Self-Organization, Open Space & Agile Games to Empower Teams | Julie Bright

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In this conversation, Vit Lyoshin interviews Julie Bright, an Agile coach, facilitator, and trainer. They discuss various Agile methodologies, facilitation techniques, and Agile coaching. Julie shares her journey of becoming an Agile coach and the importance of self-organization and empowerment in Agile teams. They also explore the concept of team self-selection and its benefits in creating cross-functional and highly motivated teams. This conversation covers various topics related to agile work, leadership, and community. The role of leadership in remote work is discussed, highlighting the need for decision-making and support. The benefits of Open Space meetings are explored, emphasizing the value of self-organization and collaboration. The importance of fun and engagement in agile is emphasized, with a focus on using agile games for learning and team building. The value of connection and support in the agile community is highlighted, along with the importance of staying up-to-date with agile innovations. The role of agile coaches and mentors is discussed, emphasizing their role as catalysts for teams. The conversation concludes with advice for agile coaches and peers, emphasizing the importance of sticking together and recognizing their value.


  • Agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, XP, and Lean offer different frameworks and techniques for managing complex projects.
  • Implementing Agile requires a shift in mindset and a focus on empowering individuals and self-organization.
  • Team self-selection is a powerful technique that allows individuals to choose the teams they want to work with, leading to higher motivation and better collaboration.
  • Agile is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and organizations should choose the methodologies and techniques that best suit their specific needs. Leadership plays a crucial role in remote work, requiring decision-making and support.
  • Open Space meetings offer self-organization and collaboration opportunities.
  • Fun and engagement are important in agile work, and agile games can be used for learning and team building.
  • The agile community provides valuable connections and support for agile practitioners.
  • Staying up-to-date with agile innovations is essential for agile coaches and peers.
  • Agile coaches and mentors act as catalysts for teams, providing guidance and support.
  • Agile coaches and peers should stick together and recognize their value in the agile community.

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(00:00) Intro

(07:35) Overview of Agile Methodologies

(13:27) Implementing Agile in Organizations

(22:00) Self-Organization Technique

(35:39) Using Open Space as an Inspect and Adapt Framework

(39:18) Using Agile Games for Learning and Team Building

(51:33) Staying Up-to-Date with Agile Trends and Innovations

(01:00:10) Advice for Agile Coaches and Peers

Transcript (Edited by Vit Lyoshin for better readability)

Vit Lyoshin (00:02.3)

Hello everyone. Today I have a guest here, Julie Bright. She is an Agile coach, facilitator and trainer. She’s an expert in many different Agile methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, XP and Lean, just to name a few. She’s also a very experienced facilitator.

And that’s actually how we met. I went to this Agile coaching camp and she was one of the facilitators there. We use this self -organization open space environment where everybody had to pick and choose who to work with and what to discuss, which was really, really interesting and exciting. I’ve never tried that before.

And yeah, so, today we would like to cover some of the agile topics for methodologies and facilitation techniques and agile coaching, maybe some trends and where it all goes in the future. So yeah, welcome to the show, Julie. And before we jump in, can you just tell a little bit about yourself and your journey for becoming an agile coach?


Julie Bright (01:24.412)

Oh, sure. Thank you for having me, first of all. I was so nice having you, getting to meet you at Agile Coach Camp in DC in October. I find it, OpenSpace is an incredible way to connect people to topics that they really care about and really to each other as a facilitation framework. Maybe we can talk about that in a little while when we’re talking about different styles of agility and different ways of facilitation, but.

I find that the people that I meet at Open Space style conferences, you develop connections much more deeply than just the kind of lecture style conferences. And I always feel so grateful to get to know everybody that I have and you just build those really strong relationships. So grateful for Coach Camp, grateful for Open Space, grateful for you to have me on the show. You asked me about my background.


Vit Lyoshin (02:04.22)



Julie Bright (02:21.628)

So my degree is in psychology. So I waited tables for years. Didn’t really want to be a therapist and didn’t really know how to apply that interest that I had in people and systems of people and how do we work together. Social psych was always my most, you know, the most interesting classes was about how people work and get along with each other or don’t.

So eventually, I got a job as a project coordinator, which was the company I was at, kind of like a secretary to a project manager really. But I learned how to do that. I learned how to, you know, be a corporate person. And eventually they made me a project manager. And that was where I came from, from project management. I didn’t know that I didn’t love project management. I was just glad to have a proper job.

But then my company said, we mean it this time. We’ve tried Agile a couple of times before, but we really think it’s important. And now we’re going to do this whole hog top down implementation. And my job changed and I became a scrum master instead. And we got all the training and I never looked back. Like it just made so much sense to me. It was, there was no, a lot of people, when they come from project management, have a hard time putting down kind of those command and control behaviors. They didn’t have those to begin with it, which wasn’t a part of my natural personality. So when I got to put down the stick and find ways to empower people to work in the way that they really want to work, not necessarily agile because they don’t even know whether they want to work agile or not, but to be trusted, to be empowered to work in the way that makes sense, to be empowered to say when we can deliver things and not just get told when you have to deliver them, to be a voice in that process seems to me like it makes so much more sense and it’s a much more humane way of working, right?

We’re like meeting people where they are and valuing who they are, that sort of thing. Just resonated with me so much as the people person. And so because I was passionate about that and because I was placed in a company that had sort of deep pockets for learning opportunities, I leaned into that and Scrum Mastered, I don’t know, I did that for maybe six or seven years. I’ve done it since my title changed to Agile Coach and I’ve continued to have roles called Scrum Mastered. It’s really kind of all the same thing. By the time I left that big company, my title was Agile Coach and what that means to me, I think is just kind of the same thing, only it’s just a more of the higher level of experience, maybe broader experiences. It’s not really something in our industry that’s like, this is a scrum master and this is an agile coach. And these are the clear lines. Like, I don’t know. But you think of someone who’s a coach has got a broader repertoire, right? And maybe a scrum master kind of stays within the team level facilitation kind of techniques. And that has been the case for me. So I’ve had all kinds of different experiences and I’m interested in all kinds of different things.

I think some people tend to go very deep on their passions, like someone’s going to be an expert in gen AI and someone’s really interested in re -platforming and someone’s a .NET expert, whatever. I’m kind of a, my ADHD brain makes me interested in all kinds of things. And so I’m a dabbler and I have a little of this and a little of that. No, this is shiny over here. Let’s go find out what that is. And that characteristic of the way my brain works.

I think was a good fit for coaching overall because you do have to have kind of a horizontal lens on things. Just think of things in terms of systems instead of silos, right? To see the big picture, to understand where there’s waste in a system. So like the lean concepts, right? So that works for me. I find that it’s not always valued as much as the people with the deep vertical expertise, right? Having someone who can kind of Mary Poppins in and do a little of this and a little of that is really helpful, but people don’t always perceive it that way because it’s hard to put boundaries around it. So does that answer? Is that, that was a look in a lot. That’s who I am.


Vit Lyoshin (06:55.324)

No, that’s great. And it’s actually while we were talking, it led me to the next question, since you know all these different frameworks and you have the experience and like you said, Scrum Master is more focused on Scrum specifically and like one or two teams maybe, and Agile Coach is more diverse and has knowledge of other frameworks and techniques and a broader scope of Agile, like tools in the toolbox. Can you speak a little bit about main differences in those methodologies and maybe applicable use cases of each?


Julie Bright (07:38.364)

Where to start? Cause that’s really broad. So I’m not even sure what the audience for your podcast is. So I don’t want to get like too simple and everyone’s like, yes, we know what scrum is. Thank you. Can we move on? So I don’t know about in terms of when you would use things and best practice kind of like, I don’t know that. Could you speak about that broadly? It kind of depends on what the individual circumstances, right? And I know that people sometimes say that Kanban teams are for like health and hygiene teams, break fix kind of work, but it didn’t have to make a decision. You don’t have to choose Scrum or Kanban. Those things work really well together. And I think what I like about agility as a whole is that you don’t have to choose a single framework. There’s lots of things that you can use for whatever the situation that you’re in right now. So you may like the concept of iterations that you have in Scrum, but you may like that continuous flow of Kanban.

And, the cycle time metric is a valuable metric, no matter how you’re working. Like how long does it take us to get stuff done? Where is the waste in the system? Right. And so lean isn’t a separate thing. It’s just another, it all goes together. Right. So I don’t know that I could easily say what are all the frameworks and when you would use one versus another. I have things that are my favorites personally. I’m going to be drawn to, I’ve been calling them. I don’t know if anyone else is calling them this or whether I made this up. I think everyone should say this because I like it. I’ve been calling them radical collaboration structures. Some of them are liberating structures and liberating structures kind of fall into that like higher bucket, but things like you mentioned team self-selection, fast agile definitely falls in that category, managing extreme complexity.

OpenSpace is a framework for managing complexity with very few rules. Lean Coffee is another facilitation technique. It’s not really like an agile framework, like Scrum and Kanban and FAST frameworks. And then there’s facilitation techniques underneath them. And so we’re kind of bucketing them all together in the same. They’re really not. But I find that my brain goes in too many different directions at once and then I can’t choose a thought from the ones that just presented themselves to me. So that was what that was.

I find that people tend when under duress or in extreme complexity tend to want to double down on control. Like we don’t know what’s going to happen next. And so we need to control the crap out of that. Everything that we can control and must control. And that’s actually not the right response. Like if you’re, so the analogy that resonates with me is like you’re on a, in a canoe in a water or something you’re swimming. Or, you’re just in rushing water, right? And if you get pulled under the undertow, the response is not to fight really hard against that with a plan. The only thing that’s going to work for you under those conditions is to relax your body and like kind of let that happen until you get to a place where you can take control again. And agility is a response to the fact that our lives and our work systems and our environments, physical and corporate, are incredibly complex.

They’re VUCA, right? I’ve used that acronym before, if I can remember them all. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and I always forget the A, Ambiguous. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. That’s our work environment, right? That’s what it’s like.


Vit Lyoshin (11:29.134)



Julie Bright (11:35.516)

And so agility is a response to that truth. And it’s a much more sensible response if you’re not reacting emotionally, because emotionally we’re going to want to double down on control. And when we don’t do that, instead, we accept the complexity and listen and respond to what we’re perceiving in front of us is a much more sensible way in my mind to respond to that sort of constant change and frameworks.

To bring it home, like FAST and team self-selection and open space, kind of, they have very lightweight rules, but humans are extremely well adapted to self-organization. And we have all these frameworks that prioritize self-organizing teams and empowered individuals, but then we don’t let them work that way.

We’re like, okay, you’re empowered. But then here’s a whole bunch of rules and you have to, you know, here’s your capacity and the number of minutes you’re tasking and hours, right? Kind of thing. And it’s like, you’re not actually empowered with that. Right. So we take the training wheels off and really like give people a clear North star and some very lightweight guidelines. And we self-organize around a cause extremely well, but it’s a hard sell. It’s true, but it’s a hard sell. That’s the stuff that’s going to interest me.


Vit Lyoshin (13:01.276)

Yeah, I’m just curious if there are any real stories of companies who implemented this whole concept you just described and they’re successful. Because I feel like, like you just said, people and leadership who controls the budget, basically those people, they will afraid to just let engineers run with it and experiment and build whatever they want.


Julie Bright (13:24.508)

Yeah. Yeah. Everything is not for everybody. Right. And so, my most recent epiphany is that, SAFe is absolutely a hundred percent the right framework for some environments. Like governments and big businesses that are super complex and, people who are real behind in the agile adoption curve, like that gives them a framework. That’s really very helpful. Right.

But that’s not the right framework for everybody. Like sometimes we’re implementing SAFe and it’s just, it’s a lot of overhead. We don’t really need that, but it gives us this illusion of control. Right. So, in different places, the things that I’m talking about work differently and it really depends on the support of the leadership. It may like any other change urgency behind it.

I don’t know that this is a framework, I could give it a name, right? It’s just Agile Unchained. So I was working for a company where I had a team who was the backend team for the Sitecore application. And Sitecore is a content management system that runs your website.


Vit Lyoshin (14:37.18)



Julie Bright (14:52.464)

So what you’re put on for your customers to see what’s on your website, what the content is generated. But this team was just a backend team because we didn’t really change the website often enough to have both UI and UX embedded 100 % allocation to that one team. There was lots of projects going on and the website was just one of the things. So it didn’t make sense to have someone who was 100 % dedicated to that team.

But what happened was, anytime anybody wanted something different to happen on the website that wasn’t an out of the box, just straight up configuration, but we actually write to write some code for that. We have to go outside the team for dependencies, right? So this was causing a lot of bad blood between kind of departments within the company. Like marketing was the one who most often wanted stuff on the website, but it wasn’t just marketing that we worked for.

And so between technical upgrades that had to happen and were super complex and you know, you can’t put anything in the new in the platform while that’s going on. Right. And then changes in personnel and changes in process, like how do we intake work and how do we prioritize that against other things? Marketing kind of had a story that Sitecore itself was a problem and they needed to get rid of it completely and just outsource the whole thing so that we can have whatever we want as soon as we want it and we don’t have to wait.

And they had the story that they were telling themselves really and other people in the company that it takes forever to put anything on site core. Six, seven months, anything we want takes six. And it really wasn’t true, but the pain of a single experience kind of becomes the truth that everyone believes from then on. You know what I mean? And so my, the head of product came to me and said, I don’t know what to do, Julie. I’ve had to come to my customer three different times with my hat in my hands and tell them that they’re not going to have the thing that I said that they were going to have. I don’t know. And I said, I know what to do. And he says, really? Tell me what to do. And I’m like, you really want me to tell you what to do? And he says, yeah, tell me what to do. And I said, if you gave me everybody that I needed from ideation straight through to production deployment in the same room focused only on this one thing, I could put a new component on Sitecore in three days.

And I didn’t know really like I was just kind of making that number up, but like I knew it was going to not be six months, right? We have to jump through a lot of hoops to get this delivery done. So he’s I aming everybody and he’s like, we’re going to make this happen, right? This is, and we couched it as an experiment, which is really the best way to start anything new. It’s like, it’s safe. It’s time boxed. We’ve got clear criteria. If we doesn’t work, we don’t have to do that anymore, right? It’s just an experiment. So that makes it a lot safer.


Vit Lyoshin (17:26.512)



Julie Bright (17:35.804)

We still had to wait three weeks for the front end guy because he was working on the thing that the whole rest of the company actually really cared about and not the little shiny thing that somebody in marketing wanted to put on the website. Right. It was like, we’s actually taken up doing that prioritized work. So we had to wait, but it wasn’t my team. It wasn’t the backend team’s problem. It was because we have an allocation issue.

So we finally came around to the thing. The marketing guy gets in there. He’s like, okay, this is my idea. I saw this thing on another webpage to look like this and it’s shiny. The front end guy is writing his code while the marketing guy is describing it. The tester is writing their tests while the whole thing is going on. So by the time he finished his pitch, we had both front end, back end, and QA ready to go. We had that thing ready for prod by three o ‘clock on the first day.


Vit Lyoshin (18:24.892)



Julie Bright (18:26.844)

And,  I didn’t do anything special. I just knew that we had a lot of waste in our handoffs in our system, but everybody was completely blown away by this. And the director of engineering was real happy because people had been saying that his team was the problem or that Sitecore was the problem, but it wasn’t that. And he was, he was like, I know that wasn’t very agile, but it still really worked. And I was like, no, no, this is the heart of agile. This is actually agile unchained.

This is when we don’t, we take away all the rules and we put everybody that does work in a room together and we don’t worry about everyone being a hundred percent allocated and a hundred percent utilized because companies really focus on that, right? We want to make sure that we’re getting the most value we can out of every single individual person. And that causes all kinds of bottlenecks and all kinds of slowdowns. Take that off. Not everyone is going to be active at every single moment, but as soon as somebody goes, Hey Bob, didn’t we do that a couple of weeks ago? Have you got that? And Bob is right there in that moment and go, yeah, I mean, look that up. And he can go back to you, right? If someone gets up to go to the bathroom, that group holds that thought bubble. It’s mob programming or swarm program. They call it a couple of different things now. Ensemble programming, I think is the jargon of the moment. But like all of the great minds all at the same time, working a single highly prioritized problem. Energizes people.


Vit Lyoshin (19:48.316)

Yeah, this is a great example.


Julie Bright (19:52.636)

Yeah, it’s easy. But it’s not, without that urgency, right? It’s a hard sell to get them to like, hey, let’s just do that for fun, right? It was like my head of product was really frustrated and he had a last straw moment where I’m like, I’m out of ideas. And that’s the moment that you can come in with an experiment like that. And it really changes perceptions.


Vit Lyoshin (20:13.82)

Yeah, I remember I went to some training like I think last year or two years ago and they were giving us this example of how team did something similar. They actually went to one of the outlets. It was the glasses company and they stayed there for a couple of days and they interviewed people and they built software right there on the spot for them.

It was awesome experience and engineers loved it because they talked to people right there on the spot and they made changes real-time Users could use it and experience all those changes real-time. That’s great. It’s kind of bad we don’t do it all the time but but we have to wait for that crisis, right? but it’s good to have product people like you had your head of product who can sign up for this and say like yeah, go do it. That’s great to have people like that.


Julie Bright (21:14.268)

Yeah, you really need the support all the way through the organization. It’s not, you can’t just install agile in a couple of teams and then walk away.


Vit Lyoshin (21:21.82)

Yeah, leadership for sure. They play a big role in the adoption and letting people do what they can do the best and trust them. Trust is also sometimes an issue or some other variables may be there. So, yeah, that’s great stuff. So let’s talk a little bit more about the team self-selection and self-organization concept. How one can  learn more about it and implement it in their team, where to start.


Julie Bright (21:56.956)

Yeah, Team Self-selection is a book that you can buy and it tells you how to do it. I mean, there’s nothing that I can say in a podcast that’s going to be better than that book. Go get the book called Team Self-Selection. I don’t have it written down. Sandy Mamoli I think, is one of the authors. And I’ve run Team Self-Selection three different times, I think.

The hardest part about that is selling the leadership. I remember the first time we did it and everybody wanted to know what is the problem that you’re trying to fix with this change. And we’re not fixing a problem. We’re turning up the good. We’re taking something, I credit Woody Zool with that expression, but I think it’s so important that we spend so much time playing whack-a-mole with problems instead of looking to the things that we know are really good and making the most out of those.

Sometimes our problems fade away when we turn up the good. And team self-selection is an example of doing that. So at a high level, you’ve got an organist, say you’re working in SAFe right, as a framework, and you’ve got a bunch of teams that are already agile teams and they’re working in those ways and it’s known, right? And it’s a group of teams like an ART.

But you have had some attrition or maybe you’ve got some new intent coming and maybe something has changed, right? Or maybe nothing has changed and you just need to kind of do an F5 and freshen up your organization. You want to know what the actual holes in your organization that you should staff for, not like Team X has only four developers and we need to beef up to five, but do we have enough people with a data skill, right?

Sometimes we’re staffing for the wrong reasons. We’re not seeing systemically or managers making decisions for people without knowing what the people really want. And you can make an argument for having better managers that are like very in tune with what their people want. But at the end of the day, no one’s going to make a decision for you like you. Right?

Really, only you can make the right decision for you. So what it looks like is a lot of communication before the event itself, which usually is completely flawless and easy. Like the act of self-selection itself is super intuitive because people do this very instinctively. We’re good at this. It’s self-organization and we’re good at it. You’re just going to give a couple of lightweight rules of clear framework and a couple of lightweight rules and we’re off to the races.

So the one rule is do what’s right for the company first. People are always afraid, well, you’re just going to do what you want and it doesn’t matter the work that’s in flight or they’re just going to be selfish, right? But people want to do a good job. We’re motivated by creating meaning. We want to know that the work that we do has an, and we’re not just self-serving. We are also self-serving, but we’re not just self-serving and we serve others before we serve ourselves more often than not. And it’s a trust exercise, but people don’t fail you when you extend the trust. Radically extend trust. They’ll fall all over themselves to earn trust. So, the rule is do what’s right for the company first. And after that, do what’s right for you.

And we’ve got say five teams. We know that this team is going to have, so you have to determine how you want it staffed. And it depends on how your organization is set up. We decided that both the product owner and the team lead, who would be the people manager of the team, would be pre-assigned to the teams. So this is a team that’s going to do this type of work. We need these types of skills, not roles, not QA, but skills. And you visualize it on the wall.

This is the team and these are the things that we’re going to do when we need these types of skills on this team. And then the product people will get up and say, hey, this is the team and this is why we think it’s so cool. You should come work for our team because we’re going to deliver all this belly. It’s going to be great fun people. I’m a great leader. Come be with me. And they make their pitch, right? And everyone learns what all the teams are going to do. And then you do a round of self-selection and people mill around and they, it’s kind of like a, like tables at a conference and you go to the different booths and you talk to people.

And then people behind the table like, you should come be on my team. And so people will work with people they like to work with. They will work on things that they either know how to do well and are delivering value because they’re the expert and they should be in that realm or because they want to learn something new. I’ve already got that skill, I’ve been on this team for three years. I want to try something else. And then you do a couple of rounds and then in between you check, okay, where are the holes? What are we still, we still need? A couple people over here, right? We have somebody, we’ve got too many people on our team, right? And then you solve for that. And then you do another round and you solve for that.

And generally what happens is you get to a point where there’s just a couple of things that haven’t been figured out. And those are the things you need your managers to do. Now you know where the holes actually are. We’re actually gonna staff over here.

So the first time that we did this, we had a, it was a data team. We didn’t have data embedded in all of the teams. That was like the data team, right? And they were doing some really important re-platforming work and the leaders were really afraid that people were going to leave the data team and nobody was going to do that work anymore because it would be boring. And what we actually found was the data team had more people on it than they expected to have. Not that that’s always good, but to a certain level, right?

They actually got an extra member to help do that work because they didn’t even know that guy wanted to learn about data. Right, so the people who are actually doing the work know how to use their skills and the right balance for the situation. As long as you make it visual and clear and there’s a couple of rules, we do it very well. And the event goes off without a hook. It’s just the pre-work in advance of getting everyone on board with this idea that we’re going to relinquish control and put it in the hands of the people.


Vit Lyoshin (27:59.196)



Julie Bright (28:22.172)

It’s crazy talk, man.


Vit Lyoshin (28:25.244)

So for how long those teams are running then? Can it continue for years and years?


Julie Bright (28:30.886)

Yeah, we decided that we were going to rerun it every six to nine months and where that boundary was going to be depended on, you know, change freezes and holidays and, you know, the change of the quarter and new intent coming in. So like, when is the right time to do it? Well, there’s never a perfect time to do it. There’s never going to be a time that we won’t disrupt something. But by pressing F5 more regularly, the disruption is more minimal. And I’ve done it where like the second time we came around, the first time somebody went, well, I really want to move to this other team so I can learn, but I know that I’ve got to train somebody on the team that I’m currently on before I can leave. So I’m going to stay where I am for six months. And the next time we do self-selection, then I can move. So then they’re motivated to pass on their knowledge for the sake of the team that they love. And they also get the promise of getting to do the thing they want to after they have met that obligation.


Vit Lyoshin (29:20.988)

Yeah, that’s great.


Julie Bright (29:29.66)

And that’s the kind of thing that actually comes out of those events is that we realize that people can be trusted.


Vit Lyoshin (29:36.508)

Yeah. And we’re also always talking about being cross-functional, right? For the agile teams. And this is a great exercise that if you rotate people around, if you rotate the teams around, eventually you get not only a cross-functional team, you get cross-functional organization. Anybody can go and work on any product or on any problem and solve it quickly and effectively. 

That’s a great idea to try. It’s kind of hard to sell to leadership. Like you said, you have to discuss it a lot and get buying from everybody. Yeah, I mean, I wish I could try this at work tomorrow. All I can say, I’m not sure how it’s gonna fly.


Julie Bright (30:22.812)

There’s a great guide. That book is a great guide. And there it’s, I mean, I think maybe 2015 or 2016 that came out and it’s been a thing in the community. There’s lots of information about it available on Team Self-Selection. And one thing that came out of it that we didn’t expect was there was a team that we couldn’t put enough people, we couldn’t get enough people to join it because we decided that the team lead, the technical person was going to be the people manager and nobody wanted to work for that guy.


Vit Lyoshin (30:55.1)

Hmm. Yeah, that happens sometimes.


Julie Bright (30:59.164)

And that was a truth that had to be addressed. It was good information. It was uncomfortable. And no one was saying that in the meeting. Nobody was like, I’m not going to be on that team because I don’t want to work with that guy. But that was true. And it had to be addressed.


Vit Lyoshin (31:10.236)

Yeah, well, that’s a HR issue, I guess. Or whatever it is. Training issue.


Julie Bright (31:17.66)

I mean, it didn’t have to go to HR, but do you know I mean? Like it was important to be aware of that, that feedback, right? And your organization, you can’t just ignore that kind of feedback and be like, suck it up, bottle cup, go work with that difficult guy. You know, that’s a way of sure fire way to get your people to leave. Right. So it was, it’s not, it’s like agile. It’s not comfortable and it’s not going to solve all your problems. It’s going to reveal problems that you can solve.


Vit Lyoshin (31:44.992)

Right exactly this it’s gonna that these things will bubble up eventually and leadership or supervisors will have to make a decision what to do. They of course can force people and say no you have to work with this person you report to him or her or whatever. But you know, it’s because what it is sometimes in the companies.


Julie Bright (31:55.228)

Yeah, right.


Vit Lyoshin (32:07.388)

And we actually used this technique, I think, in that coaching camp, right? And that was great. We rotated like, I don’t know, 10 times a day. I know it was a short cycle there, but that was great experience. And actually we all, I think, had to be those product people when we recruited people to join our teams and we pitched some ideas and people joined and we discussed them. Yeah, that was awesome.


Julie Bright (32:35.196)

Do you want to talk about, I’m like inviting you to talk for your own podcast, but like I’m like turning it around on you. Tell us a little bit more about what Open Space was like for you as a first time attendee of an Open Space meeting. Like not all of your viewers will have known what Open Space even is.


Vit Lyoshin (32:36.976)

Yeah. That’s okay.

Well, I’m an introverted person. So at first I thought like, okay, I’m not going to pitch anything. I’m just going to see what people are talking about. And I’m just going to go from room to room and maybe contribute something. And then I saw more people going and writing their names and putting their topics on the board. And then some ideas started popping up in my head and I said, well, you know, let me just go and write something. Maybe somebody will show up.

Worst-case scenario, I’ll just sit by myself or go somewhere else, so I wrote a couple of topics and people showed up and I actually got good answers to my question. I specifically wanted to clarify a few things about teams performances and some metrics around that and I’ve got a lot of good ideas from people that I met first time and they had great experiences they shared and good metrics they told me about.

And that was awesome. And then I also went to other teams and contributed there as well. And yeah, I think it was great. I never experienced that before. Other conferences I go to, you have to sit in there and listen for 30 minutes for some person on the stage. And then sometimes they don’t even give you opportunity to ask a question or anything like that.

I want to conferences like that. Sometimes they ask for that and give you opportunity to provide some sort of feedback for the speaker. Sometimes they just don’t, maybe they don’t care. Like, okay, you listen, that’s it. But this one is good. And I think even like I work for government agency and we have a program of a few dozen of people, maybe 50, 70 or so. Maybe we could use this as an example for some sort of like even like team building exercises or anything like that. And people can just self-organize and do some exercises. We’re talking at the organizational level of how to do that, like agile training and all refresher trainings and things like that. So that could be also a technique that can be used and just do like anybody who wants to talk about agile topic, self-organize recruit people to come to you and contribute and do it. And that will be fun.


Julie Bright (35:19.068)

Yeah, I have used Open Space as an inspect and adapt framework working in the SAFe framework. So inspect and adapt is like a big retrospective for a lot of people. And what usually happens is, in my experience, is that we’ve already pre-selected a couple of things that we want to delve down into as topics. And we do a five whys, or we do a fish bone, or some kind of analysis. And we come up with what to do about that. But really, maybe those things only resonate with a couple of people, or a couple of people can even do anything about that. And you’ve got a room of 100 people sitting there waiting. They’re just not engaged. Right?

And if you do it open space style, you can ask any kind of question. Open space is used, I mean, they use it in governments, not in government technology jobs, but like in governments, like schools and, you know, like planning, city planning and that sort of thing. You can use, there’s always a theme or a question. So if you’re using it outside of work, it might be, how do we use our budget to help our town? Right? What’s the best way to use our budget for a town? Or you might, you know, so in inspect and adapt, the question is more broad, but more about ways of working.

So it wouldn’t say, you know, how, how is your team as an open space is probably too broad, is too specific of a question, but you might go, how is agility working for you? How is scrum working for you? How was whatever our framework that we’re using working for you? What are, what’s slowing you down? What is here?

And then people get up and propose topics. Well, I’d like to talk about the fact that we don’t have great horizontal prioritization, or I’d like to talk about this experiment I’d like to try, where everybody works together at the same time on a common goal. And so you get all these different sessions popping up, and people go to the sessions that they care about. And so you have little breakout sessions of three or four people who are actually the ones who care about that topic and are the ones who are going to be able to either escalate the impediment or actually move the needle on it for real themselves. Right?

So when I’m doing it professionally, well, I always do it professionally, but when I do it at a company that I’m working for, normally in an open space sort of meeting, like a coach camp, for example, the person who hosted the session is responsible for capturing notes, not for doing anything about it, just, to capture what happened in that session.

At work, I’ll add capture what happened in the session and capture what things you guys are gonna do yourselves. And separately, what do we need help with? And capture that. Cause that list, we can give that to leaders and then they can prioritize those things. And they’re like, well, I see you want a pony. That’s not gonna happen. But if you want to go to one week sprints instead of two week sprints, we can support that, right? And then they can report back the next time we do an open space.

These are the things that we changed as a result of your feedback on 10 different topics and not just the one thing that they picked every 12 weeks. Right? So you’re getting, again, more engagement from the people. They’re actually working on things that they personally care about themselves. And then you get this ton of different ideas and feedback that you can bubble up to make decisions about how to work going forward. It’s a radical collaboration structure and it’s easy.


Vit Lyoshin (39:02.982)

Yeah, exactly. That’s a great example of usage. Yeah, I absolutely agree. As I said, I would love to start using this tomorrow. I have to talk to my boss now.

Let’s talk about maybe some other facilitation techniques. Like you had something about agile games or maybe some specific techniques how to run ceremonies, maybe something there that you can share that is interesting.


Julie Bright (39:42.652)

I don’t know about techniques for running ceremonies.

What was the first thing you just said? I’ve just already lost the thread.


Vit Lyoshin (39:55.076)

Agile Games.


Julie Bright (40:19.996)

What games, oh games. I can talk about games. I can hold forth about games. I don’t have a favorite, but I know that people learn best through interacting with the material. And when we have metaphors and things that make sense for us, it helps us to cement new learning.

And when we’re having fun, we’re more creative, we’re more innovative, using, we call it games at work and people always go, we can’t call it games. If it’s a game, then you’re not working and then leaders won’t exist. I’m getting old. I’m like, I’ll be 55 this year. And my tolerance for, you know, dancing around, which should not be a delicate topic, just…

I’m like, it’s a game. We’re going to call it a game and you’re going to like, that’s okay. I’m not going to call it a learning activity just because you might worry that it’s a game. Happy to talk to you about that concern. It’s a game and that’s okay. It’s okay to be people at work. It’s okay to have fun at work. In fact, it’s critically important that we are people at work and that we have fun at work. Because if we don’t, those people are going to leave.

Here’s comes a rant. We’re built for connection. We’re wired for connection. We seek it. We don’t seek all the connections constantly. We’re not equally like as extroverted right but like at the end of the day we all want connection. We want to add value we want to have good relationships with the people that we work with and if we can laugh together we can be silly together if we can be people together.

Like nobody was ever mad that your cat was on your Zoom call. Who’s mad about that? And people are, oh, I’m so sorry, it’s my cat. Like, we’re not mad. We love your cat. That’s a team member too. Right? It makes you a person. Sorry.


Vit Lyoshin (41:51.42)

Yeah. In fact, I have one person at my work whose cat shows up on Zoom meetings all the time. And actually people like, hey, show us your cat. Is your cat working today with you? So yeah.


Julie Bright (42:09.02)

Yeah, where’s your can we miss your cat? Where’s your can not in stand up? Right, but I mean, otherwise, it would just be a slog and nobody wants work to be a slog. We do better work when we’re happy.

It makes me it’s very frustrating to me. This is what the podcast in which I just rant about all the things that make me angry. But it makes me angry when people are afraid, like leaders managers are afraid that people having fun at work means that they’re slacking and not really working. It’s just, it’s like an old holdover from like factory kind of days. It’s just not necessary.

One of the best ways to know whether a team is high performing is if they are very loud. Do you know that you can have a high performing team that’s full of quiet people. That’s that can happen. But if you’ve got a team that’s like throwing paper wads at each other and calling names and laughing spontaneously because somebody said something in a chat that like all of a sudden the team bursts out and laughter in the silence. That team is cranking at work. You know they are. That is a high performing team. And so, when people are like snotty about, oh, you agile people who just like all you touchy feely kumbaya makes me so angry because it’s like, don’t you know that people are people.

Like how did you get to be in a position that you’re in without knowing that people work better when they’re happy?


Vit Lyoshin (43:36.796)

Yeah, it’s like those from old days IBM style people with suits and ties and so serious all the time, almost like secret service.


Julie Bright (43:43.932)

Yeah, they were wrong then. They’re wrong now too. People work better when they’re happy and they have good relationships with each other and we learn better when we’re having fun. And if you want someone to learn a completely new concept or deepen a concept they already have and get them engaging with the material and make it fun.

So some of my, I don’t have a favorite, but there’s like some things that I love a lot. And one of them is the Get Kanban board game, which I don’t think they make anymore. And it is stupid expensive, it’s like $400 or $500 or something. I got mine sort of, it wasn’t really an auction, but it was sort of like that. I was very lucky to get a copy of Get Kanban. And there’s a couple of online versions that sort of teach Kanban concepts and flow concepts like Twig is one of them. It’s like a lighter version of it.

But I like the complexity of the board game because I think it emulates the complexity of the real world. And it’s a great, it takes like three hours. And again, it’s a hard sell because people are like, oh my God, three whole hours for a game. Like, yes, because it’s learning and we want them to get these concepts so they can manage their work and their flow more effectively. I just don’t know why it’s a hard sell, but yes, three hours, four is better.

And they interact with it and they understand. And what I find interesting about that particular game is that people will limit their WIP when they can see when the stakes are low and it’s just a game and they’re not afraid of being punished. The goals of teamwork, we’re going to all gang up on this work. It’s piling up and test, right? Yes. Devs can help test as long as they didn’t write that code themselves. They can help test it, right? We can rotate job responsibilities.

You know, it doesn’t have to be like that. So we do that instinctively in the, in the context of that game. Everybody’s like, well, does all gang up on this work that’s piling up, but they won’t do that in their real work. They’re like, that’s not my work. That’s your work. Right. So it’s interesting to them to see how they’re in their natural behavior is different. What actually makes sense for this moment is not the way that you naturally work is a really good insight. If nothing else that comes out of that game, but I think a lot of stuff does.

The empathy toy. Again, it’s expensive. It’s a handmade. It’s made of wood and there’s all these pieces that fit together and it’s sanded and it’s like this little short run company in Canada. The empathy toy is a great team building exercise and I used to use that heavily. That’s so much. It’s first of all, it’s really fun and it’s a lot of laughing, but. It really makes you think about how we communicate with other people and the way that we say things and we expect that other people will hear them the way that we say them. It kind of brings into focus that not everyone is listening with the same ears, right? And we have to kind of check in on that and make sure that we’re on the same page. And so that’s a really good one.

Legos, huge Lego for team building and learning. Lego serious play is a real thing. You can get certified. I never have been. I’ve always wanted to be. It’s just, and get prioritized against the other things that are interesting or that my company would pay for in one year. But I would love to be a Lego serious play facilitator because they do that in companies for all, not agile, just like anything. You can use Legos to teach anything. So Mike Bowler who has Gargoyle software, he’s in the west side of Canada now.

He has a TeachTDD test -driven development with Legos exercise on his web page. So I recommend, if you don’t know Mike Bowler, he’s a great technical coach and he’s also a hypnotist, which is extremely interesting. He knows a lot about neuro-linguistic programming and that sort of thing. So his website and Gargoyle software is a trove of information.


Vit Lyoshin (47:47.75)



Julie Bright (47:55.814)

But he’s also a big fan of play for learning and his Lego work is pretty good. So I’ve used Legos to teach TDD. I’ve used Legos to do team building. Build an animal that represents you. Now we’re a zoo, you know? It’s like, what is the story of your team? Well, there’s a giraffe and a tiger. It seems silly, but people have a hard time, not everybody, but a lot of people have a hard time using words to articulate their feelings.

But we can do it representationally very easily. So we can draw a stick figure on a whiteboard or we can use a Lego and build four little blocks. That’s a house, right? It’s a representation of a house. We don’t have to go too far with it. It’s much easier for us to communicate in pictures and symbols sometimes. And the shy person or the quiet person on the team, when you go tell me about that thing that you made with your Legos there. And all of a sudden they’ve got this whole story. You could never get a single word out of them before. And now they can talk about it because they’ve got this image.


Vit Lyoshin (49:01.372)

Yeah, those are great. I should probably try some of those at some point. The only thing I heard before is those things like, this is an icebreaker. Tell me your favorite fruit before the meeting or what’s your emotion before we start the retrospective or things like that. Very simple, like on the spot, like one, two minute exercises. But these games are much more, much better exercise to introduce to the team and do it once in a while, I think, especially maybe when new people join.


Julie Bright (49:36.54)

Yeah, they’re different things. They have different purposes. This isn’t a gate icebreakers. Icebreakers are good. What kind of potato are you? It doesn’t matter. It’s almost like… I don’t know if that’s true. I was about to say it’s almost like team norms.

A team coming up with their norms? How are we going to be with each other? Now working agreements. When are we going to have meetings and don’t need tuna fish in the room? There’s a little more tactical, right? And then team values is a little higher up. Trust, integrity, honesty, courage, right? Harder to pin down. Did we do that? Did we do courage? How do you hold someone accountable for not being courageous, right?

So it’s important to talk about those things, but norms are a little bit more like, how are we gonna be with each other? How am I gonna show up for you? How am I gonna listen? Right? How are we gonna actually interact? And facilitating those conversations, whatever comes out of those conversations, it almost doesn’t matter. Like you write it on the board and they never look at it ever again. And then you’re supposed to, hey, are we obeying our norms? Like periodically, do we need to change anything?

But the act of talking about it is what’s important. It’s not that the norms don’t matter. It’s that every team norms always wind up the same. Like you could hand somebody team norms. They’d be like, yeah, we’ll do that. We’ll listen when you’re talking. I won’t interrupt you. Cool. Right. But the fact that they’re talking about it with each other and listening to what each other cares about and then saying, I will honor what you care about. That’s what’s important about that conversation. The output isn’t actually as important as the conversation itself.


Vit Lyoshin (51:32.604)

Yeah. Great stuff. So you also a contributor to agile community, at least here locally. And I’m not sure maybe you also travel somewhere once in a while to speak and facilitate something and train. How do you stay up to the with trends and all these innovations and new things that come out? It’s evolving so quickly. How do you keep up with all of that? Do you have any tips or tricks for that?

Any books, any other materials?


Julie Bright (52:04.956)

I could write a book on creating boundaries for keeping my hands out of all the pies. Like, it’s like harder, like instead of like, how do you get involved? It’s like, how do I stay not involved? Because it’s like a snowball, it’s a snowball effect, right? The more you do, the more you do.

So, I don’t even remember what the first conference was that I was engaged in. It might’ve been, it might’ve been Agile Coach Camp in 2017 at Spotify location in New York City, which was a super cool location to have an event that was neat. I think that was the first coach camp that I did.

Mostly what happens is I’m a conference junkie. I love going to agile conferences and I love to meet people at agile conferences and I meet them and then I talk to them and they tell me all the things they’re up to and I go, oh, I’d like to be up to that too. And they go, hey, we could use some help. Right.

It’s not a tip or a trick. It’s just get out there and engage. Go to meetups, go to whatever your local conferences are, support your local organizations.

The most, I’m like, is this true? Is the words are coming out of my mouth? I think they might be true. I think I might really believe this. The thing that’s gonna keep you afloat is your community, is your agile community. Our work is really, really hard and you can’t really be successful at it for any length of time unless we have each other. Nobody’s gonna understand the work that we do like we do.

And I can’t think of another career family that needs each other so much. Like we need each other. I don’t know, maybe psychiatrists, psychologists. Maybe they talk to each other. I don’t know. It just seems like they need a lot of support. Like we need a lot of support and nobody gets it but us. And I think every career family probably, you know, it’s good to continue with education and learning from other people sort of thing is good in general. But I really think that Agilists super need each other.

We are going to be the ones that get each other jobs. Like right now it’s out of favor. Not going to lie, right? It’s not pretty out there. Companies are devaluing it and they’re like, well, we’re just going to build agility in all over the company. We don’t need a separate role called agile X. Right. Um, some of them may be right.


Vit Lyoshin (54:19.322)



Julie Bright (54:31.42)

I mean, I worked for Capital One for a long time. It wasn’t part of the recent layoffs. I was already gone by the time they did that, but I was pretty incensed about that when that happened. I was like, those are my people. But I don’t know, maybe they’ve actually gotten to a point where most of the people in this company speak that sort of language.


Vit Lyoshin (54:50.396)

Yeah, I heard from somebody that most of these agile techniques and practices are East Coast thing. In West Coast, especially in the world of startups, they don’t implement that too much. Maybe just because it’s a nature of a startup environment and culture like this. Who knows? 


Julie Bright (54:51.26)

I kinda doubt it, but… Like maybe they won’t be harmed by that.


Vit Lyoshin (55:16.316)

I agree, right? And especially for people in agile coaches and mentors and trainers, these people, they know how to teach and train and coach and mentor others, but not themselves necessarily. And if you have somebody next to you who can give you this hand and like mentor each other, right?

Like you mentioned with psychiatrist, then it helps and share knowledge and share your experience or problems sometimes that’s what I do sometimes I go to my peers and I say hey my team is just doing this and they were a stubborn how do you break it and they give me some tips and I try them it doesn’t work, okay fine try something else, but if it does work I go and I say, oh, thank you the thing you told me really worked and I really appreciate that. So I like that a lot.


Julie Bright (56:07.932)

Yeah, learning from each other is definitely the way to go. All the things that I know are all things that I’ve learned from other people. Is that true? At least with regards to agility. Like I’m not really inventor, I’m not inventing new frameworks or, you know, I’m just, oh, that’s cool. I read a book about that. That sounds like it’s pretty interesting. Let’s try that as little experiments, right? That’s how we get to do stuff like that. But if it wasn’t for my agile community, I don’t know. I’d be like, working at cash registers, just give up. I was out of work for a long time last year. Partly I wasn’t trying. I was burnt out. I got laid off with a whole bunch of my peers and I was sort of burnt out and bitter and I just wasn’t dealing. And then by the time I was ready to get back into the ring, there was no ring left. Like there was, there’s no agile coach jobs.

And everybody wants you to be at least hybrid that all the remote work was gone. And that I wasn’t expecting that either, right? Last year changed a lot. 

So. I still believe that agile coaching is extremely important. Whether we call it agile coaching or we call it something else.

I think it’s important because that’s what I do, right? Like I’m like, I’m not technical, so I’m gonna, oh, it’s really, you know, it’s important for not technical people too. But really, I do think it’s important to have someone in the organization that’s looking to the well-being of the organization, that’s listening for pain points, that’s in their heart to heart with people helping them figure out not like to be their therapist because that really is an important line to not cross even though we were joking about it before. I know that that’s really important to not be somebody’s therapist and God knows they don’t want to be. But like I do want to connect with you at the heart I do want to care about you as a person and help you through whatever, you know, work related thing you’re struggling with and It’s hard to express the value of that.

It is valuable, like the person in the ensemble programming, right? Who’s not doing anything until they are. But the fact that they’re fully focused and ready at the drop of a hat to do any kind of thing that’s needed, the second that it’s needed, eliminates waste and makes everything go so much faster. It’s really hard to measure how much slower it would have been if they hadn’t been there right at that minute. And I think that’s part of the problem that coaches in general have is, you know, talking about their value and the value proposition. And how do you know that that had an impact? Right. But we all know that you, everybody knows that it’s hard to measure, but it’s important to have the grease in the wheels.


Vit Lyoshin (59:13.244)

I had conversation not long ago with executive coach and he said something very interesting. He said that coaches are like a catalyst for the team because they went through certain experiences before and they can just show up for the team and share that with the team and it becomes, and it accelerates them in their learning, in their experience. So coaches are great in this regard.

I’m not sure how frequently you need that, but you certainly need that inside the organization to help teams move forward faster. It’s like, you know, extra gas in your car or extra battery in your car or whatever it is these days. So I think it is still important. Just like any other coaches. Coaches on the sports team, they are important. So same thing here.

Thank you very much for today’s conversation. We covered a lot. I think this is great. And just before you go, if you have any final advice for agile coaches and peers and the community that you want to share.


Julie Bright (01:00:26.524)

Hmm, advice for agile coaches and peers in the community. I don’t know what I would give advice to all those smart people. Stick together. Don’t forget that we are here for you. Don’t lose sight of your value whether in the moment by a particular person or group you are valued. Does not negate your value. Don’t forget.


Vit Lyoshin (01:00:56.156)

That’s great, thank you. And another thing, if you’d like to share your contact information so people can find you and connect.


Julie Bright (01:01:05.98)

Yeah, I’m Julie Bright on LinkedIn.


Vit Lyoshin (01:01:19.036)

Okay, I can put those links to the description everywhere.

Bye -bye.

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About Vit Lyoshin

Hey there! I'm Vit Lyoshin, and I've been working with technology and cool software stuff for a long time. Now, I'm hosting a podcast where I talk to really smart people who know a lot about making software and managing products.

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