Friday, 16 June 2017

Business storytelling

'The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.'
- Steve Jobs

Hi guys, it was great to attend a storytelling workshop (@EvgeniMitev) and would be sharing my notes below:

I. Basic rules and structure
  • Should have mystery and unexpected ending.
  • Hunger for dramatic event, conflict and twist.
  • Share some wisdom in the end.
'Our personal stories are subject to plotting laws.'

II. High view
  • Convey  knowledge, info and values through story.
  • Need to inspire on all levels.
  • Not everything could be communicated by images .
  • The resource of time is more valuable nowadays - to hold attention.

Ask yourself:
  • Why do I want to communicate something?
  • What do I want to communicate?
  • How do I want to communicate it?

When you read something, you read it with your own tone of voice.

  • I'm eager to tell you
  • You won't believe what happened to me
  • I would not tell everybody (create trust)
Attitude is very important. If the intent is not honest, it will be detected. Incongruence is easy to catch. You need to believe what you tell, you need to convey identity and personality. The need for a cause is important. To create context is crucial.
Good exercise is  the elevator pitch: spark interest in under 30 secs.

Mission, vision, values have to be communicated properly.
Get feedback and learn from mistakes/difficulties.
'Facts and numbers do talk ... but facts and numbers can't inspire people.'
Don't just show the numbers! Tell the story. Data need context and story, imagination and soul.
Storytelling activates both left and right hemispheres of the brain.

III. Forms
  • Insights.
  • Open-ended stories.
  • Serious games - to be used in business environment (online or offline).
  • Could be a case study, and challenge the participants.
  • Personal stories with key emotion.
  • Jokes. The humor introduces surprise - that's why the brain react good on it.
The idea of the story is to create cycle:
'Inform - inspire - provoke action - get feedback - provoke change/transformation'

IV. Tools
Canvas and basic structure:

Star Wars is amazing example of good storytelling. The structure is:
  1. Show the worst moments, what happened and how bad it was. It brings the power of context.
  2. From bad to worse paradigm. Has to be really well described.
  3. Action - conflict, struggle, pain.
  4. Resolution - good or bad ending. 

RISK is what is important.
'Each action in risk creates value'
  • Stories could end without resolution, just getting worse and finish.
  • Many authors use structured approach - practicality and results.
  • Reframing is a good technique to be used with difficult situations.
  • Deframing, also used: zoom in - zoom out.
  • Creating context is very important - may use story cube dice to create context.

V. Skills
  • Ask  good questions.
  • Listen carefully in order to tell good stories.
  • Simplicity and clarity in storytelling.
  • Empathy (it's all about emotions).
  • Know your weaknesses and use them them to puzzle yourself and the audience.

VII. Guidelines
  • Write down interesting stuff happening around you (also jokes, strange situations).
  • Have to notice and be radically honest.
  • Simplicity - make your stories simple to comprehend.
  • Talk about and convey your values.
  • Aim for greatness. Teach yourself the difference between good and great.
  • Be vulnerable and honest. Share mistakes, fails, challenges. 
  • Research your inside monologue. What does it, what is the tone, who of you inner characters talks at different moments.
  • Change the story you tell to yourself.
  • Share the turning moments in your life.
  • Write down the wisdom out of them and reformulate all useful actions.
  • Gather images which touch you. (they show your authenticity - what is important for you)
  • Research an image bank to investigate how the 'searching, labeling and tagging' works.
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Monday, 22 May 2017

Agile games 2 (scrum introduction, icebreaker, energizers)

I. The airplane game (introducing Agile principles and importance of team work)

It is meant to be fun and entertaining way to introduce teams to Agile. The game  point out how important is the team work, collaboration and spirit in any agile team.

Different types of the game could be played with one or multiple teams (in order to introduce, competition).

1. Preparation
* Print a number of copies of each / some of the airplane/s
(you may use the free plane designs at
* Prepare materials - paper, scotch, color markers
* Prepare a chart / list to record each team's results
* Have some extra folks to fill the PO role (outside of the team) for each team and SM role (could be a part of the team) to facilitate

2. Rules
* A team gets one point for each PO's accepted basic plane and two points for each advanced plane. One point is deducted for each failed delivery plane
* Sprint length is 5 minutes. 1 minute for Sprint planning and 4 minutes action
* Demo to the PO/Stakeholders/the other teams is done after the sprint is gone
* Team must choose how many planes could be taken for one sprint, during the planning. The team may take one basic plane, but then it is mandatory to take one advanced before taking one basic again, and so on. (backlog and priorities)

3. Acceptance criteria. You may play with the acceptance criteria and add more (to differentiate) for each sprint.
S1: plane must fly over 1 meter of chairs; plane must be colored in the team color; each plane properly folded; test infrastructure
S2: plane must fly over 2 meters of chairs; plane must be colored in the team color; each plane properly folded; test infrastructure
S3: plane must fly over 3 meters of chairs; plane must be colored in the team color; each plane properly folded; test infrastructure; plane must have the team logo (simple logo)
S4: plane must fly over 4 meters of chairs; plane must be colored in the team color; each plane properly folded; test infrastructure; plane must have the team logo (simple logo)

4. Start by explaining the game to the team/s. Explain that the goal is to produce airplanes, the sprint length, the points system, etc...

5. Select a PO (outside of the team) for each team and SM (could be a part of the team) to facilitate. Communicate secretly with the PO/s and give them the acceptance criteria for each sprint. Instruct the PO/s to only share the AC if asked during planning.

6. Show a common backlog consisting of 1 basic, 1 advanced, 1 basic, 1 advanced plane, so on.

7. Start sprint 1 and let the team self-organise and perform in 5 mins.

8. The team/s to do a demo with the planes created; The PO/s have to approve or disapprove the planes after testing.

9. Continue with the next sprints.

10. In the end summarize the score and retrospect over the experience

II. Candy introductions (icebreaker)

It is a fun and relaxing get-to-know-your-team-mates game.

1. Preparation
Get a bag of candies with different colors. Put them in a large bowl.

2. Let everybody get different color candies.

3. Explain the rules to them, and what they have to share before eating each candy:
Red candy - favorite hobbies and activities
Green - favorite places
Blue - favorite memory
Yellow - dream job
Orange - anything the person would like to share

III. Energizers (warm-ups)

3.1. The shoe size
1. Let the team members form a line related to their shoes size as qfast as possible.

2. Let them one by one announce their shoe size to check if the order is correct.

3.2. Untangle
1. Let the team members come close.

2. Ask everybody to hold the left hand of somebody with their right hand. //no grabbing the hands of people next to you

3. Ask everybody to hold the right hand of somebody with their left hand. //no grabbing the hands of people next to you

4. Ask everybody to try to untangle and form a circle.

3.3. Human body star
Ask the people to pair up with a teammate and form a star with their arms/legs bound together.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Agile games: estimation

Recently in Bulgarian Agile Community meetup we discussed some games and techniques used in Agile. In this post you will find three of them, related to estimation:

I. Estimation buckets
It is a way to do estimation of large numbers of items with a group of people quickly (a good alternative of Planning Poker). It also provides a way to establish initial ‘reference value’ to story points when new teams need to.

1. The product backlog items have to be written on cards. It is preferable if the team members are familiar with the items. A table or wall is setup with columns as per the example

If you do not have a reference for story points just leave the numbers blank and add them in the end.

2. Pick a random item, read it and put it in the middle bucket (under ‘8’). It is to be used as a reference.

3. Pick another item, read it, discuss it with the group, estimate it relatively to the first item and put it left (smaller) or right of it (bigger).

4. Choose another item, read, discuss, estimate relatively and place it in the appropriate bucket.

Note: If it is clear that the items scale towards only one of the sides adjust them accordingly. If the first item is smaller – scale all the items towards left (‘1’), or if bigger – scale towards right (‘100’).

5. Continue until most of the buckets have at least one reference item, and the team members get used to the relative estimation feeling and doing.

6. If there are still too many PBIs, divide them across the team members and let everyone silently (without any discussions) place accordingly.

7. Everyone in the group reviews all the items and if there is a need for correction, items are taken out, discussed with the group and placed back accordingly.

8. Write the corresponding number to each card to record the estimates.

The final result would be something like

II. Estimation game (sort of)

This we do together with some of the agile teams in Continental AG. The purpose is to foresee how many and which items will go to the next sprint backlog. It is useful when there not all team members have the expertise to do each PBI. The sprint is set to three weeks’ timeframe.

1. The PBIs are written on cards or tracked in JIRA and the team members are familiar with them.

2. We take the top ten PBIs and put them into four main categories: small; medium; large; huge.
Small – item could be finished up to a week.
Medium – item could be finished up to two weeks.
Large – item could be finished up to three weeks.
Huge – item is estimated to need more than three weeks for completion.

3. Items marked ‘small-large’ fit into one sprint. Items marked ‘huge’ need to be broken down / renegotiated.

4. Then we do some ‘typical resourcing’ as not each team member have the expertise to work on each of the PBIs. For example John and George will work on item one. Steve is the only one able to complete item two. Nick takes item three, etc… The resourcing is done according the prioritization in the product backlog so it is clear which stories could go into the next sprint.

5. Sometimes it’s not possible to take all highest priority items and the product owner is triggered to choose between 'competing items'.

6. In the end the team comes with a proposal how many PBIs and which ones could fit into the next sprint, as per the example (the green dots):

7. The product owner agrees or renegotiates the items, together with the team.

III. Project box experiment
The purpose of the ‘project box’ is to define requirements for an MVP. It could be used when a large number of stakeholders (e.g. in different departments) need to provide requirements and priorities for a product.

1. Provide each department/stakeholder group with equal amount of ‘fake currency’ or vote points.

2. Let each group define and visualize their idea in a form of a product with characteristics.

3. Individuals from each group to present to all the other groups the vision of the product (MVP) in just 3 minutes.

4. The other groups have to spend their ‘money’ or vote points on each presented MVP.

5. The most ‘expensive / voted’ MVP wins and is a candidate for production or further discussion / refinement.


Hope those are useful to you, guys; as usual please leave your feedback in the comments.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Yulian Tonkin - personal development untour (24, 25 OCT)

“You either grow, or die”

It was cool. The stuff to share/remember/do…

Day 1: self-development
  • Use your body to study better. Use your voice when you read
  • Jump/move/stretch yourself to get energized and engaged
  • Emotions are controlled by movement
  • Surprise yourself
  • Be like a child/learn like a child/move like a child – let the curiosity create new experience
  • Change the container – move people around. Change/remove comfort zone

Find and achieve your mission / vision / goal
You have 99 days to try and achieve it. 3 days to find it. 3 days to organize it (strategy). 90 days – action / action / action. 3 days to analyze the experience and adjust. Commit yourself entirely.
  • Step 1: Clarity – find what your mission / vision / goal is – 3 days
  • Step 2: Strategy (saves time – compress years to days) – 3 days
  • Step 3: Action – 90 days
  • Step 4: Analysis - 3 days

Use your brain properly
  • Ask high quality questions – the skill to control your inner voice
  • We attract people possessing the same inner dialogue
  • The quality of the questions we ask our brain determines the quality of our life

  • Find somebody who achieved your dream well and investigate
  • Incorporate what you like from them
  • Who do you want to look like?
  • Who do you envy?
  • Who do you admire?
  • You see only stuff/qualities familiar to you
  • Your qualities are your basic characteristics – determine what you inclinations are
  • Your skills will achieve your dreams
  • You need to master your skills

Day 2: money
  • Think of money as soldiers
  • The soldiers (money) obey entirely and fulfil our desires
  • The soldiers (money) never sleep, never eat, don’t even exist
  • Accumulate soldiers (money) by saving at least 10% of your income

When one encounters Container / Environment, the possible actions are
  1. To change it
  2. To use it as advantage
  3. To ignore it
  4. To do nothing, but just complain how bad it is
  • Invest in only what you understand
  • Minimize the risk
  • Never bankrupt – divide your wealth and always have reserve
  • Use the other half of your soldiers to grow – invest wisely (property, land, loans)

Celebrate life – it is too short

“Nobody learns more than the person on the stage”

Video channel (in Bulgarian): Yuli Tonkin Youtube

Friday, 20 May 2016

Startups, Entrepreneurship … and Agile

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure to be part of the Startup Founder 101 event ‘Meet Experienced Startup Founders’, and the two major speakers Viktor Bilyanski (Founder and CTO of Scalefocus) and Hristo Neychev (Founder & CEO, Tryad Games), shared their experience in entrepreneurship and startups.

Going over my notes here is some assorted key wisdom:

The reality is brutal - 95% of all new business initiatives fail to survive and die in less than 2 years

The most important for each startup:
  • Discover, believe in and communicate your VISION
  • Find an amazing CO-FOUNDER (really difficult)
  • MOTIVATION – keep going when you are rejected, and rejected you will be… a lot
  • Find your first CLIENT/INVESTOR

Starting up a new business is like staring a new project – it has a beginning and an end. And the time slot is really tight. You can always go back to the corporate business if it doesn't work out.

When you fail, you still acquire experience and memories. The successful entrepreneur started approx 10 startups throughout entire life.

What’s really great about startups is that you move with your own speed, you only have to convince your co-founder and then it’s a matter of minutes to work on new idea.

To find a great co-founder look for somebody close, somebody you know for years. Somebody serious, motivated and admirable. Most of the startups die due to co-founders divorce and/or team disrupts. And high pressure is going to increase the chances any of those happening… and high pressure there will be.

Fundraising is difficult and at the same time it is important for every startup to get money as quickly as possible. Somebody investing in your business is good not only because it validates your idea/vision, but also because the clock starts ticking and your startup must start delivering. You all become more disciplined… and discipline you will need.

Your prototype, your product, your numbers worth more than the raw idea in your pitch. The investors will invest in your team and the execution not your idea. They want to see a successful team – members to have successful tracking records.

You pitch on vision or numbers and it is much better to pitch on numbers. The successful pitch would outline two major points:
  • The TEAM - who are you; how successful are the team members so far; what is the endurance and the sustainability of the team
  • TRACTION – how many users/clients do you have; what is the trend; clients profile and sustainability

Angel investors will invest in 1 out of 40 startups presented to them. Venture capitalists will invest in 1 out of 400. If you have rich friends/mentors try them first.

Coming up with an idea you might follow a process like:
  • Set FRAME/ VISION/ the window of opportunity / the market
  • And then use standard creative process, e.g. 'brainstorming'
  • VALIDATE your ideas fast – use paper; Excel and simple tools to prototype fast

Persistently look for feedback – involve users/clients and improve, discard and innovate.

Most of the startups aim for online business because it is easier to scale online.

The biggest challenge is to define and develop your MVP. It needs to be good enough for your market but at the same time it needs to be built quickly to be validated. Be careful in B2B – you cannot afford to show not-polished product.

Do not hesitate to interview people about your product and expected price, but the only validation for the price happen when real purchases are made.

If your startup product is some sort of a service, keep in mind service offering companies do not scale well and depend on their founder too much. Try growing from service to product business.


So far so good… but where is the Agile part?
Everywhere… I have always admired startups as they are the truest possible embodiment and validation of the Agile philosophy. Deliver sooner than later, empower teams, embrace the change and be lightning-fast in adapting, continuously improve and deliver, eliminate waste, collaborate well, promote innovation and bow to enthusiasm – all the major principles are followed relentlessly – and it is pure joy to watch and/or be part of.