How to facilitate a great Daily Scrum (Scrum Master skills series)

Welcome back to the Scrum Master Skills Series! In part 1, I shared my notes on how to facilitate a great Sprint Planning session. Here, in part 2, I share my notes on ho to facilitate a great Daily Scrum. Enjoy!


  • Facilitate: to make facile, to make easy. That’s your job as facilitator.
  • Create an experience. Design the experience. Want the team to feel positive? Design a positive experience.
  • Begin with, “The purpose of this meeting is …”
  • Make it a Visual Meeting. Use a kanban board, Post-Its or Stattys or EcoStatics, paper, and pens. 
  • Make it a human meeting. Use your bodies and your voices, and make eye contact.
  • Use a Time Timer.
  • Read the Scrum Guide. As Scrum Master, you’re expected to know Scrum. The Scrum Guide is your guide.

Daily Scrum

  • Set a recurring appointment series--the same time and place every day. Make it easy for people to attend.
  • Get it done in 15 minutes--or less! The time box is 15 minutes. That's 1 minute per person, followed by 5-10 minutes for the team to adapt. 
  • Read the Scrum Guide. Do what it says. Use the three questions in it.
  • Make it a physical meeting. Use a kanban board. Ask Development Team members to touch the Post-It Note for each activity they discuss, and to physically move their Post-It Note to its new column on the kanban board.
  • The first question, "What did I do yesterday that helped the Development Team meet the Sprint Goal?", helps with Student Syndrome: there’s peer pressure to get stuff done every day, not just every sprint.
  • The third question, "Do I see an impediment that prevents me or the team from meeting the Sprint Goal", is a form of Ask For Help. Encourage team members to ask each other for help--ask them, “Do you need help from anyone on that?” You might even think of the first two questions as warm-ups for this one, the most important question.
  • Try: Really facilitate! Keep the team focused. 
  • Try: If some team members are remote, attending by voice, call on people by name 
  • Try: Scrum Masters observe each other and play Perfection Game  
  • Practice every day!
  • Try: Use a burndown chart that you drew in Excel or by hand. Tape it to the wall. 
  • Avoid: Electronic tools during the Daily Scrum. VersionOne and Rally slow you down. You can only go as fast as the tool, which isn’t fast enough for people-speed.
  • Try: Don't call on people. They aren't reporting to you. They are reporting to each other. Honor the principle that they are self organized.  
  • Try: Don’t say anything. There’s limited conversation bandwidth. The more of it you use, the less information shared amongst team members.
  • Try: A talking stick. Or at least, “Hang on, one conversation at a time.”
  • Avoid: Free form discussions. 
  • Avoid: “We can take it offline.” Oftentimes, that’s a euphemism for, this conversation has no value, and we’ll drop it now, and we won’t remember to get back to it later.
  • Try: Use a Parking Lot to log important conversation topics to discuss after the Daily Scrum, with whomever is interested in those topics. 
  • Try: Track impediments on a kanban board 
  • Try: Let the team do it--only prompt them if they need it. It’s the team’s meeting, not yours. Let them report to each other
  • Try: Show up late, see whether they started the meeting without you. Remind them that it’s their meeting and they should start without you--we start on time, every time.
  • Try: Invite your Product Owner. It’s a great way to make sure your PO isn’t surprised at the end of the Sprint.
  • Avoid: Dismissing people early because they said their piece. Don’t optimize for the individual’s time. Optimize for the team’s overall success.
  • Avoid: “We’ll skip you.” My NVC reaction: Anger! Your skipped me! Try: Let me take a turn; being respectful of the team’s time, I’ll probably say, “Pass”.


  • Practice a Daily Scrum: answer the 3 questions
  • Update the task board on the wall
  • Update the burndown chart on the wall


How to facilitate a great Sprint Planning session (Scrum Master skills series)

Welcome to the Scrum Masters Skills Series! In part 1, I share my notes on how to facilitate a great Sprint Planning session. Enjoy!


  • Facilitate: to make facile, to make easy. That’s your job as facilitator.
  • Create an experience. Design the experience. Want the team to feel positive? Design a positive experience.
  • Make it a visual meeting. Try a kanban board with 4 items To Do: what, how, sprint goal, enthusiastically agree. Use a Time Timer.
  • Read the Scrum Guide. As Scrum Master, you’re expected to know Scrum. The Scrum Guide is your guide.
  • Set a recurring appointment series--the same time and place every sprint-start. Not a day earlier, not a day later.
  • Take the full 4 hours (for a 2 week sprint).
  • Get it done in one day.
  • Don’t like 4 hours? Do a shorter sprint! It really does take 4 hours to plan 2 weeks of work. Don’t skimp!
  • Do it as the very first event of your sprint.
  • Sprint Planning goal: produce a credible plan for how to implement the next most important PBIs in the Product Backlog

Part 1: What

  • All Scrum Team members are present, including the Product Owner. Ask the PO for help to clarify the intent of Product Backlog Items.
  • Given: A Ready Product Backlog. If you don't have a Product Backlog in a Ready state, you're in trouble!
  • Pull the highest-order items off the Product Backlog.
  • Try: Do it on a wall, with Post-Its. Your Scrum kanban board can have these columns: Product Backlog, Sprint To Do, Sprint Doing, and Sprint Done.
  • Try: Use your last-10-sprints average velocity (and best-3-max and best-3-min) in story points to guide you as you forecast What might fit into your Sprint.

Part 2: How

  • Development Team and Scrum Master are present. PO is available to answer subsequent questions about PBIs.
  • Self organization: Dev Team plans HOW to get the PBIs done.
  • Try: Decompose each PBI, one at a time, into tasks.
  • Try: Each task can get done in 1 day. Helps team gauge progress every day during the Daily Scrum.
  • Try: Use the PBI’s acceptance criteria to guide your task breakdown.
  • Try: Use your Definition of Done, let it guide your task breakdown.
  • Try: How will you demonstrate that you got the PBI done? Make sure you have tasks for the elements of the demo.
  • Try: Focus on the value you’ll deliver to your stakeholders. E.g., if you don’t need documentation, don’t do documentation!
  • Try: Think about risks and dependencies
  • Try: Think of it as a mini-project plan, for a 2-week-long project. What are the elements of a “credible plan” for your mini-project? Did you include them all?
  • Try: Estimate tasks in person-hours. Try: use last sprint’s capacity as forecast for this sprint. Try Use person-by-person availability to forecast this sprint’s capacity in person-hours.
  • Try: Don’t estimate tasks in person-hours; try every task is 1 day long

Sprint Goal

  • Simply state your sprint goal. Write it down. Post it on the wall with your kanban board and burndown chart.

Enthusiastic Agreement

  • Try: Look each other in the eye. Put your hands in. Really agree with each other that you can do it.
  • Try: Decider Protocol, Passionometer
  • Draw a burndown chart, put it on the wall.


  • Set up a simple kanban board for sprint planning. Play a quick sprint planning game.
  • Draw a burndown chart for your sprint plan.


The Manager’s Role in Agile

An Agile manager
What is the manager’s role in an Agile team? In the typical Agile training class, we learn about Scrum’s three roles: Product Owner, Development Team member, and Scrum Master. Where do managers fit in? Should managers be afraid that their job title isn’t part of Scrum?

What is a manager, anyway? In industrial management theory, a manager is a person who efficiently transforms inputs into outputs. Inputs are limited resources, like people, time, machines, money, and other capital. Outputs are things like cars, washing machines, paper cups, and software products. A successful manager transforms inputs into outputs efficiently, minimizing cost and maximizing profit. Throw in a bit of Theory of Constraints, and we’ll say a successful manager does all of that both now and in the future.

To be able to do that, managers have a Fancy Formal Job Title: Manager, or Director, or Vice President. They have formal authority and power. They hire and fire people, they review their direct reports, they set salaries and bonuses. They have budgets to spend. They are accountable for their team’s results.

They feel pressure to get results, because there’s a manager above them, who can them a bad review, cut their bonus, or even fire them and hire a replacement.

Throw people, complex adaptive systems, and innovation in the mix, and it’s a wonder they survive day to day.

And then one of their bosses decides Agile is the right way to do things. So the boss hires a trainer or coach and tells the team to play Scrum. And the word manager isn’t part of Scrum, and the manager feels anxious. There’s a Product Owner who sort of acts like the business manager. There’s a Scrum Master who facilitates the Scrum team’s activities. What is the manager supposed to do? Will Scrum damage his career?

Agile is your secret weapon. If you want to win, organize your team as a Scrum team. You are the boss of the Scrum team.

If you want your team to go slow, teach them that they can’t succeed without you. Be the bottleneck to their success. Don’t let them make decisions without your approval.

If you want them to go fast, invent awesome things, and be successful, teach them to self organize. Use Scrum. Be the Product Owner, or give the PO authority to make decisions on your behalf. Let the team do their thing without asking you for permission. Hire the best, fire the worst. Insulate them from big company BS. Be their champion. Present them as the model of the best team in your BigCo. They can be, and they probably are.

Your job is still to optimize the efficient performance of your team, to transform inputs into valuable outputs. Scrum is a great tool for that, so let your team use Scrum, by the book.

Your other tools for being a great manager in an Agile team include:
  • Remover of impediments: With your formal job title, formal authority, power, and influence, you help your team succeed by removing obstacles. You are the person who can obtain the tools they need, get dependent teams to deliver the things your team needs, and block people from disrupting your team.
  • Technical team lead: You probably rose from developer to manager. You know what it takes to be a great Development Team member. When the dev team asks you for help, offer it, drawing from your great experience.
  • Mentor: You pull younger or less experienced team members along, teach them things, show them the ropes. You ensure that they grow to their full potential, even when that means they end up leaving your team.
What is your experience as a manager of an Agile team?


Giving Thanks

This is a transcript of the pecha kucha I shared at Give Thanks for Scrum 2013 in November. My slides are here.

I’m Richard Kasperowski. I’m an independent Agile coach and Open Space facilitator. I wasn’t sure what to say today, so I followed the advice on page 11 of the Scrum Guide and held a retrospective. I used the PlusDeltaGratitude style of retrospective, skipping the Plus and Delta parts, and I discovered that I want to thank a bunch of people for all the kindness they’ve shown me. So this is like Thanksgiving dinner. We’re all going around the table giving thanks, and now it’s my turn.

Thank you, Spencer Marks, for practicing XP with me, leading me to write the best code I’ve ever written, pushing me to want the best, travel to Belgium to share our experiences at a conference. (I love traveling, discovering new places, connecting with new people. Scrum and Agile help me do that.) Experiences with Spencer ultimately led to my taking a CSM class.

Thank you, Jeff Sutherland, for my CSM class, for your academic papers and public talks, for a great conversation, and for an autograph in my copy of The Power of Scrum.

Thank you, Ken Schwaber, for your books, your irreverent spirit, your encouraging attitude, and a great conversation about cycling--go HUCA!

Thank you, Epiphany Vera and Glenn Dale. You are two of my former bosses. Thank you, Piph, for paying for the CSM class, letting me introduce and practice Scrum at our company (Nellymoser), and setting me on a journey of self-awareness and self improvement. Thank you, Glenn, for bringing me into Nokia because I was good at Scrum, for sending me to Finland to live and work, for sending me to India to coach teams there--all because I know Scrum.

Thank you, Harrison Owen. I presented at the Scrum Gathering---more fun travel! (Thanks again, Ken, for creating the Scrum Alliance, host of the Scrum Gathering. Thanks again, Scrum, for helping me travel.) At the Gathering, I experienced Open Space, facilitated by Harrison. I got to see the best in the world do Open Space, thanks to Scrum. Harrison inspired me to become an Open Space facilitator (and do more traveling!).

Thank you, Brian Bozzuto. I practiced Open Space, facilitating a 6 week long Open Space with my teams at Nokia. Brian invited me to be the Open Space facilitator at the Agile Games conference. It was an awesome experience! It gave me confidence with larger Open Spaces, leading to more travel and fun later on.

Thank you, Michael Sahota and Ellen Grove. You are two great people I met at Agile Games because I was an Open Space facilitator, because I went to the Scrum Gathering, because of Scrum. Michael helped set up Open Space at Agile Games and has become an important friend. Ellen connected me with Agile India and invited me to present there--more travel!

Thank you, Lee Devin, Elinor Slomba, and Paul Margrave. At the Agile Games conference, I was inspired by Lee and Artful Making. I met Elinor, who became a great friend and taught me about anthropology (which I’ve incorporated into my coaching), and to be an artist; we used Scrum to organize a huge art project, with >1000 people drawing a 100,000 square-foot art piece together. Elinor introduced be to Theatre of the Oppressed, which led me to Paul. Theater of the Oppressed is about exploring power, and so is Scrum.

Thank you, Johanna Rothman, for facilitating our post-Agile Games organizers’ retrospective including Gratitude, like I’m doing right now. (… because of Open Space, because of the Scrum Gathering, because of Scrum...)

Thank you, Dan Mezick, for teaching Scrum fundamentals before every Agile Boston meeting. Thank you for inviting me to participate as a volunteer and organizer and for inviting me to be a friend. Thank you for spreading Scrum and Open Space. Thank you for inviting me to be a presenter. (Dan is one of my special siblings, a brother; I’ll explain more in a minute.) Thank you for introducing me to Floyd.

Thank you, Floyd Marinescu, for inviting me to be the Open Space facilitator at QCon in New York and San Francisco, and maybe London, China, and Brazil in the future (more fun travel and connecting with people!), the grand finale of a recent 6 week tour. I’m an Open Space facilitator because I saw Harrison do it at Scrum Gathering.

Thank you, John Buck and Mathias Vestergaard, culture hackers and corporate rebels, who I discovered through Dan and Agile Boston, and through the Culture Conference, which I got involved with because I was practicing Scrum. You are inspirers! You gave me ideas that I use when I share Scrum with the teams I work with.

Thank you, Jim and Michele McCarthy, who I met through Dan and Agile Boston. Less than two years ago, you shared Core Protocols with me, you awakened me as a full human. You helped me discover feelings and courage. You connected me deeply with Dan Mezick the next three people I’m going to thank. And you gave me more travel: I plan to work with Jim in India.

Thank you, Pat Arcady. You are one of my siblings, my sister, my friend. Thank you for sharing Non Violent Communication, OFNR—tools that I use when I share Scrum with teams I work with. I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Frank Saucier and Andre Dhondt. You are two more siblings, brothers, and friends. Thank you for sharing coaching tips and life tips. I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Wyatt Sutherland and Michael de la Maza. Thank you for freedom and independence. Thank you for helping me find clients as an independent coach. Thank you for more travel! My six-week cross-country tour was awesome! I know you because of Scrum.

Thank you, Marilyn Pelz, Kent Pelz, and Molly Monet-Viera. You are brand new friends. Thank you for sharing tools for self awareness and connection. You taught me the idea that it’s good to have a high gratitude-to-complaints ratio in your life. (My quest for self awareness and connection is deeply related to Scrum.)

Thank you, Dan LeFebrve and Georgina Praiger. Dan LeFebrve is another sibling, a brother from Core Protocols. I know you because of Scrum. Thanks for inviting me to do this today. Georgina as chief organizer and get-it-done person for today’s event--let’s all thank her!

Thank you! I know I didn’t say thank you to everyone I should have. Like Heang Ly, who helped me become a better facilitator. And many more. Thank you, Ken and Jeff, for inventing and spreading Scrum, for giving me amazing skills that I’ve used all over the world, connecting with people, and helping people be great together. Finally, I thank all of you. You’re all great people. 

Soon it will be your turn at the Thanksgiving table. Who did you decide to thank? Will you thank that person today?


Find Your Good Life

I've been thinking about "the good life" a lot lately, inspired by reading John H. Bodley's textbook, Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System. Bodley uses the term summum bonum in his discussion on the good life. He defines summum bonum as, "the maximum human good … as culturally defined".

Bodley writes:
... in addition to household well-being, individuals also need sociability, material prosperity, security, and the opportunity to enjoy expressive culture. These conditions ... are similar to Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs.” In this regard, the “best” culture would maximize human freedom, happiness, and the general welfare and would sustain a just and moral society. Individual freedom can be defined positively as the realization of self-interest and negatively as freedom from interference.
Any culture’s moral worth could be its effectiveness in providing the universal good life measured by individual human health and well-being, human freedom, social stability, and the sustainability of the sociocultural system’s material base.
most people were best able to enjoy the good life in the tribal world, where individual freedom was the highest, and everyone was assured an irreducible minimum of material benefits and opportunities. The imperial world gave a few people a very good life, while exploiting and pushing down the majority. The commercial world accepts extreme levels of inequality, poverty, sickness, conflict, and environmental degradation, even as large numbers of people enjoy high levels of material prosperity.
health and well-being in the commercial world, as measured by life expectancy, have now been found to be improved more by social equality and social cohesion than by absolute increases in wealth.
Bodley's good life corresponds with my vision for myself: I do great things with great people. More broadly, it corresponds with my goal, to be happy now and in the future, inspired by Eli Goldratt's The Goal.

I've been living the good life for the last few months. Here are some examples from the past couple of days:
  • She beckoned me over to sign a petition. I took her hand, and we danced tango on the sidewalk.
  • Every break from work is guitar-singing practice. Every break from guitar-singing is work. And they're both fun!
  • Cuddling with a friend
  • Exploring Symphony Hall and helping friends produce the international squash tournament in Boston
  • Camping and hiking in the mountains with a friend
  • Late afternoon disc golf with a friend
  • Drinking coffee on the pond, watching the ducks, talking with a friend, gentle breeze across our faces; bonus points if it's sunset.
  • Waking up in the tent in the rain, singing and playing guitar to my friend for the morning
  • A jazz-reggae band opening for the Jimmy Cliff movie, two doors down from my apartment, with my son
  • Sunday midmorning breakfast with an old friend, discovering how aligned we are, and riding my bike to get there
  • A quick nap in the park in Harvard Square, gentle breeze across my skin, the guitarist over my shoulder sings a lullabye
  • Morning coffee with a new friend and potential employer, discovering his high self-awareness, emotional maturity, and overall goodness
  • Lying on our backs, the new moon amplifies the stars, we count meteors and satellites among them, the stars so bright and numerous we can barely make out the Big Dipper and North Star
  • Herbal tea and people watching in the park in Harvard Square after sunset
  • We make a wrong turn, and a baby bunny greets us
  • A strong lingering hug

For me, it's all about connecting with people and living artfully.

How do you define your "good life"? Are you living it? What would you do differently to start living the good life today?


Business Transformation Coach, Agile Coach, and Open Space Facilitator

Who am I?
I do great things with great people.

I am a Business Transformation Coach, Agile Coach, and Open Space Facilitator. I help people, teams, and organizations understand what they have, discover and align around what they want, and transform from what they have to what they want.

What is a coach?
A coach is a person hired by a team, its owners, or its managers, to help the team get what they want. A coach combines deep understanding of the challenges faced by practitioners in the domain with a broad perspective that allows team members to access expertise from outside the organization, experience new ways of working, and transform from their current state of practice to a greatly improved state. As defined by the International Coaching Federation, “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Most teams want to improve their skills, abilities, and performance. I help teams do that.

How do I do it?
I use a four step coaching process to help you, the team, transform from what you currently have to what you really want:

1. Understand what you have
2. Discover and align with what you want
3. Transform from what you have to what you want
4. Repeat

1) Understand what you have
You need to understand what you have, where you’re starting from. Your transformation starts with your baseline. What do you have?  How are things going? What is your current state?

I use the best tools to help you understand the current state of your team, including:
These tools reveal the true state of what you have. I help you document and visualize your Existing Conditions in your Change Plan and ensure that it is visible to everyone involved.

2) Discover and align with what you want
If you don’t know what you want, you can’t get there. What do you want? What is your vision? What are your goals? What problems are you trying to solve?

I use the best tools to help your team discover what they really want--your future state--and align around it:
  • Open Space Technology
  • Agile training and other domain-specific training
  • The Core Protocols
  • Facilitated conversations using Non Violent Communication, Dialogue, and other methods
  • Artful Making techniques
  • Interviews and observation as a participant-observer, followed by presentation and discussion
If you’re not all aligned on the same vision, you won’t transform. These tools ensure that you create your vision together, align with it, and are prepared to transform. I help you document and visualize your Goal in your Change Plan and ensure it is visible to everyone involved.

3) Transform from what you have to what you want
Now that you know what you have and what you want--where you are and where you want to be--the transformation begins. How do you get from here to there? I help you build and execute a plan for transforming from what you have to what you want.

I use the best tools to help your team prepare a Tranformation Blueprint outlining how to transform from what you have to what you want.
  • Open Space Technology
  • Agile training and coaching, including Scrum, XP, Agile games, continuous delivery, and more
  • Domain specific training for your field of work
  • The Core Protocols
  • Facilitated conversations using Non Violent Communication, Dialogue, and other methods
  • Innovation Games
  • Artful Making techniques
  • Sociocracy
4) Repeat
After helping your team discover the tools to succeed, I check in periodically using Open Space Technology and other tools to re-evaluate what you have, rediscover, remind, and re-align with what you want, and update and reinforce your Change Plan.

Why does this work?
The Change Plan works because your team builds it and is responsible for executing it. You opt in. You do it because it’s what you want, not because someone forced it on you.

You build the Change Plan yourselves. You do the work to understand what you have--your Existing Conditions; to discover and align with what you want--your Goal; and to build and execute your transformation from what you have to what you want--your Transformation Blueprint.

I coach you through it.

Connect with me
I want to hear from you. Are you ready to transform from what you have to what you want? Are you ready to do great things with great people?


The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Rebel's Illustrated Primer

This is a transcript of my presentation at Rebel Jam, a global 24-hour long conference on positively changing business, government, education, healthcare, and the world itself. You can find my slides here.

I do great things with great people

I’m Richard Kasperowski. My vision is that I do great things with great people. Everything I do and everyone I do it with derives from my vision. I don’t do mediocre things. I don’t do things with mediocre people. I strive to do great things with great people, to do amazing things with amazing people.

I am an Agile transformation leader helping big and small organizations do amazing things. I use Agile and other transformation tools to do this. I recently worked for Nokia, a rather large company. I currently work independently, helping businesses transform themselves toward greatness, and helping a community group set a world record in West Haven, Connecticut, USA.

I help people understand what they have and what they want. I use a bunch of practices related to movements like ours to help people know what they have and transform it to what they want.

I’m curious: What do you do? With whom do you do it? What is your vision for yourself? What do you have? What do you want?

Work hurts

I woke up one morning this spring with an epiphany: work hurts, and I think I understand why. Many of us do amazingly creative work. We love what we do. Our work fully engages our hearts and our minds. But it’s painful to do our work at work. It’s painful to do it at our workplaces. It’s painful to do it within the hierarchical command-and-control structures of the organizations that we work within. Work hurts.

How would you succeed in a world of limited resources?

I thought about why work hurts. Work hurts because we are doing creative work, “knowledge work,” but we’re doing it within industrial control structures. Industrial control structures, industrial management systems, industrialism in general: industrialism is a good thing. It makes sense. It makes sense in a world of limited resources. If you have limited resources, limited raw materials, and you want to transform them into something good, something valuable, you apply industrialism. Your limited resources are things like coal, metals, springs, bearings, cogs, power, people, money, and time.  You get the most efficient output from your limited inputs. You efficiently transform your limited inputs into wonderful products that delight people, they give you money for your work, and you profit. That’s good.

What if there were no resource constraints?

What if you had no resource constraints? What if everything you created derived from the abundance that the universe offers us? Our era is different from the era of the industrialists. Much of what we do is mentally creative work, information work, sometimes called thought work or knowledge work.

In a world of software, we can have anything we can code. And this isn’t limited to soft things and computerized things: in a world of inexpensive 3D printers, we can produce any object we can code.

This conference shows that we don’t even have to be working together face to face, the way Henry Ford’s workers had to. We are no longer constrained by resources. We are not constrained by physical resources (we can code them and 3D-print them), by the availability of people in a particular place, by money (things are cheap).

We live in a world of unlimited resources.

If we can think it, we can have it. If we can dream it, we can have it. If we can code it, we can have it. Our only limit is our intellect, our dreams, our spirit.

Knowledge Work versus Industrialism?

I want to give a name to this new era of unlimited resources and possibilities, but I’m not sure what to call it. Industrialism is exactly the right name for our past. What do we call our future? “Post-industrialism” is accurate--it tells us where we came from--but it’s disappointing because it doesn’t describe our destination. “Post-scarcity economics” is another accurate term that people have begun using, but like post-industrialism, it only describes our past, not our future, so it dissatisfies.

People use the term “knowledge work” to contrast the creative work we do against the work done on the industrial factory floor. But I want to avoid the term knowledge work, because it feels divisive. It implies that our industrialist predecessors were not engaged in knowledge work, not engaged in creative intellectual work, and that’s insulting. The industrialists solved the problems of their era amazingly well, perfectly, and they deserve credit for their contributions. They were knowledge workers.


The era that we are entering sounds like the world created by Neal Stephenson in his novel, The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. The parallel between our world and the one in the novel is that physical goods, even food and basic shelter, are cheap--you can walk up to a vending machine in the street, press a button, and it manufactures physical goods for you out of carbon atoms. For free, anyone can have a bowl of ramen and a mylar blanket. And you can have anything else you want, if you stick some money in the machine. Vending machines in the street are augmented by machines in the home. Programmers who write the code for these matter compilers can produce anything they can dream up; if they can code it, they can have it.

In the novel, there are no physical resource constraints. If you can code it, you can have it. Write some code, and a machine creates it for you on the spot out of carbon atoms. That’s the Diamond Age.

It sounds a lot like the world we are close to living in. In our current and near-future world, if you can code it, you can have it. So my working name for our upcoming era is the Diamond Age. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good placeholder.

In the Diamond Age, industrialism doesn’t make sense. We are not constrained by limited resources. If we can code it, we can have it.

(The novel includes many other themes. This theme is the one that resonates with my epiphany that work hurts. I am intentionally ignoring the other themes in the novel when I borrow its title for this thought-piece.)

Diamond Age-do

That’s the background on why work hurts, and on where we’ve come from and where we’re headed.

A few weeks later, I had another epiphany. There are specific thought movements, specific collections of principles and practices, that are helping us make work hurt less; helping us do work that has no resource constraints, although we are still within control structures designed for a world of resource constraints; helping us do Diamond Age work even though we are operating within Industrialist control structures. 

These movements are all roughly congruent. At their best, they all solve this problem: how to get an amazing outcome with a group of people--how to combine the collective intelligence of a group into a single mind--how to do great things with great people. These movements aren’t exactly the same as each other, they aren’t equivalent, but they are roughly congruent.

I have been introduced to these movements through the Agile software community, and especially through Agile Boston and Dan Mezick. I use these movements, these principles and practices in my work, doing great things with great people, helping people do amazing things together, helping people know what they have and transform it to what they want.

I collect a number of these movements here and I offer a brief description of each one of them. I call this collection Diamond Age-do, or The Way of the Diamond Age. These movements are toolsets that we can use to get amazing outcomes.

What do you have? What do you want? The Ways of the Diamond Age help you understand what you have and get what you want in the world of unlimited resources. The Ways of the Diamond Age are the tools I use to help people know what the have and transform it to what they want.


Agile software development is the first of the Ways of the Diamond Age. Software developers were one of the first groups of people who were unconstrained by resources--if they could code it, they could have it. Their work hurt, and still does. With no resource constraints, industrial era management doesn’t make sense.

In the mid-1990s, Agilists reacted by humanizing and simplifying their work. Agile is about people, getting people to be able to work together well to do great things together, to get amazing results. The various flavors of Agile do it in slightly different ways, but the values are the same: people working well together, producing a working product that they can show to other people who care about it, and easily adapting to the changing world around them.

Open Space Technology

Open Space Technology is another of the Ways of the Diamond Age. Open Space is about giving people emotional, intellectual, and physical space within which to explore and share their best ideas with each other. It is a tool to help people grieve, to be able to transform through chaos and pain from their past to a beautiful future.

In Open Space, we align around a theme, a thorny problem that no one knows how to solve, that the group hasn’t been able to deal with. We build a safe space for each other to explore. We embrace the moment. We make it OK to opt in and opt out--butterflies and bumblebees. We accept that the outcome we achieve is the only thing that could have happened, and we embrace self- and mutual-responsibility for achieving only the best outcome. 

Artful Making

Artful Making is an important contribution to the Way of the Diamond Age from Lee Devin and Robert Austin. Artful Making is about ensemble. Ensemble is a group of people acting as one, making amazing art together. 

Artful Making compares the best theater companies with the best technology companies. A theater company puts on a new show. They spend six weeks developing the show from a script, a crude guideline of what might happen on stage. They start as individuals, and build a space of trust. They discover ways to make the play amazing. They try new things, most of which don’t work. They support each other as they make mistakes--though they don’t use the word “mistake”--these beautiful accidents are the only way to discover the best ways to do the performance. They create art by creating ensemble. And they always get it done on time: when opening night arrives, they put on a great show on time.

Core Commitments & Core Protocols

Imagine that you know yourself really well. You have high self-awareness. You understand what you want, the one core virtue you seek that will help you reach amazing goals. That’s a great self.

Imagine that your friends have the same high self-awareness. Imagine sharing your vulnerabilities and goals with each other. Imagine committing to supporting each other in our deepest, most important goals in life. That’s a great team.

Imagine forming a vision together and aligning with it. Imagine working in an open, vulnerable, safe, high trust, high results environment, being great together, producing a great result together, and achieving your world changing vision. That’s greatness.

That’s the Core Commitments and Core Protocols, and the Core Bootcamp process. The Core Commitments are a set of affirmations we make to ourselves and to each other. The Core Protocols are a set of behaviors that help us get the best from ourselves and each other. Bootcamp is a way to discover who we are, discover what we want, discover our alignment and vision, and practice the commitments and protocols as we boot ourselves into an amazing team.

Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication is another Way of the Diamond Age for knowing yourself and your teammates. It opens space between people to listen to each other and to hear each other. It helps us communicate very clearly, with ultimate safety.

The core protocol of NVC is OFNR: Observation, Feeling, Need, Request. When you try to explore an idea or resolve a disagreement with someone, start by stating the facts. Then share your feelings about the facts. Then state what need of yours is unmet. Finally, very clearly, ask for what you want.


Imagine a group of people sharing one mind together. Exploring, inventing, creating new ideas, harnessing their collective intellectual power: a hive-mind, in a way. What if there were a way to achieve that collective mind?

Bohm’s Dialogue is that Way. Open space together. Organically and spontaneously discover the thing you need to discuss and explore. Listen and explore until you’re done.


To open space at large scale, we might need some semi-formal processes that ensure we get the best from ourselves. Sociocracy is a way to organize a group of people of any size so that they agree and align on their vision, mission, aims, and policies--what to do--and on their operation--how to do it. Sociocratic groups use consent-based decision making to ensure everyone is aligned and no one has a paramount objection to the group’s policies and operation.

Innovation Games

Imagine the people of a large city getting together to figure out what is important to them, to guide city policy and agree on how to spend their budget. Imagine that everyone’s voice is heard equally--business owners, wealthy people, poor people, recent immigrants, families, single people, men, women, everyone. Imagine that people listen to each other, get to know each other, build empathy for each other, leave having discovered their commonalities, that their differences matter but that their common wants and needs trump. That their community is vibrant and people care. Imagine that it works, that people leave satisfied with themselves and their city. This is the San Jose Budget Games, an application of Innovation Games.

Innovation Games are another way to get the best out of people, to open space, to elicit creativity and the group-mind. They are games that get work done, that help people discover real solutions to hard problems.


Stoos is an important Way of the Diamond Age. It is a group of people who have discovered that we are in this Work Hurts transition period between Industrialism and the Diamond Age. They explore better ways to create community and work together.

Corporate Rebels United & Rebels at Work

Corporate Rebels United and Rebels at Work are important Ways of the Diamond Age. Working from within large organizations, we wish to change our ways of working from Industrialism toward Diamond Age.

Diamond Dinners

Those are the Ways of the Diamond Age.

I want to mention two important upcoming topics. The first is Diamond Dinners. Who are the 10 people you want to have dinner with, to spend some time with, to open space, talk about important things, relax, and enjoy each other? Elinor Slomba is an amazing woman with a great idea: twice a year, we should gather great people and have dinner together. Want to join us? Who would you invite? Who are your 10 dinner guests? Send me your list. Really. We’ll make it happen, in interesting places around the world, with amazing people.


Want to make amazing art? Set a world record? Create and enhance a vibrant community? You’ve probably made drawings on the sidewalk or on the street with colored chalk? Imagine making a chalk drawing that is 100,000 square feet (10,000 square meters) with 2000 friends. That’s Chalkville, another project led by Elinor Slomba. We are setting the world record for the largest pavement chalk drawing this July in West Haven, Connecticut, USA. I invite you to register and join us as a participant, or to donate money to our chalk budget. We use the Ways of the Diamond Age to dream up, organize, and execute our art.

I do great things with great people

That’s it for the Ways of the Diamond Age, the Diamond Age-do. Agile, Open Space, Artful Making, the Core Protocols, NVC, and more: these are the tools of our transition from Industrialism to post-industrialism, from management in the era of scarce resources to the era of possibilities. If you can code it you can have it. We can do amazing things together.

What do you have? What do you want? The Ways of the Diamond Age help you understand what you have and get what you want in the world of unlimited resources. The Ways of the Diamond Age are the tools I use to help people know what the have and transform it to what they want.

We can do great things together. Want to join me?

The #DiamondAge

I’m Richard Kasperowski. I want to connect with you. I want to meet you face-to-face in Boston, New York, New Haven, or anywhere else in the world. I want to video-chat with you, talk to you by voice, or through text. I want to explore the world of possibilities with you. Connect with me.



Related Posts with Thumbnails