Strategy is a Science

Remember back in grade school when we learned about the the scientific method? The scientific method is a proven, step-by-step technique for discovery and validation. It uses questions and experiments to help us solve problems. It ...

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CAL 2: Shift Your Leadership

You only have 1 month left to register for our once-a-year CAL 2 Program.This intensive practice-oriented 11-month program kicks off on March 11. Practice@Work We practice each CAL 1 Topic in depth through this 11-month program, from ...

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Holiday Catalyst Conversations

Relaxed Climate? In our popular Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) 1 Workshop, we play a game in which participants identify the values of various culture types. One value that tends to find an interesting home is Relaxed Climate. In the ...

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More! Faster! Cheaper!

I bet you have been asked to either improve the productivity of your teams or justify your teams performance. How did you respond to that request? Did you hem and haw and talk about how hard they are working? Did you point to their ...

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Agile @ School

One of our community leaders, John Miller, has introduced agile in schools – increasing collaboration, self-direction and learning through team-based approaches.

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Leading through Complexity…

Over the past 100 years we have successfully engineered complicated outcomes – we put men on the moon, we successfully execute brain surgery, we construct 100+ story buildings, and we can travel across the globe without losing ...

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Sustained Impact

I received an email today from a client who was appreciative of the private Agile Leadership workshop we conducted back in June. He included a picture of one of the main hallways in their office, sporting all of the flip charts we ...

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Thank You Jana!

I would be remiss to exit this Thanksgiving weekend without one more Thank You! It takes a lot to run a company, even a small one like Trail Ridge. And while I am the face of this organization, and often get the bulk of the praise and ...

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Thank You!

Trail Ridge Consulting been in business for over 11 years (since August of 2005) with an unwavering mission – to help leaders improve business results through empowered high-performing teams focused on their customer’s ...

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Marginal Gains

In a recent Freakonomics podcast on “In praise of Incrementalism”, Stephen Dubner showcases how substantial change occurs incrementally over time, rather than big bang revolutions. He illustrates this through civil-rights ...

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Agile Leaders…

What do agile leaders do and how does this differ from traditional leadership? In one sense, you might consider agile leadership to be simply “good leadership” or “healthy leadership”. However, agile leadership ...

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Help Us Help Haiti

For the past 5 years, Trail Ridge Consulting has “adopted” Haiti as one of our key global outreach areas – as the country has continued to recover from the earthquake in 2010. Jana Zimmerman, our Outreach Catalyst at ...

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Leading Agile

Leading Agile: Laying the Foundation for Success

While Agile offers myriad benefits to an organization, the fact is: adoption and subsequent success of software development projects across the board could be better long-term. Why, when we have a system that has proven to work for countless organizations in various verticals, do initiatives still fail, or else the whole Agile endeavor peters out after a few months or years?

While there are many reasons why Agile approaches can fail, inadequate Agile leadership can be a large contributing factor. Note that it’s not necessarily inadequate leadership, because you can have the most stellar executive leader, but if she doesn’t know how to lead and support an Agile team, she can put it at great disadvantage.

Why Coaches and Consultants Can’t Save Your Organization 

Organizations spend millions on Agile coaches and consultants, then point the finger when, a few months down the road, the “whole Agile thing” has gone off the rails. Is it really the fault of these Agile professionals?

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Doing vs. Being Agile

Doing vs. Being Agile

While there’s a whole slew of barriers to successful Agile adoption, I think most of them boil down to one major one: is the team doing Agile or being Agile?


Seems a subtle difference, but there are miles between the two. I can’t tell you how many organizations I know of (including some I’ve worked with) who, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish Agile processes through training and coaching, have abandoned Agile completely for more familiar territory just a few months or years later.


Here are some of the quintessential differences between doing and being Agile. Maybe defining the two will help other organizations not fall victim to the same fate.

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Life is the Art of Drawing Without an Eraser

 "Life is the Art of Drawing without an Eraser."

I saw this quote one morning as I entered my local gym. There is a guy at my gym that posts inspirational quotes each day; this one struck me. It reminds me of Yoda’s wise words about the commitment life takes to move forward.

“Do or do not...there is no try”

Time does not provide an “undo.” Everything we do is done. It is recorded, in a sense, in time. And while we may “undo” by erasing or going back, that is also done in time.

Yoda’s message to “do or do not” is thinking about life without an eraser. Everything I “DO” is done. Everything I “DO NOT” is not done. There is no in between. If we “TRY” we are actually “DOING” something.

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Agile Fitness Assessment? NO!

I recently received an Agile Project Fit Assessment Scorecard from one of my clients divisions (client to remain nameless).

While I have nothing against evaluation criteria for which one might determine if an Agile approach is appropriate for them, this particular tool is so far removed from common understanding, experience and practice, I feel like I need to share it and help others learn from it as well. 

This particular tool, I have to believe, was created from significant Agile project failure based on ill-formed Agile practices. If not, I am even more concerned because that means the education of what Agile is, why it's necessary, and how to properly apply it is completely missing in many organizations.

OK. Enough lead up, let's get to the tool and dive in...

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Book Review: The Coach’s Casebook

This article describes my own surprising relationship and discovery from reading The Coach's Casebook by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have...

As an Agile coach for the past 10 years, and one that has taken on the responsibility for defining, measuring and certifying other Agile coaches through the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) Program for the Scrum Alliance, the question of what an Agile coach is and how do they differ from other coaches, consultants, ScrumMasters, and organizational leaders comes up frequently. 

While a classic dictionary definition of "coaching" is training someone learning or improving a specific skill, a more modern definition in an organizational perspective from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Looking at delta between two definitions, one can see a vast potential and pitfall. A potential in the opportunities abounding Agile coaches in the variety of services and focus they could provide. A pitfall of slippery slope on either side of this divide.

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The Nineteenth Century Agile Leader by Mary Parker Follett

Mary Parker Follett, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholar, was a century ahead of her time in terms of organizational understanding, development and leadership. I came upon her work thanks to the insight by my friend and colleague Martin Kearns in reading a summary of her work through the book The Essential Mary Parker Follett by Françoi Héon, etal

If Mary were in today's leadership discussions, likely she would be a part of the agile community. Speaking on difference, conflict, unity, integration and more, Follett espouses post-heroic and agile leadership principles. One of the key mindset shifts of agile leadership is moving from a competitive thought process to a collaborative one, from "or" thinking to "and" thinking, to enable organizational possibility, creativity and innovation. Her deep dive into some key leadership qualities and characteristics is incredibly powerful, as an example on her focus on unity vs. uniformity...

“Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, nor absorbed.” pg. 31

Furthermore, her agile mindfulness is also adept, in this articulation of unity vs. unifying as a distinction of a final state vs. a state of being...

“The most important thing to remember about unity is that there is no such thing. There is only unifying. You cannot get unity and expect it to last a day or five minutes… [This is] neither of subordination nor of domination, but of each man learning to fit his work into that of every other in spirit of co-operation.” pg. 168

Her agile leadership wisdom continues...

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Leading/Coaching Agile Organizations Workshop – June 16-17, 2015

I am excited to share with you that we are running another Leading/Coaching Agile Organizations Workshop this year! Thanks to VersionOne for hosting this workshop, we are able to offer a limited capacity class this special, one-time offer.

This workshop is for anyone in an internal or external leadership position guiding growth in organizational agility.


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Travel Sprint (creative Scrum)

This story was send to me from one of my creative clients. I thought it fun to share...

Our services Integration system team needed to conduct a short Sprint when our flight was cancelled from Columbus Ohio to Albany ...


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How to complement Scrum?

What practices can development teams use with Scrum to be more effective? posed this question to a number of agile guides, including our own Pete Behrens. See how they address this question… (Source Youtube)

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#1 Agile Principle

What is the number one principle of agile? posed this question to a number of agile guides, including our own Pete Behrens. See how they address this question… (Source Youtube)

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Webinar: Agile Leadership for the Enterprise

Webinar: Agile Leadership for the Enterprise
October 8, 2013
Pete Behrens

This talk was hosted by VersionOne and moderated by David Rubinstein of SD Times Magazine. It focuses on the current state of agility, why many companies are struggling to adopt agile, 3 companies who are thriving on agility, and the agile leadership approach needed to do so.

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Stop DOING Scrum – BE agile

May 2013 @ Mile High Agile 2013, Denver, CO

Too many organizations are following the Scrum framework AND fail to learn, grow and achieve their desired results. Many continuously thrash by tweaking Scrum or their organization but rarely see significant positive impact or change. Others may achieve pilot success only to stagnate trying to replicate that success at the enterprise level. To achieve and sustain organizational agility, a completely different approach must be taken – it must be LED from the inside-out.

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Culture Model: Schneider to the Competing Values Framework

If you are reading this blog, you are likely aware of my focus on organizational culture and agile adoption. Over the past 5 years, I have been leveraging William Schneider's culture model as introduced and researched for the book "The Reengineering Alternative". In 2012, I was introduced to similar cultural model - The Competing Values Framework, and during the last 6 months, I have been in the process of converting all of my cultural assessment, teaching and coaching from William Schneider's culture model to the Competing Values Framework (CVF). 


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Culture: #1 Barrier to Agile Adoption

VersionOne has released their most recent state of agile survey. And while there are a number of revealing indicators of the growth and expansion of agility within the enterprise, the one that remains troubling is the difficulty of adoption in many deeply established organizations. Looking at the barriers to adoption, the top items include a lack of ability to change the organizational culture, general resistance to change, trying to fit agile into a non-agile framework and management support. Why is culture so hard?

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