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When I started with the Agile Self-assessment Game, there was only one deck of cards and a small document with playing suggestions. In the past years, it has turned into multiple card decks, in various languages, supported by many different exercises. Early 2019 I also released my book The Agile Self-assessment Game. I’m aware that with all the choices available it can be difficult to understand what you need and how to get exactly that.

This article describes what’s available for the Agile Self-assessment Game and where and how you can acquire what you need to play the game.

One book, many card options

My book The Agile Self-assessment Game provides games where you need cards to play them. Packages are provided in my webshop that consists of the book (paperback or ebook) and the English and Dutch cards. You can add the book, individual card decks, and supporting services to your shopping basket and check out. So if you want, then you can get everything you need at one place in one buy.

The book is also sold in all major (online) book stores, but unfortunately, these stores don’t offer possibilities to sell a package of the book and cards. Not even the option to sell the cards separately, as far as I know, you cannot sell digital downloads in online book stores like Amazon, Apple Books, Alibris, Barnes & Noble, Bol, etc. Leanpub is the only exception that I know of where you can sell packages of a book with digital downloads (more about that later).

There are many different card decks that can be used with the game formats that are described in the book. If you are new to the game, my suggestion is to start with the Basic Agile Cards, a deck of 52 cards that covers the agile values, principles, and practices.

There are also expansion packs for popular agile methods, like Scrum, Kanban, and DevOps. To support business-wide agile collaboration, I also created a deck of Business Agility Cards.

Finally, there’s also a deck of Agile Quality Coaching Cards; these cards can be used stand-alone (without the book or game) but also in combination with it.

Summing up, there doesn’t exist a “fixed” package of the book and cards, there are many different options.

Many of the card decks have been translated into different languages. Currently, there are cards for the Agile Self-assessment Game in English, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Czech, French, and German. For some, it makes sense to buy the English book with cards in their local language instead of English cards, making it possible for teams to play the game in their local language. Again, there is no single package of book and cards that suits all needs.

I’m also providing training to play the game. Most popular is the kick-off training, a one-hour remote workshop. that can be used together with the book and cards to understand how to play the game in your organization. This training is a service that I cannot offer through an online bookstore. It’s an add-on that you, if you need it, can easily get in my webshop.

Finally, there’s also a corporate edition of the Agile Self-assessment Game which includes the basic Agile cards and expansions packs for Scrum, DevOps, Kanban, and Business Agility, playing suggestions and experience stories, multi-team license, kick-off training and Free Lifetime Support, all in one buy for a reduced price. The only place where I can sell a product like this is in my own webshop.

Buying the book when you have the cards already

Early 2019 I published my 3rd book: The Agile Self-assessment Game. This is the first book specifically about Agile Self-assessments. In this book, I explain what self-assessments are and why you would do them, and explore how to do them using the Agile Self-assessment Game. I’m also sharing experience stories from people who played the game. With plenty of ideas, suggestions, and practical cases on Agile Self-assessments, this book will help you to apply assessments and help teams to improve.

At the time that I published my book, the cards of the Agile Self-assessment Game already existed for two years. Thousands of people all around the world already have them; they use the cards with the small instruction document that describes game formats. Or maybe they have created their own game format (I’ve heard from several people who did).

For people who already have the cards, buying the book The Agile Self-assessment Game gives them many new game formats that they can use to play games and experience stories that inspire them to create their own format. For them, it makes perfect sense to buy the book without the cards.

Many people who buy my book on Amazon seem to have the cards already. At least, that’s my assumption, based on the sales that I see in various channels and my webshop. This is why I decided to offer the book on Amazon without cards for a lower price (instead of a “package price” for book & cards), giving people the option to add the book to their game cards and not having to pay for cards that they have already.

The book The Agile Self-assessment Game was created using Leanpub. People who subscribed to the book on Leanpub while I was writing it, got updates free of charge. So they now have the final version of the book.

On Leanpup you can buy packages of the book and cards, although I had to limit the choices in packages to keep it understandable. But at least you get the book and cards in one buy, that is, the ebook edition only (Leanpub doesn’t sell paperback books).

Getting the book & cards

By now I think it’s clear that the game and cards are actually a product with many different options and variants. I tried to price everything according to the value that it can bring. I do believe that the prices that I charge are moderate and very reasonable. You can get the ebook and 196 coaching cards for less than €27. The business value that you can realize by playing the game can be 10 to 100 times that, maybe even more.

My challenge was (and is) how to make it easy for people to get what they need to play the games, no having to buy more than needed but also no less. How do I do that?

These are the possibilities that are available to get the book & cards:

Nowadays many people buy the book on Amazon or on Bol (in the Netherlands and Belgium). They may not know that the book is also available in my webshop. Or felt safer buying the book on Amazon or Bol, which I can understand.

Disclosure, when you buy the book on Bol, you actually buy it in my Bol partner store Ben Linders Publishing. I get an email from Bol and I will ship the book to you :-).

Where my webshop is the most flexible solution for getting exactly what you need, online stores like Amazon or Bol have a much bigger outreach. Also, many people have an Amazon account or are used to buying books online in their favorite bookstore, so it makes sense to offer my book in as many online bookstores as possible.

But, as mentioned earlier, people will need to go to my webshop to get the cards. How do I support that?

Adding cards to your book

For those who buy the book in an online bookstore, how do I make it clear that they need to get the cards? And how do I make it easy to get them?

On the online bookstore pages, there is a note that says:

The agile coaching cards needed to play the game described in the book can be downloaded for a nominal fee at benlinders.com/downloads.

This note aims to make it clear that you need the cards to benefit from the book. Buying the book without the cards (unless you have them already) doesn’t make sense, the book is about playing games and you need cards to do that.

What I do for those who buy the book elsewhere is to invite them to my webshop to buy the card decks that they need, even before they buy the book.

Inside, the book also provides information about how to get the cards. In the section Getting the Cards it states:

The basic Agile Self-Assessment Cards deck has 52 cards with statements on applying agile principles and practices. These cards can be downloaded in PDF format in my Agile Games webshop.

Expansion packs with additional cards are also available in the webshop. These packs contain cards with statements covering specific principles and practices from agile methods and frameworks.

Registering your book

I give Free Lifetime Support to people who buy my services and products. This includes all of my books, games, and other agile coaching tools, no matter where you buy them.

To be able to give this support, customers need to connect with me. If they buy something in my webshop that happens automatically. If you buy my book in an online bookstore, you are also entitled to Free Lifetime Support. But then you need to take action to let me know that you bought one of my products (makes sense, doesn’t it?).

In the book I mentioned: 

Register your book today to get access to supporting materials and download the card decks for playing games from this book with a discount at benlinders.com/agile-self-assessment-game.

Although there are some that buy the book on Amazon or in another online book store who register their book (registration is completely free btw), many don’t seem to do that. Due to that, they miss out on the possibility to buy the cards with a discount.

If you haven’t registered your book yet, you can still do that!

After registration, you are taken to the page benlinders.com/assess-agility/ where you can see the discounts that are offered. This page also makes it easier to select cards and buy them through my webshop. Sure, it’s a page that tries to sell cards and additional services, but it’s honest and transparent on what you get and prices are very reasonable.

Getting what you need to play the Agile Self-assessment Game

Giving all the different choices it can be difficult to find out what you need and where to get it. The information above aims to help you, but it’s a lot of information and might confuse you even more.

There’s an easy solution though. If you are unsure about what to do or where to buy, send me an email and I will help you. Contact me via benlinders@gmail.com so that I can support you to get what you need at the best conditions and lowest price to play the Agile Self-assessment Game.

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A constellation exercise can be used in agile retrospectives to visualize what’s happening in a team. It enables team members to take a systematic view, explore the situation at hand, and decide on what to do to improve how they work together.

This is an exercise for people who do not like to talk much (introverts) or do not feel comfortable sharing their opinion/feelings openly. Initially, people don’t have to speak, they will just move their body to show how they feel about a topic.

Facilitating a constellation retrospective

Start by creating an open space by moving tables and chairs to the side of out of the room if needed. You need to have enough space so that people can move around comfortably and have an overview of where everyone is in the room.

Put an object on the floor in the middle and explain to the team that this object is the center of the universe. Next, ask the attendees to form a circle around it at a distance where they can move in all directions freely. As a facilitator, take a position outside the circle so that you have a good overview.

Explain that as the facilitator you will read some statements. After reading one, you would like people to move closer to or farther from the object depending on how true the statement is for them. So, if they agree with the statement, they should move a step to the object. If they do not agree with it, they should do a step away from the object (note that this is the “basic” way for people to move in a constellation, see below for more options).

After some questions, ask the participants to take a look at what is happening, how people are positioned, the moves they made, etc. For instance, you can ask “What move did you make, why?“ or “What does the shape tell you?” or “Are you surprised with the shape?” Let them talk to each other. It’s important to allow healthy discussions.

As a next step, you might pick two or three statements with the most differing opinions for discussion within the team in order to get a common understanding of where they are and where they would like to be. After that, help the team decide which actions they will do and close the retrospective.

Constellations in practice

The constellation exercise has been described in my book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives. Luis Gonçalves, co-author of the book, learned this exercise from Lyssa Adkins when he attended her workshop Coaching Agile Teams.

The first time that I personally experienced what a constellation can do was at the beginning of this century. At that time I was the chairman of a foundation that aimed to share knowledge and experience with process improvement. The whole board of the foundation took part in constellation exercise, led by a facilitator who was trained in doing family constellations. Doing the constellation gave us very valuable insights on how we worked together as a team and showed where we felt disconnected with our members and stakeholder. It was a great learning experience, which drove me to dive into both systematic constellations and family constellations.

Nowadays I use the constellation retrospective exercise as a tool to make things visible and have people experience what is happening. My experience is that it’s easier for people to vote with their feet or body than to say how they feel about something.

When I do a constellation, I’m ok with people to not agree nor disagree, and stay at the same place. I have seen this happening in constellation, usually it’s I sign that they don’t have a real opinion about a topic or feel that the topic isn’t really important. Which also tells something …

Doing constellations I also encourage people to move in whatever way best represents how they feel about a statement. They can go sideways, turn around, jump or lay down, what move they think fits with the statement is allowed.

Questions for constellation exercises

The questions that are asked during the constellation have a great impact on the result. They should challenge the attendees (in a positive way of course) to take a position and show how they feel about a topic.

To have a focused retrospective, it’s important to pick one topic and phrase questions to view it from different sides.

As a facilitator, you have to invest time preparing the questions before the retrospective. Then again, I’ve also had constellations where I can up with a new question during the exercise based on how people responded to earlier questions.

Let me give you an example. In one of my workshops, I use the questions below to do a constellation on “retrospectives”:

  • Our Scrum masters see the need for retrospectives
  • Retrospectives are well prepared
  • Retrospectives are time well spent, they are never dull
  • Team members are willing to do retrospectives and they always attend
  • We use different exercises in the retrospectives
  • Managers want teams to do retrospectives, they support them
  • Actions from the retrospective are follow up and done

The above questions are all focused on retrospectives, but they give attention to the different aspects of them. Together they provide insight for my workshop attendees how retrospectives are working out and where the main challenges are.

Your toolbox of retrospective exercises

As a retrospective facilitator, it helps to have a toolbox to do retrospectives. Teams are different, and also the things that teams are dealing with can differ from sprint to sprint. Therefore it helps if you know many retrospective exercises that you can choose from.

The Retrospective Exercises Toolbox provides a collection of exercises that you can use to do valuable agile retrospectives, with additional information about books and workshops on agile retrospectives.

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The Ukrainian translation of the Prime Directive has been added to the blog post Retrospective Prime Directive in many languages. This post now contains 17 translations of this important statement that is used in Agile Retrospectives all over the world.

Ukrainian translation

Last week I gave a keynote about Driving Improvements with Agile Retrospectives at the Lviv Project & Product Management Day. I presented the Prime Directive in English and asked the people in the audience for a translation into Ukrainian. A big thanks to Yuriy Protsiuk who posted the Ukrainian translation on LinkedIn the next day.

The new translations that was added is:

Незалежно від того, про що ми дізналися, ми розуміємо і щиро віримо, що всі виконували роботу якнайкраще, враховуючи те, що вони знали на цей час, їх навики та уміння, наявні ресурси, і ситуацію, що склалася.

The Prime Directive

Psychological safety is essential when doing agile retrospectives. Norman Kerth came up with the prime directive for retrospectives in his book Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews. In our book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives we referred to the prime directive as an effective way to establish safety.

The provided translations make it possible for teams to create a safe environment in their local language.

Retrospective Smells

Safety is so important that I dedicated one of the Agile Retrospective Smells Cards, Lack of Safety, to this. The card describes how to recognize this smell and provides antidotes that facilitators can use to restore safety.

The Agile Retrospective Smells Cards is an Agile Coaching Tool to deal with situations and behavior that can hamper your agile retrospectives. This deck of agile coaching cards can be downloaded in my webshop.

These cards can be used together with the Agile Retrospective Bingo, a game to recognize unproductive behavior. And there’s my best-selling book which provides you with many exercises to spice up your agile retrospective:

If you want Agile Retrospectives where attendees feel safe to speak up, the Agile Retrospective Smells Cards are there for you to make this possible!

Please share this news to help teams doing safe and valuable agile retrospectives all around the world!

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For the fifth time in a row, I’m returning to the Agile Summit Greece to give workshops. Join me for the Workshop Improving Organizational Agility on Wednesday, September 18, in Athens. Ticket sales has started, book your seat at the Agile Summit Greece 2019.

Learn how to apply agile throughout your organization to develop the right products, deliver faster with better quality, and improve organizational agility!

Workshop Improving Organizational Agility

Many organizations are going through agile transformations. They are implementing Scrum or Kanban and using large-scale agile frameworks like Lean, SAFe, LeSS or DAD, hoping to better serve the IT needs of the business and to develop products that satisfy their customer’s needs. Unfortunately, those transformations do not always live up to the agile promise of delivering better products, faster, at lower costs.

If your organization is

  • having difficulties to adjust itself to shorten delivery times
  • having products with quality issues and is losing customers
  • doing an agile/Scrum/Kanban transformation but not seeing the expected benefits
  • unable to remove barriers that are blocking cross-organizational collaboration
  • trying to adopt agile but finding it hard to change the culture and mindset
  • looking for ways to apply agile practices more effectively and needs help with that
  • not able to improve in small but meaningful steps
  • on an agile journey but unsure where to go next or what would be the best thing to do

then this is the workshop for you!

In the workshop Improving Organizational Agility you will experience how your organization can become more agile:

  • Practice how to create an environment that enables teams and empower them to apply agile practices.
  • Learn ways to establish an agile mindset throughout the organization.
  • Create a culture that supports collaboration and which motivates people to work together to create high-quality products and services.

The workshop is loaded with examples and suggestions to help you become more agile and lean.

This workshop is intended for:

  • Agile and Lean Coaches
  • Agile Consultants and Change Managers
  • Anybody who is supporting teams in agile transformations
  • Technical (team) leaders and Scrum masters
  • Product Owners and Project/Line Managers

The practices in this workshop will help you to apply agile methods and frameworks effectively to increase organizational agility.

Workshop Takeaways

What will you get out of this workshop:

  • Practice how to assess your agility with Agile Self-assessments to find out how well you are doing
  • Learn effective ways to travel your agile journey and find out what you need to do this
  • Get ideas for improving collaboration and communication between teams and stakeholders and break down barriers
  • Learn tips and tricks to expand and scale an agile way of working throughout the organization
  • Get advice on selecting and applying agile and lean practices effectively
Agile Summit Greece

The Agle Summit Greece is the biggest agile conference in Southern Europe. It’s an international event/conference gathering world-class agile experts:

Addressing developers, team leaders, managers and executives, AGRS brings together top class agile speakers and and agile practitioners from around the world.

Following four very successful conferences and having hosted some of the most significant and influential people of the Agile movement, we’re up for the fifth AGRS.

Focusing on improvement, we aim this year to bring you a different conference setup with an enriched experience.

I gave a talk and workshops at the first summit in 2015 and came back every year since to give workshops :-).

The 2019 conference theme is:

Build great teams that can change the world

The conference will be held September 19 & 20, 2019, in the beautiful city of Athens, Greece.

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Agile talks a lot about self-organized teams, where developers and testers work together to deliver software. In this third article in the series on agile teams, I’ll explore why you want to work in a team, what’s in it for you?

Talking with people I notice that there’s much unclearness on what agile team are, why collaboration matters, and how to work together effectively in teams. The aim of my article series on agile teams is to increase awareness of agile team working and help you to get better in working together in and with agile teams.

In the first article What are agile teams? I explored how agile teams look and what makes them differ from a group or any other format in which people work together. The second article Working together in agile teams dived into what people say when they don’t want to work in a team and how you can start working together effectively.

Why work in agile teams

When people are introduced to agile, for instance when an organization is going through an agile transformation, they may ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” Which is a very valid question to ask. For years they have been doing their work in a certain way, and now somebody is telling them that they will become part of a team and have to do their work differently.

Let me make clear that I’m against imposing anything on people. If you want people to change their way of working (which is already questionable) you can invite them to try it. My approach is to help people reflect on how things are going (for instance by playing the Agile Self-assessment Game), and have them decide what they would like to do differently.

Ok, back to the question of “what’s in it for me”. Some of the benefits that I see for individual team members are:

  • You can learn from your teammates just by talking to them, in retrospectives, by pairing, working as a mob
  • It’s easier to get help from or give help to teammates
  • Team members can mentor and coach each other
  • Together in a team, you can get more done and get credits for it
  • Most people find it satisfactory to work in teams

What’s better than learning from peers, from people who face similar problems that you have and have found ways to deal with them. In teams, people learn from each other when they work together daily.

Agile retrospectives are a great way for teams to reflect and learn. When people feel safe in a team it easier for them to speak up. Don’t use them only to talk about problems, remember to also share good things and encourage people to try something new.

Pairing and working as a mob are some of the techniques that teams can use to deal with complex problems. They are intense ways of working together, so use them wisely as they may drain your energy.

If you get stuck, then you can ask a team member for help. As you know and trust each other in a team, it will be easier to do this.

Similar to that it’s easier for people to offer help to a teammate than to somebody outside the team.

Once asking for and getting help becomes a habit, you can take it further by coaching and mentoring each other in teams. People feel rewarded when they can help others to develop themselves, teaching them to go fishing instead of giving them food.

People basically want to do a good job and create something that’s valuable. In teams, people can do more than working individually, and they can do things better. Accomplishing more makes people feel good.

When working in a team you often get more credits than working individually. Although it might initially be challenging, in the long run it’s easier for managers to give credit to a team than to an individual. The results that an agile team delivers are visible (sprint review!). Crediting the team also encourages collaboration, where crediting individuals may create heroes who work mostly in isolation.

In teams, teammates can also give credits to each other. They can show their appreciation and be grateful for what their colleagues have done. A way to practice this

Humans are social beings, they like to do things together. Teams provide a safe environment for this.

A good team has camaraderie, a sense of belonging which makes work more enjoyable.

Summing up, there are many reasons why people would like to work in teams. Again, don’t impose team working on people, invite them and give them space to experience it!

There is an I in team

Earlier I interviewed William Perry about his book iTeam – Putting the “I” Back into Team, where I asked him which challenge from his book he considers most difficult for teams?

William E. Perry: The biggest challenge that teams often have is to understand the required outcome. This is essential for any team to stay focused. If they don’t understand what they will have to deliver, to whom, and why, it will be very difficult to organize the work, and find effective ways to work together. So whenever you find a team that is struggling, your first attention should be to check if the expected outcome is clear, and if it is not, then do whatever is necessary to make it clear!

You can read the full interview in Teams, what’s in it for me? An interview with William Perry

This article is the third one in a series of articles based on my presentation Teams, what’s in it for me? that I gave at the first GrowIT conference. I will give an updated version of this presentation at Agile Portugal 2019.

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The Impediment Board Game can be used by teams to learn how to collaboratively recognize and deal with impediments and improve their impediment handling skills. The game can be downloaded in my webshop.

The Impediment Board Game consists of:

  • Game board
  • Actions board
  • Impediment Cards
  • Change Cards

I’ve played this game at the XP Days Benelux 2018 and the Lean and Agile ME Summit 2019. If you want to get a taste of the game, please come to my mini-workshop at ACE! 2019 where I will play the game with teams.

The Impediment Board Game includes the Impediment Cards, a deck of 79 cards with statements that I hear from people working in or with agile teams. The statements on these cards are signals of potential problems; impediments as agile calls them. Consider them to be a kind of problem-discussion-and-solving cards, an agile coaching tool for increasing agility of teams. The Impediment Cards are also sold separately.

Both the game and the coaching cards are available in PDF format. Buy the product in my webshop, download it, and start playing!

Improving Impediment Handling Skills

Playing the Impediment Board Game enables teams to reflect on how they deal with impediments and agree what they would like to do differently to become more effective. One possibility is to play this game in agile retrospectives when teams want to become better in handling impediments.

Agile coaches use the Impediment Board Game in agile transformations to coach teams and help them to become self-organized and empowered to solve any impediments that they might face on their agile journey.

In my workshops, I use many exercises, games, and real-life cases. With the Impediment Coaching Cards and the Impediment Board I train people in dealing with impediments. If you want to join one of my workshops, here’s a list of upcoming workshops:

Contact me if you want me to come over to your city/country to give a workshop or need a quote for an in-house workshop or awareness session.

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5* waarom is een techniek om de grondoorzaken van een probleem te vinden. Door deze grondoorzaken aan te pakken kun je voorkomen dat vergelijkbare problemen in de toekomst optreden.

De 5x waarom (5 times why) pas ik o.a. toe in Root Cause Analysis of in Agile Retrospectives, waarbij je met de betrokkenen een probleem analyseert Dat kan een fout zijn in een product, een verstoring van een project, of een repeterend probleem.

Wat het ook is, het probleem is iets wat je niet meer wilt dat het gebeurd. Je zoekt naar de grondoorzaken (root causes) om het probleem structureel aan te pakken.

Hoe doe je 5* waarom

Zoals de naam van deze techniek al suggereert, bij 5* waarom gaat het om het herhaaldelijk stellen van de “waarom” vraag. Het gaat erom dat je met het stellen van de vragen oorzaken en gevolgen in kaart brengt. Om dat te visualiseren maak ik een oorzaak-gevolg (cause-effect) diagram:

Bij het doorvragen is mijn ervaring dat het aantal keer dat je het vraagt sterk kan variëren. Soms kom je na 2 of 3 keer vragen bij een grondoorzaak. Of je merkt na enkele keren vragen in een bepaalde richting dat je daar niet verder komt, en beter kunt stoppen.

Ik maak ook regelmatig mee dat je in een soort flow komt met de betrokkenen, waarin je met doorvragen het ware probleem blootlegt, en dan kan het wel eens 10 keer vragen worden, of meer.

Ik speel vaak ook met de vraagstelling, om irritatie te voorkomen, bijvoorbeeld door een vraag meer gericht te formuleren (niet suggestief!), of andere woorden te gebruiken. En soms helpt een procesopmerking, bv. “zullen we dit pad verder onderzoeken?”, om de betrokken te stimuleren om er dieper in te duiken.

Mijn booklet Tools for Root Cause Analysis geeft je de hulpmiddelen om grondoorzaken in kaart te brengen en aan te pakken.

Tools for Root Cause Analysis (ebook)

How to effectively analyze problems to identify the main causes that have led to them, and to initiate actions to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

Over the years, I’ve been asked many times for a hands-on solution to do Root Cause Analysis (RCA). I have described a process and a checklist to help organizations that want to start with it, and I’m providing a report with an example. Together they form this mini booklet.

Meerdere grondoorzaken

Het komt vrijwel nooit voor dat er maar 1 grondoorzaak is. Het zijn er eigenlijk altijd meer, en ze zijn vaak aan elkaar gerelateerd.

Soms gaat het mis door een combinatie van oorzaken: Als en A en B en C gebeuren, dan geeft dat een probleem. Dat kan zijn omdat de oorzaken (vrijwel) tegelijk optreden, of omdat A in combinatie met B tot iets leidt, wat in combinatie met C tot een probleem leidt.

Het kan ook zijn dat er meerdere grondoorzaken zijn die onafhankelijk van elkaar bij hebben gedragen aan het probleem. Als je dan 1 grondoorzaak aanpak, heb je nog steeds kans dat het probleem optreed.

Mijn advies: Stop niet met 5* waarom bij het vinden van de eerste grondoorzaak maar ga door tot je inzicht hebt in de belangrijkste oorzaken.

Hoe diep ga je?

Met 5* waarom zoek je naar de diepere oorzaken van problemen. Je gaat door tot je grondoorzaken (root causes) te pakken hebt. Maar hoe weet je dat je er bent, hoe diep moet je gaan en hoe voorkom je dat je nodeloos doorgaat?

Een signaal dat je in de buurt komt van een of meerdere grondoorzaken is als het stil wordt na enkele keren doorvragen. Je komt dan op een gebied waar de probleemhebbers mee worstelen, waar ze het (nog) niet over hebben, waar gevoeligheden liggen. 5* waarom is dan een effectieve manier om zoiets bespreekbaar te maken.

Een andere aanwijzing dat je bij een grondoorzaak bent aangekomen heeft te maken met het soort oorzaak. Grondoorzaken hebben vrijwel altijd te maken met “zachte” dingen, zoals kennis en ervaring, communicatie, samenwerking, etc. Een proces of een tool is geen grondoorzaak, de problemen zitten meestal in het gebruik ervan.

5* waarom: Gewoon doen

Met 5* waarom kun je de grondoorzaken van een probleem vinden en aanpakken om te voorkomen dat vergelijkbare problemen in de toekomst optreden. Een krachtige techniek die ik vanuit mijn ervaring aanbeveel!

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In this guest post, Violaine Truck asks herself the question: Can a card game replace an agile maturity diagnostic? Read below to find out about her concerns dealing with clients that asked her to measure their agile maturity, and her experiences from playing the Agile Self-assessment Game.

As an Agile coach, I lately found myself in the position of having to “measure or diagnose” the Agile maturity of an organization. At the same time, I got the opportunity to play the Ben Linders’ Agile self-assessment Card Game with one of the Scrum teams I coached and lately read his book  The Agile Self-assessment Game which comes handy if you wish to extract the maximum potential of the author’s Agile self-assessment card game.

This is what I learned.

Measuring Agile Maturity

As they say:

If you can’t measure your work, how do you know you’re heading into the right direction?

Certainly, if my client had started seeing the benefits of the Agile journey among teams and witnessed visible results, such a request for measuring Agile maturity would probably not have emerged, right?

So, the “need” for diagnosis probably comes from an assumption or shall I say the “perception” that the teams are stuck somewhere in between “implementation” and getting real value for it.

Now, would I have had the opportunity to take a step back, I probably would have invited my client to do the same and answer the following questions: “why” would you want to diagnose the Agile “maturity” of your teams and what exactly do you want to measure? What are you looking for?

I would probably have gone into explaining that Agile “maturity” or shall we say “capacity” is simply not “measurable”. Agility is not something absolute or set in stone. It’s more of a journey and it is relative. As a reminder, Agile is value driven and adaptive and the vision creates features estimates.

So, let’s assume the purpose of measurement is to be able to compare one’s own organization’s performance with others… I could have proposed my client to look up the Mike Cohn Tool.

The Comparative Agility tool collects and stores your results in their cloud so you can compare your data collections with industry/global indices… you can see how other players on the market are going on engineering practices for instance or how Agile culture is doing these days. It surely will contribute to uncovering where your team stands compared to market/global index and gives you direction, not a diagnosis per se.

But, I would have probably end up telling my client that one thing this tool or any other great exaction and analysis tool like that will never bring him/her is precisely TRUST: If you don’t believe that people can assess their current state objectively enough, why did you hire them in the first place?

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

Manifesto for AgileSoftware Development

The search for a way to measure the Agile maturity/capacity of an organization reminds me of traditional big transformation programs with a project’s predictivity approach and a top-down mindset where managers want to plan how to increase maturity by xx% so that transformation will be considered successful. What is considered “success” for an Agile implementation anyway?

In complex environments, what will happen is unknown” (…) “Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Scrum Guide

Now that organizations are starting to realize that the world has gone VUCA, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, the need for T.R.U.S.T, Transparency, Recognition, User-oriented, Self-awareness, T-Shaping seems to be slowly replacing the need for predicting “maturity” or monitoring key performance indicators and this is where self-assessment tools come handy and appropriate.

Impact perception and observable change rather than tools to measure!

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

Monitoring performance should rely on impact perception (observable change) rather than on an external audit. At least, that’s what I learned trying to build a “diagnostic” radar based on some famous existing tools such as the The Scrum Checklist or the Squad Health Check model from Spotify/Henrik Kniberg.

Self-assessment tools stand as typically appropriate in C.A.S (Complex adaptive systems) as they are empowering and helpful techniques for teams.

Because an assessment game is first of all a game (not a questionnaire or a face to face interview with a person in charge or giving a mark) it helps generate spontaneous conversations, facilitates discussions on future improvements and allows team members to step back on their work and self-evaluate where they really are and where they should put their focus on in order to improve.

Nothing is indeed as powerful as gamification according to Ben Linders who lists a large number of tools on his website to help you put together a Health Check Up or self assessment. The Agile consultant describes gamification as a way to “engage and involve people”.

In his new book The Agile Self-Assessment Game — An agile coaching tool for improving the Agility of your teams and organization, Ben Linders explores ways to get the most out of his Self-assessment” Card Game he created some years ago. This is an inspiring journey during which the author explores different ways to use the game and provides techniques, ideas and “experience stories” from other people in order to better apply self-assessments to an organization.

For the author, Agile methods and frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, SAFe or LeSS, don’t tell you how to increase your agility. They provide practices, roles and activities and a structure which fits them together. But they are no “recipes that can help you truly become agile.”

With this card game, “everyone wins if they share and collaborate and there are no losers” Linders notes!

But this is not just another card game: in his latest book, Linders parses some ingenious ways to play the game and makes a compilation of situations where you can benefit from the full potential of the card game. Among Linders’ playing suggestions, we start to learn how to use the cards in a more classic way during a Scrum Retrospective meeting, or doing an agile health check based on a radar chart.

But some suggestions come out of ordinary, I particularly enjoyed discovering the “First things first” way of playing the game where each member got to decide for him or herself what are the top improvements priorities.

“The best or worst Agile Practice Contest” or “Learning by sharing challenges” both stand among one of the most original playing formats described, the latter being particularly useful when you want to spread knowledge and share practices among several teams. Competing for creative ways of playing Linders’ cards game, let’s also mention the “Angel’s advocate” to stimulate creativity and positive thinking, “Two truths and a lie” based on the icebreaker of the same name or last but not least “1–2–4 all from Liberating Structures” where people can discuss in pairs, then foursomes and finally as a whole group.

At the end of the book, Linders lists a bunch of Agile Self-Assessments tools which you can also find on his website.

The game comes with expansion packs on specific areas you might want to focus on when self-assessing such as Scrum, DevOps, Business Agility and Kanban. It also comes in several languages, including the French language.

Why would you measure Agility and determine an Agility percentage?

Make a customer survey instead with questions covering responsiveness, features quality, features value, support provided, delivery timeliness etc.

But in any case, don’t forget to inspire your teams with Agile games such as self-assessment games.

Don’t manage the people, manage Environments!

Jurgen Appelo

Metrics do no drive team performances. Metrics are not inherently good or bad, it is the use of the metric that drives team dysfunction.

Agility can be learned by practicing and helping others improve rather than by elaborating an ideal solution ready to be deployed by some Change agents.

Individuals and their interactions are keys and more important than strategic plans and top-down communication

You should provide context and support to sustain motivation of your self-organized teams in order to satisfy your client rather than counting the number of “Agile-trained” teams you have in order to follow rules and tools.

Christophe Keromen — Extract from SOAT Conference Jan. 2019. Maison du Management. Freely translated/adapted from French.

Violaine Truck is an agile coach based in Paris, France. This guest post is based on her Medium article Can a card game replace an agile maturity diagnostic?

Assessing Agility

Organizations that are asking for some kind of maturity measurement or assessment is not something new. In the 80s and 90s I (Ben Linders) have been doing many CMM(I) assessments which were a solution to this, although not specifically for agility as that wasn’t invented yet. Over the years, the assessments that I did changed toward assessing the organizational capabilities: basic premises for delivering products and services and for being able to improve. Where CMMI version V1.3 incorporated agile practices into the model, I felt it wasn’t suitable to assess the agility of organizations.

I started doing self-assessments in the previous century, about 25 years ago. When people reflect on how they are doing and feel empowered to decide what they want to change, improvement becomes a completely different story. Imposing process, tools, or changes on people has shown to be very ineffective. People are not against change but they resist being changed, so thing will actually get worse when you try to do this.

I recognize the challenges described by Violaine in this guest post when it comes to measuring agile maturity using a classical (non-agile) approach. I would put it even stronger. If such a measurement approach doesn’t lead to hefty discussions and internal conflicts, big chance that your organization isn’t agile by far!

Becoming agile works better when an agile approach is used. The same is true for measuring agility: use a tool that is based upon the agile values and principles. The Agile Self-assessment Game is exactly that; an Agile Coaching Tool to find out how agile you are and what you can do to increase your agility.

Again thank you Violaine for sharing your experiences!

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The bestselling book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives is also available in Spanish and Italian. Each book contains thirteen exercises that you can try out in your agile retrospectives, using your native language.

Obteniendo valor de las Retrospectivas ágiles

Este libro contiene muchos ejercicios que puedes utilizar para facilitar retrospectivas ágiles, apoyados con el “qué” y el “por qué” de las retrospectivas, el valor para negocio y los beneficios que aportan, así como asesoramiento para introducir y mejorar las retrospectivas.

Orientamos este libro a agile coaches, scrum masters, directores de proyecto, gerentes de producto y facilitadores que tengan por lo menos un poco de experiencia en la realización de las retrospectivas. Ellos saben la finalidad de la retrospectiva, cómo encajan en ágil y la forma de organizar y llevarlas a cabo.

Angel Medinilla wrote the foreword for the Spanish edition:

Es posible que, como lector o lectora de este libro, sientas la tentación de saltar directamente a los magníficos juegos, técnicas, ejercicios y herramientas que contiene. Esto sería un gran error, ya que Luis y Ben han acertado al incluir al principio del libro una serie de reflexiones fundamentales sobre un aspecto crucial de las retrospectivas: el por qué de las retrospectivas, qué esperamos de ellas y que requisitos son necesarios para que funcionen adecuadamente.

No entender estos aspectos sería tan poco efectivo como aprender a manejar el martillo y la sierra sin saber si queremos una silla o un armario. Del mismo modo, pretender que los equipos pasen súbitamente de ser dirigidos a ser facilitados, de ser coordinados a colaborar entre ellos, de obedecer órdenes a auto-organizarse, todo ello sin considerar las condiciones necesarias para que se desarrollo esta nueva forma de trabajo, es una receta segura para el desastre. Luis y Ben han acertado al resaltar estos aspectos al principio del libro, y harás bien en confiar en ellos y seguir sus consejos.

The Spanish translation was published as an ebook in July 2014. The paperback edition was released in February 2019. The ebook is available in all major online bookstores and in my webshop. The paperback edition is sold on amazon.es, amazon.com, and all other amazon shops.

Ottieni il meglio dalle tue Retrospettive Agili

Questo libro propone molte tecniche che potrai usare per facilitare le tue retrospettive, supportato dal “cosa” e “perchè” delle stesse, il valore economico e i benefici che comportano, nonchè come strumento di consulenza per introdurre e migliorare le tue retrospettive.

Questo libro si rivolge ai coach di metodologie agili, Scrum Masters, Project e Product Managers e facilitatori che hanno almeno qualche esperienza nelle retrospettive. Conoscono il loro scopo, come funzionano nel mondo delle metodologie agili, come organizzarle e come effettuarle.

Jacopo Romei wrote the foreword for the Italian edition:

Nel libro di Luis e Ben troverete da un lato un importante richiamo alla ratio delle retrospettive: perché farle, quali vantaggi aspettarsene e con chi effettuarle; dall’altro troverete pragmaticissime dritte sugli esercizi da mettere in atto, sui loro prerequisiti e sulle tipiche resistenze che si devono fronteggiare quando si introduce questa pratica in team che non ne conoscono ancora l’enorme potenziale.

The Italian translation was published as an ebook in September 2014. The paperback edition was released in February 2019. The ebook is available in all major online bookstores and in my webshop. The paperback edition is sold on amazon.it, amazon.com, and all other amazon shops.

A book about Agile Retrospectives in your native language

People from all over the world approach me to discuss translating my books and games into their native language. I love to work together with local agile communities and agile practitioners to make my experiences available in their local language.

The English edition Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives is available in paperback in many online book stores. Translated paperback editions (currently only Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian are available in paperback) can be bought in my webshop, on bol.com and Managementbook.nl, and Amazon.

You can buy local language ebook editions in my webshop, at Amazon.com (and all other Amazon shops), LeanpubiTunesSmashwordsLuluBarnes & NobleKoboScribdBlio and stores that connect with any of these.

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Are you a Scrum master? Then I’d like to hear what your favorite books are. Please cast your vote in the book poll below.

Favorite Scrum master books – Online poll

Select the books that are your favorites from the list below. You can pick as many books as you like.

If one of your favorite books is not on the list, then feel free to add it using “add your answer” at the end of the poll.

What are your favorite books for Scrum masters?
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Cast your vote to see the results of this poll!

If your favorite book isn't listed, please add the title and author at "add your answer".

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The poll will remain open as long as people are voting (which may be forever). You can also find the poll on the Recommended Books page.

The Scrum master

Being a Scrum master often isn’t easy. You’re supposed to serve the team, to help them to reach their goals, and find ways to become better as a team. How can you do that?

The above books provide you with ideas, examples and inspiration. These are the books that I recommend tp Scrum masters and to those that want to become one.

Please cast your vote on the books that helped you to become a better Scrum master.

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