Swearing, Nudity and Other Vulnerable Positions

an exploration of Safety with

John Le Drew // @antz29

John Le Drew

Consultant, Agile Coach, Software Engineer

17 years

Lean Agile Scotland 2016

the word.

I thought
this would
be easy. (it's not)

30+ Interviews
~60 Hours Audio

Alex Harms Amitai Schleier Arlo Belshee Barney Hanlon
Bob Marshall Chris Pepper David Marquet
Diana Larsen Esther Derby Gitte Klitgaard 
Jerry Weinberg
Joshua Kerievsky​ Linda Rising 
Lineke Kerckhoffs Mark Delgano Attila Burtula
Michael "Doc" Norton Tim Ottinger Woody Zuill
Yitz Schaffer Yves Hanoulle Andrew Longshaw
Louise Elliott Sallyann Freudenberg​ Ryan Ripley
Heidi Helfand Mark C. Crowley Stefan Koopmanschap
Troy Magennis Christopher Avery Richard Sheridan Phelim McDermot
Mary Poppendieck

Before we dive in:


I quit! You _________


Complete this sentence, as dramatically as you like. 


What is an "effective" team or organisation?

Google's Project Aristotle

"the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" - Aristotle

  1. Psychological Safety
  2. Dependability
  3. Structure and clarity
  4. Meaning
  5. Impact

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.

Amy Edmondson Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams,1999




something that is improvised, in particular a piece of music, drama, etc. created spontaneously or without preparation.

"Responding in the moment, to the stimulus of our immediate environment and our inner feelings. ... We are all improvisers, we all have to improvise every day. "

Jennifer Hunter, TEDxLSSU

No blocking

Work with what you are given, and add to it.

Yes, and...

The interactive bit. 😃

(Possibly not anything you have ever done at a professional work related meet up before)

Human Mirror

Split into pairs
ideally someone you don't know

Face each other
staring romantically into each other's eyes

Start, by smiling at each other

yes, really, go on, you can do it

Then, without speaking, both of you slowly move, watching and mirroring one another.

arms, eyes, eyebrows, wiggly ears, flared nostrils, are all game.

Keep it balanced, no one person should be leading all the time.

String of Pearls

We will tell a story, one sentence at a time.
It might even make sense! (from certain angles)

Volunteers will tell the start, and end.
The start of the line is to the far left, the end of the line the far right.

Then, we fill in the gaps. Bit by bit.
Work with what's there, and add to it. Yes, and!

We repeat the story with each new sentence.

Sometimes, it transforms a little. Sometimes, people forget it. Sometimes, that can be funny. We keep going until we have connected the start and finish.
That is, when we decide it makes sense to us. (normally followed by a cheer!)


String of Pearls

Safe to contribute ideas without embarrassment.

We all have autonomy on our contribution, and anyone can contribute (or not).

It's safe to fail, an idea might work, it might not, as a team we will work with what we are given.

Would this work in your environment?
With your team?

I quit! You $¡@%!

Two volunteers
Stand opposite each other.

What's the scene?
Pick a scene that would involve a simple conversation.
 Customer service phone call? Returning a damaged item to a shop? Booking a holiday?

End each sentence with an insult.
Use the words that came from your imagination earlier. (un oh)

Act out the scene.
How do you react to the insult? How does your character feel being insulted?


A safe team?


You're safe when you can speak your truth, raise your concerns and give and receive constructive feedback without humiliation, rejection or punishment.

What can you do?

Demonstrate engagement

Show understanding 

Be inclusive in interpersonal settings 

Be inclusive in

Show confidence and conviction without appearing inflexible 

An environment for success

The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.

Robert Henri

To finish

Safety is the number one indicator of an effective team.

Can't bring up new ideas.

Can't ask questions.

Can't raise risks.

Can't make mistakes.

Launching soon!



The Agile Path

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@agilepathfm // @antz29

Swearing, Nudity and Other Vulnerable Positions

By John Le Drew

Swearing, Nudity and Other Vulnerable Positions

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