Are you inadvertently sabotaging the Psychological Safety of your team?

Thanks to Amy C. Edmondson and Google’s project Aristotle many of us know that Psychological Safety is a key prerequisite for a high performing team. In her book “The Fearless Organisation”, Amy Edmondson lays out 3 stages to build and maintain Psychological Safety:

  1. Setting the Stage
  2. Inviting Participation
  3. Responding Productively

This time, I want to focus on one of the key points of “Setting the Stage”: you need to reframe limiting beliefs.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

What is a belief?

Let’s get our terminology straight. When I talk about a belief here, I don’t mean the religious kind…

Without imposing or enforcing anything

According to the Scrum Guide, the Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team. The main mechanism that the Product Owner has to achieve this, is ordering the backlog.

If you are a Product Owner, you may ask: how do I order the backlog in such a way that the Scrum Team works on those items that will maximize the value of the product?

Feedback from stakeholders during the Sprint Review is invaluable here. Without that, you’re just going on assumptions. …

and why you should try it.

Fancy a different kind of party, where the usual suspects don’t always steal the show? Try my Failure Party recipe and you’ll be amazed.

The purpose of a Failure Party is to reinforce the message that failures are okay and to spread the learning to a large group.


Serves 1 in-person party of up to 50 people
(Covid-19 restrictions may apply)
See bottom for an online Failure Party variation

  • A large enough room
  • An invitation
  • Encouragement & persuasion
  • Two or more recent failures (make sure they are the right kind of failure, we don’t want to celebrate preventable failures)
  • Flags…

Picture this: while doing an upgrade you accidentally deleted the database. The one all your customers use. You think to yourself “Oops, how can I get away with this?”. Then you realize that you don’t have to worry. The team has your back. They’ll help you get the database restored and get the service back up and running. And then together you’ll figure out how to prevent this from happening again.

Does this sound like a plausible scenario? Would you expect it to go this way?

If you were working in a high performing organisation, this is how we think…

I’ve been looking back at all that 2019 has brought me. There is much to be grateful for. Small things, like my daily gratefulness practice. Big things, like the wonderful people I’ve been working with.

Kampina in 2019. Picture by me.

Highlights for me include the Liberating Structures Global Gathering; being part of the design team of a Liberating Structures Immersion Workshop; being part of the organization of XP Days Benelux conference; co-creating a workshop about Psychological Safety which we gave at several conferences; continuing with my peer mentoring group (“Intervisiegroep”); coaching some fantastic people and being coached myself; starting up a group to co-create services…

I’ve seen many teams struggle with refinement. Problems I often encounter include: doing too little, wasting a lot of time in unproductive meetings, not capturing important decisions, assuming each backlog item has to be a user story, not allowing any uncertainty in the backlog items, etc. In this post I want to focus on one refinement problem: only looking at one product dimension.

The Scrum Guide doesn’t give much guidance on refinement. The word “refinement” occurs 4 times, and all in this one paragraph:

Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the…

My name is Robert. French pronunciation, with emphasis on the second syllable: Robèrt. Those of you that know me probably know me as Rob or Robert (English pronunciation). From now on please call me Robèrt. Let me explain why.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

My parents named me Robert, pronounced the French way (Robèrt). Before my fourth birthday we moved to Africa. English was the main language, and my name changed to the English pronunciation. Only my close family still called me Robèrt. I was a happy little boy, and having two names didn’t bother me.

I promised to experiment and share those experiments here. This time I want to share my experiences doing Biodanza.

Els (my wife) and I were looking to do some more things together. Dancing appealed, so we started looking into that. Els found a few Biodanza groups and asked if I was willing to try it.


Biodanza. I had never heard of it before. Els had done it in the past, before we were married. It is in the category “Dance Therapy” on Wikipedia, and I love The UK Daily Telegraph description of Biodanza:

“a series of exercises and moves that…

I promised to experiment and share those experiments here. I thought this past week would be easy: I had a nice experiment planned. Linda van Sinten and I would run a Silence workshop at Agile Open Holland. The workshop would be a try out of some exercises in silence.

Building a Pringles ring at Agile Open Holland

It didn’t work out that way.

Our Silence Workshop didn’t attract enough participants, so we decided to cancel it. That meant I had to rethink which experiment to write about. …

I promised to experiment and share those experiments here.

In previous posts I would add “together with the inevitable failures”, but not anymore. I’m now convinced that whatever the outcome, each experiment is valuable to me in some way.

This time I want to share a valuable experiment called “Who are you”. I came across that experiment in a blog I read. This is what it boils down to:

You have to answer one question: “Who are you?” — over and over.

The exercise is pretty straightforward: one person asks “Who are You?” …

Robert van Lieshout

Father, learner, coach & agilist. I'm passionate about nature and helping people become their best selves.

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