Tag Archives: self-organizing teams

AgileCoachCamp Germany 2010 #accde10 – a reflection

Even though I have tons of work to do these days, I was very looking forward to being at JAX2010, and, before that, attending AgileCoachCamp Germany (ACCDE10), which had been organized by me and a dozen of great agile enthusiasts.

AgileCoachCamp is a series of open space unconferences, which are organized all over the world. You can find them in the US, in India, and next July there will be one in UK, as Rachel Davies announced at ACCDE10. This was the first which happened in Germany, by the way.

Being involved in the organization of the camp makes it harder to me to write something about it. Because it’s difficult to be objective. But: Do I *have* to be objective? No, this is just one of my favourite mindf…. concepts.

Ok, so here is my short, personal, un-objective reflection:

– I liked to be there over the weekend, because it freed my mind from day-to-day stuff and made it possible to step back and reflect on how I do my work and what/how I can improve.

– I met many people I like very much – and I was so happy to see them again. Some of them give me inspiration, some make me think about my personal perspective, from some of them I’ve learned new techniques, some of them make me just laugh (which is IMO not less valuable)

– I got in touch with many new people, and it was a pleasure to meet them!

– I had some very interesting sessions, e.g. the illustration & visualisation session with Christine Neidhardt and Joseph Pelrine, the session on retrospectives, which was moderated by Rachel Davies, where I got some inspiration for my own session on retrospectives at JAX Agile Day. “Out of the comfort zone” was another very interesting topic, brought up by John McFadyen, with a lively discussion about what the comfort zone and what the safety zone is (and whether there may be a “safe zone”, which is different from the safety zone). Joseph Pelrine’s session on self-organization (of course, from a western perspective) made me thinking about the Sanskrit term “Purusha”, which means -among others- the spirit of a group as an autonomous being. I’ll check this and maybe I’ll write something about the parallels of western group dynamics theories (as far as I understand them) and the spiritual Hindu perspective. Deborah Hartmann-Preuss gave a very insightful session on how their work as coach has changed the last years. Again, Christine Neidhardt gave us the opportunity to find out something about our character in HBDI scheme (that was much fun, but also a bit scary, because I found out that my character/mindset obviously has changed nearly 180 degrees during the last 10 years). Martin Heider initiated a session called “Sharpen the saw – how to improve as agile coach”, which is the topic I’m interested in the most. Did I forget any interesting sessions? Yes, probably. There were so many things to join!

– Christine’s Tai Chi Session reminded me being more in the body, not just in my head. Why the h… do I forget this simple but powerful truth again and again and again??

– I found out that beer-driven development and single-malt-driven development belong to the same family of techniques, but differ in details (by the way: Praise Joseph for inventing story pints instead of story points :)).

– I had interesting discussions on agile architecture and special roles in agile environments which helped me to analyze our own process and working environment.

– Even though I 100% enjoyed the camp, my imagination of a quite different unconference grew further by seeing my vague idea of what it might be, confronted with the reality. I still can’t express how it should look like, but after ACCDE10 I’m one step closer to a concrete idea (different story, separate blog entry).

– Open Space: Just to say it in three words: I *love* it! :-)

It influenced my own interactive session at JAX2010 very strongly, because I already knew in advance that I didn’t want to do a session which is well-prepared and has a fix agenda. But just after the camp I was able to let things flow very spontaneously – and visitors’ feedback to this format was very good. Again, a different story.

– Finally: Thanks a lot to Pierluigi Pugliese, who really challenged me with questions right after the end of the camp. We didn’t plan to do so, but it came spontaneously and was so valuable for me to get a clear perspective on some things.

To come to an end: Thanks to all who joined the camp, shared their ideas and gave their energy into it!

PS: If I’d live in the ideal world and I had one free wish, I’d appreciate if participants wouldn’t leave before the closing session. I know, sometimes you have to do so because of train/ flight timetables. But if you have the choice – then choose staying there a bit longer, as an expression of respect towards the facilitator & organizers. Thanks :-)

Scrum Day(s) Düsseldorf

I will be speaking on Agile Leadership at Scrum Day Düsseldorf.

The event will be on Wednesday, Dec 2 at Novotel Neuss (near Düsseldorf).

The day before, Dec 1, there will be some interesting workshops. At least one of them is a highlight I want to recommend to you: Joseph Pelrine’s workshop on self organizing teams. I had a foretaste of what might come up there at “Agile2009” in Chicago. But his workshop in Chicago was one of 3 hrs. This one is a full day workshop.

Furthermore, he will also be the keynote speaker on Wednesday.

For more information, see Scrum Day Website.

I’ll publish my slides online afterwards.

Joseph Pelrine: Self-organizing teams and Turning up the heat

Of of the most impressive sessions I had at the Agile2009 convention was Coaching self-organizing teams by Joseph Pelrine. He is a very good Agile coach with a great reputation and one of Europe’s leading experts on eXtreme Programming and Scrum, so it was a pleasure for me to join in.

During this three-and-a-half-hour tutorial (by the way: He started with Swiss chocolate for everyone – so he got us all after just 30 seconds! Simple but powerful tool… ;-)) he talked about different types of people and their different beliefs and how they influence the whole team. He showed the functioning of a team, comparing it with a swarm of birds. We had a wonderful exercise when Joseph Pelrine opened the doors of the room, and led us, “flying” as a swarm, through the hallway of the hotel. This small exercise – as well as the other ones – demonstrated to us in a very playful and natural manner the meaning of self-organization.

This is something I’ve always liked very much: Learning not only through intellectual knowledge, but also through direct experience. Even though it was an agile Conference, there were some other speakers who were not themselves very agile….

An important part of the session was dedicated to the question of how to handle teams and what would be necessary to make them self-organizing and working well. As Joseph Pelrine wrote in his abstract:
“Allowing a team to self-organize along the lines of ‘oh well, they’re all adults, they’ll figure it out’ is just as irresponsible as reverting to the command-and control school of management.” Full Ack from my side (if my humble opinion makes any difference in that case :O))!
So, he pointed out that it is always a matter of fine-tuning the dose. The image Joseph used came from cooking: If you want to cook well (=make a team working well) you have to put heat (=energy, change, etc.) into them. If you don’t, your meal (team) gets cold and solid (no evolution, no results, no enthusiasm). But if you put too much heat into it, you will burn (overstress, burn-out) it.

My opinion again: That’s an interesting insight which some managers and coaches don’t realize. Scrum and XP don’t mean “put as much change and pressure as possible onto your team”. It is always a question of the right dose, isn’t it? If you change too many things in a short period or if you want too much, you’ll burn them, guys!
It’s also interesting that, assuming the cooking theory is right, you need continuous change / energy from from outside. I wonder how this would apply to “doing agile” vs. “being agile” – but that’s another story (for a further blog article).

There was a surprising moment for me when we started representing the states of cooking when we, the participants, took up positions on a linear diagram outlined on the floor: We were representatives of different states of cooking on the scale, from “solid” to “burned”. I try to make it clear by a scribble:

cooking á la Pelrine

cooking á la Pelrine

When we talked with others representing different states (e.g. “solid” and “burned”), I felt that it should be a circle, not a linear scale, because those from the “solid” state had similiar experiences as the people from the “burned” group. Despite the teams they represented being in completely different situations, the results of “burning” and “solid” seemed to be very alike (I earned another Swiss chocolate for this observation…).

I think this model is really good, because it’s simple, a good analogy and also matches my personal experiences.

If you are interested in learning more about the heat model, please have a look at Joseph Pelrine’s blog.

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