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Agile Coaching Tips: Reinforce your agility with the Agile Team Radar

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2010/10/19

The « AGILE TEAM RADAR » is a self assessment tool I like to propose during sprints retrospective to collect data, especially with teams new to agility.

The exercise is directly inspired by Diana Larsen and Ester Derby  (Agile retrospectives)

The problem

Teams don’t always understand the importance of agile values, and don’t perceive how they are intimately linked to their everyday practices.

« Thanks for the theory… Ok for the values but now… please tell me more about continuous integration  test automation and agile requirements »

An answer

The necessity and the opportunity to return to foundations again and again! A good way to start: the agile team Radar with its good focus on the core agile (actually XP) values !

Agile Values In Action

Agile Values In Action

How to proceed?

Step 1:  Introduce the activity (why, how… self assessment, collect data, measure progress ….)

Step 2: Write, introduce values to the team making a short description of each value and trying to connect them with everyday practices. Good definitions to start:

Communication: Everyone is part of the team and we communicate face to face daily. We will work together on everything from requirements to code. We will create the best solution to our problem that we can together

Simplicity: We will do what is needed and asked for, but no more. This will maximize the value created for the investment made to date. We will take small simple steps to our goal and mitigate failures as they happen. We will create something we are proud of and maintain it long term for reasonable costs

Courage: We will tell the truth about progress and estimates. We don’t document excuses for failure because we plan to succeed. We don’t fear anything because no one ever works alone. We will adapt to changes when ever they happen.

Respect: Everyone gives and feels the respect they deserve as a valued team member. Everyone contributes value even if it’s simply enthusiasm. Developers respect the expertise of the customers and vice versa. Management respects our right to accept responsibility and receive authority over our own work

Feedback: We will take every iteration commitment seriously by delivering working software. We demonstrate our software early and often then listen carefully and make any changes needed. We will talk about the project and adapt our process to it, not the other way around

Step 3: Let the team make it real and link these values to their current  practices… Let the discussion go !

Step 4 : Do the self assessment, anonymously,  with a scale of 0-10 : how well the team is doing with the 5 agile values ?

Agile Value Card - Rate each value - 0 (not at all) to 10 (as much as possible) - It's anonymous !

Agile Value Card - Rate each value - 0 (not at all) to 10 (as much as possible) - It's anonymous !

Step 5: Collect the cards immediately after the exercise, Do the average by axis

Step 6: : Discuss the results and use it to track progress: NEXT SPRINT WE FOCUS ON FEEDBACK !

Sprint 1 vs Sprint 2 : Do you notice the progress ?

Sprint 1 vs Sprint 2 : Do you notice the progress ?


  • Precious to reinforce agile values
  • Very useful to generate insights and discussion around practices / values
  • Quick and easy
  • Useful to identity strengths and weaknesses of a team in a « Kaizen » approach
  • Very good for retrospectives and intresting in training and everyday coaching

Paper Prototyping Workshop

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2010/10/13

One more time… and in small groups please: more fun, more feedback and more information collected even if you need more preparation effort (related to realistic content, screenshots and elements cutting, materials provided).

Workshop de conception : Prototypage Papier avec sous groupes de travail

Design Workshop :Paper prototyping in small groups

At a time when others are still searching and waiting for the magic prototyping tool to make wireframe, Paper prototyping deliberately focuses on proximity, human interactions, feedback, collaboration, and simplicity… some core agile values.

According to me, even more in Agile contexts, the real strength of Wireframe format is on its ability:

  • To be done in a collaborative mode,
  • To generate feedback,
  • To share the Vision of  the User interface
  • To support business and development activities
  • To stay at a « just enough » level (documentation, process, effort…)

And this is exactly what paper prototyping offers…

Moreover, Paper prototyping technique is FAST, EASY and FLEXIBLE (in terms of protocols…).

This is what I have observed in some group sessions:

  • It is highly collaborative with a rich feedback generation (especially for group sessions)
  • It enables  multi disciplinary teams, various actors to get a common vision,
  • It reduces communication issues: we do it in groups, face to face, in the same room…
  • It fosters creativity by giving the impression that nothing is fixed and that we can change things easily
  • It’s interactive and fun with direct manipulation and collective activities (far from the passivity of some traditional meetings)
  • It is adaptive and scalable with various facilitation techniques adjusted to different contexts

To conclude, take a look at this huge session of paper prototyping:

Agile coaching tips: make the planning poker easier and more visual !

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2010/08/11

One of the first differences observed with Agile is the way we estimate the size and duration of an IT project.

The entire team is made responsible for the estimate of the product Backlog (the list of all functionality desired in the product). Indeed, the team is invited to estimate collectively this list of valuable items that will require his work.

Scrum teams use Story Points and Planning Poker for this activity.

  • Story Points represent a measurement of the effort required by a team to implement a Story.
  • Planning Poker is an effective (and funny) way to assign collectively story points to user stories on the product backlog. It is a special card game based on the Fibonacci sequence. The idea is to pick a representative story and assign it a point value, then estimate the other stories relative to this standard (consensus must be reached for each user story)
Planning Poker Deck

Planning Poker Deck

Collective intelligence is the pillar of this new way to estimate … an effective team-based estimation technique but not so natural at first. Relative size and consensus are not so easy for the teams new to agile.

The problem:

Teams often lose the thread of their estimates. They have difficulty in comparing or lack of benchmarks.

An answer:

Use a visual display of the planning poker values in columns, and place the user stories in the appropriate column during the activity.

Visual display of the estimates

Visual display of the estimates


  • It is an effective form of visual management
  • It facilitates comparison and triangulation
  • It reinforces the concept of relative size (effort)
  • It reinforces the idea that result is not frozen during the activity: change is easy t!

The prioritized backlog … and Santa Claus!

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2009/11/13

Christmas is coming and kids know it. This is what happened to me last weekend …

My kids « Dad … Dad for Christmas … can we play the sticky notes game  »
Me: « Okay kids, but this time we’re going to change the rules »

In one year, I had the time to improve the process  🙂 even if the constraints are almost the same:

  • Santa Claus is very busy
  • His sledge is not expandable
  • The deadlines are tight
  • The delivery date cannot be moved

In addition, my kids as good Product Owners have understood two important things making them realize the importance of priorities:

  • You cannot have everything (even if you always want more),
  • Being good (or not) can potentially impact on what you’d receive

Scrum / XP from … Home!

Or how we set priorities to write the letter to Santa Claus 🙂

Step1 : Brainstorming, data collection and workshops
Passionate reading for weeks, intensive research from several sources, and interviews with the little brother to finally cut in the magazines the images of the toys they like


Step 2: Backlog Initialization
The images are cut. In case of several kids, ask them to place their images in an envelope. Use one envelope by child then one image by sticky note. The backlog is initiated.


Step 3: Backlog Prioritization
Notes are laid on the ground. Ask the kids to rank in order of preference by placing on the top toys they want most, the most important to them…

… ..



Step 4: Backlog Display
Notes are now prioritized on the ground. We had to find a wall or a door to display them vertically (visual management …).

My daughter’s wall (not very reasonable):


My son’s wall (moderate …)


Retrospective: We had a good time and kids were very happy !

My wife and I’ll take care of the estimation (points/ euros) 🙂

Return on Time Invested … A ROTI for your meetings !

Posted by jc-Qualitystreet on 2009/01/09

VALUE, FEEDBACK & ADAPTATION, COURAGE, TRANSPARENCY: this is the Lean and Agile mindset.

More than ever focus on value and waste elimination are organizations’ high priorities : lean thinking must drive our projects. And it starts by your meetings !

ROTI (Return on Time Investment) is a quick and easy method to gauge the time spent on meetings or workshops, and to improve their effectiveness.

How does it work ?
Take 5-15 minutes at the end of the meeting to ask participants to rate their return on time invested, using the Fist of Five technique and this 1-5 scale:


If you receive a majority of 1 or 2 fingers votes, you know there is a problem. Anyway, discuss with the participants who rated 1 or 2, discover why and react, plan to do something else, better, the next time.

I use the Return On Time Invested technique intensively (meetings, workshops, conferences), and really appreciate it.  It’s VISUAL and provides you with IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK (but are you ready to receive it ?). The focus on what is really valuable but also commitment, empowerment, transparency, continuous Improvement are the key benefits I notice.

ROTI is quick, easy, sometimes funny, and works very well, even with top management.

Two good referrences (article and book):