Monday, December 21, 2015

An awesome message about Blueprint Education to end the year.

As some of you know, I have been helping out the amazing folks at Blueprint Education in Arizona.  They have been making some changes to their culture as a follow-on to a previous introduction to new ideas introduced by John Miller from Agile Classrooms.

I'm getting ready to relax until the end of the year and saw this message in my FB feed this morning and thought..... It would be really cool to share this to inspire others to perhaps try something new in 2016!  

The follow dialogue has some questions about Blueprint Education and then the following statement from Mark...
"Blueprint education is a non profit. Our mission is to inspire students to make better choices and be champions of their own learning. I'm the CEO. We apply the principles of Agile to elementary and high school education."

Mark French FB Feed
(c) Blueprint Education. 2015

For me at least, this is one of the best messages I could have read all year.

If what you read in some of the following posts inspires you, reach out to John Miller or Mark French. I know that either of them would be more than pleased to share what they have been up to or help you learn more about bringing Agile Values and Principles to your education system.

There are some exciting things happening next year at Blueprint and I can't wait to start sharing those! Stay tuned.

For now.. Here is a selection of previous posts to get you up to speed.....


Agile Classrooms

Blueprint Education

John Miller

Mark French

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mental Model Culture Diagrams

Sometimes the coolest things come when least expected.....

Saravana Bharathi (@AgileKarma) shared the link at the bottom of this message today over at FB.  Thanks !!

Although I am not a fan of the stereotyping in the post...

The picture representations of complex mental thought differences are intriguing and simple to understand.

Imagine if we could facilitate discussions toward commonality using this type of diagram?

I wonder if one could facilitate a team to draw their own diagrams?

I wonder if one could facilitate separate groups in an enterprise to draw their own diagrams to find commonality or places for discussion.

One thing is for certain (to me at least).  The simple diagrams convey a strong message without the need for a large, written report.  

I do have some personal reservations about this accidentally turning into a "categorize everybody into the same group" type thing. 

I do think if the diagrams are created by people as self-representations, stereotyping might not happen.

I'm looking forward to trying something around this idea out.

If anyone tries these diagrams out before me, please let myself (and the community) know how it works out! 

Here's the link.. Enjoy...

To reach out to Saravana, you could find him here...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tech Post: Docker, PhantomJS, Selenium on a Jenkins host for pre-production website testing

I recently spent days trying to solve a technical problem when attempting to auto-test a website on my Jenkins server combined with Selenium, Selenium Grid, or PhantomJS on the same machine. 

I had previously been using a different approach for my automated testing and thought I'd do something new for this site :->

I figured out the solution and decided I would share it here should someone find themselves in the same or similar situation.

These instructions apply to Jenkins but will likely also apply for Bamboo, TeamCity or your CI server of choice.


  • When testing on a developer workstation, the site is started up and tested at localhost: (

  • A Jenkins server which runs all tests locally instead of on slaves (the same problem would likely occur on a slave).

  • On a check-in of code, load the site up at localhost on the Jenkins server (as you would expect)

  • Attempt to run Selenium or PhantomJS in a Docker container......

-- FAIL --

  • Spent days researching "headless" build capabilities
  • Spent even more days reading about countless issues with dockerized containers working with Selenium. 

As it turns out, the problem is not related to Docker and Firewalls but the nature of containers.  

The easy (short) answer.....

If you set your tests to run at localhost: or, they will work no problems on a developer machine, but when the Dockerized container tries to reach localhost it will look to it's own localhost versus the CI server's localhost... 

Change the tests to use the local IP address of the host instead. I used an environment variable to do this on the host. 

The following sample makes some assumptions (modify as needed)

  • Jenkins Server
  • NodeJS
  • Docker
  • PhamtomJS (the same holds true for Docker versions of Selenium)


docker run -d -t -p 4444:4444 --name phantom servebox/phantomjs phantomjs \

To see the running container....

docker ps should show you something like.....

aa71e19beecd        servebox/phantomjs   "phantomjs --webdrive"   2 minutes ago       Up Less than a second>4444/tcp   phantom

You can now start and stop the container by executing either  (making it easy to control from Jenkins)

docker stop phantom
docker start phantom

Environment Variable Setup (linux)

export TEST_IP_ADDRESS="x.x.x.x" (replace with host address)

NodeJS: (helper.js)

global.testPort = 9005;
var url = "http://" + process.env.TEST_IP_ADDRESS + ":" + testPort;
global.url = url;

NodeJS: (mocha test) 

var webdriver = require('selenium-webdriver');
var expect = require('chai').expect;

var driver = new webdriver.Builder().usingServer('').withCapabilities({
    'browserName': 'phantomjs'}).build();

describe('Click On CEC Logo should bring us to the SA CEC Page', function () {

    "use strict";
    it('should work', function (done) {

        driver.get(url);  //set in helper.js as global
                .then(function () {
                    return driver.findElement('CECLink')).getAttribute("href");                })
                .then(function (linkString) {
                    expect(linkString).equals('');                    driver.quit();                })
                .then(function () {
                    done();                });    });});
(code not perfectly formatted in this blog post).


Create a job step to execute a shell with the following commands....
(where x.x.x.x. is the ip address where the LOCAL TESTABLE WEB PAGE is located in pre-production).

docker start phantom
export TEST_IP_ADDRESS="x.x.x.x"      
npm run jenkins-mocha 
docker stop phantom

What Happens:

  • Jenkins launches the docker container called phantom that was previously defined
  • Docker starts up an instance of the phantomjs webdriver at port 4444 on the localhost (in a container)
  • NodeJS starts up the website locally (code not shown in this example) . This site starts at IP address x.x.x.x
  • NodeJS (mocha) loads Webdriver and requests PhantomJS from the Container
  • The Container loads PhantomJS and gives a session for Webdriver
  • NodeJS makes requests to x.x.x.x (instead of localhost)
  • When the tests are complete, Jenkins stops the phantom container

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Empowerment Retro

This week I had the pleasure if sitting in to observe a CSM (Certified ScrumMaster®) class put on by Mishkin Berteig and David Sabine from Berteig Consulting Inc. in Toronto. 

I was there primarily to provide some input on a specific topic for David. During the first day, I was asked if I'd be willing to come up with a talk for the second day on a topic that kept coming up during conversations... Fears around empowerment of self-organizing teams.

I remembered, there is no better way to share ideas than to let them come from the audience themselves. I decided.... Rather than a talk, let's get the class (all aspiring CSMs) to provide the learning for themselves.

I spent that evening and the following morning on the train coming up with a session for this discussion. I call it the Empowerment Retro.

Several people took pictures and mentioned that for them it would be a game changer.  I am happy with initial results.  Next time, I will experiment with a better way of explaining what I am looking for as an improvement.

There are some people who might make arguments about teams being self-empowered vs. empowered. I acknowledge and accept that as an interesting topic, but I'll stay focused on the assumption that organizations empower for now to facilitate this discussion.

This will be the first publish of the "Empowerment Retro".

In general, a Scrum Master will inevitably find themselves in a conversation about Empowerment.  As many of the people in the class were soon going to find themselves in the Scrum Master role, I felt it was a good idea to give them some knowledge and ability to handle this discussion when it comes up. They also had the benefit of more than 30 other smart minds in the class they could learn from.

Here we go....

The amount of empowerment will be different based in every company and culture. 

There are two commonalities in discussions about Empowerment (and some of the fears associated with the topic).


The team(s) receiving a 
Level of Empowerment from the Organization.


The team(s) provides certain things to the Organization
as a result of this empowerment.

It is a symbiotic relationship
 (one that benefits both parties)

I gave a short story showing an example of each from previous real-life situations from coaching engagements.

I discussed the idea that a healthy environment likely has some embodiment of both sides of the TO / FROM equation.

The class was asked to think of something that needs to be there in the TO as well as something that needs to be there in the FROM for a healthy approach to team based work. 

Each person brought up and put their stickies on the chart.

Then, a person from the class volunteered to facilitate a discussion about the results. 

It was awesome to see a full set of ideas for both sides of the discussion. 

For me, it was very exciting to see a future Scrum Master practice facilitation in front of the class (something they would be doing often in their new role).

The resulting chart gave some interesting ideas for the attendees.  Here are some insights that were shared with me privately during a future break....

  • (after taking a picture).. "This for me is the money shot to show my boss.  Although these were very different people from different companies and cultures, they had very similar ideas about a large number of topics (a way to create common understanding between each other) and it was quick and easy to do.  It will help me prove to my boss that different people collaborating together can create great ideas and insight"  (paraphrased). 

  •  "I never realized that empowerment is not just one way or that we should maybe talk about this openly once in a while". (paraphrased) 

  • "I'm glad I have some ideas of where first steps can come from for this discussion to move forward in my company"(paraphrased)."

Here is the photo from the class... 

Empowerment Retro 
Mike Caspar is licensed  under a

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons Licence

I appreciate that you can't see the specific ideas in this picture. That's fine by me.  

The idea is for your team or company to come up with their own :->

Please feel free to share your results with me when you try this. I would be curious to hear back reports of success or failure with the tool.

Mishkin. Thanks for the reminder to share this idea with others in the community as quickly as possible :->

Mike Caspar
Passionate About agile


Berteig Consulting Inc. - Berteig Consulting

CSM (Certified Scrum Master-

Friday, November 20, 2015

A quick thought about culture and Onboarding.

Here's a thought ...

Onboarding may explain the official culture.
Actual culture is experienced at the first visit to the water cooler or a team meeting.

Water dispenser by Kal Hendry

If you have some thoughts

What might you do differently during a organizational change assessment?


Onboarding -

Monday, November 16, 2015

Agile and Scrum from the perspective of a Guidance Counselor at a High School

As part of my volunteer coaching for the leadership at Blueprint Education, I had the pleasure last week of being invited to a three day retreat in the woods in Flagstaff, Arizona as a guest facilitator with the High School students of Hope High School.

Hope High School Student Leadership
(c)Copyright Blueprint Education, 2015

It was an amazing experience.

It was a welcome reminder since my Flight Instructing days that young people will act responsibly if given respect and the ability to self-organize and that Scrum can be a great enabler for expanding learning boundaries and the ability to collaborate.

I present to you this report from the Guidance Counselor at Hope High School so you can hear about the event from this unique perspective.

I put some links after the letter so you can reach out or learn more if you wish.

Engaging employees in the change process can help assure successful implementation and sustainability of the change initiative. What is the best way for leaders to engage employees or other stakeholders in the change process in an organization? Why?

Hello Class!

This topic is very close to me, as my own organization is run by a group of servant leaders committed to collaboration, transparency, and transformation.  This last week a group of 20 Hope High School students, the principal, a teacher, myself, our organization’s CEO, a member of our Board of Directors, and a scrum leader volunteer left for a three day leadership retreat in the woods with the mission of developing our students to be compassionate, to collaborate with one another, to learn their own and each others’ strengths and how to leverage them, and to work as Agile teams.  It was an incredible success for the students, who exceeded all expectations, as well as for the leaders who went with them.  This is an example of how our organization engages employees and key stakeholders, from the top down and bottom up.  

There are a number of ways that leaders may engage employees and stakeholders in the change process, but we do it through transformational and servant leadership, utilizing an Agile change process called scrum that we are learning and embracing. Agile is an umbrella of methodologies originally developed for the software industry but has been branching out to other industries including education with the benefits of being customer need focused and adaptable to change, and supporting of transparent, iterative processes (Balrow, Keith, Wilson, Schuetsler, Lowry, Vance, & Giboney, 2011).  Our organization was on the brink of failure just a year ago, and the transformational processes of leaders and staff to impact culture, process, and management and engage staff, students, and leaders  have brought us to a significantly better state.  As Grand Canyon University (2012) suggests, “Although it is important to engage the stakeholder in any change that affects them, transformational change requires a major focus on and planning for a systemic engagement of the stakeholders to ensure its success” (par. 4). This is just the kind of change that is making our organization rise from the ashes today. 


Marina O'Connell, MAEd
Hope High School Guidance Counselor


Barlow, J. j., Keith, M. J., Wilson, D. W., Schuetzler, R. M., Lowry, P. B., Vance, A., & Giboney, J. S. (2011). Overview and Guidance on Agile Development in 

Large Organizations. Communications Of The Association For Information Systems, 2925-44. Retrieved from

Grand Canyon University. (2012). LDR-825 lecture 2: Preparing people for change (HTML document). Retrieved from

To learn more about Hope High School or see pictures of their event with the students, check out their Facebook page at

If you would like to get involved in helping your school to learn more about agile in the classroom, reach out to John Miller at or checkout his site at

To learn more about Blueprint Education and their approach to education, reach out at

To learn more about Scrum, click here.

To learn more about the values and principals of Agile, click here.

Mike Caspar

Passionate About Agile

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A major shift in decision making at a School System using Scrum

As regular readers know, you are aware that I have been volunteering to help out the folks at Blueprint Education and Hope High School to extend the support for agility in the classroom.

An exciting thing happened this week showing that Agile Values and Principles are starting to be absorbed into the culture

Through the beauty of Inspect and Adapt loops created by using Scrum (their chosen agile framework), the teachers and leadership realized a big change needed to take place with the curriculum.  

The folks at Blueprint let me know that traditionally the Principals and Leadership would decide what to do and pass that information down to the teachers.

A brave CEO told me in a call, "Mike, I said to them.. We keep talking about letting the people that are closest to the situation make decisions as being part of an agile mindset.  We need to do this stuff. Teachers all over the US complain about not being able to make decisions about how they educate their students. We believe the teachers know the students best. " (paraphrased)

Marmy Kodras, the COO (the leadership team Scrum Master), arranged a teacher Professional Development Day and the teachers were introduced to the problem and given facilitation to provide their own solutions.

The leadership would support the teachers's solutions instead if one dictated to them... A major shift from traditional thinking...

The teachers deciding on their own approach to changing the plan.
Image (c) Copyright Blueprint Education, 2015

I heard back later from the CEO late in the evening after this event.  His response... (with some private content removed).

"Marmy did a great job leading the group of teachers through exercises designed to discover the next phase of academic development. She then helped them prioritize their backlog and refine the top priority story. They even wrote it in proper story format.
 I say it was a great day."

The students are working to learn through the Agile Classrooms approach. Read more about Agile Classrooms here.  

The teachers, principals and executives are using Scrum as their framework of choice. The students are being introduced to agility through the Agile Classrooms approach. The two frameworks are very similar in nature.  

If you want to learn more about Blueprint Education and their sponsorship by Scrum Alliance, here's a link.

If you'd like to see a few more stories about the goings on at Blueprint and Hope, here is one more post you might be interested in...


Agile Classrooms -
Blueprint Education Agility -
Scrum -
Scrum Alliance -

Friday, November 6, 2015

The word "Because" as an impediment to change

Someone tried to start a conversation with me about this over at another social network well known for business communication and discussion.  For some reason, I can't leave him a reasonable response.

Therefore, I have decided to just repost the conversation here instead of fighting whatever changes took place.

Here's my post...

An interesting discussion today where the damage caused by the word "Because" became brutally evident as an impediment to change. Wow. Cool insight.
Followed by a question from Paul J. Heidema....
Mike - this is interesting. Can you tell us more about how this word caused damage?

I tried send an appropriate response via the social network and gave up.. So, for those of you that are interested, here's the response.. 


Thanks for asking.

I was asked to help out where teams were told at the beginning of a transformation to be challenging and come up with new ideas for existing problems.

After several visits and observation, I found every team deciding during retrospectives that their ideas were no good "Because'... and a current rule would be provided.

At the beginning of the transformation, little attention was given to leadership communication. Early on, team members would come up with ideas, and they would instantly be told "We can't do this Because of.."

The new prevailing culture is one where smart people are killing their ideas almost instantly before they see the light of day for fear of just being shot down for non-compliance to current rules.

In essence, the desire to attempt to make changes had been removed, rendering the change frozen in the current space in time.

We are working to change the conversation to.. "We can't currently do this, but if we change something here, we can make progress toward leadership's vision". 

There has already been some positive feedback in only a few days.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A personal reflection about coaching from Paul J. Heidema

Are interested in getting a little insight into the mindset of a coach?

A very friendly, objective reflection from Paul J.Heidema about coaching...

A quote from the article...
"Coaching is a profound experience and a wonderful journey"

Wow. I completely agree!

Thank you Paul for the friendly post.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have a problem with an Elephant in the room?

There is a vast amount of material on the internet about the importance of Leadership participation in support of Scrum Teams.

Every once in a while I am reminded ...

"Bert and Ernie: Let me tell you a secret"
by See-Ming-Lee

It's not all about leadership stepping up to the plate. 

Team members have responsibilities as well.

Have an elephant in the room (a secret no one is willing to talk about) ....

Consider the Scrum Values ... Here's a link...

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


Photo courtesy of See-Ming-Lee via a Creative Commons attribution license.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Emoji Language and Comic Visual Language

I have a passion for learning about communication between people.

As many of you know, only a portion of communication between us can be achieved in the written or spoken word. 

Any idea that can enhance written communication is always worth learning about.

I recently came across a fascinating article about emoji. The author states... 
"I believe that emoji are still very useful for enhancing and enriching the text of our contemporary digital conversations and interactions, injecting a note of humour, affection or even melancholy into the most concise message." 
The author goes on to describe the Visual Language of Comics. I had never considered emoji or the Visual Language of Comics to be anything other than fun, but taking this view as an improvement to communication is fascinating. 

By example, a word in English might mean something to the writer but interpreted to mean something else by someone with an origin in a different language.

It is fascinating to me is that although the author feels the Visual Language of Comics is more powerful, there seems to be a natural evolution taking place with the emoji language and it already has the ability to improve written communication for everyone with a computer today.

Perhaps the power of emoji is the ability to have a written language combined with visual representation as a method of cross-check of intent. If the visual representation matches what I have assumed to be the message, my understanding is correct. 

As much as I enjoy comics, I know I'm a terrible artist. For me at least, this would be the reason I couldn't conceivably use Comic Language to communicate.

However, if I took emoji seriously, I think it could work.

Here, I'll give it a try...

The fact that I even call it a language, already blows me away.

Here is the original article for your reference....


Friday, October 9, 2015

This message made my weekend.

I received this today from the Principal at Hope High School where I've been volunteering as a coach.

Here is the message from the Principal. (the Scrum Product Owner ;->)....
Today is our retro, Edwin is so excited about trying a new way that he found. He was busy last night in his classroom drawing diagrams and pics with his new fat markers. When I walked in and saw him preparing I said "well well Mr. Caspar, what do we have here?" He is really doing a fine job!

Edwin is a High School Teacher who organically became the Scrum Master for the team of Teachers at the high school. A post about Edwin at the start of his journey a few weeks ago can be found HERE.

Hope High School is part of Blueprint Education where they are working to bring Agile values and principals into the classroom to allow students to learn 21st century skills. This journey started for them through the introduction of Agile Classrooms.

They are also proud to be sponsored by the Scrum Alliance.

I am so happy to hear such positive news from the school and that things are taking off there for them in more than just the classroom.

Generating Insights
... from Edwin's Retrospective.
(c) Copyright Blueprint Education, 2015
Used with permission.

I understand the students started their own team to help the community. I'm so happy that students have the space to try something so awesome for themselves.

Now.... off to enjoy my weekend :->

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


Hope High School (facebook page)
Scrum Alliance and Blueprint
Agile Classrooms

Are you looking for more info for your own school, district or classroom, contact John Miller at .. or of course, feel free to reach out to me.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scrum Master Service to the Organization

Many people know that the Scrum Master role involves removing impediments, coaching teams and being the team's voice for Scrum.

From the Scrum Guide.....
Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner 
The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including: 
  • Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
  • Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Understanding product planning in an empirical environment;
  • Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value;
  • Understanding and practicing agility; and, 
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.
Scrum Master Service to the Development Team
The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:
  • Coaching the Development Team in self-organization and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Development Team to create high-value products;
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.

An often overlooked part of the importance
of a Scrum Master is ....
Scrum Master Service to the Organization
The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including: 
  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development;
  • Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,
  • Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization.

Considering Service to the Organization, ask yourself....
  • Does my organization know this as a part of the Scrum Master's suggested skill-set?
  • What exists in my organization to help existing Scrum Masters get better at organizational coaching?
  • Does my organization allow the room for Scrum Masters to work with other Scrum Masters?
  • What would it take for all the Scrum Masters in my organization to provide this necessary part of the role within my organization?

Failure to recognize Service to the Organization as part of the Scrum Master role can significantly diminish the effectiveness of a Scrum Master in your organization.

A thought....

What will you do to help grow this role to it's full potential where you work?

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


The Scrum Guide and the three duplicated sections are ©2014 Scrum.Org and ScrumInc. Offered for license under the Attribution Share-Alike license of Creative Commons, accessible at and also described in summary form at

Monday, September 21, 2015

Similarities between Agile Coaching and Flight Instruction

I love this video. Someone I know sent it to me last week. I have seen it before.  It's not my student but is a great representation of why I love to coach. 

The first solo is a big deal (first time without an instructor in the plane).

Some moments I noticed....

1 – When she puts the microphone away to catch her breath when she is airborne (realizing she's made it safely).

2 – When she looks over to see her instructor only to discover what’s happening is REAL.

3 – The HUGE smile after that.

4 – Holding her breath when she starts her descent.

5 – The HUGE smile when she realizes she landed it safely.

The first solo is a big deal...

To me, coaching is about building confidence. It's about finding ways to help people overcome their personal (or business) hurdles and then enjoying that amazing feeling they get when they've made it to their next level. 

Ultimately, when someone has overcome their fears and has the confidence to move forward, the only way to have it really stick for them is to take the leap themselves. They can't be pushed. 

You can "nudge in an encouraging way" or help them overcome fears. However, ultimately they have to take the final step themselves. 

You simply cannot force a first solo to happen. 

Agile Coaching isn't about creating change yourself. It needs to be about helping others to find the courage to make their own changes with your help and support.

I took this while working with a 747  Captain
 getting ready for their first solo water landing.
Getting someone to overcome their fears to achieve their first solo is no different than working with an executive to fundamentally change their organization or a group of people to learn to work as a team.

It takes courage, trust and self-awareness. The job of the coach isn't to be their friend, but to help them reach their goals and objectives.  

Most importantly.... It takes a coach who's joy is watching someone else feel this excited about themselves or their company.

Wow… Very emotional video for me!

Isn't coaching amazing :->

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile