2015 Scrum Gathering Phoenix: 2 Pecha Kucha talks that made me stop and think…

2015 Scrum Gathering Phoenix: 2 Pecha Kucha talks that made me stop and think…

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Alan Cyment gave a wonderful Pecha Kucha talk at the recent Scrum Gathering in Phoenix.

In it, he challenged the use of the Shu-Ha-Ri model or metaphor on a couple of levels –

  • Is a martial arts metaphor really the best way to describe the growth dynamics of agile instances?
  • Are there really only three phases of agile adoption?
  • Often in Shu-Ha-Ri we can revert as well or regress in our learning.
  • The notion is that the Coach is a Sensei…and others aren’t? 

Alan’s metaphor was much simpler, yet I believe richer.

He called the metaphor Organic Agility and likened the coach to a gardener. The gardener simply planted seeds then watered and fed them. That depending on the fertility of the ground and other environmental factors some of the seeds would grow.

Some plants would grow faster than others, some slower. But if you’ve noticed, even the most unfertile of grounds will often support plants of some sort. So patience and optimism are the rule of the day.

There is no “scale” for plant growth and there are no levels of maturity. Plants simply mature and grow.


From an agile perspective, the key cycle of growth is the simple act of reflection and committing to continuous improvement. In this way, it’s sort of like the seasons. You get cyclical experience as to what each plant needs and you adjust your approaches accordingly. The key point is to continue growing and retrospectives are the center of learning, adjusting, and continued growth.

Here’s a link to the Pecha Kucha talk that you can access if you’re a member of the Scrum Alliance:


The Pecha Kucha talk by Michael Sahota made me think as well. In it he “boiled down” the Agile Manifesto to one simple and singular focus point –

We value people…Period!

He said the people are the central ingredient in agility and that they should have our focus and attention. Not process, or Scrum, or scaling, or anything else.

As an agile coach and a servant leader this resonated with me. But it’s incredibly hard to do what Michael suggests because “real world” dynamics inevitably get in the way of putting the people first.

He alluded to stopping agile initiatives as well. This would include: transformations and classes and coaches – oh my! They are contrived and planned and they don’t put people first, they put plans and process and management first.

Engagement Cycle

He introduced a 4-part engagement cycle for valuing people as you try to transform organizations with agile approaches. It’s wholly people-focused – imagine that.

He called it the VAST Cycle and it includes:

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Authentic Connection
  3. Trust
  4. Safety

He posited that we should all strive to show vulnerability in our people relationships;

That would lead to authentic connections between us within organizations;

And that trust would follow. That we would build empathy and understanding as well;

And that safety would emerge – safety to experiment, safety to suggest new things, and safety to be wrong;

And finally that the cycle continues as we build organizations that are truly people-driven and led. That can do awesome things.

It was an interesting talk for me. While I’m not sure if a “buy” the VAST Cycle or can even envision how to inspire or encourage it, I do buy the people proposition of what he said.

Here’s a link to the Pecha Kucha that you can access if you’re a member of the Scrum Alliance:


Stay agile my friends!


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