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I Got a Little Change in My Pocket

Using pocket-sized principles to reinforce the 12 Agile Principles

8 November 2017

Kimberly Poremski

Although the 1986 hit "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites clearly was not written about Agile, the first eight words of the song, "I got a little change in my pocket," are remarkably apropos to the technique I’m about to discuss.

As Agile professionals, we know that change is at the core of what we do and what we believe. We advocate disruption. We drive transformation. But change is difficult and daunting for those we are trying to guide and influence. Change causes people to question what they are doing and why, which lures them back into old habits and patterns, often without their realization.

Why we do what we do

As trainers and coaches, it is tempting to gloss over the Agile Manifesto and its principles quickly, to get to the mechanics of Scrum. However, the principles lay the foundation of why we do what we do. If we fast-forward through the why directly to the how too quickly, we risk propagating an environment of "doing" Agile, not "being" Agile. And shortly thereafter, old habits and patterns will reemerge.

Early in my company’s Agile transformation, my fellow Agile coaches and I developed custom curriculum and trained more than 250 associates in Agile/Scrum practices. Many of our colleagues arrived to class having never heard the terms "Agile" or "Scrum," so it was important that we set the appropriate context by effectively introducing the Agile Manifesto and its 12 principles. We incorporated techniques from Sharon Bowman’s book Training from the Back of the Room and the trump principles from her book Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick while designing our course curriculum.

The pocket-sized principles exercise

We were excited to employ an interactive exercise called Pocket-Sized Principles that we discovered on the Tasty Cupcakes website. We believed the activity would be an engaging and memorable way for the participants to internalize what the principles meant, and it did not disappoint. This exercise puts a little change in the pockets of the attendees!

The basic premise is to divide the room into small groups (we found 3–6 people to be most effective), have each group number a sheet of paper from 1 to 12, discuss each Agile principle together, and then summarize in three words or fewer what each principle means to them. After all the groups completed their pocket-sized principles, we instructed them to hang their sheets of paper on the wall. The participants circled the room, reviewed the teams’ summaries, and used dot stickers to vote for their favorite translations.

Here are some of the pocket-principles from the various classes we taught:
The Agile Principles Say … Our Associates Said …
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Deliver software fast! Satisfy the customer.
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage. Welcome change. Living, breathing requirements.
Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. Ship code often. Incremental small scope. Iterative, quality, speed. Ship it hot! Short and sweet.
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Work together daily. Teamwork. All for one.
Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. Empower team members. Trust your team. Run with it! Carrot, no stick. 
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. Face time. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Personal conversation best. Laptop down.
Working software is the primary measure of progress. Make it work! Make it right!
Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. Rolling like a river. Energizer bunny. Tortoise, not hare.
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility. Perfect practice. Quality over quantity. Sweat the small stuff. Test often.
Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential. KISS. Do the needful. Smarter, not harder.
The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. Design from within. Take the initiative. No “I” in "team." Organic teams. Empowered evolution. Ownership promotes success. 
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. Team therapy. Tweak and roll. Self-examination. #kumbaya. Hindsight is 20/20.

There are several reasons why I find this exercise so beneficial:
  1. Participants are asked to take complex ideas and decompose them into short, meaningful concepts. This enforces one of Bowman’s trump principles, shorter trumps longer.
  2. Since this exercise takes place at the beginning of the course, it immediately engages participants with one another, which aligns with Bowman’s trump principle talking trumps listening.
  3. Asking participants to write their thoughts incorporates yet another of Bowman’s trump principles, writing trumps reading.
  4. The exercise requires active thinking, not just regurgitation of facts. It sets the tone for the course in that participants will not merely be recipients of information; rather, they will be expected to apply what they learn, thereby contributing to the entire group’s learning experience.
  5. In addition to interacting with their groups, participants have the opportunity to move about the room to view the other teams’ posters, thereby aligning with a fourth trump principle, movement trumps sitting.
  6. The activity prompts discussion about how each principle aligns with or contradicts the current status quo within the organization. Participants will begin to recognize that to employ Agile within their organization, some fundamental changes will need to occur.
And when the time comes, they’ll have the fundamentals they need, and a little change right in their pockets!

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.8 (10 ratings)


Thiago Delfim, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 11/9/2017 12:52:46 PM
I loved this exercise. I will certainly use that with my team. Thanks a lot!!!
Zoltán Csutorás, CSP,CSM, 11/12/2017 10:22:02 AM
Great article, thank you for sharing! This exercise looks worth trying
Gururaj Shanmugasundaram, CSM, 1/8/2018 4:16:36 PM
A good one to try.

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