Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Agile Quotes: Kung-Fu-Panda-3

I love the Kung Fu Panda movies, hope you enjoy them too. Apart from the funny awesomeness of Po the panda, I love the subtle and not so subtle messages and quotes these movies contain. Here are few gems from Kung Fu Panda 3. I only saw it this week, so am sharing these now.

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 Rock like Po the panda![/caption]

Image courtesy:

1. When will you realize the more you take, the less you have? - Master Oogway to Kai (the beast)

When Kai tells Master Oogway that he has taken the chi of every master there is, Master Oogway pleads to Kai to realize this. There is a virtue in giving; always give when you can! So how is this connected to agile? There are examples. It could be giving help to a struggling team member, or giving credit to someone else who deserves it, or giving someone encouragement for their effort, or giving someone any other type of support they need - mentally, physically and emotionally.

Look beyond yourself. There is great power in humility and kindness, it helps build strong relationships that help teams thrive.
2. If you only do what you can do, you'll never be better than what you are. - Master Shifu to Po

This one is straightforward. A core tenet of agile is to keep challenging oneself to do better than today. Never cease to challenge the status quo, it is a key to customer and team happiness.
3. I have so much to learn! - Po after the party at the secret Panda village

Learning is essential for an agile mindset. Learning manifests itself everywhere. There is always more to it than meets the eye, but one should be willing to see beyond what is visible.
4. You gotta let the hill tell you where to roll. - Li, Po's panda dad during Po's training

This one is interesting. Agile mindset encourages to be courageous and to experiment. Let the results tell you what to do next. Surely there can be failures along the way. Accept successes and failures as normal events, but don't let the causes become your excuses.
5. Feeling relaxed? Just let yourself fall into it - Li, Po's panda dad during Po's training

This is a natural deduction for the previous quote. Immerse yourself into the environment and let it guide your actions thoughtfully. Not only will you increase your chances of success, you will also tremendously increase the enjoyment you get from your experience.

That's all for now! If you have more quotes to share from Kung Fu Panda or anywhere else, I would love to hear :)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Make onboarding fun with Onboarding Canvas!

The Onboarding Canvas is a tool that can be used for onboarding a new team member. We derived this tool from Spotify's adaptation of the Toyota Kata. I like this tool because no one can tell you precisely how your onboarding should be like in order for you to be effective at your new job. This is a tool for continuous reflection and adaptation. It puts the newcomer in the driver’s seat, makes the onboarding process agile through continuous collaboration with your team.

Four quadrants

The onboarding canvas has four quadrants:

  1. Now: It defines where the team is now, what is going on and how is the new team member adapting to the change?

  2. Definition of awesome: With the addition of the new team member, how would the team like itself to be? What would be awesome for the new team member?

  3. Next target: In order to move towards "Definition of awesome" what outcomes should be achieved in the next x weeks?

  4. Next steps: What are the immediate next steps for the team and when are they due?

Onboarding Canvas

Using the Onboarding Canvas

Collaborate with the new team member to fill the onboarding canvas and iterate regularly.

In your first session, brainstorm on the Now and the Definition of Awesome. Use post-its or whiteboard to gather ideas. Group ideas together into themes if themes emerge. Have a lively discussion and get excited about new possibilities that have opened up as a result of someone new joining the team!

Onboarding Canvas: Now and Definition of Awesome

Meet the whole team again in few days, and together identify the outcomes that should be achieved within the next few weeks - this is your Next Target. The Next Target has a due date, that is usually few weeks or a month later.

Using Next Target as the basis, derive the Next Steps. Each next step may have an owner and a due date that is prior to the next target date.

Onboarding Canvas: Next Target and Next Steps

Meet regularly to revise the canvas. The whole team should be present for reviewing the progress. A good rule of thumb is to review progress every two weeks, to begin with, and tweak the frequency as needed.

Revisit the Now and Definition of Awesome when things have changed significantly and you have seen progress. Practice iterating with the team! Without practice, this is of no use. Iterating on the onboarding canvas is like planning and retrospective combined together. While iterating, think about what has been going well, and what needs to change. Continue until you and the team feel the canvas is providing you value. Although the number of iterations depends on your situation and needs, I suggest using the canvas for six months and reducing the frequency of iterations during the period.

Note that no two canvases are alike. Everyone arrives with their own experiences, needs, skills and interests. Furthermore, the environment is always changing and the demands of the environment change with it. The onboarding canvas easily adapts to the dynamic nature of our organizations. It is agile: The canvas continuously evolves, improves and delivers what is important to its users quickly and incrementally. It is collaborative, and it is easy to understand. It makes onboarding fun and creates trust between the team members.


The team can stop iterating on the canvas when the new team member and the team both agree that the onboarding is complete. The team should find itself closer to realizing its Definition of Awesome than when they started. The Definition of Awesome should have also undergone changes during this period.

What else is there to it?

If the simplicity of this tool interests you in digging deeper, you will see that this tool can be used not just for onboarding but in general for making simple improvements! For onboarding, I recommend using this tool as part of Alongboarding, a method that makes the onboarding experience wholesome and agile. If you are interested in exploring even further, refer to the Toyota Kata. That will definitely spur more ideas.


This is just one way to use the onboarding canvas, improvise it any way you like! The bottom line is that in order to get the most from it, your approach should be collaborative, iterative and incremental. Make sure to include the whole team, including the new team member, in the dialog.

Credits and References

Forget Onboarding, do Alongboarding!

Alongboarding, an agile onboarding approach

Alongboarding: We’re in it together!

Organizations hire new people every day. A great first impression can make a tremendous difference in retaining employees. No one gets a second chance to make a great first impression, not even the best companies. An onboarding experience is an essential part of making that first impression on a new employee. Agile has been around for many years and has gained vast acceptance throughout the community. Yet, I find it disappointing that its tenets are not used well in most companies and most onboarding approaches follow a waterfall approach. 

Alongboarding is an agile onboarding approach that applies agile tenets to onboarding new employees and makes the experience richer and more fulfilling.

When I joined AppFolio as an agile coach, I experienced this approach during my onboarding. It felt like the team owned my success as much as I owned the team's success. It was a welcome change from some of my earlier experiences where employee onboarding was a formality, or a wasted expense, or just a checklist, or nothing.

What’s in it for me?

If you are joining a new company

Are you joining a new company or stepping out of school for your first job? Are you overwhelmed with too many questions on what the future might hold? Questions such as: How will you be treated? What will be your responsibilities? How will you prove yourself? Will the people you work with be cordial and supportive? How will your manager treat you? How flexible will your new role be? etc. etc. Depending on your situation, you may have different needs. It is not uncommon to feel vulnerable, somewhat scared or even have questions about your ability to adapt to this big change. Wouldn’t it be helpful if your new company or team had an approach to onboarding to take care of your needs?

If someone new is joining your team

Do you have someone new joining your team? It is a big change for you too, especially since most agile teams are small. You will soon be spending a lot of time with this person solving problems, hopefully, while having fun. If you have a healthy environment, the success and happiness of the new team member are tied to your success and happiness, closely. This is regardless of whether the new team member is your peer, your manager, or someone who reports to you.

Ready? Get set!

Get real

Are you ready to welcome a new team member into the fold? The first step really is the realization that the new job will be a huge change for the new person and your team. Without this realization, no amount of work you put in will ever help you be as effective as you possibly can.

Prepare for the first day and week

A great first day and week of work not only sets a positive tone for the new employee's new journey but also forms a foundation for great relationships with colleagues. My experience suggests that we can remember our first day at our new workplace for a very very long time. Below are some preparatory actions that may be useful to help prepare for that awesome experience. It is recommended that the list is collaboratively prepared by the entire team.

  1. First-day list: Before welcoming a new employee, make a list of things they will be doing on their first day. The list may include and may not be limited to:

    1. When and where they will arrive, who will greet them. Will they be treated to a nice breakfast, a smoothie or maybe something else - a small, nice, welcoming gesture?

    2. What documents should they bring if any, and who needs them and why?

    3. When will they be introduced to the team?

    4. When will they meet their manager?

    5. Who will they go have lunch with? Can the manager or team take them out for lunch on their first day?

    6. Who else will they meet on their first day and at what time?

    7. How and when will they get their equipment, their access to company systems, and their seat?

    8. Will they pair with someone during their first few weeks to learn the ropes?

    9. Will there be any training involved?

  2. One week in advance, inform the new team member about the plan for their first day. When he/she is aware that you've been planning their first day, it alleviates stress and gives a feeling of belonging to something larger and intentional.

  3. Prepare an initial checklist. It is not an exhaustive list of everything they will need to do. It is just something to get them going and give them a head start - into a path of discovery. In Alongboarding, they will own the checklist and drive it from the get go.

  4. In the checklist include meeting everyone who the new team member will collaborate with. Add other stakeholders, and support team members - who they need to know in order to be effective at their work.

  5. Inform everyone on the list and get them excited about the new team member. Tell them about the new team member, just enough to spark curiosity.


When the new team member joins, execute your first-day plan. Have a fun introduction session with the team and management. Make the new team member comfortable.

Over the next few days, introduce them to the department or the company (depending on the size of the company). Introduce them to the initial checklist you prepared. Let them know it is for them to just get started and use as an initial tool, and the team is ready to help.

The onboarding canvas tool

After few days and within the first couple of weeks, introduce the new team member to a collaborative tool such as the onboarding canvas. The onboarding canvas is derived from Spotify's adaptation of the Toyota Kata

Onboarding Canvas

Using the Onboarding Canvas

Collaborate with the new team member to fill the onboarding canvas and iterate regularly with the new team member. I suggest that iterating every two weeks, to begin with. Based on the experience and the needs of the new employee, tweak the frequency of iteration. Iterate more frequently if there are lots of things to discover, or slower if there are fewer. Being agile, try to break things down into smaller chunks in order to obtain frequent feedback. This really helps when getting started!

It is interesting to see how the roles of the new team member and the old team members evolve during this process.  For example, while the old team members continue to play a vital role, they transition from being drivers to being supporters and consultants. The new team member quickly hops onto the driver’s seat, knowing well that there will be support and guidance when needed.

Read Make onboarding fun with Onboarding Canvas! for more details on using the onboarding canvas.


Alongboarding is complete when the new team member and the team both agree that it has been done to a sufficient degree. When that happens, the team should find itself closer and stronger compared to when they started. Although the duration and the number of iterations that you choose depend on your situation and needs, one way of using the canvas is to use it for six months, gradually reducing the frequency of iterations over the period.


Alongboarding is about making the partnership between the new employee and the team “real”.

It makes it easier for both the team and the new employee to adapt to the changes and understand each other better. The Onboarding Canvas is a nice tool that can be used to promote conversation and discovery. Alongboarding in combination with the Onboarding Canvas makes the whole onboarding experience agile. The experience continuously evolves, improves and delivers what is important to its users quickly and incrementally. It is collaborative and is easy to understand. It makes onboarding fun and builds trust amongst the team members.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts and learning about how it goes for you when you try it!


Credits and References

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