What is Fist of Five?

Fist of Five
Fist of Five


It doesn't matter if I'm teaching a class or coaching a team.  When the moment comes, I need a quick way for a team to come to a decision.  Why should the team decide and not me?  From the seven standard leadership styles, I see consensus as the most appropriate for an empowered team.  If the team is not empowered, they are not an Agile team.


When a decision has to be made, ask the team to do a fist of five. All the team members raise one hand to vote with their five fingers (unless they've suffered an accident in shop class).  I depicted in the Fist of Five Pictofigo drawing, member votes range from a fist to five fingers.  The term fist to five and fist of five are interchangeable.

Explaining the Details

  • I see a fist as a blocker.  This individual is in complete disagreement and further discussion is required.
  • One finger (preferably not the middle one) has minimal support to the request at hand. Again, discussion is required.
  • Two fingers. Not happy with the current proposal.  Should discuss as a group to try and resolve disagreements.
  • Three fingers.  Luke warm response.  May go along if the rest of the group is voting three, four, or five.
  • Four fingers. Pretty much agree with the request. There is some apprehension but you can't expect everyone to be all in all the time.
  • Five fingers. Full support.  They drank the Kool-Aid

Certainly, the success of this strategy is going to depend on the team employing it.  There will be some who just like to hear themselves talk and will throw up a fist, one, or two every time.  Hear them out!  You'll also have those who don't like to commit to anything.  They will generally put up three fingers.  Whatever the outcomes, try to keep a strict timebox for discussions.  Remember, this was to be a quick way for a team to come to a decision.

I would be curious to hear when you use fist of five, your successes, and your failures.

Image Source: Pictofigo

Project Management Joke

beerSo the NCI Research Fellow and the PM Blogger are having beers.  The Fellow turns to the Blogger and begins to describe the structure and function of viral RNAs and their interactions with proteins with a focus on the identification of new targets and the development of novel anticancer/antiviral strategies.  The Fellow asks the Blogger if he had ever heard of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The  blogger says no, and then received a high level summary of what PCR was. After a few beers, the the Blogger turns to the Fellow and begins to describe different methods of project managers and leaders and how they may interact differently with a team, depending on the project.  The Blogger asks the Fellow if he had ever heard of Agile practices or approaches. The Fellow says no, and then received a high level summary of what Agile was.

So, that is where the joke ends.  This really was not a joke.  After a short discussion about fast zombies versus slow zombies, Dr. Legiewicz and I found ourselves talking shop.  We talked about recent conferences we spoke at and about how things have changed in our jobs.  We started our careers following one set of practices and have watched how techniques have developed, matured, and evolved.

Dr. Legiewicz stated, when PCR was developed in 1983, nobody saw its value.  But, it is now a common and an often indispensable technique used in medical and biological research labs for a variety of applications.  I told him that Agile techniques sound like they may take a very similar path.  Being Agile just celebrated 10 years of the Manifesto, I have seen a lot of acceptance in just the last few years.  Could it be that it to shall become common and an often indispensable technique used on projects for a variety of applications?

Or, did Michal and I just have too many beers?

Like the drawing?  You can get it free from Pictofigo

When Agile is no longer agile

One of the things I like about Mike Cottmeyer's blog is he sometimes asks philosophical questions, if he knows it or not.  He posed the question, How agile is Agile?

When I've asked vendors if they leverage Agile practices, I've discovered many shades of gray.  I'm sorry to say, I've seen people pervert the original 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto to the point the mere mention becomes the punchline of jokes. It's easy for me to become incited, when Agile becomes the scapegoat for poor leadership or process. I still believe the 12 principles are the framework in which we decide if Agile is still agile.  If the Manifesto is no longer the Agile bellwether, perhaps it should be refined?

Agile will stop being agile when we start to detail all possible inputs and outputs and actually believe we can predict or plan our way out of every situation.  I think it will also stop, if the Agile community as a whole, disagrees with the Manifesto.  All laws can come before the U.S. Supreme Court and be argued as to their constitutionality.   Sometimes I wish projects or activities within Agile projects had a measurement of their agility and then blessed by a governing body.  Granted, the Agile Manifesto is not the U.S. Constitution and the Agile community does not need a Supreme Court.

The best measuring device I can rely is my own limbic system; My gut feeling.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  It is not as easy to say something feels Agile as it is to say it does not feel Agile.  When did this all become so overly complicated?

Image Source