Friday, 24 March 2017

Agile Principles 105

So... if I had reached nirvana state of finding "the 1 best method" to teach and learn the agile principles with my previous Agile Principles 104 post in this agile series...why is there an Agile Principles 105?

My thinking continually evolves as my experiences, perspectives, understandings and, most importantly, synthesising, across the variety of things I do and things I know continues. I never stop exploring the boundaries - and the beyond! :)

The muse for this particular approach came from the advice from Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline" on how to create a vision for an organisation that the people own and strive towards. Peter's description of the holographic view of an organisation by each individual employee was/is bind mending!


You'll see (I hope) how each of my previous posts, with alternative teaching styles and variety of learning outcomes, informs my next target state. Hence I try new and improved approaches whenever opportunity meets preparation.

In this case, even off the back of the successful approach to learning/teaching the Agile Principles 104, learners returned to their day job and forgot the goodness of their understanding and experience fairly quickly - unless there was a disciplined framework, a management mandate or a positively persistent coach (like me!) agitating them to remember, and to apply in their thinking.

This approach, I hope, causes learners to converge more collectively onto the same shared understanding of the agile principles by folding-in everyone's understanding recursively.

Its extremely beneficial that each team in the organisation evaluates themselves against the their own and their organisation's interpretation of applying the principles. By spending time as a team in "think space" (reflection) goodness follows "for free"/"semi-automagically". That's the beauty of having an aligned collective mindset - energy, thought, creativity and work flows rapidly and positively due to common understanding and knowledge of the "game rules", and in the absence of interference of any kind.

Agile Principles 5th Approach


  • Timebox for 30 minutes
  • Ask the learners to read, write (or complete pre-prepared sentence spines) the 12 agile principles onto index cards or similar, and to rank them from most important (at the top) to the least important (at the bottom). A single list - ranking decisions must be thought through and made according to the available knowledge everyone has at the time!
  • Then ask the learners to self-organise into pairs and to read and discuss each other's rankings and understandings.
    • Now ask the pairs to fold-in their lists. Together they must:
      • Agree the most important principle  and record why
      • Then agree the least important principle and record why
      • Then they need to sort through the remaining 10 to create their own agreed ranked list, similar to Agile Principles 104, and write down Why
  • Then ask the pairs to self-organise into groups of 4
    • Now ask the groups of 4 to fold-in their 2 lists into just 1, and to tease out (and record) the consensus "Why" for each decision they reach
  • Now it becomes recursive - sub-groups keep folding-in together until the entire group of learners is once again 1 group and there is 1 list they all have participated in creating.
    • ie, 4+4 = 8
    • 8+8 = 16
    • 16+16 + 32
  • Yes, as the groups get bigger the fold-ins can take longer, but often there is an emergent consensus pattern that helps the fold-ins stay quick, energised, and positive so in my practice I don't see things slowing down, I see improvements in communication and negotiation emerge rapidly!
  • Any "odd" numbers just fold-in the next round so if you started with 6 in total, you then have 3 pairs, 1 pair observes whilst the other 2 pairs fold-in, and then merge in the final round the 4+2. It is critically important to fold-in 2 lists to create 1, as this speeds up the event and deepens everyone's shared understanding and personal sense of ownership of the final ordering. 
    • Trying to do more than 2 lists at a time, eg 3 lists and 3 groups into 1 creates too much complexity too quickly and often causes people to disengage. There's just a little (too much) friction in the group dynamics that causes energy loss.
  • The final outcomes of this approach are
    • A shared understanding and ownership of the most important to the least important agile principle as understood by the group
    • Clarity and understanding of why the ranking decisions were made
    • Practice in avoiding group conflict by smart structuring of group work which is known to create conflict as everyone's personal perspective is a factor when working with knowledge, experience and mindsets.
    • 2 Artefacts that can be referenced and reviewed inside the office as-and-when the need arises - typically retrospectives (reflection), and escalations (crisis)

  • Now, do the same recursive process for ranking from easiest to hardest to achieve in the organisation.
    • The final outcomes are the same 4 as above, but you have also now agreed a backlog of work that needs to be done for the organisation to become more agile.
      • WIN!

Whilst this approach is similar to the previous, there is something truly amazing about the folding-in of people's perspectives aka consensus. As well as Peter Senge's book, Sam Kaner also describes the diamond of participation model of group consensus that is incredibly useful and insightful!


For more thoughts and approaches to learning or teaching the agile principles, please read my collector post at What Is Agile For. Thank you!

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