Agile Release Train Retrospective

Within ASML we are using the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) at several departments. At the end of a Program Increment (PI) the Agile Release Train (ART) organizes the Inspect & Adapt (I&A). Part of the I&A is the retrospective and problem solving workshop. Myself and two colleagues (Muriel WeinsteinFerdinand Veldmans) organized this last PI. In this post I will elaborate how we did this. Such that others can benefit from the experience and set-up.


Like a normal retrospective you have with the Scrum team the ART retrospective is to review their practices, and identify ways to improve, e.g., drive continuous improvement with a lot of good will! The biggest difference comes with the number of participants. With the team you are just with ~6-10 people. With the ART you could be anywhere from 50 to 100 people or even more!


When we started with brainstorming on how to organize this we had a problem statement of one of the teams. This came out of one of their retrospectives and they shared this with the Release Train Engineer. They wished this would be known to the management team. As such, we wanted to do something with this problem statement within the I&A. During brainstorming how to set everything up we also went through the Liberating Structures. From these we found the “What, So What, Now What?” quite appealing to use for the I&A.

What? So What? Now What? (Summary);
Invitation; After a shared experience, ask the three questions.
Space; chairs for groups of 5-7, paper to record lists, flip-chart.
Sequence of steps; for each of the steps below, use 1-2-4-all.

  1. What happened or did you notice? (15 minutes)
    collect the salient facts
  2. So what is important, which conclusions are emerging? (15 minutes)
    collect the conclusions
  3. Now what actions make sense? (15 minutes),
    collect the actions

However, due the corona-virus pandemic everyone is still working from home. So we had to do everything digital. So instead of arranging chairs we created 5 digital meetings upfront for the 5 teams. And instead of a flip-chart we used 5 digital whiteboards. In addition, since we really wanted to make this also a problem solving workshop, we changed the first step of the sequence a bit. We decided to use a fishbone. We didn’t mention that we were using a Liberating Structure, just called it “root-cause and solution finding analysis”. 

Microsoft Whiteboard setup (times 5 for every team)
Microsoft Whiteboard setup (times 5, for every team)

Now as mentioned we had one problem statement of a team. We asked the other teams within the ART to also come up with a problem statement during their next retrospective. As such we would have a couple of statements. The idea was that at the start of the event every team would pick one of the statements. It was proposed to give every team a different statement, as such, preventing that all the teams would by coincidence pick the same statement. However, we decided to let teams choose themselves, since when they would pick the same statement it would also be very clear that this is important to people. In addition, it would be interesting to see if teams who picked the same statement would come up with either the same solutions or with completely different ones. 

To make sure that everyone also stepped a bit out of his comfort zone and ensure cross-pollination we mixed up the teams. So the teams were setup randomly, upfront, with different people from the various teams within the ART.

In the last step of the What? So What? Now What? you collect the actions. We mentioned to Scrum Masters, who would facilitate and coordinate every team to steer to a minimum of 1 action and a maximum of 3 actions. This way we would end up with a maximum of 18 actions. At the end of the “root-cause and solution finding analysis” (after a 10 minute break) all participants would join the general meeting. There every Scrum Master would pitch the actions of the team. After all the actions were pitched people could vote for the actions. 

We did not want to give every person only 1 vote but rather a bunch of points. These points could then be distributed over the actions as the people saw fit. This is a kind of score voting, and has been shown to produce the lowest Bayesian regret among common voting methods, even when votes are strategic.

No alt text provided for this image
In the results one specific action clearly popped out above the rest.

Luckily, Mentimeter has a question which (sort of) facilitates score voting, it’s called 100 points [1,2]. So we used this to facilitate the voting. After the voting the Scrum Masters & RTE will reflect on the actions and the way forward.

Below you find the complete timeline of the event looked as follows;

  • 11:00 – 11:05 – Everybody joins the general meeting
  • 11:05 – 11:10 – You will join a designated team
  • 11:10 – 11:15 – As a team you chose one of the four statements that are prepared
  • 11:15 – 12:00 – As a team you go through the root-cause and solution finding analysis (15 minutes for every step)
  • 12:00 – 12:10 – We have a small break to prepare the pitches and voting
  • 12:10 – 12:30 – Pitches of the actions by Scrum Masters and voting

Hopefully this was interesting and fun to read for you! We got some beautiful and nice results out of this set-up!

Cross post of;

Iteration & Refinement Board

When working during a iteration (or referred as sprint) within the Scrum framework the team can use a Kanban board. “Kanban” is the Japanese word for “visual signal” and is like Scrum, a framework within the Agile model. A Kanban board is used to visualize the work to be done as cards on a board, in different states. This allows you to easily see the “big picture” of where the project currently stands. As well as identify potential bottlenecks that could affect productivity. When you are using Scrum and Kanban in combination this is also referred as Scrumban.

Kanban board elements
An Kanban board with its key elements. Cards are meant to go from the left to the right column which denotes that progress has been made. The columns denote the different state the cards are in. Work-In-Progress (WIP) limits can be set per column. Swimming lanes can be used to separate different types of activities, e.g., teams, persons, feature, et cetera. Additional markers, visualizations, colors can be used on cards to further identify the work. For instance, a marker to identify how much work the task is.

One can choose to use an physical board or a digital board, or even both. Both have pros and cons. One of the benefits of having a digital board is that most digital boards automatically add all kind of details on the cards of the board. Such as the person working on the card, the amount of story points, the priority, the status and more. In addition, digital boards are flexible. You can filter, search or change them very quickly depending on your needs at that moment.

I want to share with you how we setup our Kanban board for the iteration execution and the backlog refinement. Keeping in mind that we use the Scaled Agile Framework. Within our work environment we use JIRA as the issue-tracking and project-management software. As such we have a digital board. There are many alternatives for JIRA, such as Microsoft Planner, Trello, et cetera.

Iteration Board

During the daily stand-up the iteration board (Scrum board, storyboard, Kanban board) is used to check upon the progress of the iteration. The progress is defined using 4 separate columns and different statuses. Furthermore we use swimming lanes to categorize work per feature.

ToDon.a.Iteration backlog, issues which were planned during the iteration planning event. Currently in waiting to be picked-up by the team.
In Progress• In progress
• Testing
• Analysis
Issues which are in progress. Testing and analysis are added as status to give a little extra context.
Waiting• Review
• Blocked
Issues which are in waiting, such as a review or being blocked for any reason, e.g., due to a dependency to a different team or supplier.
Donen.a.Issues which are resolved.

Additionally one could add an extra column called “Verify”. Team members put the card to “Verify” when finished. The Product Owner of the team asses the card to determine if it is really done. If so, he moves it to done. This makes the handshake between the Product Owner and the team more vivid.

Backlog Refinement

The backlog refinement board is created to check and make the refinement of the backlog more visual and explicit. During the iteration the board is impromptu checked by the team. Likewise as the iteration board it has different columns to distinguish the status of refinement. Additionally “exit” criteria are defined. These elaborate on when a card is allowed to be moved to the next column.

ColumnWhatExit criteria
FunnelIssues which are created but still need further refinement. Anything can be put here.• Assigned to Program Increment
• Feature is known
RefinementIssues which need to be refined more. • Title gives context
• Assigned to a person
• Acceptance criteria known
• Story points known
• Team definition of ready is applied
• Assigned to iteration
ReviewIssues which are refined by the team and need to be reviewed by the Product Owner.• Reviewed by Product Owner
• Handshake between Product Owner and team
BacklogIssues which are agreed upon and are ready to be picked-up in an iteration.No exit criteria, issue is now assigned to iteration and can be picked-up by the team.
RejectedIssues which are rejected by the Product Owner and the team.Not applicable

Pocket Leaflet First Aid (Dutch)

In 2017 I participated with the “Nijmeegse vierdaagse” also called the The Four Days Marches. This is a walking event where people (~43.000 people) walk four consecutive days a distance between 30 to 50 kilometers a day, depending on age and gender.

During this event I had to go numerous of times to the First Aid, provided by the Dutch Red Cross, for my blisters on my feet. The organization was really impressive. As follows I decided the join the Red Cross in the Netherlands as a First Aid volunteer.

At our branch of the Red Cross, so called “LiBoZa” cards where shared. “LiBoZa” is short for “Linker Boven Zak”, which translates to “Left Side Upper Pocket”. It is a small leaflet which fits in the pocket of your blouse. This type of leaflet shows all kind of useful details about a certain topic summarized. These are used to;

  • For one as to remember the most important content. As a trained individual you are supposed to know all the content. However, in the beginning when I had little to no experience I found these leaflets very useful to check upon.
  • Discussion, nowadays I use the leaflet more as a conversation starter

Since I liked providing aid to people I also joined the emergency response officers at my company. At that moment I decided to produce my own leaflets. For two reasons; i) optimizing the content of the leaflet. Online there are various leaflets and all of them have different content, ii) I wanted to add leaflets about safety and fire related topics.

So without further I want to share my produced leaflets with you. Three notes;

  1. I am not a (medical/fire/safety) professional, I just got the content from the internet from multiple sources and tried to combine the best out of all of them, so in no way I will be held responsible. In case you need help always request help from a professional.
  2. Furthermore, the leaflet is in Dutch. So I apologies if you are English. I do want to create a translation someday, but at this moment it is only in Dutch.
  3. If you are interested in the source documents, you can always contact me.

Good (must) reads

Before I go to bed, on a raining day or when I am alone, I like to read. From Fantasy Books to Magazines. However, after finishing university I started reading more self-help and professional books. Since then I have read numerous books. As such, I want to share the list below with you which I believe is worth reading when you are interested in professional development.

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

Should need no introduction. It is the book on productivity and effectiveness in your daily work. It rests on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items. This allows attention to be focused on taking action on tasks, instead of recalling them.

  • Strenghts Finder by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton

A self-help book about finding your own talents which result in an individual’s tendency to develop certain skills more easily and excel in certain fields in a sustainable way while failing or not being able to sustain success or high levels of effectiveness in other fields. However, note that each talent also has pitfalls.

  • One Minut Manager by Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

A very short book about three techniques of an effective manager: one-minute goals, one-minute praisings and one-minute reprimands.

  • I don’t have to make everything all better by Gary B. Lundberg & Joy S. Lundberg

A book about effective communication with your partner, children, friends, parents, colleagues and anyone else. The book addresses an all too common dilemma that arises when others expect you to solve their problems for them. The book is refreshingly straightforward and inspiring using entertaining.

  • Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

A must read about change management. It tells the story of a colony of penguins facing a dilemma. But contained within the story and the characters is a powerful message about the fear of change and how to motivate people to face the future and take action.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Like Getting’s Things Done and the One-Minute-Manager, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a self-help book about effectiveness. As the title says it explains 7 habits how one self can be more effective in both personal as professional life. It is a bestselling book and a must read for everyone who wants to work in becoming more effective.

  • The Emotional DNA by Pierre Capel

The book to understand emotions and where they come from. Feelings namely do not exist, they emerge. When we talk about our feelings, we know exactly what we are talking about. But if we want to know how they emerge, where they come from and what they do to us, then we are not so sure. For many people, feelings are like a fog that floats through our body. But is that true? Feelings are linked to a rock-solid biochemistry, that has an enormous impact on our functioning.

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Twenty-Five Hundred years ago, Sun Tzu wrote this classic book of military strategy based on Chinese warfare and military thought. Since that time, all levels of military have used the teaching on Sun Tzu to warfare and civilization have adapted these teachings for use in politics, business and everyday life. The Art of War is a book which should be used to gain advantage of opponents in the boardroom and battlefield alike. The Art of War is still a recommended read for military officers in training.

  • How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie

The bestselling book of Dale Carnegie’s about proper day-to-day communication. Its advice has remained constant and applicable across the years for a reason. It’s simple and his techniques make perfect sense. Definitely a must-read.

“Down” time games

When having a training, introduction or travel with a large group there might be moments in which everyone is a bit bored or might be waiting for something or someone. For these moments you can use so called “down” time games (in Dutch dodemoment spelletjes). These are small simple games which you can do with your group. In this blog I explain a couple of down time games for you.


You will need four chairs arranged in a square (close together). Four people sit on the chairs. Proceeding clockwise, they recline onto their neighbors’ laps (keeping their feet on the ground). The chairs are pushed out from under the sitting/reclining people, leaving a floating group. How long can they keep it up? When there are no chairs available, you can use four people to play the part of the chair by standing on their hands and feet. In the video below you see it in action.

The Human Knot

One person will move out of the group and shuts his eyes. The group will stand in a circle next to each other and holds hands. After this points hands should stay connected at all times. Following everyone will move crisscross, above or underneath each other to form a human knot. The person who was placed out of the group then has the task to untie the “knot”.

The Land of No Idea

Far, far away lays the Land of No Idea. They do have people there, but no children; they have membranes, but no skin; they have no vehicles, though they do have cars and scooters. They have computers, but no modems, monitors, or keyboards. Some words do exist while others do not. The answer lies in the name of the game; The Land of No Idea. The catch is in pronunciation of the word “idea”. The correct sentence would be; The Land of no “id”. So all words with either an “i” or “d” do not exist.

Monkey, monkey, elephant

A leader tells the children that he/she can do something the others can’t, and then shows them: He/she says the sentence “monkey monkey monkey monkey elephant monkey elephant monkey monkey monkey monkey” and explains the movements that go with it: Each time you say “monkey” you touch one of the fingers on your left hand with your right index finger. The sequence is: little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger and thumb, and then back again from the thumb to the little finger. When you say “elephant”, you slide your index finger from the top of your index finger to the top of your thumb, or the other way round. When the leader has explained it, he/she shows them how to do it once. He/she then makes an additional movement that is hardly noticeable. Everyone has to repeat the game with their fingers. It is only when the children figure out they also need to make the additional movement that they are told they have got it completely right. A suggestion: The ‘hardly noticeable’ movement could be that, after finishing the sentence, you fold your arms, and then say to one of the children: “Now it’s your turn.”

Black magic

All the players sit in a circle, and there are once again two game leaders (A and B). B leaves the room or space briefly. A asks someone from the circle to choose a nearby object, which B will have to guess. B is now called back. A begins to point out different nearby objects. For example: “Is it these trousers?” -“No”- “Is it that watch?” – “No”- and so on. B will continue to answer “No” to A’s questions, until A mentions the correct object – the one that the players previously agreed on. B will now answer “Yes”. How is that possible? How does it work? The clue is in the title – black magic. A will mention all kinds of objects that are not black. After mentioning several objects, A will mention one that is completely black. The next object that A mentions is the one that has been agreed on with the group. In other words, the game leaders know which object it will be beforehand: it is always the object that comes after the black object.

Who am I

Everyone takes a small piece of paper and writes down a name of a person that everyone knows, taking care not to show it to the person next to them. It could be someone famous or a personal acquaintance, or a fictional character, for example. You then attach the note onto the forehead of the person next to you using sticky tape. When everyone has a name on their forehead the game can begin. Taking turns, everyone asks yes/no questions about themselves, for example, “am I a woman?”, which the group then answers with “yes” or “no”. If the answer to the question is yes, the same person can ask another question; if it is no, the turn passes to the next person. The winner is the first person to work out who he or she is – the rest of the group can continue playing if they wish.

Black Stories

The game leader tells how a person died. The group then has to guess how the person has died and may only ask questions which can be answered with yes or no. Online you can find numerous amount of riddles or apps.

  • A guy is lying dead in a phone booth; the handset is off the hook, and there is glass lying on the ground outside the booth.

Solution: He called his wife to tell her how big the fish was that he had caught. The wife asks, “How big was it?” The man stretches out both arms to indicate the length (“THIS big!”), ramming both arms through the glass. In doing so, he cut his wrists and died.

  • A man is lying dead in the forest, wearing his swimming trunks.

Solution: The man had been swimming in a lake/ocean. A firefighting aircraft scooped him up and dumped him in a burning forest. The man died from the fall.

  • A man has hanged himself from the roof of a warehouse four meters high (he is hanging two meters above the ground). The warehouse is in the desert, and there is no ladder or similar object to be found. How did he do it?

Solution: He was standing on a block of ice two meters high. The ice melted and evaporated.

  • A man went out on the street, saw a hotel, and knew that he was bankrupt.

Solution: He was playing Monopoly.

  • A sailor goes into a restaurant, eats an albatross sandwich, and then falls over dead.

Solution: He had been shipwrecked a while ago. There had been nothing to eat on the uninhabited island. Several of his companions had died of hunger. He and his buddy were also ravenous. His buddy made two “albatross sandwiches,” which they quickly devoured. It now appears that the delicacy had not been albatross at all, but one of their former shipmates. This was too much for the man.

  • A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. In the morning, he takes the elevator to the ground floor to go to work. When he returns in the evening, he takes the elevator to the sixth floor and takes the stairs to the twelfth. When it’s raining, however, he takes the elevator to the twelfth floor. Why?

Solution: The man is a midget and can reach the button for the sixth floor, but no higher … unless he has an umbrella with him.

  • A man is sitting in the non-smoking section of the Swiss railways. He grabs his gun and shoots himself through the head. If he had been sitting in a smoking compartment, this would not have happened. Why not?

Solution: The man had been blind for years and was just returning from having surgery on his eyes. The surgeon had said that he could not yet remove the bandage from his eyes. Once in the train, however, he couldn’t wait, and he removed his bandage. At that precise moment, the train entered a tunnel and the compartment was shrouded in darkness. The man thinks that the operation had failed and that he will never be able to see, and so he shoots himself in the head. If there had been a smoker in the compartment, he would have seen the red tip of the burning cigarette.

  • The smallest man in the circus discovers sawdust under doormat: he now knows that he is growing!

Solution: As a midget, the smallest man in the circus earns his money with his stature. He does not notice that he is growing. To disguise this, his girlfriend regularly saws thin chips off the chair legs. She sweeps the sawdust under the doormat.

  • Romeo and Juliet are lying dead on the bed, and the window is closed.

Solution: Romeo is a cat, and Juliet is a fish. Romeo choked to death while eating Juliet.


The group is in a circle. At the beginning one Viking is appointed. The two people sitting on the left and right of the Viking are the rowers. The rest is the sea. The Viking starts holding his hands like two horns to his head (like a viking helmet). Following he makes a growling Viking sound; aarrrrghh, raaaaaarrrrrrrw, et cetera. At the same time the rowers make a rowing movement (to the correct side) and say; row, row, row, row, et cetera. The people appointed as sea imitate waves with their hands and constantly say; woesh, woesh, woesh, et cetera. At a random point in time the Viking appoints a new Viking who adopts the new role and as such there will also be new rowers and a new sea.

Symbol to represent Emergency Response Team (ERT) Bedrijfshulpverlening (BHV)

Emergency response officers (ERT), or in Dutch Bedrijfshulpverlening (BHV), within companies are trained in providing both first aid and limiting and combating (small) fires. All to limit the consequences of accidents. Various icons are used to resemble these organisations. One symbol which I have seen quiet often is the combination of first aid and a fire symbol.

However, since there was not yet a vector format available, I created one. Using the established first aid and fire sign from ISO 7010.

Emergency Response Team (ERT), or in Dutch Bedrijfshulpverlening (BHV), icon.

On the left the fire symbol with the red color. On the right half of the first aid cross with the green color. The red and green color form a gradient in the middle.

You can download the vector file here.

Getting things done

A while ago I read the book Getting Things Done (GTD) written by David Allan. In my own personal workflow I was already applying GTD. However, after reading the book I further refined my personal workflow. My fellow colleagues were interested and also in need of GTD. Therefore, I made a short presentation about my own personal workflow, with tips & tricks. Feel free to use the presentation for your own benefits.

Your own Happy Salmon game

Recently we had a game night with some friends of mine. At the start of the night we played the game “Happy Salmon“. It is a very simple game but really energetic. Every player gets a set of cards. Each card resembles an action. The goal is to get rid of your cards as fast as possible.  You will have to find another player with the same action and perform it. To find another player you simply shout your action out loud in the open. The actions are either:

  1. High five, players high five each other
  2. Pound it, players fist bumb each other
  3. Switcheroo, players switch places
  4. Happy Salmon, players flip there hands against each other very fast, like two fish splashing.

The following video describes the chaos in my living room when we played the game.


As you can see the game is very energetic. However since we simply threw our cards in the air these would most likely do not hold that long. Therefor, I created my own “Happy Salmon” such that I could simply print out, cut it in pieces, and would not have to worry about cards being destroyed. In the process of creating these cards I also added some more actions. These new actions will make the game more challenging when playing with a large crowd. 

The game cards, shout out to Freepik for his icons:

The cards background are transparent, meaning that if you simply use colored paper you will nice colored cards. Most pictures are self explaining but nevertheless, the following new actions are defined:

  1. Bro Bump, more or less the same as pound it but only with the knuckles and on shoulder height as in the picture. 
  2. Bro Shake, handshake in the air
  3. Pinky Swear, pinky swear with one another
  4. Hug, bit more intimate but should be fun nonetheless
  5. Handshake, seems obvious
  6. Teamspirit, for this action you need three people instead of two. You put each other hands on each other and cheer afterwards, something like,
  7. Teamwork, for this action you will need four people instead of the regular two. Simply hold each others arms as shown on the picture.

The cards are simply created in office. Below you can either download the source file or download the original card set or the card set with the new actions. Both files are for one player.

Have fun and good luck!

Published articles

During and after my Master thesis I authored and co-authored three articles. Two for a scientific journals (IEEE) and one for a Dutch professional magazine (Mechatronica & Machinebouw). While it took me a lot of time writing these articles and I do think that the current publish or perfish system is completly wrong – can write a whole blog about this or maybe read this article – I am glad I took up the challenge to write them next to my thesis.

Writing a scientific article is completely different compared to writing your thesis. For your thesis you have numerous pages to explain your story for a scientific article you only have a few. As a result, you will have to be very precise in your writing and choose the words carefully. It has to be very clear, precise and short. This can be very challenging when your story touches a lot of subjects from different fields. Angel Borja wrote a three articles on writing your article and I would like to share these with you:

  1. Six things to do before writing your manuscript
  2. 11 steps to structuring a science paper editors will take seriously
  3. Writing the first draft of your science paper — some dos and don’ts

In addition, I found the UW-Madisons Writer’s Handbook and especially the page about Transitional Words and Phrases useful.

Finally, without further ado, the three articles I have written.

Frequency-domain analysis of real-time and networked control systems with stochastic delays and data drops

Abstract—We present a novel frequency-domain analysis framework for a closed-loop model capturing a wide range of real-time and networked control systems with stochastic delays and packet drops. Our results allow for inferring the mean and variance of the output response to deterministic inputs, based on a new frequency response plot. We illustrate the usefulness of our results in the context of real-time control systems with input-to-output delays resulting from the use of a shared processor.

Keywords—Frequency-domain analysis, networked control systems, real-time systems, stochastic systems, data losses, delays


The impact of deadline misses on the control performance of high-end motion control systems

Abstract—In high-end motion control systems the real-time computational platform must execute tasks from multiple control loops operating at high sampling rates. In recent years traditional special-purpose platforms have been replaced by general purpose multi-processor platforms, which introduce significant fluctuations in execution times. While considering worst-case execution times would severely reduce the sampling rates, accepting deadline misses and assuring that the control system still meets the desired specifications is challenging. In this paper, we provide a framework to model and assert the impact of deadline misses in a real-time control loop. We consider stochastic models for deadline misses and characterize the mean and the variance of closed-loop output variables based on a time-domain analysis. We illustrate the usefulness of our framework in the control of a benchmark motion control experimental setup and in the control of a wafer stage in a lithographic machine.

Keywords—Deadline misses, data losses, packet drops, performance analysis, stochastic analysis, industrial case study, hybrid systems, cyber-physical systems, real-time systems


Smarter balancing between performance and costs in control systems

Abstract—In order to ensure the performance of control systems, the digital platforms on which they are executed are often over-dimensioned, which are unnecessary costly. State-of-the-art model based techniques make it possible to create cheaper control systems, without performance degradation.

Keywords—Deadline misses, data losses, packet drops, performance analysis, stochastic analysis, industrial case study, hybrid systems, cyber-physical systems, real-time systems