Category Archives: Uncategorized

Context matters – explained with cookies

Often, I observed discussions or disputes where I found that everybody was right – from their own perspective. But in the end, they didn’t found a solution. What a pity.
One day, in a workshop, where we had some different types of cookies, I was faced with a similar situation. With the cookies at hand, I started to explain…

So, I took a shortbread type of cookie and took over the role of one of the disputants. I explained my flat-earth cookie, implicitly assuming that the other ones also live on my type of cookie. Then I changed my cookie – perspective to the lady on the cream-filled double layer cookie. While listening to the flat-earther, she asked: How about the filling?
And the guy living on the wafer only shrugged shoulders…

Maybe this is another interpretation of Norman Kerth’s Prime Directive which I frequently use in beginning a retrospective:

Explaining with my cookie-style way, that having different perspectives is not only welcomed but necessary to be successful, is more visual then Norman Kerth’s brilliant text.

Feel free to use my cookie analogy and my picture. And please let me know about your experiences.

How a Team Manifesto can boost collaboration

Some time ago, a team asked me to facilitate a team building workshop. While creating the workshop concept, we came across some concepts like a mission statement or a team charter.

As we talked recently about the Agile Manifesto, I thought, it might be an idea to use a part of the workshop for creating a Team Manifesto. similar to the structure of the Agile Manifesto:

  • a introduction, or preamble
  • values
  • principles
  • an epilog

Values are important for us humans: They control our behavior. They allow us to live together. And social norms/rules are derived from them.

Typically, they are very stable. We also need to think of team values and individual team member’s values. They might be conflicting.

Principles help us to live the values. They are rules and policies you adhere to.

The idea was set, but how? And which benefit do we expect? It was a kind of experiment.

For the team it was important to come to a common understanding what is important for them, how they work, how they decide.

How can we identify the team’s values?

When values are important for us, ask them what is important for them! With a nice and rich collection of sticky notes, we did some clustering and we named the clusters. The names of the clusters were often a value:values

Values are often too abstract to guide us through our working day. We need something more tangible: principles!

How can we identify the team’s principles?

The question now was: How can we live the values? Again collect, cluster, name:


So, this was the first Team Manifesto. I created a wonderful wallpaper for them, they signed it all. And it went to the team’s room – visible all the time.

How the story went on

Over the time, other teams asked me to help them to create their own Team Manifesto. Building on the procedure of creating the first manifesto, I added some actions to involve all team members more actively.

1. Silent brainstorming: In regard of your work and the team, what is important for you?
2. Everybody presents the own keywords.
3. Clustering (4-6 Cluster) and naming.
4. From the keywords of each cluster, everybody forms a sentence representing the cluster best.
5. Presentation of all sentences
6. From all sentences, assemble one super sentence: The value description.
7. Loop over all clusters.

With the principles we proceed the same way – only with a different question: With the values in mind, what do you think might help you to live them?

The real fun with this procedure is puzzling out the sentences. I do it with sticky notes for each word. This allows you quickly rearrange words. Don’t forget to check each team member’s confidence with each sentence right after finishing (use thumb up/down).

Until today, I helped creating four Team Manifestos and one review (after one year).

What are the benefits of having and living a Team Manifesto?

Having a clear and common understanding of their values and principles makes discussions more precise. Decisions are not taken on a day-to-day mood but on explicit values and principles. Everybody in the team is entitled to address a violation or inobservance of values and principles – if it makes sense, it is at least done conscious and as an exception.

Maybe you can now imagine that this can boost collaboration. But it also requires discipline & commitment.

How can you create your team’s Manifesto?

I gave a talk about this on the Tools4AgileTeams conference in December 2017. There is a Youtube video available (in German only):

My presentation (in German)  is available here: Team_Manifest_V2de
It also contains a guideline how to facilitate a Team Manifesto creation workshop.

Interested in an English presentation and guideline? Please contact me. Or invite me to your conference, event, …

Reanimating my blog

For almost two years, I neglected my blog. There were many reasons.

Now, I want to reanimate my blog. There are so many insights, adventures, stories, jokes to tell that cross my way.

Sources are teams that I accompany, colleagues I talk with, the community, other blog posts or tweets, and friends & family.

If you like it (or even when not), let me know. Retweet or forward my posts.

Spam flood

During the last weeks, I realized an increasing number of spam posts to my blog.

Happy that I first have to approve every post, it costs me more and more time to check them. For that reason, I decided only to allow registered users to post articles and comments. If you want to contribute, please register.

Pair Specifying

During a retrospective, I realized that the two internal customers of the team are not used to write epics and user stories, whereas the developers have some experience but still in some areas little business knowledge. Often ambiguous or unclear specifications hindered the team to start working.

Thinking of Pair Programming as an instrument to spread knowledge, to increase quality and structure, and to promote collaboration, the idea of applying similar practices to the creation of specifications appeared to be helpful.

The environment:

  • Development team consists of 5 developers (nice mix of work experience)
  • Two internal customers, one of them as Product Owner
  • Team applies Kanban (started some months ago)

My idea:

  • Whenever new features need to be specified, the internal customer “pairs” with a “random” developer. Over the time, every internal customer should have paired with every developer.
  • The developer brings in his knowledge and experience in writing epics and user stories.
  • The internal customer brings in the business expertise.
  • Like in Pair Programming, the work is done collaboratively.


The expected benefits:

  • Internal customers and developers get to know each other better through collaboration.
  • Knowledge is transferred in both directions.
  • The results (epics and stories) are already reviewed and potentially “Ready to start”.
  • Developers will better understand the business reason of a feature and the prioritization.
  • Developers can bring in their ideas in an early phase.

Overall, this approach seems to be worth to be tested with a small number of teams.

How do you think about this?

Welcome to my blog

Hi & welcome.
For a long time, I thought about having my own blog. But for what? For whom? How?

**For what?**
I was searching for a place to share information and to express my position on things that are interesting for me.
Out of the discussions, trainings, etc., I want to share resources, thoughts, ideas with others. In the history, I collected all this in my mail program.

** For whom?**
For colleagues, friends, my network & everybody interested in what I share.

Still not so clear about this. I will start now and evolve during using the blog.

I highly appreciate any feedback.