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Half-Life of commitments

Half-life is the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. 


During private PSF (Profession Scrum Foundation) classes my students create a Change Backlog. The idea of this backlog is to codify the things that need to be changed in order to become agile. Actually, after they finished creating the backlog I ask them to put a name on each sticky note, meaning that the person whose name is on the note is responsible for acting on that item and is accountable for it. Finally, I ask them right away to define a date at which they will review this backlog. Inspect and Adapt.

I am doing this to avoid the training conundrum ‘Yeah, this has all been very interesting but right now I don’t have the time and right situation at hand …’

In my opinion if you don’t go out immediately after the training and walk the talk, your motivation will decrease rather dramatically. Not that I have researched, but my feeling tells me that the half-life is about one week. So, after two weeks your motivation is down to a quarter.

Also, I see best results when whole teams get a company private class. Even better when their superiors join in too, if not for the entire training but for the last 3 hours of the second day when we create the Change Backlog. This exercise creates a transparency which hardly can be reproduced in a later setting. At the end of day two, most of my students are really enthusiastic to get started and the managers sense this as well. 

High chances of success: An enthusiastic team with management support: you are ready to roll on your path to agility.

An Agile Transition done Right



A little over a year, I kicked off an agile change program at a leading swiss devices company. Two weeks ago, I had a chance to visit them during an open house on their new premisses.

This company was fully committed to walk the talk, they decided to do what needed doing.


In August 2010, we started of with a five day PSD (Java) Scrum.org training. I trained 12 very strong developers of various expericene levels. This training was intended to ascertain whether they really want to work in an agile manner. Brave move from management, but to no surprise the developers fell in love with Agile and Scrum and were hooked on day three of the five day training. This training is excellent!
After the developers gave their thumbs up, it took about a month to set everything in motion. This is is a mid size company with over 300 employees at their head quarters. Once we got the ball rolling the company was ready. They had torn down walls to create right sized team rooms, organized great Story Boards or shall I say walls. Again, they were serious. In the first two weeks, apart from coaching the teams, I trained ten people as Scrum Master (PSM) and ten more as Product Owner (PSPO). We didn’t really know who is going to fulfill which role, we just knew that the future person would be coming from those groups. Also, the intention was to really create an agile culture and what could be better then to reach out and train and convince as many people as possible. After that I gave about ten introductions to Scrum, each lasting about two hours; the target audience was marketing, sales, support and other departments on the projects periphery.
For the frist two sprints — 2 weeks in duration — I was coaching a 100%. Essentially being a Scrum Master. After two Sprints I was only around at the beginning and at the end of the Sprint. During my absence the teams had the chance to walk on their own without training wheels, getting first-hand experience into when they started to struggle. After 5 Sprints the teams decided on their own who should replace me as the Scrum Master. In the remaing four Sprints, I worked closely together with my replacements. My presence became less and less. At the end it was about 20% of the time. By the end of last year, they didn’t need me anymore and I moved on.
This whole engagment lasted about four month in calendar time and about two month of coaching from my side.

Now, during the open hours, I had the chance to meetup with a couple of guys from the old teams and we chatted a little. It was a great to see, that all of them really had drunken the agile CoolAid. They did not roll back one inch – instead they kept on pushing hard. Now, there are three teams and more coming soon.
For me and my company effective agile. this coaching approach has become my favorite modus operandi for change engagements.


By the way, the last two releases were two and six weeks early! It humbles me to know, that I was the initation.