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Archive for the ‘Agile’ Category

Requirement: Technical Excellence for Scrum

I have spoken about excellence a couple of times over the last year. (click here and here). Technical excellence should be a requirement for development organizations. Seems simple enough. Pretty straight forward. After all, we are in the business of developing software, aren’t we?

Yet, this doesn’t seem to be at the top of the priority list. We seem to take short cuts.  Somebody always has a time-to-market issue.

The ROI is tough to prove. By itself, being technically excellent doesn’t drive income to the bottom line straight away, yet lack of technical excellence will drag your bottom line down.  Here are some excuses I have heard:

  • The business is beating on us for more functionality faster.
  • The sales guys have already over-committed us by signing the contract for the date and scope to be delivered to a client. Development will find out after the fact.
  • We don’t have time to automate our deployment process.  We need to start coding.
  • Automated testing doesn’t work for us.  Our testers can do it faster.
  • The users have changed requirements again, causing developers to rework their code again.

Often, these time to market (I call them BS) factors often cost up to 10X the original cost to develop. Yet, we find out the cost later. Those enhancements that “had” to be there for a client will cost us 10X to modify later. Most of us hope we are not going to be there to feel the pain, having moved on to a new career inside or outside our employer.

Let’s look at this a different way. Your plumber tells you he can patch a leak quickly for $60, or he can take replace the pipe for $100. Most of us would say “Do it right. I will pay the $100.” We won’t be happy about spending a $100, but it is the right thing to do. The plumber doesn’t even have to mention that the patch is temporary, and we will probably spend more money later.

So, why is it that we have a tough time with being technically excellent? Regardless of whether you are drinking the Scrum Kool-Aid or not, your development organization has to be technically excellent. Take the time to do it the right way. Refactor the gobbledy gook code. How can you afford not to be? I am reminded of the quote: “You can pay me now or you can pay me later!”. In the case of software, you pay 10X.

Before I go……………  Ok, so I am coming across a little strong to make my point.  Corners can be cut as long as they get corrected in the very near future.
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Why you need Methodologists!

Published by Christopher Daily on May 10th, 2012 - in Agile, Business Musings, IMO, Scrum, Software Development

You have identified your product owner and your sprint team. You have gotten everybody trained. The product backlog is groomed and ready for sprint planning. Congratulations. You are ready to start your first iteration. Right?

Maybe. You can certainly start your first sprint. You may even get through the first two or three sprints. You may even produce deployment-ready code. However, you will have a hard time sustaining Scrum. Why? Most organizations are made up of people who have been living a Waterfall career. They have been creating their project charters, communication plans, and their 1000 line project plans, all the while believing that these artifacts will lead to a successful project. Those beliefs don’t go away after just a couple of months.

That is where a Scrum methodologist will help. What is a Scrum Methodologist? By the definition in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a methodologist is someone who studies methodology. A Scrum methodologist studies Scrum. If you call your local consulting firm and ask for a Scrum methodoligist, you will probably hear silence on the other end of the phone.

Within the Scrum world, the closest you might find is a Scrum coach. You might be tempted to hire a contract Scrum coach. Don’t do it. Hire a Scrum methodologist. At FNF, I decided needed to build one. I found a guy who was passionate about Scrum and started talking to him about why Scrum works. We talked a lot about the effects of what happened. We worked together to start building training. Guess what happened? I cloned myself. We ended up with somebody who is more passionate than I am about Scrum. I changed this guy’s job description to Scrum Coach. I have found the best way to implement change is to focus on why we want to change.

How has it turned out? So far, the guy is a hit. While I will conduct a training class from time to time for fun, I don’t have to any more. Because two of us are available, we each have somebody to compare notes. Because all he does is coach and evangelize Scrum, he can concentrate on applying Scrum without all the baggage of the day-to-day grind. Without other duties, he is available to coach. We continue to use the Scrum-but term much like we do hot fix. We do it when we are forced, but it hurts so we move to fix it quickly.

I don’t think we would have made it to this point without a Scrum coach. I’ll let you know how it works out.
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Speaking of Scrum.

Published by Christopher Daily on April 30th, 2012 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development, Uncategorized

I spoke on the topic of why Scrum is important to DBAs on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at SQL Saturday #130 at University of North Florida.  Ended up with five brave souls who I want to thank for making it a lively conversation.  Click here to get my slides on SlideShare.

Why a corproate lending library is a good thing for Scrum.

Lending libraries (LL) have been around for years, and I have not been a fan. LL are hard to maintain and the books in the LL are usually the ones nobody wants to read.

I changed my mind when I read a post by David Koontz. I have been a voracious reader for years. My kindle app on my iPad has grown to 58 books in a little over three years. What changed my mind was the concept of “don’t worry about returns – consider it a bonus plan for employees that can read.” Now, most of my teammates can read, so no worries there. In other words, the books have found a good home if they are not returned to you.

Add in the people over process technique of not utilizing a check-in/check-out process, and you have what could be a good idea. At FNF, we are implementing just such a library concept. With five or six different development sites, it can be a bit expensive getting started. As crazy as it sounds, our teammates can be trusted to figure out if a book provides value.  They keep a book if they find it provides business value. If they return the book, it didn’t provide enough business value to add it to the clutter of their desk.
I chose to start with four books.  Over time, we will add additional titles to our LL. The current list includes:
Now, if we can just figure out how to make this concept work on an iPad…….

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Why New Years Resolutions Fail!

Well, it is that time of year where we all make promises to ourselves that we have every intention of completing. You know what I am talking about. We call them New Years Resolutions. By the middle of February, they are history. Not to be heard of till January 1, 2013. Why do we always fail at keeping our New Years Resolutions.

Let’s explore my favorite New Years Resolution. In 2012, one of my personal New Year’s Resolutions is to run in the Indianapolis 500 Mini-Marathon. I made the same resolution last year, and even signed up to run. Can you guess what happened? Yep, I didn’t run. Most weeks, I walk three to four times at an hour per session. I didn’t make myself step up and start running. I had a long term project, I was not accountable until I had to actually run the race, and I wasn’t time boxed in small increments. Sound familiar?

Should we apply Scrum against our New Years Resolutions? I think it might work for my preparations for running a mini-marathon. There is a line of thinking about using a version of Scrum for individuals (Personal Scrum). Essentially, that is what my training plan will be. Each week, I will have a certain amount of mileage to complete. Granted, I can still wimp out.

Maybe we should expand Scrum principles to our personal lives. If you are a procrastonator like I am it might be worth a shot. After all, you don’t want to be a lunatic, do you?
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A Couple of Ah Ha Moments In Scrum Training

Published by Christopher Daily on December 6th, 2011 - in Agile, IMO, Scrum, Software Development, Uncategorized

Last week, we completed our first FNF-centric Scrum training.  Mike Jebber did a great job of taking a few ideas during a conversation over lunch into a two day Scrum training course.  We had a great group of teammates who were engaged throughout the two days.  Our teammates were excited and engaged.  At lunch on the first day, we determined that the content we had put together was taking longer than what we expected.  Nobody said anything, but I might have been a little long winded in my portion.  That didn’t surprise anybody.

There were a couple of things that surprised us.  We did not have time to produce the traditional survey that you get at the end of every training course.  When I mentioned that at the end of class, Jennifer Brock (FNF QA Manager) suggested we do a retrospective.  I always thought the surveys I had completed were ineffective at best.  Thinking that this was a great idea, I suggested that we do the retrospective led by one of our teammates in the class, and that Mike and I would sit and listen.

Joe Cox immediately raised his hand and offered to facilitate.  It was seemed natural as the team moved right into what was right and what we could improve.  We got some great improvements and some compliments.

The second Ah Ha moment occurred during the retrospective.  One of our attendees mentioned that he had attended Scrum training previously, and that he got more out of the FNF version.  He mentioned that the FNF examples used throughout the class were people and solutions that he was familiar with.  Being FNF specific helped him understand the changes that he had seen in our teammates and the processes over the last six months.

Overall, I was pleased by how we progressed over the two days.  I want to thank my teammates who participated in the training.  I am encouraged as they start on their own Scrum adventure.

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Freaking and Scrum: What is your intent?

I wrote a post about the term “honestly” about six months ago. I was motivated to address the constant mis-use of the term. Evidently, my post had little to no impact. Almost every conversation I am engaged in has some one try to get their point across by using “Honestly…..” Once in a while, I might catch a break with someone using. “Truthfully….”. My psych major junior at IU tells me what follow is a lie. So what is the intent of someone who uses “honestly”?

This wasn’t the first misuse of a word that has bothered me. As teenagers, my lovely children would use the term “freaking”. As a father, I always felt I knew what their intent was. They had substituted “freaking” for a far worse word. While “freaking” was acceptable by society, I felt the intent was what was important. I would correct the kids when I heard it.

I keep going back to this topic because it is about intent. As a Scrum coach, I have the opportunity to observe how others communicate within their teams. I have noticed that some managers and Scrum Masters seem to have intent that goes against Scrum. Words such as “subordinate”, “my developers”, “my employees”, “QA”, “Development” and “resources” seem to send a message that the old ways and thoughts are still present even though an organization is using Scrum. Does it represent our intent of “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”? Are we viewing our teammates as a resource in the same vein as coal, cardboard, or plastic? Do we view them as teammates or our minions that we control? Do we throw them away when we are done with them?

Our teammates listen to our word and non-verbal clues to develop a perception of what our intent is. Once those perceptions are developed, they are almost impossible to change. Our teammates can tell when we are just checking the box that a task is complete. They can see through the Scrum vail that the intent is to get the next promotion or the chance to go work on something more interesting. Soon, they start checking the boxes too. Teams quit collaborating. Next thing we know, Scrum is labeled as failing. Did Scrum fail? No, Scrum brought the intent to the surface.

I have been accused of nit picking when I point out the word choices. I know I hate it when my wife points out my poor word choices, though she is usually right. If the relationships are worth having, then we should pay attention to our choice of words. Whether it is with our teammates, our Product Owner, or our children. Scrum works not because the manager is smarter than everyone else, but because the collective Scrum team is smarter than the manager. Utilizing servant leadership, Managers and CSMs are resources for the team.

Remember: The words we choose show intent. Make sure they count.

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The founders of Scrum speak.

Published by Christopher Daily on August 10th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

I found a post on Jeff Sutherland’s blog where Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the founders of Scrum, are speaking at a conference in April.  There are a total of 8 videos.  The topics include how they arrived at Scrum and the question of Scrum Alliance vs. Scrum.org.  The videos are worth checking out.  Click here to check it out.

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Five Steps to Recovery After Blowing Up An #Agile #Iteration

Published by Christopher Daily on August 9th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

No, I am not a terrorist. Before I end up on Homeland Security’s No Fly list, let me explain. The term, “blowing up an iteration” is a term often used to describe the process of abruptly ending an iteration because the goals of the iteration can’t be met. Blowing up an iteration is not the most enjoyable thing to do. So why do it?  Why not just extend the date?

In my experience, extending an iteration leads to the possibility of extending future iterations. Agile iterations should be time boxed with fixed resources and a flexible scope.

The decision to blow up a sprint should not be taken lightly.  Regardless of the reason, an immature team will question whether this Agile stuff is working.  After all, the odds on having a deployable package is not good.  A more experienced Agile team will be concerned, but will recover more quickly than an immature Agile team.

Once you make the the decision to blow up the sprint, you should do these five steps:

  1. Ensure that all the work product is packaged in a way that it can be moved into another iteration.  A main underpinning about Agile is to deliver value early and often.  Capture the value to date, so that the value is delayed.  Not lost.
  2. Continue with your Agile ceremonies, such as a review and retrospective.  The iteration got blown up, so there has to be something that could be improved on.  More important is to talk about what went well.  Many times, the condition that prompted the decision was outside of the control of the team itself.  In fact, the team may have been working well together.  Focusing on the positive can help reduce some of the frustration caused by not reaching the objective of the iteration.
  3. Ensure that your product backlog is ready to go.  A product backlog that has not been groomed is a recipe for disaster.  Constant grooming is required.  Getting the team moving on the next sprint is critical.
  4.  Start the next sprint in the same fashion you do every other one:  Sprint Planning.  The work unfinished from the last sprint should go into the product backlog and be re-prioritized with the rest of the work.  The priorities may have changed.  The goal for the new iteration may be different than the terminated iteration.  Ensure that you define the goal, and that you re-define done.
  5. As a Scrum master, it is imperative you remain positive.  The team will take it’s lead from you.
Again, terminating an Agile iteration is not something that happens often, but when it does, follow the five steps mentioned above.  The steps will save you a lot of headaches in future iterations.

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Six Communication Opportunities in Scrum

Published by Christopher Daily on July 28th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

In my last post about Scrum ceremonies, I stated that there are communication opportunities in Scrum.  At the time, I didn’t elaborate on what those opportunites are.  So, here are four examples of communication opportunities in Scrum:

  1. Sprint planning meeting – In the first half of the sprint planning meeting, the Product Owner works with the team to identify the user stories that are right for the sprint product backlog.  As they work through the process, the “why” begins to weave it’s way into the conversation.  The Product Owner will deliver the “why” as part of the conversation.  Most of the people I have coached are motivated by the “why”.  The second half of the sprint planning meeting is devoted to the team for the purpose of self-organizing around the work.  In addition to communicating with each other, the team may ask the Product Owner for further clarification on any ambiguities with the user stories.
  2. Daily standups – each team member communicates their status on a daily basis, along with any issues or roadblocks that may exist.
  3. Sprint Review – As the end of the sprint, the product owner and the stakeholders have an opportunity to view the outputs of the sprint.  As a part of the demonstration of the new functionality, the Product Owner and Stakeholders provide feedback about the functionality.
  4. Sprint Retrospective – The Sprint team has an opportunity to discuss what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they can fix.  The communication that results is a basis for the next sprint, as the list of potential improvements should be included in the next sprint planning meeting.

There are two more opportunities that most folks don’t  realize.  Using a couple  of tools to estimate can provide unique communication opportunities.  There are two versions of poker parties that are just as important as the Scrum ceremonies.

  1. Planning poker parties provide an excellent opportunity for the team and the product owner to communicate about the complexity of stories, along with the opportunity to get out of the day to day grind.  I recommend treating this as a fun day.  Buying lunch pays for itself as the team often will work through lunch.
  2. Business Value Poker parties are often overlooked as an opportunity to communicate, though the team is not usually involved.  BV Poker can facilitate communication amongst the toughest group:  The Stakeholders.  Stakeholders usually consist of a variety of users from various disciplines.  Some of the disciplines might include accounting, finance, IT, marketing, and the actual users.  Surprisingly, I have found this group often does not communicate with each other effectively.   Different actual users do not often communicate with each other either.  Even though their ultimate goals are the same, their own interest often get in the way of real communication.  Playing BV Poker , while important, pales in comparison to the benefit of having Stakeholders discuss their differences  under the guise of discussing why they assigned a particular business value to a particular story.
If you skip the Scrum ceremonies, you miss chances to communicate that often won’t happen any other way.  So, don’t skip the ceremonies if you don’t want to skip the chance to communicate.
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