Project Management

The Reluctant Agilist

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About this Blog


Recent Posts

Lead Without Blame with Tricia Broderick

In Defense of Frederick Taylor with Christine Li

Story Points are Good AND Evil with Ryan Ripley

Value Stream Management with Derek Huether

Improving Value Delivery In Your Organization with Gil Broza

What to do when your team won't to talk In Retrospectives w/ Adam Weisbart

This episode features a student question and a special appearance by Adam Weisbart. 

I recently had a student in class who was struggling to get her team to participate during retrospectives. This is a fairly common problem for teams that are either trying to get the hang of how to run a retro, or teams that may have stuck with a particular tactic for so long that it has stopped working. 

I invited Adam Weisbart to join me for the podcast. If Adam's name sounds familiar, it may be because you've taken a class from him, seen him speak at a conference, watched the video "Sh*t Bad Scrum Masters Say", or because you've used his Agile Adlibs or his retrospective facilitation kit, Recess. (We'll be spending time on those last two during the interview.)

If you've got teams that aren't fully engaging during your Retrospectives, you are not alone. This podcast has some ideas that should help you get that turned around.

Links from the podcast


Contacting Adam Weisbart 

Posted on: December 07, 2019 11:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Agilistocrats 2016 Retrospective

The Agilistocrats hold their 2016 Retrospective!

Maria Matarelli, Richard Cheng, Dhaval Panchal and Dave Prior reflect on the year by and sharing their answers to a few questions about 2016:

1. What is the most valuable thing you learned this year?
2. What area of Agile are you most curious about or hopeful for in 2017?
3. What are you going to do differently in 2017?
4. What advice do you have for others as we head towards the new year?

Here are some links from the podcast
Growing Agile… Not Scaling - the article that Dhaval and Andrea Tomasini co-authored for InfoQ
Greek Hoplites
Agile Certified Leadership Training in Chicago

If you’d like to get in touch with any of the Agilistocrats, you can find them with the information below.

Richard Cheng
Work: Excella

Maria Matarelli
Work: Formula Ink

Dhaval Panchal
Work: Agile42

Dave Prior
Work: LeadingAgile

Have an amazing New Year!!

Posted on: December 27, 2016 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tips for New ScrumMasters with Richard Cheng

You’ve taken CSM Training and passed the Exam. Now what?

In this podcast Certified Scrum Trainers Richard Cheng and Dave Prior share their thoughts on most important things that Certified Scrum Master students can do to be successful Scrum Masters once they have completed the training and passed the CSM Assessment Exam. The podcast includes an exploration of why each of the recommendations is critical to making Scrum work and both Richard and Dave share examples from their experiences in the field working with teams who did, and did not have these practices in play.

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

Geoffrey Moore Vision Statement

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore

Roman Pichler’s website (where you can find the tools we mentioned)

Roman Pichler’s books


Contact Info

Richard Cheng

Works for Excella Consulting


Email: [email protected]



Dave Prior

Works for LeadingAgile


Email: [email protected]




The music featured in the podcast was downloaded from The Free Music Archive

Intro Song

Cash Rules by Ari de Niro. For more info: or

Outro Song

Cherry Skies  - The New Mystical Troubadours. Find them here:


Posted on: December 21, 2016 05:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Agile Retrospectives... the one thing you can't skip

Check the bottom of this page for links to the Agile 2015 Sessions by people mentioned in this article

Retrospectives are weird.

And sometimes…VERY uncomfortable.

And regardless of how far off the reservation you wander, with respect to other Agile practices, Retrospectives are THE ONE THING YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT SKIP

In traditional project management we have the Post-Mortem (or if you are the sensitive sort, the Project Review). These come at the end of the project… at least, they are supposed to. Unfortunately, unless the train has run completely off the tracks, and you don’t need to spend time hurling blame rocks at victims in the pit, skipping this is a pretty common thing. Because, hey - if nothing went really bad, things must be good – right? …Why mess with success lack of total failure.

AND, even if the project barely crawled across the finish line under its own power, the company has usually reassigned most of the people who worked on the project before the Project Review can be scheduled, anyway… and what’s the point of having it if we can’t have everyone present.

If you work on a team that is trying to adopt some form of Agile, almost nothing contributes directly to your ability to be successful more than regularly holding retrospectives. You want the team to get to a point where everyone feels responsible for contributing to discovering new ways to collectively improve how they work together so that they can deliver more value.

During the retrospective, the focus is on everyone sharing personal observations, discussing how things are going and to committing to a plan for things to change as they continue working together. To skip this, robs the team of their ability to inspect and adapt as a team and this is at the very core of what it means to be Agile.

Simply put, retrospectives are the mechanism we use to get better at working together. If you (and/or your team/organization) has made a decision to leave that out, no matter what you have decided to call your unique approach to work, it is not Agile.

Often in class, one of the participants will explain that they’ve stopped doing retrospectives for any number of reasons. My question is always, if you are skipping them, why? And how will you and your team find a different way to inspect and adapt as you grow and learn together?

Killing Crickets

If your retrospectives seem like a series of awkward moments filled with the sound of crickets, this is the first thing to inspect and adapt. For whatever reason, whether it be the way they are run or some dynamic about how they flow, if your retrospectives are not providing value, something needs to change. Keep in mind that a particular technique may work very well for a little while, but they do often reach a point of diminishing returns. Here are some ways to change it up…

Agile Retrospectives by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen: You need this book if you are working with Agile. It provides a variety of approaches for running retrospectives. As you’ll see in the AgileLib Top 20 , it is a longstanding favorite among the thought leaders and practitioners in the Agile space.

Engage your Inner Weisbart: Adam Weisbart* is (insert analogy that does not refer to Adam as the Martha Stewart of Retrospectives, the Horse Whisperer of Retrospectives or the Mickey Goldmill* of retrospectives). The creator of Sh!t Bad Scrum Masters Say has a variety of tools available that can help you fix your retrospectives:

Agile Antipattern Cards - Each card lists a different anti-pattern that is intended to create important conversations within your team. All of the anti-patterns used have been collected as part of the Agile Antipattern Project.

Retrospective Cookies - If the issue is getting people to share, the statements and questions hidden inside these special Agile fortune cookies are a fun way to kick start the conversation and help the team figure out how to improve.

Agile Adlibs - The latest addition to Adam Weisbart’s suite of tools designed to help you with your retrospectives is based on Mad Libs. If you aren't from the US and didn't grow up with Mad Libs, the way they work is that someone has a questionnaire with a story that has lots of blanks that need to be filled in. Without giving you context, they ask you for a series of words like noun, verb, adjective, etc. These are then placed into spaces on a worksheet. Since you (the person providing the words) can't see the worksheet, the results are lots of fun. This provides a lighthearted way of helping the members of the team creatively discover things that might be ripe for tuning.

If you lead retrospectives, I think it is important to remember that you are part of the team and should contribute, but it is not your job to comment on everything everyone says. It is also important to remind everyone in the room that each of us whether on the team or outside is always doing the best job they can at any given moment.

Retrospectives are the most important part of your Agile workflow. They are the core tool for how we inspect and adapt as teams. If you want to get better at using Agile, make them part of your process and never skip them.


Esther Derby

Six Rules for Change - Monday, August 3rd at 3:45
Coaching Flow: Moving Past Resistance Wednesday, August 5 at 10:45

Diana Larsen

Are we Doomed to Sticky, Tricky and Icky?: Women and Men Working Togehter on Agile Teams - Tuesday, August 4 at 3:45

Adam Wesibart

Agile Jesters, Magicians and Clowns: Using the unexpected to move mountains and your team on Wednesday, August 5 at 2 PM.

Posted on: July 28, 2015 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world."

- Dave Barry