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Agile Alliance Sponsored Community Event in Costa Rica Covers Many Approaches

by Shane Hastie on Feb 16, 2016 |

The Agile Alliance board met in Costa Rica last week, and in conjunction with that meeting they hosted an event for the local Agile community, with speakers from the Board and the community on topics ranging from applying the agile mindset to business challenges to evolutionary architecture, the need for clarity in all aspects of communication, creating a collaborative community and what a collaboration-driven “bossless” organization looks like.

The event started with this reporter talking about the need for change in the way organizations are run being driven by the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) nature of the modern economic climate and how an adaptive mindset at all levels and in all areas of the organization can help.  A similar talk was recently covered on InfoQ here.

Rebecca Parsons, Agile Alliance Chair and CTO of Thoughtworks, then spoke about the evolution of evolutionary architecture, showing how agile ideas about refactoring can be applied across business layers and roles.

She explained that the focus of evolutionary architecture is to consciously design to enable the lowest cost of change possible, and how the evolution has been through areas that were previously thought of as having high cost of change.

She talked about how initially the focus was on development and that the adoption of the XP practices of test driven development and continuous integration make the cost of refactoring code cheap and easy to achieve.  Subsequently the industry could tackle the next area of change and techniques such as User Stories replaced the need for upfront requirements gathering and allowed refactoring of requirements in response to emergent understanding.  The next step was the widespread adoption of test automation which makes refactoring the testing approach faster and easier.

She then spoke about how the work on Refactoring Databases provided the patterns and knowledge needed to overcome one of the most significant challenges to evolutionary database architecture – the problem of data migration, which had been the limiting factor to making frequent database changes.

She stated that the adoption of Continuous Delivery allows for true evolutionary architecture at the Enterprise Architecture level – not because of the technical practices but because the ability to rapidly and safely deploy changes allows for experimentation and rapid learning at the business value end.  Making frequent small changes and getting feedback from customers rapidly rather than needing to wait for lengthy deployment & learning cycles.

Paul Hammond then spoke about the importance of clarity as a key part of successful teamwork and value delivery.  He described what he means by clarity at every level as:

  • Clarity of Purpose – ensure that every member of the team/group/department/organization understand why they are doing what they do and how it contributes to the overall organizational purpose
  • Clarity of Principles & Values – ensuring that everyone in the organization understands what is important, what we care about, what we value and is able to use this knowledge to make good decisions in the best interest of the organization as a whole
  • Clarity of Role – even in self-organizing teams it is important to know what is expected of people in the organization and who will take responsibility for what aspects of the work to be done
  • Clarity of Boundaries – provide clear direction about the constraints team members must work within, so they understand the areas in which they are empowered to make decisions and who to talk to if they feel the need to challenge a constraint, having standards which people follow consistently and which they feel they can contribute to evolving over time.
  • Clarity of Communication – say what you mean and mean what you say, not obfuscating but being straightforward and clear
  • Clarity of Feedback – being able to give feedback at the interpersonal level focused on facts not emotion, safe to tell and hear the truth.  Rather than “you are always late…” providing clarity “you were late for the planning meeting this morning and that resulted in…”

Juan Banda of Percella, based in Bolivia, then spoke about motivation (in Spanish).  He explained his talk as follows:

Motivation 1.0 was related to intrinsic motivation drivers that helped our ancestors to survive. Cavemen had little choice, they needed to stay motivated if they wanted to eat. Consequently Motivation 1.0 worked really well for keeping primitive humans alive and still works today when we need to take care of basic needs.

As centuries passed and we humans progressed new approaches for motivating people evolved, the next one was based in the carrots & sticks principle, i.e. you reward someone to get more of the behavior you want, or you punish someone to get less of the behavior you don’t want. This is the cornerstone for Motivation 2.0 and is based on the Scientific Management theories of Frederick W. Taylor.

Motivation 2.0 worked well for manual and repetitive work that needs compliance but not necessary creativity and innovation. Decades ago McGregor and Maslow proposed ideas around advancing beyond Motivation 2.0 to allow workers to be more independent, we could call this Motivation 2.1

Nowadays knowledge workers are needing a completely upgraded Motivation 2.0 scheme to enable them to thrive at work. Motivation 3.0 comes with ideas from Daniel Pink and others, based on the premise that knowledge workers (such as software professionals) can be more creative and remain engaged if they understand the transcendent purpose of their work, have autonomy about how, when, and with whom they’ll do their work, and somehow use their work as a tool to reach mastery of their own craft. In short, purpose, autonomy, and  mastery are the key forces that combined offer the promise to help knowledge workers to stay motivated and perhaps make their workplaces and the world just a little bit better.

Stephanie Davis then provided some practical advice on creating and nurturing an agile community in a region based on her experiences establishing and building the Tampa Bay Agile community which went from under 100 members back in 2012 to over 1200 members today.

  • Tampa Bay Agile now offers multiple meetups each month including a featured monthly speaker, 5 Lean Coffees spread across various locations, a ScrumMasters Guild, a Product Owner Guild, and most recently a Lean Beer.

  • Agile Orlando, South Florida Agile Association, and Tampa Bay Agile came together a couple years ago to form Agile Florida and collaborate on events including Agile Open Florida which is in its 3rd year.

Fred Madrigal, an Agile Coach and co-founder at SinNplify in Costa Rica, spoke (in Spanish) about How to deliver more by doing less. based on the book "Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of doing less" by Greg McKeown.

He explained his talk as follows:

In my experience as an Agile coach, I have noticed that one big impediment teams face to becoming hyper-productive is the bad work habits their individuals have. Nowadays, on this always-connected world, people spend their energy moving one millimeter in a thousand directions, letting themselves being frequently interrupted. This is what causes people feel like they worked a lot but accomplished nothing by the end of the day. To overcome this, a first step is to start saying NO to those many non-essential things in your life and FOCUS your energy on what really adds value to your team (family, and yourself!). So in order to be more effective and accomplish more, you actually have to do less (but better).


The talks ended with Ola Ellnestam and Victor Hugo Germano presenting their ideas on Collaboration Driven Companies or “boss-less organizations”, based on their experiences as founders of organizations that run in this way.  They emphasised the importance of openness and transparency across all aspects of the business, from sales pipelines to skillsets needed and financial performance, even to the extent of having openness about salaries and income structures. They presented a few aspects of such businesses that they use in their own companies:

  •  Team based hiring – Victor described the hiring process his company uses whereby the teams decide if they need additional skills and then form an ad-hoc committee to interview and select the new team members
  • Replacing the annual budgeting cycle (which Ola describes as being like having a bank which is only open one month a year) with a rolling forecast which is updated constantly based on what is happening in the organization and beyond
  • Doing away with performance reviews and replacing them with constant feedback which is disconnected from bonuses or salary increases
  • Empowerment of everyone in the organization rather than requiring people to ask permission, with an expectation of self-regulation and doing what is best for the business as a whole

Following the talks the speakers hosted discussions with the participants to delve deeper or explore specific points with small groups.


There was a strong response from the people at the session to the idea of more regular community sessions exploring what it means to be agile in the modern world.

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