Monday, January 9, 2017

The Story of Tesla, by Elon Musk

They didn't know it at the time but they created the first Tesla Roadster by taking a working prototype and iterating on the design. By the time the Roadster was announced, they had replaced 96% of the original prototype. "It's amazing what we can do with small teams and tiny budgets." BTW this is part one, you'll want to stay for most of part two. Another video I had to watch to the end!





Sunday, January 8, 2017

Clean Disruption

Why Energy & Transportation will be Obsolete by 2030 by Tony Seba. The horse was displaced by the automobile in just 13 years. Oil, Cars and the Power Grid are about to be transformed in a similar way. What other technologies will be displaced faster than you think, and why?


I don't usually have patience to watch a 45 minute video, but I had to watch this one to the end!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The second impediment, or why should you care about engineering practices?

Sometimes I think, Switzerland is land of product owners. Thanks to our strong economy, there is much more development to do than have capacity for. So we off-shore and near-shore quite a bit. And technical topics seem to produce a yawn among managers and product owners. "Not really my problem," they seem to be saying. I'd like you to challenge that assumption!

I don't often change the main messages of my Scrum courses. For years, I have been talking about "Inspect and Adapt", "Multitasking is Evil" and "Spillover is Evil." Recently I have added a new message:

Bugs are Evil.

Why this change? While researching for my Scrum Gathering Workshop on Code Dojo's, I found a paper by Alistair Cockburn from XP Sardinia. He wrote, In 1000 hours (i.e. in one month), a team can write 50'000 lines of code. And they will send 3'500 bugs to quality assurance.

Doing the math based on industry standard assumptions, I found that that team will create 12'000 hours of effort for themselves, quality assurance, operations, and customer support. 1 year of waste produced for no good reason!

Is this really true? Well, at my last Scrum Master course, I met someone whose teams spend roughly 2/3rds of their time fixing bugs, much of them in emergency mode. Technical debt is a real danger! Imagine if you were paying 2/3rd of your income to pay the rent and plug holes in the ceiling of your apartment! That product is on the verge of bankruptcy!

Technical topics often generate a yawn among product owners and managers. But it's your money and your team's capacity which is being wasted!

So I'd like to encourage you to pay attention to engineering practices. Bugs are evil! Remember that and make sure everyone in your organization knows it too. As a leader, you are best positioned to ask the question, how can have fewer bugs?"

P.S. This is the topic for Monday's Scrum Breakfast Club, "Why should you care about engineering practices?" Check out the event, and come to my Manager and Product Owner friendly introduction to Pair Programming and Test Driven Development.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How we used to Scrum and XP to keep the conference on schedule

Last week, I attended and facilitated Scrum Day Portugal. This was one of the best conferences I have ever attended: Great talks, new information, great discussions off-line both with participants and speakers! And despite starting 15 minutes late, we finished on time. Everything just flowed! How did we do that?

It didn't start out that way. Scrum Day Portugal is a two day event. I arrived Tuesday afternoon, half way into the first day. The speakers were interesting, the talks were great, but we were running late. It felt like a death march project, even though the conference had barely begun.

My job was to facilitate the second day. We had a really tight schedule! Seven igniter talks followed by 2 Pecha Kuchas and 3 ½ hours of Open Space. I realized that staying on schedule would be both challenging and really important. If people are exhausted at the Open Space, they can employ the law of two feet (leave), and all the air goes out of the event. This would be a disaster. How to fix the problem?

Tuesday night, the speakers went out for dinner together. We talked about the problem. A big challenge was that most participants arrived late on Tuesday, and would probably do so again on Wednesday, so we could not just ignore our customers and start on time. Another challenge was that one speaker needed more time than originally planned. Not knowing how late we would have to start, we couldn't decide how to address the scheduling problem. We agreed to make the decision Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, I invited all the speakers to a daily scrum, shortly before the opening was scheduled. While I tried to make a plan for the start times of each speaker, Chet Hendrickson started writing cards on the table. He made a card for each speaker, the coffee break and lunch.
Visualizing the program à la XP

At this point, I gave up on my “spreadsheet”! Using Chet's cards and the original schedule, we calculated the duration of each session. We agreed to start 15 minutes late, but keep the original timings. So we calculated the new start times for each speaker. What about the speaker, who needs more time? “I can shorten my talk, no problem!” said Manny Gonzales, CEO of the Scrum Alliance (when was the last time you heard a CEO volunteer to shorten their talk?).

What about transition times? There are no transition times, this is the time each of us starts. “Oh, so I have to shorten my talk a bit.” We all understood the problem and the goal. We had implicitly agreed to do our best to make it happen.

“The key word is responsibility,” explained Chet, “Everyone in the team has an obligation to do the right thing. The cards are a tool he uses in Extreme Programming to visualize system architecture, and thanks to the visualization, everyone knew what they had to do.

How did we stay on time? During the each session, I just needed to know who the next speaker was, when their session was scheduled to start. The speakers asked for a friendly wave at five minutes before the end of their session, so they could remain aware of when the had to finish.

In the worst case, a session ended in 1 whole minute late. Some of the speakers over-compensated (shortened), so by lunchtime, we were back on the original schedule!

So the conference ran smoothly and everybody left the conference with a smile. What does this have to do with Scrum and XP?
  • Someone was responsible for the process, and raised the questions. In Scrum, that person is called the Scrum Master.
  • The team got together to figure out how to achieve the day's goal. In Scrum that's called a Daily Scrum.  We left the meeting with a plan and a common goal.
  • The Scrum Master remained focused on the process, giving friendly reminders when it was helpful. 
  • The time-boxing gave us orientation and helped us deliver a great conference. 
  • Visualizing the problem and giving it to the whole team made solving the problem much easier. (I don't know what Chet calls his board, but it's a great approach.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to beat procrastination with My Personal Agility


As I started my quest which led to creating what I now call 'My Personal Agility,' my goal was to get more done of what really matters.  Today, I stumbled on a TED talk by Tim Urban (author of the amazing 'Wait but Why' blog) that explains why that is so hard to achieve. We are all procrastinators. How can we beat the urge to procrastinate?



Urban talks about the 'Instant Gratification Monkey' who seizes control from the 'Rational Decision Maker.' The monkey wants to do fun stuff, not hard stuff that's important but whose value is far off. The only thing that the monkey is afraid of is the 'Panic Monster' - if the deadline is near enough, panic will set in, the monkey is scared off and the rational decision maker can get to work.

And what if there is no deadline? No panic monster to raise its ugly head, so you never get anything started, much less finished. So procrastination is paralyzing.

Urban's solution was to visualize the weeks in your life and tick them off as you age. This should create a sense of urgency by inviting the Panic Monster into the room. But somehow, ticking off the weeks until I am dead is depressing, and at least for me, that would be even more paralyzing!

How does My Personal Agility help you beat the urge to procrastinate?

The Six Questions of Personal Agility

The six questions of Personal Agility offer a more uplifting approach:
  1. What really matters?
  2. What did I accomplish last week?
  3. What is important (of all the things I could do)?
  4. What is urgent (really has to get done this week)?
  5. What do I think I can accomplish (this week)?
  6. Who can help? 
Bonus question: What do I want to do today?

The answers to Question 1, What really matters, give you guidance for saying yes or no to the many things you could do. It also reminds you what you really want to do.

Question 2, What did I accomplish last week, is an opportunity to celebrate what you have accomplished in the past week. This produces the happiness hormones to keep Instant Gratification Monkey happy and content.

Questions 3 and 4, What's urgent and what's important help you order your thoughts and think about what you want to be doing this week. Some of your time will be for important goals, some will be for putting out urgent fires, and some for having fun!

Question 5, What do I think I can accomplish, is about setting reasonable goals for the week and giving yourself a deadline. This might be an invitation to the Panic Monster, though I believe if you produce enough happiness hormones through question 2, you won't need the Panic Monster as often.

Question 6, Who can help? Why is this question here? As humans, we can accomplish more in collaboration than by ourselves. If you are stuck, this is a useful question, because a new person is always a new source of ideas.

In my case, I found myself unable to ask the first five questions on a regular basis, so I asked myself who could ask me these questions. The answer was obvious, and I asked my wife for help. She offered to meet with me once per week, to ask me these questions, so I can answer them. I call her my Personal Agility Coach. By having a weekly appointment with my Personal Agility Coach, I can reflect on these questions, produce some happiness hormones for what I have accomplished, and remind myself what I really want to be doing this week.

Depending on your context, your Personal Agility Coach could be a life coach, a mentor, a Scrum Master,  a fellow student or even your spouse! Just use a board, like Trello, to visualize the answers to the first 5 questions. I call this Your Priorities Map. Then meet with your Personal Agility Coach once per week or so to celebrate your accomplishments, answer the questions, and remind yourself what you want to be doing.

How I do Personal Agility

Peter's Personal Agility
Artwork thanks to @fredzen















Sunday, September 11, 2016

6 questions that changed my life

A few months ago I noticed that I was working like crazy and there was no end in sight. To get off this endless treadmill, I came up with my first draft of what I now call "My Personal Agility." After working with it for a few months, it all comes down to this:
  1. What really matters?
  2. Of all the things I could do, what is most important?
  3. Of all the things I could do, what really has to get done this week?
  4. What do I want to get done this week?
  5. What am I going to do today?
  6. Who can help me?
I get help from my personal agility coach who asks me these questions at regular intervals, so that I don't forget to do it. I also get some help from two information radiators: My priorities map (which I maintain on Trello) and my calendar. My priorities map helps me remember what's important and what I want to be doing. Sometimes I use my calendar for additional help on focusing during the day.

Getting my life under control meant saying 'No' to unimportant stuff so I could say yes to things that matter. Sometimes it even meant saying 'Yes' to unplanned resting, because I am not a machine, and sometimes I need to rest.

How does this work? Here is an example from my life: my kids had kind of gotten used to the fact that their requests never really got processed. I was working so hard on "important stuff" that I never had time for family stuff.

Once I decided doing things for my family really mattered, so I put it on my priorities map as point number one and labeled it with a green dot. Then every week, as I plan my week, I make sure there are a couple of green items in the list of things I want to accomplish this week. The difference was obvious immediately! Now I apply that principle at home and at work.

Here's how this works:

What really matters? These 3, maybe 4 priorities in my life guide what I say yes to. Each priority has a color code for easy identification. 

Of all the things I could do, what is most important?  I always have too much to do, so I want to focus on things that matter. If I am considering doing something that doesn't match up to something that matters, I ask myself why and whether I should do it!

Of all the things I could do, what really has to get done this week? Some things have a pressing deadline and it's important not to lose sight of them. 

What do I want to get done this week? I don't have time or energy to do everything. So of the important things and the urgent things, which ones do I think I can accomplish this week? Unchecked, the urgent tends to push out the merely important, so I sometimes I need to make space for the important. Sometimes that means that urgent stuff gets postponed or even cancelled.

What am I going to do today? This keeps me from going off on a tangent. Sometimes it's even helpful to plan my time in my calendar, for example to make room for a larger chunk of important work.

Who can help me?  At the very least, I needed someone to ask me these questions once a week or so, so I remember to answer them! Most approaches to managing your time assume that you are really by yourself. In reality, you can ask a partner, your spouse, an advisor or a professional coach to ask you the questions once a week or so. You can ask other people for help. Individual performance is important, but collaboration enables so much more!

By reflecting occasionally on what you are doing and why, you ensure that you're not just working hard, you're also doing the right thing!


Call for help: I'd like to find out if this approach could be useful in your context. If this has piqued your interest, and regardless of whether you think the answer might be yes or is probably no, I'd like to talk to you! Please contact me, and I'll set up an appointment! Thanks!

UPDATE: I have updated and will continue to update this article to make it clear. First change. The questions changed my life, the information radiators just help me do what I want! Last Update: 12-Sep-2016 at 09:12.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Peter's 5 Question Agility Assessment

What does it mean to have an “Agile Mindset?” This assessment is intended to help you reflect on your level of agility. You can download the questionnaire and give assess yourself, your team, your organization, or even your customers!

Last week, I argued that the Agile Manifesto defines the Agile mindest. If your attitudes and values are aligned with the Manifesto, then you can claim to have the Agile mindset. This post is the short form: the conclusions without the reasoning, plus the questionnaire. For more explanation on why I chosen these questions, see Five Simple Questions To Determine If You Have the Agile Mindset.

You can download the questionnaire in PDF format.

The Manifesto for Agile doing what we do

We are uncovering better ways of doing what we do, by doing it and helping others to do the same. Through this work, we have come to value:

    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    Customer visible value over comprehensive documentation
    Customer 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.
– The Agile Manifesto, www.agilemanifesto.org, as paraphrased by Peter Stevens

What is the Agile Mindset?

Someone who has the Agile mindset is in alignment with the first sentence of the Agile Manifesto: The Agile Mindset is a learning mindset.

Someone with an Agile mindset knows what they do, besides making money! What value do you bring value to those whom you value? Someone with an Agile mindset is uncovering betters ways to do what they do, both by doing it, and by helping others to do the same. This is about advancing the state of your art, having time to improve your skills and technology, and learning and sharing beyond your own four walls.

Someone with an Agile mindset knows what they value. The have reflected on the Values and Principles of the Agile Manifesto and found their own beliefs to be largely in harmony with those expressed in the Manifesto. Values are a guide to decision making, so their decisions will be aligned with the Agile Manifesto as well. Perhaps they have additional values. Perhaps they have reason to disagree with one or more of the values in their context. The less relevant you consider the Agile values, the more you should question yourself on whether you really have the mindset!

Finally someone with an Agile mindset knows why they value what they value. Values are not to be blindly followed. You may value other things beyond the 4 values expressed in the Agile Manifesto.

Peter's 5 Questions

  1. What do you do for those whom you value? The answer must contain a verb and is not “making money
  2. Are you uncovering better ways of doing what you do, by doing it?
  3. Are you uncovering better ways of doing what you do, by helping others to do the same?
  4. Have you reflected on the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto and what they mean for you?
  5. Can you concisely explain your values and why you value them?

Use of this Assessment

Peter's 5 Question Agile Assessment should inspire you to reflect on your level of Agility. It is not about any particular practice nor does not give you a score. It intended to help you reflect on your values and principles, and to give you something to think about on the road to becoming Agile.

Downloading and Using the Assessment

You can download and use Peter's 5 Question Assessment. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution 4.0 License.