the authors explain what it means to work as an agile coach. Why do I coach? Do I have the right attitude for coaching? What does it mean to work with people? How do I encourage change? How can I help building an agile team? These and related questions get answered in the first part of the book.

Part two describes a lot of coaching tips and practices related to the planning activities of a team. The reader gets answers to questions like: How can I facilitate daily standup and planning meetings? Is it really necessary to coach in daily standup meetings? How to support the team understanding user stories and backlog priorities? How to create the team board and increase visibility?

The third part takes care about quality: How to introduce test-driven development? How to introduce clean code? How to start with pair programming? How to define and get to "done"?

The fourth and last part of the book covers inspection and adaption practices: How do I demo working software increments? How do I facilitate a retrospective meeting? What can I do to get better as a coach?

A very helpful resource in this book are all the short experience reports of Rachel and Liz. Every chapter ends with a typical list of hurdles and contains a checklist so it's easy to do regular self-reflections of specific topics as an agile coach.

This is a really nice reference book on the ScrumMaster's desk to look up how to improve one's own coaching skills.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Agile Coach Camp 2010 Germany - Day 3

The final day of the Agile Coach Camp 2010 in Germany started again at 8:30 am. Mike Sutton provided facilitation so attendees and session hosts could change the marketplace to their needs.

9:00 am. I joined the "Swashbooking" session of Jürgen "Mentos" Hoffmann. It was a fascinating experience. We were six people in this session with six books on a table. The goal of this session was to read 3 books in 30 minutes and to take notes on these books while reading them. After this time we talked about the books and the 3 people who have read the book gave a short report on their lessons learned within the 10 minutes they had with the book. My insight of this session was that the learning process of swashbooking highly relates to the structure of a book and the level of knowledge I already had of a book's topic. This is an experiment which has to be continued!

10:00 am. I joined the "Velocity" session of Deborah Hartmann-Preuß. I got a nice reminder of two important things: (1) the team has to look ahead 1-3 sprints to get a feeling of what probably will come, and (2) backlog grooming is explicitly needed in every sprint to get stories ready for the next sprint.

10:30 am. I moved to Krishan Mathis' session on "Kanban sucks the spirit out of agile". We had consensus that Kanban offers an easy way to de-agilize a self-organizing Scrum team. Kanban tends to create a dangerous mini-waterfall if applied invalid. It's a good approach to extend the Scrum board on the left side with more lanes to define the steps it needs to get a story ready. And maybe on the right side to define necessary steps after a story is done-done. But the simple, team protecting Scrum board must not be changed!

11:00 am. I joined the "How to make a Product Owner" session of Nicole Rauch. We discussed about the responsibilities of a Product Owner and what a Product Backlog has to contain. I gave a short experience report of my last project on how I tried to transform one of three product managers to a committed Product Owner. The fundamental way to get a Product Owner committed is to show the benefits for the Product Owner with Sprint Reviews and the ability to give and get early feedback.

11:30 am. I moved to the session "LEGO Serious Play" of Olaf Lewitz. It's amazing what can be surfaced just by letting adult people play with a set of LEGO bricks. The game is to build models of individual constellations, teams, and organizations. These models can surface many aspects which would not have been surfaced only by talking to people. This needs further inspection from my side... finally I found a reason to buy some new LEGO sets.

12:00 am. Lunch break.

1:00 pm. I made a small walk around the venue to give my wife a phone call. And I never intended to participate in Martin Heider's outdoor session "Walk the Wire". As I walked by, it just looked interesting what they did between those trees so I moved closer. In the end I tried to walk the wire several times with one or two people guiding on my side. It was amazing how many similarities to coaching were discussed. Even if a way (of change) is difficult, it often is enough that a coach (or guide) exists inactive. For me this session was an eye-opener.

2:00 pm. The "Open OpenSpace" session of Sebastian Eichner and me was not needed as all attendees had enough other sessions to go to. Some people in the book's corner were inspecting books which suddenly brought me to the idea to start a spontaneous survey: I wanted to ask all attendees which one book they recommend other people should read. I posted the results of this ACCDE10 Survey: The One Book already.

2:30 pm. I went on to the "Agile Coach Camp 2011 Organizer" session and registered as volunteer.

2:45 pm. Finally I took a look at Heiko Stapf's session on "Marshmallow Challenge". They already had built a tower with spaghettis and a marshmallow on top of it. The tower was 65 cm in height and very stable. The marshmallow challenge is a nice game to demonstrate agile engineering practices.

3:00 pm. Last small break.

3:15 pm. All attendees of the Agile Coach Camp gathered in the biggest room for a final retrospective of the last 2 days. Mike Sutton was our moderator. We had great appreciations and the group felt energized!

4:15 pm. End-of-the-show. All attendees left the venue. We organizers cleaned everything up and took all important artifacts with us for our internal organizer retrospective in a few weeks. The Agile Coach Coach started off with 9 people heading back to Karlsruhe, which we arrived at 7:30 pm. It was just in time for me to drive home and put my little son Henry to bed.

The Agile Coach Camp was a great event. From my perspective, it was exactly the right people at the right time! Thanks to everyone for participating!

ACCDE10 Survey: The One Book

During the last few hours of the Agile Coach Camp 2010 in Germany I started to do a spontaneous survey with one simple question: "Which ONE book should I read?"

People's reactions were quite different. Some mentioned a book within a few seconds, others needed time to think of the most recommendable book. The question even triggered something in a handful of people so they started to brain dump a list of books. Several people hesitated and wanted to know about the context--should it be a technical book or a novel or related to a special topic? I just didn't care. The goal was just to name the one book everybody should read.

Have fun browsing the list of recommended books. Try following experiment if you want: take a look at the list but completely ignore the people who recommended the books. Choose the book which sounds most interesting to you. Now take another look at the list and take the recommending people into account. Which book would you choose now? Why? Think about your decision process and how it is related to coaching, leadership, and rock stars. Self-reflect on this and add your thoughts to the comment of this post if you want.

So here are the survey's results in order of their appearance.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Agile Coach Camp 2010 Germany - Day 2

Starting at 8:30 am Mike Sutton did a great job facilitating the OpenSpace. A lot of interesting sessions were proposed by the attendees.
9:30 am. I hosted a session called "Drive-Driven Personality -or- how to handle driveless people". Pierluigi Pugliese joined in with his similar topic about dealing with unmotivated teams. For me this session's result was to underline that people can't be motivated, only their environment can be changed to help them getting motivated again on their own. I will adapt some insights and improve my lightning talk on "Drive-Driven Personality" at the XP2010 conference in Trondheim.
10:30 am. Joined a session by Martin Heider "Sharpen your saw - how to improve as an Agile Coach". Basic insight for me was that co-coaching and pair-coaching is helpful to improve.
10:00 am. Sneaked into Christine Neidhardt's session on graphical and visualization techniques at flipcharts. Nice ideas how to improve my presentation skills just by drawing good looking visuals.
11:30 am. Krishan Mathis, Nicole Rauch and I hosted a joint session composed of "Agile Skills meeting in Ann Arbor", "Agile Skills Project", and "Clean Code Developer". We spend 90 minutes to talk about how it all started in Ann Arbor and how the Agile Skills Project developed until the present day. There is lot of doubt if such a project is needed and if it's heading in the right direction. I focused on the "Quests" of the project as a good starting point for interested people to join, experiment, and contribute. We also took a look at the German "Clean Code Developer" initiative and compared both approaches. What I learned from this discussion is that any approach to do a job is highly related to the passion of the people doing it.
1:00 pm. Lunch time with 30 minutes delay. Food was good, nothing more to report on this.
1:30 pm. Joined a session by John McFadyen on "Comfort Zones". Many definitions were discussed so we finally knew about people's comfort zone, safety zone, and safe zone. The question came up if we as coaches should be prepared to kick people out of their comfort zone. Fortunetaly we calmed down and said that we're not able to move people. We only can move the environment so that people's comfort or safety zones get moved. The goal is to make people notice that they are about to leave their safe zone by staying in their comfort zone.
2:30 pm. Joined a session by Joseph Pelrine on "Psychology of Task Estimation". It is not enough to give the number of hours for a task but also to give the confidence level of that estimate. People are much better to estimate in real intervals: "if you need four hours for this task, do you think you will be finished by lunch?" Estimates are based on the current status of a system and knowledge. Therefore estimates have a best-before-date which is by the end of the current sprint. Re-estimating is necessary in many cases.
3:30 pm. Joined a session by Rachel Davies on "Improving Retrospectives". I got some new ideas for retrospective activities to try. My basic insight of this session was to strengthen my belief of the major importance of the inspect-and-adapt principle.
4:30 pm. Break. Closing the day and some organizational topics.
7:00 pm. Dinner and socializing. After the food we had some nice improvisation games and theatre moderated by Mike Sutton. This was great fun mixed with brain confusing short-term memory games. The day was finished for me after a funny Agile Jeopardy game.
This was a great conference day with lots of insights. My strongest belief was affirmed by many sessions, I heard it over and over again: software craftsmenship, being agile, teamwork, promoting change, team building, as well as any other topic related to people working in an organization depend on the passion of these people to do a great job. People have to love what they do to be good and to be able to improve constantly.
Tomorrow is the last day with another five sessions... I'm curious to get more insights.