Open Agile Adoption: Why It Matters Now

This is a note to organizational leaders and my friends in the Open Space community, folks who want to bring Open Space to every organization that is stuck, and every organization that needs help in getting movement towards a more open culture, whether they actually know it– or not.

Open Agile Adoption and the Current (Uninviting) Workplace

Lifeless work with no meaning is a recipe for depression or worse. We all seek meaningful connection to each other, and our work. An inviting workplace connects us to the work… and each other. People all over the world are signaling that they are not longer willing to tolerate an uninviting workplace.

Creating an inviting workplace is a game. The best move now is to exploit any available entry points.

Where are these opening located?

A perfect and readily available entry point is the now-mainstream adoption of Agile software development methods. The perfect tool for cracking open the world of work is Open Space. By using Open Space meetings inside mainstream Agile adoptions, we can crack it wide open. This is because the Open Space meeting format is super-effective at generating engagement. Open Space meetings, as used in the Open Agile Adoption method, are attended by many key business people who are patrons and sponsors of IT. My experience doing numerous Open Space events inside Agile adoptions shows that from 50 to 65 percent of the attendance is business people with some connection to information technology.

Does that shock you? What might this mean?

These are the facts:

  • Organizations need IT to be more responsive, and correctly look to Agile adoption as a solution
  • Most Agile adoptions are far from robust. That’s the polite way to say it. The way these Agile adoptions are currently implemented does not produce rapid and lasting improvement. Many Agile adoptions are train wrecks.
  • Agile is going mainstream even as traditional ways of implementing Agile are producing marginal-at-best results on a repeatable basis
  • Open Agile Adoption (OAA), based on invitation (instead of mandates) creates at least the potential for much more robust Agile adoptions.
  • OAA is built upon the Open Space meeting design, a design that optimizes increasing levels of engagement.
  • Business people connected to the IT department attend the Open Space meetings via the Open Agile Adoption technique. These people can and carry back very positive and uplifting stories about what is going on in IT into the wider organization as a whole. They will carry and spread the open culture/ Open Space meme.

Open Space Small
This is the secret leverage point: once the business people experience the inviting vibe of Open Space and the good results that can come from a rapid & lasting Agile adoption, the cat is out of the bag.

The horse is out of the barn.

The genie is out of the bottle!

The wider conversations that need to be taking place actually start happening. Beyond the IT department!

The business people who attend tell very positive stories about that meeting.

Open Agile Adoption (OAA) with Open Space is the technique to help you make this happen.

OAA is a tactic in a wider strategy, a means to an end.

Our cover story is that OAA is about Agile adoption, when in fact Agile adoption is actually about cultural change.

Therefore, OAA is about igniting the start of enterprise-wide cultural change, starting in the IT department.

This is where it starts!

OAA addresses the crisis in IT, and the now-mainstream adoption of Agile methods, to usher in a new era of openness in organizations, using the IT crisis as an opportunity, and using Open Space to address it.

If We Cannot Do It Here, It Ain’t Gonna Happen

Now, what this means is very simple: if we cannot successfully bring Open Space into the huge opening created by failed Agile adoptions, it is unlikely any headway can be made whatsoever.

Agile has gone mainstream. Meanwhile, the crisis of weak and failing Agile adoptions represents a huge opening to bring in a new way of implementing Agiity. If we cannot exploit this opening, we probably have NO SHOT at bring more openness into the wider enterprise as a whole. We need to execute well in Agile adoptions if we are to have any shot at the enterprise as a whole.

On Wider Ambitions

We need to do this in steps. I’ve been talking to people who want to just flip some kind of switch, skip the 1st 10 steps, and change the world with Open Space. That just is not going to happen until and unless we are able to routinely get good results using Open Space in the obvious opening: the crisis of failed Agile adoptions. Which is occurring just as Agile itself is going mainstream!

We need to recognize this wave, and ride it.  Harrison Owen’s book Wave Rider pretty much spells this out. We need to identify the waves, and ride them.

If we can routinely improve weak and failing Agile adoptions with the Open Agile Adoption technique, the Holy Grail of enterprise-wide transformation (with Open Space) might be within reach. But: if we fail in using Open Space to successfully reform the way Agile adoption is currently done, we have NO SHOT at the enterprise.

For typical organizations with soul-sucking culture, Open Agile adoption with Open Space represents our best step now for beginning a wider process. A wider process of creating rapid and lasting enterprise-level change beyond software.

To be clear: the OAA technique is a tactical play, and a mere means to an end. It is the right way now, to get the right conversations going, across an entire enterprise. OAA has the potential to reliably and repeatedly bring rapid and lasting change into IT departments in organizations around the world.

Agile adoption as currently practiced gets very weak results, because culture change is hard. Open Agile Adoption represents a different approach: a people-first approach based on invitation… using Open Space. As such, it has the potential to get much better results than current approaches are getting.

It is very hard to argue with great results.

There is an Agile adoption wave. We can get on, and ride it. Right now.

Open Agile Adoption with Open Space is the way to get on.


Related Links:

Open Agile Adoption Home

Open Agile Adoption Explained

Deviation from the Norm

Wave Rider (book) by Harrison Owen









09-26-2013 Meeting: Jeremy Kreigel


Note: This was a session accepted and delivered at the Agile2013 conference and got great reviews!

“This meeting is a waste of my time.” When was the last time you had that thought? Was it because the conversation wasn’t focused, or people couldn’t agree, or maybe they were in violent agreement, but couldn’t see it? How easily do you think you can get this meeting back on track? In this session, you will learn a skill that you can apply on the spot that will help you focus the conversation and drive to consensus. Everything you need is probably already in the room.

This technique is specifically for conversations around the features, functions, and behaviors of your product. Most people are visual thinkers, so give them something visual to focus on. You can do that by walking up to the whiteboard and drawing out what people are talking about. By visually capturing the conversation in a public way, you will help all participants understand each other and come to consensus faster. “But I can’t draw,” you say. Neither can I, and I’ve been successfully using this technique for over 15 years. If you can draw a straight-ish line and a box, you have all the drawing skills necessary.

In this engaging workshop, you will learn how to create a basic sketch of an interface using some simple sketching techniques and UX principles as well as practice thinking-on-your-feet that will help you comfortably do this with a group.

I have used this technique to help teams focus the conversation, visualize the requirements they were requesting, quickly experiment with new ideas, and provide detailed input that I can use to design the outcome. Often, the sketch (or a photo of it) acts as the deliverable for simple problems, eliminating the need for more formal wireframes. This technique is accessible to everyone. You don’t need any special software and anyone on the team can use it. Pick up the pen and get on track again.


About the Speaker:


Jeremy Kriegel has been designing great user experiences (UX) for 15 years. Just as we need to understand the needs and context of users to craft a design solution, Jeremy believes that success also requires us to look at the business context to craft an appropriate design process. From start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, as a consultant or on an internal team, he has seen a lot of different scenarios that each required their own approach. He brings this diversity of experience to bear in adapting UX to agile methodologies, finding the balance appropriate for each business. Currently, Jeremy leads is the UX Director for Gemvara, a custom jewelry startup.



Meeting Agenda:

6:00 pm Introduction

6:30 pm Food, beverages, and socializing

6:50 pm Main event

7:50 pm Done

8:15 pm Done Done


Meeting Location:

1 International Place (6th floor)
Boston, MA 02110



9/25/2013 Meeting: The MASTERCAM Agile Adoption


MASTERCAM is the leading provider of software and tools to the toolmaking industry. Customers include HARLEY DAVIDSON, UNITED TECHNOLOGIES and thousands of smaller shops. The software MASTERCAM makes is used to control lathes and ‘CNC’ machines. These machines are capable of turning a block of metal into any arbitrary object, for example a tire rim, a gear, or any other object that can be sculpted from a piece of metal.

In late 2010, MASTERCAM leadership under Brian Summers decided to implement Agile throughout the company. They started with some experiments and a pilot team or two. Led by Joe Tindal as the change agent inside the company, MASTERCAM experimented with various forms of training and coaching. In 2011 New Technology Solutions provided training for over 90 employees. Shortly after that, all teams began working in an Agile way. Scrum was rolled out to all software teams.

Joe and Brian learned a lot an many many mistakes.  They also did many things right, and had a strong company culture to begin with. Attend this session to learn about the game, the players and the situation at MASTERCAM before, during and after the Agile implementation.

You exit this session with the real story from a real company, doing real Agile in the region. This is a very interesting story.


  • The trials and tribulations of adopting an Agile mindset
  • The role of existing culture in the success of your adoption
  • How Agile adoption is a ‘culture hack’ from the start
  • What pitfalls to avoid as you embark on the Agile journey in your company
  • What practices for adoption actually WORK


Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 4.55.29 AM Joe Tindal is Senior Project Manager at MASTERCAM in Tolland CT . He spearheaded the study and adoption of Agile inside the organization. Joe attended numerous Agile-CT user group meetings, did web research and examined books in preparation for adopting Agile inside MASTERCAM.


Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 4.54.08 AMBrian Summers is a founder and currently the Vice President of MASTERCAM, the leading CNC software company in the USA. MASTERCAM technology is used by thousands of manufacturing organizations, including some truly awesome companies such as Harley Davidson.





Meeting Agenda:

6:30 pm Introduction

7:00 pm Food, beverages, and socializing

7:20 pm Main event

8:20 pm Done

8:45 pm Done Done

Meeting Location:

500 Staples Drive
Framingham, MA

Click here for DIRECTIONS

NOTE: This is a change in venue for September. We are in Framingham thsi month, not Waltham!

When you get there: The event room is located on the 1st floor. Enter the building through the main entrance after parking. Follow the AGILE BOSTON signs to the the meeting room


The Open Agile Adoption Handbook

The week of September 09, I finished the first version, version 0.90 of THE OPEN AGILE ADOPTION HANDBOOK. I later announced that the 1st public update, version 1.1, would be available on Amazon not later than January 22.


The new ship-date is 2/22/2014…because a bunch of good things are happening:

  • I’m working with super-progressive clients who are getting amazing traction with this. Since actual implementations are the name of the game, this is a priority
  • I am receiving experience reports (stories) from other coaches who are using it and getting great results. We can all benefit by seeing some of these stories in the book
  • I have received absolutely amazingly insightful questions from coaching colleagues and friends from all over the world. We can all benefit from the questions and answers being in the book in the form of a FAQ section
  • I want to update the existing diagrams and add some new ones, as well
  • The book needs that final fit and finish in terms of editing, back and front cover etc


I’ll probably be able to complete the print and Kindle versions before 2/22/2014. For now, you can visit the Open Agile Adoption web pages and also investigate these pre-release video previews of some of the book which are published on

  • Making Meetings More Effective with Opt-In Participation (link)
  • On OAA with Open Space (link)
  • On Creating Communitas (link)
  • On Engagement: (link)

In addition there are some text-based previews of the book in INFOQ:

  • Better Agile Adoptions (link)
  • Open Agile Adoption: The Exec Summary (link)
  • Open Agile Adoption in Theory (link)
  • Learning and Liminality in Agile Adoptions (link)

These resources can get you started. If you want to use OAA with clients by all means call or email me via and I’ll give you all the help I can by answering your questions, providing guidance etc.


The Open Agile Adoption Handbook

It’s a book you can use to quickly understand, explain and implement Agile using the Open Agile Adoption (OAA) technique. You can learn more about the basics of OAA at

I printed about 300 copies of the 0.90 release of this book and distributed them at public sessions in Paris, Quebec City, Philadelphia, and Boston in 2013. Friends and those who attended keynotes in 2013 received a copy in 2013.

…I need to make it plain: ANYONE can get a rapid & lasting Agile adoption by bringing Open Space into an Agile adoption. And anyone can implement the OAA passage rite and get traction right away. ANYONE can DO IT.

Implementing a passage rite that begins and ends in Open Space brings much higher levels of ENGAGEMENT into your Agile adoption. This is true if you are just starting, or already well into it and experiencing some problems.

Open Agile Adoption is flexible, and works with what you are doing now. It can be used at any time to bring more energy into your Agile adoption.

And it’s simple!

It’s NOT difficult!

The following things have happened since the Sept 2013 Global Scrum Gathering keynote:

  • We have received feedback from readers
  • We have more direct experience implementing Open Space in Agile adoptions
  • We now know that storytelling is 100% essential to any rapid & lasting Agile adoption

In light of the foregoing, the 1.0 version of the book shipping January 22 has the following:

  • A whole new section on storytelling, with some help from my friends who have passion around storytelling (namely, Michael Margolis and Oana Juncu)
  • A detailed FAQ on OAA with questions from super-knowledgeable coaches and Open Space facilitators (namely Shyam Kumar and Diane Gibeault)
  • New content to how to implement OAA inside in-flight and troubled Agile adoptions

I am very grateful for the help of the people mentioned above. Without the help of the following people, the whole idea of introducing [invitation] into Agile adoptions has no legs. I am grateful for the help of the the following people in getting this work to the DONE state…the list is in alpha order by last name:

Daigle, Suzanne

Elssamadisy, Amr

Fink, Ralph

Gibeault, Diane

Hastie, Shane

Juncu, Oana

Kasperowski, Richard

Kumar, Shyam

Little, Joe

Margolis, Michael

Marinescu, Floyd

Östlund, Marie Ann

Owen, Harrison

Peha, Steve

Pernot, Pablo

Petit, Patrice

Richman, Robert

Santillo, Valerie

Seykota, Ed

Warzee, Xavier


I am sure there are others I am missing. Will you please forgive me for missing your name if it does not appear above at the present time, and let me know?

I will add your name as we go along…

…this Open Agile Adoption idea belongs to EVERYONE who has helped make it happen. I am a mere facilitator…

These preview chapters on INFOQ can help you get oriented:


For now, here below is also sample of the book: The Introduction. I hope you like it.






The Purpose of This Handbook

Welcome to the Open Agile Adoption Handbook. The purpose of this handbook is to serve as a handy reference and pocket guide for those who are adopting Agile, or otherwise using the Open Agile Adoption technique to bring strength and vitality to their Agile adoption effort.


Who This Book Is For

This book is for anyone who is interested in creating more rapid and lasting Agile adoptions. The list of people who can best use this book includes company executives, directors, managers, team members, and the consultants and coaches who serve them.


Preparing To Use This Book

This book assumes the following about you:

  • You have a basic understanding of Agile methods, and how they can help your organization
  • You have a basic understanding of the Open Space meeting format
  • You are ready, willing and able to try the Open Agile Adoption technique to improve the results you are getting


About the SPIRIT Book

It is important for all readers to understand that the Open Agile Adoption technique is inspired by the work of Harrison Owen and specifically his book SPIRIT: Development and Transformation in Organizations. That book is a great and mighty work. It is full of keen insights and actionable ideas. The SPIRIT book is of strong interest to anyone who is serious about culture architecture and culture design.

The SPIRIT book is available as a free download, in PDF format. I recommend that you download this book, print it out, and get it into a ring binder so you can mark it up as you read it.

You can find it here:

The back of the book contains a Bibliography of additional books on topics related to Open Agile Adoption; if you are interested in some of the related topics it is a good idea to examine the titles listed there.

If you are seeking training in Open Agile Adoption or additional help in the form of consulting, you can also find that information in the back of the book. You can also learn more at


Why Open Agile Adoption?

Open Agile Adoption is a technique based on invitation, not mandates. A hypothesis of Open Agile Adoption is that mandates reduce engagement, and that invitation and opt-in participation increase it. Another hypothesis of Open Agile Adoption is that engagement is essential for a rapid and lasting Agile adoption, and that Open Space tends to invite engagement and thereby increase it.

Typically, Agile practices are implemented as a mandate. Prescribing practices makes no allowance for what people want, what people think, and what people feel. The prescription reduces engagement and causes the intelligent and creative people who do the work to “check out” and disengage.

Usually, the following pattern is used to implement Agile methods, usually after a small pilot test of Agile with a small team:

  • Authority says we are all “going Agile”
  • Authority says we will be using a specific practice, like Scrum, or Kanban, or some other Agile practice, method, or framework. The message is that this is not negotiable.
  • Authority selects a coach on the basis of his or her expertise with the prescribed practices. Typically, Scrum skills. The coach is imposed on the people, just like the prescribed Agile practices.
  • The people who do the work are triggered to disengage by the experience of a low sense of control and a low sense of inclusion and belonging. They learn that the new game is vague, and participating is definitely not opt-in. The Agile adoption is not an enjoyable game because the game is not well defined, and there is no opportunity to opt-out.

Participation in the typical Agile adoption is not an invitation but rather a mandate and a prescription. This is a recipe for a failed Agile adoption. Recall that a hypothesis of Open Agile Adoption is that mandates reduce engagement, and that invitation and opt-in participation increase it. Also recall that another hypothesis of the technique is that engagement is essential for a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.

The people who create software programs typically have these characteristics, especially compared to the general population:

  • High level of intelligence
  • A tendency to be introverted
  • A self image that includes these stories:
  • “I get paid to solve problems”
  • “I am smart and creative”
  • “I get paid for my technology expertise”

Mandated Agile adoptions tend to be repulsive to the intelligent, problem solving people that do the work. One reason might be that these folks literally love to solve problems, including “process problems”, like “how to implement Agile at our company.” Now, since most of the folks are introverted, if we do not ask them what they think, something really terrible happens: they do not tell us.

Often, the very people who do the work, these problem solvers, have an opinion or an idea that can help. By not asking them for help and instead issuing a prescribed mandate, we miss an opportunity to receive help, and also create the potential for considerable resentment. This is a double-barreled negative outcome.  We miss what might be the very best ideas, and we miss a huge opportunity to engage.

A core hypothesis of Open Agile Adoption is that engagement is essential, and that invitation can increase it.

Instead of issuing a mandate of specific Agile practices, Open Agile Adoption employs this pattern, based in invitation:

  • Explain the business case for moving in the Agile direction. Explain the challenges the business is facing in terms of competition, pricing pressure, obsolete products etc.
  • Make it clear the enterprise is heading into an Agile direction. Explain that the Agile direction is definite.
  • Invite everyone involved into the process of writing the Agile story. Communicate that leadership does not have all the answers and is looking for the very best ideas people have to make the move to Agile genuine, authentic, rapid, and lasting.
  • Make it plain that everything that is tried as an Agile practice is an experiment, and is optional, and is going to be inspected, and is not set in stone. For example, if the org is giving the Scrum framework a try, it is an experiment, and subject to later inspection. If an off-the-rack practice like Scrum cannot be tailored and customized to fit well, it will be discarded, and we will try something else that might work. We might even “roll our own” practices, using the Agile Manifesto as our guidance.

By doing it this way, the people doing the work can engage, and have a strong sense of control and of belonging. These are some of the most fundamental building blocks of basic human happiness.


Open Agile Adoption Terminology

The following terms and words are employed in this book, so you might want to take a moment to examine these definitions:

Liminality: A stressful state of being created by transitions. Agile adoptions create liminality.

Passage Rite: A ritual for handling the stress of change inside a culture. Passage rites help handle the liminality created during changes in status.

Communitas: The spirit of community. Open Agile Adoption creates these feelings of belonging and inclusion.

Master of Ceremonies: An essential role in a rite of passage. The person occupying the Master of Ceremonies role during a passage rite functions as a kind of referee, a keeper of “the rules of the game”.

Chapter of learning: In Open Agile Adoption, a unit of organizational learning with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Chapters of learning occur between occurrences of Open Space meetings.

Open Space: A meeting format with a specific structure and containing specific elements. Periodic Open Space meetings are an essential and core aspect of Open Agile Adoption.

Open Space Proceedings: Documentation of the events contained within an Open Space meeting. Proceedings contain a summary of the events in words, diagrams, and pictures.

Open Space Sponsor: A person in the organization with enough authorization to convene an Open Space meeting of at least one day in duration.

Open Space Facilitator: In the Open Space meeting format, a person authorized by the Sponsor to assist in the execution of the meeting. Open Space facilitators help to create an atmosphere of openness and “hold the space” open throughout the Open Space meeting event.

Coach or “Agile Coach”: A person hired by the organization to assist in the implementation of Agile methods and practices.

Beginning Open Space: In Open Agile Adoption, an Open Space meeting that begins or opens a Chapter of learning.

Ending Open Space: In Open Agile Adoption, an Open Space meeting that completes and terminates a Chapter of learning.

Leveling Up: In the gaming community, the term is used to describe a change in level or status in the game. “Leveling up” means progressing or graduating to a new level of competence.

With these terms and words introduced, we can now examine Open Agile Adoption concepts and facilities.