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Archive for the ‘Agile’ Category

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…….

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

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?
Thanks for coming in today.
Chris

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.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

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.

Thanks for coming in today.
Chris

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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.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

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.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

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.
Thanks for coming in today.

You’ll be sorry you skipped the scurm ceremonies.

Published by Christopher Daily on July 25th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

My son and his band mates came to visit me, using my apartment as a base for shows around Florida. One of their upcoming shows is about 5 hours away. I offered to pay for a hotel room so they wouldn’t have to drive all night to get back. David gracefully refused. What he said next really resonated with me. “If we stay in a hotel you paid for, its not the same. Driving all night, sleeping in our car, and hanging out together are the things we will remember.”

It reminded me of the ceremonies of Scrum.  If we skip the ceremonies, we miss the experience and, more importantly, the benefits.  The first thing a lot of teams do is modify or eliminate the ceremonies. How do we know what works and what doesn’t until we do them for a number of times? It is in our nature to focus on getting to the end result while overlooking the journey.

  • Daily Standups can interrupt our busy schedule. Missing one won’t hurt?
  • Sprint Reviews don’t need to be completed every time. We have nothing to show.
  • We need a manager to run these meetings.
  • Standup meetings are too short.
  • The team is not qualified to test without QA directing the testing activities.

When I hear these objections, it usually comes from a Scrum-butt-er. Viewing the ceremonies as part of a checklist of inconveniences that get in the way of doing the real work (coding, testing, or whatever). Why we perform the scrum ceremonies and the benefits we derive are more important than the ceremony itself.

The communication derived by the scrum ceremonies is invaluable and the biggest benefit achieved.  Communication is rampant in Scrum, with opportunities throughout.  The effects of a missed opportunity may not be realized initially, but will show up eventually.  Hopefully, it won’t be too late.

Thanks for coming in today.

Chris

Failure in Scrum and Agile Projects

Published by Christopher Daily on July 15th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development, Uncategorized

Over the last few weeks, I have talked a number of times about success and failure in Agile projects. On second thought, most of the time failure is the topic. As a member of the human race (no comment from those of you who know me), I have had to bite my tongue when my coaching advice is not followed. The rationale for not following the advice always sounds reasonable at that time. The rationale usually includes statements like:

  • I have always done it this way.
  • I have been a product owner long before this Scrum stuff came along.
  • We’re different.
  • You don’t understand our business.
  • That’s not my job. That’s QA’s job.
  • No, I don’t need any help.
The phrases above remind me of a joke: What does a redneck say right before he dies? Hey, Ya’ll. Watch this.
I don’t let teams fail when I think there are dire consequences to the individual’s career or to the company. Often, the team member is the first one to come back and say “I could have done this differently”.
The benefits to occasionally having a misstep far out way the negative impacts. By creating a safe environment for our teams, we create an opportunity for our teams to learn from their experiences. Far more valuable to an agile organization than an environment where mistakes are not tolerated.
Thanks for coming in today.
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