The Best 15 Minute Agile Video on the Internet

I find myself constantly using the same YouTube video to introduce people to Agile. Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell by Henrik Kniberg is by far the best 15 minute video that explains modern agile principles in a concise and entertaining way. 

Even though the video focuses on the Product Owner role, the concepts covered go beyond product ownership. The key point of the video; which is the promise of Agile overall; is great outcomes for happy customers. Henrik explains this well by blending Scrum, Kanban, and Lean principles. Modern Agile employs concepts from these disciplines, and several others, and the video paints a picture of what good practice of them looks like.

The video is great to explain Agile to executives or other leaders at the beginning of an Agile transformation. I’ve used the video several times to discuss Agile with management and other stakeholders. It’s helpful for these groups to know how agile works so that they can interact with customers in an agile way.

Recently I was asked to explain Agile at an offsite meeting to a group of about 50 global sales and account managers. The product development organization was undergoing an agile transition and these groups needed to adjust how they interacted with product development and customers. Henrik’s video provided a concise way to introduce Agile and to lead a discussion with the group.

Sales people and account management have a natural affinity for Agile since their focus is great customer outcomes. People whose job it is to work with customers are often concerned with the flow of product requests from customers to the delivery of those requests, and the video does a good job of highlighting how that flow works.

I did not show the entire video but used two clips that focused on particular areas the group wanted to talk about. The first 7 minutes and 43 seconds of the video does a fantastic job of providing an overview of Agile including:

  • The agile team.
  • Artifacts like the product backlog.
  • Ceremonies like backlog refinement.
  • Optimizing the flow of work and a continuous delivery of value.
  • Code quality and continuous integration.
  • Limiting work in progress via Scrum or Kanban.
  • Saying no.
  • Prioritization with the team and stakeholders.
  • Empiricism and continuous improvement based upon feedback.
  • Delivering the most valuable thing in the shortest time possible.

Henrik explains these concepts through the eyes of the Product Owner, but the overall value to the customer is apparent.

After watching this segment I lead a group discussion around the concepts presented in the clip.

The second clip I used describes how Agile helps manage customer expectations. Henrik has an excellent three minute segment in the video (11:29-14:22) about realistic expectation management and forcasting based upon velocity.  

Again after watching the segment I lead the group in a discussion on how forecasting this way helps to build better relationships with customers and stakeholders.

Here is a list of the segments I see in the video to help lead conversations with various audiences. 

  • 0:00-7:43 : General overview of Agile; good for any audience.
  • 7:44-9:18: Risk management and value; a short but great segment to show investors, executives, and entrepreneurs. Explains how limiting work in progress reduces risk by leveraging transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
  • 9:20-10:40: Quality vs. Speed, vs. Value; this is a good segment to show product development organizations. I like to use this segment to introduce the concept of cost of delay. There is a video on the Cost of Delay posted by Joshua Arnold on Vimeo. Maybe I’ll write a post about the cost of delay someday soon.
  • 11:29-14:22: Realistic stakeholder management; a good segment for anybody that has to interact with customers or other stakeholders.
  • 14:43-15:37: How to scale agile; provides a brief introduction of how to apply agile to larger products or organizations. This is useful to explain to management and leaders who may be embarking on scaling agile.

I want to thank Henrik for putting together such a great video. You have saved me countless hours of creating content for presentations that would never be as good as your work. 

-Rob

The Bad Agile Feels

It is easy to talk about Agile and Lean principles. One can share theories and practices, discuss methods, run ceremonies, and create artifacts. Knowledge is necessary, training is important, a common nomenclature is required. Facts can be conveyed from one party to another in entertaining and motivating ways.

Concepts like cadence, MVPs, and limiting work in progress can be rationally understood. Sometimes people share funny pictures of tire swings or skateboards and bicycles. Others will laugh and say; “that comic strip is so true.”

When one is bold enough to put Agile theory into practice something happens; they start to experience Agile. Experience creates feelings and emotions. I call these the Agile Feels. When practicing Agile for the first time, or with new teams and projects, there will be a lot of Feels.

Len Lagestee of illustratedagile.com talks about the positive Agile Feels in his blog post What Does Agile Feel Like, but that’s only half the story.

At the start, there may be more bad feelings than expected and the better one is at applying Agile principles the worse the Agile Feels can be.

One may feel anxiety, frustration, and discomfort early on in their Agile adoption. If you are starting to practice Agile and you are having the bad Agile Feels then congratulations, you are doing it right! These feelings are signs of personal and professional growth.

Children have these feelings all the time. They cannot walk or talk the way they want to, throw a ball, ride a bicycle, or do long division. If children let frustration get the better of them they will grow up crawling on the floor, grunting, unable to figure out how to split the check with friends at their favorite mud pie cafe.

Adults in general don’t like these feelings. Adults equate them with not being in control and outside of their comfort zone, or even worse; appearing to others that they don’t know what they are doing. The fear of making a mistake is actually the number one thing male adults fear the most; more than death, taxes, and speaking in public.

Experiencing the bad Agile Feels means one has the courage and desire to be a better developer, tester, manager, product owner, scrum master, director, coach, or executive. If one is new to Agile and not experiencing some form of the bad Feels then they are either a level nine Zen master, or really not improving much of anything.

So how does one use the bad Agile Feels to their advantage? What do children do naturally that adults find so hard to employ when frustrated or feeling like they are making a mistake?

Children make instant use of the feedback they receive, both positive and negative, to achieve their desired outcome. If a child wants to walk towards the door, and she moves her leg one way but it takes her in the direction of the refrigerator, she learns quickly to move her leg in a slightly different direction to get her closer to where she needs to go.

When one is doing Agile right, it provides efficient, quick, and frequent feedback. The Agile Feels are the emotions people get from the feedback. Since feedback is coming at a more frequent pace than it did before, and feedback is not always positive especially early on, people tend to develop negative emotions towards it.

One must learn to use the negative feedback like children do; respond quickly to it and change direction a bit.

People are people, and people are emotional. One can not stop feeling, but they can train themselves to use the bad Agile Feels as triggers for retrospection and change.

Feedback, and the quick response to it, is the cornerstone of Lean Principles. It’s easy to draw a feedback loop on paper, but it is really hard to practice because feedback creates emotion, and negative emotion tends to block ones ability to see a rational move forward. It’s human nature.

Very often one is receiving feedback on their alignment to things like vision, goals, delivery of value, or good practices. When one gets the bad Feels they might need to retrospect on their alignment.

Here are some leading questions one can ask themself to work through the bad Agile Feels.

If you are a stakeholder:

  • Am I being clear about the outcome desired?
  • Am I too emotionally attached to what I want vs. what I need (the outcome)?
  • Am I listening objectively?
  • How can I help others experiencing the Agile Feels retrospect and adapt?

If you are a product owner:

  • Am I too emotionally attached to my vision and not listening to the outcomes my stakeholders need and when it’s needed?
  • Am I staying focused on the quick delivery of high value and good outcomes?
  • If the answer to my hypothesis is not “yes” can I pivot, move forward, setting my emotions aside?
  • If the team is giving me negative feedback on the when and the how, what changes do I need to make to what I am asking for?
  • How can I help others experiencing the Agile Feels retrospect and adapt?
  • Am I asking the team to violate good practices and team norms like the Definition of Done? If so, why?

If you are a team member:

  • Do I have a clear understanding of the objective?
  • Do I understand the outcome desired and the value to deliver?
  • Am I too emotionally attached to how I think it should be done and not listening to others?
  • Am I limiting my work well and am I honest about the effort required?
  • Am I relying on team norms to help keep myself and the team in line with good practices? If not, why?
One does not have to experience the bad Agile Feels alone. They should reach out to their Scrum Master, Release Train Engineer, Coach, and leadership for help. Many of them have experienced the bad Agile Feels before and can help people think through them rationally.

Stay Agile everyone!

-Rob