Category Archives: Fun

The Impediment Monkey Announcement – Bash Your Impediments!

We here at Agile Advantage are excited about a new product offering that we announced today called Impediment Monkey!

This product goes along with our first product, AgileEVM, to help companies take advantage of Agile software delivery methods at scale for increased business value and reduced risk on project investments.

Impediment Monkey will make removing roadblocks to daily progress fun and effective. Impediment Monkey takes in, notifies, helps in resolving and makes bashing impediments exciting and objective. Additionally, Impediment Monkey will let you assign, follow up, chart trends and even provides services to support your impediment bashing efforts.

Go to the Impediment Monkey web site and sign up to keep informed and potentially become an early beta tester of the product. We are looking for your insightful feedback to make a product that is fun, effective, and provides expertise to the software development industry. Join us in making it happen.

Example Facilitation of Agile Adoption Strategy Session

More than a year ago I was training and consulting with a company that was deciding how to adopt Agile software development methods across all of their teams in the organization after some successful pilots. After a 2-day private Scrum course we decided to use the 3rd day to run a workshop on how to take their organization’s strategic business goals and support that with Agile methods adoption and Lean thinking across their project portfolio. This article will share the facilitation techniques and exercises that I used, which spanned many techniques that could helpful to others supporting strategic decision-making meetings:

For more information on Innovation Games®, please check out:

For more information on Cynefin, please check out the following articles and videos:

Hope this gets folks started in looking at Cynefin and methods around complexity. My one suggestion for anyone getting to know Cynefin is make sure that you don’t look at the “Cynefin Model” and misjudge it to be a basic 4-box model. There are actually 5 domains and a fold at the bottom that have tremendous significance in the model. Not only that, the model is about sense-making rather than categorization. With a focus on these suggestions while learning more about Cynefin I think will help make the experience more beneficial.

As for an experience report from the actual client. A company that I was asked to work with wanted a 2-day Certified ScrumMaster course along with a 3rd day workshop to focus on their specific needs. Of course, during the 2-day class we pulled many specific areas of opportunity and ideas that the group had. The participants were about 1/2 Director and above and the other 1/2 were development team members and project managers. There were about 30 folks in the class and the 2-day class was providing plenty of insights.

One thing that I am focused on in every class is not how can Scrum be implemented but what is the most valuable next steps an individual, team, or organization can make starting the very next day. In the 3rd day workshop we decided to focus on the business goals that implementing more agility would help achieve and a strategy to attain these business goals. Overnight I came up with a loose facilitated session with the following exercises:

1. Impediment Management Exercise using basic facilitation techniques:

  • Brainwriting: 10 reasons per individual that Scrum and other agility cannot be implemented effectively at company
  • Affinity grouping: on a wall place all items and affinity group them with names to provide context and insights into to the data
  • Multi-voting: not a scientific method necessarily, but quick way to get feedback on what is most important on the wall
  • Debrief actions to take

2. “Give them a hot tub” – an Innovation Games® exercise (http://innovationgames.com/resources/the-games/)

  • Used to identify goals and initiatives that would improve business outcomes focused on software development

3. Ritual Dissent – http://www.cognitive-edge.com/method.php?mid=46

  • set up tables with 6-7 folks per table
  • each table comes up with a strategy for implementing agility to attain business goals and value of agility (20 minutes)
  • 1 person is chosen by table to go to another table and present the strategy for 5 minutes – important that all tables have a chair at the end of it to have the visitor form the other table sit at
  • folks at the table that are listening to the strategy are not allowed to speak during the presentation
  • at 5 minutes the person presenting turns their chair around with back to folks at table and takes out a notebook
  • the folks at the table now ritually tear apart the presented strategy (be sure to tell all of the participants before the exercise that this will be occurring and that their duty is to be as cutting as possible) (3 minutes)
  • at 3 minutes the person that presented does not turn around and make eye contact or talk with the table of folks and then just goes back to their own table with all of their notes
  • the table uses those notes to modify their strategy (10 minutes)
  • the presenter goes to a different table 2-3 more times
  • you can end with a round where the folks at the table talk about what they liked about the strategy once it has went through 3-4 rounds but we did not do this (this is called “Ritual Assent”)
  • Find out more alternatives and ideas on Ritual Dissent at the Cognitive Edge web site

4. Combine Strategy

  • at the end it was fairly simple to pull strategy from all tables and since they shared with each other we decided what the combined strategic alignment and implementation would be presented to executive management

As an epilogue to this, the company did implement most of the strategic plan and found effective changes in their organization even 2 years later since I was there. Hopefully this article provided some opportunities for those facilitating strategic decision-making sessions and added some other options to learn about, Cynefin and Innovation Games® in particular, to your facilitation tool belt.

AgileEVM Chosen as a Top 12 Startup Finalist at First Look Forum

We are truly excited that AgileEVM has been chosen as 1 of the top 12 finalists for the First Look Forum, an event put on by Northwest Entrepreneur Network (NWEN). The entire process has been an amazing and informative experience thus far. We have received coaching from some of the best in the NWEN community on our business plan, executive summary, product pitch, and much more already. If you are part of a startup that does not already have funding and want to learn how to hone your business, we definitely recommend being part of the next NWEN First Look Forum.

Our Book is Available: Managing Software Debt – Building for Inevitable Change


I am quite happy about the book that took much of my time over the past couple years has finally come out. Thank you Addison-Wesley for asking me to write a book. Also, I want to thank Jim Highsmith and Alistair Cockburn for accepting the book into their Agile Software Development Series. Finally, I have to thank all of those that have guided, influenced, and supported me over my career and life, with special thanks to my wife and kids who put up with me during the book’s development. My family is truly amazing and I am very lucky to have them!

The Daily 15 Minutes of Fun

For the second time I find myself approving of a Daily Stand-up that is longer than 15 minutes.   This is different than a Daily Meeting that is declared complete and then a problem solving session (often with only part of the team) takes place while the issues are fresh in people’s minds.

Meet Carrie (pretend that is her real name).  The team she is part of is “sort of” collocated.  Most of them occupy a portion of a massive cube farm that makes collaboration a one or two person event at a time.  The Daily Stand-Up meeting is a sit-down and lasts about a half-hour.  On the other hand, they joke and laugh and have a good time for about 15 minutes before settling into the real purpose of the meeting.  I asked Carrie, “Does it help?”

The answer to this one question convinced me this was the perfect thing to do.  Carrie responded, “Yes, this is the time where they get to bond and have fun together.  There are no similar interactions like this any other time. It really brings the team together!  Sprints go much better since this started.”  I thought, “What a great use of 15 minutes!”

I realized I had seen this before with an executive team using Scrum practices to run the company.  A Product Backlog and Sprint Task Board covered part of their beautiful view in the meeting room that adjoined the CEO’s office.  They were faithful with Sprint cadences, periodic retrospectives and velocity tracking.  They used some kanban practices to pull their stories through.  It was very focused and productive.

Yet, the daily meeting with all the CxO’s, and legal counsel took 30 minutes every day.  It always started out with good-humored needling, a touch of politics, local business happenings, and even a few pranks.   Most of it was extremely funny and no one was “safe.”  The standard meeting goals were always accomplished, and the group would head back to their offices.   It took me awhile to realize this meeting was a bonding activity more than an agile meeting.  They had adopted their “daily 15 minutes of fun.”

Sometimes we forget how much we work at a break-neck pace.   Sometimes we need to relax and have some fun.  Like continuous integration, where we bite off small chunks of “pain” instead of enduring excruciating integration phases, frequent bits of fun is a great way to do business.

For those of us lucky enough to be on collocated teams, we may not need extra fun.  For those of us that need a bit more fun at work, try something new.  I believe developing great software is both a creative and technically challenging endeavor. If doing it is not fun then something is wrong. We must figure out why it is not fun and do something about it.