Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Retrospective activity (filtering) : Most Likes and Dislikes

cross posted on

This is a follow-up on the Plus Minus Voting activity. It creates a visual tool for the marked items according to its total score (from the lowest to the highest).

Running the activity
1. Create an axis as per the figure below (<- -="" minus="" plus="" zero="">).
2. Ask the participants to place the marked post-its (from the Plus Minus activity) on the axis as per their total score (e.g., 4 + and 1 – have a score of 3).
3. Discuss with the group about the items.
Note that the items with + and – on it represent items in which the participants have different opinions.
I find this activity specially useful for cleaning up the canvas. The post-it with most votes are picked up and moved to a new place. By doing this, the participants are naturally filtering out the notes. Some colleagues have added an extra dimension (an Y axis) for counting the total number of votes (picture below).
Copy of most-likes-and-dislikes-Yaxis

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators OR Futurospective vs. Retrospective Activities

Cross posted on

Floyd Marinescu on his Culture and Happiness in Virtual team presentation at the QConSP 2014 conference brought a very interesting point to my attention.

Make sure to track and meet weekly to talk about your team leading and lagging indicators.

Leading indicators are metrics about the future and upcoming events. Lagging indicators are metrics collected based on the past events and happenings.

I watched his talk a little after I had given my latest talk about retrospectives. Naturally I related his points to my retrospective world.

Traditional retrospectives activities are looking at the past. Typically, these are more interested on the lagging indicators. On the other hand, futurospectives activities are for preparing for the upcoming future. Therefore these are more interested on leading indicators.

Floyd had another precious advice: To focus on the leading indicators, trying to keep these green (visual representation of the good status). Good status for leading indicators will usually support good results which are/will be shown in the lagging indicators.

I also had the same experience as a project leader and a retrospective facilitator. By running futurospectives (responding to leading indicators) you might end up with better results which will appear on your retrospectives (lagging indicators).

My advice: Teams should consider alternating retrospective and futurospective activities. And make sure to keep doing it on a weekly basis.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Half-Life of commitments

Half-life is the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. 

During private PSF (Profession Scrum Foundation) classes my students create a Change Backlog. The idea of this backlog is to codify the things that need to be changed in order to become agile. Actually, after they finished creating the backlog I ask them to put a name on each sticky note, meaning that the person whose name is on the note is responsible for acting on that item and is accountable for it. Finally, I ask them right away to define a date at which they will review this backlog. Inspect and Adapt.

I am doing this to avoid the training conundrum ‘Yeah, this has all been very interesting but right now I don’t have the time and right situation at hand …'

In my opinion if you don’t go out immediately after the training and walk the talk, your motivation will decrease rather dramatically. Not that I have researched, but my feeling tells me that the half-life is about one week. So, after two weeks your motivation is down to a quarter.

Also, I see best results when whole teams get a company private class. Even better when their superiors join in too, if not for the entire training but for the last 3 hours of the second day when we create the Change Backlog. This exercise creates a transparency which hardly can be reproduced in a later setting. At the end of day two, most of my students are really enthusiastic to get started and the managers sense this as well. 

High chances of success: An enthusiastic team with management support: you are ready to roll on your path to agility.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fun Retrospective workshop at Agile2014

Are you going to be at Orlando (July 28 – Aug 1) for the Agile2014 conference? If yes, Please check out our proposal (Taina TC Caetano and I,  Paulo Caroli) at and leave a comment/review letting us know what you think. See you there!
Come, learn and practice two dozen of simple yet very effective Retrospectives´ activities and ideas. In this session, you will take part on performing proven retrospectives activities that help agile improve this practice execution and results. This session’s dynamics has been designed to provide you with hands-on facilitation, group discussion and experience sharing.

Retrospectives improve communication, productivity and quality by providing a space to support knowledge and experience sharing. Effective retrospectives not only reflect upon the past, but also allow the participants to discuss the future and be proactive, instead of reactive.

You will be invited to facilitate a set of activities, such as the Role Expectations Matrix and the General Behavior Activity for team building. We will discuss and show ways of diversifying retrospectives, such as the Peaks and Valleys Timeline Activity, the Happiness Radar -> Lessons Learned Sequence and the Speed Car - Abyss Activity. Finally, for those looking to increase their toolset of activities to look ahead, there will be activities such as Path to Nirvana and Plan of Action. And much more! Please check out for a quick taste on the activities... (more at the conference submission system)

Project team accelerator at Agile USA 2014

Are you going to be at Orlando (July 28 – Aug 1) for the Agile2014 conference? If yes, check out this innovative proposal by  Rafael Prikladnicki and I (Paulo Caroli)  and leave a comment/review letting us know what you think. See you there!

Join this open conversation about our experience on creating an accelerator of project teams called Software Kaizen. With the goal of forming and training high performing software development teams and accelerating the learning of agile methods, the Software Kaizen accelerator was created based on agile and business incubators concepts…. (you can find more at the submission system).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Antibiotics of Software Engineering - Agile Testing

Surgery is not a recent invention, it dates back millennia. 

Notable Milestones in Surgical History (

6,500 B.C.E. - Skulls found in France show signs of a rudimentary surgery called trepanation, which involves drilling a hole in the skull.
1540 C.E. - English barbers and surgeons unite to form The United Barber-Surgeons Company. These barber-surgeons performed tooth extractions and blood letting. Physicians were considered an entirely different profession, treating illness with medications.
1818 - First transfusion of human blood.
1843 - First hysterectomy performed, in England.
1843 - First use of ether.
1867 - British surgeon Joseph Lister publishes Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery, extolling the virtues of cleanliness in surgery. The mortality rate for surgical patients immediately falls.
1885 - First successful appendectomy performed, in Iowa.
1890s - Widespread use of chemical agents to minimize germs. Carbolic acid was put on incisions to minimize germs and decrease infection rates.
1896 - First successful heart surgery performed, in Germany. Surgeons repaired a stab wound in the muscle of the right ventricle.
1905 - First successful cornea transplant.
1917 - First documented plastic surgery performed, on a burned English sailor.
1928 - Antibiotics discovered.

Even if the procedure was successful, often the patient suffered and usually died of subsequent infections. 
Also, not to ignore is the discovery of Ingnaz Semmelweis, a physician at a Vienna hospital. While working at a Vienna hospital in 1847 he discovered that far more women died after childbirth by the so called childbed fever in the medical ward then in the midwifes ward. Semmelweis postulated the presence and spreading of germs causing the illness by doctors. Even though, after applying a chlorine and lemon based hand-wash solution the death rate could be reduced from ~35% to 1%, he was being labeled a heretic by the doctors. Ignaz Semmelweis was ignored until Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory.

Now, after it was accepted that germs caused infections and that hygiene was mandatory for good outcomes it became also obvious that there was a need to have a treatment once an infection set in. As listed above, on September 3rd  in 1928 Alexendar Flemming discovered the antibiotic effect of Penecillin and transformed medicine as we know it. Nowadays, antibiotics are used to treat all kinds of infections and antibiotics are prescribed in a preventive manner for many medical procedures. 

In software development we are able to develop rather fast and make significant changes to existing systems quickly. However, after these procedures the system often falls sick, suffering from bugs, side-effects and other ailments. I like to consider these as infections. Those infections even arise after well planned and executed engineering efforts.
The fundamental question is, how can we cope with them or even better avoid them - what is the the antibiotic equivalent in programming?
For me, the answer is: Agile Testing

Agile Testing is the process to validate that new functionality performs correctly and more importantly to verify that the existing behavior has not changed - that no infection has set in.

1. We have proof that the current system is healthy before the procedure starts
2. We are able to monitor the systems health during the procedure
3. We can intervene the moment side effects set in
4. We have proof that the procedure was successful 

A well done Agile Testing strategy is the equivalent to clean medical equipment and antibiotics. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The 1000 Students Challenge (4)

In May of 2011 I was able to run my first Pay It Forward Scrum Training at the University of Bern in Switzerland. I had blogged about this event here:  The 1000 Students Challenge

Last week-end I had the third run at the University of Applied Sciences (HS-AlbSig) in Albstadt, Germany. 20 students volunteered their week-ends to learn about Scrum by attending the Professional Scrum Master Training or short PSM. The class was an even mixture of Master and Bachelor students. It's been great fun for them and myself and it is good to know that 20 future and current IT specialists will join the workforce pre-equipped with Agile and Scrum.

A big thanks to the Hochschule Albstadt for being supportive and to Kunt Kliem for organizing.

My mission is to train 1000 students in Scrum - 918 more to go ...

PS If you are interested in hosting such an event at your institution please contact me at