Stop Asking Why About How

Author and public speaker Simon Sinek has this book (and TED talk) “Start with Why.” It speaks to purpose. If we have a goal, and we want to achieve it, we need to know why. If we need the help of others to achieve it, “start with why.” Explain why. This explanation links the goal to a higher purpose, helping it all make sense.

A sense of purpose helps with well-being and happiness.

And so, “start with why.” Makes sense. So far…

Start With How

Once you know the purpose, the intent, the “why”, it is time to create some goals. If you have a goal that supports a known purpose, and you want to figure out how to achieve the goal, start with how. One simple way to “figure out how” is to identify others who have achieved the goal, and simply model them. For example: If you want to know how to swim the English Channel, find a believable person– someone who has done it– and note their habits and rituals when they are training and later executing. They know the how. Start with how.

Absent any clearly identifiable people who have done it before, you can just try things. Do experiments. Aim at low-cost, low-risk, potentially high-learning yield experiments. At this point, it is probably good to be semi-random. Go on hunches. Use your intuition. Go on feel. Try something.

For example, try to stop needing to know everything up front. Try observing reality instead. Try Grounded Theory. Try something.


The Need to Know Everything Up Front Can be Very Expensive

If you always go into the How phase needing to know why the How works, you are going to either drive your teachers crazy, over-think it, or both. Just DO it and ask questions later. If the pattern works, the “why” takes care of itself…after a you gain direct experience in the subject pattern. Stop hedging and take a position.

For example, Scrum is great for getting good results with teams. Does finding the “precise answer” to  “why” prevent you from even giving it a try? If so you are over-thinking it. You are medicating with why.

Open Space seems to work. Does anyone actually know why? Does it matter?

Both of these wonderful pieces of culture technology- Scrum and Open Space- came into being through trial-and-error. The formulators just tried things.


The Cause is Usually Very Complicated

If you have to know “why” it works, you might end up focusing way too much on single-item causation, a very serious error when dealing with systems. If you know how something works, if you know the steps, the why of how it works is the last thing you need to know. What you need to know first are the actions and steps in the how. So, just go find that out. Just go do that.

Especially where social systems are concerned, where complexity is concerned, needing to know why a given technique works before you use it is just yet another excuse to engage in opinionated arguments, “causation thinking” and procrastination. Stop medicating with why. If you know how to achieve a result, just do it and ask questions later. The answer to the question “why does it work?”  is often very subtle and nuanced, and reveals itself later, after you gain substantial direct experience.


Related Links:

OpenSpace Agility: a template for moving forward (link)

Grounded Theory (link)

Scrum (link)

Open Space (link)

Culture Technology (link)








Does Software Influence Culture?

Does software inform– or even create— culture? Probably.

We know from Conway’s Law that people in an organization will create systems that match their general pattern of communication. I think it is a little deeper than that, and has more to do with the formal pattern of authority distribution inside the organization. The communication paths follow from that.

In organizations that take the hierarchy literally, we find that loosely-coupled, peer-to-peer, well-interfaced, object-oriented “design patterns” of software design are usually hard to get implemented. Instead, more centralized and hierarchical designs are favored. This is “Conways Law”:

organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations


Now it gets interesting.

The inverse– is it also true? This is my expression of the inverse:

organizations are constrained to employ organizational designs which are copies of the authority distribution structure underlying the software systems they use.


Call it Mezick’s Inverse if you like.


Consider the internet. It is built on TCP/IP: the down-low substrate, the fundamental “under it all” stuff that connects everything.

It is a P2P network protocol. Peer-to-peer. No one computer has any more “control” than any other regarding how packets (data) make it from A to B.

On top of that, higher-level, P2P-oriented layers of protocol emerge: HTTP, IRC, SMTP.

On top of those protocols, applications like instant messengers show up.

Then, still later, very rich P2P apps. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn.

These are rich, end-user P2P apps… with P2P architectures… that encourage and in fact enable P2P relationships by and between the users.

What is the result… at the highest level of abstraction? Peer-to-peer culture. Or, at least more demand, more pressure, for genuine P2P culture.

Worldwide. And, in your country. And, in your org. And, on your team…


And so: does software create culture? Prob-ab-ly.

Just take a look around.


Related Links:

Conways Law (link)

McCarthy Show podcast “Software Creates Culture” (link)











Theory A

Here is a brief summary of “Theory A“: a theory pertaining to microsociology which may explain some of the actual mechanics of “self organization” in human social systems.

Theory A

Respect is felt feelings of esteem for another individual, and demonstrations of those feelings, through behavior. You can look it up. Most folks understand what respect is. In typical 1-to-1 interactions, mature people always send at least a minimal level of respect to everyone they encounter. “Treat others as you like to be treated” is a basic rule of thumb here. The Golden Rule.

So, respect is routinely sent and received by and between individuals. When those individuals are in the same group, the “packets” of respect get tagged with various additional properties.

Chief among these properties is the “Authorized-To-Lead” tag. The details of that tag contain the message “you have my consent to help lead the group.”

This is the A-tag.


Details Of Theory A

Coherent groups seek leadership. And so members send these “A-tagged” packets of respect to others, who receive them. The receivers may then either accept or reject these packets.

The packets are tagged with “consent to follow.” Tagged with “you have my permission to help lead”. Tagged with “you have my authorization, permission and support to actively help lead this group.”

This is the “Authorized-To-Lead” tag. The A-tag.


If I tag you, you receive it. You may ultimately reject my tagged send. The tag does after all come with some duties, doesn’t it? You make a choice, conscious or otherwise. Accept or reject.

If you accept my send, others notice.

Say your name is Michelle. My name is Daniel. Say we are in the same group. I send you some respect, tagged with the A-tag. You receive it, and accept it. This is a “from 1, to 1” send and receive. This send and receive is by and between a dyad– just two people.

We are in a group. Others in the group notice that “Daniel tags Michelle.” The others are observant, and independent agents… and so they each decide individually (consciously or unconsciously) what’s best… and what’s next… for them.

The options are:

  • Do nothing, or
  • Send some respect to Michelle, and tag it exactly the same way, or
  • Send some respect to Michelle, with different tags, or no tags at all

There are obviously some other interesting options, right? This is a concise summary, and so let’s keep it as simple as possible for now, shall we?


“Daniel tags Michelle.” Others notice and may respond. Note that no response is a response. There’s no time limit, and everyone, as always, does only what they want to do, consciously or otherwise.

If enough people tag Michelle with the A-tag,  and she accepts being “drafted into a leadership role”, then Michelle is now a de facto person of influence in our group. Someone with some special permission from the group.

Seems so simple, doesn’t it?

Not so fast.


Summarizing Theory A

Being tagged with authorization is very flattering to the ego, and can be the cause of many sorrows.

And not just for the “tag-er” and the “tag-ee,” but for the group as a whole.

In self-organizing systems with high levels of maturity, authorization routinely flows to where it can do the most good, in service to the group’s primary task. This assumes of course that the group has clearly identified the primary task– that is, what it actually wants. The primary task of a group can and does shift over time, causing shifts in levels of authorization– and coherent leadership.











Return On Attention

Random thoughts bring random focus; intentional thoughts bring intentional focus.

Your attention- that which is being focused- is a scarce resource. We spend attention over the course of our day. In social interactions, attention takes on some aspects of a currency. It starts to look and feel like a store of value, and a medium of exchange.

“A fool and his money are soon parted”, says the proverb. Said another way, “a fool and his attention are soon parted.”

We may routinely squander our attention unintentionally. When we do that we receive little or nothing, per unit of attention spent.

We may “squander” or “leak” or “burn” some of our attention on purpose, for example, to relax. The fundamental difference here is the intention to do so.

When we intentionally choose to focus our attention on this or that, we receive more and more, per unit of attention spent. If we do this for awhile, we figure out that there is a clear “return on attention” that can be outlandishly positive. Over time, we can experience at least the potential to do more and more, with less and less, as we “pay” attention.


Related Link:

Attention Economy (link)









Give Thanks for Scrum 2014: Twenty Years of Scrum!





GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM 2014 tickets are now available, and are SUPER CHEAP compared to just about any Agile ticket you can buy in Boston! Prices range from $49 to $109. PLEASE NOTE: We have sold over 130 seats already and we only have 155 to sell. In light of the foregoing, if you plan to attend you might want to BUY A TICKET TODAY. Because real soon now, they will all be gone.



PLEASE NOTE: The is the ONE OF A KIND event: GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM. More big announcements for 2014 are coming soon. We’ve already sold over NINETY TICKETS as of 11/14/2014 with absolutely no promotion whatsoever!

This year promises to be the best event yet. The max ticket price is just $109- and were as low as $49- BY FAR THE CHEAPEST AND BEST AGILE TICKET IN BOSTON. Tickets prices rise with each ticket sold, so if you plan to attend, NOW is a good time to get your ticket!


Some notable aspects of this year’s event:

  • As always, this is the only time and the only place on earth where you can queue up your hardest Scrum questions for Jeff and Ken during an ENTIRE DAY.


  • The event is at the amazing MICROSOFT NERD CENTER (same as the CULTUREcon event)


  • This is the 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF Scrum. Born in Boston!


  • This is the 6th annual GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM event


  • We are honored and grateful to have Carol Mc Ewan, Managing Director of the Scrum Alliance giving a plenary session at this years event.


  • There might be some major announcements about Scrum at this year’s event!

Soon, the event will be SOLD OUT. Time to scoop your ticket!


You know GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM. The Boston event: Jeff. Ken. Scrum. Live music. Games. Socializing. Book signings. Food!





See the Map here

This event is a BOSTON TRADITION.

Only 155 total seats are available, get them HERE:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 3.25.18 PM

Jeff and Ken, 1st annual GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM, 2009. That’s Jeff trying to pass a tough Scrum question to Ken there.

It promises to be a great event. Here’s some pictures from prior years:

At GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM, we do A LOT of socializing!


Boston has a big story to tell and GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM is big part that story.

Each year at GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM, the questions from the Participants are extremely interesting.

Jeff Sutherland answers your hardest questions at this event.

Sometimes it gets very quiet, after Jeff tells it like it is….

The GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM event is THE place for meeting people in the Boston lean/agile/Scrum community…



One big reason to attend: There is only ONE Ken Schwaber, and we got him !

Bring your hardest Scrum questions, Ken will answer them for you.

Right from the horses mouth!


Have you noticed? Scrum is not exactly simple. At this event you connect with others….and discuss you solutions. This is THE event for connecting with others in the lean/agile/Scrum community in Boston


The event has some activities this year…this is a picture of some folks doing an exercise, from the 2011 event

GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM always has a session by Ken, and a session by Jeff.

It also has a moderated panel at the end, when both of them take your hardest questions for a full hour. Anything can and does happen during this part of the event.

Bring your absolutely HARDEST questions.


Scrum was BORN IN BOSTON and there is no other place on the planet you can get Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the same room for a whole day.

This is it !!

Other cities cannot make this claim. Come and bring your most difficult Scrum questions.

This year we have some surprises for you– and some live music!!


TICKETS RANGE FROM $49 to $109!! The tickets at $49, $59, $69, and $79 are ALREADY GONE as of 10/13/2014 so act fast to get in cheap:

There are only 155 seats. Once these tickets are gone, there’s NO MORE.

Bring your hardest Scrum questions, Ken will answer them for you.

Right from the horses mouth!







But Wait: There’s more: Even MORE Cool Stuff Happening at Lunch

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11.38.48 AM

We’ve got a world-renowned and local Improv expert on tap: teacher Christopher Ellinger of TRUE STORY THEATER is with us this year.

He’ll offer some guided activities that will improve your ability to handle ambiguity and develop some Improv skills. He’ll be assisted by Heang Le of TEEN EMPOWERMENT. (You’ll remember Heang from last year’s activities and interactives during lunch.) As always, participation is these lunchtime activities is optional and OPT-IN.

You can expect to have fun, learn something, and meet lots of new people!!

Get the scoop on TRUE STORY THEATER here.

Get the scoop on PLAYBACK THEATER, a  form of Improv, here.


HEANG LE will be assisting Christopher in leading us through the activities at lunch. There will also be a table where you can purchase the book MOVING BEYOND ICEBREAKERS throughout the day.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11.48.59 AM

Get the scoop on the MOVING BEYOND ICEBREAKERS book here.

Learn more about Heang Le here and TEEN EMPOWERMENT here.





0930AM Doors Open

0100AM DANIEL MEZICK on: Opening Remarks, and: THE YEAR IN SCRUM (15 mins)


1100AM BREAK (20 minutes)




1215PM LUNCH BREAK (90 minutes) …lots of stuff to do during lunch! PLAYBACK THEATER with Chris Ellinger & company, and Heang Le…group games…and more!




0245PM BREAK (20 minutes)

0310PM JEFF and KEN on: ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS. We put questions up on the wall, crowd-source the prioritization of them with dots, and then feed them out to Jeff & Ken in a lively 80 minutes of Q&A.














JEFF SUTHERLAND is one of the inventors of the Scrum software development process. Together with Ken Schwaber, he created Scrum as a formal process at OOPSLA’95. Jeff helped to write the Agile Manifesto in 2001. He is the writer (with Ken Schwaber) of The Scrum Guide.


What does Disruptive Leadership look like? Faced with finding faster ways to innovate and create value, today’s business leaders are discovering the competitve secrets behind hyperproductive teams.  Learn how Jeff Sutherland enables companies to use the power of Scrum and leverage disruptive leadership to shift these hyperproductive teams into high gear.

Jeff Sutherland has a new book, SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, which is filled with lessons learned through his years of building high performing teams. This is the first book to reveal how the tech world’s hottest management process can be used as a tool to hyper-accelerate work of all kinds and exposes what is wrong with the way we currently do work, and how productivity and quality can be boosted.



 Ken Schwaber

KEN SCHWABER (born 1945) is a software developer, product manager and industry consultant. Ken worked with Jeff Sutherland to formulate the initial versions of the Scrum development process and to present Scrum as a formal process at OOPSLA’95.[1] They have extended and enhanced Scrum at many software companies and IT organizations. Schwaber and Sutherland are initial signers of the Agile Manifesto. They are co-authors of the definitive Scrum Guide, which is made available for free by



“…Jeff and I have been helping organization use and then scale Scrum for twenty five years. Imagine our interest in the recent announcements about SAFe, LeSS, DAD, and others. Each has merits, but more or less violates the basic Agile value of “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools”. Which is why they fizzle out after a short time. During this talk I’ll present my thoughts on this matter, as well as some ideas about how organizational individuality and DevOps fit in. See you there.”






Daniel GulloDANIEL GULLO is a Certified Scrum Trainer and Certified Scrum Coach.  He is the founder of Agile Delaware and frequent reviewer, volunteer, and speaker for the Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, and PMI. He is an Agile community keynoter.  Daniel chaired the 2013 Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas, Nevada.  His other roles inside the Scrum Alliance include: Member,  Trainer Acceptance Committee, Member, Scrum Coaching Retreat Planning Committee and Host of Scrum Gathering Coaches Clinic events. He is a facilitator of Open Space Events and a frequent contributor to online forums, blogs, and other social media.  Daniel is currently pursuing a PhD in Organizational Development.  Reach Daniel on the web via and Twitter: @danielgullo


A Portrait Of The Coach As A Young Project Manager

Have you ever wondered about the journey that experienced members of the Agile community have made to get where they are?  Does it often seem like the “Agile thought leaders” were born Agile, while other REAL human beings have had to struggle through?

In this humorous testimonial, Daniel Gullo shares the story of his journey from “successful”, command and control Information Technology executive to enterprise level Agile Coach and Trainer.  Daniel will include various elements of what inspired him to make the conversion to an Agile mindset, including a quintessential text from one of the founding fathers of Scrum.

After this story is told, a question and answer session will follow.



This year we have 3 short sessions from people from all walks of life, whose lives have been positively impacted…by playing the game we call Scrum. These 3 individuals are described below.


Wendy ClossonWENDY CLOSSON is a technology consultant and leadership coach who was introduced to Scrum at Best Practices 2004 in Boston. She took it back to her team, and has been spreading it around ever since. After a run in with cancer, a quest to find health, and co-founding a startup, Wendy combined her unique combination of expertise to create Just Add Wendy. Wendy lives with her family on Long Island, blogs for Attachment Parenting International and is actively seeking an agent to represent her memoir, From Head to Heart. You can hear more about Wendy’s story and business in this radio interview with Women 2 Watch.

WENDY shares her story of appreciation for Scrum during the GIVING THANKS segment of the event  (see schedule  here)


PatArcadyPat Arcady is a leadership architect. She coaches leaders and work with teams to increase employee engagement, team alignment, and collaboration.  Her work integrates core principles from three key knowledge areas: conflict resolution and mediation, the agile movement, and the new brain research.  Pat’s mission is to guide teams and leaders in creating dynamic work places where people are engaged, productive, and innovative.

Pat earned a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Memphis in Tennessee, an MS from Miami of Ohio, and a BA from Marian University in Indianapolis, IN.  She has completed three years of NVC Mediation training, in addition to the 33-hour Dispute Resolution training at the Community Dispute Resolution Center in Cambridge, MA.  Pat is also a licensed consultant for The Paper Room System. She resides in Somerville, MA, which gives her easy access to the city and the beach. You can reach Pat by email at or on LinkedIn at

PAT shares her story of appreciation for Scrum during the GIVING THANKS segment of the event  (see schedule  here)

Daniel MezickDANIEL MEZICK is a management consultant, author and keynote speaker. He is the formulator of Open Agile Adoption, a technique for creating rapid and lasting enterprise agility. He is the author of THE CULTURE GAME, a book describing sixteen patterns of group behavior that help make any team smarter. The book is based on five years of experience coaching 119 Agile teams across 25 different organizations. Daniel’s client list includes INTUIT, Zappos Insights, CIGNA Insurance,  SEIMENS Healthcare, TheHartford Insurance Company, and dozens of  smaller enterprises. Learn more and contact Daniel at

DANIEL opens the event, and shares his story of appreciation for Scrum during the GIVING THANKS segment of the event  (see schedule  here)

deb pontesDEB PONTES is the agile transformation leader at the QuickBase division of INTUIT. Her passion is to “hack” the organizational culture to provide the optimal environment for hyper performing teams to emerge.

Deb spent over 20 years across all phases of the software delivery lifecycle. She has repeated success in implementing small and large process improvements at Fidelity Investments, PerkinElmer, and INTUIT.

DEB shares her story of appreciation for Scrum during the GIVING THANKS segment of the event  (see schedule  here)



GeorginaGEORGINA PRAGER is a Senior Project Manager at Harvard University where she serves as a Scrum Master and a member of AgileBoston’s leadership Circle. She has been working on software development teams for 14 years and began her Scrum journey 6 years ago at Fidelity Investments. Georgina lives in Arlington with her husband and son.




But Wait: There’s more: Even MORE Cool Stuff Happening at Lunch

We also have some structured group games and interactives that focus on gaining direct experience with improv, self-organizing team concepts, team dynamics, and more. These folks will guide us:


Chris-Anne-EllingerANNE & CHRISTOPHER ELLINGER founded True Story Theater in 2001 to create more dynamic ways of creating dialogue in organizations and among leaders. They also  founded Bolder Giving, a national initiative that promotes stories of ordinary and extraordinary people giving with outrageous generosity. They are national presenters and award-winning authors.   They wrote the book Getting Along: skills for life-long love.




There is only one event like it in the world. And it is in Boston.

Save The Date: TUESDAY November 25 2014

That’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.




In years past, attendance has ranged from 102 to 209 attending. Seating is limited to 155 this year (2014) so if you want a ticket you need to act fact. As of 10/13/2014 over 80 tickets have already came and went. REGISTER for the 2014 Event


This is the event where you connect with your peers the Scrum community across all of New England. We get people from up to 1000 miles away attending this event! IN previous years we have had folks from ad far away as Canada, France, California and Seattle)


Compare the GIVE THANKS TO SCRUM event to any other kind of Scrum event,

like a Scrum Gathering, or a CSM or CSPO class, or some other big Agile event.

Kind of hard to do, isn’t it? Here’s why:

0/ AUTHORITY IS IN THE ROOM. This event is the only place in the world where you can get the co-formulators of Scrum in ONE SPOT and PIN THEM DOWN and ask them any kind of hard question you want. With your friends.Across an entire day with food, live music and lots of socializing!

1/ GET YOUR HARD QUESTIONS ANSWERED. If you are practicing Scrum in any manner whatsoever, THIS is the spot to bring your most difficult questions. And your boss! There is nothing else like it.

2/ THE TICKET IS PRICED LOW, ON PURPOSE. Most events with notable authorities keynoting do charge QUITE a lot. Normally, you’d expect to pay up to $300 a day for an event like this, right? However, that is not the case here. Here you are getting the most authoritative voices in the entire world of Scrum, WITH LUNCH, for less than $110. Some quick people paid just $49 or $59 bucks !! Community is the name of the game with GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM. We designed it so EVERYONE can afford a ticket to this event!!

3/ MAKE LOCAL CONNECTIONS. Come connect with your friends, and make lots of new ones in the Greater Boston Scrum Community.

The 6th ANNUAL GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM EVENT is almost here! And planned for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Jeff Sutherland. Ken Schwaber. The Managing Director of the SCRUM ALLIANCE. Improv experts, Scrum trainers and the the entire Scrum community of Boston. A good lunch. LIVE music!

There is only one event like it in the world. And it is in Boston.





It promises to be a great event. Here’s some pictures from prior years:

Jeff Sutherland answering questions during a break.

One of the coolest things about the event is the fact you can ask direct questions to the actual formulators of the Scrum framework.

Some of the questions are super-direct, and about hard Scrum problems. When these kinds of questions get asked, it gets real quiet.

Fortunately, Jeff Sutherland is also very direct. The answers are usually very detailed.

Independent thinkers often disagree. That might be what’s going on here.

There is only one Ken Schwaber, and he is from Lexington. We like that.

Not all the questions are big and heavy…there’s lots of funny question and answers too…

Some of the stuff that happens in Scrum you just can’t make up.














Crossing Over

Regarding: The passage rite…applied to organizations:

There’s a large body of knowledge in cultural anthropology that describes the utility of passage rites. Passage rites are designed cultural experiences- ritual events- that facilitate an individual’s journey in transforming from one social status to another in the society, family or organization.

Open Agile Adoption, to be clear, does NOT do this. Open Agile Adoption (OAA) is a designed experience for an entire organization, not the individuals. The individuals do not repeat DO NOT experience a change in social status.

Really? Then what the heck is actually going on inside an Open Agile Adoption?

What’s going on is, quite simply, a passage rite through which the entire organization is passing, not any one individual or subset group of individuals. It’s the entire living system that’s leveling up, not a set of individuals. It’s the entire tribe that’s graduating– not a subset of it. It’s the organization as a whole- the tribe, the living system- that is taking the journey from here to there. The “organization”, the “living system”, might be a division or business unit of a larger containing entity or enterprise. The fact remains: that entire subset- that entire living subculture– is going through it together. As a single living system. As a single entity.

While we may be able to find some support for this idea in the Organizational Development community, we will find little if any support for it inside the usual source of information on the subject of passage rites, namely: cultural anthropology.

Arnold van Gennep coins the phrase “rite de passage” and Victor Turner later elaborates on this and the concept of liminality…at the individual level. As far as I know there is little if any support in cultural anthropology for the idea of “tribe as individual” experiencing a rite of passage.

In cultural anthropology, going from here to there inside a ritual is always an individual journey.

Yes- others are also journeying at the same time.

Yes- there is communitas.

Yes- after a group of girls in a tribe experience the passage rite and are officially adult women, there are system or tribe-level effects.

That said, the idea that a family or a tribe or a modern corporation can “level up” by experiencing a passage ritual is a new idea. With no apparent support from cultural anthropology.

Or so it seems.

The reality is: this works. The organization is a single, living system. It has the attributes of a living system as described by people like Arie de Gaus (author of The Living Organization) and others. There is little doubt that modern organizations are complete and living systems. As such, they can be addressed as a single entity. And that’s the basis of many applied frameworks from communities such as the Group Relations and Organizational Development communities.

In this sense, Open Agile Adoption is really nothing new. The components are sourced from other disciplines. These components are well-developed and well-understood by the diverse communities who have developed them. Open Agile Adoption however, is a new composition of diverse parts that make something new. The components are: invitation, Open Space, game mechanics, the psychology of games, leadership storytelling, and the essential passage rite structure.


On Communitas

I’ve seen the communitas concept play out in living color, larger than life. That is, the spirit of community. Certainly participants at the same level of authorization experience this feeling and spirit of community, as they go through the shared experience of learning, and engaging in the difficult business of belief change.

That is not surprising. What is surprising is how people at all levels of authorization experience communitas when going through the passage-rite process of Open Agile Adoption. While roles and related levels of authorization vary widely across an entire organization, it does not seem to matter. Those going through the OAA passage-rite process who have lower levels of authorization understand that the “higher ups” are experiencing something too. And as the higher ups are transformed in their own way, via some stressful learning, they understand that all the participants are going to school- together.

This is what a great Agile adoption is actually made of- the spirit of community.



In Summary:

And so the question remains: does the ancient cultural device of the passage rite apply to modern organizations? Yes, it does.

Can the passage rite be utilized in service to getting the organization from here to there? Yes, it can.

I’ve seen it, I have done it, I am doing it. And I plan to keep supporting others who are doing it.  I’m grateful for the help of other professionals are doing experiments and sharing their experiences with the Open Agile Adoption technique.

Others are beginning to discuss and rapidly refine these ideas— and use them to solve very difficult problems. Like reducing the number of coaching days needed to achieve both a rapid and lasting Agile adoption.

To make enterprise Agility a reality.


Related Links:

Open Agile Adoption


Arnold van Gennep

Victor Turner

On Liminality

On Communitas

Arie de Gaus- The Living Company

Group Relations Community

Organizational Development Community








Now What?

Regarding: The coach vacating the organization for at least 30 days following the 2nd Open Space in Open Agile Adoption.

The 2nd Open Space event in Open Agile Adoption (OAA) is a closure event. It serves to delineate the boundary between the previous chapter of organizational learning and the next one. It is the terminating point in the organizational passage rite that Open Agile Adoption is implementing. For the passage rite process to work, the organization must have a sense of “leveling up” or graduating.

Using a different venue and different Facilitator for the 2nd Open Space event is recommended. Making these changes avoids the feeling of a “re-run” and supports a sense of progress. The requirement that “the coach’s role must change” also supporting “leveling up” and a strong sense-of-progress and moving to the “next grade” or level. It supports feelings of graduation.

If the coach role does not change, there is a diminished sense of progress. The coaches role must change. The goal of OAA is to bring the organization to a state of self-sustaining, “freestanding” agility as soon as possible. For this to happen, diminishing the coach’s role and perceived authority with the teams is absolutely essential.

It’s important to note that, by vacating the organization for a time, the Agile coach is also vacating the role of Master of Ceremonies (MC) in the months-long passage rite that OAA is implementing. For that OAA passage rite to stick, it is essential that the MC role is temporary, and that it ends upon the end of the ritual itself. Passage rites by definition have an MC, and also by definition, passage rites have a beginning, a middle and an end. The MC role (in the canonical form of a passage rite) is temporary by design.

By vacating, the authority projected upon the Agile coach by the organization (as coach and as MC of the OAA passage rite) runs out of gas. The 2nd Open Space was yesterday. The coach has vacated.

The game is over. It’s JUST US. Now what?


On Vacating the Organization

I’ve done some experiments taking this concept one (radical) step further. Before the 2nd Open Space I now foreshadow that I am not available AT ALL after that event- no phone calls, no email– for 30 days. The idea is to get the org to realize that it is all alone– and always has been. And that it now has all the know-how (and everything else it needs) to continually improve…. without an “external authority” telling it what it “should” do.

I am pleased to report that this technique works very well. Amazing actually! The org realizes that it has learned a lot and initiates experiments to improve… all by itself. What they do takes on many forms. The org might make changes to existing meetings, and replaces long and poorly structured meetings with shorter, focused meetings. In one client a key manager who was an obstacle to org improvement felt the shift in the culture and quit. In general, the general tolerance for wasteful practices across the entire org decreases dramatically as the people who do the work come to enjoy taking action, being in control of it and improving their results.

So: IN OAA, the last act of the coach is to VACATE COMPLETELY for 30 days. Doing so punctuates THE END of something old, and THE BEGINNING of something new. Thereafter, the coach may reenter, in a new role, for example coaching just Scrum Masters, or just executive leadership. Vacating the org is an extremely powerful way to make the passage rite very REAL for the organization. As such, vacating for 30 days after the passage rite it is now incorporated into OAA and is a core and essential aspect of the Open Agile Adoption method.


Related Links:

“Rite de Passage”

Open Agile Adoption

Open Agile Adoption Components