So What Is The Agile Boost Camp Workshop?

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“This format is amazing. All workshops should run this way”.

This is the comment we heard from a recent participant of our recently created Agile Boost Camp format. In this workshop we run a truly agile-style 2 days where the participants pick and choose topics they want to address. We adjust the plan along the way, we ran short timeboxed Pomodoro style sprints and consider next steps after each.

This blog post tells the story of the first Agile Boost Camp we ran almost a year ago. We have since ran multiple workshops. People seem to just love the interactive totally attendee-focused dynamic format. No more shying away from the real world questions and leaving them to the “parking lot”. Here these questions get front stage.

Kicking Off the Agile Boost Camp – Agile Style

After starting with a cocktail party where the participants pondered a long list of options and a lovely discussion about our options for release planning the two days (plan everything, plan each half day, continuous pull based planning while setting some baseline expectation about the number of topics we want to cover) we started going through some items, adjusting priorities and number of Pomodoro sprints per item along the way.

Examples of Topics

  • How to deal with infrastructure/shared teams – Both how to more effectively manage the flow in/out of the teams in a way that reduces the management/coordination pain and enables a more agile/pull based planning as well as how to reduce the cases where these teams need to be involved by enabling other teams to self-serve themselves.

shared resource load flow

Eventbrite - Join an Agile Boost Camp to boost your Agility - Boston South Station

  • Scrum-Fall – waterfallish big batch activities within the sprint and how to deal with them
  • How to enjoy benefits of agile development while living under the constraints of a waterfall/gated program/organization as well as how to break out of the overall waterfall towards business agility – and how to appeal to the concerns/risks from the perspective of Executives/Clients/Sales in such a move.
  • Tips/Tricks for Effective Agile Change Management in both an organizational as well as a team context.
  • How to energize people and teams in an agile context – both towards short-term goals as well as in the long-run

Interesting Epiphanies People Have At the Agile Boost Camp

It is interesting to look at some of the interesting concrete takeaways/epiphanies people took as well:

  • Limit # of Work items in Process as well as their SIZE
  • Use an agile approach to implement agile – try, experiment, change
  •  Infra/Shared teams can enable other teams using a delegation model. We took some inspiration from Spotify’s Self-Serve squads model.
  • Release Planning – stop focusing on the small details, just start doing based on a high level plan
  • In order to effectively track an agile release  a few charts can give you a great picture – Feature status (with how many stories are done and in each other relevant life cycle state), Stories CFD, Features level CFD. (A nice tool we looked at that can help you dive deeper into your analytics and generate some actionable insights is ActionableAgile Analytics by our friend Daniel Vacanti)
  • The change resistance matrix (Overcoming resistance to change movie by Goldratt) – helps you prepare better for how to drive change, think about the different people and how they see the change. (we also discussed Speed Boat as a nice exercise to explore Strengths and Weaknesses of current reality). Fearless Change Patterns was another great resource we discussed. (I’m SO excited to have Linda Rising as our keynote this year in Agile Israel 2015!)
  • The importance of a good spread/flow of the PBIs/Stories throughout the sprint (to avoid the Scrum-Fall problems) and the power of Kanban/CFD/Limited WIP to help you identify and deal with the causes for Scrum-Fall.

  • Interesting to consider the cocktail party approach to planning presented by Chris Matts (Skype case study)
  • Fair Process – try to involve as many as possible in order to have better engagement/commitment rather than just compliance. We mentioned Delegation Poker by Jurgen Appelo as one way to explore how fair your process is and work on shifting it to a fairer level.
  • Virginia Satir’s J-Curve change model shows that in order to achieve change, there is almost always a costly learning curve (Investment and time is required before Return)


  • Commitment/Stretch as a way to manage the Waterfall/Agile interface more effectively. (We looked at Henrik Kniberg’s Agile Product Ownership in a nutshell section about managing expectations as inspiration for this)
  • Avoid starting all the features (MFs/MMFs) in parallel – keep as many items NOT STARTED as options for changes towards later in the release
  • When you have teams that can only deal with parts of the release backlog you need to monitor their progress/status and not just the overall status/progress (While expecting them to work hard to enable other teams to also work on their area)
  • Bank of Trust – learn how to create a positive balance with the team so that when you need something from them they will trust you. (Inspired by Speed of Trust)
  • Use Pairing in the right situations to improve versatility
  • Technical Safety as something we should start to evaluate in order to keep people healthy, happy and motivated. (Part of the new hierarchy of needs inspired by Maslow+Pink+Kerievsky). Another interesting way to show people/teams you care about their happiness/health as well as learn what to focus on improving is the Spotify Squad Health Check Model. Obviously we watched Lucy’s famous chocolate scene to introduce the topic of Unsustainable Pace and discussed my motivation-oriented retrospective approach



  • Start measuring historically to enable planning more predictably
  • Stacey Matrix – Uncertainty Matrix of Biz/Req/Tech – Explains why we do MMFs and why we do PBIs/Stories (See my post about Risk-aware Product Development)

stacey1Great opportunity to learn about bleeding edge memes/practices in the Lean/Agile/Modern Management space

  • We also discussed the #NoEstimates movement and the less extreme  option of stopping estimation at the stories/sprint level and moving to planning/predictability based on actual story count velocity while estimating bigger features as part of agile release planning or ROI discussion. Ideally by relatively estimating the number of stories a feature will turn out to include WITHOUT slicing it down to those stories first.
  • On the topic of relative estimation Team Estimation game is a great alternative/complementary approach to Planning Poker (See a great exercise to learn about the different approaches and good description of the team estimation game). When you do want to use planning poker remotely Hat.Jit.Su is a nice option. We re-emphasized that mature agile teams use this mainly for feature-level longer term planning rather than the sprint.
  •  change battlefield mapping can help you better prepare and manage any kind of change, including but not limited to driving changes in and around your agile team or championing an agile change initiative across a big organization.


  • Remaining task burndowns. Don’t do them. And people telling scrummers to use remaining effort sprint burndowns? Somebody should take away their license. Use stories done instead. That’s an indication of working tested software. Prefer Burnups to burndowns as they give you a better picture of changes in scope and are an easier starting point for moving to the real flow management chart – the CFD (Cumulative Flow Diagram).
  • Obviously Reinertsen’s Batch Size U-Curve made an appearance as well in the discussion about waterfallish processes and the change management around them.

Of course we also watched a couple of other short videos and looked at some stuff from the AgileSparks resource library

Don’t Ask Us Ask Our Attendees

So far it seems the Agile Boost Camp is quite a hit (the word amazing got repeated several times in the feedback surveys we collected), with a strongly positive Net Promoter Score and comments like “We should repeat this workshop every couple of months as it allows us to keep boosting from where we are” and “finally an agile workshop which brings the theory down to earth and helps us understand what practical steps we can take to address our issues”.

Sounds interesting? Join the next public class or bring this into your organization. We have lots of fun whenever we deliver this class. It is different every time (remember it is audience-driven!)  and I’m already interested to see what topics will be of interest in the next class…

Eventbrite - Join an Agile Boost Camp to boost your Agility - Boston South Station

PS Thank you Sagi and Ben (Coaches on the AgileSparks team)  for scribing the workshop, taking photos and sketching some of the concepts in real time.