Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile


So says Sara Blakely, 41, just turned billionaire, landing on the cover of Forbes, March 26, 2012.

As I write this, it’s Friday night in Atlanta, where Sara Blakely set up her company, Spanx. Both are “local news” around here. I don’t watch much news, but when I can catch them, I enjoy the uplifting short stories aired on the ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. (Kudos to both shows!) Tonight I saw a diamond!

What caught my attention? The encouraging, agile dialog patterns reported by Diane Sawyer in tonight’s story, “Spanx Entrepreneur Shares Advice” (March 9, 2012).

“What did you fail at today?”

That’s what Sara Blakely’s father would ask his kids at their dining room table in the evening. They would all talk about it. That sure sounds like an agile retrospective to me. What do you think?

Then came the best part: Sara’s dad would raise his hand and say something like this…

Way to go! That’s a high five!” Continue reading “Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile”

Does your Bartender Understand Agile?

For the past three years, my mom could simply tell her friends, “my son Ken works for NASA.” Now that Curiosity is on its way to Mars, mom wants to know what it is that I am doing next…and when I’ll visit again, of course!

What do you say, when someone asks, “so, what is it that you do at work?” Are you prepared to explain it, in simple terms?

“An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.” –Ernest Rutherford, quoted in Einstein: The Man and His Achievement (1973) by G. J. Whitrow, p. 42.

What’s the big deal about “Agile teamwork?” How do you do what you do? Why?

How do we do what we do?

To an outside observer, patterns and practices will be evident in our behaviors and artifacts. For example, a daily standup, a cumulative flow diagram, a Kanban board. What might you feel compelled to say to a visiting friend or relative, as you give them a quick tour of your workspace? What about a newcomer joining your team, on their first day, if they haven’t yet been indoctrinated through training, experience, or study?

Manifest behaviors and artifacts create a “visible” perspective. How we do what we do is discoverable. Our “why” may be a mystery.

Why do we do what we do?  Continue reading “Does your Bartender Understand Agile?”

The Process of Change – Complexities of Attitudinal Change – Axiology [Part 4/4]

[Part of the 4 part series on The Process of Change. See the others]:

The Complexities of Attitudinal Change

Everyone behaves in a way that makes sense to them. Everyone rationalizes his or her behavior.

Axiology – the understanding of values. If a person does not value a change they are not going to go along with it. The opposite is true as well. If he or she feels that you are attacking something he or she values, they are going to react negatively.

Ok, so that sounds tough. You’re right. It is tough. The human side of software development is understanding people. People are driven differently, people are incentivized differently.

Facilitating attitudinal change:

1. Understand that we change people through interpersonal communication:

  • Not by arguing at or with them
  • Not by talking them down
  • Not by telling them or implying that they are less intelligent then others
  • Not by talking talking talking. Listen listen listen
  • Not by assuming. Ask questions

People tend to change, or be more open to change, when they can exchange ideas with other people.

2. Understand that people change by basis of information:

  • Help people to understand the necessity – Let’s have a conversation around why this is necessary… or is it?
  • Help people understand the value or benefits – Let’s have a conversation around the value… or eventual value of the change.
  • Help people understand the feasibility of the change(s) – Let’s have a conversation around how the change is possible. Yes, we can do it.

Wrap up:

Creating change in your organization is tough. Period. It will take patience, facilitation, and maybe even a bit of pressure in the right places… and on the right people. Change implementation takes strategy, hard work, and thoughtful consideration of your system (environment+people). Handling resistance to change is tough, tap into your humanity. You’ll need it, and good luck.

The Process of Change – Handling Resistance to Change [Part 3/4]

[Part of the 4 part series on The Process of Change. See the others]:

Handling Resistance to Change

People fight change because change makes, in a lot of ways, “current value” questionable. What we were doing yesterday… and continuing to do, might not be exactly right. In a lot of ways, change can be a sort of slap to the face. An invalidation of what has been ‘working’ before.

It appears, to some people, that in the process of change things are coming apart. Conflict of interest arises when people face meaningful alternatives and then they fight the change. They fear the possible disorganization that comes as a result of the change. They simply don’t want to leave the status quo because it is comfortable.

“Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.” – William Congreve

This is where the master facilitator must soothe the insecurities and fears that people have when it comes to change. Your ability to hold the line, quell peoples fears, and normalize the experience is crucial here.

We know that change is unavoidable and tends to affect the goals and direction of a company or teams in positive ways. We just have to be ready for the resistance that will come.

So, what should do we do when facing resistance?

I thought for a good while on this particular segment of this post. I came up with 4 bullet points, but in sum total, they all fell into basically one idea:

Find the Truth

Recognize why people resist change – don’t make assumptions. Find the truth. Is it the change or the method of change? Is it personal for some people? What types of baggage do people have? What nuances and idiosyncrasies are at play? How does the whole ‘system’ (people+environment) work?

I wrote about this before in my post People Not Technology as well as my post on KNOWING your Team. What we’re talking about here isn’t all the mushy-gushy stuff, but really understanding all the pieces of the system that are at play. Your investigative skills will play a huge role here. It’s hard work, but digging, asking the right questions, having the right conversations, and being available to criticism, feedback, and even arrows in your back, are all part of the job.

The Process of Change – 3 Levels of Change-Implementation [Part 2/4]

[Part of the 4 part series on The Process of Change. See the others]:

The Three Level Process of Change-Implementation

1. Planning of Change – what we want to change and why (remember metrics, as well as the reasons why we’re doing Agile). The desire of the leadership is to bring about change as effectively as possible. A measure of effective change is that things remain stable. While there is some value in ‘breaking things up’ and creating some dissonance for positive change to take affect, we need to be careful, as coaches, to balance the approach.

  • The leader or change agent must have comparative ways to think about change (conceptualization, review of models or examples). Story mapping works well here, visualizing the whole (lean concept), and transparency (wallboards/other visual aids).
  • The leader must consider the decision-making approaches allowed within the team/organization/company, ie., how are decisions made and approved?
  • Determine how much freedom of decision-making capacity you have without the input of others.

2. Developmental Level – plans are solidified and a strategy is put into place as to how we are going to execute the change. Incremental change is good here. Start small, start effective. Prioritizing change is important. There is a lot of work to be done, and we can get to all of it in due time.

  • Stakeholders or vested parties in the change must be on board, accountable, and ready to execute the change.
  • Internal champions are a big plus here.
  • Determine the roll out strategy: Are we starting at the team level? Enterprise level? Architecture first? Technical debt first? Training? Etc.

3. Announcement Level – the revelation of the change to the company and teams. The change has been decided in due process through the planning of the change as well as the development of the change. It’s time to announce it.

  • Should this be you? Probably not. Internal stakeholders should really take the reigns of announcing the change.
  • Metrics! – Why are we doing this? Tell me why we’re doing this change, tell me how it’ll make things better.
  • Make it fun – Hopefully (if you can) there can be some excitement around the change. Hey, we’re making things better!
  • Make it visible – Email sucks. Meetings suck… but don’t have to be. Be creative as to how you announce these changes. Informal can work too.

The Process of Change – The Agile Change Agent [Part 1/4]

[Part of the 4 part series on The Process of Change. See the others]:

[Part 1] – The Agile Change Agent – Understanding Change

As an Agile Coach, I have realized over time that cultural change is something not fully understood nor embraced enough during the process of bringing Agile into a company. Whether it is an Agile adoption, or moving towards transformation, we must take a deeper look into what change is for software development teams, departments, and enterprises alike.

I’ve decided to tackle this in a four part series, taken from my experience. Feel free to comment and let me know if I’ve missed anything 🙂

Change is not an option, therefore …

We must recognize our role as “change agent.” We do not just keep the software development running smoothly and manage the day to day activities. We are more than that. We’re Agile coaches! We must recognize that change happens and we must be prepared to handle it or deal with or strategize with it. This means we must have certain skills.

  • We must identify the needed coaching that is essential for the teams and enterprises. What is the primary value-add? Why are we doing Agile? What problems are we trying to solve?
  • We must help the people within the enterprise understand and follow the coaching recommendations and why it is valuable to improve and change. Coaching is so much about shepherding teams and companies through the process. Change is hard. Sometimes it hurts.
  • We must show the benefits of the changes. ROI anyone? Metrics? What is the value proposition at the end of the day?
  • We must strengthen their motivation to move in a certain “new” direction. This can take time. This is the long-term role of an Agile Coach. Embedded coaching works, but it’s not going to be a 1-month turn around. Get deep. It’s going to be a long winter.

6 Guidelines for Understanding and bringing about Change:

Continue reading “The Process of Change – The Agile Change Agent [Part 1/4]”

State of Agile 2010 – Full Contributor Submissions

Agile Scout State of Agile 2010 Blog Series

Thanks to all that participated! We look forward to Agile in 2011!

Read the blog series on The State of Agile 2010 here.

Want to contribute to our next State of Agile, be a guest on Agile Scout LIVE, or contribute to Agile Scout as a writer? Let us know at info [at] agilescout [dot] com.

The State of Agile – Vincent D’Amico

Enterprise Adoption of Agile Development Will Not Be Easy

Agile software development is going mainstream. It has arrived in major corporations across the globe along with high expectations. This sets up the inevitable – a fall from grace.

My time in the software business is measured in decades not years. I’ve seen many solutions to the problems of building quality software on time. None have delivered on their promises.

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Vincent D’Amico”

The State of Agile – Matthias Marschall

I’ve been working as CTO and Tech Lead for a couple of web startups in Germany. In these jobs, I transitioned multiple organizations from waterfall or chaos to Agile and lean processes. In order to create real value at all levels of the organization, companies must employ a combination of Lean, Scrum, and Kanban methodologies or processes. It’s critical to optimize the whole rather than just software development.

How has Agile changed?

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Matthias Marschall”

The State of Agile – David Hicks


I started my career in the early 90s with BIS and then LBMS – the original company behind PRINCE – and was responsible for the first pre-agile iterative and RAD methods at both of these companies. In the mid 90’s I became a consultant and Certified Trainer in DSDM, and was engaged by British Airways where I spent nearly four years managing the implementation of DSDM across their entire 5,000-strong IT department. In so doing I helped British Airways to become the first large company to adopt an Agile method for all of their IT projects, founded RADTAC and began learning about enterprise Agile transformation. During this period I was also asked to do some consulting on the Heathrow Terminal 5 project and it was here in 1998 that I first started using Scrum and started my journey to become a Certified Scrum Trainer. Since then I have helped RADTAC clients large and small become more Agile by employing the full range of Agile software development approaches including Scrum, Lean, XP, DSDM and the Agile/Open Unified Method.

How Agile has Changed

Continue reading “The State of Agile – David Hicks”

The State of Agile – Marcin Niebudek

I wanted to be programmer since 6th grade, just after leaving the idea of being an astronaut. But for real it began in 2001 when I got my first job in a small software house. It was the end of the first Internet bubble and of course we were writing portals. I was at the 3rd year of Computer Science at Technical University of Wroclaw, Poland. Agile did not exist for us. We were surrounded by heavyweight processes like USDP (Unified Software Development Process). The team was great, but the process was… none. We just tried to code what the specs said.

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Marcin Niebudek”

The State of Agile – Mark Levison

Mark has been in software development for over 20 years and an Agile practitioner since 2001. Introducing Agile methods one practice at a time inside a small team. From 2006 – 2009, as an employee of Cognos, he’s introduced Scrum to the organization and coached a number of teams. As part of that process he designed a Test Driven Development adoption strategy and introduced of a number of practices to support it.

As an independant Agile/Scrum Trainer and Coach (Agile Pain Relief Consulting) he has introduced Scrum to a number of organizations.

Mark’s research interests including the application of neuroscience to Agile software development and training. Mark is an Agile Editor at InfoQ and has written dozens of articles on Agile topics. He also publishes a blog – Notes from a Tool User.

How has Agile changed?

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Mark Levison”

The State of Agile – Lisa Crispin

The State of Agile: A Tester’s Viewpoint

I started my software career as a programmer/analyst working in an organization that knew nothing about waterfall – we sat with our end users and released when they were happy with our product. Through the years, I’ve worked in tech support and QA for software companies, as a tester and QA director for internet startups. One was a successful waterfall shop that automated all unit tests, a large percentage of functional tests, and did continuous integration – sound familiar?  For the past 10 years, I’ve worked as a tester on agile teams.

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Lisa Crispin”

The State of Agile – Sara Broca


I am a project manager / quality junior in the rail industry for 3 years and now begin a carrier in aeronautic industry. Passionate about my job, I’m always looking for new methods, new ways of doing things to improve my daily life and the one of people I work with.

How has Agile changed?

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Sara Broca”

The State of Agile – Ken Schwaber

I have been in software development for over thirty years. Prior to that, I was a deck officer in the merchant marine. Don’t ask. Many of my early years in our industry were spent developing operating systems, both embedded, device oriented, and part of the IBM mainframe operating system suite. I’ve worked at the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Wang Laboratories, and for the last 20 years, my company, Advanced Development Methods and My daughters are grown and launched, and I live in Lexington, Massachusetts with my wife, Chris.

How has Agile changed?

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Ken Schwaber”

The State of Agile – Derek Huether

Mastery-based Learning and the Paradox of the Certification

I started in Project Management some 15 years ago.

My goal, at the beginning, was to comply with all defined policies, processes, and procedures, while ensuring the project stayed within schedule, budget, and scope.  After a few years, I left this position and I started my own consulting company.  This radically changed my perspective of what was important.  Though most of my consulting was in hardware, my focus shifted toward satisfying the customer.  Upon returning to application development, I began managing software development projects for corporate and government agencies.  At first, I resorted back to my old ways, trying to manage everything through process and controls.  I sought out and obtained my Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Derek Huether”

The State of Agile- Tobias Mayer

A Beautiful Stepping Stone

I was asked by Agile Scout to write an article for the State of Agile series. This is my response.

At the end of September I attended the Scrum Beyond Software event in Phoenix, at the wonderful Gangplank facility. This was both the last event I organized while working for the Scrum Alliance, and (to my knowledge) the first full Open Space event set up to explore this topic.

Continue reading “The State of Agile- Tobias Mayer”

Agile Scout *BETA Release and First Ever PRIZE and GIVEAWAY!

We here at Agile Scout are excited to be hitting our *Beta stage of our site. We have purposefully taken an iterative approach to the designing and building of our product (We’re Agile aren’t we?) and it is our hopes that we can launch fully within our next release schedule.

Like our new website design and character? We do. We’re already looking forward to full release!

So on to the celebration with GUEST POSTS and PRIZES AND GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate our *Beta release we’ve asked bloggers, authors, and Agile coaches and consultants around the globe to weigh in on three simple (not-so-simple) questions:

  1. Your (author) background?
  2. How Agile has changed (from authors perspective) in terms of methods, philosophies, ideologies, pragmatic applications, etc.?
  3. Where is Agile going (in the future)?

Who’s up first? Check us out tomorrow for our first guest contributor!

So What’s The Prize?

Continue reading “Agile Scout *BETA Release and First Ever PRIZE and GIVEAWAY!”

The State of Agile – Contributor List

The State of Agile contributor list has been complete. Thanks to all who have contributed to this call for submissions! After reading through what some of the leaders in our community have to say, we’re excited about where Agile is going and what needs to continue to grow as more and more businesses see the value that Agile software development can bring.

Have something you’d like to share with the Agile community? Contribute!

A full list of the contributors below and calendar:

Continue reading “The State of Agile – Contributor List”

Agile Scout – First Ever Blog Series on Agile!

We here at Agile Scout are very excited for our upcoming *Beta release. There is a lot of stuff going on and we just wish we could do it all!

With our *Beta release of the site comes some very cool stuff, including:

  1. Our new Logo
  2. Our new Character – The Agile Scout!
  3. Our first ever blog series on “The State of Agile.”

We’re really stoked about the logo and icon, but what we are even more excited about are the guest contributors for our first ever Blog Series.

Who would those guest contributors be, you may ask? Check them out with Twitter and Blog website (In no particular order):

Continue reading “Agile Scout – First Ever Blog Series on Agile!”