Agile 2008 – Wednesday morning

Jeu de direction

After a refreshing run on the harbourfront, the conference kicks off with the French version of the Leadership Game, “Le Jeu de Direction“. I’ve played this game before with a large group. This time we can explore the leadership issues with a small group. In the game we have to build LEGO buildings in three rounds. In each round we experience a different leadership style: directive, absent and coaching.

The group quickly self-organized, divided tasks and easily picked up tasks that needed to be done. Working without a leader or a coaching leader was not very different. In larger teams, the coach would be more needed, to help the team by keeping an eye on progress, communication and the big picture. It seems that the men and women on the team played with LEGO differently.

Real Options

In the break between sessions, we have an open space chat about Real options after Chris Matts’ and Olav Maassen’s session on Real Options. Portia and I have developed a “Space Game” to experience the Real Options techniques. Some people are interested to play this game. We didn’t bring the game with us, but we’ll see if we can cobble up the game materials with some paper, bits of string and some chewing gum so that we can have a game in the Open Space room.

10 ways to screw up with Scrum and XP

Henrik Kniberg, author of “Scrum and XP from the Trenches“, presents 10 ways to screw up agile projects and agile introduction. The presentation is humorous and Henrik is an engaging speaker. It’s fun and most of the mistakes are very basic. And yet… these are the issues that I’m confronted with daily.

In coaching and consulting work I sometimes worry that we’re telling our customers obvious, basic things. Isn’t all of this Agile, Lean, Real Options and other stuff just common sense? Yes, common sense but uncommon practice. We have to get these basics right with our customers, build a solid Agile base. Then they can take it further on their own and we can move on to help another customer get the basics right.

I’ve given this book to the teams I currently coach. Most of the answers to their questions are in there.

Scrum and XP are simple.

Scrum and XP are hard.

If you want to know more, have a look at Henrik’s blog and download the slides, they are mostly self-explanatory. Or even better, go listen to Henrik at an event near you.


Agile 2008 – Tuesday sessions

Toyota Production System with Mindmapping

Kenji Hiranabe gave an introduction to mindmapping. When we were all comfortable with the tool, Kenji showed us a video of the introduction of process changes at SANYO. During the video we had to take notes using the mindmap. Our 5 root topics were: waste, process, confusion, YATAI and KAIZEN. Yatai is the practice of having multi-skilled workers complete a whole job, instead of specialized workers working at a conveyor belt. Kaizen is continuous improvement.

The process improvement approach shown was quite brutal. After visually showing how much waste was in the system, the conveyor belt was ripped out, to be replaced by Yatai workcells. The production manager was not amused: he had just been humiliated. Moreover, the new system was slower. Things get worse before they get better. The factory would not make their arranged deliveries and risked losing the trust of the customers. So, the old system was reinstated. As a concession, an experiment with one worker was allowed. An experienced worker was chosen to perform the experiment. At first, she was slower than the old system. Over the course of five days she and the engineers implemented improvements and the time to do the work came down to the level of the old system.

The advantage of the Yatai system is that multi-skilled workers see more results of their work and are less likely to become disinterested. As they are in charge of a large section of production, they can implement improvements that are less likely to be local optimizations. The Yatai system is lighter weight and more flexible than a conveyor belt-based system.

I’ve learned a new word and technique: Yatai. The (many) parallels with agile process improvement are left as an exercise for the reader.

Dwarves at work

In the afternoon Portia and I ran the “Mirror Mirror” session. There were 12 participants, which left more time for discussion and questions. We hope the participants got some value out of this session, that they got some ideas for actions to improve their personal and team effectiveness. We’ll know more once we get the retrospective and perfection game results.

Business Value: Soup to Nuts

Andy Pols and Chris Matts talked about Business Value. Many of it was familiar, but I got some new ideas for the Business Value Game and more ideas for awkward questions to ask before and during projects.

Business Value is a continuous process based on a model of value to be delivered by the project. It is a collaborative process, so start asking those difficult questions NOW.