Hummingbirds, Transforming Agent Detector: translated from Sweet rupture Ed 3

Mis en avant

Sweet Rupture Season 3 finally the official release!

The third season of Sweet Rupture « Free Agility » is officially released since 2015 January 19th. This collective work orchestrated by Laurent Sarrazin includes stories of many « agile frogs » the number of which I have had the pleasure to be.

Rupture-Douce-S03.jpgThis year, the frogs have mutated. Wings grew to release their agility, no longer confined to the IT department. This is now spread across the enterprise. So this book is an invitation to everyone to discover agility. As an expert witness and actor, I have enjoyed  living this history from inside. The result is more than 400 pages of passionate stories, engaged and sometimes sirprising by so many new approaches to discover agility.

The work was not easy, but we’re proud to share it with you. We have benefited from an awesome proofreaders team.

Best of all, Isaac Getz (« Freedom Inc. ») introduce this book supporting our ambition not to confine agility to ISDs, but to open up to the world.

For my part, you will find a story written with Fabien Bataille titled »Colibri:  Change Agent detector ». I urge you to discover!
The book is available in hard copy or single collector in color, and in electronic form here:


Hummingbirds, Transforming Agent Detector


It seems that since several that months, every full moon, frogs metamorphose into Hummingbirds. According to Native American legend, during a huge fire, only a brave Hummingbird dutifully poured water with its beak to extinguish the fire. Our Hummingbirds know that every time there is a fire in their business, the firefighters extinguished with a lot of job protection plan. Each time, the living space is depleted and the company, as a non-maintained forest catches fire even faster.

By bringing into the game their passions and hidden talents, Hummingbirds self-organize whatever their formal function in the company is. Very soon this network is recognized and encouraged by few precursors leaders aware of damage created by command and control. They know the importance of leaving the doers decide how to do things.


This story is an invitation to HR, trainers, managers, employees, agitators …  in short all those wishing to contribute to free their business. Sometimes the desire to work differently is there, but concealed by the fact that everyone thinks he is alone and so can do nothing. The story below is the result of two people bet: One that allows the game to initiate a transformation « business how » into « a business why. » You’ll know at the end of this reading how to reproduce the same experience in your business.

Thereafter, we will call Hummingbirds all actors of that experience.

Yves, how were born Hummingbirds?

The company where this story is taking place is a knowledge worker company that based its power on developing and following detailed plans. All the actors (executive, management and employees) agree it must be in tune to fit the twenty-first century and  improve responsiveness as pursue innovation and ensure its long term survival.

This production system is segmented into product lines, each divided into marketing, research, development, deployment and support. There are of course supporting functions such as Purchasing, Human Relations, Support or ITWe will have many representatives of these functions in our Hummingbirds session.

Each department has its strong leader, superpower manager. He ultimately makes rain or shine while top level only power results in workforce adjustments based on strategic importance.   It is hard in that context from Top leaders to make sustainable choices that are reflected in day to day reality of work.

Agility is present here and there. Each department decided how he was going to work. Some few visionaries have set up agility under their perimeter up to five to seven hundred people (Our biggest known success so far). These departments often deliver  « functional iterations » to customers, keeping in sight with a medium or long term product vision. There teams have the opportunity to lead technical choices, at least in equal footing with architectural features, expert profession, etc.

When great leader is « dumped« 

The problem happens when a single product is mobilizing a system of several thousand people, eight countries, twelve different sites, thirteen time zones without counting the different business cultures. This goes far beyond a local leader as strong as it is to impose a way of working.

The principle of organization that has proven itself in the twentieth century is to centralize decisions and enforce them to the bottom of the pyramid. Unfortunately this results in an addition of top down constraints, measures, controls, and hidden resitance. Obviously, these checks are introducing bottlenecks and delays start to accumulate. The lack of confidence also induced a complete loss of motivation which improves nothing.

Locally, each autonomous organization addresses these constraints by refocusing on its objectives. The dialogue between departments disappear as it becomes secondary.

In that context,  Fabien and I are looking for a way to create the connection between these entities. We first tried to animate communities of practice which consist of bringing together people of different projects on themes to improve a particular practice. Despite our efforts, no one here takes time to come. Why learning new practices while everything seems imposed from above ? after all It sounds as waste one’s time while everyone is under pressure to deliver in conformance with top down orders?
Our readings and meetings with people as Laurent Sarrazin put us on the track of using games techniques to create the link. A month later, we were proving the validity of our hypothesis by a first gamified session (and the name Hummingbirds has been chosen by those first participants ). This helped fill a room of about fifteen women and men passionated who obviously wanted things to change.


We just create without any expectation a Transformation Agent detector inside the company

Fabien, what was the first meeting?

We were in February 2014.  Shortly before the first session, Yves took his walking stick and went one to one to meet the canvass of his company’s knowledge and asked them to run workshops on the theme of the game.

The posters announcing a presentation and workshop on « gamification », are strategically placed near the coffee machines. In addition emails to viral dissemination (all recipients were asked to forward the invitation to their colleagues) guarantee sandwiches or pizza the first record (the session taking place at lunchtime).

This first session drains twenty people. Subsequently the spectators become actors of the next session and so on, the movement is started, it will not even be necessary to offer the meal.


How does a typical hummingbird session ?

Noon, Hummingbirds gently aggregate in a large room. Tables, footstools and furnitures are arranged randomly. In business, we all have a role and some objectives. To change roles, change surrounding.


Le Creativ’Lab – Crédit : Arnaud Le Cat / Ioana Ocnarescu

Already, one of the facilitators starts to set the pace by asking to make strange gestures, such as launching balls of wool, asking weird questions or to throw balls of colors but invisible! This host Hummingbird is the guard and catalyst of energy.
Twenty past noon: After this warmup, four Hummingbirds are ready to present each one thing that fascinates them. Regarding these activities, there are very few rules: the subject and form are free. Only applies the rules of the site: here everything that is not forbidden is allowed. Fabien and I fix a single constraint: each presentation is done in a time box: These animations take place in parallel, Hummingbirds groups remain standing, and every ten minutes, sounded the gong, and they must quickly choose a different stand.

Long live Legos ®

One PM, Hummingbirds has attended all the workshops. We turn the tables, viewers return what they get of the show in a Lego® construction for each animation.  This process inspired by the « Product Vision Box » allows a playful and natural return.

Quarter past one : Hummingbirds end the session with a retrospective: We look at what worked well, what could be improved. Here, this retrospective is like the rest optional. But no one would leave without giving a spontaneous feedback or to be volunteer to prepare the next session: Each brings his idea and rules for the next session are decided.

An example of change decided in a retrospective: slide shows are banned forcing organizers to be more creative. This provides more rhythm, spontaneity and fluidity in presentations: No over time to set PC to play slides, no anymore passive spectators sprawled on the seats, etc ..

Hummingbirds are time masters. Who are these clown who play while we have so much work to do for the paying customer ? The use of lunch time lets not waste time. For planning, such as ancient farmers, Hummingbirds follow a lunar rhythm. It just removes the school holiday periods. This repetition allows a reassuring routine.

What’s next after Hummingbird?

Networking has already helped to bridge communication gap between providers and their internal customer.  We have less of : « Those tools guys do not even know what we really need, » or « Those people does not know how to work. »

Hummingbird allows everyone to realize that whatever their level in the company, he has something to learn from others as a spectator but also to teach others, as well as learn of oneself when one becomes leader. From passive, one could becomes actor .

Hummingbird, spontaneously created and maintained by employees without distinction of rank, jealously guards its independence. It naturally play along with other liberating initiatives, such as the Fab’Lab. A Fab’Lab is for a company to provide means (a room, equipment and some technical advice) to build objects or projects without any constraint. The « doers » in Fab’Lab as in Hummingbird are entirely voluntary.

Hummingbird is unwilling to count « participants » but to swarm: in six months, some initiatives have already been initiated at a hummingbird sitting: a workshop on the « The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People« , a workshop to discuss methods of creativity, and a workshop to discuss science fiction and try to imagine the products of tomorrow.

By the way things are going, and by seeing the pollinating effect this initiative, we hope to have sufficiently visionary leaders to fully adhere to the principles practiced by the Hummingbirds:

Hummingbirds, what principles?

Eric Ries in his book « Lean Startup » explains that a principle not validated in practice, ie through experimentation, is literally a LEAP OF FAITH.

Here are our Hummingbird LEAP OF FAITH :

Fisrt Principle : Learning through play

A trainer writes: « my Training background » made me see Hummingbird in terms of learning, I saw the opportunity to sharpen my ability to briefly introduce a subject facing benevolent listeners«  .

The basic rules of the Hummingbird, its rhythm, Feedback by Lego® are all inspired by playing techniques.

The game makes a person repeating something that she would not make again otherwise. A good game makes its players reaching a higher level when all the basics from previous layer is mastered.

This interest in the use of games mechanisms to achieve serious results us was inspired by a presentation of gamification, in French: « ludification« .

These innocuous technical abound on the web. For example, Linkedin or its competitor, Viadeo offer discrete gauges of progress, competence grading  and other skills scores or grades. All this encourages us to fill their database with information that we would otherwise probably not put there.


Let’Go for upper level principle:

2nd Principle: Self-organization rather than centralized control

Why self organization ?

Let’s see where is the self-organization in « The New New Product Development Game » 11. This article on best practices in the industry was published in « Harvard Busines Review ‘in the late 80s by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Nonaka Ikujiro. It is the first to describe Scrum by analogy with rugby team that gangs up on the adversarial team . They co-decide together (what we call a holistic approach) tactics to win.

A rugby team on the field is self-organized, as is an Agile team. It forms a relatively stable clan and tactics can far exceed, the sheer force added of each of its members.

3rd Principle: The opening rather than the local optimization

The scrum allow the group to be more efficient by being able to adapt in real time to the current situation. In the field it operates in isolation . Creating many natural (i.e natural dialog) links and bridges between group is mandatory to avoid Silo effect.

This openness is essential to go from Agility Team to Corporate Agility. Scrum are like living Cells: Cells are both autonomous and interacting with other cells in a natural way so that the full body is both resilient to micro and macro adversity. This is the spinal cord of the company enabling the organization to have good reflexes without being slowed down by the over centralization. The goal is then to make the all more effective rather its subparts.

One example of that book is Favi company.  It boss Jean François Zobrist, also handyman, compare the time it would have taken to repair a lawnmower in his own business, compared to the time he spent once at home. His conclusion is an obvious chronical structural inefficiencies his company had. He, therefore consistently removed all « How » guidelines to allow everyone to just focus on customer satisfaction.

Some time later, a Christine  a housekeeper took full initiative to seek a major customer hung out at the airport. She was the only one available, so she took the keys of a company car without any form of permission and made the 300 km that separates Favi from Airport.

In most companies the real question would be how many rules Christine should disobey to satisfy the customer. What would be work instruction for traveling? who should she contact to get approval ? Where to find car key ? Is there any risk we exceed the annual budget? Is there any insurance for housekeeper to take the car? At Favi is different:

What matters in a « freedom Incorporation » is « WHY » we do something: Christine even if this is nort part of her usual mission honors a « moral » obligation for here company , to delight the client15.


It is sometimes difficult to explain inside the company’s what is exactly Colibri’s target. Is it about demonstrating the strength of « gamification« , those of Agile principles, Lean, or freedom Inc. ?

One participant found an answer: The key is to build from a group of people an effective team who is efficient to reach motivating enough goals, with only condition to have the freedom to reach it and it actually happened.

According to the philosopher Michel Serres, Human beings start eventuating its skeleton qualities (sharpened flint tools, levers, etc.) then its muscle strength and thermal system (engines), and finally its nervous system (computer, network, digital) 16.

We think that In this world that evolves in complexity to the speed of the digital revolution, having a unifying vision that suits the market at the right time is only useful if this vision is achievable quickly. Building first on self-organized and open groups, radically remove bureaucratic brakes will make the best teams and the best companies.

Whether you’re a business owner, manager wanting to change or « doer », we encourage you to start a liberating initiative to your level, a Hummingbirds bringing a little happiness and freedom in her mouth.

Share your experiments on the twitter hummingbird account 17

Mini Bio

Fabien and Yves felt in the potion Agile and benefits of self-organization a few years ago. We are also fans of Sweet rupture Season 01 and 02.

We are Fish and Fishing Rods supplies: With Hummingbird, we animated games (giving fish) before facilitating sessions (providing fishing rods). But now Hummingbirds are the real Game masters. They constantly invent. We are facilitators us when our availability allows.

Fabien is a former Bell Labsresearcher training software engineer, he discovered agility and Lean in 2010. Since it is always looking for continuous improvement in all their forms. In addition to his work at a large telecom equipment, he also teach Agile and Lean software project management to Master 2 students at the University Paris Descartes. In his spare time he helps the group « agile translators »
18 translating into French books and articles dealing with the agility to help their dissemination. Follow him on twitter19 or throught his blog20.

Yves started as field support engineer, followed by a twenty year of product development, project and team leadership before devoting himself full time to the agile transformation where he met Fabien. His specialty is the agility very large scale, ie an Agility Lean cocktail and Product Development Flow21 . Yves left Hummingbirds birth of business but the idea remains. During his free time, Yves discovers the world with family or playing drums with his band Little Nemo.22  You can visit his blog here 23

1 Frogs are here people with Agile sensitivity. Indeed what could be more agile than a frog

2 This legend was popularized by Pierre Rabhi when creating the Movement of Hummingbirds ( Colibri is the french name for Hummingbird) Although we have a slightly different purpose, we concur on many topics.

3 Liberté & Cie : french version of Brian M. Carney Isaac Getz. available in English

4 This is a portion of executable code that the client is to have his book back. View Scrum Guide for details

7 In Agile Scrum methodology, the development team meets regularly to discuss the work, what worked well and what should be improved. View Scrum Guide for details

10 and Eric Ries books « The Lean Startup »

13Liberté & Cie : french version of Brian M. Carney Isaac Getz. available in English

15 Voir Kata 2 du chapitre problème et solution « COMMENT» vs « POURQUOI»

16Petite Poussette. Michel Serre.

21 Donald Reinertsen Principles of Product Development Flow