Intuitively Agile

The Agile Manifesto starts with talking about how Individuals and Interactions are more valuable than Processes and Tools.

As an Agile coach, I find that while it is still relatively easy to get people to start practicing “practices”, the heart of Agile – the “people” – is the toughest part. But I have come across some managers who are “intuitively Agile” (you know who you are).

And they are not necessarily people who are “doing” Agile.

These are people who invest in building motivated individuals around them – they start out with the similar people as others but grow them into enthusiastic, passionate, high-performing team players. And these then in turn start exhibiting similar traits in developing more people creating a domino effect.

These are people who create a safe environment for taking risks and failing fast. This allows their people to experiment and innovate knowing fully well that when they fail, they have their managers backing and support to get them back up on their feet.

These are people who empower their team members while expecting them to take responsibility and ownership over their work. They allow them the freedom to take decisions by cutting the bureaucracy and decentralizing decision-making.

These are people who demonstrate every day that titles don’t matter – if developers need a helping hand and these managers can don that hat, they do. If testers need help, they do what they can to help. Roles and titles are “guidelines” and not rules.

More power to their tribe!!


Explaining Kanban to a (my) 6-year old


My son is going to turn six in about a month (yay!). And he has elaborate plans for his birthday. There are pirates, treasure hunts, parrots, ships, swords and sea monsters in the mix.

Now with just a month to go, mommy is finally on board (he, on the other hand, has been planning it for months now).

Being an Agile coach at work and a Kanban enthusiast, I couldn’t resist mixing work with pleasure – the result being “Explaining Kanban to my 6-year old”.

I had his complete attention from the word Go since we were talking about using a Kanban board for his birthday planning.

Tip 1 – Build the first Kanban board for your kid around something that excites him/her (not for chores or homework :))

Tools used – paper and pencil.

I drew 3 lanes on a sheet of paper – To Do, Doing and Done.

And asked him to tell me some of the things we need to do for his birthday. At first he said eat cake, play games, get gifts etc. All good but I explained that we are setting up a Kanban board for birthday preparations and the list changed to – find a good pirate cake and order it, buy pirate hats for him and his friends, draw maps for the treasure hunt game, make parrot cut outs for some other game, buy balloons, make the invites, etc.

I put each of these, as he rattled them off, in boxes in the To Do lane.

Then I asked him if he thought we had started working on some of the work and if yes, where I should be putting those boxes. We had started “researching” cakes so we decided to put that box in the Doing lane. I also had some balloons left over from some other party – so I asked him where to put that box and he asked me to move it to the Done lane (true story!!). 

Now the sheet of paper looked something like this.


Tip 2 – Six year olds are smarter than you think – let them take control and tell you which box goes where.

Then I asked him (admittedly a leading question) – do you think we should work on many things at the same time (i said this with a frown) or work on few things and get them done (said with a smile)? He picked the latter of course, but the real surprise was when I asked him why – and he said “It will get done quickly”.

Obviously it would have been difficult to keep scratching out boxes and drawing them in the right lanes all the time.

So I bought a bunch of colorful stickies for him and a big white board. On some, he wrote what needs to be done, on some he drew what needs to be done.

Tip 3 – Let the kids make the cards – let them draw pictures, use colorful stickies, anything else to make it fun.

The result is for all to see.



Now the next step is to help him prioritize.

What must be done, what’s nice to have, what takes long to do so we should start early and other stuff.

If this little experiment works, I see more Kanban fun in our near future:)