July 29, 2011 Meeting: Scaling Agile from Teams to Tribes

Tribal Learning: How to Spread Agile Quickly, Inside Your Company

Speaker: Dan Mezick

(NOTE: Dan is an invited speaker to Agile2011 in Salt Lake City. This talk is the same one as the big Agile2011 conference on August 09. )

Session Description: Most organizations are SLOW TO LEARN. Agile practices are practices that foster rapid group learning. Rapid learning at the level of team, tribe and enterprise are required because the pace of change is increasing. Our organizations must adapt or die.

Rapid learning at the level of group is not optional any more.

In this session, Dan Mezick shows how Agile practices and frameworks like Scrum encourage numerous group learning practices. You can implement several of these practices right now, and get the full benefit of Agile.

Dan explains a framework for implementing Agile ideas quickly, in any organization. You do not need to be an IT shop and you do not need to go to class. You do not need to be certified in anything. You do not need deep experience.

All you need is a willingness to try implementing 2 or more of the following 16 practices:

  • Be Purposeful
  • Facilitate Your Meetings
  • Examine Your Norms
  • Be Punctual
  • Structure Your Interactions
  • Announce Your Intent
  • Game Your Meetings
  • Conduct Frequent Experiments
  • Manage Visually
  • Inspect Frequently
  • Get Coached
  • Manage Your Boundaries
  • Socialize Books
  • Pay  Explicit Attention
  • Open The Space
  • Be Playful

These are the very group-learning practices that every Agile team ends up doing. These Agile  learning practices promote group-level tribal learning. If you do authentic Agile, you are doing at least 4 of these group-learning practices very well with your teams.

Anyone that convenes meetings can socialize Agile in any organization using the Tribal Learning framework.

The Tribal Learning framework has three essential parts:

1. The Practices

2. Authorization

3. Triads

The Practices are the 16 practices listed above. These are the practices every Agile team find themselves doing when doing Scrum, doing retrospectives, engaging in Sprint planning etc. These are learning practices for teams, tribes and organizations. A tribe is a group of about 20 to 150 people and includes your informal network of friends at work.

Authorization is the right to do work. If you are a manager with the authority to convene meetings, you already have authorization to do these practices in your company. And once you are doing them, you can teach this, and conspire with others to do the same.

A triad is a set of three people, aligned on values, who are focused on executing  a small strategy. This structure is described in the book Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright. Once you are good at doing at least 4 of these practices, the next step is to form a triad and socialize the practices.

When you do, you are socializing Agile far beyond your direct reports, and beyond software.

The key is to leverage your informal network, the one that never appears on any org-chart.

What you will learn:

  • How to spread loads of Agile inside your company fast
  • The five stages of company culture as described by Dave Logan– and what to DO about it if you are STUCK at Stage 2
  • How the Tribal Learning practices actively socialize Agile/group learning
  • How to do at least 2 of the practices really well in your group
  • How to get permission to implement the practices in your company
  • Tribal Leadership concepts and facilities, as described by Dave Logan
  • How to form a triad, with 2 others in your company, based on values
  • How to identify and execute a small (micro) strategy that spreads Agile quickly, inside your company

About the Speakers

Dan Mezick is an adviser and coach to Agile teams and executive leaders, showing them exactly how to create learning to create great results. He teaches that genuine disclosure always encourages authentic greatness in teams, tribes and entire organizations. His forthcoming book Tribal Learning is a manifesto and a game-changing how-to manual for managers seeking great results. His Agile coaching and executive coaching clients include Zappos, Orpheus Orchestra, CIGNA Insurance, Siemens Healthcare, the US Navy, and dozens of smaller organizations in and around New England and New York City.

A New Englander residing in Connecticut, Dan spends most of his time between New York and Boston. A Boston Bruins fan, as a teenager Dan once spent 3 days and 3 nights on a sidewalk, in a sleeping bag, to be first in line to buy a limited number of Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Playoff tickets. Dan is very happy to see the Stanley Cup again back in Boston, where it belongs!


Jim Lindenthal is 20+ year veteran in IT Application Management and Outsourcing. He manages outsourcing teams located both near shore and off-shore using various application platforms within a variety of industry verticals. Jim is an experienced leader with strong mentoring and leadership skills with a proven track recorder of building high performance project teams. Jim is a student of Dave Logan’s Tribal Leadership framework, which incorporates the formation of three-person triads to positively effect culture change in organizations.