In 2019 I did a keynote at Mind the Product conference in London. I shared some key insights afters years of working with Spotify, LEGO, and Minecraft development. Spoiler alert: the most important insight is in the title of this post. Video recording SlidesContinue reading
Great conference, great atmosphere! Very inspiring to hang out with a bunch of super-experienced practitioners. I love conferences where it’s clear that everyone is there to learn and spread knowledge. It’s funny though, in lean circles like this I’m often known as the Agile Guy, while in agile circles I’m often known as the Lean Guy 🙂
Here are some sample pics.
If you are a meat eater and you want to become more of a vegetarian (or at least eat more plant stuff and less meat stuff), and you kind of struggle with that because meat tastes good and you’re used to eating it, then this guide is for you! A short pragmatic guide for theContinue reading
As climate scientists have long predicted, the world is experiencing a record amount of extreme weather events – droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, heatwaves, and extreme cold.
It’s hard to prove if any specific disaster is due to climate change, but that’s not important. The key point is the overall trend: climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and it’s happening really fast. This also creates climate refugees, political instability, and increases the risk of war. Basically, the world is becoming a less and less safe place to live.
This graph (source) is just for the US, but the pattern is worldwide:
The bad news is this will most likely keep getting worse over the next few decades – even if we were to completely eliminate all CO2 emissions right now. Climate change is like a huge flywheel that we’ve set in motion over the past century, and even when we stop spinning the wheel it will keep going for decades or more, due to inertia.
OK here’s an offer to any conference organizer in the lean/agile/tech/climate space. I get a lot of requests to do conference keynotes, which I’m grateful for, but unfortunately I have to turn down the vast majority. I limit long-distance travel for family reasons, and also for climate reasons (although I confess I’m in Thailand right now as I write this…. hard to be 100% consistent…).
Now I’m thinking: Why should something as mundane as physical transport get in the way of participating in a great conference? And, in this world of catastrophic climate change, shouldn’t most business trips be replaced with remote participation?
My hypothesis is that it’s possible to remote-participate effectively in a conference – to do a keynote or talk, participate in workshops, even hang out with people in the hallway. I’ve tried this a few times using video conference and telepresence robots. In fact, 4 years ago I was sitting on this same beach in Thailand, remote-participating in a Spotify event in Stockholm using a Double (see “What it feels like being an ipad on a stick on wheels“). That was fun and a bit clunky, but it was 4 years ago so I bet the telepresence robots have come a long way since then!
So here’s my offer:Continue reading
As the devastating consequences of climate change become increasingly obvious (flooding, fires, storms, drought, melting icecaps, rising sea levels, etc), the question on most people’s mind is “what can I actually, really do about it?”. Well, listen up. The most obvious minimum first step is to eliminate your own personal carbon footprint, and become climateContinue reading
Everyone is talking about Agile. I stumbled into this 15 years ago and have been living and breathing Agile since then, seeing it grow from a small movement within software, into an industry-wide revolution and then gradually become mainstream. More and more companies around the world, even big traditional companies, are turning themselves inside out trying to be Agile. Now it’s time to take a step back and reflect. What is going on? What is this all about? And where is it headed?
As I write this I’m sitting on a train headed back to Sweden, pondering the result of a year’s experimentation with travelling by train instead of flying. Is this an effective way to reduce my carbon footprint? The jury is in! Read on. One common rallying cry among climate advocates is to fly less (orContinue reading
My talk was an attempt to take a step back and look at the big picture, and also speculate about the future of agile. I was also interviewed a couple of times, and the talk was also recorded. Here are links:
- Interview “Agile is about taming complexity”
- Interview “Etre agile, c’est savoir dompter la complexité“
- Interview “L’évolution de la culture agile en entreprise“
- Video recording of the talk
2 of my kids tagged along on the trip, we took the train to make it extra adventurous (and also to mind the climate). It’s a long way (24 hours each way), but we made good use of the time!
For years I was hearing an increasing murmur and rumours about some kind of problem with the ship. Finally I decided to take a closer look, went up to deck, leaned out and looked down, and…. oh sh*t…. this ship is sinking! It’s tilting, some cabins are already flooded, with people frantically crowding the hallways and staircases trying to get to higher deck. It’s happening slowly, very slowly. In fact, the ship won’t be completely sunk during my lifetime probably. But my kids, and grandkids…. Darn!
So what’s going on here? I start roaming around, talking to people.Continue reading
I’ve spent ALOT of time the past few months trying to understand climate change and global warming, and how to effectively contribute. I’ve dug through 1000-page scientific reports, talked to experts, and basically tried to digest as much information as possible. I was surprised by how little I knew before. I’m convinced that, the more people who really understand the problem, the more effectively we’ll be able to solve it (or at least mitigate it).
So here’s a short animated video summarizing the whole issue. The problem, the consequence, the root cause, the solutions, and what you can do to help. All packaged in a fun and easy-to-digest way, same style as my other videos about Spotify Engineering Culture and Agile Product Ownership. The video is all based on solid scientific references, not speculation or rumours.
Please help spread it as widely as possible! Link to this blog post, or the youtube link: https://youtu.be/3CM_KkDuzGQ
I hope this video will inspire many people to make small changes, and a few people to make big changes. Who knows, maybe the next young Elon Musk is out there somewhere, just waiting for the spark of inspiration 🙂
Flying causes global warming. That sucks. But neverthless, we fly sometimes. Conferences, vacations, business trips. So what can we do? Well, here’s a simple rule of thumb:
- Fly as little as possible. Reduce the frequency & distance. Consider train for shorter trips.
- When you do fly, make sure you carbon offset. From wikipedia: “A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.”
The obvious question then is – HOW do you carbon offset? I was surprised when I dug into it. “Traditional” carbon offsetting (buying emission credits and things like that) seems pretty useless! I couldn’t find any credible evidence that it makes a real difference! Almost like a scam.
So is there another way to carbon offset? Yes! This chart summarizes some of what I’ve learned so far. Read on for details. Got any more suggestions? Add comments. But please quantify.
UPDATE (Jan 2018): We’ve created a service to provide effective carbon offsetting. Check out GoClimateNeutral.org
10 years ago, 2007, me and a few Crisp colleagues embarked on a mission: be best in Sweden at helping companies become agile. We had experienced first-hand the power of agile development, and wanted to use this newfound super-power to help both Crisp and our clients improve. Others joined us and – tadaa! – Agile Crisplet was born (and the concept of crisplets)! That was the year I taught my first Certified ScrumMaster course together with Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum. Since then we’ve co-trained almost 30 courses! About 2-3 times per year. In fact, May 22-23 is our 10 year anniversary (join us at the course in Stockholm!).
Now 10 years has passed since our Agile Crisplet was formed, and I’m happy to see we have achieved more than we ever could have dreamed!
Dispensing with false humility here, we’ve somehow managed to become one of the world leaders in this field! Famous agile and lean experts partner with us. Super well-known product companies, large telecoms and banks, even government organizations, turn to us as first choice for agile guidance and training. Our videos and articles and books have racked up millions of hits, and we are basically overwhelmed with requests to do coaching, write book forewords, do conference talks and workshops, and run training courses. I’ve done almost 30 keynotes in 20+ countries. I’m amazed (and overwhelmed) every time I look at my inbox, I’ve had to hire an assistant just to turn down the 95% of all requests that we simply don’t have capacity to handle.
OK, so now what?
OK, here’s a (very) simplified summary of what I’ve learned about global warming after digging deep the past few weeks.
- Global warming is a major threat to life as we know it. It’s ALOT worse than most people realize.
- Global warming is caused (mostly) by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere.
- The CO2 increase comes (mostly) from us burning oil & coal (“fossil fuels”). Adds about 20-30 billion tons of CO2 per year.
- So we need to (mostly) stop burning oil & coal.
- We burn oil & coal (mostly) for electricity and transport. Coal power plants, car/plane/ship fuel, etc.
- We want to keep electricity and transport, but we also want to stop global warming, therefore we need to get electricity and transport without burning oil & coal.
- We know how to do that (solar, wind, electric cars, etc). The technology has been figured out, and the prices are at the tipping point where oil & coal can’t compete economically.
- So now we just need to hurry up and roll out those solutions! Every single reduced ton of CO2 counts.
- Unfortunately shit is going to hit the fan either way (because it’s already launched so to speak), but at least we can slow it down, reduce the impact, and buy us some time.
So pull whatever strings you can to help out – technology, policy, economy, communication, etc. Inform yourselves & each other. People have varying degrees of discretionary time, money, knowledge, voting power, contacts, influence, and motivation. But the more people try to help in one way or another, the more difference it will make as a whole.
The past couple of years I’ve been travelling back and forth to LEGO’s HQ in Billund Denmark, helping out with their agile journey. Super interesting! Learned more than we could ever fit in an article, but here’s an attempt to capture at least some of it, written together with LEGO colleague and co-instigator Eik ThyrstedContinue reading
I was curious about how many tons of carbon dioxide that my family pumps into the atmosphere (= global warming). Looked at the most direct variables: flying, driving, and home electricity. There are obviously more variables to look at (like beef!), but I’m starting with these three, as the data is readily available and I gotta start somewhere.
- Flying = 14.6 tons per year
- Driving = 4.1 tons per year
- Electricity = 0.5 tons per year
So, 19 tons of CO2 per year. Damn! Sorry about that, earth and future generations. Good news is that I now know how to reduce it by ALOT (like 5 times less)!
Enjoyed the trip! After the conference I spent a day at Ubisoft Quebec to discuss REALLY large-scale agile (like 1000-person video game projects). I see more and more companies applying agile at really large scale and my key takeaway is that, the larger the project is, the more important the agile principles are. For tiny projects any process can pretty much work. Also interesting to see how different types of organizations – such as video game development, banking, and aerospace – arrive at very similar patterns for how to deal with dozens or hundreds of agile teams building a product together. Just keep in mind that big projects are super-risky with or without agile, so your first priority should be to de-scale.
Anyway here are some sample pictures from the keynote.
Curious about unconferences? Perhaps you’re thinking of running one? Or maybe you are invited to an unconference or open space, and the organizer sent you this link to describe how it works? If so you’re in the right place!
This doc is a high-level summary. For more details and facilitation instructions, see the ebook How to run an internal unconference.
What is an unconference?
An unconference is basically a conference without predefined topics. There is a high level structure and theme, but actual topics are generated by the participants on the spot, and breakout groups are formed dynamically based on interest and relevance.
If you know what an Open Space is, an unconference is really just an Open Space event with some added structure at the end to make it fit for company-internal events.
This is a pretty awesome format for cases where you want a super-flexible and participant-driven agenda and structure. I’ve been using it for years at Crisp, Spotify, Lego, and other clients, and it tends to spread virally within organizations. I’ve done it mostly with groups of 20-80 people, and people often say things like “all conferences should be like this” or “best conference I’ve ever been to!”
And thanks everyone for the Emma greeting, that sure made an 8 year girl very happy 🙂
(Emma was supposed to join me on this trip, but couldn’t make it because I had missed some required paperwork for travelling with minors to South Africa).
The talk is about Spotify’s current approach to getting aligned as a company. It covers:
- what problem we’re trying to solve, and how we’ve gone through two other models (OKR and Priorities & Achievements) before arriving at our current model
- how we define “Bets” using the DIBB framework (Data-Insight-Belief-Bet)
- how we prioritize bets using stack-ranking based on company beliefs and north star goals
- how we visualize bets on a kanban-like company level board, and group them into Now – Next – Later columns
- how different parts of the company visualize their own bets and align with higher level bets, using interlinked bet boards.
- how we synchronize and prioritize our work using different cadences at different levels of the company.
- how this model is used to support squad autonomy
- our challenges and learnings with this so far
Holy crap how did I manage to cover all that in 10 minutes?! Guess I talked fast 🙂
Some sample slides below.
UPDATE Dec 2016: Wrote an article about LEGO’s agile journey, see here. Includes all of the material below, plus explanations and updates.
Here are the slides for our talk Agile @ Lego at Passion for Projects in Uppsala. Enjoyed discussing this stuff with project managers and the like from all sorts of industries. A common theme from the conference was the power of self-organization, and the role of leadership in creating the right context for self-organization to happen. Our talk provided a real-life large scale example of this.
A couple of years ago I drew this picture and started using it in various presentations about agile and lean development:
Since then the drawing has gone viral! Shows up all over the place, in articles and presentations, even in a book (Jeff Patton’s “User Story Mapping” – an excellent read by the way). Many tell me the drawing really captures the essence of iterative & incremental development, lean startup, MVP (minimum viable product), and what not. However, some misinterpret it, which is quite natural when you take a picture out of it’s original context. Some criticize it for oversimplifying things, which is true. The picture is a metaphor. It is not about actual car development, it is about product development in general, using a car as a metaphor.
Anyway, with all this buzz, I figured it’s time to explain the thinking behind it.
- Scaling hurts. Keep things as small as possible.
- Agile is a means, not a goal. Don’t go Agile Jihad. Don’t dump old practices that work.
- There is no “right” or “wrong” way. Just tradeoffs.
- There is no one-size-fits-all. But plenty of good practices.
- Build feedback loops at all levels. Gives you better products and a self-improving organization.
Here is an InfoQ article with a nice summary of the keynote.
Agile product development has become the norm in many industries (especially software). That means products are developed by small, self-organizing, cross-functional teams, and delivered in small increments and continuously improved based on real customer feedback. Pretty much as described in the Agile Manifesto – but replace the word “software” with “product” (because it really isn’t software-specific).
That’s all fine and dandy. However when things get bigger, with dozens of teams collaborating over organizational boundaries, things obviously get more complex and painful. Even if the entire organization is neatly organized into scrum teams, you can still end up with an unaligned mess! Here’s a picture that might feel familiar:
I wrote this article because of two observations:
- Many organizations use a “project model” when they shouldn’t.
- There is a lot of confusion and debate in the agile community about projects and project leadership.
I don’t claim to have “the answer”, but I’ve thought about this a lot and also experimented on my clients (don’t tell them… sshhhh). So, here is my take on project leadership in an agile context.
Oh, and by the way, this article is a Bait & Switch. I’m trying to get you to read What is an Agile Leader. You might save time by just skipping this and going there right away 🙂
The word “project” is controversial in agile circles. Some companies use the “project model” as some kind of universal approach to organizing work, even for product development. However, a surprising number of projects fail, some dramatically. I see more and more people (especially within the software industry) conclude that the project model itself is the culprit, that it’s kind of like rigging the game for failure.
A “project” is traditionally defined as a temporary effort with a temporary group of people and a fixed budget. Product development, on the contrary, is usually a long term effort that doesn’t “end” with the first release – successful products start iterating way before the first release, and keep iterating and releasing long after. And teams work best if kept together over the long term, not formed and disbanded with each new project. Also, the traditional approach to planning and funding projects often leads us to big-bang waterfall-style execution, and hence a huge risk of failure because of the long and slow feedback loop. The project model just doesn’t seem to fit for product development.