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    Written by Luke Hohmann
    on April 20, 2016

    I was talking with Tarang Patel, one of our Certified Collaboration Instructors (CCIs), about various frameworks that we use for helping teams adopt more Agile practices or in Agile classes and thought the broader community might enjoy the fruits of our conversations. We'll cover:

    • Identifying and Prioritizing Class Goals
    • Discovering Hidden Wisdom
    • Developing Systems Thinking (especially for Scrum)


    Identifying and Prioritizing Class Goals

    We know that 20/20 Vision is one a great framework for prioritizing a set of benefits or goals. Here are some of the ways we use 20/20 Vision.

    • Before the class we often use the online version of 20/20 Vision to identify shared priorities and familiarize participants with online collaborative forums.
    • During the class, especially at the beginning, we'll ask participants to work in small groups to identify their goals and prioritize them. We simply give them the rules of the framework and then explain the framework when they're done. Sometimes we start with a generic list of goals suitable to the class. Most of the time we allow each participant to add one goal.
    • For Agile-specific classes, like a CSM or CSPO class, we'll ask participants to prioritize the practices of the Agile Manifesto. This often reveals important preconceived notions about Agile.

    The framework is exceedingly flexible! You can adapt it to prioritize any set of learning objectives, desired benefits or similar outcomes within a group.

    Discovering Hidden Wisdom

    I cringe when I see instructors or consultants waltz into a room secure in the knowledge that they're going to magically transform the students through their wisdom and brilliance. These are often the same instructors and consultants who assume that because they've been hired to help a company improve their Agile practices that everyone must be a bloody idiot and their job is to cram Scrum down the throats of the team.


    Our reality is much different. Most of the companies we're privileged to work with are quite successful. Many, like GE, Cisco and Adobe, to name just a few, are among the most successful on the planet! Accordingly, we find it helpful to start our relationship by mining the considerable wisdom of their existing teams.

    We do this through a framework that we call Best 5 / Worst 5. We start by organizing the participants into small teams (hey - we always start this way because a collaborating team is optimally 3 to 8 people!). We give each team a topic area relevant to their job function. For example, software development teams might be given topics like Requirements Management, Release Management or  Quality Assurance and innovation teams might be given topics like Discovering Unmet Market Needs, Managing the Innovation Portfolio or Innovation Processes. If your group is large enough you can give the same topic to more than one team to get even more insights.

    Using the framework we ask teams to identify, by reflecting on their entire career, the Best 5 and Worst 5 practices they've experienced. Teams have to argue and agree. And if this sounds like a variation of 20/20 Vision, you're right - but it is enough of a variation that we think of it as a separate framework. (If you want to learn how to create your own variations, check out our class Designing for Multidimensional Collaboration).

    In doing this we find that the participants often have an extraordinary amount of accumulated wisdom that they've somehow lost or forgotten. Often this wisdom is surprisingly Agile and the results of the framework build passion within the group for "let's do more of the Best and less of the Worst". From there, you've paved the way for your Agile training and it is easier to showcase how Scrum and other Agile frameworks are designed to help teams do more of the Best and less of Worst. Equally importantly, the results help the frame the limits of a method and identifies areas where a method isn't the best approach.

    This framework also works well as a technique to engage customers. For example, GE used this technique at one of their Proficy Advisory Council meetings with customers to identify their perspectives on a variety of practices. Customers enjoyed learning from each other and GE product teams found many ways to improve their roadmaps and backlogs.

    Developing Systems Thinking

    Novices often want to pick apart Scrum before they've had a chance to experience it. And while I'm supportive of groups modifying Scrum to meet their needs, a topic I addressed directly in my Agile 2015 keynote (please, let's ban the use of the term "Scrumbut"), I also recommend that teams new to Scrum learn the basics of the framework before modifying it. Yeah, I know this reeks of practicality, but hey - Conteneo is all about getting stuff done through Collaboration.

    That said, it is often hard to understand how the elements of the Scrum framework work together as a system. So, we need techniques to promote systems thinking about Scrum.

    Certified Scrum Trainer Carlton Nettleton of Look Forward Consulting created a really novel use of the collaboration framework Buy a Feature to promote the systems thinking so critical to the effective use of Scrum. He calls his approach Buy a Framework. The full description is in his blog post here, so in this post I'll just summarize the basics.

    • Carlton identifies each aspect of the Scrum Framework and assigns it a price.
    • Small teams are given the option to work together to purchase those aspects of the framework they think are most important with a limited budget. They can't purchase everything, so they have to reason about "what's most important" and the impact of giving something up.
    • Instructors observe the discussions and bring key issues to the table.
    • The activity ends when the participants realize that they "can't win the game" (no, it is not a variation of the Kobayashi Maru).


    The real value is the deeper learning and systems thinking promoted by this framework.

    Want to try this out? Great! I've configured a version of this framework that you can use with your Scrum team (up to 8 people). We call this a Gala, and here is how it works.


    • This is a real-time experience, so start by organizing a meeting with your team. I've configured the forum to last for 1 hour, which should be more than enough time for your team.
    • When you're ready, everyone joins the forum using this URL:
    • Play the same - and see what your team thinks!


    So, there you have it: Three awesome collaboration frameworks to help you teach and/or adopt Agile!


    Let us know what you think. 

    Add your comment below.

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