“Q1: Why use Agile methods?

Because they work. If they don’t work in your organization, there’s no reason whatsoever to use them—certainly not so you can brag about being “agile.” When you do make them work, they make projects more manageable. You may or may not get quicker project completion. You may or may not save money. But you will get better customer satisfaction, and you will stay on top of your projects and be able to predict how much they will cost and how long they will take. You may or may not stay out of trouble, but if trouble comes, you’ll see it coming in time to do something about it. That’s what project management is all about.

Gerald M. Weinberg

Gerald Weinberg gave one of the best explanation i’ve ever read,  away from annual reports, statistics,  and promises. Use Agile methods, simply because they work! If they don’t work in your context, try to understand why and make them work, or simply don’t use them. 

Q2: Biggest challenge of implementing Agile methods?

The process of creating a new normal. It’s all about people,  getting out of your comfort zone, creating new habits and dealing with change and resistance. There are various models, theories, frameworks to do that. Whatever is your preferred choice, respect your context and your people,  start small, learn, get started, enjoy the change, stick to change, be committed, adjust again, get improved. This is simply the process of creating a new normal. 

Q3: In what environment will Agile be most successful?

In environments where continuous improvement, experimentation, teamwork and learning is part of people’s DNA. In environments where Agile is not introduced and executed as just another project. In environments where people have the passion, support, patience and motivation to overcome observed and surfaced dysfunctions through continuous interactions and relentless communication.   

Q4: What is the future of Agile?

Becoming the new normal of doing great stuff and cultivating a humane culture,  across organizations, domains, and services? It might be. In any case, it is in our hands now to shape the future of Agile we want to see in the future.

Q5: Can you recommend a book, blog, podcast, website, or other information source to our readers that you find interesting or intriguing right now?S

check out learning path!



Agile Impressions“, Gerald M. Weinberg, 1933-2018




Who is  the servant-leader?

The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

Robert K. Greenleaf

Back to 70’s, Robert Greenleaf in his thought-provoking essay, The Servant as Leader, introduced the concept of servant leadership and argued that the best way to identify servant leaders was through the manifestation of certain outcomes to followers. According to his work the “best test” of servant leadership is to make sure that other’s people highest priority needs are being served:

Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?

Robert K. Greenleaf

But what it means for a practitioner to become a servant leader? Which are those characteristics that are central to the development of servant leadership? 

In an attempt to describe what is servant leadership for practitioners Spears in his work based on Greenleaf’s wrttings created a model of 10 core characteristics that were considered as important behaviors of servant leaders:  listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuation, concpetualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and community building. This model enhanced by Barbuto and Wheeler work with an additional characteristic, calling,  that they believed was fundamental to servant leadership and consistent with Greenleaf’s view and initial message.

Calling. Servant leaders motivation begins with a consious choice to serve others. An internal desire and willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the benefit of their followers. 

Listening. Servant leaders communicate by listening first, what others have to say, their ideas, their suggestions. They believe that listening is a skill that envolves with practice and requires to hear, being receptive and value the ideas of others. Such a pattern of  behavior increases followers commitment.

Empathy. Empathy extends listening by standing  in the shoes of another person and trying to see the world from that person’s point of view. A servant leader tries to fully understand others thinking, needs and feelings. Being an empathetic listener makes others to feel unique, accepted and recognised. Those that have become skilled empathetic listeners and have the ability to appreciate the circumstances that other faces are the most successful servant leaders. 

Healing. Servant leaders care about the well being of other persons and they support by helping them to overcome their personal problems and their relationship problems with others. They provide a forum to help others express their feelings and through empathetic listening to help them with the healing process or the emotional resolution. Even if broken spirits is part of our nature as human beings, servant leaders have an ability to recognize when and how to foster the healing process. As Greenleaf mentioned the process of healing helps not only others in the search of wholeness but is a healing process for servant leaders as well. “There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led…the search for wholeness is something they share”

Awareness. Servant leaders have the ability to step aside and notice what is happening in a greater context of a situation by reading and understanding different signs. Awareness includes understanding oneself (self awareness) and the impact one has on others. Awareness help servant leaders to view most of the situations from a more integrated and holistic perspective.

Persuasion. Persuasion is seen as the ability of servant leaders to convince others to change without the use of any formal authoriy or power but with clear and persistent nonjudgemental argumentation.   

Conceptualization. Servant leaders go beyond daily routines, realities and the achievement of short term operational goals. They nurture their ability to dream great dreams and see the big picture. They provide clarity on goals and direction, they foster an environment that uses mental models and encourage creativity to respond to complex problems. 

Foresight. Foresight is a servant leader’s ability to predict what might come based on what is happening in the present and what has happened. It’s about understanding the lessons learned from the past, the current reality and anticipate the impact and the consequences of a decision in the future. 

Stewardship. Stewardship is about not only being committed in serving the needs of others but to further contribute for the greater good of society. Stewardship also emphasize the use of openness and persuation when leading people instead of using command and control.

Growth. Servant leaders core belief is that everyone is a unique person with intrinsic value that goes beyond their contributions to the  organization and as a servant leader you are committed to the growth of each and every individual. it is in their own responsibility to support and nurture the personal and professional growth of their followers, employees, colleagues.  They are doing this by providing opportunities for career development, help them develop new skills, taking personal interest in their ideas, and involve them in decision making. 

Community building. Servant leaders encourage and foster the building of communities among those who work together within a certain organization, people that have shared interests and a need for unity and relatedness. Servant leaders provide a place where people can feel safe to express their own views while being connected with others.

These 11 characteristics of servant leadership represent Greenleaf ’s initial message on the servant as leader. They are the areas someone could dive deeper in understanding the complexities of servant leadership. For more than 30 years a lot of studies have been made aiming to create a theory around servant leadership and many models and instruments have been created that could help practinionners to “measure” servant leadership.

One instrument someone could use is the servant leadership questionnaire that developed by Barbuto and Wheeler. They refined the 11 characteristics into the following five dimentions: 1. altruistic calling (desire to make a positive difference in others’ lives), 2. emotional healing (foster a  spiritual recovery from hardship or trauma), 3. wisdom (a combination of awareness of surroundings and anticipation of consequences) 4. persuasive mapping (use of mental models) 5. organizational stewardship (make a positive contribution to society & foster community development).

The servant leadership questionnaire consist of 23 items on a likert-type 1-4 scale (1=strongly dissagree, 2=somewhat disagree, 3=somewhat agree, 4=strongly agree). As a practitioner you can use the questionnaire with your groups or any teams it happens to work with.

Altruistic calling

  • This person puts my best interests ahead of his/her own.
  • This person does everything he/she can to serve me.
  • This person sacrifices his/her own interests to meet my needs.
  • This person goes above and beyond the call of duty to meet my needs.

Emotional healing

  • This person is one I would turn to if I had a personal trauma.
  • This person is good at helping me with my emotional issues.
  • This person is talented at helping me to heal emotionally.
  • This person is one that could help me mend my hard feelings.


  • This person seems alert to what’s happening.
  • This person is good at anticipating the consequences of decisions.
  • This person has great awareness of what is going on.
  • This person seems in touch with what’s happening.
  • This person seems to know what is going to happen.

Persuasive mapping

  • This person offers compelling reasons to get me to do things.
  • This person encourages me to dream “big dreams” about the organization.
  • This person is very persuasive.
  • This person is good at convincing me to do things.
  • This person is gifted when it comes to persuading me.

Organizational stewardship

  • This person believes that the organization needs to play a moral role in society.
  • This person believes that our organization needs to function as a community.
  • This person sees the organization for its potential to contribute to society.
  • This person encourages me to have a community spirit in the workplace.
  • This person is preparing the organization to make a positive difference in the future.

Another widely used questionnaire is the one developed by Liden, Wayne et al., and consist of 28 items that measure seven major dimensions according to their study, conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating value for the community. The questionnaire could be found here with instructions how to use it.

Concluding, being a servant leader requires understanding first of the main characteristics and the behaviors someone needs to demonstrate. Secondly requires a lot of  practice to grow the weak areas and grow stronger the strong ones as indicated by the various tools.  However, as Greenleaf argued, it is more important to understand that servant leaders make a conscious choice to serve first and place the good of followers over their self interests.

Servant Leadership it’s a journey worth to take it!





Can anything be learned about the practice of an art, except by practicing it?
Erich Fromm

If you see agility as an “art” then you might have some reasons to read what follows! Practicing an art it’s not that simple! And practicing and demonstrating agility is not simple either!

For sure there are many guidelines, there are many frameworks and methods trying to give solutions in different problems, there are many courses and certifications and hundreds of books that could help someone to get some knowledge but these are not enough. Each one of us is different and each context has it’s own specific needs. What worked in one context it’s hard to meet the needs of another one.

To get the benefits of being agile there is one and only way. You need to practice agility in your own context! And as in every art, practicing agility has certain requirements or preconditions that could be considered prior starting with. These requirements and preconditions might be helpful for all of you that you are not expecting the “10 steps to master agility” and you are willing to follow the hard way, the way that will require effort to practice, to experiment and to commit in continuous learning and improvement

agility requires discipline. If you are willing to demonstrate and get the benefits of agility in your specific work context you need to practice the various agile practices in a disciplined way. You will not master agility if you are not following the rules when you start experimenting with the various practices. You might feel that this is not very agile but learning new stuff requires a certain degree of discipline. There are so many practices you can start experimenting and as an advice you can try those first that might help you get some quick wins. Those practices that might resolve your first observed bottlenecks in your system.

Keep in mind that if you practice them when you are in the “right” mood, when you have time, when there is no crisis it might be fun but you will never master the art of agility. You need to insist applying the various practices even in hard times even if when it’s hard to see the anticipated benefits.

Experiment with various practices in a disciplined way for as long as it is needed to create new wires on your brain and new habits! Feeling comfortable with the practices will give you the space to reflect on the outcome and think of improvements and adaptations closely to your specific context and needs.

agility requires focus. As with every art, while practicing agility you need to be focused and concentrated on what you are doing and why you are doing. It’s really important to observe while you are experimenting with the various practices, reflect on the outcome and try always to learn either from positive or negative ones.

To keep your focus try not to start many things in parallel. Focus on a few vital practices as said that might help you get some quick wins and resolve your first bottlenecks, instead of starting a wide and complex program aiming to resolve all of your problems. Think big, but focus on those small steps and on a few initiatives otherwise you will end up starting so many things and evaluating just a few or even get lost while trying to manage complex systems like humans, teams and organizations.

agility requires patience. If you have ever tried to master an art you might already know that you need time and patience.  And agility requires your patience. It’s about creating new habits, shifting to a new mindset. Changing people’s mindset and expecting them to learn and create new habits,  requires time.

It’s a common belief that we are wasting our time if we are not seeing quickly some benefits of the new things that we are trying or learn. We are impatient! And for that reason many agile initiatives are abandoned when the first dysfunctions are observed or when the benefits are taking longer than expected. So patience is crucial to master agility and get at the end the benefits of it.

agility requires a great concern. think of it as something really important for yourself, your  teams and your organization! Agility requires passion, continuous learning and improvement,  learning from either success or failures, resilience, commitment, empathy  and strong interest from all those that are involved and affected!

discipline, focus, patience and great concern could be seen as the requirements to master agility and the get the benefits of it.  These are not a few steps that need to be followed to reach a destination, it’s a journey that you are devoted to it. You need  continuous practice to keep your self, teams and organization “fit” and ready to adapt to emerged needs!

Mastering the art of agility it’s a journey worth to take it!


inspiring reading

zen in the art of archery

the art of loving



I am pretty sure that you might have heard about Lean Coffee and how it could help you have effective, structured, agenda-less meetings. Lean Coffee format could be used in any kind of meeting so why not in a team retrospective?

If you are thinking to use it in your next retrospective consider the following steps:

  • set-up a personal KANBAN board (cards to use: to discuss, discussing, discussed)
  • reflect on your previous sprint and write on sticky notes your insights related to what worked well, what didn’t work so well and what need to be improved (you can use any other set of questions to gather insights)
  • collect all this items under the “to discuss” card. give a few details about the topic if sth is unclear
  • vote those items that you think are most important for you and your team to discuss (two votes per member)
  • prioritize them based on the number of votes received
  • move the top rated item in “discussing” and start discussions! 4 minutes might be a good duration but it’s up to you to decide if you would like to have a longer duration
  • after the four minutes for the specific topic are passed decide if you would like to give another turn! (thumps up or down). if most of the people would like to discuss take four minutes more, if it is equal take the half time
  • when you have finished with one item put it under “discussed”. suggestion: keep one minute to reflect on your take-aways , actions, conclusions e.t.c
  • repeat again with the next item until the time planned for the retrospective
  • ensure to leave a few minutes at the end to reflect on all items discussed!

give it a try!


inspiring posts

what is a lean coffee



Implementing agile in an organization could be a very hard and complicated thing and it could become even harder especially if you are impatient to see the anticipated benefits. It’s common said that it is very easy to start with agile and to my experience and observations it is even easier to fall back to old ways of doing things – maybe renamed – when you realize that you are in the middle of chaos!

Is there any way to have a successful agile change that serves its purpose? The answer is yes and Jason Little describe that way in his book “Lean Change Management” which is an excellent resource with concrete practices, that could help any agile change agent to be good at change!

Recently i had a great challenge to train a big project team in agile methodologies, that came as their need to handle a very complex product with high uncertainty in what to do and how to do it! I’ve seen this challenge as from the very beginning as a change rather than as a conventional two days training and i thought that it was a great opportunity to experiment with the Lean Change management approach!

As Jason suggests in his book, a  Lean Change cycle starts with gathering insights about the current state of the organization. There are multiple ways and models that could help someone to do that and i found really challenging to experiment with a retrospective based on Virginia’s Satir change model as one of the method i’ve used to gather insights.


I’ve made the hypothesis that making all participants aware of that change model will help to improve the way they process their own change related to their agile implementation and move smoothly from one stage to another.

In brief the model consist of the following five stages:

Late Status Quo: Everything is familiar, comfortable and performance is stable

Foreign Element (Resistance): A foreign element threatens the stability of familiar structures. Most people resists by denying its validity. That foreign element is not particularly a sudden crisis, but rather the “sudden realization that things have been very unhealthy”

Chaos: In Chaos people affected by the change try to ignore the foreign element , hide from it or actively fight it. People might even reject the foreign element so much, that they end up at Old-Status-Quo behavior! Confusion, anger, drop in performance are just a few side effects.

Transforming Idea (Practice and Integration): In that stage after coping with the foreign element, people finally discover in a transforming idea that shows how the foreign element can benefit them and they start integrating the benefits into their new identity.  People will need a lot of slack-time to try out new things. Some things will turn out to be bad ideas, others will work greatly.

New Status Quo: Performance stabilize in a higher level that the old status quo. Roles, responsibilities, ways of working are clear and a new status quo is born, just until you realize the next foreign element, and the cycle starts from the start!

I’ve started the retrospective with the description of the model and on the way people react in every stage. As a next step participants triggered to answer in sticky notes a few questions related to  model stages and we discussed as a group the different views.

The questions i’ve used, inspired by Jason’s book are listed below:

Late Status Quo, “everything being familiar and in balance”

What was working well?

What was making you feel comfortable in that state?

Foreign Element, Resistance, Chaos, “sudden realization that things have been very unhealthy”

Which are your main concerns related to this change?

Which are the main obstacles that restrain you to get the benefit of this change?

Transforming Idea, “AHA!..i learned something!”

Which are the forces that driving this change?

Which are the benefits you have seen so far?

What are you willing to do in order to make the change work?

What will you need to do differently?

What support do you need for me?

New Status Quo, “everything being familiar and in balance”

What is your VISION, your new target position with respect to this change?

How will we measure success New Status Quo

The amount of generated insights was impressive! Project team members came to a conclusion that maybe the foreign element that triggered their comfort zone was the project complexity and it was less related to their agile implementation. For sure agile surfaced even more dysfunctions that there was need to handle. However they have started seeing it as the transforming idea, the vehicle and not the impediment to succeed with their project and get out of the chaos. They were expressing some of benefits they had seen so far form their agile implementation, while reflecting on things that they need to change or challenge for themselves. It was also useful that the main barriers related to their change, like management support, product roadmap, team structure were highlighted. It was also interesting that participants thought about their new status quo and what they need to do in order to reach their wanted position. This helped the project team to co-create a list of options (second step on the Lean Change management) that they could work further depending on the value they will get compared to the effort or cost they need to invest as suggested in Lean Change Management.

If i could sum-up the whole approach we have used to generate insights in a few words i would choose awareness, alignment and co-creation! and IMHO i believe that are important  pillars for any change to happen!

Concluding, start gathering insights is the first step in Lean Change and to my experience the Satir Change model could be a really helpful way to generate them! To move forward and support any change to serve it’s purpose you just need a few more steps. Apart from insights, you need options, make a lot of experiments, learn, reflect, run more, start anew!

Would you like to be good at change? I would suggest to learn about the Lean Change Management approach and try it!

First appear as a guest post in leanchange.org 


inspiring reading

Lean Change Management

The Satir Change Model

3 reasons why you should build your own change method

inspiring video

Creating alignment for agile change at agile and beyond 2015



Underlying all human actions are needs that people are seeking to meet, and understanding and acknowledging these needs can create a shared basis for connection, cooperation, and more globally peace


Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of Non Violent Communication (NVC) language used to say that quite often we tend to use the language of  “jackal”,  we judge, lay blame, we demand and eventually disconnect. NVC is another communication process that focuses in understanding each other at the level of our needs and learning to communicate with compassion towards ourselves and others

While studying and trying to practice the NVC language (great trigger a learning lab i attended @ Ericsson’s Learnathon on that subject) i thought that it would be a great experiment to try NVC language in a team retrospective. I was curious to understand, how honestly expressing ourselves and emphatically listening others, could improve or challenge team relationships and trust among team members. It was a completely new way to communicate and express things that didn’t work well, things that worked well and areas that could be improved.

We run the retrospective using, to the extend possible, all four components of NVC process: observations, feelings, needs and requests. Since it was the first time using that language we kept some notes on every component to help us during our discussion using NVC language! Below is a short description of every component with a few examples

  • observations: in that phase we reflect on things that we have observed (hear, see, remember) free from our own evaluations or interpretations of what happened. We focused on both positive or negative observations on team or even on personal level.

ex. during our previous sprint i remember that <a team member> had to handle too many tasks

ex. i’ve noticed that we didn’t get from sprint beginning the expected support from system experts and i remember that we finally got the support after raising specific questions and setting up a couple of meetings

  •  feelings: in relation to what we have observed, in that phase we have expressed our emotions rather than thoughts which were associated with our met or unmet needs (next phase). The observations were just the triggering points

ex. […] and i felt a little bit uncomfortable

ex. […] I felt initially insecure on they way we have approached our solution and i felt more confident when finally we got the required support.

  • needs: in that phase we have tried to express our deeper needs that caused our feelings triggered by our observations.

ex. […], because i value fairness and balance on workload distribution among team members

ex. […]. My need for safety, security and support on what we are doing as a team even at later phase was met!

  • requests: in the last phase we tried to clear express our requests that will improve our personal and team’s well being. Trigger improvements that are closely connected with our expressed needs.

ex. […] Do you think that we could try in our next sprint planning to split more equally our everyday task and try offload<a team member> from tasks that for the time being his expertise in not needed and let him focus on those tasks that our team needs his expertise so to meet our goal?

ex. [..] Would it be nice whenever we have uncertainties and we need support proactively send our requests, while trying to be as specific as possible, to people that could help us?

It was interesting to observe that we have managed in a very polite & humane way to express what happened in previous sprint and identify behaviors that we would like to keep and try. It was quite impressive the way people expressed their feelings and their met or unmet needs.

We have used the same language to reflect on the hour spent so to get used on that new way of communication and once more the outcome was amazing! People felt proud of their team, observed that they have different needs not expressed so far, felt more confident to share their feelings caused by their needs and helped them alot to see that there are ways to avoid conflicts, blame and disconnection. We will definitely use that language in our retrospectives and as suggested we should even try it in our everyday work as well! I think we had just made another step while trying to grow strong team relationships!


inspiring reading

non violent communication: a language of life

how you can use the NVC process

inspiring videos

Nonviolent Communication Part 1

Nonviolent Communication Part 2 



I find my self often observing and reflecting what i am doing as an agile coach, trying to better understand my current role. I didn’t have these kind of “worries” with my previous roles and positions as a research telecom engineer, developer and project coordinator. It was just enough to follow my job/role description meet the expectations and measure the impact of my effort! I wasn’t worried about since all these different role responsibilities where close to my thinking and belief!

Why these kind of “worries” surfaced with my current role, even if there are plenty of resources and books that describe what an agile coach should do and custom made role descriptions, responsibilities and expectations written in many pages? What has changed?

In my journey to self-awareness through the lenses of my current role, i realised that i had to work deeper in my own paradigm shift. I was needing a new belief, a radical change on my thinking from an accepted point of view, established for years with certain habits,  to a new thinking  and a new set of habits.

From trying to be the best at what i was doing and resisting to change,  to start experimenting, fail, expose my inabilities, feeling comfortable to challenge my comfort zone

From an expert and having an advanced knowledge on specific areas, to a more “generalist”, trying to cover a wide area of skills and competencies.

From adherence to specific role requirements, to focus more in  becoming a team player, collaborating and contributing to the whole effort.

From seeing, monitoring and easily measuring results, to feel comfortable with long-term payoffs not necessary measurable.

From getting and keeping control, in becoming a team and trust builder while creating the conditions whereby people could grow, develop, fail, learn, synergize in achieving their higher purpose.

I had to work on my own motive system as well. Power and status, to name a few motives, had to change to match the expectations of my new role. Establishing, maintaining or restoring “healthy” relationships among the team members, understand their needs and commit to help them achieve their goals, is what motivates me now! I use my experience and knowledge to teach, mentor, coach people, help them applying agile practices, and let them grow, shift their own paradigm and enjoy their journey!

Trying to shift to a new paradigm as an agile coach is not happening from day one. Commitment, awareness, continuous observations, reflections, adaptations and effort to develop and grow new habits is needed. It’s a long journey that worth to take it!


inspiring reading

the power of self-dependence 

the reengineering alternative. a plan for making your current culture work

attending to needs is all we need

the professional helper



I’ve recently facilitated a route cause analysis for a feature that we have failed to deliver within our estimated range. Worth to mention that our estimations were adapted during our feature development, we scoped out a few functionalities but still we exceeded our maximum estimated delivery date.

The analysis surfaced a lot of issues that we didn’t consider throughout our development phase. We’ve got a lot of insights and we suggested actions that need to be considered for our new feature. Soon we are going to have our feature retrospective (a.k.a postmortem) as well, to gather even more data and get more insights on ways we could improve ourselves and our organization.

We all benefit from this analysis except our feature! Post-mortems and RCAs are really useful, we learn, we improve but not all of us! Psychologist Gary Klein described it in one of his article really nice:

A postmortem in a medical setting allows health professionals and the family to learn what caused a patient’s death. Everyone benefits except, of course, the patient.

In that article (referred in 99u’s post) Gary Klein introduced the concept of pre-mortem as a method that could be used in the planning phase of a project. As it is stated, pre-mortem can improve project’s chances for success and can help project teams to identify risks in a very beginning stage!

Based on my recent RCA experience, i’ve experimented with the pre-mortem concept for another feature team that i am coaching and had started a really challenging and complex feature. The steps i’ve used are described below

the case study

In that step it is important to “illustrate” an imaginary failed state of the current project/feature. Adding details, using pictures, creating a kind of “script” could help the team “live” that unwanted state.

The “script” in our case was a failed deployment of the very complex telecom feature we have developed for a very demanding telecom operator. The consequences for our operator and customer was a huge amount of call drops for a few hours. Our feature team has received an email from our customer’s head of sw deployment describing the impact of this failure, the urgency to find a workaround and remove our feature from operator’s network.

why this has happened

After describing the case study all team members need to take some time to think of possible causes that triggered this failure. Using sticky notes we’ve gathered all the causes and discussed on them. We then tried to group them in themes and we prioritised them based on their importance and their contribution in that imaginary failed state.

It was interesting to observe that feature team members were felt free to express all possible causes came in their minds and they were more open comparing to post-mortem or root cause analysis for failures that have actually happened!

how we could prevent this

The next step is a brainstorming session to find ways to prevent this imaginary failure and anticipate all possible causes. In our case we decided to work on the top themes, based on our ranking from the previous step. The outcome of our brainstorming was a concrete set of actions that we are following up weekly. In the meantime we are enhancing the rest of the themes with actions that need to be considered as well.

keep calm and carry on

you can close the pre-mortem session with a message just to relax all participants :-). It was just a simulation and we have done our best to prevent this happening in real life!


We have used almost two hours to gather causes, group them, prioritise them and find actions for the top themes. As facilitator you will need an hour to think of a failure scenario (ask your feature team, PdO e.t.c to get a few details) and prepare a “script”

personal reflections

The feedback i’ve received from all participants was really positive. This exercise trigger their creativity, as it is mentioned they were more open to express all their concerns,  and they had a feeling of doing their best to increase the chances of success. As facilitator and observer i really feel that most of the benefits as described in Klein’s article were gained

Although many project teams engage in prelaunch risk analysis, the premortem’s prospective hindsight approach offers benefits that other methods don’t. Indeed, the premortem doesn’t just help teams to identify potential problems early on. It also reduces the kind of damn-the-torpedoes attitude often assumed by people who are overinvested in a project. Moreover, in describing weaknesses that no one else has mentioned, team members feel valued for their intelligence and experience, and others learn from them. The exercise also sensitizes the team to pick up early signs of trouble once the project gets under way. In the end, a premortem may be the best way to circumvent any need for a painful postmortem.

Are you ready to imagine a failure? or a success (a.k.a future-spective)?


inspiring reading

avoid a failure with a premortem

performing a project premortem

29-2s It is well known that we learn the most from our failed experiences and our mistakes!  According to Thorndike’s law of effect  it is the negative outcomes that accompany a failure that increase the probability to change or adapt our behaviour in subsequent events. However a recent research attempted to answer that people could learn not only from their failed experiences but from their successes as well! In that research three functions (or methods) that enable us to learn from our successes and our failures were described:

  • Self-Explanation: analyzing our behaviour and trying to find reasons why we failed or succeeded.
  • Data Verification: brainstorming different ways we could have approached the problem and how we might affect the outcome.
  • Feedback: determining whether there is success or failure, and then reflecting on why things went right or wrong and how need to be changed in the future.

The combination of all these functions that characterize a systematic reflection, motivate people to draw their lessons from past failed or successful experiences and eventually trigger a behavioral change.

Based on that research and working in an agile environment, where the attitude on failures, problems, challenges, successes is to transform them into learning that may involve further development and improvement,  i came up with a retrospective technique, as described below, to help teams grow an agile mindset!

retrospective goal

Encourage team members to reflect on the learning (on individual, or on team or both levels) from their failed and successful experiences and based on their reflections adapt or change their behaviour that will enable them to further improve.

retrospective process and practicalities

A board that is split in the following four areas and sticky notes to let team members right their experiences and learning will be needed.

Q1: where i/we have succeed (previous sprint/project/feature e.t.c)

Q2: what i/we have learned from our successes

Q3: where i/w have failed (previous sprint/project/feature e.t.c)

Q4: what i/we have learned from our failures

For every success or failed experience the relevant learning should be written. Depending on retrospective focus, you might trigger team members to think of their personal experiences and learning or on team’s experiences or both.

If you have a large team you might split them in subgroups to work on every area. I’ve tried quite a few times with really nice results. Sharing gathered data is a really important step. More specific sharing personal experiences and learning could increase psychological safety among team members, which in turn create an environment of trust in the team.

After sharing their gathered data on experiences and learning, it is important to focus on how the learning from their experience could trigger changes on personal and team level.

For a normal team (5-7 people) and for a period of sprint, one hour would be enough to cover all the above steps! (15′ gather data,20′ sharing and discuss, 15′ move forward and you will have a few minutes to reflect on the method used!)

facilitator’s tips

As retrospective facilitator you can use some of the following questions that could prompt participants to reflect on learning

how did you contribute to the performance observed in this failed or successful experience (self-explanation)

how effective were you in this failed or successful experience (self-explanation)

consider a different approach that could have been taken. What might have happened if that approach was chosen? (data-verification)

what has been learned from this failed or successful experience? What worked, what didn’t work? How will you behave in the future? (feedback)

personal reflections

I’ve received a really positive feedback from the teams i’ve used this method and this motivated me to share it in this post. I’ve received comments as well that helped me improve it ( secure that there is time for discussion on learning, focus on how could use our learning as a trigger for behavioural changes e.t.c). This retrospective technique will be more effective if you will try it with teams that are working some time together, they had faced various experiences in the past, their members are open to share and are willing to learn! But this doesn’t prevent to use it with new team as well. In that case it might be good to discuss with them about the importance of learning in agile environments, and that learning could happen from both failed and successful experiences!

Concluding for me it was really important that people spend some time and use their failures as information for further improvements and use their successes not only to increase their self-efficacy but as a trigger to revise how they managed to succeed on sth and set even higher goals and standards!

if you’ll experiment with that method, it would be nice to share your experiences and your adaptations!


interesting research

systematic reflection: implications for learning from failures and successes

Managing organized complexity

DevOps is an -ism; SRE is the profession

I Manage Products

A product management blog by Jock Busuttil

Assess your Agility - BETA

A framework to evaluate and improve your organization's agility

Lean Adaptive Leadership

Transforming technology organisations using lean and adaptive principles.

Agile, Lean, Kanban, and System Thinking

Agile, Lean, Kanban, and System Thinking

Control Your Chaos

That Scrum Girl on everything Scrum, Agile and Lean

The Product Owner Framework - BETA

Evaluate your skills and identify areas for growth

Digital Business Transformation

Inviting you to explore the world of Digital Business

Agile For Startups

Tools and Techniques for Tech - Startups .

Escape The Local Optimum

jump out of any local optimums by iterating, evaluating, accepting, memorising and restarting

Software Process and Measurement

Software Process Improvement and Measurement - Oh My!

Dave Nicolette

Effective software development and delivery

Arialdo Martini

Random notes about software

Agile By Culture

Doing Agile means being Agile


Thoughts on software, code, philosophy and games

InnerActive Leadership

Partnering with you to find insights that lead to results!

George Psistakis | Growth | Marketing

From user acquisition to retention, Product Led Growth to Analytics and startups

quantum shifting

think bigger, go further

Benjamin Mitchell's Blog

Helping IT teams & their managers deliver great software solutions

Diary of a ScrumMaster

Finding a path to a new way of working

An Ethical Island

How to Teach Without a Lecture and other fun

Mike Cohn's Blog - Succeeding With Agile

jump out of any local optimums by iterating, evaluating, accepting, memorising and restarting


jump out of any local optimums by iterating, evaluating, accepting, memorising and restarting