a11 Hot spot backlog – 91% of stories are not good enough

Shit-In/Shit-Out is an important cause for the lack of success of agile methods and the failure of so many agile transformations. The quality of the stories is on average (5) on the K-i-E scale (1 to 10). 91% of the stories are not good enough. It is missed by all a committed decision-making process, which brings the stories in a tight feedback loop to a good quality.

Together with a low process fidelity of only 31%, on the K-i-E scale (6), the introduction of agile methods cannot succeed.

What all experienced Scrum experts know, the survey at Code Days 2019 also showed. The excited desire for the agile mindset is man-made. The agile mindset results from successful decision-making processes and the high quality of the stories in the backlog. The stories should be shaped in a tight feedback loop into a maturity where the successor has a chance to do well.

In the previous blogs the human being was at the centre and he is and remains the focus for the agile transformation. However, people produce artefacts and interact in ceremonies that show whether people have a chance to do well or not.

Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi confirm this in the Harvard Business Manager “but in reality managers and agile teams have never learned the concept properly and therefore do not understand it properly”.

The lack of understanding among all those involved leads to a dilemma.

Agile teams with a quality (5) have no chance to do it well

Of course there are successful agile projects and transformations. The following blogs present an agile transformation and an agile project that succeeded. The velocity of 3 with a traditional approach was developed in 3 months to 30 and is now stable since 6 sprints. In addition to the successful introduction of agile cooperation at eye level, this is a performance improvement by a factor of 10!

Inadequate quality of stories

The survey at the Code Days showed an average quality of the stories in the backlog of (5). This is not sufficient on the K-i-E scale (1 to 10). The experienced participants rated 91% of the stories from their respective practical experience as not good enough. Subsequently, the quality process was presented as an important decision-making process.

My own experience of 200 projects as responsible project manager and of 10 years as Agile Transformation Coach as well as my community showed without exception an equivalent low quality in all projects. The DevOps reference project also had a quality of (4) before the Scrum changeover.

It should be less a question of how good the quality of the stories is, but more the question of what decision making process is necessary so that quality in dialogue with all participants comes to one level, so that everyone can do it well.

Figure 01 – The quality of the stories is not sufficient

Lack of process fidelity

Agile methods such as Scrum require a disciplined approach from all participants, in which team members organize themselves and produce good results on their own responsibility. In this way, companies can achieve with discipline the desired resilience while at the same time maintaining stability in decision-making processes that allow solid planning.

What all experienced Scrum experts know and as well all traditional Project managers, the survey at the Code Days 2019 also showed an insufficient process loyalty of (6). A process adherence of only 31% is not good enough for the introduction of agile methods to succeed.

During the Code Days 2019, the quality process was presented as an important decision making process in the DevOps project, which was an important change building block to bring the velocity from 3 to 30 and keep it stable for the sprints.

Figure 02: The process fidelity is not sufficient

Process fidelity should not be confused with pedantry and compulsive adherence to rules and specifications. The process loyalty aims at the respect of the ceremonies, the quality in the artefacts and the responsibility in the roles, so that a cooperation on eye level develops and the people get a chance to do it well.

Agile transformation cannot succeed in this way

If there is no sufficient quality of the stories in the backlog and no adequate process fidelity, two dominant factors are missing. The reference project also lacked a solid foundation at the beginning. The project succeeded with the introduction of the agile method as well as the agile transformation and the production of quality in the backlog.

Thus failure is the natural consequence, which is also confirmed by McKinsey in its studies: “Research shows that 70% of complex, large-scale agile change programs don’t reach their stated goals.”

Those in charge in the companies and above all the Agile Transformation Coaches are responsible for these difficulties and fatal effects. The same applies to the agile teams, which need decision-making processes in order to produce quality with the business unit, as well as process fidelity within the teams.

The agile coaches, who are to ensure continuity after the introduction, play a central role. They do not have the commitment of the management, often not the competencies and not the standing to take care of these fundamental success factors.

There is a lack of passion combined with a lack of commitment of all responsible persons to do well.

How the Agile Transformation succeeds

Agile transformation begins with the individual. Corporate culture arises from the behaviour of people. Decision-making processes put people back in the centre, precisely because they involve each individual in their diversity 100% in a secure and open order.

Agile methods are at the heart of achieving agility. A successful introduction requires the following sequence:

  1. Building knowledge of the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognitions
  2. Introduction of standardized and accepted decision-making processes
  3. Commitment, planning and implementation of agile change
  4. Operationalization of the selected agile methods with decision-making processes
  5. Introduction of agile methods
  6. Agile iteration for continuity and further alignment of the process, methods and tools

As a consequence, the agile mindset and agility result from the successful introduction of agile methods. Integration into the company allows the agile teams to cope with the subsequent implementation.

Figure 03: Decision-making processes for agile change

If decision management and agile methods are integrated, agility is achieved. In addition to the necessary flexibility, agile methods offer higher performance (velocity). As an accompanying effect, the performance of agile teams increases by a factor of two to four.

With discipline, companies achieve the desired resilience while at the same time maintaining stability in decision-making processes that allow solid planning.

Flexibility at high speed (agility) is achieved by enabling people to contribute their competencies.

February 2019, Richard Graf in cooperation with Laura Graf

The Decision-Making Processes for Agile Methods – www.-k-i-e.com

Only by embedding agile methods in a functional decision management system can the real potential be exploited. Decision processes would equip the agile methods with processes that reliably produce the results.

In Sprint Planning, the Development Team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner determine which stories are implemented in the Sprint. The following decision-making processes are required for this: Rating, individual decision-making, insure the quality, prioritization, commitment and resource question. In advance, the product owner must have prioritized the stories (prioritization process) and described them with appropriate quality (quality process).

Ceremonies such as Daily Stand-up, Sprint Review, Retrospective and Refinement also require decision-making processes to ensure that good results are achieved and to prevent excessive group dynamics. Traditional decision-making processes are only suitable for this purpose to a limited extent.

K-i-E Scale – A unsiversal Rating System

The basis of all ceremonies for safe and rapid decisions is a standardized and accepted evaluation. This applies to individual and especially team decisions.

The K-i-E scale allows a fast and precise evaluation as a prerequisite for a clear decision. Its flexibility makes it a universal, accepted and standardized rating system for all ceremonies and decision-making processes.

The internal structure of the K-i-E scale is suitable for precisely mapping the little differentiated impulse from intuition. This characteristic forms the congenial bridge to combine intuition and cognition into a single decision strategy. Its transparency opens the way for using group competence.

The K-i-E Intuition – Consciously Using the Intelligence of Intuition

The natural intuition that every human being has, becomes the K-i-E Intuition, when it is expressed in a standardized and selective way through the K-i-E scale. With the K-i-E Intuition, the expert knowledge of all can be accessed in a flash, in order to make a first coherent individual decision for all ceremonies and artefacts. The K-i-E Intuition is the ingenious basis for lightning-fast communication without words in small and large teams.

K-i-E Resource Question – The integrative Way to a Solution

The resource question triggers a clear procedure that activates the necessary actions to make success possible. It is therefore a basic building block for all ceremonies and artefacts. The parties involved are obliged to make their contribution to a solution. Instead of criticizing, illuminating the problem or investigating the causes, a retrospective view is avoided.

Instead, competence is stringently demanded, and it quickly becomes apparent what and how much is necessary for success.

This shortens discussions about factors. Useful actions are worked out and as an accompanying effect it becomes visible how supportive someone behaves.

K-i-E Decision Strategy – Safe Decision-Making

With the individual decision strategy, agile team members as well as Scrum Master and Product Owner decide quickly and reliably. The distorting influence of the emotional system is reduced and the conscious use of intuition is integrated. Everyone knows – in the traditional and agile world – which deficiencies individual decisions have. For this reason, further decision-making processes are absolutely necessary for Scrum to succeed in its tasks and to integrate group competence.

Quality Process – Jointly Accepted Quality for all Artefacts

All artefacts such as the stories in the product as well as in the sprint backlog are created with appropriate resources and in appropriate quality. The quality is already produced in early phases, which limits later problems and efforts.

The quality process creates a self-organized process that enables those involved in the process to produce quality in a self-determined manner.

Quality problems in the backlog create the biggest problems, both in classical and agile methods. People get with the K-i-E Quality Process a chance to do it well.

The Motivation Triangle – Goals will be achieved

Goals will be achieved, conflicts will be resolved and projects become successful if the appropriate skills are developed, internal or external permission is given and the will of those involved is sufficiently present.

The K-i-E motivation triangle is a practice-oriented application of the K-i-E scale. It is a transparent tool with which candidates can be assessed in a comprehensible way.
With its help it can be derived how great the chances for the success of a project will be.

Commitment Process for Jointly Supported Decisions

Identification and loyalty to the goal are the essential success factors for all ceremonies par excellence. The commitment process involves all participants 100%. The process forces all participants to express themselves and to take an evaluable standpoint. Diverging points of view become visible right at the beginning and are brought to a common constructive solution through the supportive collaboration of all.

Obstacles, risks and hidden conflicts are identified in early phases. In later project phases they would cause cost increases and delays after considerable investments have already been made. This situation is counteracted even before the start of a project and the actions to ensure success are worked out jointly. The effect in the subsequent implementation is central to success.

Prioritization Process – Common Selection and Order of Topics

With the prioritization process, the core question – what is implemented in the sprint and what is not done – is solved together with the Development Team, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. The topics to be worked on are then put in order by the Development Team.

For each sprint, various stories compete for the limited resources of time, budget, competencies, focus and implementation capacity. The prioritization process achieves the goal of finding a common set of requirements within a given timeframe.

Briefing Process for a successful Delegation – to get what you want

The delegation process ensures that you get what you need from internal and external teams to produce a good overall result. Prerequisites for the delegation process: a standardized evaluation with the K-i-E scale, the resource question, the quality, commitment and prioritization process and the motivation triangle.

The New Decision-Making Culture – The Book

The K-i-E theory of the inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition provides the scientific basis for the agile methods and decision-making processes and thus places them on a solid foundation.

The decision-making processes for overcoming entrepreneurial challenges are described in practical terms for agile transformation in my book “Die neue Entscheidungskultur”, Hanser Verlag 2018.
More on my Homepage –  www.k-i-e.com

The New Decision-Making Culture – The Seminar (2 days)

Produce decisions instead of deciding. The inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition is explained in a practical way. Practice-proven tools for 100% participation.

Next Seminar: Friday 25th and Saturday 26th January 2019

Location: Frankfurt am Main

The emotional system is the origin and end of all thinking. New thinking with conscious emotional logic expands human and artificial intelligence.

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Blog Series – How Agile Change succeeds

Done – English

Blog Serie – Wie der Agile Change gelingt

Done – Deutsch


  • The jointly supported decision as a superior form of decision-making
  • Why is an accepted and standardized evaluation so important?
  • What motivates people instead of criticizing to share their contribution to a solution?
  • How to consciously use the competence of intuition
  • The individual decision-making strategy als a foundation for every good decision maker
  • Quality as a prerequisite for personal responsibility and joint success
  • Commitment process – a self-organized process for a culture of openness, commitment, honesty, safety and trust
  • Prioritisation process – What is done and what is not done?
  • Embedding of agile methods in a functional decision management system
  • Decision-Making processes create a new decision-making culture
  • Calibrated emotional loops
  • Decision processes solve the leadership dilemma
  • The lack of support is homemade
  • The entrepreneurial reality
  • Agile change succeeds with decision management
  • Inseparability of emotions, intuition and cognition and the importance for decision-making and agile cooperation


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