Team Awards Retrospective

Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you are part of a team!

The LEGO Movie

Even if a lot of people would genuinely like to think that way, not everything is awesome when you are part of a team. The great thing about this is that it leaves room for improvements which a regular retrospective will help you find as a team.

In 2015, the LEGO Movie song: “Everything is Awesome” was nominated for the best song at the Academy Awards (The Oscars). The Directors of the movie ordered the artist Nathan Sawaya to create 20 Lego statuettes to be given while the song was played.

During the winter break, my (young adult) kids and I assemble quite a lot of Legos with the younger ones. That reminded me of the happy face of people during the 2015 Oscar ceremony when they were given the statuettes and of one retrospective format created by my amazing wife Isabel.

I decided that the next retrospective for my team will be a Team Awards Retrospective and that I will give away two Oscar statuettes made of LEGO! I ordered the bricks online and built the statuettes thanks to that article.

How did it work?

We intended to do a quick retrospective at the beginning of our face to face meeting to examine the last period. Our team is widely distributed, so when we have some time with each other, we invest that time for high-bandwidth collaboration.

I asked the team members to consider the last period as a movie.

Using two sticky notes, they had to nominate for two awards:

  • The best failure for the team
  • The best contribution from a team member

All the team members gathered around the whiteboard to display their sticky notes in the dedicated boxes for each award.

Starting with the team award, they took the time to read what was on the notes and then asked clarifying questions. The conversation was focused on what we learned from those failures. I then proposed a silent reordering of the notes as a way of voting. The session was not really silent, but still, they quickly agreed on what should be at the top.

The conversation went on what we learned and what we should adjust in the way our teamwork. The award went to the new team member who proposed the failure.

We moved then to the team member award with the same approach, and in the end, the award went to the other new team member whose mission is to lead our actions to get to more diverse and inclusive teams. The discussion focused on how to best support the mission.

The retrospective was fun and short. We focused on consolidating our culture. And we welcomed our new team members with awards!

They were maybe not as expressive as Oprah but I feel that they were really happy 🙂


Talking to Strangers

Based on a recent recommendation, I read Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book was already on my reading list, as I really enjoyed his previous books.

In reality, I listened to the enhanced audiobook on audible. Enhanced means that you have real interviews, and others played dialogues along with the narration by the author.

The book is excellent. It is about our (in)ability to grasp what strangers are up to because of three aspects:

  • We default to the truth: we think people are telling the truth, and it serves us well because people usually are telling the truth. But, it is not always the case.
  • We believe in transparency: we think we are pretty good at reading people. We believe the behavior we observed is aligned with what people think and say. But, it is not always the case.
  • We don’t believe in coupling. In reality, location or context dictates the behavior of people. Their behavior is not defined by who they are.

The combination of the two first aspects makes us easy to be fooled. By adding the third aspect, we turn it into a society problem. The book is a must-read. And, by the way, the part on Alcohol is a must-read.

Go for it and tell me what you think!

Le Podcast

Coming to terms with terms – Michael DeLanzo

In this episode of Le Podcast, I had the great pleasure to receive Michael DeLanzo to discuss the importance of coming to terms with terms. Michael and I met at a Boston Spin event when I gave a talk: The Change Starts Here. You can find more about speaking engagement here.

What precipitated the idea to discuss this topic was an email feedback exchange on Le PodcastHow to create great goals?“. As a listener, Michael did not agree with the level of abstraction or scope provided to goals and objectives. The reason turned out to be that we had different meanings of the term goals and objectives. Once he understood the definition I had of these terms, the issues with scope and level of abstraction were no longer there.

Michael ended the recording by asking me a question from Daniel Kahneman “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

  • A bat and ball cost $1.10
  • The bat cost $1.00 more than the ball
  • How much does the ball cost?

Highlights of the episode:

  • Clarify the terms is the starting point for any collaboration
  • Writing or Speaking communication, or synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • Cultural differences, and language struggle (There is a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that follows along the lines “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”.)
  • Passive Thinking and Critical Thinking
  • From The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication
    • If your words can be perceived in different ways, they’ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.
    • Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.
    • Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one-hour meeting, it’s a five-hour meeting. 
  • From CNBC: Jeff Bezos: This is the ‘smartest thing we ever did’ at Amazon
    • Jeff Bezos: “Many, many years ago, we outlawed PowerPoint presentations at Amazon,”“And it’s probably the smartest thing we ever did.”
    • Jack Dorsey: “Most of my meetings are now Google doc-based, starting with 10 minutes of reading and commenting directly in the doc,” Dorsey tweeted in 2018. “This practice makes time for everyone to get on same page, allows us to work from many locations, and gets to truth/critical thinking faster.”
  • I already mentioned the Valve Software New Employee Handbook in this article about the Neuroscience of Trust. I repeat here that it is worth to have a look 🙂

Book recommendations:


Understanding A3 Thinking

Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System is a book by Durward Sobek and Art Smalley enabling you to understand A3 thinking.

The A3 report is a key tool used by Toyota in support of problem resolution. The approach enable them to solve the root causes of the problem and not only to find paliative temporary fixes.

To learn more and before reading the book, I invite you to watch the excellent presentation by Claudio Perrone (@agilesensei). A3 & Kaizen: Here’s How from Claudio Perrone

This post is a translation of my original French post from 2012.

Le Podcast

How (not) to provide feedback – John Poelstra

In this episode of Le Podcast, I had the great pleasure of having John Poelstra to discuss a very personal experience about providing feedback.

John has a great show. I have been on the show twice. The first time to discuss Changing Your Team From The Inside. The second with Michael Doyle to discuss how to build and lead effective remote teams.

The highlights of the episode are:

  • the difference between the content of the feedback and how it is delivered
  • the place of the ego in the feedback process
  • who is responsible for our experiences
  • how to deal with expectations or needs
  • how the responsibilities are on both ends
  • the dance between people is the relationship
  • how you show up makes a big difference
  • polarization, win/lose mentality makes it worse

Recommended book in the episode:


Willpower is a “melting” currency

This is that time of the year when we think it is a good idea to take “good resolution.” Last year, I already discussed in the article How to keep up with your 2019 resolutions, how the willpower effect will come into play when we say we will do something, and we are not.

Blaming ourselves will not help. It is even the opposite, as guilt will damage our willpower even more.

It is as if we started with a certain amount of willpower, our initial capital, and that our actions would affect our capital. Using our willpower would increase the amount of willpower we have because now, we know we can do it, we are happy because we did it… and so on…

On the contrary, not using our willpower will damage our capital, as we tend to build a belief that we will NEVER be able to do ANYTHING…

Willpower is really like a “melting” currency. I know the term is used in French and not in English, so I need to tell you a little bit more about that so you can get the analogy. Silvio Gesell proposed demurrage fees as a way to foster economic activity. When you don’t use your money, you pay a fee that will decrease your capital. If the fee is high enough, you cannot earn money just by possession, you have to use your money.

Back to our willpower: if you want to increase your capital, you have to use it, even if it is just a little. Let’s say that the goal is to feel more energetic. Exercise is a good way to achieve that goal, but before committing to go to the gym, maybe you can start small and do a 30-day plank challenge. It does not require any specific equipment and will take you only 2 or 3 minutes a day.

Ready to grow your willpower capital?

Stick the 30-day calendar on the fridge and tick each day when you are done!

Enjoy the new year!


Keynoting with my wife

I had the great pleasure of giving four keynote speeches this fall. I already told you about the keynote I gave in Bordeaux for AgileTour in this post. The three others are really special to me. We did those addresses with my wife.

Last year, I was invited to speak about Changing Your Team From The Inside in Grenoble and Rennes. After the conferences, Isabel and I had a great dinner with Aurelien, Celine, Chris, Nelson, Benji, and Jerome. All of them happen to be conference organizers. And they asked us if we were giving talks together. Even if we worked together for quite some time when we had our management and organization consulting and coaching firm, but we never gave talks together.

One of them said that if we were to prepare something, it would be probably worth a keynote. And as all the others were enthusiastic about the idea, we decided to give it a try.

Of course, we went through our ups and downs in preparing the keynotes. But in the end, we were happy with the result! The feedback was way above what we were hoping for! Thank you!

We did AgileTour Lille and AgileTour Toulouse in October, and Agile Grenoble, the biggest Agile event in France, in November.

The three keynotes were, of course, each a little bit different. This was influenced by a lot of factors like the location (being in a real theater in Toulouse was much better for us, for example) and, of course, by our own experience, you know the drill, the more you practice, the luckier you are.

The talk, about Individuals and their interactions, is structured in three acts and a conclusion. Each act is composed of a role-play of a situation, followed by a debrief to consolidate what we learn from the story.

Here is the recording of the last one we gave in Grenoble!


Le Podcast

How to deal with your stars – Frank Jansen

In this episode, I had the great pleasure of having Frank Jansen join Le Podcast to discuss how to deal with stars.

In a previous post, Care Personally, I touched about how Kim Scott defines Radical Candor: Care Personally and Challenge Directly.

We started the discussion referencing how Kim Scott defines Rock Stars and Super Stars in her book: Radical Candor.

  • Rock stars are a source of stability for the team, people very talented, and they will keep doing it for years.
  • Superstars are a source of growth for the team; they want to change everything; they are looking to grow at their next level.

Frank explained how he supports the growth of people in his team, how he builds diversity in the team, how he creates the conditions of a fearless organization with the goal that the team is able to manage itself, and, in the end, how the team gets incredibly great results.

I am eager to hear your feedback, so drop me a note at, on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also use those channels to propose the next question you want Le Podcast to answer. We can even record the answer together!

Where to listen:

Anchor Breaker Google Podcast Radio Public Spotify RSS


Sketchnoting Resources

One of my colleagues noticed that I take all my notes graphically and asked me for resources on how to start. I am far from being an expert, and I am not doing as beautiful drawings as the experts will do, even if I am taking notes this way for more than ten years.

Having a beautiful result is, of course, something that I would like to have, but this is not the most important benefit I see with the practice. Among those benefits: the connection of ideas with each other, the ability to have a whole meeting on one page, see when people are tempted to go back to a previous agenda item (it could be a sign that the topic was not closed properly and there are still things to be discussed)…

How to start?

First, you have to be comfortable with your tools and be satisfied with an imperfect result.

I started by using just sheets of paper. I think I was not comfortable to waste a page in my notebook, speaking of being satisfied with an imperfect result… I then moved to a small notebook, and then a large-high-quality notebook. I loved the feeling of the pen gliding on the paper on those notebooks! Then I switched to a reMarkable tablet which gives me the ability to have topics dedicated notebooks. Really useful to have the ability to go back one page to have a look at the notes of the previous meeting on that topic.

Once you have tools, you are ready to start. To make sure I am clear, a pen and paper, and you are ready to start!

Have a look at how a mindmap works. The mindmap approach will give you one way to use the space until you invent your own way.

Then you have to increase your graphic vocabulary.

My preferred book for that is Bikablo. Those other books are also useful (ranked in order of preference):

In the end, there is no magic, and you have to practice! Every day!

One way to get started is to draw TED Talks. TED Talks are very well structured talks, so you will be able to get clues on how to use the space early in the speech. Furthermore, you can start with the shorter ones.

One of my preferred short talks is 8 Secrets of Sucess by Richard St. John.

Ready to start?

Please enjoy the process of learning!

If you have other tips or resources, please use the comments to share (or drop me a note).

Share with me your first results, and we can discuss ideas of improvements!



Maybe we can love division after all

One year and a half ago, I noticed that my daughter was using an app to improve her Spanish and her English. Of course, there is an app for that! There are even several apps!

The one she was using is Duolingo. I decided to give it a try and started learning Spanish from scratch. Over the last year, I observed multiple evolutions of the application meant to motivate people to stick to their practice and continue using the app.

One evolution they introduced lately is “division”. You start in the “bronze” division. A division is a group of 50 people. Over the week, the first 10 of them will go to the higher division, the “silver” one. Once you reach the “silver” division, the first ten can go up, and the last five are relegated to the lower division. The number of XP (eXperience Points) you gain during the week defines your ranking. You can gain XP by attending a lesson, and how successful you are during lessons.

Of course, with 300 million learners, you can imagine that there are several “bronze,” “silver,” “gold” divisions running in parallel. But it seems it does not affect the behavior of the learners. I realized quickly my habit of doing three lessons per day got me immediately to the top of the first divisions, but after a few weeks, it was harder to get to the top 10, and I needed to increase my practice. So, it worked… And now, to stay in the current division, I need to do a little bit more than three lessons a day.

Of course, I am doing it every day to keep my “streak” 🙂 Another incentive to help you keep up with the habit!

I saw a lot of content management systems that are ranking the top contributors. The problem is that when you are a newcomer, the top is something inaccessible so it cannot motivate you to do anything. The weekly top could also be unreachable, so maybe divisions could solve that problem?

Why do you want people to contribute, and how useful will be their contributions remain questions you will have to answer.

How does it work with my learning of Spanish?

I keep up with the practice, and I was able to understand a lot of things during my last travel to Spain. But I am not yet comfortable enough to speak. Compare to my starting point, the progress is enormous for just a few minutes invested each day.

So what do you want to learn next?