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Posts Tagged ‘agile’

Giving something back



Bug Run Board

Over the past year, several of us at IHIE have been reaching out to local universities to start building relationships. It makes sense. Our objectives are complementary. The universities want their students to be able to participate in practicums and internships, and their graduates to get hired into great positions. IHIE wants an opportunity to try out potential teammates that are really smart prior to asking them to join our team. You can’t get more complimentary than that.

image2Our efforts have translated into 4 out of our last 6 hires being directly from one of the programs we work with. We decided we needed to give something back. We weren’t sure what would work, but we decided to do something different.

We wanted to provide an experience that most of the students wouldn’t get from their college studies. The experience needed to be relevant to their career pursuits and would provide some benefit to their resume and job search. We needed to make sure that the environment was conducive to the experience and the necessities (food) were provided. Those attending were college students after all!

image2We decided to promote Agile concepts to students by providing Scrum training which we had delivered to our IHIE team earlier in the year. We chose December 6th and 7th as our training weekend and sent out email invitations to all the students we talked to at the various university-held career fairs throughout the year. Seven brave souls were in their seats at 9 AM on Saturday morning. What followed over the next 33 hours was a mixture of discussion, lecture, and activities with one goal: to begin on the journey of lifelong learning for the participants. To solidify learning objectives, we had each team apply the Scrum Framework as they built a board game of their team’s respective design.

Lost Duckling BoardThirty three hours later, we had seven folks ready to join a Scrum team, and we had a good time in the process. I reminded them throughout the day that this is the start of a journey.  I think I got more out of the two days than the students did.  It’s a rewarding and invigorating experience to introduce the concept of Agile thinking to the uninitiated.  We concluded the training with a Sprint Review of their board game (my favorite part of the training), and a self-organized Retrospective of the class. 

Hopefully, the students got value out of the two days.  I know I enjoyed teaching again.  We are talking about offering it again in the spring semester of 2015.

Thanks for coming in today.





What the heck am I doing?

Published by Christopher Daily on August 14th, 2012 - in Branding Yourself, Business Musings, IMO

This morning, I was reminded that I have been absent from the blogsphere. I am on my way to Agile 2012 in Dallas, when digging out my iPad, I found a flyer from the Scrum Alliance Spring Gathering. For those of you that are not in software business, these are two of the best conferences on the Agile software approaches.

Finding the old flyer reminded me thta i have fallen into one of my old traps: Bugs Bunny Syndrome (BBS).

Before I describe Bugs Bunny Snydrome, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. For those of you youngsters from the Thundercats and Transformers eras, Bugs Bunny is a cartoon character that was prominent in the 60’s and 70’s who’s main adversary was a daft hunter named Elmer Fudd. Occasionally, Bugs would go into his rabbit borough and emerge in another place. Sometimes, it was where Bugs intended to go. Other times, Bugs took a wrong turn in Abluquerque and ended up somewhere other than where he intended. Bugs didn’t follow the map and didn’t have landmarks to guide him.

So BBS is the ability to go into a borough and emerge someplace else. In my case, I have been boroughing at FNF. Good thing right? Focus on the task at hand. The challenge is that I have been so focused on what we have been doing at Fidelity that I have not been doing a good job at staying current. Not only have I not been pushing my thoughts and ideas out into the world, but I have fallen behind in my reading as well.

I have found that you are never really cured from BBS. My relapses occur typically when I start a new job or a new adventure in my personal life. I have found that I can combat this syndrome by a couple of simple actions:

  • Set a fixed time each day where I read. Reading while on the treadmill is my favorite. Another good alternative is to stop at your favorite coffee shop.
  • Attend an industry event. In my case, I am focused on Scrum and Agile.
  • When ideas pop in your head, write them down. This technique works for many authors and artists. Try it. It works.

Hopefully, these steps will help you keep BBS in remission. While you can never truly get BBS cured, you can at least keep it under control.
Thanks for coming in today.

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.

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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.

Thanks for coming in today.


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.

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.

Support an Agile/Scrum Transition????

Published by Christopher Daily on July 14th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

At the start of each Agile/Scrum engagement, I always introduce individually to the Scrum Team Members, the Product Owner, and interested Stake Holders. Invariably, I come across a few folks who admit they are going to wait to see if the organization is just going through the motions of adopting Agile or Scrum.

I am always amazed when I hear the words come out of their mouth. What are they thinking?  Scrum is not a passing fancy, but viewed as an opportunity to turn around the organization.  There are really only three possible results when an enterprise is adopting Agile/Scrum.

  1. Failure – The group reverts back to it’s old ways.
  2. Scrum, but – The group adopts some Scrum principals, but does not realize all the benefits.
  3. Success –  The group adopts Scrum, realizing the benefits and joys of Scrum.
Success is the only outcome that changes the organization.  Not participating in attempting to fix a bad situation is not acceptable.  Not being onboard also puts the employee at risk of being labeled an “objectionist”.  Worse yet, you might actually be told you are part of the problem.
Thanks for coming in today.

New Scrum Term: Chig

Published by Christopher Daily on July 6th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

I would like to suggest a new term to be considered in Scrum: Chig. So what is a Chig? Before I explain what a Chig is, I should probably give you a little background. Within Scrum, their are only three types of members of the team: Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the team. These team members are often referred to as pigs, as they are committed. Agile/Scrum Cartoon about a chicken and a pig.

All others are parties are called chickens, referring to the fact that they are involved, but not committed. For those of you not familiar with the joke, click here to see the original pig and chicken cartoon.

So, what is a Chig? A Chig is a term that we have started using for those folks who say they are a chicken, but act as though they are a pig. What kind of things do Chigs do?

  1. Though not part of the team, Chigs make assignments to members of the Scrum team.
  2. Though not part of the team, Chigs make promises to deliver functionality to users.
  3. Though not part of the team, Chigs ask questions and offer advice during standups.
  4. Though not part of the team, Chigs provide status progress updates to other Chigs.

As we discussed this in our latest Standup, I pointed out that I am guilty of occasionally stepping over the line moving from the chicken side of the line to the pig side, making me a Chig. As I talked about being a Chig, I could see a couple of self-proclaimed Chickens looking at the floor. As the Scrum/Agile coach, I didn’t have to say a word.

I did talk to one of my fellow Chigs later. Bill “Chig” pulled me aside later and admitted that he was in fact a Chig. We laughed about being Chigs, and agreed to call each other out when we were slipping into the Chig role.

Keeping each other honest is critical in Scrum and Agile projects.

Thanks for coming in today.


Piling on: Agile/Scrum Certifications

Published by Christopher Daily on July 1st, 2011 - in Agile, IMO, Scrum, Software Development, Uncategorized

There seems to have been a lot of discussion lately about certifications, and the validity of them.  I may have even tried to get my two cents in. Most of the authors have been challenging whether the Agile community needs certifications at all.

I support certifications in general, and specifically in some professions.  Doctors and lawyers are a couple of professions that I think certifications might be good examples.  Doctors and lawyers are two good examples where certifications might be applicable.  Both professions require a commitment to education past the normal 4 year under-graduate degree.  Yet an M.D. degree doesn’t mean that you will get a competent doctor.  Lawyers have been the but of many jokes in spite of their advanced degree.  How the lawyer or doctor uses the knowledge obtained is what is critical, though a degree is the first filter most people apply.

Years ago, when I acquired my MBA, I thought it might separate me from other candidates for a job.  I never expected to get hired because of my MBA.  I believe how you apply what you  have learned is far more important.

Anyone who hires exclusively because of a certification won’t be making that mistake too long.  He will be fired or moved to a “Special” projects position.

Interested in what a couple of the Agile Gurus are saying?  Check out Martin Fowler’s post “Certification Competence Correlation” or Alistair Cockburn’s certification debate with James Shore sponsored by PMI.

Thanks for coming in today.

How do I start being “Agile”: Getting Started

Published by Christopher Daily on June 30th, 2011 - in Agile, Scrum, Software Development

I have been somewhat negligent in writing any Agile posts over the last few weeks.  I have been working with a development organization on an out of town coaching engagement.  The initiation phase is probably my least favorite time.  My doubts about myself and my abilities always seem to surface in my mind.  Will I be able to help this company?  Will they be willing to help themselves?  Do they really want to be Agile?  What kind of management support will we get?

As the engagement starts, most of these questions get answered fairly quickly.  Over the last week, I have developed the first version of the answer to most of the questions.  Various team members have been dropping by, introducing themselves, and then started telling me why they needed help.  Some of the conversations are 5 minutes, and a couple have gone 2 hours.

So back to the main point:  I have been asked ‘How do I start being “Agile”‘?

Many of you know that Agile is an umbrella term that represents a collection of development methodologies and frameworks that embrace the principles of the Agile Manifesto.  It includes such disciplines as Scrum(my favorite), Kanban, Crystal, Test Driven Development, and Extreme Programming.  However, in my opinion (IMO), Agile is really a state of mind.  To get started with Agile, you need to change how you think.

How I think? That continues to be the biggest challenge for me. I grew up professionally in a Command and Control structure. It started early when you followed the demand of your football coach yelling at you. It continued when I graduated to flipping burgers, and later developing soft are. We were told what to do and how to do it.  Most managers today got into management because they got tired of being told what to do.  I know I wanted to be the “Man”, giving orders to those below me.

Somewhere around the early 90’s I noticed a change. Successful mangers have been quietly moving away from C&C.

Transitioning to Agile brings this move front and center.  Moving to an Agile state of mind means that managers:

Let go of the perception that they are in charge.  In reality, you were never in charge, but you told everyone you were.

Support their Scrum teams by helping remove impediments and assisting in the prioritization of the backlog.

Be a cheerleader for your scrum teams. Be a chicken as they self-organize, but point out in one on one conversations when you see something good happen.

Listen to new ideas.  This is a tough one.  A lot of C&C managers believe people should just follow. They also believe they are smarter than everyone else. While that may be true, shut up and listen. Your team will surprise you.

Embrace the Agile Manifesto. If you read it, you will have to agree with it. It just makes sense.

Thanks for coming in today.

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