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Event Report: Close the Loop! Simplifying A3 Thinking for Team Retrospectives

I have always enjoyed doing new and different things for Retrospectives. Believing that valuable retrospectives allow the team to truly reflect and improve.

A3 Thinking is a problem solving technique present in Lean which help solve problems at the organizational level.

Cara took us on a whirlwind tour of some concrete concepts used in Lean and Agile. Using the Deming model to illustrate that we do checking very well (retrospectives) and then Acting on it, but how often do we test and verify that the improvement goal are actually improving anything. A3 thinking applied to Team retrospectives help create testable hypothesis and keeps the system in mind.


The Simulation:

Groups, Understand the Context

Cara introduced us to 2 companies, fictitious she assured us J.  Each group was given 1 out of the 2 companies with their specific environment and current states. Knowing the context allowed us to study and understand the problem. The notes were extremely valuable and it was just the right detail to allow our imagination to fill in the rest.

We were encouraged to understand the problem and context but not to try and solve the problem, solving the problem was not the intention of the talk and Cara facilitated the problem solvers back to the exercise at hand.


Influencing factors

We identified any factors that could increase the rate of change. These items are not positive or negative but to understand their impact on the rate of change in the system.


Clarifying Expectations

Articulate the current state (current problem) and the desired target state (long term ideal)


Write a hypothesis

Introducing a hypothesis creates the opportunity to make our goals testable.

“By [doing something] we expect [this result]”

Pass Conditions / / Fail Conditions

(if our hypothesis is right)

(if our hypothesis is wrong)

We can now test our goals at the end of the sprint to ascertain if the improvement goal is proving our hypothesis correct or not.


The Sprint

Using our imaginations and some guided “Real life” scenarios our group had a 3 week sprint, during the sprint we responded to all of the events and could say what our progress was on our retrospective goal.



We looked at what happened in the whole system. We tried to understand if our hypothesis was met proven true or false and we took that information to change some of the assumptions on expectations. We changed our expectations where needed and adjusted \ created new hypothesis to take into our next sprint.

~fin Simulation


Creating testable hypothesis, just testing it without worrying to get them right and understanding that the whole system has an impact helps us see problems differently. What Cara did was allow us to distill the essence of A3 thinking to an empirical experience that can be used by teams trying to kill some of their tougher impediments or at least understand the problem better. We now have another tool to add to a team’s toolbox.


Close The Loop

Team work:

Event Report: Collaboration and Communication

I had the pleasure of attending the session from Brent on his experience working at KRS, his (and the companies’) agile journey. But more than just an experience report, the session had gems of real life experiments, experiences and things that worked for them around distributed teams and how important communication and collaboration was.

Brent took us back to the Agile principles highlighting 2 that are the cornerstone of the implementation around practices for improving communication during their Agile journey.

1)      Business people and developers must work together throughout the project

2)      The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

One thing that stood out for me was that experimentation was needed in always improving ways to collaborate and communicate. For distributed teams the knee jerk reaction is always to find a tool to facilitate interactions. “Let’s give it a go”, should be used by all Scrum teams, if the experiment did not work at least you know and hopefully you have learned something. There are no silver bullets in Agile for distributed teams, to say something will work for you does not mean it will work for me, thus try something! And give it a go.

Next we had a guided discussion around 3 scenarios (3 teams), we had to highlight possible concerns and then to actually think about ways of addressing them.

1)      Remote Product Owner

2)      Multiple Vendors

3)      Large Projects (integration between teams)

Apparently beer was a solution to a lot of the concerns…. Seriously, getting to know the people you are working with towards a common goal will do wonders for the success on how they collaborate.

Brent closed the evening by giving some practical tools they have used on projects to address some of the scenarios and which created some thought provoking ideas to see if we could have a check in and see how the community implemented some of the tools or ideas presented.


  • Team Viewer
  • CI (Jenkins)
  • Campfire
  • Scrumy
  • Design Boards
  • Google apps & Project Wiki
  • Etc.

Thank you once again to Brent and our sponsor KRS for a great evening.



2012 SUGSA Committee Nominations

Nominations for the 2012 Cape Town SUGSA Committee, are now open to all SUGSA members.

If you would like to nominate yourself to be on the committee, please forward a picture, short bio, and statement about why members should vote for you to before 21 November 2011.

After the nomination deadline has passed, the list of nominees will be circulated to all SUGSA members, and voting will take place electronically leading up to the December monthly event. Each SUGSA member is entitled to vote for up to three nominees. The committee will be chosen based on up to five nominees who have received the most votes.

Event Report: Agile Games

WOW!! A big thank you to both Karen and Sam for facilitating a high energy and involved session last Thursday at the monthly Cape Town SUGSA event.

We pretty much dived right into the first game as soon as the session started, without giving us a moment to ponder about what to expect. At first we started with some uncertain smiles but that quickly turned into pure enjoyment as we were laughing, having fun and applying the games to real life scenarios that we are faced with almost every day in our professions.

These were the games played:
Vampire of Straussberg
Columbian Hypnotist
Movers and shakers
Jumping Circle

Get set! Go! Feedback after each activity

At the end of the session, we had a encore moment where we decided there was enough time for an extra game. Hats off to both Karen and Sam for their excellent preparation and still having a few games up their sleeves. The energy definitely ignited a lot of interesting and exciting conversations during drinks and snacks.

And thats Agile Games


A huge thanks to all participants on the evening for making it memorable. The evening definitely proved that learning can be fun and entertaining.


Cape Town: Agile Games

Join SUGSA Cape Town on 2 June when Karen and Sam facilitates some Agile Games.

Join us for an evening of agile games. Agile is about more than processes and tools. It’s about individuals and interactions, and there is no better way to experience this that by participating in agile games…

For more info see the Events page. Please help us with catering by signing up here.