XP Days France 2008 – Paris, je t’aime

I’ve written before about XP Days France. Time for an update.

The conference will be held on 5-6 May in Paris (not 12-13 May as announced previously). That’s only a few days away. Book now if you haven’t yet.

I’ll be there. I’ll co-host two sessions and attend fun, interesting and useful sessions.

Les neuf cases pour bien comprendre son client

This interactive session will be hosted by Bernard Vander Beken, Portia Tung and me. In the session, groups of 3 participants learn how to interview customers to help them to understand their problem and to write user stories. It’s a re-run of the successful session Bernard and I hosted at XP Days Benelux. Fun and learning guaranteed.

Real Options, l’ultime frontière

Portia Tung and I host this space game simulation to teach participants all about Real Options.

What are Real Options? They are a technique to make better decisions, by giving us more time to gather information and by considering more options. They are an underlying principle of Agile and Lean. This is an improved version of the presentation and game we ran at Agile North and at a tryout in London. At both events, players discovered some important lessons. They discovered that common sense is not so common, especially when we are under pressure.

A bientôt!


We are not worthy!


Last January, I wrote about a team that applied creativity techniques. I told you you would hear more about them. Now is the time to tell you more. Have a look at the list of presenters at Octo Technology‘s “Université du SI“!

Bjarne Stroustrup!

Eliyahu Goldratt!

Neil Armstrong!

And loads of other interesting speakers.

A l’aide! Mon processus m’étrangle!

Portia and I have been invited to host a session about the Theory of Constraints and Lean, the popular and always-changing “I’m not a bottleneck! I’m a free man!” game. How cool is that?

Thanks to Pierre, Cedric, Bernard, Olivier and the rest of the Octo gang for organizing this fantastic conference and inviting us.

Paris, here we come!


Essap 2008

Essap 2008 in Varese

This year’s Essap course on agile development will be held in lovely Varese from June 30th to July 4th.

If you want to learn more about the theory and practice of agile in beautiful, relaxing surroundings, this is the place to be. Matteo, Federico and Vieri have created a great course with interesting speakers.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this year, due to other commitments. If you have the opportunity to attend, don’t hesitate. Go Essap!


London, the final frontier

The Space Game

Royal Festival HallPortia and I have been working on a Real Options game, with the help of Vera. Last Friday, we held our first tryout.

We set up shop in the friendly environment of the Royal Festival Hall with our game props: a galaxy game board, space ships, planets, sweets, maps, stories, news items, stuff to play with… The usual motly, colourful items that signal to participants that this is safe, ‘just’ a game.

Portia told the story behind the game: participants had to fulfill a mission to preserve peace across the galaxy. We explained some of the rules. Participants had to ask us more questions to discover what this simulation was all about.

We played the game in several rounds. In each round, the teams had to plan their move and then execute their chosen move on the game board. Along the way we introduced real options concepts. The players were really ‘in’ the game, fully absorbed. Near the end, they discovered an important concept.

I can’t tell you what, you’ll have to play the game yourself!

After the game, we held a retrospective with the players. This was the most important part of the evening for us, because the first rule of game and session development is:

Space shipsTryout, feedback, improve, repeat

If you want to create a great game, session or performance, iteration is essential. You gather your ideas, create a structure, bring in all the props… and then the real work begins. You get valuable feedback from the participants and by observing, you improve the game. And then you do it again. And each time the performance improves.

Yes, release often, iteration, feedback and simplicity are useful for game design too.

And courage… We were a bit nervous. Would the game work? Would the concepts be clear? Would the participants like it? The participants did have fun and learned something. We learned a lot. There’s a lot to improve.

Come out and play

If you want to have fun and learn more about real options you can play the game at Agile North on 26th of April and at XP Days France on 5-6 May. See you there!

A big T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U to David, Daniel, Maria, Sharmila, Matt, Chris and Henry for being such great players and for the excellent feedback.


Respect and Trust, it goes both ways

Respect and Trust

Portia stresses the importance of Respect and Trust as agile values. Respect for people is one of the two core principles of Lean.

Trust and respect from leaders and managers is crucial to a great team.

But trust and respect is not a one-way street. It goes both ways.

Do you trust and respect your leaders and managers?

If not, why not?

They might take the wrong decision

A long, long time ago in a company far away from here, management asked the software development teams to come up with options and estimates to renew our product line and move to a different platform.

The senior architect presented a proposal with a ludicrously high number of features for a ludicrously low estimate. I couldn’t see how we could ever implement that much in so little time.

When I asked the architect about his estimate, he answered with a straight face “Oh, I know it will take 6 times as long as that estimate.

If he knew this, why had he quoted such a low estimate?

Well, if I tell them the real estimate, management will take the wrong decision.” Meaning: they would not go with his proposal.

Well, if management had known that this proposal would take 6 times as long to implement, they would have been worried. Was this project worth the investment? Wouldn’t customers become impatient if they had to wait so long? Would our current platform become obsolete before we could move to the new platform? They would have thought long and hard before launching this project. They still might not have taken the “right” decision, but at least they would have had better information.

As it turned out, the project did not take 6 times, but 10 times the original estimate to complete. If management would have known it would take so long, they would have worried that this project might bring the company down. As it nearly did…

Trading places

A bit later, in another company I was in a similar situation. Only now I was on the “other side”. I learned that I had not gotten some information from the development team. They were afraid of giving me this information. I felt awful when I realized this. I couldn’t imagine what they could be afraid of, but I must have done something (or ommitted to do something) to earn that distrust.

I was out of my depth. I realized that now that I was a manager, I had started to do things that I hated in people who managed me. Luckily for me, there were some people who weren’t afraid of telling me the ugly truth.

Evil Queens?

I’m better at respecting and trusting than I was, but I’m still learning. Sometimes I still feel, as one of the participants of the “Mirror Mirror” session at SPA 2008 said, I need to “out-evil the Evil Queens”. Why do I see some people as Evil Queens? What can I do to understand their goals and motivations better?

If you’re a manager and/or a leader (and who isn’t?), what can we do to earn that respect and trust? Maybe we can start by investing a bit of respect and trust. Respect and Trust for everyone we work with.