New Agile Coach site online

Do you want to play?

Portia, Vera and I have published a new version of the Agile Coach website. There you’ll find coaching tools we use like games, tutorials and presentations. Topics range from introductions to Agile (the XP Game, the Business Value Game, XP Loops, First Five Steps to Become Really Agile), Theory of Constraints, Real Options, Toyota Way, Interviewing techniques to Agile Fairytales.

Creative Commons licenseMore materials and translations will be added. All of these games are licensed “Creative Commons“, so that you can use and reuse them. If you want to help translate or improve the games, let us know.

We run retrospectives after each session so that we can improve. You can read the results of the retrospectives on the Past Events page. This transparency allows you to verify if we really take the feedback into account.

Come and play at XP Days

If you want to play the “Business Value Game” or “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Why Me?” come and see us at the Mini XP Day Benelux in Mechelen, Belgium (May 11th) or XP Days France in Paris, France (May 25-26th). Or invite us to come and play in your company or usergroup. Or better yet, download the games and play them yourself.

XP Days France


SPA 2009: a retrospective

Back from SPA 2009.

What I liked

  • Running the conference as a non-residential conference in the heart of London. Staying in a hotel literally around the corner. Morning running along the Thames.
  • Interactive sessions like “Pitching Agile” and “Pairing: Beyond Programming” which challenge us to put our ideas to the test. Both sessions gave good opportunities to work in teams and reflect on what we value. And, of course, lots of Post-its were used to brainstorm, plan and explain 🙂
  • Meeting old and new acquaintances inside and outside of the conference.
  • Running the Business Value Game including a workshop with Vera and Portia. The game was designed to help our customers think about how they prioritise the project. The game doesn’t give answers, it raises questions. More about the workshop and its results later.
  • Preparing and running a tryout of “The First Five Steps to Become Really agile“. A big thank you for the 7 intrepid players who gave us plenty of feedback to improve the session.
  • The conference closing with concrete actions to follow up on the conference. I’ll have to write about cost and value estimation and about incremental funding and real options.

To make it perfect, I would

  • Like to have a bit more room in the sessions and during lunches and breaks. The size of the venue was ok for the number of participants, but only just.
  • Put some shorter sessions into the program. Two sessions a day (+ a keynote or BoF) doesn’t give much variety.
  • Let presenters and organisers work together to improve their proposals collaboratively, like we do it for XP Days Benelux. The quality of the sessions and proposals improve a lot, even those from experienced presenters.
  • Give session (and BoF?) presenters some time to pitch their session to help us to select the session with the most (business) value.
  • Improve the Business Value Game presentation, so that the game is clearer from the start.
  • Ask more concrete questions, set more detailed goals for the follow up workshop.

Vera, Portia, Laurent and I will improve the Business Value Game with the feedback from the participants. Next games: Mini XP Day Benelux (in English) XP Days France (in French).


Show me the money

Playing with business value

This week, Portia and I hosted two runs in London of the “Business Value Game” that Vera and I developed. As usual, we had a lot of fun hosting the session and got good feedback from the participants.

Brain Train

Portia started the Brain Train sessions as a way for friends and colleagues to get together to experiment with new sessions and games. Earlier this year, we presented the “Real Options Space Game” at a Brain Train session in the Royal Festival Hall.

Last Monday we were back in the friendly lobby of Royal Festival Hall. As players started trickling in we grabbed a few tables and chairs to set up the game. Portia and I each coached one team through the six iterations of the game.

Each team used different strategies. For example, one team lost an unhappy customer because they concentrated on the other more lucrative customers, while the other team ensured that each customer stayed happy. In the end, Portia’s team won, even though they lost a customer.

After the game, we held a retrospective to see the good, the bad and the puzzling. The participants learned (or confirmed) some lessons about customer interaction, iteration planning, release planning, communication and teamwork. We’ll publish the results of the retrospective.

Thank you Eamon, Roshni, Jenni, Mark, Ioana, Al, Mohan, Daniel, Dot, Tamas, Eben, Ashutosh, Archie and Maria for playing and giving feedback.

Agile Business Conference day 1

The next day, I attended the first day of the Agile Business Conference. The highlight of the program was a funny and energetic keynote talk by Rob Thomsett on Agile Project Management.

One of his learnings is that when we borrowed engineering and construction project management models we also inherited their prevailing culture. The relationship between “IT experts” and “Users” (a denigrating term) has always been adversarial.

Agile Project Management is about true collaboration and is based on a set of values:

  • Open: full participation and ownership by stakeholders.
  • Trust: team members and stakeholders are professionals who can be trusted to be committed to the project and the organisation.
  • Honesty: all people impacted or involved have a right to be told the truth; asking for help is a sign of strength.
  • Courage: Undertaking projects requires courage in many areas like telling the truth and asking for help.
  • Money: projects consume money. This requires a fiscal and ethical responsibility to be shared by all team members and stakeholders.

Rob concluded with some of concerns (silver bullet syndrome, lack of whole-of-life view, focus only on technical issues, lack of cultural awareness) and drivers (faster delivery, change friendly, more enjoyable, real teams, great values) of further Agile distribution.

In between sessions I talked to some acquaintances and met some new people. Together with Exoftware (thanks Andy!), we invited people to come to the next day’s Business Value Game. By then, we had already updated the game with the feedback from the Brain Train tryout.

Agile Business Conference day 2

After the opening keynote we played another Business Value Game with 13 participants. This time my team won! Again, the players had fun and learned lessons about planning, teamwork and prioritisation. It’s interesting to see how players react to the time pressure of the game:

  • one of the teams used some extra time to come up with elaborate strategies and tried to make decisions before they had all the information.
  • one team discarded information because they felt they didn’t have enough time to examine the information.

All teams could have done better and worked faster if they had shared more information in the team and if they had only taken decisions when they needed to. But that’s the subject of another game, the “Real Options Space Game“.

Agile Business Conference – closing

One of the highlights was seeing Ole and Jenni from GoAgile in Denmark again. Thank you for the gift and the great conversations about sessions, presentation techniques and Agile project management. We still owe you an explanation of Real Options. Most of all, thank you for your enthusiasm.

The conference closed with a presentation on the “Responsibility Model” by Christopher Avery. Chris explained the difference between being given accountability and taking responsibility. His model explains how we typically react in the face of problems. Portia has a good writeup of the material. On the way back Portia and I had a lot of fun going through each of the steps in the model in an exaggerated way, because one of the “Keys to Responsibility” is Awareness of how we (re)act.

Come and play!

We got good feedback on the game. Portia, Vera and I are busy working on v2.0 of the Business Value Game.

If you want to play our games, come and see us at the following fine events:

29/10/2008 – Scandinavian Agile Conference – Helsinki – The Business Value Game

20-21/11/2008 – XP Days Benelux – Eindhoven – The Business Value Game and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

11-12/12/2008 – XP Days London – London – The Real Options Space Game and a new game by Vera. Exciting!

Or you can download our games and play them at home.

Watch this space for the release announcement or come and play with us at one of the upcoming conferences and seminars.


The Business Value Game: v1.0 released

How do you prioritize your backlog?

Business Value Game Persona card

If you want to create a good iteration and release plan, you should make sure that you work on the high value stories. But how do you know which stories have high value? It’s simple: your Onsite Customer will tell you. You do have an Onsite Customer, don’t you?

But how does the Onsite Customer decide? How does your company prioritize stories, epics and projects?

Playing with Business Value

In the XP Game you get story cards with the Business Value number already filled in. That makes it easy to prioritize: just look at Business Value/Cost.

The Business Value Game looks at the problem from the Onsite Customer’s point of view. Vera and I developed this game as a complement to the XP Game, to explain the difficulties facing the Onsite Customer.

We simulate a situation where a group of salespeople sell projects to customers (like Jonathan on the right) and need to decide what the development team will implement. The goal of the game is to make money by releasing features and by keeping customers happy (by releasing features).

Over 6 iterations, we introduce Customer Requests like the one below. Each request generates some income for the company when all the stories in the request have been implemented and released. Delivering a release makes the Customer happy. The players need to define the Business Value of each Request taking into account many factors: potential income, potential customer happiness, constraints, deadlines… Using the estimated Business Value and the estimated Cost (already on the Story cards), the team must decide which stories go into each iteration. Of course, the developers can implement no more than their velocity.

We introduce more and more difficulties and parameters in each iteration: developer output fluctuates, there are dependencies between projects, some Requests are inconsistent, you can invest in process improvement and many more that we can’t reveal now.

Tried out

Tryouts are an essential part of game development. I hosted a tryout at Agile 2008. Last Wednesday Vera and I hosted a tryout at the Belgian XP Users/Agile Belgium group meeting in the offices of Cap Gemini. We received a lot of feedback from the participants at both tryouts. Thank you.

We have so many tips and ideas that we’re thinking of creating two versions of the game: a basic version with 6 iterations in 90 minutes and an extended version with 9 iterations in 120 minutes. As we add more difficulties in each iteration, the 9 iteration game might become very challenging!

Try this at home!

The Business Value Game is licensed as Creative Commons and available online like the XP Game, the Bottleneck Game, the Real Options Space Game and Mirror Mirror on the Wall.


Creative Commons License The Business Value Game by Vera Peeters and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Belgium License.