AgileTour Dublin – Dates Announced! 18th Oct 2018

We can now announce the dates for our annual community conference in Dublin – put this date in your diary: Thursday 18th Oct 2018. This will be another great chance to share experiences, tip and trick on agile with fellow practitioners, learn from others in the community, and to network and have fun!
And, as a non-profit, volunteer run event we are on the look-out for possible speakers! Would be great if you and your colleagues could contribute this year – present your experiences, talk about an important topic, run a small workshop.
The 7th Agile Tour conference is Ireland’s favourite agile event – an friendly, informal place to learn, to share experiences and to exchange ideas. It has grown from 30 participants in 2010 to 300 last year but retains a strong feeling of community. This year we will have some international speakers but keep a firm focus on our ever increasing local agile knowledge.
We are now looking for more speakers to tell their story. Whether you are a seasoned speaker or never presented before please send us your idea for a talk or workshop. See last years programme ( for sample abstracts. We are looking for 35min talks or 90 min workshops/tutorials.
Topics include but are not limited to:
– Agile Management & Leadership
– Collaboration, Teams and culture
– Agile outside IT
– Technologies and Tools in Agile
– UX/UI Design in Agile
– DevOps
The deadline for submission is May 31st . Please email your submission to Please include your title, abstract and short bio.
If you’d like any further information, or to chat about a possible submission, just get in touch –
Thanks in advance for contributing to this voluntarily run, community event!
Best regards, Colm

ALI Talk: Agile Leadership: Moving from Efficiency to Effectiveness

At the ALI Conference on  April 26th next, I’ll be presenting some of the latest ideas around agile leadership, with some personal experiences from my work supporting senior leadership teams transforming to agile:

The majority of agile implementations either fail completely, or deliver a fraction of their promise. Why so?

Most organisations and their leadership teams still follow prescriptive, efficiency based management paradigms, developed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in a simpler, slower moving, more predictable world. Modern business, and software development in particular, must now deal with a level of complexity which refuses to play nice with traditional management approaches. Todays product development organisations are more akin to complex adaptive systems, which, by definition, implies the answer cannot be “figured out” in advance. No amount of analysis, design or planning our projects will allow us predict how they will unfold, what they will, or should, deliver or the value they will create.

So if we can’t predict how the future will unfold, how can we as leaders create plans, assign responsibilities, measure performance, make commitments to stakeholders?

Agile Leadership is about building resilient organisations – organisations that can adjust structure and reconfigure resources dynamically based on emerging challenges. Such organisations cannot be built on static, power based hierarchies. Information and decision-making authority must be deployed dynamically to where it is needed at a point in time.

Building such an organisation requires some fundamental changes to our leadership approach. In this short talk I’ll discuss some of the new priorities for leaders such as:

•The ability to set strategic direction or intent (what and why), while not committing to detailed plans (how)

•Leveraging the power of self-organisation by nurturing a shared common purpose, distributing power and developing leadership at all levels (“Eyes on, Hands off”)

•Building professional competence and a common doctrine across team members, resulting in mutual confidence and trust in others, in turn leading to speed and effectiveness.

•Aligning personal, team and organisational incentives thereby avoiding conflicts and even subversion of intent.

While only the tip of the iceberg in terms of agile leadership, these topics give a feel for the challenges and fundamental changes in approach leaders face in adopting agile. A true transformation requires knowledgable, persistent leadership, training and coaching at all levels of the organisation.

On estimates, commitments and guarantees….

Over the last few weeks I’ve found myself having the same conversation with three different client companies: ‘How do we get our teams to commit?’ There is usually a back story of frustration accompanying this question – the teams are not delivering what was ‘promised’, theres a perception they could do better if they tried harder, etc.

Of course, the basic tenet of agile is that we can’t predict the future – its too uncertain and therefore we need to keep our eyes open and work in a way that we can respond to unfolding realities as we move forward (that is, we need to be ‘agile’). So with that in mind, I differentiate between the following three terms:

Estimate: This is a guess, based on the information available at the time, of how long something will take to do (or how ‘big’ it is).

Commitment: This is where an individual or team commits to an endeavour – they will do their best to accomplish a certain goal or carry out a certain task.

Guarantee: This is a warranty – a promise that the goal will be achieved, the task completed by a certain time, come ‘hell or high water’. The word guarantee implicitly means 100% certainty. 90% certain is not a guarantee.

The trouble is, all too often these terms are conflated – they are interpreted by some as being one and the same. If you give me an estimate, it may be taken as a guarantee. Or if you do not deliver on time, you were not committed to the task. But these terms mean entirely different things. In the uncertain world of software development, an estimate cannot be taken as a guarantee. And regardless of how committed a team is to achieving an objective, there is still no guarantee they will succeed. If they don’t succeed, its not necessarily that they didn’t give it their best shot!

Think of a rugby team going out onto the pitch for an important game. Their form and that of the opposing team may indicate they are likely to win by 10 points or more (the estimate). The team are fully focused on winning – they will throw their bodies into the fray with unrelenting vigor and determination (the commitment). But theres still no guarantee they’ll win!

Like to get Scrum Product Owner Certification?

Our Principal Consultant Colm O’hEocha will be delivering his comprehensive 2 days training for Product Owners in Dublin, 24/25th October. This course will prepare attendees for the Professional Scrum Product Owner certification exam. Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Concepts in Agile and Lean Software Development
  • Scrum Framework, including roles, events and artefacts
  • User Stories and Story Mapping
  • Estimation and Planning

Training includes exercises, lots of sample questions and a practice exam.

Feedback from the last time Colm ran this course included ‘the trainer was very, very, very good‘!

We can also offer discounts for 2 or more attendees on the same booking. Email us today at

For further details of course content, see our website.

AgileTour17 Slidedecks available for Download

After another superb lineup of speakers at our AgileTour conference last week (5th Oct), we now have some slide decks available for you to download :

A&E Meetup 21st Aug – Barry O’Reilly at Workday

Designing for Business Evolution

To evolve businesses, leverage technology and exceed customer expectations, organizations need more than a leap of faith. They need to design for it.

In this talk, I share how I’ve been using practices and principles from design thinking, lean and agile to help organizations design for continuous evolution and become experimental by design.

Designers routinely use methods such as hypothesis testing, customer journey mapping and enquiry to uncover and resolve complex challenges. But they fail to realize how those skills and capabilities can be leveraged beyond product development alone.

Through case studies and examples from the organizations I work with I showcase the value of design and designers. These organizations understand that design isn’t just about user interfaces and pixels — it influences everything. I share concrete tools and techniques that drive culture change and business performance, and challenge teams to rethink the role they can play in creating high performance organizations.

Dublin Technology Leaders Aug29th: ‘Build Innovation In’

The next meetup for Dublin Technology Leaders Meetup is 29th Aug at 6pm – Our principle agile consultant, Colm O’hEocha, will be talking about agile in high innovation environments, while Ken Finnegan, Chief Technologist at the IDA, will talk about some of the innovations he sees in Irish organisations. For further details and to register go to the meetup page

‘Build Innovation In’ – Colm O’hEocha, AgileInnovation

Innovation can be defined as ‘the discovery, development and concrete implementation of new ideas’. Therefore it involves exploration (for discovery), learning (to develop) and delivery (to implement). Agile frameworks such as Scrum and Kanban have knowledge creation, learning and innovation at their centre.

Traditional management of software development (‘plan driven’, ‘waterfall’) assumes the discovery and learning have already occurred, and that we know before we start what are the most valuable features and how long it will take to implement them. In this case the focus is on the most efficient, productive delivery of systems that meet customer requirements in terms of functionality and quality. There is little focus on exploration or learning, leading to low support for innovation.

Some firms see innovation as a separate activity from the daily work of delivering software. For example, innovation happens during hackathons, or other ring-fenced ‘innovation time’. It is not an integral part of the daily work of delivery. Agile aims to maximise value delivered not just by delivering software as efficiently as possible, but also by supporting innovation to ensure that the features delivered are the most valuable.

Agile isn’t just about churning out code – it supports exploration and discovery with rapid learning by providing high quality feedback and a fail-safe culture. As we discover new knowledge, we can then redesign our solutions and rework our plans appropriately – that is, we can be ‘agile’. By combining exploration and discovery with concrete implementation (e.g. in Scrum you deliver production ready software every sprint), agile bakes innovation into the heart of the way we work. it ‘Builds Innovation In’ rather that treating it as a distinct activity, carried out separately from the work of software delivery.

In this short talk, I’ll elaborate on some core agile concepts that support innovation – from both human and systems viewpoints.

AgileTour Dublin – 5th October 2017 – Save the Date!

AgileTour is a not for profit, community event that we at AgileInnovation sponsor and organise every year – its where Irelands agile community go to share experiences, learn from each other, have fun and make new contacts.
This full day, not-for-profit conference (only €40 early bird) is where we share war stories, tips and tricks, what might work and what might not. This year, we’re lining up a range of workshops, expert speakers and experience reports from companies in Ireland doing agile. We hope to cover a selection of introductory and more advanced topics over three parallel sessions.
Confirmed companies who’ll be represented include Fleetmatics, Overstock, Ammeon, Hiptest and Workday. If you’d like to share your agile story or discuss a particular topic, please email me – we’d be delighted to hear from both novice and experienced agile practitioners and leaders.
Further details, and registration, on the conference website
For the last few years we’ve sold out all tickets (~300) within a few weeks so better book your ticket soon!
See you there!, Colm
AgileInnovation have been sponsoring the event with our colleagues at InspireQS since 2009. Our friend Frederic Oehl has been our voluntary co-organiser, taking care of logistics, registrations and so on.

Galway Meetup: Kanban basics – Value Streams, Flow and Pull

Kanban is a tool that packs a punch! A simple mechanism for synchronising work activities, it gives us a holistic view of the end to end process and were we can improve. It focuses our attention on the flow of work, enables a pull rather than push environment and can drive radical cultural and organisational changes to enable collaboration. Often used alongside or instead of frameworks like Scrum, it has become a valuable addition to our agile toolbox.

In this presentation I’ll start with a simple exercise to illustrate the basic concepts of flow and how they alter our approach to managing our work – I’m hoping this will drive a lot of interesting discussions on how you might apply Kanban in your environment.

Colm, AgileInnovation.

On the subject of Self-Organisation

“Organise the work, let people self-organise”
Many agile frameworks include the idea of ‘self-organising teams’ as an essential ingredient. For example, Scrum calls for long-life, stable teams where individuals have no titles and there is no hierarchy. With no hierarchy, there is no ‘boss’. When I introduce these ideas in training, most audiences react with incredulity, citing a myriad of objections such as:
  • We must have accountability* – a single individual I can rely on to ‘make it happen’
  • Junior folks couldn’t organise themselves – they need a team lead or project manager to tell them what to do and make sure they do it
  • If someone isn’t in charge, it’ll be chaos…
  • How can we make sure people aren’t ‘slacking off’ if we’ don’t have someone keeping an eye on them?
  • If people are allowed to decide what they’ll work on, you’ll have people doing work they aren’t capable of and making lots of mistakes
  • How do I tell a senior developer with 10 years hard won experience that they now have the same title as the intern?
  • We decide on pay scales based on title – we aren’t going to pay everyone the same so how else could we do it?
  • Whats a career path without titles and hierarchy? What will motivate people to work hard and do a good job?
  • Some people like to be told what to do – they aren’t comfortable making decisions for themselves
  • Isn’t no titles or hierarchy just for an ideal world – can’t we be agile without the self-organisation bit?
*See a recent blog post on accountability in agile organisations

So if you take away titles and hierarchy, it leaves a lot of open questions. Lets tackle some of these one by one.

Firstly, do we really need self-organising teams to be agile? Not all of what are considered agile** frameworks  require self-organising teams – in fact some like Kanban don’t mandate teams at all. But frameworks like Scrum and XP are based firmly around the idea of cross-functional teams. But why ‘self-organising’? The logic is that teams based on a hierarchy, with power at the top, but most of the detailed knowledge and awareness of the work at the bottom, are two slow to sense and respond to complex, fluid situations. In a traditional environment, people on the front line must articulate the changing context to those up the hierarchy, while decisions must be fed down through the ‘chain of command’ till they reach those that will implement them. To speed up this process, teams can delegate power to the front line. However, delegation implies the person delegating, i.e. temporarily passing the power to another, still has ultimate responsibility. Therefore, delegation is usually carefully qualified and bound. Heavy oversight and a fear of a loss of control can hugely restrict the intended benefits. In self-organising teams, on the other hand, the decision making power is not delegated, it is distributed. That is, there is no one individual with the power who is temporarily delegating it to others. The power is everyones, and everyone on the team is responsible for using it to the benefit of the team objective. So in summary self-organiing teams are not a mandatory requirement of agile, but their ability to be agile (sense and respond rapidly and effectively) is an important aspect of a successful agile organisation.

**What is and isn’t an agile method is highly subjective, but mostly I consider whether it shares the values of the Agile Manifesto

The next question is ‘how do we ensure everyone on the team is contributing in the most effective way’? If we don’t have a ‘boss’ telling us what to do, how do we know what to do? The answer is a shared goal, and commitment to that goal. 

‘Make the mission your boss’

The team should have agreed a shared objective that everyone on the team will pursue. In Scrum this may be the sprint goal (short term), release goal (medium term) and company or team strategy (long term). To use a rugby metaphor, the short term goal is to score a try, medium term to win the match and long term to with the championship. It is this shared goal, unattainable by any one team member or subgroup, that causes the team to ‘gell’ in a network of interdependancies and mutual accountability. This is where the transparency agile calls for is so important – so people can see where they can best help the team to reach the goal, where the problems and blockages are, who is contributing what. If everyone is working to a single goal, one that is not too far out (e.g. a day, a sprint), then alignment of activities happens ‘implicitly’ through face to face discussions, the team board, programmers and testers working on the same things at the same time, etc. And since everyone is mutually accountable to each other to do their utmost to achieve the goal, there is no place for people who will sit around waiting to be told what to do. I’ve seen this approach transform a group of shy, junior, fearful engineers into a cohesive, dynamic and super effective team within just a couple of weeks. A good agile coach/scrummaster will create an environment where the mission is the boss, where there is no fear, and where the team has everything it needs to do a good job.

In the next few posts I’ll discuss some of the other questions raised above – e.g. hiring effective team members, career paths, performance management, etc.