Mobile Meditation on The Tyranny of Experts

William Easterly’s book, The Tyranny of Experts, explains in details with research, observations, and keen insights how the West has helped impose tyranny on “the rest”, the undeveloped or less-developed world through a technocracy of expertise that has clearly failed to produce the promised results. Easterly compares what the West has done, often re-energizing colonial tendencies of exploitation by supporting or installing dictatorial regimes, to what had enabled the West to develop in the first place. And that is through the evolution of rights, especially for individuals. These are rights of speech, of worship, of property ownership, especially for those at the bottom of the social ladder.

In this, my first “mobile meditation”, during a bike ride in October 2023, I begin thinking through the implications of applying this wisdom to individual and organizational coaching. How would we apply the idea of “individual rights” in organizations? What’s more, when we think through our own personal development needs – how often do we outsource our own capacities to experts? How often do we tyrannize ourselves?

Good Grief!

What is “good” grief as opposed to “bad” grief? Maybe this isn’t what Lucy was expressing over and over to Charlie Brown during her frustrations with him. But it’s the topic of this post, mostly inspired by a collaboration with some organizational and societal change artists that play in multiple fields.

The Grieving and Thriving series of events began in 2022 inspired by a session held at the Open Space Institute-U.S.’s annual Opening Space for Peace and High Performance event held online in January of that year. A session during that event inspired Annick Corriveau, a courageous and lovely spirited French Canadian facilitator to lead the charge to inquire about grieving and how necessary it is for true thriving.

The event drew strength from an event back in 2010 in Berlin, where approaching 300 Open Space Technology (OST) facilitators from around the world convened for three days with 72 sessions. The event was called the annual World Open Space on Open Space (WOSonOS). One of those sessions was titled “What is it that has to die in order to truly live?”

I was not at that session. But I was in Berlin for the three day open space event. I spent time with one of those present, a bright enthusiastic gentleman from Iceland, Kári Gunnarsson. He braved the flight disruptions caused by the 2010 eruptions of one of the Iceland volcanoes in order to attend the Berlin WOSonOS. He presented me with his own version of the session’s question.

What in me needs to die in order to take the more beautiful path?

Although the question planted a seed, I’m not sure I had any answers. But the question kept echoing in my mind. It attracted me to Charles Eisenstein’s book, A More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. While looking into the heart of the difficulties, Eisenstein in his inspiring book has us die to the pain of separation and embrace a better story that our heart knows is available to us.

Despite the beauty of the question and the book, it’s been hard to let go of so many hopes and aspirations. But this global panic and lock-down has opened many doors by shutting others very firmly. Grief seems the appropriate emotion and process as we mourn those shut doors. Without the Good Grief, it’s really hard to notice the new doors opening. How do we grieve well? Are we grieving what needs grieving?

The year long collaboration has yielded two Open Space events, a Lean Coffee™, and meetings nearly every week for an evolving set of organizers. Although I could write a great deal more about my own journey of grieving in order to thrive, what has brought the greatest sense of growth was being authentically real and present with those who have continued to convene about this topic nearly every week for over a year. We hold our fourth event on March 25, 2023. “Science and the Arts – Together at the Edges: How are we moving forward?” Perhaps you’ll join this event, or ones to come. The greatest rewards are from the full journey, and not just the destination.

Ukulele Uprising

two ukes closer to fineThe “ukulele uprising” referenced in the title of this post is not a march of miniature guitars storming the capitol demonstrating against size-ism. It’s about how a ukulele has played a role in rising up around some interesting themes of learning, cooperation, and inspiration.

I’m about to conclude a fascinating class called the Yoga of Ukulele offered by the very experienced musician and yogi Josh Brill. It has brought home certain themes and introduced new ones that will take more than one post to write about.

My affair with the ukulele is not a new one. I was gifted an authentic Hawaiian ukulele built by one of the first manufacturers, Kamaka, back in the early 1980’s. I never completely learned a song, but I did enjoy playing chords and noodling with songs from a song book. After that summer in Honolulu it mostly just sat in its case collecting dust.

My ukulele uprising began a few years ago with two events. The first was being loaned a second ukulele by a friend from Paris. He handed it to me in the Seattle area at the end of a Core Protocols Bootcamp. The intention was that returning it to him in Paris would be an excuse to visit. I have made it to Berlin in 2019 and hoped to also get to Paris in 2020, but alas the pandemic crimped that plan. The second event was watching this TEDx Talk about learning anything in 20 hours. I’d enjoyed the idea of world class mastery being accessible with 10,000 hours of deliberate practice popularized by Malcolm Gladwell based on the research by Dr. Anders Ericsson. Josh Kaufman’s TEDx talk took out the need for “world class”, and postulated only 20 hours was needed for learning a new skill. He proved it by giving a decent performance of a medley of pop songs on the stage after exactly 20 hours of study and practice in his TEDx talk.

Since that time I’ve put in some effort and learned a bunch of songs. I’ve had a chance to play for friends and small groups. I’ve generally practiced only a few minutes a day with sometimes weeks between playing, but mostly I’ve kept going. The ukulele from Paris helped as I could slip in into my backpack easily using the sack it came in, and carry it on airplanes when I was traveling every week while coaching. I’m no where near mastering the instrument, but it has been fun.

And it has taken effort. Despite the twenty hour promise from Josh Kaufman, I was shocked how hard it was for me to memorize a single song, even one where I already knew all the chords. But learn it I did. And I learned more mostly with the help of Cynthia Lin on YouTube.

More important than songs, I learned something about learning. The lesson has been even more deeply enforced by Josh Brill’s meditative approach. There are two ways to fail to learn. One is to give up before trying, or getting frustrated. The other way is to give up after pushing through the lesson until all the joy and the music vanishes. Even if I learn something with the push through method, it is a Pyrrhic victory. The way to learn is with patience, compassion, and a mindful pace.

Going slow is often necessary to go fast. Hopefully my Ukulele Uprising will also turn into a Blog Uprising.

Educating with Agile – Zero to Pro in 12 Weeks

Let’s take a look at education and agile, two awesome topics that fit together beautifully, and how they come together to help people become professional web developers in a very short period in Montana.

My Decaying Copy of Deschooling SocietyA great deal of my blog has been devoted to my experience of the Agile Software Development movement and trying to apply this beyond just code. When I sought links from my blog to reference, so much of the last 10 years of my blog is about agility in one way or another. So I won’t bother adding links. Just scroll down, read, and click on the “older entries” link and you’ll find more, and yet more. All of my career has been focused on agile in one way or another.

As for education, it’s been an area of interest since just after high school when I encountered a radical book Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich which exposed me to the idea there might be much better ways of educating. On thumbing through the aging paperback I bought probably in the summer of 1980 during frequent bicycle trips from Queens to Manhattan, I was surprised to see a reference to the work of Paolo Friere who “discovered that any adult can begin to read in a matter of forty hours if the first words he deciphers are charged with political meaning”, and that Friere “moved from exile to exile mainly because he refuses to conduct his sessions around words which are preselected by approved educators, rather than those which his discussants bring to the class.” Returning back to Agile, Paolo Friere and Augusto Boal were topics in an Agile 2010 conference from a speaker from South America who more lastingly introduced me to the work of these amazing gentlemen from Brazil. Both Friere and Boal know the deeper level of engagement that is possible in students when they are treated as subjects who steer their own learning, rather than objects into which learning is deposited or pushed.

Montana Code School is a community based initiative to train and educate professional web developers. Montana businesses needs them. May 2015 it became the only topic at a Lean Coffee conversation that was convened by Missoula’s 1 Million Cups community, which sparked Paul Gladen director of University of Montana’s Blackstone Launchpad (a resource for entrepreneurs on campus) to found the code school after that conversation. And I’ve been honored to be part of the founding team. We’ve been successful at training absolute novices with no coding skills to get full time development as junior web developers. Our first and second cohorts have attained at least 95% placement with an annualized wage increase that amounts to over $30K more income. The reason for siting our success isn’t to sell our school. We have professional marketing people from the community (often probono) already doing that better than I could. The reason to site our success is to hopefully help motivate you to look into the agile philosophy and practices that have supported and been foundational in our success at helping students learn rapidly.

People at MT Code SchoolHow have agile philosophy and practices been incorporated into the school? We start our 12 week class the first day by briefly explaining the Agile Manifesto which we leave on the walls of the school. We explain Scrum, and we employ it with a week long “Sprint” that includes a flexible plan for the week on Monday that includes some of expected subject matter (though each week’s plan is always adjusted based on students needs, visiting mentors and employers who might share what their company does), and a demo and retrospective on Friday. The plan is on a kanban board, also on the wall. We start each day with a short standup meeting that incorporates the Core Protocols check-in and a short improv game to help the team develop their social and emotional intelligence. And during the teaching process we lean heavily on mob programming so the students can learn and teach each other as well as become powerful at collaboration. So most of the work students do are in small groups of three to five.

For people visiting our class, the level of trust and cooperation are very high. The informal atmosphere encourages vigorous engagement, and often requires breaks. Sometimes they’ll enjoy a humorous video together or a video game. There is frequent laughter, as well as staring at the screen working on a problem together. Student teams often take control of the set up of their desks during projects for their own needs. There are post-its and diagrams on all the walls. Although we have a course plan that works, most of the learning and the assessments are self-directed and managed. But we keep learning and adjusting, so what happens each week is a new adventure.

Although Montana Code School has definitely been powerfully influenced by agile philosophy and practices from the community of practitioners, and it is a cornerstone of our success, I’d really balk at the question “Is Montana Code School Agile?” After a week at the amazing Agile 2016 conference in Atlanta (the biggest conference ever for agile practitioners, which sold out at 2,500 attendees from all over the world), if you think you know what Agile is, or that you can tick a box and say “we’re Agile”, you’ve missed the point. Agility is a direction and a journey that never ends. Joshua Kerievsky‘s opening keynote moved many of us to update our understanding of the Agile Manifesto to a more modern approach that goes beyond a software focus to something more comprehensive: making people awesome, ensuring safety, continuous delivery of value, and rapid learning. Montana Code School continues to work on learning how to get better at each of these. Agile is a journey.

Montana Sunset

Statue of Responsibility

The Statue of Liberty seemed so small from Battery Park in Manhattan. We visited that statue as part of a cub scout event, but for me the statue’s relevance didn’t truly register until high school when greater awareness dawned of how many left poverty and oppressive regimes for the promise (if not always the reality) of Liberty.

But this isn’t a post about Liberty. It’s about Responsibility.

Victor Frankyl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning “that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast… Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.”

A Statue of Responsibility seemed a vague fantasy some people wanted to install on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived in the 1990’s. Alcatraz actually was in some sense already our Monument to Responsibility. A prison. But I searched for it recently and was shocked how far we’ve come to having an actual Statue of Responsibility somewhere in California or Seattle. It seems a worthy dream for many reasons. The proposed design according to Victor Frankly mentee Alex Pattakos shows two hands clasped, the hand at the base representing personal responsibility, and the one from the sky “representing us reaching out to whatever ‘to’ is, humanity, some higher power, the world, nation to nation, people to people.”

Many have emphasized the importance of responsibility as a core element of accomplishing anything worth while. It helps to look at the actual word to understand it. Responsibility is the Ability to Respond. A very powerful essay by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, “Toward a Culture of Responsibility“, notes “Responsibility is the individual’s ability to respond to any situation in life as the cause, not as the victim, of the situation.”

One of my deepest joys at present is my involvement in the Open Space Technology community, about which I have frequently written. But in relation to Responsibility, what I love about Open Space is what Peggy Holman identified as how it supports each participant in stepping forward to “take responsibility for what we love as an act of service.”

So now for the main reason I’m writing this post. Since 2009 I’ve been studying with Dr. Christoper Avery who teaches something called “The Responsibility Process”. It has been invaluable in my personal evolution not just for it’s deep and detailed understanding of the psychological process required to move into a state of true responsibility, but also in the individual and community support it provides for practicing responsibility for a greater experience of freedom, power, and choice. By choosing awareness around my intentions and confronting what is actually going on both within and without, I can, as Kimura-san states, respond as the cause, not the victim. I won’t benefit financially if you join this community, but it has amazing leaders who are choosing responsibility rather than victimhood to create a better world for themselves and those around them. Let my writing here be my hand reaching out to you to support you, in some way, in advancing on your path towards claiming the Ability to Respond.

Other than Dr. Avery, some of the other hands that reached out and helped me up the path of responsibility since my early 20’s are: Anthony Robbins, Dr. Maxine Kaye, Gay & Katie Hendrix, Howard LaGarde’s Alpha Leadership Training, Jim & Michele McCarthy’s Core Protocols, the Man Kind Project, the Coaches Training Institute, and Byron Katie.

What hands have helped you up? How will you keep reaching?

¡Viva la Revolución!

If you are reading these words, welcome to my Revolution. Or Evolution. This is a post about Authority. The slides below were from the talk I presented in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Agile CultureCon this past June. The question of authority has been a passion for some time. The bumper on my first car sported a sticker commanding people to “Question Authority”, which seems oddly authoritarian to me now. And though I liked my own presentation at Agile CultureCon, I’m also questioning it. Uncomfortable as it may be, I love to outgrow and shed paradigms and grow into new ones. Maybe like the caterpillar from MarSea’s poem.

So please, I invite you to enjoy my slides, included here for your convenience. At the SlideShare site, there are notes for most of the slides if you view notes instead of comments. The notes will be easier to see if you click the “Show Less” button.

Many moons have passed since my last post, many moons cocooned from engaging with you here. This post surfaces after a deep period of reflection, activity, and change. From studying coaching to becoming an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation; from being a student coach in the SAP Coaching Pool, to becoming an official SAP Internal Coach; and from being an employee to becoming independent and my own boss. This period has certainly felt like a rather tumultuous revolution. And I hope that my revolution will continue.

Revolution means a change in who holds the reigns of authority, whether that be a government or a ruling scientific paradigm. Yet just changing bosses alone won’t make for true change. There’s a clue in a song from The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again. In the song, it seems to start out nicely. “Take a bow for the new revolution, smiling free with the change all around…”, but the punch line of the song is “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

So, if you viewed my slides, you may have noticed the Dr. Sapolsky reference to a revolution in a tribe of baboons where the alpha males were all killed off due to them eating from a stash of poisoned meat they found that they didn’t share with the betas or any of the females. See my slides for the reference, or do your own research. But I conveniently ran out of time after that slide. It was a grand punch line. Down with all the alpha males! And not the message I (consciously) wanted to convey. I had hoped to show how the use of Open Space Technology and other participatory leadership methods like Sociocracy could help us make the shifts we need in a gentler less wasteful way than through bloody revolutions and grand catastrophic crises.

Since my talk in Cambridge this June, I participated as a staff consultant in training for a Group Relations conference, The Merit of the Other. Group Relations conferences come from the Tavistock tradition which does an experiential deep dive into authority in organizational life by creating a temporary institution where the participants can explore and experiment. The work in a Group Relations conference focuses deeply on the roles we take up. The Merit of the Other was a creative mash up of Group Relations work with Family Constellations. Dr. Kate Regan directed the conference, and the Family Constellations portion was led and facilitated by the talented Lisa Iversen who also spoke at the first Montana Agile Culture House conference, MACH One, in Missoula this past April. Family Constellations, conceived by Bert Hellinger decades ago, enables exploration, understanding, and healing of deeply held ancestral trauma. I’ve participated in more constellations than I can count and have found them more effective than I could possibly express in words.

Perhaps you’ll be inspired to investigate both Group Relations and Family Constellations. With respect to authority they’ve taught the following:

  • From Group Relations I can see how much authority we already hold in ourselves to both help and to harm, often times without conscious awareness, as we both audition and are auditioned for roles in dramas. We play victim, perpetrator, and rescuer, and many other roles. It can happen as quickly as a “funny look” when we pass a stranger on the street or someone gives us less clearance room than we feel appropriate on the freeway when they shift into our lane.
  • From Family Constellations, the power and authority role of the parent naturally transmits traumatic patterns that children almost invariably pick up, and they pick the patterns up out of love. Surfacing the traumas so we can love more intelligently is possible, but it requires deep awareness, mindfulness, intention, and usually assistance.

Right now, I am listening to Gabor Maté’s brilliant book, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction“. This eye opening book speaks of Dr. Maté’s work with addicts in Vancouver’s skid row, and follows with deep insights about the nature of addiction based on the latest brain science as well as his own experience. The drug addicts all have had traumatic childhoods, sadly lacking in love and full of abuse. The child’s sensitive nervous system can not process the trauma, and their nervous system uses the addictive chemicals to shut out the pain.

When thinking about a revolution of authority, if don’t want to “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”, it will demand that each of us individually and collectively face the places where we shut down to the truth of our own experience. Of course, starting right here, with me. Long Live my own Revolution!

butterflies turn into slime

Butterfly Art from ChileIn May at the World Open Space on Open Space 2013 in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I convened a session concerning one of the official roles in an Open Space Technology conference, the butterfly. This “role”, the butterfly, is quite loose and it is a role one can easily slip into and out of. The butterfly in an Open Space conference is not a session. Instead, a butterfly might be at the food table, or outside the facilities getting some fresh air.

The butterfly role in an Open Space conference invites a great deal of serendipity, as often someone being a “butterfly” will attract another “butterfly” into a spontaneous transformative conversation. My session in Florida was asking those hosting and organizing Open Space events what they thought about dedicating an area in facilities for a such a conference that would intentionally be attractive for butterflies and supportive of their needs, like a “butterfly garden” which contains flowers that draw these beautiful winged insects.

Some of the interesting conversations at that session involved the nature of the butterfly, and the metaphor of the butterfly as used in chaos theory, especially the “butterfly effect” used in the study of weather where sensitivity to initial conditions can mean a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Brazil could theoretically cause a tornado in Texas. But the most important of these conversations involved the path of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar digests itself into a soup which feeds the imaginal cells that gradually group and cluster to become the butterfly. Open Space is a wonderfully rich place supporting transformation, both in individuals and in organizations, and the butterfly metaphor is a very potent story.

One of the attendees, MarSea Amani, presented me this poem in Florida which she has given me permission to publish here in my blog.

butterflies turn into slime
a poem by MarSea Amani Nov 12, © 1999. All Rights Reserved.

O humans!
You think it’s so lovely
becoming a butterfly.
You’re fond of saying it.
I wonder why?!

You think it sounds pretty
to do what butterflies do
You think you’ll be pretty
if you change the way butterflies do…..

O humans!
If you but realized
what we butterflies do
to become butterflies
you wouldn’t want to!

stay pulpy worms
hugging the earth
eating all day
for all that it’s worth.

you really won’t want
to do what we do
when we melt into mush
and turn into goo.

O humans!
It’s really quite horrid,
this melting into slime.
it burns and it hurts;
it certainly isn’t sublime.

all that you were
turns into a soupy goo;
and that’s what you eat
to become the new you.

O humans!
You say you will transform
you offer self sacrifice.
wish that such pretty talk
for such change could suffice.

When caterpillars melt
you can’t hear their screams;
our voices have melted
along with our dreams.

we write in the horror
of losing ourselves,
all that we cherished
and all we once felt.

O humans!
for such transformation
you wouldn’t be wishing
if you knew what it took
for all that submissing.

stay a fat worm
eating and sleeping
dodging the birds;
no thought of leaping.

don’t wish for bright wings
to carry you high
into the light
of the limitless sky!

don’t wish to soar
in the clean air above
with no remembrance
of the things you once loved!

stay who you are!
you’re pretty enough!
don’t wish for change!
the way is too rough!

it’s hard enough
to turn worms into goo;
the fire’s even hotter
for creature’s like you.

surely you’ve noticed
that after your prayers
things really heat up
and you’re up to your ears!

surely you’ve noticed
that after you’ve prayed
to be hollowed out
you feel you’ve been slayed!

yes, it’s death you pray for
to be so transformed,
just like us caterpillars
before our new state was formed.

we die to the world
of eating up leaves
of clinging to branches
of fearing bird’s beaks.

O humans!
you say you want a better you,
but you wouldn’t, if you knew
just what was in store for you
what dying to your old self
would do to you

metamorphosis isn’t something
that you do in a day;
it takes all that melting
…day after day.

and it really does hurt.
and it takes a long time
to turn a caterpillar
into a puddle of slime

so that all he once was
is the stuff he can eat
to become his true self.
it’s no small feat!

transformation isn’t something
that you do in a day;
it takes all that melting
…day after day.

O humans! my advice to you:
stay a caterpillar!
life’s easier that way!
your job is just eating!
…day after day.

Fueling the Agile Fire in Tractors @JohnDeer

Agile Fired John Deere TractorIt’s been months since I visited Chad Holdorf, the agile “ninja” who walks the halls of the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group (ISG) in Des Moines. Chad also influences all of ISG organization out to Illinois, Germany, India, and more, affecting at least 1200 people.

When I think back on my experience, I’m still in awe. I’m almost speechless. There’s a powerful fire that’s been lit in the minds and hearts of this tractor company and it is being beautifully fueled and maintained. Chad introduced me to coaches he’s brought in to help their unusually successful transition from traditional “waterfall” development practices towards a more agile approach. I met managers and developers he’s inspired and motivated. I even spoke to non-developers who have been impacted. After seeing the improvements, and the fun!, it’s hard not to just wax so effusively that I sound like a crazed rock star groupie. Luckily, time has helped me reflect and be more coherent about what I discovered there.

First of all, a word from our sponsors. One of my mentors, Christopher Avery, introduced me to Chad. Christopher Avery teaches a profound understanding of how to be a leader in your own life and have greater impact on others with more responsibility, effectiveness, and power through his Leadership Gift program. I’d also like to thank my employer, SAP, for their support in making the visit possible. As John Deere is a customer of SAP (as is so much of the rest of the companies on this small blue orb) I could learn how SAP was benefiting John Deere at that location, and how we could benefit them even more, as well as bring back some of the Agile Goodness being spread around John Deere ISG.

Ok, now back to our program. To summarize in bullets, this is what I saw.

  • Meaningful work
  • Catalyst Leadership
  • Servant Leadership
  • Play
  • Vulnerability

So what exactly did I see? The Intelligent Solutions Group provides the brains for tractors and online presence for John Deere. In Des Moines, I got to witness the tail end and beginning of an eight week cycle where all the teams come together to look at what they’ve done, ship something to their stakeholders, and plan the next cycle. Chad also invites representatives from other companies working on agile transitions to view what ISG has done, as well as share their own agile transition processes. More on that later.

Meaningful Work

Chad talks about this right away and even shared with me some of the slides he shows when he starts to talk about what they’ve done. John Deere helps feed the planet. The population of our planet has been growing and is expected to grow much more. The people at John Deere know they make a difference and it shows in their enthusiasm for making things better.

Servant Leadership

Even if you’re not familiar with the late Robert K. Greenleaf’s book of the same name, it’s unlikely you’ve not heard this term. The executive team at John Deere have provided ample support to Chad, letting him introduce unconventional practices. They continue to empower him to make a difference. They keep saying yes, providing funds for coaches, equipment, furniture, and trainings. They’ve not needed to take the credit. Chad too embodies this. He doesn’t have an office. He has no one reporting to him. And he was excited to see others be brilliant in the company, encouraging colleagues to bring in new practices that constantly improve their processes.

Catalyst Leadership

This is a term I first encountered at Agile 2008 in Toronto from the book Leadership Agility by Bill Joiner. But it’s also a term used in the book The Starfish and the Spider, a book about the power of leaderless organizations. Chad has no authority to command obedience, yet he personally and single handedly took on the responsibility for making his entire division jump on board the Agile train. How does Chad catalyze instead of control?


This paragraph will be hard for me to keep short. One of the first things that Chad showed me on arrival was pictures of him covered in mud and dressed up as Forrest Gump when he ran a crazy mud drenched race that required him being hosed off afterwards. He brought that level of fun to his work the whole day. Look what cool things are happening here! Look at the crazy challenges we’ve overcome. It was fun for him that ISG has 50% less warranty claims, 7% higher employee engagement, but even more fun for Chad was seeing how awesome things were happening that he had nothing to do with. Chad uses fun to teach agile practices. Instead of a boring powerpoint presentation, Chad bought hundreds of dollars of legos himself and brings it to groups from 20 to 200+ and tells them to build a city. Then they learn Scrum, Scrum of Scrums, and other agile practices to build their lego metropolis.


Rather than keep things secret, John Deere ISG courageously brings in agile practitioners in from many companies to see exactly what they’re doing. Chad is open and frank about their challenges, and humble. The Brene’ Brown book, The Gifts of Imperfection, helped me understand the power of not just what they’re doing by letting others come visit them, but why. Even though they call it a benchmarking process, there wasn’t a lot of time spent comparing. There was much more time sharing and collaborating with how both John Deere and SAP could do better. Chad’s incredible openness engenders courage and trust in his own company, as well as in others. According to Brene’ Brown, letting go of comparison helps cultivate creativity. And there was much of that evident, including really fun product demos made by teams to show off their work the last 8 weeks.

Chad HoldorfConclusions

The conclusion is I’m not done pondering or thinking about Chad Holdorf’s work. I got to meet him again in Dallas at the Agile 2012 conference, learned more about his dreams and aspirations for himself, John Deere, and the software industry. He’s definitely someone to watch out for. If you’re interested in learning more, or maybe applying to be one of the fortunate companies to witness the power of what they’re doing there, feel free to email me and I’ll put you in contact. And take a look at some of these other blog posts and articles praising Chad’s work at John Deere ISG:

Everything is Changing

Joe Justice gave the closing keynote at Agile 2012 a few days ago. I’ve written several times about the shifts that are happening in the software industry because of this “agile” stuff. Joe shows how he’s produced in 3 months a street legal safe beautiful car that competed in the X prize and has also been with top auto models at a Detroit auto show between Ford and Chevrolet.

These new methods of building stuff better, faster, and with more fun are coming and changing everything, not just the lives of some programmers. This video will give you a taste of how Joe did it – and why it’s profound – and how he’s also working to bring these techniques for social change. Please, for us all, watch this video!