Author: Alexis

Back to School

Back to School

For a lot of people, September means that we are back to school! Or maybe that we are not in school anymore, and so we need to take care of our learning path. I learned a lot from your feedback on Changing Your Team From The Inside. Keep that coming! It is very useful! I am working on a revision of the book that will be available by the end of October.

If a friend sent you this message, you can subscribe to the mailing-list following the link, yes you will have to scroll a little bit.

The planning of my trip to Europe is nearly done. I will be traveling to Germany, Switzerland, and France. I will be speaking at Agile Rennes on November 23 and 24, and Agile Grenoble
November 14 and 15. Add the sessions to your agenda!

As it is two agile events, people asked me if I will speak about agile. The answer is yes and no 🙂

If you read the UncleBob’s post reacting to Martin Fowler’s keynote at Agile Australia, you can see that the tension is about values and principles. The roots of the agile movement were about team members having the autonomy to deliver excellent work. Uncle Bob (Bob Martin) wrote in a sort of conversation with himself:

“But aren’t Scrum Masters kind of like project managers?

Heavens no! Scrum Masters are coaches, not managers. Their role is to defend the values and disciplines. Their role is to remind the team of how they promised themselves they would work. The role was supposed to be shared by the team, not usurped by managers. Every few weeks a new team member would volunteer to act as coach – if needed. The role was supposed to be temporary. A mature team doesn’t need a permanent coach.”

And yes, I have seen that level of maturity happening more than once. The frameworks, the tools, the practices, are useful things that you can use and improve along with your transformation journey.

About framework, I love the approach Agnostic Agile, and I encourage you to have a look at the principles.

“As experienced agile practitioners and as people responsible for agile change and transformation, we should recognise the importance of being agnostic with agility at any level. This means one size does not fit all, one framework is not the answer, and the ‘what’ and ‘how’ should be suited to customer context and to a wider strategic vision.”

As usual, I will be happy to hear from you, please answer to that message, or send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn. I will be happy to answer your questions or read your feedback.

Thank you!

PS: Your comments, like and share are really helping the message to reach more people. Please, help me share those articles on

Project Aristotle – A Conversation Starter

Project Aristotle – A Conversation Starter

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr speaks about the quality prized by Andy Grove: collective accountability, fearless risktaking, measurable achievements. John explains that Google studied 180 teams using five questions. The internal project code name was Project Aristotle.

The results? Standout performances correlated with affirmative answers to these questions:

  • Structure and clarity: Are goals, roles and execution plans on our team clear?
  • Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  • Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  • Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high-quality work on time?
  • Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we are doing matters?

A few weeks back, I decided to test the five questions with a team during their quarterly face to face meeting. I used the length of the meeting room as a scale and identified graduations with sticky notes on the wall from zero at one end of the meeting room to ten on the other end.

I asked everybody to stand up and explained the rules. I will ask questions, the more you agree, the closer to ten you need to be, the more you disagree, the closer to zero you need to be.

We started with a few questions just to warm-up the group and to have opportunities to clarify the rules. And then, I began to ask the five questions.

First one about structure and clarity, two people moved to five and six, all the others looked at how the boss will react, and one ask a clarifying question: When you say “our team,” what do you mean? I clarified, the team is the people that are in this room now. The rest of the people are moving between seven and nine.

I am now asking a few clarifying questions asking them to explain their position on the scale. I also encourage them to ask questions. The newcomer in the team suggested that it could help us to use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as he was doing in his previous company. An interesting conversation followed, and I am capturing on sticky notes discussion topics for the rest of the meeting.

We continued with the other questions, and people moved faster to their graduations (even with their manager in the room). The conversations focused on what the people need to give a better grade, which gave us plenty of topics to cover in the meeting, restructuring the agenda to better fit in what was essential to the team.

The exercise was useful as it raised the awareness on some aspects that were missing to “really” called this group of people a team.

Try it and let me know!

What a Month!

What a Month!

Last month on July 1st, and thanks to your support, I published Changing Your Team From The Inside. It has been a great month! (If a friend sent you this message, you could subscribe to the mailing-list following the link).

I learned some of you organized several book discussion clubs. It is fantastic to see the book selected for discussions! It will give me a lot of suggestions to improve the future editions of the book. As a reminder, whatever version you choose to purchase, you are entitled to get all the forthcoming revision of the electronic version.

The question I would like to ask readers is: “What do you need to give the book a 5-star rating?

As you probably already know, ratings help readers to pick their next book, so if you can rate the book on,,, and, you will help me!
And of course, if you can send me or publish a review that will help me to improve the book, it will be even better!

I published an article, What is the top requirement for high-impact teams, on, please tell me what you think using the comments or by dropping me a note at Sharing and liking the article will help me too.

Several people already purchased the team edition of the book, and I am scheduling the discussions with the different teams. I will report back on the blog, what we learned from the conversations. The last post is On Consultants reacting to the Steve Jobs talk recently published by the MIT Sloan School of Management.

As I live in Boston, I am available for talks in the area, in North America, or further away. I announced a few weeks back the travel to France in November, I will speak at Agile Grenoble and Agile Rennes, and the trip will give me opportunities to meet with other people, organizations, and companies. Let me know if you are interested! Also, If you attended one of my talks in the past years, please provide a testimonial on SpeakerHub!

As usual, I will be happy to hear from you, please answer to that message, or send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn. I will be happy to answer your questions or read your feedback.

Thank you!

On Consultants

On Consultants

The MIT Sloan School of Management recently published a talk that Steve Jobs delivered at MIT in 1992. During the speech, he discussed how consultants, are missing a big part of learning that you can only get when you own “something over an extended period of time.”

As a consultant, you will drop by, make some recommendations, and swing to the next company without really seen the results of your ideas.

I have been a consultant for quite some time, and when I was not a consultant, I have seen how consultants were engaging with their client. I have to agree with what Jobs said. Without having skin in the game, the ones who pay the price of the recommendation are the customers, not the consultants.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for consultants staying for a long time in the same place, as it doesn’t change the issue. When a consultant stays for an extended period, he or she will become part of the system, and so part of the problem.

When I was working with teams, I always tried to explain using a quote from Nanny McPhee: “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.” I am not sure I remember who gave me the idea to use that quote… I would guess it is Olaf Lewitz.

With Laurent, we tried to use an approach in which we will have more skin in the game. We proposed to customers two different prices: one was at the high end of the consulting rates, the second was half the rate with a mention that we will invoice 5% of the benefits provided by the mission. We never found a customer who chooses the second option. I understand that the approach could have dramatic side effects of aiming to get the benefit in the short-term without having to care for the long-term consequences.

When I changed back to an internal position, I always insisted on being part of the team, and share not only “change,” “transformation,” or “improvement” goals, but real business goals. In doing so, I need to care at the same time for both the short-term and the long-term, and my natural tendency to welcome change avoids that the complacency of accepting the status quo.

Either you are consultants, or you hire or work with consultants, what do you think?

November in France!

November in France!

Thanks to Aurélien Morvant (Kokan) I will be back in France for two weeks at the end of November. I will present a session around the book Changing Your Team From The Inside during AgileTour Rennes (November 23-24, 2018).

I already planned a few other visits to companies and organization to present the book, but as we have five months to prepare, my calendar has still a lot of openings.

I am open to present during other events, for companies or organizations.

The session could be:
– A 30-minute talk followed by Q&A,
– A 50-minute talk followed by Q&A,
– A 90-minute interactive session (for a group of 30 people max),
– Or something we could define together to fit your needs.

Please contact me if you are interested in organizing a session!

The Story Behind The Book

The Story Behind The Book

Earlier this week, I announced the availability of the first edition of Changing Your Team From The Inside. I said in that post that I would tell you the story behind the book.

Back in 2013, I started to think about writing a book about the connection between agile and open source values, principles, practices, and tools. I thought that it would be an inspiration for large IT teams to transform their organization considering the different services they are running as open source projects in a community of distributed developers. As There are still quite a lot of projects that are maintained by one or two individuals, I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to bring in open source communities practices that will value the work of a team, more than the heroic behavior of individuals. I delivered presentations on that topic, like in 2014, at the OpenStack Summit, in Atlanta, with Frederic Lepied, or in 2015, at the Open Stack Summit, in Vancouver, with Nick Barcet.

During the work on this project, I was struggling with different audiences, and I concluded that it was not the right angle. I aborted the project to work on a more individual-based approach.

A discussion of their values and principles with one of the companies I was working with at that time brought another insight. One of the founders said: “the most important thing is, we want employees to be happy, and with that, we will have happy customers.” This simple sentence drove a lot of research on happiness, so much research, that at some point I even thought that I would write something on that topic. Thanks to Julien Dubois, I keynoted the Drupal Developer Days in 2015 with “Happiness is Coming,” and that well received!

I continued to work around that idea during the next two years, bringing some of the content in several conferences and using it in my day to day work. Working with a company heavily invested in leading OpenStack to success, to provide enterprises with cloud capabilities for their on-premises infrastructure was an excellent source of learning. With Mark McLoughlin, we delivered a presentation in 2016, at the OpenStack Summit in Austin, to cover the idea of the flow of work going from the upstream company to the customers of the product based on the different projects coming from different communities. We wanted to send the message that whatever company you are working with, you don’t wear two different hats, a company hat, and a community hat, you integrate both responsibilities in your day to day work.

The OpenStack community was also a great source of learning with great people like Colette Alexander who founded the Stewardship Working Group to support the technical leaders in the community in the development of their leadership skills. We enjoyed a leadership training provided by ZingTrain in Ann Arbour. (What? A deli delivers training on leadership?)

The travel to Ann Arbour gives the opportunity to Emilien Macchi and me to visit Menlo, the company founded by Richard Sheridan, the author of Joy Inc. I am telling that to highlight that the quest for happiness was significant in that journey of building high impact sustainable organization.

I became progressively convinced that companies needed Transformation Manager because the transformation is not a small improvement. Transformation supposed that you will entirely reconsider the way you work. I started to work on the book. I also began to work on defining the role of a person like this in my company. It slowly became clear that it was not working, we were falling back on the “change agent” role, or the “agile coach” role, or the “improvement person.”
If you are familiar with the 14 management principles of Deming, you know the sole idea of having a person in a transformation manager role is breaking the last one of them:

“Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the
transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.”

Like quality should be built in the product and not assess after the fact, the transformation should start from within.

People are the source of change.

The beliefs of people define the value of the organization they are working with. People can change their organization from the inside. And so, I think I found the right angle, providing ideas of approach people could use to foster the change in their organization.

The rest is in the book: Changing Your Team From The Inside.

I am eager to hear from you about what’s working (or not) for you!


I heard back today from Claude Aubry the author of the great book on Scrum in French:

The approximate translation is: I finished the book Changing Your Team From The Inside and I highly recommend it. Very inspiring.

Thank you Claude!



The First Edition Is Available

The First Edition Is Available

The first edition of Changing Your Team From The Inside is available! Check-out which version is the right one for you!

Thank you very much for your support along the way.

What I feel today is quite complex. At the same time, I am happy with a sense of accomplishment, AND, I am worried that it could be not good enough to be out in the world.

You will tell me!

I have to say that a very long feedback loop is not ideal. I am even discussing the importance of short feedback loop in the book. I will tell the story behind the book in a longer post during the week.

I need you to tell me what you would need to give to the book a five-star review. You know that people base their choices on reviews and recommendations, right? I need you to be honest even if you think it is brutal. Maybe I will cry a bit. I need you to tell me what you really think because I will use your feedback to update the book.

Of course, all customers will have access to all the updates of the electronic versions! So you will not only get access to it, you will help all the other readers and me! A big thank you for that!

If you are subscribers to the mailing list, you can ask for a 25% discount. For the electronic version, you have to lower the price down to the minimum. For the paperback version, drop me a note, and I will send you the coupon.

Thank you!

Great! You asked for more “versions” than expected!

Great! You asked for more “versions” than expected!

Thank you to the subscribers to the mailing-list! I appreciate your support!
All the subscribers to the mailing list, before the launch, will receive a 25 % discount on all versions of the book. So please, continue to share with your friends and colleagues!

I am making good progress in finishing the book. The reviewers are doing a great job! Thank you folks! You are all amazing! I feel I am lagging behind, but we are getting there 🙂

Last month, I asked you what versions should be available. I received more answers than expected which is great! Among the responses, a fair number are asking for electronic only, paperback only, or both.

I also discussed with my friend and colleague, Julien Danjou, the author of  The Hacker’s Guide To Python and Scaling Python, on that topic of versions. His two books are available in different versions. The distribution of sales among the versions shows a real interest from readers for this variety.

The conclusion is straightforward, let’s satisfy all the needs with an electronic only, and a paperback and electronic versions.

Julien also told me that many people wanted to have the time to discuss with him about the book, and so he created a version to do precisely that. In your responses, there were several asks we could satisfy with a “team offer” that includes a discussion with the team.

And, there’s more! My friend Laurent SalsĂ© from Fitnet Manager, the ERP for those who don’t like ERP, told me: what about a tool that transforms the recommendations of the book into concrete actions for the team! Definitely interesting!

You have more ideas about the book versions!  If it’s the case, please, send me a note right now and tell me! If nothing comes to mind, just say hello. I like getting to know the people who are interested in reading the book.

Mailing List Subscribers to receive a 25 % discount on all versions of the book!

Mailing List Subscribers to receive a 25 % discount on all versions of the book!

First of all, I would like to thank the subscriber to the mailing-list! I really appreciate your support! I am happy to announce that all the subscribers to the mailing list, before the launch, will receive a 25 % discount on all versions of the book.

I know that this offer leads to two questions.

1- Where is the book?

2- And, what do you mean by “versions” of the book?

To the first question, I need to ask for a little more patience. I am working on finishing the book. Which means more reviewing, more professional proofreading, and more rewriting on my side. I guess that I will need to stop that cycle at some point 🙂

To the second question, I discussed the idea to make the book available in different versions to satisfy the various needs of readers. The obvious first version is the book available in electronic formats. The second version is the paperback version of the book. But there’s more! Some reviewers already asked for the ability to engage their teams in a live discussion about the book and the challenges they face. So, I guess that this should define the third version.

Maybe you have ideas about what should be the versions of the book. If it’s the case, please, send me a note and tell me!

And if nothing comes to mind, just say hello. I like getting to know the people who are interested in reading the book.

Kanjis at Agile Games France

Kanjis at Agile Games France

The 2018 edition of Agile Games France just ended a few days ago. What is extraordinary about this unconference? The non-organization principle is pushed to the extreme, and reminded from the start to the participants: “If you want something to happen, do it” as it’s originator, Alexandre Boutin, repeats each year during the less than 2 minutes introduction.

The events gather less than 100 people in a new town each year since 2012. This maximum number of people was agreed upon by the participants themselves during the retrospective of one of the first events.

A lot of people wants to attend, and the less than 100-euros tickets sell in a few minutes. The participants are a mix of people who are coming for the first time, and people that are returning each year. Alexandre is making that visible during his introduction by gathering people around the number representing their number of participation. The visible representation is helping people that are coming for the first time to see that they are not alone in that situation, and also encourages people that are returning to support the newcomers.

How does it work?

A hotel fully booked by the participant is the best configuration we found so far. One of the locals, who chose the place, presents the available spaces for gathering subgroups. Then people who want to facilitate a game put the proposal on a sheet of paper on the wall with a few information about it, duration, number of players, and the learning outcomes.

People who want to play a game, write their first names on the papers to signal the facilitator that they are interested. And after some time, one of the facilitators takes one paper from the wall and signal to the crowd: “we will play that game in that space, we are looking for 6 to 12 people maximum”. The facilitator is followed by the ones who want to participate. And the process will repeat itself for two days.

As all the games have different duration, from short 5 to 10 minutes games, to 2-hours simulations, it could be dazing to try to create a formal agenda. So, no grid and no timing, always on time and never late. When people are available, they are coming back to the main room. In front of the wall, participants are sharing their review of the game. People are sometimes asking one facilitator to play a game again to give them another opportunity to play. People are switching from being a facilitator to being a player during the day.

For the first edition, in Nantes, in 2012, I proposed the Beer Distribution Game created at the MIT Sloane School of Management in the 1960s. The simulation game illustrates the bullwhip effect that could happen in a supply chain, when people have a limited understanding of the whole system, and limited communication. A really fun eye-opener that the participants enjoyed at that time, voting for that game as the best experience they had during the event.

Creating a safe space to play a game is helping people to experience a new approach freely. During the debriefing, they will connect the dots with their environment. And, at that moment, they will know that they need to change, and they will know that they can do it. They experienced the different kind of behavior people could show during a transformation, on a short time frame.

For the 2018 edition, I brought with me a new barely tested game: Kanjis.

The game is an icebreaker to warm-up the team for a long meeting.

A group of more than eight people is asked to watch a set of cards figuring Kanjis for 1 minute. The facilitator splits the group in half.

The first group is sent outside of the room for roughly 5 minutes, and the members are asked to introduce themselves.

The second group stays in the room and is asked to quickly introduce themselves in 3 tags while the facilitator is preparing the next step of the game. The second group is presented with a new set of cards, and ask to tell, as a group, which are the ones that are coming from the previous set. The facilitator marks the selected cards on the back, and prepares the set of cards for the first group.

When the first group is coming back in the room, the facilitator invites them to tell which are the cards they like.

What is happening?

The first group usually found very difficult to identify the cards that were part of the first selection. They could found some of them in their small pick, habitually because one of the participants made an association with something meaningful.

The second group, when asked the cards they like, is identifying the cards that were part of the previous set. They often pick all of them, and when they don’t, their wrong picks are similar to the one they should have picked.

When we are asked the first rationale question, we use only the logical part of our brain, and tend to activate limiting beliefs. People will say things like: I don’t have a good memory, the cards don’t make any sense. Also, the group is asked to answer “as a group” which will activate fears of being wrong and being judged by the others. The peer pressure will shut down some of them that will prefer to remain silent instead of making proposals.

When we are asked the second emotional question, we have access this time to all our brain. Of course, during the first phase, our brain recorded all the cards, and when asked which one we like, the brain is simply matching with what is already known. We tend to like what we know.

The words that we will choose as the facilitator or as participants will have a strong impact on the ability of the participants to engage fully and to access all their resources.

I had the idea of the game while listening to John Cleese speaking during a Talk at Google:

There was a very interesting experiment. A psychologist showed a group of people some Chinese ideograms characters. They came back next week, and they said to the people: “now we’re going to show you some more, some of the ones you saw last week, some new, will you tell us which ones you saw last week.” They were absolutely hopeless. Nobody could do it at all. It was exactly chance. Then they repeated the experiment the second time, they said on the second showing: “we’re going to show you some more ideograms, will you tell us which ones you like.” And the ones they liked were the ones they’d seen the week before. So, the information was in there in the unconscious, but it couldn’t be accessed in a straightforward way.

John Cleese, during a talk at Google in 2015

The initial version of the game is published today after several runs and improvements during Agile Games France 2018. I would like to thank all the participants for their immensely valuable feedback.

The game is published under a creative commons license, and the contributors will be credited in the revision log.


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