Monday, September 15, 2014

Getting Starting on #POcampCH -- the Product Owner Camp Switzerland

Today, the organization team for the first Product Owner Camp in Switzerland, held its first telco. Here is what we decided:
  1. Our target date is March 2015, the alternative is June, 2015.
  2. The open space will be held on a Friday and Saturday.
  3. We want to hold a Product Owner Masterclass, one or two days before the Open Space event.
  4. The audience is experienced Product Owners, Agile Product Managers and Lean Startup Practitioners. This is by practitioners for practitioners, not for beginners.
  5. The event is not profit oriented. 
  6. We are going to get together on skype roughly once every to two weeks to take the event forward. 
We are thinking hotel in the mountains, we will start exploring possibilities once the constraints for the workshop are defined. 

We have created a backlog to organize our work: Our first objective is the find a leader for the MasterClass, reserve some dates, and start working on the website. After that, priority will be the venue...


Several other people expressed an interest in helping to organize, we will welcome them as they confirm their participation :-)!

Are you interested in participating (or even helping out?) Join our google group to stay informed!

How much do you let a new team self organize?


I have a team of 11 developers and 3 Product Owners. Their ideas about how to organize the team are all over the place. Some want to do 1 week sprints. Others want one month sprints. And we pull in resources people so we can get the right velocity to meet our deadlines. This seems like a mess. How much should I let my beginning team self-organize? -- recently asked on a Scrum Discussion Forum.    
Modifying a complex technique before you have mastered it is a failure pattern. So when you are just getting started, try to get as close to Scrum by the book as you can, without obsessing over it... much. I call this Pretty Good Scrum(tm). ;-)

Yes the team self-organizes... and the Scrum Master is charged with teaching the team and helping them improve. When the team is just getting started, it should follow the lead the of Scrum Master, and the Scrum Master should stay close to the book. As they get better, they'll be better able to inspect and adapt themselves.

Successful teams learn quickly. How do you learn quickly? Short answer: Do short sprints. More in a moment.

Remember, never hit anyone with the book! The rules of Scrum are there to help you, not to threaten or punish people. Be sure you can answer why the rule of Scrum is a good answer. Treat everything as an experiment or learning exercise, so they have the security of knowing they can change things later. That's what retrospectives are for.

It will probably take you three or four sprints to get to Pretty Good Scrum. That's why I recommend one week sprints to start. Why learn in four months what you can learn in 4 weeks?

If I were confronted with the situation above, I would ask five questions and help the team(s) and PO(s) find answers that stay within the constraints defined by Scrum.

1. How big is a Scrum team? 7+/-2. To stay in those bounds, you need two teams. Ask your teams how they want divide themselves, respecting that constraint. By giving them the problem, they become responsible for the solution, so they won't come to you anymore with "yes, but..."! If they talk about limited specialists, ask them how to resolve the problem.

2. How many Product Owners does a Scrum Team have? One, though you might also have a Chief Product Owner role in the case of multiple teams. Ask your product owners how they want to split up their work. And yes, the PO is responsible for the Vision. Do they have one, can they communicate it? Is it shared and supported by the Team and other stakeholders?

3. How long is the Sprint? Normally this is negotiated between PO and Team. And... as Scrum Master you are responsible for the process, which gives you the right to intervene to improve the team. Shorter sprints accelerate learning. So I would suggest starting with a couple of one week sprints. Be sure to get your team to agree to this. I have also had great experiences doing 2 or 3 sprints at 59 minutes each (ask me more about this if you're interested).

4. Who estimates and decides how much work can be accomplished in a sprint? The team. Not the math, not the PO, not the stakeholders and not management. Have them estimate the work, and don't let them take on more than they can chew. Think of highways at rush hour if you want to know why this is a good idea.

5. Whose job is it to make sure that wish and reality are in harmony with each other? The Product Owner. If the desired scope does not match up with the team's reasonable forecast of what they can accomplish by the desired release date (aka deadline), whose job is it to fix the problem? The PO. Given your context, conversations about reducing scope and the impact of product-level multitasking on ROI might be quite fruitful!

Back to the original question: "How much do you let a new team self organize?" The answer is "quite a lot!" The trick is setting constraints that cause people to come up with right answers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pair & Share - a simple technique for Sprint Planning

How do you get the team to plan tasks effectively?
The second half of sprint planning is often a challenge for teams starting Scrum. It used to be their Project Leader would do the planning for them. Now the team has to figure it out for themselves! (Doesn't the Scrum Master do that? No!) How can you as a Scrum Master encourage your team to plan the Sprint effectively?

Many teams have difficulties doing task planning before they have thought about the technical concept. To address this challenge, I have a strategy I call "Pair and Share".

Preparation

Good preparation is half the battle. This means that coming out of Sprint Planning 1, you should have a selected product backlog ("forecast") that consists of reasonably small stories. Six to 10 items in the forecast is a sign that the stories were small enough (assuming it is a good forecast).

Your team has had the conversations with the Product Owner, the Stakeholders, other Subject Matter experts, etc, and the confirmation is reasonably clear, perhaps in the form of a how-to-demo workflow, or other criteria which can be readily turned into an (automated) acceptance test. If you are still discussing the confirmation during the task planning, you probably have a long meeting in front of you ;-) Having said that, there is a reason the Product Owner should be in the room!

Pair and Share

Here's how it works:

As a Scrum Master, I would take a moment to remind the team about the importance of working according to priority, getting things really done (as opposed to getting a lot of stuff sort of but not really done), and of minimizing work in progress, especially unfinished work at the end of the sprint. The goal for this meeting is not to create the definitive technical concept or task planning, but to create enough of each that the team can start working.

Then timebox Sprint Planning 2, the second half of the meeting, to one hour per week of sprint. So for two weeks, that gives you two hours. Divide that again in two halves, in this case 1 hour each for conceptual work and for task planning.

Have the team pair off. So if you have 6 people in the team, you have 3 pairs. Each pair takes two or three stories (what does this say about how big the stories are?). They have 1/2 hour to come up with their initial technical concept for implementing each story. So they timebox their discussion to 10 or 15 minutes per story.

After the first half hour is up, each pair explains how they want to implement each story to the rest of the team. Short Q&A. You are probably timeboxing the presentation to about 5 minutes per story. The rest of the team can ask questions, so this "share" part builds shared understanding and serves as an initial design review. The discussion may cause the team to rethink their solution, which will influence the task planning.

So now an hour has gone by, and you repeat the process, this time for task planning. Split into pairs (possibly different pairs than the first time), take the top stories, and do 1/2 hour of task planning.

During the final half hour, the team meets in front of the task board. One by one, each pair posts and explains their task planning to the rest of the team.

So now, pairs have thought relatively deeply both about the technical concept and the task planning. The whole team is consulted, and the team is well positioned to work forward as a team to start implementing.

BTW 1 - It may be that the team wants to think more about a particular item before committing to that particular concept. That's OK! Just make a task, "Finalize Design" or whatever.

BTW 2 - How did I come up with this? One of my first teams asked themselves this very question, and this is what they came up with! It worked beautifully! So if this doesn't feel right for your team, give them the goals for the meeting and ask them how they want to do it! Maybe you should even do that first!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Frameworks considered helpful

Jurgen Appelo recently wrote:

I know of no industry in the world that is as infested with methods and frameworks as the software business. Whether it’s RUP, XP, Scrum, AUP, DAD, or SAFe, it seems IT businesses are always looking for yet another method or framework that they can “implement” next month.

As a retailer, how often do you come into contact with filmmaking? Not very often. How often do you come into contact with road building? Except when you are stuck in traffic due to a construction site, not very often.

How often do you come into contact with IT? Every business comes in contact with IT. Whether to sell on online, automate processes, manage work, or whatever, every IT and software are everywhere. And IT projects can be extremely complex and failure is quite common.

And IT is so widespread, there aren't enough experts to go around -- or why does Jurgen tour the world to promote his book and his framework, instead of working with individual companies to help them improve?

Most people have no idea where to begin. Our instincts from our hunter-gatherer phases evolution are often counter-productive. So frameworks are essential. They are reasonably well understood place to start. Some of them even work pretty well, like Scrum (or even Kanban ;-) if you apply them reasonable well. And this is hard part.

For some more research-driven explanations as to why frameworks are helpful, see Chip and Dan Heath's book: Switch, or How to Change when Change is Hard. Their example on Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery is particularly illuminating. Taking on a new complex activity requires a good place to start, a lot of practice, and a willingness to learn.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Scrumbut, or What could you omit from Scrum?

Jelle van Wieringen recently wrote on LinkedIn:
Next Monday in Mannheim, Germany we will discuss Scrumbut in our open monthly "Scrum Stammtisch". This months topic is the consequences of leaving out elementary elements of Scrum. I'd like to know what [people] think...
As perhaps the first person to ask people to take the Nokia test in public, I feel a little bit responsible for the creation of the term "ScrumBut." Is it OK to change Scrum? Certainly there are situations where necessary, and others where it's not OK (and probably some overlap between the two!), so here is my take on changing Scrum:

The core of Scrum is really very small. Inspect and Adapt. At regular intervals. Everything thing Scrum is designed to enable effective inspection and adaptation at regular intervals.

To me, Scrum represents a solution to the challenge of solving complex problems based on those simple principles. It's a reference implementation. You'll never do it exactly like it is in the book, but especially at the beginning, you should try to get as close as possible to the book.

As you get good at Scrum, your inspections and adaptations may take you away from the book. When is that OK?

I have two tests for good changes to Scrum:

  1. Does it cause you to inspect and adapt more often than Scrum-by-the-book? If yes, it's probably a good change. If not, then probably not. 
  2. Is your change the result of an agreement, either among the Scrum Team or between the Team and its stakeholders, to improve performance? If yes, it's probably a good change. If not, i.e. you are accommodating some endemic problem or inability to change, then you are probably being tempted by the Dark Side and should tread cautiously. 

I think (1) is a stronger, more reliable test than (2). And I think if (1) and (2) both pass, well that's a sign of impending Awesomeness!

What's you take? When is it OK to change Scrum? How do you check that the change is OK?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Z is for Zukunftstag (#AgileFutureDay)

Agile is changing the world, but our schools are still preparing kids for the way world used to be. Would you like your kids to learn the ways of the future?

Thursday, November 13, 2014 is "Future Day" in Switzerland. Originally conceived as "Daughter's Day" to encourage fathers to take their daughters to work to experience non-traditional jobs for women,  it is now an annual opportunity for kids, usually in the 6th grade to get a day off from school so they can experience their parents at work and get a first taste of the real world.

My oldest attended one of my courses a few years ago (her insights were stunning, says the proud father) and this year, I will invite my youngest to attend.

Wouldn't it be cool if kids everywhere got a chance to experience the world of work, the way it should be? I'd like to call on trainers everywhere to invite the middle school aged children of their participants to join in their Agile, Lean or Scrum trainings on November 13th! Would that be cool? They can learn what collaboration can be! Let's make November 13th #AgileFutureDay!

P.S. I've got four spaces for kids on Future Day in my CSM course. No charge ;-)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

A is for Agile... and changing the world

We are uncovering better ways of developing software, by doing it and helping others to do it...

-- The Manifesto for Agile Software Development 

In 2001, seventeen people signed a 73 word statement that changed software development forever. Before: a bunch of guys doing "lightweight project management." After: a set of values which coalesced into a name, "Agile" and later into a movement. People identified with the values and transformed their working worlds with things like Scrum, Extreme Programming, Kanban, Lean Startup, and still other ideas and frameworks we haven't invented yet.

As we got better at developing software, we discovered the need for better ways at lot of things. The Agile movement inspired DevOps, which is looking for better ways to operate computer systems, and Stoos, which is looking for better ways of management. Soon, maybe scientists will look for better ways of conducting research, and maybe you will look for better ways of doing whatever you do.

How can you use the Agile Manifesto to help you? Start with the Agile Manifesto, find some colleagues who do what you do, and play with the Manifesto a bit. Not developing software? What is your essential goal or reason for being? Adjust the manifest as necessary to fit your situation. It probably won't need many changes.

So if you are in the HR department, what do you do? Maybe it is something like 'developing our human potential.' So what would a manifesto for agile human resources look like? Maybe something like this:

Sample Manifesto for Agile Human Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing human potential, by doing it and helping others to do it. Through this work we have come to value:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Autonomy, mastery and purpose over documentation, directives and control
  • Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
This is probably not quite right, but you get the idea. And it should be your manifesto, not mine, so feel free to keep working on it!

Want to change your world? Start looking for a better way! Maybe write your own manifesto... Want to find like-minded individuals, check out the Open Space event 24 Think Park in Zurich...