When do you know you are Agile?

I got to thinking, how do you know when you are agile?  The following is a list I came up with in a brainstorm.

Optimizing the work

This is about getting the most out of the work that is being done. Most of these are covered by Scrum and Kanban frameworks. I consider this to be the start of being Agile, but not the end game.

  • Backlog is in priority order
  • Backlog is groomed regularly so that items can be worked on straight away
    • Items are of a reasonable size
    • Details added, but not details on how to accomplish the task, but the outcome desired
    • Acceptance criteria
    • Discussed with Team
  • Team picks items off backlog/Sprint backlog (self organizes)
    • Items are Not assigned
    • Not grouped by project
    • Everyone works on everything
    • No handovers as not required
  • There is a greater goal to work towards for the Sprint
    • Not just work to get things done, a real goal
  • Ability to change with little to no disruption to flow, although productivity may suffer
    • Eg loss of a team member to a project.
    • On leave
  • Definition of done exists and is adhered to
    • Determined by whole team
  • Team has principles to guide work along with goal
  • Standards change frequently as they improve
    • Standards are not fixed but reviewed and questioned regularly
  • No silos/roles (cross functional)

Improvement and growth

The second important thing that I think when you become Agile is that you take care of your team’s and the members of the team’s ability to grow. You no longer just do the work. You are trying to find ways to increase the skill set of your team. The team itself becomes a learning team. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to see gaps in knowledge and teach.

The team itself becomes a learning team.

  • The Team measures in such a way it can determine if there is improvement
  • Everyone continuously looks are doing things better (continuous improvement as often as possible – daily)
    • Small (save 2 seconds) to large improvement
    • Improving quality
    • Reducing waste including processes.
    • Learn to see/Open mind
    • Optimizing flow
      • Work is done by single piece flow.
      • Improve cycle time
      • Limiting work in progress
        • Getting things done before moving onto the next thing. Ie no multitasking.
          • For this to work, task sizing must be optimal
  • Experimentation encouraged with measurable results
  • Self learning is encouraged
  • Team reflects on the work done regularly
  • Information is shared openly.
    • Team teaches/trains each other
    • Skills and techniques are shared
    • Information is shared
    • Lack of knowledge is seen as an opportunity to teach, not berate
    • If someone doesn’t “get it” change teaching technique. Everyone learns differently
  • I intend… very well. Members do not have to ask permission to do something. They just need to state what they are doing and be trusted to do it. See “Turn the ship around
  • Problems are seen as challenges, not issues
  • Autonomy, mastery and purpose fulfilled

Teamwork and Emotional Stability

The final section is where the Team and its members feel safe to express their differences and those differences are explored rather than suppressed.

  • Team is happy.
  • No blame
  • No fear of failure – fails frequently (means we are pushing the limits, and learns from the failure)
  • Trust within Team
    • Can openly discuss without being shot down
    • No idea killers. Ideas are explored – even the crazy ones
      • Experiment to rule in or out on merit, rather than rash judgements

This is my list of what I think being Agile is. Doing Scrum or Kanban or SAFe or any other framework alone does not make you Agile in my opinion. Learning and having an environment where you can explore, try, fail and discuss is also just as, if not more important. Myself, I am not there yet, but I am trying. It is also possible that this is an impossible goal. That may be so for some organisations, but my thinking is that you need to keep trying. It is the trying that is important, not the achieving.

It is most likely possible that when all the above is achieved, there will be more criteria. This is not suppose to be a list that must be adhered to to say that you are Agile, but a guide to help you get there.

At least in my opinion.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Another guest posting from our friends at Tenfold. This one is on Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is ones ability to recognize emotions within themselves or within others.  It is the ability to use emotional queues to guide thoughts, behaviors and actions.  Emotional Intelligence is being seen as another form of intelligence and can be measured similar to IQ (Intelligence Quotient) called EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Emotional intelligence was coined in a paper by Michael Belodoch, Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at Cornell University. It became a buzzword by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence published in 1995.

In the book, Goleman claims that EI matters more than technical expertise when it comes to job performance and leadership.

I suggest you read the full article on the Tenfold Website.


No Post This Week

No post this week as I have written an article that has taken all my time for the Scrum Alliance.

Please keep a look out in a few weeks time for an article on Work Groups and Teams on https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles

14 Persuasive Words And Phrases

Here is another interesting post from our friends at Tenfold.

Its an interesting list of 14 words and phrases that can be used to help with a sale, but I think could be used in more general when trying to be persuasive to someone. I’ll have to give it a go in the new year.


Show the advantage of your offering over competing offerings, how it can improve and help. People like to gain an edge generally. You need to show the value and back it up with case studies or statistics.


Everyone wants to be amazed. The word tugs on the emotional strings and encourages action. People don’t generally want something ‘good’, they want something that will ‘wow’ them, especially if they are paying a premium. But remember not to oversell it. Its better to under promise and overachieve then over promise and over achieve. So use the word sparingly.


There is always something people try to avoid. Be it loss, complexity, the unknown or trouble. We want to avoid risk. So show how risk can be avoided. People are more interested if you can show protection against going backwards from the status quo.


This is an interesting one. An experiment (See the post on Tenfold for the link) was done where the experimented wanted to use a copy machine first to make copies for himself before the person who wanted to use the machine at the time.

The experimented made a request using 1 of 3 scripts.

  1. Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the photo copier?
  2. Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the photo copier, because I have to make copies?
  3. Excuse me, I have 5 pages, May I use the photo copier, because I’m in a rush?

With the first line, they got 60% compliance. With the second, they got 93% compliance with the request, and with the third line, they got 94%. The study concluded that the word ‘because’ was the key differentiator in getting a stranger to comply with the request. The mere fact that a reason was conveyed, even if no information was given is enough to receive a specific outcome.


People love new things, and having exclusivity can grab peoples attention. The first look at a new product. Just look at how much interest rumors of  the new iPhone spread. If someone believes that being first is in their advantage, they are likely to listen.


People want solutions to their problems,, When you suggest you have a “fix” for their issue, you can have a captive audience. But remember, in order for them to have loyalty, you need to live up to their expectations, otherwise things can backfire.


Dan Ariely insists that zero has a special price. People become more interested in free. They just have to have it. I’m no exception. I have a Udemy account full of free courses. Most of which I probably will never get around to starting, yet alone completing. But I must have them – just in case. Free gives a no or little risk option, so why not grab it – just in case.

I don’t know

I lot of people try to avoid this phrase. I know that I was taught never to say this phrase, but being honest and simply saying “I don’t know” can be used to build trust for the simple reason you are being honest rather than trying to guess or make something up. Simply admitting although sometimes embarrassing, that you have a gap in your knowledge eliminates the risk of having to backpedal on your words at a later point if you are wrong.


If someone has an understanding on how they will implement something, they will be more likely to agree to having or using that something rather than not. If you imagine the need for something, you are more likely to want it rather than be persuaded if you don’t.


Everyone wants something sooner. Time is too short to wait. By creating a sense of urgency without aggressive pressure, people are more likely to agree sooner rather than weeks or months later.

Just by simply asking for example “What would you do if you had this now?” or similar, you are planting the seed of urgency.


Everyone is cost conscious. So, showing how you can save money, save time or trouble can be seen as a win for the person. This can be similar to “Free”


When you think of simple, you think that there is a small or non-existent learning curve. When it is simple, people are more open to the idea, but be careful if there is a sting. For example, Scrum is simple to Understand – but difficult to Master.


Sometimes people want to try something different. Some on the other hand do not like to deviate from the status quo. A lot of people like to show their individuality, if you show them how they would be different to the rest, some people are willing to listen.


We is a very powerful word. It shows that we are all in the same situation. We share the same, we are together. It puts in a team oriented mindset. Other words like “our”, “together” and “us” also have the same meaning.

Words like “I” or “Your” or “You” take on an adversarial structure. “You should do this” for example. This invites aggression type tendencies back making it hard to be more persuasive.