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.