Mattias Skarin

Mattias Skarin

Kanban, Lean and Agile mysteries

Slides from “Passion for projects 2017”

Today I met a crowd I do not bump in to all that often; project managers. I decided to share insights from Agile projects, stretching from Hospitals to Digitilization, how they simplified and speeded up their pre-studies. Learning how to do so well, helps avoiding the “we have to speed up implementation, to make up for lost time” syndrome.

Yes, the “black window” backwards bike, was there too 🙂


Slides in english, are available here.

Slides in swedish, are available here.



What is Agile – easy to grasp material for the non-techie

I frequently get the question (often from people outside IT): “how can I quickly understand what Agile is?”.  I’ve collected a suite of links and videos over the years to help people grasp the basics concepts in 10 min or so. I thought I’d share them with you.

(pls note: the list is intended to give people a quick introduction, short and sweet. The intent is not to cover all aspects.)

Brief explanation of Agile (8 min video):

How a Product Owner works –  “PO in a nutshell” (12 min video)

Article highlighting cultural aspects – Experimenting, Awesome people, Deliver continuously, Safe to try

Behaviours displayed by agile teams – 12 seemingly normal things agile people do

Case: Agile at Scale with 200 people @ LEGO (50 min video).

– Pay attention to how engagement/responsiblity was created for both team and department deliveries, and how positive energy was nurtured.

I hope you find it useful. I expect this list to evolve over time, so don’t be surprised if new links pop up here in the future.

Cheers Mattias

Hur Karlstad sjukhus byggdes pÄ tid och budget med Agila kontrakt


Karlstad sjukhus har i flera omgÄngar byggts om och byggt ut. Samtliga hus har levererats pÄ tid, budget och med en fungerande vÄrdverksamhet frÄn dag 1. Sjukhuset har sparat 300 miljoner Ät VÀrmlands lÀns landsting. Lösningen? Effektstyrd upphandling med Agila kontrakt och Partnering. Vad skapade förutsÀttningarna för att lyckas? Vi intervjuade Lars Nilsson, som ledde upphandlingen av Karlstad sjukhus.

(How Karlstad hospital was built on time, on budget and with working medicare from day 1, using Agile contracts). Read the interview here (in swedish)

Stephen Bungay on Agile Strategy


Last month, we had the pleasure of bringing Stephen Bungay to Crisp in Stockholm to share with us his wisdom and insights on how to use Strategy under uncertain conditions.

I find this topic interesting, since the interative nature of Agile can trick management into believing either that they do not need to have a direction, or that a few abstract statements would serve the purpose.

In my mind, nothing can be further from the truth. In a dynamic, fast paced environment, more attention needs to be focused on finding, communicating and revising your direction. The question then becomes, “How can we do a good job of it?” Stephen has studied how leaders do this (from the military to Formula 1) and has translated the strategies to fast-paced business environments. Interestingly, he notes, “Strategy is not a science. It’s a practice, which each generation needs to rediscover.” I think we would do well to do the same within Agile environments.

Apart from Stephen’s “Art of Action” class, which was highly recommended, we also hosted an open evening on the topic “Keeping Direction” which combined the practical experiences from LEGO with Stephen Bungay’s insights. The slides for the talks are available in PDF from the links below:

Also check out Sami’s excellent podcast with Stephen at







Riding a backwards bicycle – Keynote at Agile Islands 2016

The Agile ambition at Åland (a group of Islands between Sweden and Finland) is quite astonishing.  Besides being home to a bunch of cutting edge tech companies (who have been using Agile at Scale for 8+ years), they are also experimenting with using Agile in their society. Hm, Sweden suddenly feels sooo 90’s..

I had the privilege to keynote at their first Agile conference – Agile Islands 2016.  I wanted to bring something extra, so I brought with me a backwards bicycle in order to demonstrate how hard it is to adapt to changing conditions, even though we intellectually understand what we need to do.

(conversation in Swedish, with the instructions “use the pedals” and “pick up some speeed”. Yep they speak swedish in Åland)

The Black Phantom II


I you would like the slides from the presentation, they can be downloaded here.



Introducing Lottie Knutson – speaker at Fastfeedback 2016


During extraordinary situations and crises, some people stand out and shine. One of these was Lottie Knutson. Lottie led the Crisis team at Fritidsresor during the Tsunami disaster in 2004. While governments were struggling to figure out what had happened, Lottie’s team was already hitting the ground running.

Lottie will be speaking at Fast Feedback 2016, in Stockholm on Sept 21st-22nd. She will be sharing her insights and experience on how to prepare a leadership team for uncertain and critical events. We got a chance to talk with her.


What are you active in right now?

The fall has just started with board meetings and travel. I’ve decided to eat more greens (vegetables) and to do more walking. For the walking, my new favorite app, BBC World News, will come in handy.

What will your seminar at Fast Feedback 2016 focus on?

Lessons learned from quick change and dealing with crises at work.

You were quite active during the tsunami disaster and your leadership inspired many. What were the lessons learned from that?

The importance of being unpretentious, and how not to be fazed by the constant battle with internal bureaucracy and politics.

Thanks Lottie! Looking forward to seeing you at Fast Feedback.


10 kanban boards and their context updated – v1.5


I’ve updated the  Kanban boards  collection with examples from departements outside IT, Product portfolio and Corporate Legal.


SAFe @ LEGO – Video from LKCE 2015


Here’s the video of our presentation  “Learnings from SAFe @ LEGO” at LKCE 2015.


psst: Meet LEGO f2f at this years Fastfeedback conference 2016 (Stockholm, Sept 21-22:nd). This years focus topic is “Strategy – Turning insight to action”.




Insights from Nordics first Agile contracting conference


OK, technically speaking, it was called a networking day.  But that wouldn’t do justice to the content here.

The main thing we got out of the ACPN Agile contracting conference was the three different perspectives from lawyers, customers and providers.  That gave us a unique insight into the challenges and questions from each party.

Some cool facts:

  • Founders of both the Danish Agile contract (K03) and the Swedish Agile contract attended the conference.
  • Agile contracts were used in large projects (up to €120M) by customers in Finland and Denmark.
  • Customers who have used Agile contracting in big projects have been really successful. We saw impressive results in one case: Danish Business Authority (a €60M program) delivered their projects on time using Agile contracts and at the same time managed to reduce service calls by 40%, case handling time by 69% and improve one time pass by a whopping 92%!

Insights and reflections from the conference:

  • Agile contracts are being used in large public sector programs in both Denmark and Finland. The Finnish Agile contract (€1.2 Billion) was a direct order from the Finnish Ministry of Finance and a precondition to get the funding. You can’t help but wonder why Sweden is trailing.
  • A driving force behind the adoption of Agile contracts in Finland is the tight budget conditions.
  • Time and materials contracts are not recommended for parties who work together for the first time. A target price model works better because it gives both parties the incentive to deliver on time.
  • Code camps where you develop a small part of a software solution together in 1 day, is the method of choice to learn about the provider’s maturity and skill level. It forces both parties to look under the hood which reduces risk.
  • During code camps and provider evaluation, the providers are generally paid time and materials for their participation. This is a fair trade between the customer who wants to find the best skill for the job, and the providers, who provide the options.
  • Legal issues are not a constraint to Agile contracting but getting the wrong lawyer as advisor is. The best choice for mid- to large-size IT projects is to create a small procurement team consisting of an Agile specialist, a software architect, a lawyer with Agile contracting experience and 1-2 customer representatives. This gives you the benefit of having software, legal and business /user experience and perspectives.

If you want to read more about the conference and including a short video summary – check out:

The conference was organized by Crisp & Nordic River (Sweden), Best Brains (Denmark) and Codento (Finland).


12 seemingly normal things Agile people do

Last week, I got this great question from Faraz (a manager for an energetic customer support crew) who is experimenting a lot with getting more Agile. “What seemingly normal things do Agile people do?” I realized that we rarely talk about the small things that effective Agile people do. What makes a great difference is rarely the big sweeping change programs, but rather, the small everyday things we do without thinking about it.

So here’s a list of 12 seemingly normal things Agile people do which we don’t pay much attention to that can make a big difference.

Whiteboard problem solving

Agile Behaviours - Whiteboard

read more »

#slowtofast podcast with Nordnet CIO Dennis


I recently did a podcast together with Dennis (CIO Nordnet) on #slowtofast. I walked into the podcast thinking it was going to be about Kanban and Enterprise Agile. Right! 🙂 Dennis hit me with these simple questions..

  • The essential elements of proper Product Management
  • The management principles of an Agile leader
  • How the Swedish culture is beneficial for using Agile
  • How to get started with an Agile transition
  • How to make an Agile culture stick
  • How to handle failure

All hard questions, and all so essential to get right.  Here is the podcast:

If you are into Product managment and UX you’ll find more interesting topics in Marcus and Dennis podcast Slowtofast.



Kanban and Scrum – now with Polish translation!

The Kanban and Scrum minibook is now available with Polish translation. Great thanks to Zbigniew Zemla for the translation!

Pobierz tutaj (aka  polish for “get it here” ):



5 ways to find slack when your team is under pressure

I recently recorded a webinar where I walk through 5 ways to find slack (to invest in critical improvements),  when a team is under high pressure.



Video – Learnings from applying SAFe @ LEGO


Here’s the video me and Eik’s presentation – “Learnings from SAFe @LEGO”  (presentation at LKCE – Lean Kanban Central Europe, Nov 2015).

Best quote: “..this looks exacly like what my 6 year son does in kindergarden” 🙂



LKCE 2015 Slides – Learnings from applying Safe @ LEGO

lkce safe at lego

Just back from Lean Kanban Central Europe 2015. A great conference that keeps pushing the limits.

At the conference I gave a talk together with Eik aka “Captain Agile” from LEGO. We walked through how they introduced SAFe, how they involved other departments and most important, how they experimented their way forward.  (Me and Henrik iterated as coaches during the transition).

Here are the slides.



Real World Kanban – interview on InfoQ

InfoQ has just released an interview regarding my latest book Real World Kanban. In this we walk through the reasons behind writing the book plus why Kanban needs to be matched by long term thinking to improve over time  (aka behaviours like “don’t pass bad quality forward” matters)

Check it out:

ps: For anyone interested in the book, I have also collected quotes from people who have read it (among them Mary “The Queen of Lean” Poppendieck)

Slides from Lean Kanban France 2015



Just back from Lean Kanban France where I gave a presentation on “Learnings across Kanban case studies, and what happened next” and introduced Skarin’s law:

”The number of improvement
initiatives in a kanban system
is proportional to the trust members
have in that systems purpose”

(.. it’s never too late to introduce your own law 🙂 )

Anyway, here are the slides.



Kanban tool walkthrough video

Are you thinking about electronic Kanban tools? Do you need transparency to end-to-end flow? Do you work across multiple sites? Tired of managing work states in Jira?

Here’s a short video demonstrating visualisation, analytics and key features in Swift-Kanban & Leankit. Both combine “simple and flexible” with “enterprise ready”. I also mention an interesting runner up – Obeya.

Some things I don’t walk through (but worth knowing about):

  • Both Swift and Leankit supports creating hierarches of boards (linking multiple teams)
  • Both offers mobile support
  • Leankit offers advanced analytics in their pro version (enables you to create customized reports)
  • Obeya (the runner up) is currently in private Beta

’nuff said -let’s take the kanban tool walkthrough 🙂

How do you develop awesome products?

For  this year’s Stop Starting conference, we asked ourselves three questions:

  • How do you develop awesome products?
  • How do you bootstrap a successful mega project using Agile contracts?
  • How do you use Agile and Lean thinking to turn a stagnant company around?

We then picked the brains of people from real companies who have been there and done it. Listen to how companies like King and Spotify evolve their products in a global market. How Åre Skidfabrik developed an award winning product together with a community in no time.  We have more great stories to share on this special day.

Check out the Stop Starting 2015 agenda at: 

.. and register now to reserve your seat on October 20:th, here in Stockholm. It’s worth the trip, we promise!

A short intro video ( ..who the heck let these guys out? 🙂

Using Agile in Hardware To Develop New Products In One Day

Team developing new productsCan you develop new products from scratch in one day?

This challenge was taken on by the Medical HW manufacturer Optinova in August. Over the course of two days, we pushed the limits of “what is possible” by applying Agile in a HW environment.

Our hypothesis was that Agile would be a good fit in product development and innovation scenarios. And the result so far from the work that we have been doing with Optinova is promising.

Cross-functional teams, focus, rapid prototyping, close customer feedback and visual overview work just as well in hardware as in software. The training setup we used was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Learn basic Agile practices and principles
  • Day 2 – Applying them – developing three product ideas from scratch in one day, in a rapid prototyping workshop.

The result: All three participating teams managed to take an idea to working prototype in a day. One team went so far as submitting a bid to a real customer the following day based on their prototype. That’s high speed, even in software terms. But the most important thing wasn’t the result, it was the lessons learned. When we asked the participants if they wanted to continue to build products this way, the votes were unanimously in favor. If we can get it to work, this would help build a competitive and innovative company. read more »

Hur Wunderkraut hÄller budget och skapar lÄngvariga relationer med hjÀlp av Agila kontrakt

Vi har byggt en sajt dĂ€r med goda exempel, för att inspirera företag, myndigheter och verksamheter pĂ„ vĂ€g in i en upphandling att ta steget till Agila kontrakt. Check it out – Eller följ oss pÄ twitter: @agilakontrakt.

wundkraut_personerna-268x400Turen har kommit till att berĂ€tta om Wunderkraut, som anvĂ€nt Agila kontrakt sedan 2010. Det intressanta Ă€r hur de i den ombytliga webb och reklamvĂ€rlden, framgĂ„ngsrikt bygger lĂ„ngvariga relationer med sina kunder. De har tagit steget frĂ„n att se Agil utveckling som “nĂ„got som sker inom IT” – till nĂ„got som driver bĂ€ttre affĂ€rer. Agila kontrakt Ă€r av nycklarna. LĂ€s hela storyn hĂ€r.


Psst:  HÀng med pÄ vÄrt frukostseminarium den 16 Oktober om upphandling med Agila kontrakt som vi samarrangerar med Wunderkraut. Varför inte ta chansen och trÀffa oss bÄda? AnmÀl dig pÄ:



Real World Kanban – now on Amazon

My new Kanban case book now ships from Amazon (as hardcover or in Kindle format).

new book: "Real World Kanban"Learn how we:

  • Improved the full value chain by using Enterprise Kanban.
    (Find out how we improved time to market and shifted focus from Sprints to Flow to deliver customer value in a traditional company.)
  • Boosted engagement, teamwork, and flow in change management and operations.
  • Saved a derailing project with Kanban.
  • Helped an office team outside IT keep up with growth using Kanban.

Inside each case story, you’ll find guerilla techniques on how we made improvements happen (including cases where we #failed). I also walk through why focusing on “improving IT” can make you miss your biggest improvement opportunity (the front end part of your value stream) as well as the 5 system “enablers” that guided our long term improvements.

Get “Real World Kanban” from:

Slides from Hookedfest

Just back from Hookedfest – a conference for product people. It’s refreshing to see and discuss product development from a market and product perspective, in contrast to the “what can we build” perspective we all to often resort to as engineers.

It was interesting to see other speakers (for example the Google guy) share similar experiences on product development (keep up speed, prototype and fail fast). I couldn’t agree more on the quote: “If it isn’t tested, it is broken”.

The coolest demo of the day was a JavaScript live code demo of JS interacting with HW devices for example pulse meters . (Thanks @wouter).

Thanks Maarten for bringing together so many interesting people.
Here are my slides – Introducing Concepts.





Book release: Real World Kanban

My new book – “Real World Kanban” is now available. Here’s the plot in a nutshell:

What happens when Kanban is used in real projects? Kanban has few rules, but an infinite number of strategies. What seems easy in theory can become tangled in practice. So there’s nothing like learning from real world cases. Learn how we:

  • Improved the full value chain by using Enterprise Kanban.
    (Find out how we improved time to market and shifted focus from Sprints to Flow to deliver customer value in a traditional company.)
  • Boosted engagement, teamwork, and flow in change management and operations.
  • Saved a derailing project with Kanban.
  • Helped an office team outside IT keep up with growth using Kanban.

Inside each case story, you’ll find guerilla techniques on how we made improvements happen (including cases where we #failed). I also walk through why focusing on “improving IT” can make you miss your biggest improvement opportunity (the front end part of your value stream) as well as the 5 system “enablers” that guided our long term improvements.

Sounds interesting?  You can get “Real World Kanban” from:

new book: "Real World Kanban"











Learning Lego Serious Play

Three months ago I stumbled upon a question which needed an anwer: Could Lego be used for business strategy development? I just had to go to London to find out the answer.

With a group of 12 I spent the full weekend.. building Lego! When was the last time I did that? (hint: some 30 years ago..). The real interesting part is of course the stories we tell about the models. Each time we do, the team moves closer towards a shared understanding and also generate new insights. That’s cool!

Below: Team members walking through our shared model.


read more »

Kickstart workshops with energizing exercises

Do participants fade away in a long “zzz..”  or the perfect time to update yourself on what your friends are doing on FB? No more!

Check out the Energizer bible for nifty tricks for keeping up the energy level during workshops and trainings.

The energizer bible

Agila kontrakt och effektstyrning – Slides frĂ„n frukostförelĂ€sning för It-chefer

I morse höll vi (Mia och Mattias) ett lyckat föredrag för morgonpigga IT-chefer och andra som hade kommit till Crisp för att lÀra sig lite mer om hur man kan anvÀnda Agila kontrakt för att förbÀttra bestÀllningar, relationer och leverera produkter och tjÀnster som skapar önskvÀrda effekter.

FörelĂ€sningen var ett smakprov pĂ„ vad vi kommer att gĂ„ igenom pĂ„ kursen “Certifierad Agil BestĂ€llare” i mars 2015. Boka din plats nu för att lĂ€ra dig mer.

Vi tror att mÄnga stora företag och framför allt myndigheter har mycket att vinna pÄ att upphandla pÄ effekt i stÀllet för fast scope. Vi pÄvisade nyttan med att fokusera pÄ effekt och gav 5 tips pÄ hur man kan sÀkerstÀlla att rÀtt produkt byggs och att man uppnÄr önskade effekter. Vi visade ocksÄ pÄ vad forskningen sÀger om sambandet mellan goda relationer och samarbete och bra leveranser, samt Àven hur man inom LOU med hjÀlp av Agila kontrakt Àven kan undvika att bestÀlla en lösning, man kan istÀllet tillsammans med leverantören ta reda pÄ vad man behöver bygga och bestÀlla pÄ effekt. Samt sjÀlvklart ett smakprov pÄ vilka Agila kontrakt som finns i dag.

FrukostförelÀsning för IT chefer  om Agila kontrakt
VÄr förhoppning Àr att den hÀr kursen ska ge bestÀllare och leverantörer bÀttre relationer och större gemensam förstÄelse för processen. Vilken kan resultera i bÀttre produkter som skapar mer effekt för lÀgre kostnad. Har man gÄtt kursen sÄ ska man klara av att hÄlla en upphandling sjÀlv utan att ta hjÀlp av upphandlingskonsulter.

Missade du förelÀsningen?
Vi planerar att hÄlla samma förelÀsning igen i januari vid tvÄ tillfÀllen i samarbete med tvÄ olika webbyrÄer, för deras kunder. Hör av er om ni Àr intresserade att komma pÄ nÄgon av dom, eller om ni vill att vi kommer och förelÀser för era kunder.

The impact on quality and predictability of Agile and XP

It’s always nice to look at real data and these two studies are worth their read.

  • “Impact of Agile” from Rally compares the effect of WIP and estimation techniques on productivity and quality.
  • “The State of Developer Productivity” by Rebel labs examines the effect of XP style techniques on quality and predictability.

read more »

Agila kontrakt – slides frĂ„n Devlin 2014 (swe)

HÀr Àr mina slides om Agila kontrakt frÄn Devlin 2014.

Jag hoppas det skall inspirera fler företag och myndigheter att börja anvÀnda sig av dem, dÄ de medför vÀsentligt lÀgre risk Àn traditionella kontrakt.
(AnvĂ€nder du Agila kontrakt idag – tveka inte att höra av dig!)

Vi har i Sverige dÄliga practicies för upphandlingar och har redan halkat efter vÄra grannlÀnder. Det gör att vi tappar nödvÀndig konkurrenskraft som vi verkligen behöver för att fortsÀtta utvecklas i global vÀrld.


Slutligen vill jag pÄpeka vikten av att inte bara se till kontraktet utan att ha koll pÄ tvÄ andra processer:

  • Hur veta jag var jag skall bestĂ€lla?
  • Hur utvĂ€rderar och vĂ€ljer jag leverantör

Detta gĂ„r jag och Mia Kolmodin som framgĂ„ngsrikt hjĂ€lpt flera företag med bestĂ€llning igenom pĂ„ vĂ„r kurs “Certifierad Agil BestĂ€llare (9-10 Mars)”, ett initiativ för att öka kundmognaden vid bestĂ€llning och upphandling, bĂ„de för privat och offentlig sektor.

VĂ€l mött – hĂ€r Ă€r slides frĂ„n presentationen

Video – product development without the product owner

Crisp’s Youtube channel has made a new release – introducing Concepts.

Concepts is used to let passionate people run with ideas, a different approach than that of traditional product ownership. If you do use in conjunction with a product owner, it allows that person to spend more time on the field with customers.

Ps: The mastermind behind the illustrations -> Jimmy Janlén!

More on concepts: