Sunday, February 10, 2013

Agile drawing

This time, a personal story.

a few months back, I started a group whose goal is to learn creativity through drawing. (I don't tell them that, I tell them it is to learn drawing through creativity :)

After some sessions, I want to share some observations and thought I had thus far, I'll share just facts, any connection to Scrum/ Agile is purely coincidental.

(BTW - For some details on the group itself, see here )

Creating & maintaining the group

  • When I created the group, I didn't know what to expect, I had some vision but didn't know if I can manage a team, who will show up, if I have the authority and knowledge to pass my vision on, etc. the only thing I was certain of is that I adored my old teacher and his ways, and I want to pass what I learned on (since life taught me teaching is the best way to learn...).
  • I've set a location, a date, wrote a draft for the agenda, and (as they say here) Voila.
  • Once started, it just worked. we set up a regular rhythm (weekly Sundays), a regular duration (3.5 hours) and the team's life is formed.
  • My preparation before a meeting consists currently of writing a loose agenda, deciding on the location, and arriving on time.
  • The team's goal was not really clear for me at the beginning, nor were my motives, they are becoming clearer (and changing) from session to session.
  • My role in the team is mainly to mediate, I spend considerable attention every meeting with newcomers, but after one of two sessions people are independent, even though each meeting has new exercises and challenges.
  • During the meeting, I seldom draw. the main thing I do is watch the team members to detect whether they are bored, confused/ threatened or challenged/engulfed, and try to see what (if anything) I do with the first two, and how I stay the heck out of the third one.
Session structure
  • Planning: every session has a place (a free museum in Paris, since it is warm and free, and there is always something to draw) and a theme (lines, textures, etc.), which is published and discussed with the members when we start.
  • Drawing: People just draw, within (or without) the themes defined, some alone, some in groups, they peek a bit at each other's work, discuss, and encouraged to mainly produce a lot and not be afraid of failure. One rule I strongly insist on (mainly with beginners) is that no erasers are allowed. 
  • Demo: This is THE fun part, we find a corner in the museum, sit in a circle, and show and discuss the group's work, hence - everyone takes all the stuff the person to the left did, and picks up to two works that he likes or is intrigued by, and than shows them to the group, explains what he likes and lets the others say what they think.
    • My role is to make sure everyone sees the drawings, everyone can hear what the person is saying, and that the speaker talks to everyone.
    • People select and talk about other people's drawings because most people feel they draw much worst than the rest :) .
    • When people discuss someone else's work, they really look, they don't just say "I like it", but stuff like "I like how the movement start from here..." or "The horse looks like it is scared" 
    • The people who made the drawing are often amazed about what other people say about their work, not only that someone likes it, but why. what others see. that their work is viewed seriously, and they look at the discussed drawing differently after it was discussed. (I see this as the biggest gift people receive and get during the whole session)
    • I sometimes ask someone (who is too quiet:) to say what he thinks, most of the time (s)he has interesting insight.
    • If there is time left, everyone gets to pick one work he did that was no chosen, show it and say what he thinks on it, people are encouraged to show works they are unsure about.
  • Retrospective: people talk a bit about their experience, was it too hard, too easy, what did they learn, if someone did an exercise that may interest the group, I ask them to explain what it was, ask people what they thought of the place, the structure, and if anyone wants to discuss or ask the group anything. 
  • Celebration: go to a cafĂ© and have hot chocolate.
Some particular points I wanted to mention:
  • Pair programming: At today's session I tried to pair two people, and have them switch drawings mid-way, starting with two more experienced members, and when it worked invited more members, conclusions:
    • Had this idea for some time, but was afraid to do it since I though people would like to hold on to what they did, or feel uncomfortable when they 'ruin' someone else's work.
    • Actually, worked great!, people laughed, were happy to have the right to mess with someone else's work, and said they learned a lot both by letting go, and by seeing how the other person adds qualities they didn't.
  • Inventions: people invent their own games, drawing on top of an existing drawing, switching medium, etc.
  • Participation: the group is open, and anyone can join. some people register and don't show up, some show up but don't step up (don't play the game..), I try to focus on the rest.
  • Watching: not all participants have the same visibility, I ask myself who is less visible and try to pay them more attention.
  • Freedom: the main feedback from members is that the group frees them, that it is a place with no judgement. where anything is allowed. 
  • Challenge to step up: today I invited someone in the group to take my role next time, and she accepted! I am curious what will happen next, how much will I be able to let go?
To get the answer to the last question, you'd have to wait for next time!

Hope you found the relevance to Scrum and Agility, 
BTW - I just counted, this blog contains more than 30 times the word 'I', I know, it is my blog ;)

Till nextime!

The Scrum'em Bear.

Oh, and for the hebrew readers among you, forget everything I write and read this post from my absolutely favorute blogger


  1. I have only attended one of the workshops and it was a great experience. When no other important events happen at the same time I will surely go and try more exercises.

    It is a very interesting exercise to use an agile framework to drive creativity in a group.

  2. I so so so wish I could come participate in your group. :) This sounds fantastic and you sound like the perfect group leader, knowing when to be hands-off and when to encourage/poke people to do challenge themselves!

    How does the group compare to Edith's as far as who shows up regularly? Is it a mix of regulars and newcomers, or is it usually more newcomers than regulars (or vice versa)?

  3. Adrian, you know the evolution of scrum teams, you've been only at the first iteration! this is from the seventh.
    Our first real delivery is at the tenth.

    Lisa, lately I limit the newcomers size to 5, it is great to have newcomers, but I want a group that is solid enough to accept them.

    1. Cool, I never even thought of doing that. Good idea. So excited to see how your group evolves :) -- I'll keep following of course!

    2. Teams are all about commitment. And I haven't committed more because I have had other events I prefer to attend at the same time.
      The group is very active. 7 iterations already!
      I will go back just not in the following ones ;-)

      Since openness/transparency is another value:
      This weekend I am going skiing. Next weekend to Barcelona. The next event I could go to you have a restriction I don't pass (having gone to more than two events)

      Maybe in March/April.

  4. Adrian, retrospective is about examining miscommunication.
    - I consider you as a committed member, has nothing to to with your availability.
    And you know you are always welcome!

  5. I think you have a unique style both in drawing and in leading the group.
    Drawing with you and the group makes me feel alive and hungry for more. Every time I rediscover myself, and I learn about the imperfections or art and life.....
    I couldn't be more grateful for what you created: a form of human art, people inspired by people creating together and letting go. I am honored to be a part of it. THANK YOU.