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Hands-on Agile #17: Liberating Structures for Uncertainty & Strategy


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The 17th Hands-on Agile meetup continues exploring Liberating Structures for Scrum events. This time, we address the uncertainty and the resulting problems for your organization’s strategy.

Liberating Structures cover a set of easy to learn, yet powerful ways to collaborate as a team—even as a large team—, overcoming traditional communications approaches like presentations, managed discussions, or another disorganized brainstorming at which the loudest participants tend to prevail.

Throughout the coming months, we will create exciting new ways how to improve classic Scrum events like the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Review, ​or the Sprint Retrospective. Moreover, we will use Liberating Structures for difficult challenges that agile coaches, Scrum Masters, and Product Owners face, for example, reviewing the existing product design process.

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Hands-on Agile #17: Liberating Structures for Uncertainty & Strategy

  1. 1. #1 • Team up in pairs. • One is talking; the other one is listening. • Swap roles when you hear the gong. • Share your take on the question: “What challenges do you bring to this meetup, what can you give to your peers, and what do you hope to take away in return?” • Choose another partner when you hear “move on.” • Number of rounds: 3. • ⏰ 5 minutes/round.
  2. 2. #2 Who feels knowledgeable in Liberating Structures?
  3. 3. #3 So far, we have explored eleven Liberating Structures microstructures: • Impromptu Networking • 1-2-4-All • 15% Solution • Shift & Share • TRIZ • W3 • 25/10 Crowd Sourcing • Min Specs • Ecocycle Planning • Troika Consulting / Wise Crowds • Discovery and Action Dialog (DAD) • User Experience Fishbowl • Celebrity Interview Liberating Structures: Co-developed by Keith McCandless + Henri Lipmanowicz ( Creative Commons License
  4. 4. #4 The Case — Help to Save a Startup with “Critical Uncertainties”
  5. 5. #5 The Scenario A year ago, was a well-funded, Berlin-based hopeful in the race to improve schooling by creating tailored curricula for each student derived from an AI. Today,’s situation is dire: • Only three months of runway left. • In a last-ditch effort, the management fired 32 people last week—that was a third of the team—mainly from marketing, sales, and administration to save liquidity to bring this new investor onboard. • Conflicts among the founders, as well as between Product Management and Engineering, become more frequent as well as more public. • The existing VCs are not pleased with the growth metrics for the last nine months and hence are reluctant to provide more capital to • However, there is a newly formed VC interested in investing—provided delivers the much anticipated yet overdue 3.0 release. • Two months would be needed to close a new funding deal. • The previous Sprint was a disaster. For the third time in a row,’s three Scrum Teams failed to deliver the 3.0 release. • The current Sprint—ending in a week from now—looks more promising, though. • All hopes now rest on the upcoming two Sprints to finally deliver the 3.0 release and to make the miracle of a new investment happen. • The pressure on Engineering to deliver 3.0 is mounting at the same time, in any case. • Some of the senior developers feel miserable about the mounting pressure from the management. Same of them have started answering calls from headhunters. • Morale in the Scrum Teams is nearing an all-time low. The rate of people calling in sick is rising.
  6. 6. #6 How to Practice Critical Uncertainties • Invite attendees to make a list of uncertainties faces by asking, “What factors are impossible to predict or to control their direction?” [Use 1-2-4-All.] ⏰ 10 minutes. • Prioritize the most critical factors by asking, “Which factors threaten’s ability to operate successfully?” [Use dot-voting.] ⏰ 10 minutes. • Select the most critical and the most uncertain factor (X and Y). ⏰ 5 minutes. • Create a grid with two axes—X & Y—with a “more of <— —> less of” continuum for the factor to be represented on each axis. Repeat for the Y factor and axis, thus creating four quadrants. ⏰ 5 minutes. • Create four groups. Each of the four groups creatively names and writes a thumbnail scenario for one of the quadrants. ⏰ 10 minutes. • The four groups share their scenarios briefly. ⏰ 2 minutes each. • Each group brainstorms three strategies that would help the group operate successfully in the scenario that it has described. ⏰ 10 minutes. • The four groups share their strategies briefly. ⏰ 2 minutes each. • The whole group sifts results to identify which strategies are: • Robust (strategies that can succeed in multiple quadrants) and which are • Hedging (strategies that can succeed in only one scenario but protect you from a plausible calamity). ⏰ 10 minutes. Liberating Structures: Co-developed by Keith McCandless + Henri Lipmanowicz ( Creative Commons License
  7. 7. Liberating Structures: Co-developed by Keith McCandless + Henri Lipmanowicz ( Creative Commons License #7
  8. 8. #8
  9. 9. #9
  10. 10. Contact Information Stefan Wolpers Email: Blog: Company: Berlin Product People GmbH Newsletter: (Join 23,500 peers) Slack: (Join 6,000 peers) Twitter 1: @StefanW Twitter 2: @AgeOfProduct