Start with WHY..

#makeTheShift: Start with WHY, and End in their (your customers) Hearts!

Simon says…

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.

In his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action Simon Sinek talks about what separates APPLEs from the TIVOs of this world, and why it is important to start with the purpose behind what you do. 

Looking at it from another angle, they are the vision, mission, and plan. Here is my very simple and minimalistic definition:
  • Vision is WHAT we want to become. It is the Destination. It is WHERE we want to get. 
  • Mission is WHY we want to become that entity, it is the reason why we are on that journey.
  • Plan is the vehicle that gets us there. It is HOW we intend to get to our destination. 

As @simonsinek says, we often start with the outer layer going in. Most of us are focused on showing the product (WHAT), without connecting with the audience on emotional level with our WHY. 

WHY is the soul of any product, any organization. Trying to sell the product without clear WHY is like selling hollow product(s) without any ‘soul’ in it.

start with Why

            People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

On the other hand, starting with WHY, you are connecting with the audience on an emotional level, on a much deeper level. As Simon indicated in the video, you buy with your heart, and then rationalize your purchase with your mind. You got to have a cause before you create a product and (try to) sell it. Start with the inner circle, start with WHY and everything else will fall in the right places

Case in point from the recent history, look at Tesla. Mr. Musk sold the WHY to us, simple. The company spends very little, next to nothing in the advertising money. Instead, people have bought into the WHY of Mr. Musk, and the companies he is leading. 

#makeTheShift:  Start with WHY, and End in their Hearts! Click To Tweet

Start with the mission and then build products around it, products that help you satisfy your mission.

PostIt note as a Birthday Card?!

I saw this on my kitchen counter top when I got up this morning!


A post shared by Nimesh Soni (@soni_nimesh) on

My kids had made this to wish me a Happy Birthday! You know you are hardcore Agilist when your family starts giving you birthday card made out of, what else, PostIt notes.

This is just one more way to use this versatile tool!

Interested in knowing what are the other ways you can use PostIt notes? Check out these earlier posts..

What are the different ways you have used PostIt notes in your professional and personal life? Share it here with the community by posting a comment below.

Improve your Scrum Ceremonies…

Does your team have a common understanding of various Scrum Events? Are you looking for simple tools and techniques to help Improve your Scrum Ceremonies? Make them fun and Productive?

The Event Canvas

Look no further! Introducing Event Canvas!

Improve your scrum Ceromonies

Events canvas

[Download a PDF of this Event Canvas just put Zero on the Price]

As an Enterprise Transformation Coach, I do a lot of training. And, being an Agilist at heart, I am always looking for ways to improve the delivery of my training and the experience for the participants. I came up with this canvas to help me teach the basics of each of the events and ceremonies while keeping the participants engaged and interested.

How to use this Canvas…

I give out multiple copies of this canvas at each table during the training. Each table (team) also picks two to three events that they volunteer to discuss at the table and fill out this canvas. When the timebox is over, each team will debrief on the event they discuss; essentially walking the class through the canvas for the specific event.

As the debrief happens, you are using your facilitation skills to drive the conversation and explain the intricacies of the specific event. This is where you (as trainer, coach, and facilitator) make the magic happen 🙂

Try it with your team. I promise you, you won’t regret it!

More tools, please…

Want more tools to make your scrum events highly productive? I have a collection of simple tools that can help you as you coach and mentor your team. Your team will thank you for finding these gems. Check out Improve your Scrum as a first step towards uncovering these hidden gems.

Improve Your Scrum Ceremonies

Improve Your Scrum Ceremonies


Get it for only $20 

Get it here and start improving your scrum ceremonies right away 



Standard Work

Standard Work is one of the most powerful but least used Lean tools. By documenting the current practices, it forms the baseline for continuous improvement. Let’s review some of the benefits quickly.

Benefits of Standard Work

  • Standardizes the work across different teams, different people; ensuring consistency across the organization; making outcomes predictable and measurable.
  • Sets clear expectations, branding as to what’s ‘given’ when the team/individual says a certain activity is ‘Done’.
  • Ensure that certain routine, mundane tasks get done (and don’t get overlooked due to them being ‘boring’.)
  • A common ‘platform’ is set up, a baseline against which the effectiveness of the individuals and/or team can be measured; ensuring a certain level of quality.
  • It’s the DNA of continuous improvement (CI). It makes CI routine and ingrained in the very existence of the organization.
  • Standard Work is a ‘snapshot‘, a picture of the best way to do things at this moment in time, with an eye on continuous improvement.

Without standard work, there is no kaizen (CI)
– Taichii Ohno

In essence, Standard Work helps you in minimizing waste and maximizing value delivery.

Would it help to have your standard work documented? Can it help you, your team, your organization improve the productivity and deliver more VALUE for your customer?

Go ahead and document your Standard of Work.

What’s Better yet…

Get these Standard Work templates for FREE, and put your team on the “hyper Productivity” lane!

Standardized work is a collection and implementation of the best practices known to that point.

Scrum Master

Standard work



Product Owner

Standard work


Scrum Team

Standard work


Get them All

Standard work


Interested in more …

Interested in more than just the Standard Work? How about Checklists, template emails, and worksheets to help your Scrum team?
playbook for scrum teams
Why reinvent? Leverage these Pearls of Agile Wisdom! Grab this Playbook now, for a tiny price!

Get them Now!

Not convinced yet…

Listen to what Steph has to say below 🙂

Testimonial from an actual Customer

I purchased this playbook and find it very helpful.  I think the email templates came in handy when trying to wrangle folks from all over the company together.  They keep me organized and the email now provides more information with these structured templates.

The “Standard Work” for each role is great as well.  It provides helpful hints on role responsibility and helps with keeping me organized with all the artifacts related to a project.

Great work and thanks!

– Steph W

I am convinced! Give it to me Now!


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Agile timeline

Agile TimelineAgile timeline! Did you ever wonder how we got to where we are today? Who were the personalities that influenced the course of history? Wonder what were the events instrumental in shaping the future that we know as present today?

If these are the questions that peak your curiosity, you are in luck! Here is my attempt at chronicling the events that started the Agile revolution.

Along with the events, I also list the personalities, the artifacts (books, white papers) that shaped what Agile is today. Most of these items are clickable, leading you to a source with even more information

Enjoy the Agile timeline! Relive those moments, and walk with those personalities.

Think we missed some important event, book, or personality? Please do write to us and we will update the timeline accordingly.

Improve Daily StandUp

Daily Standup is a very important ceremony in the Scrum framework. As part of the daily standup, the team meets on a regular basis for a quick sync up of 15 minutes.


Scrum Calendar Events [DS=Daily Stand up]

Remember, you only have 15 minutes to finish this daily standup. We want to use every minute optimally during this ceremony, don’t we? So what are the different ways we can optimize it?  

Top 10 Tips for Daily Stand Up

Here are my tips to have the team gel together quickly, as well as eliminate unnecessary churns that will happen at the daily stand up. Again, the goal is to maximize every minute of this daily stand up and make it a high performing ceremony.

  1. Come Prepared

    Ask your team member to use this tool before they come to daily stand up. Have your team members think about their updates before they come to Daily Stand up. Write three things on the Post It notes.

    Daily standup

    Write your updates to the three basic Questions

  2. Be Explicit

    Announce the start and end of your daily stand up. Make it explicit, use some specific music or it could be a simple as some one just announcing that it is the ‘START’ and ‘END’ of the daily stand up (at the beginning and end of the 15-minute timebox respectively).

    make it Explicit - Announce START and STOP

    make it Explicit – Announce START and STOP

  3. Parking Lot

    Introduce Parking lot and use it extensively to defer the discussions (after the end of daily stand up). This will help you keep the momentum during the daily stand up and enable you to quickly go through the synch up from each team member.

  4. 4th Question

    Introduce 4th question: Is there anything that you want to discuss with your team member(s) after the daily stand up?

    4th Question - Defer to Parking Lot

    4th Question – Defer to Parking Lot

    If yes, the team member mentions it quickly and someone captures it into the Parking Lot. Review and discuss the items on Parking Lot after the daily stand up is completed.

  5. After Party

    This is a time set aside, allocated for the discussion that we deferred during the daily standup. You may have put a couple of items in the Parking Lot. Once the end of the stand up is announced, some of the team members would stay back for their respective discussions. This is what I refer to as to as After Party!

    All the team members do not need to stay back, only the ones who are required for the discussion would.

    Want to #getHyper?

    Want to know more tips to improve your Stand up? your Scrum implementation?
    Check out and grab a copy of my book Get Hyper [OFFER]

  6. (Better) Equipments

    Just have proper equipment(s) to provide better quality audio and video to the team members.

    Yes, the daily standup has to be in person. And team members have to be there physically for the Stand up. With that said, there will always be some exceptions where a team member cannot attend the daily standup in person. You will have to have a way for them to remotely attend the stand up. Having better quality audio will tremendously improve the productivity of your daily stand up.

    You can provide better quality audio for under $50 investment in a bluetooth speaker. Here is the one that I carry in my beg all the time.

  7. (Update) Working Agreements

    You need to cover those exceptions (as discussed in Tip# 6) in your working agreement, have the team talk about it as to how they will handle those scenarios where a team member cannot attend the stand up in person. Amend your working agreements to cover that scenario.

    For example, one of my team had this on their working agreement:
    When a team member cannot attend in person…

    1. S/he will provide the updates to his/her Buddy. This buddy will bring those updates to the team in person.
    2. If that cannot be done then the team member will jump on the conference call.
    3. When everything else fails, send an email addressed to the team with your updates.

    Bottom line is to have your team discuss these scenarios and update their working agreements accordingly.

  8. Break the eye contact

    I have seen this time and time again, especially with the new teams. Often times when providing the updates, a team member is looking at the Scrum Master (only) as if she is providing the updates to the Scrum Master and not the team. Now, remember Stand up is for the team. A team member is providing the updates to others on the team, not just to the Scrum master. To break this mode I often encourage my Scrum Masters to break the eye contact. As soon as a team member starts providing updates to you as a Scrum Master, look away from her. Look at the floor or look at your scrum board; do whatever to break that eye contact. This will encourage them to look at other team members.

  9. Be Absent, intentionally

    I encourage Scrum Master to occasionally skip the daily stand up, be absent intentionally.The goal here is to see how the team handles your absence.
    Does the daily standup break apart because you are not there or does the team step up and handle it nicely.
    This will also give you indication as to whether the team is self-organizing and tackles those scenarios by themselves

  10. Make it Visible

    The last and the most important tip I think is to make it Visible. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! So, use all the visual props, you can use a wall in the hallway as your Scrum Board, or use some flip chart papers and start using that as your Scrum Board.

    Put your posters on that and use it while having the daily stand up. Post your Working Agreements, Definition of Done, and Definition of Ready in the daily stand up area. In short, make it visual!

As I mentioned, in the beginning, this are simple techniques that I have used a lot when I start working with new scrum teams. I often introduced this in an incremental fashion. They are very effective and impactful.

What tips are you employing to keep your Daily Stand up on track, to finish it on time while keeping it useful and productive for the Team?

Let us know and we will include it in this list, along with credit to you of course.

INVEST in your User Stories – Nimesh Soni

Write better User Stories with this Visual Worksheet

User Stories are the lifeline of an Agile team. Even the BEST, high performing teams will struggle to deliver Value if they are fed bad Stories. As they say, INVEST in your User Stories!

Use this visual worksheet to help you, guide you in writing better User Stories. Help your team Help you with this worksheet.invest in your user stories
Onwards to writing user stories that help teams in creating value, frequently and on a regular cadence.

The Art of getting MORE done with LESS

Can Agilists use Check Lists? Can checklists help them perform at a much better level? To answer this question, we will have to visit the two bookends of User Stories. Please grab copies of your team’s Definition of Ready (DoR) and Definition of Done (DoD).

Two book of end User Stories

Two books of end User Stories: DoR, DoD

A user story should not be allowed to go onto a sprint backlog unless it meets all the items listed on DoR; in order for it to be marked as READY. On the other end, teams are supposed to mark a user story as DONE only when it meets all the criteria a laid out in the DoD. Aren’t these checklists? Can we expand them to other areas of doing Agile?

Why use the Checklists?

If NASA can use checklists to send satellites into the outer space. If surgeons can use the checklist to eliminate contamination in the surgery room, why can’t we, the Agilists, use the checklists to eliminate the worst, minimize the waste, and improve our productivity? As Atul Gawande describes in his book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, the knowledge exists, but often times we fail to apply it correctly.

We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Listed below are some additional benefits of using Checklists.

  • Helps you analyze what you are doing, why you are doing and then eliminate unnecessary steps and optimize it by combining some of them.
  • Makes work results more predictable.
  • Helps you in making Repeatable, predictable process.
  • Helps in delivering consistent quality and results.

Outline path to Success

Checklists, in essence, can help you improve your performance. They outline the path to success, with minimal resistance, because they are infused with your experiences and learnings from the past.

As Edward Deming once said, “don’t look at the individual, look at the system.” You can start with a simple checklist, and infuse them with your experiences and learnings. Refine them as you use them by incorporating the lessons learned with each use.


make it-use it-refine it-agile checklists

You can create a checklist on pretty much anything! If I know that I’m going to be doing a specific activity more than once, I would create a checklist.

I follow a simple process to create them. Start with an outline of what tasks you would have to carry out to complete the activity. You don’t have to put in a lot of time and effort and come up with an elaborate checklist. Once you have the initial outline, just do ‘the thing’! And, as you do it, refine the list.

Yes, the initial list may not be complete. Yes, it may not be elaborate. But you have a checklist that you can improve on and make it better as you do it again and again. To ensure the ‘continuous improvement’, one of that last item that I almost always have is:
Is there any way I can improve this checklist?

Automate or Delegate

In his highly successful book The Four Hour Week, Tim Ferris suggests four simple steps to freedom:  Eliminate-Simplify-Automate-Delegate.

One of the side benefits of having checklists is that it helps you delegating the activity or individual tasks. It also helps you eliminate the unnecessary steps as you use them and optimize them. Once you have used a checklist to complete the activity couple of times, one of the three things could happen.

  • Automate:
    Find a way to automate the activity.
  • Delegate:
    If you cannot automate this process then find a way to delegate it to somebody who can follow your checklist.
  • Do It yourself:
    If you cannot delegate it and you are ‘forced’ to do it,  you should be able to finish it quickly and efficiently as you have optimized your checklist. This should allow you to finish the activity quickly, with a higher quality, minimizing, if not completely eliminating, the waste.

Enabling and Empowering

Checklists are enabling and empowering! They are ‘concentrated doses’ of experiences and learnings, acquired over multiple iterations. They help you in improving your Sprint Planning, the Backlog Refinement, Sprint Review, and many other events and activities.

Even the most expert among us can gain from searching out the patterns of mistakes and failures and putting a few checks in
– Atul Gawande,  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Create one, use it, and you will realize how liberating they are! Let us know your experience in the comment below. And, don’t forget to share it with your peers and community.

Why reinvent the wheel? Get this booklet (containing various checklists) and get a jump start!

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Playbook for Scrum Teams – Get it Today!

Shrink or Grow Sprint Length

Why teams should not shrink or grow sprint length

Sprint length to shrink or grow. Jen, one of the Scrum Master I am coaching and mentoring asked recently:

I am scrum master for this team and generally, we do two-week sprints. But, for this sprint the team does not have enough work, so they want to shorten the sprint from two weeks to one week. Can I allow them to do that?

Grow Sprint Length

Now, let’s ponder on this question. Take a minute and think about it. What would be your answer? Why? 

To answer her original question, I said a big resounding NO! In bold capital letters!

Value of regular Heartbeats

There are many reasons for not allowing the Sprint to shrink or grow. We want the team to pick a sprint length and stick to it, no matter what. Instead of focusing on why we do not allow it to shrink or grow, let’s focus on the positives. Let’s review the reasons and value of staying on the same length. Keeping the sprint length same provides:

  • Consistency and a Rhythm for the team
  • Repeatable and Predictable Cadence
  • Consistent length provides valuable data that can be used for forecasting
  • Schedules that are known well in advance, and can be put onto calendar to help block time on key players calendar
  • Valuable data they can help team in deciding how much or how little work to take into next sprint

Don’t flush them down the toilet

There are several measurements that are linked to sprint length. Measurements such as:

  • Velocity
  • Say: do
  • Story burn-up
  • Release burn-up
  • Feature burn-up

You allow your sprint to shrink (or grow) and you are invalidating all the data, you are essentially flushing all these down the toilet!

Use it Wisely

If you have a situation where the team does not have enough work for the next sprint, it might be an indicator of the team not doing backlog grooming; or at a minimum, it is an indicator that the backlog grooming is not done properly.

In a scenario where the team has spare capacity, instead of shrinking the sprint length, the team could do other, very useful activities. They could use that extra time on:

  • Refactoring the code
  • Learning new stuff
  • Cross training within the team
  • Automation
  • Spike or research on the next priority features functionality
  • Experimentation

Sprint’s are fixed length. Scrum does not allow them to shrink or grow. Once the team agrees to a specific length, they have to, rather, they need to stick to it. Fixed length eventually will enable them to settle on a rhythm giving them even heartbeats!


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Got more questions? Please get in touch with us here.