leanpizza.net - tasty Agile… one slice at a time – by Olivier Lafontan

Card Decks for Agile Transitions


I have put some of my knowledge and that of others into a little tool that I really believe can help people conduct Agile Transitions out there. The tool stems from issues and successes I have had when conducting Agile Enablements, and recent results in trying the tool in situ.

The premise is that an Agile Transition is indeed a form of change within an organisation – nothing new here – and that we should pay at least as much attention to how we conduct the change as to what the change itself actually is.

What is it?

John Kotter comes with a model of change management which I have found inspiring, and that might inspire others too. He has written a number of books on the subjects, which in essence explain his 8 Step Change model in various formats and depth.  When considering the introduction of Agile within an organisation, one might consider using the overall Kotter Change Management framework.

In this model, one first tries to identify the Problem or Opportunity they are trying to tackle and create a Sense of Urgency for it. Agile might presents itself as a solution later, the solution might be something entirely different. Kotter’s model allows to track that – from an organisation change management point if view – the new approach will be introduced with the best chances if success. In order to do this, he proposes the following 8 steps for introducing change within an organisation:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision and strategy
  4. Communicate the change vision
  5. Empower broad based action
  6. Generate short term wins
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. Anchor new approaches in culture

As already mentioned, this model works for any type of change, in our case, we are talking about changes that want to introduce Agile within a company. Introducing Agile in itself will also come with some challenges, and the introduction of certain practices, their monitoring, the effort put on coaching, will also require their own form of planning, execution, tracking and learning.

So what is this tool then? Well, it comes in the form of decks of cards. Each card in these decks represent an Acceptance Criteria for moving one notch closer to the desire behaviour or result. Why do I say decks? Because there are more than one of them, although using them in conjunction is effectively the tool I am proposing.


So far, I have done a deck for the Kotter change model itself and another deck for helping teams introduce Scrum. Someone who would want to see Scrum used within their organisation can use the Kotter deck for managing the change and use the Scrum deck for the introduction of Scrum with the team(s).

Status update: see at the bottom of the page for the latest info!!

What next…

On your side

For teams who want to Transition to Scrum

The first deck – the one inspired by Kotter’s work – is to be given to and used by whoever is driving or managing the change initiative. The second deck needs to be given to the actual teams who are trying to introduce Scrum. To make it absolutely clear, if you have 1 team trying to do Scrum, print the Scrum deck once and give it to them. If you have say 3 teams, print 3 copies and give one deck to each team for them to use.

  • Look at each card as an acceptance criteria, and check if you are passing of failing the particular test it describes. If you do fail a test, the next conversation for the team is to find the best solution to pass the test. It is in some ways a Test Driven approach to change management and Agile Transition. More info on this in the User Guides.
  • Then PLEASE! send me some feedback on how the tool works for you, what works wells, doesn’t work so well, what you would do differently, pictures of your information radiators, basically anything that can help me get to the next version of this tool.

On my side

I also have a little backlog of things I need to do around this tool to make it easier to grab and use from day 1.

  • User manual | status:
    • English version for Kotter Change Model DONE
    • French version for Kotter Change Model DONE
  • XP deck | status: TO BE DONE
  • Scrum / XP hybrid | status: TO BE DONE
  • Translate each deck into French | status:
    • Scrum: DONE

If there is anything else you think is missing from the above list, please let me know and I can had it to the backlog.

To conclude

It works for me, I hope it can help you too.


Latest Update

These decks can now be created and used inside www.pickadeck.com, an app I have recently released. It uses a Casino metaphor, where people come to play card games. Each table can host one set of players and one type of game, which allows people to really focus on the game at hand: the SCRUM TRANSITION game is offered by default, other games can be created inside the app.

For more info or to create your own casino and experiment, go to pickadeck, and make change a game 🙂


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  1. J’ai vu votre conférence, très intéressant comme idée. Toutefois, en l’absence de méthode pour l’appliquer elle est difficile à comprendre avec simplement le jeu de carte. Avez vous prévu de présenter un peu plus précisément votre méthode ?

    Comment by yannick — June 8, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
  2. Merci de votre feed-back Yannick!
    Oui j’ai en effet prévu de proposer une présentation plus détaillée des jeux de cartes et de leur usage; cela fait partie de mon backlog pour promouvoir cet outil.

    J’ai commencé a travailler sur cet aspect, je pense avoir une première version de documentation complémentaire d’ici la fin de la semaine prochaine.

    Dans le même temps, n’hésitez pas a me poser les questions particulières que vous pouvez avoir, cela me permettra:
    1 – de vous repondre de suite
    2 – de m’assurer que j’ai inclus cette réponse dans la documentation mentionnée ci-dessus.

    Comment by Oli — June 9, 2010 @ 11:01 pm
  3. Bonjour,

    Je n’ai pas pour l’instant de question, j’en aurais peut être à la lecture de la documentation. Mon objectif premier est d’essayer de mettre votre méthode en place dans le cadre de la migration d’une business unit vers les méthodes Agiles.

    Pour l’instant, le jeux de carte ne ce suffit pas à lui-même, dois-je étudier la méthode de John Kotter ?

    Yannick Quenec’hdu

    Comment by yannick — June 10, 2010 @ 12:47 pm
  4. Bonjour Yannick,
    Lire un ou deux bouquins de Kotter sera certainement un plus pour mieux apprécier et utiliser le premier jeux de cartes.

    Je n’ai trouver qu’un seul de ses livres traduit en français, il s’ agit de “alerte sur la banquise”, sur amazon.fr (http://www.amazon.fr/Alerte-sur-banquise-changement-conditions/dp/2744063487/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276335925&sr=1-1).

    Si l’anglais n’est pas un problème, je vous suggère en première lecture “leading change”, également sur amazon.fr (http://www.amazon.fr/Leading-Change-John-P-Kotter/dp/0875847471/ref=pd_sim_b_2).

    Je travaille toujours sur un guide utilisateur pour la fin de la semaine prochaine (en anglais).
    Une fois cela fait, je prévois de traduire les jeux de cartes et le guide utilisateur en français.

    Comment by Oli — June 12, 2010 @ 11:02 am
  5. Bonjour Yannick,

    Je viens de mettre de la doc disponible sur cette page, egalement disponible depuis la page Download Recipes (http://leanpizza.net/?page_id=43).

    C’est de la doc en Anglais dans un premier temps, j’espere que ca ne pose pas de probleme,

    Comment by Oli — June 19, 2010 @ 5:16 pm
  6. Bonjour Oli,

    Merci pour ton retour et ta réactivité ! je vais me jeter sur le document. En complément, pourrais je faire un article en français sur ta méthode ?


    Comment by Yannick — June 25, 2010 @ 7:42 pm
  7. Bonjour Yannick,
    J’espère que la doc va aider.
    Quand a un article, Avec, plaisir: tout ce qui peut générer du trafic est le bienvenu! 🙂 fait moi savoir quand tu publie, ça m’intéresse bien évidemment!
    Je travaille sur la doc pour le jeu de carte Scrum, bientôt fini egalement, elle devrait être en ligne milieu de la semaine prochaine.

    Comment by Oli — June 26, 2010 @ 8:48 am
  8. Salut oli,

    J’ai commencé la traduction en français de ton doc, je pense finir ce wk, je te l’adresse pour avis et validation.


    Comment by Yannick — June 26, 2010 @ 10:57 am
  9. This is an excellent post and may be one that can be followed up to see how things go

    A companion e-mailed this link the other day and I am excitedly anticipating your next article. Proceed on the exceptional work.

    Comment by Arnold Limauro — August 31, 2010 @ 11:32 am
  10. I saw your web site via google the other day and absolutely liked it so much. Keep up the fantastic work.

    Comment by Ivey Mega — September 1, 2010 @ 7:38 pm
  11. […] learn more please see: short article or Leading Change book. Also, Olivier Lafontan has Card Decks for Implementing Kotter (very cool) if you are interested in using this […]

    Pingback by A Tour of Agile Adoption and Transformation Models — April 13, 2011 @ 3:37 pm
  12. Hi, List looks like an excellent resource to help teams knowledgeable in Scrum to assess their own progress and make plans for improvement.

    Please clarify some abbreviations on the cards and the use of the star rating of: Visibility, Predictability, Quality, Time to Market, Fit for Purpose, Risk Management, TCO.

    What is TCO?

    Why is Visibility rated 2 stars on SD-25 Sprint Planning: Stories are broken down into task. Versus SD-29 – A Sprint Objective description is done by the team. Visibility 3 stars.

    What is this all about?

    Comment by David Koontz — May 10, 2011 @ 3:49 am
  13. Hi David,

    Thanks fore the feedback, very much appreciated 🙂

    Agree, this works really well to assess a team. It is also a great tool to allow a team who wants to transition to actually plan how they will do it.

    TCO stands for Total Cost of Ownership (wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_cost_of_ownership) >> in our case, TCO for a project will include the initial investment cost (human and infrastructure, future operating costs over the product / solution life cycle, up to the potential decommissioning costs). The idea to have this KPI on the card is that some practices will help achieve lower TCO over time, with reduced costs to add new features later, or the ability to reduce product increment cycle time for instance. A lot of the TCO benefits are achieved through technical excellence practices, so far better conveyed by XP (eXtreme Programming) rather than Scrum, but this is changing, and Scrum is now starting to incorporate and describe these technical practices as well.

    Regarding the Star rating: this is subjective (well, my subjective appreciation at least). It represents the effect each of this practices can have on some of the issues a company / team embracing agile is expecting to solve.

    So in the case you describe, a card with 2 stars on Visibility versus another one with 3 stars on the same attribute will deliver less value in terms of the said attribute (i.e. getting the task break down for each story is less powerful – in my experience – in terms of achieving project Visibility than setting Sprint objectives).

    As mentioned, this is subjective and experience based, and can be discussed depending on “who” are we trying to get better visibility for.

    I included this rating to facilitate transition planning: for instance, when starting a transition, if a client tells me the primary issue they want to solve is one of Quality, I will be more inclined to use the star rating to plan my transition to certain practices first before others.

    In practice, I have found that very few clients actually have a view on how they are doing for each of these dimensions… having the attributes on the card can spark a healthy debate and make the coach’s work and results more visible at C level.

    Hope the decks help! Let me know, and please keep the feedback coming: I have a V2 of this deck coming, which already includes some feedback I got in the past.

    Comment by Oli — May 10, 2011 @ 12:27 pm
  14. Hi David,

    Just to let you know that I have implemented the same concept in a web app: http://www.pickadeck.com.

    The app uses a metaphor – a Casino – where people can come and play different games. One of these games is SCRUM TRANSITION, other games can be created by Casino Managers – which you become when you open your Casino. One table hosts a set of players, only game type can be played on each table.

    If you are curious about this, head over to http://www.pickadeck.com and request your Casino and try it out 🙂

    Feel free to ping me if you’re interested or want more info.

    Comment by Oli — October 18, 2012 @ 3:25 pm
  15. […] Card Decks for Agile Transitions […]

    Pingback by I have some skin in the game now :) » leanpizza.net — June 18, 2012 @ 4:17 pm
  16. Great Scrum transition deck! It’s my favorite new tool and I requested Beta access to the Pick A Deck site too.

    If there is a way to collaborate, I’d love to develop/have a deck to help our QA department transition to more Agile/BDD practices. I understand the deck well but need subject matter expert help on the card details from someone who is immersed in QA, has done it well & can envision good baby steps for a transition to focus on.


    Comment by Margeaux Bucher — June 5, 2014 @ 12:55 am
  17. Hi Margeaux,
    Thanks for the feedback !! Your Pick A Deck space has been created and your invitation is on its way 🙂

    Collaboration for deck creation can be achieved in two ways:
    – in your newly created space (just invite people to it and give them the casino manager privileges) or
    – you can have a specific second space for working on decks.

    Do you already have people in mind you want to work with on your QA transition deck?

    Comment by Oli — June 5, 2014 @ 11:26 am
  18. Thank you for the pick-a-deck invite. Collaboration on the QA deck will be me and the QA manager to begin with. I’m open and would love input from QA experts outside the organization, but within it we are the main actors who want to lay plans for transition. The testing team may need some bringing around from business as usual. (Oh, the ire that humans have for change!)

    Oli, I would love to share this tool with my local Agile MeetUp group. I in no way want to steal your thunder so if you’d like to present it yourself I will email the host and get you a presentation slot. Otherwise, I’m happy to present it myself. The meetings are Mid-month on Wednesdays in San Mateo, CA (SF Bay Area in case you’re this versed in Agile and somehow NOT in Silicon Valley).

    Let me know,


    Comment by Margeaux — June 5, 2014 @ 10:56 pm
  19. You can probably invite external contributors to participate to your space using the simple “invite new member” feature which would allow them to participate to the design of a new specific deck.

    Do you need some contacts for people who might be interested to run this experiment with you, or have you got people with the skills you need in your network?

    As for presenting Pick A Deck to your meetup group, this sounds great so please go ahead! I’d love to have your feedback once the application has been presented.

    And no, I don’t leave anywhere near Silicon Valley at this time : )

    Comment by Oli — June 6, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
  20. Greetings Oli,

    I am looking forward to presenting your Agile transition deck (paper version) and the online Pick-A-Deck app tomorrow night at my local SCRUM Professionals MeetUp group: http://www.meetup.com/ScrumProfessionals/events/191253182/

    I will have a section of the wall for collecting Post-It notes with any feedback for you from the crowd. Depending on how many comments we get I may be able to transcribe these for you. Or if there are too many, I may have to send you photos of the board!

    So far 51 have RSVP’d that they will come, so wish me and your wonderful tool good luck (bon chance?) in the presentation.

    Warm regards,


    Comment by Margeaux Bucher — July 16, 2014 @ 12:18 am
  21. Hi Margeaux, thank you for running this presentation at your meetup! I got your feedback email, and I have finally managed to reply to you 🙂 the feedback is awesome, and will be used in the next Pick A Deck release for sure! Thanks again, please keep me posted on your progress and experiments.

    Comment by Oli — August 6, 2014 @ 9:14 pm
  22. Love this. I have used it several times for organizations. Thank You!

    Comment by Rightshifter — February 5, 2015 @ 7:40 pm
  23. Hi John,
    Thank you for your kind words! And thanks for registering on pickadeck too 🙂
    I would really value your feedback and experience on how you use the decks, the various (or unique) contexts where you see they add value, their impact, etc…
    Thanks again 🙂

    Comment by Oli — February 5, 2015 @ 11:39 pm
  24. Hello Olivier,

    Thank you and congratulations for this work, I often use this metaphor of cards in my work. This game seems valuable for materializing and framing transformation activities at the beginning of the process. I intend to experiment it soon with my custommers.
    This notion of “Plan”, on the other hand, seems a little “waterfall oriented”. My questions are :

    Q1 – Do you have experiences of “agile” implementation, where the notion of “plan” has given way to a more agile, iterative, incremental, value-driven, with capacity planning in spite of “ressource management” approach, etc.?

    Q2 – Reading the guide I have the impression that the suggested usage is essentially linear. Kotter advocates I believe to follow the steps strictly in order. Real world is often reluctant with this kind of rigor, orienting more to agile approaches, isn’t it? What’s your personnal experience?

    Q3 – In addition to the current guide, could you please some details on what is meant by “value axes” and “human values”? I read the first as sort of “categories of outcomes from a clients/business perspective we shall benefit by solving actual problems”. Is it a decent interpretation? The second, I ususally address through appreciative attitude and inquiries. What’s the Kotter’s point of view exactly?
    Bonjour Olivier,

    PS : dans le deck en Français, je propose de corriger “catalistes” par “catalyseurs”. Si tu le souhaites, je peux également appporter quelques corrections sur la traduction du guide.

    Comment by Philippe Briere — December 30, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

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