Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's all about getting groceries...

When the average college student goes to college, they suddenly have to fend for food themselves. Most campuses provide some type of food source insuring students don't starve to death, but cafeteria food isn't always up to snuff for the tastes of the average 18 year old so they wander out and make their first true grocery run. How does this typically develop?

Phase One- Wander around and find stuff that seems like a good idea.
Result- Realize very quickly within a few days that you forgot stuff that you needed and what you got wasn't really a wise choice. That 3 tub pack of chocolate Kozy Shack pudding seemed like a good deal until you went home and ate it all within 24 hrs. Now you need to make another trip for food that will actually give you some energy for mid-terms.

Phase Two- Realize over time that you don't like wasting time grocery shopping; make a list of groceries and go get those items.
Result- This helps add efficiency, stay within a budget, insure completeness, and aids in blocking useless (or unhealthy) purchases.

Phase Three- You quickly get bored of canned food, cheese n' mac, and spaghetti; it's time to decide what you want to eat/cook in the coming week, then make the grocery list
Result- You shift from always having stuff in your kitchen, to having what you need to make the right meals from that stuff. By working backwards, you insure you are happy with the outcome.

So, what does this have to do with agile or project management?

Phase One - I can't tell you how many companies have a development team that just wanders around and does what seems will help run the business or quiet the screaming managers. Kind of like the hungry college student's stomach, this is simply an id response to filling the basic needs. Unfortunately like the cozy shack pudding example, this doesn't always turn out best for them either.

Phase Two - There comes a point of time where the team can't keep everyone happy. Work starts falling on the floor and some things don't get done. Organization is suddenly required. The team has to start making lists and prioritizing work. They have to consciously decide which things won't get completed to insure that the right things do get completed. They need to stay focused on the list and not everything else that draws their attention (backlog management anyone?)

Phase Three- To really mature as a team, you have to start focusing on your DONE criteria. What is being accomplished? What is the goal you are trying to reach? What is the business value being achieved? The work isn't DONE until you meet this!

Now, lets assume that college student is growing up... or maybe they are maturing their cooking to impress someone they are dating:

Phase Four- ask the people who ate the food what they liked and didn't like. Adjust selected meals accordingly and then adjust the grocery list.

For the agile team... this is the retrospective.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bees self-organize, why can't we?

There is another interesting thread on LinkedIn's Agile Alliance group. I caught up to the conversation late, so instead of adding my two cents, I just want to share the highlights here.

The Question:
In another discussion thread I saw many references to "self managing team" as being one target or goal for any Agile team.

Here are few hypothesis related to that:

True or false?
1. Teams can only become self managed if they have worked togather for long.
2. Teams (and through that companies) will never get to take advantage of their ability to be "self-managed" since the members will be transferred to different projects after they have completed their existing project.
I think the first response is the greatest, so I applaud Bob MacNeal's response:
1. False. Complete strangers are capable of self-organization. Bees do it. Humans do it too.
2. False for some teams. True for most companies. People have an amazing capacity for self-organization. Organizations habitually muck this up by layering in a mojo-killing culture of command-and-control.
Mark Ferguson:
A team that can't self-manage their own internal dynamic will fail. A manager can't micromanage each individual's interactions with other team members, although some do try!

Wayne Peacock:
Success comes only after a series of failures. Scrum or Agile is no silver bullet. The best thing about Scrum is the constant inspect and adapt cycles...

and finally, Sharan Karekatte:
Self-management is what Scrum teams do. They actually manage the user stories and tasks from the Sprint Backlog on a daily basis. They are not told 'how' to complete the work, but 'what' the Product Owner would like from the team in order to deliver the ROI and fulfill the Product Vision.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bored in the standup? Raise your hand...

I just read this interesting post about a scrum team that borrowed the concepts of yellow and red cards from soccer to aid their standups. 3 yellow cards or 1 red card means "move on".

Unfortunately, I live in a country where soccer is not the biggest sport... and I'm sure we would just misplace the cards.

So, let me share what has been working for my team for over a year now...

If anyone in the group feels that the current topic is not relevant to the group, they slowly raise their hand. They do it slowly to not be obtrusive and rude. If other people agree with this person, they can decide to also raise their hand. If there seems to be visible consensus, the people speaking must quickly assess their conversation and decide how to close it. They can either put it on the parking lot, or realize they aren't getting anywhere with it and just stop.

The parking lot is a list on the wipeboard in the team room. The person closest to the board writes the topic and the names of the people who are involved. At the end of the meeting, those people stay behind to pick the conversation back up.

If the person raising their hand is alone when their hand is fully raised, they suddenly realize that they are alone in their stance and drop their hand. At this point they wait for the good of the team since clearly, everyone else finds the conversation valuable.

And yes... our standup is short. We have about 15-20 people every day... and we average about 17 minutes (15-20 minutes) even with these included conversations.

Recently, we had an amusing moment when someone raised their hand on themselves...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quote Series Part 7 - Philosophy (contd.)

This is part eight of the series, to see what this series is about, click here. This is the last in this series.

Quotes on "Philosophy"
Make time to make it right, or be prepared to do it again - Denise Caron
Embrace new directions... not everything you do will be used, sometimes, the target changes. Re-aim and move on! - Denise Caron
Change is constant... don't fight it, leverage it. - Denise Caron
Don't fall in love with your product, someone will be there to change it, it's a promise. - Denise Caron
Blindly following rules is a fools errand. We have enough grey matter to discern when the rules are helpful and when they are not. We have the responsibility to continuously measure whether the rules are helpful, or whether they are not. - Uncle Bob Martin
It is solely and utterly the team’s responsibility to figure out what to do, and to do it. - Ken Schwaber
"Better" is typically a word leveraged by those in control (eyes of the speaker). "Appropriate" is typically a word referencing those affected (surrounding group). We should seek that which is appropriate, not that which is better. Avoid elitism, blanket statements, or viewpoints of limited individual experience. - Kevin E. Schlabach
Without prioritization, nothing is a priority. - unknown
The practices are not the knowing: they are a path to the knowing. - Ron Jeffries
To tolerate a problem is to insist on it. - Ron Jeffries
If it hurts, do it more often - Martin Fowler

Note: where I can, I've credited or linked the source of the quote. Finding the source of a quote is like chasing a ghost. When a mentor says something witty, you might not know they are quoting someone else. If you are aware of a more appropriate source for any quote, PLEASE put a comment on the post and I'll do what I can to validate this. I mean no disrespect to anyone. I believe the risk of incorrect citings is outweighed by the value of sharing these wonderful nuggets.