Monday, March 29, 2010

XP Day Suisse: 10 Agile Contracts for your next project

Today it was my privilege to participate as a speaker at the XP Day Switzerland in Geneva. The topic was contracts and agile projects. A very hot topic which provoked a lot of interesting questions and discussion.

My slides are available online as PowerPoint (7MB) or PDF (< 1MB).

The talk is based on an article I wrote for AgileSofwareDevelopment.com: 10 Contracts for you Next Agile Project. For those who prefer to read in French: Fabrice Aimetti provided a very nice translation in to French: 10 Contrats pour votre prochain Projet Logiciel Agile.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Call for Sessions: Lean Agile Scrum Conference 2010 in Zürich

The LAS Conference in Zürich is a forum for practitioners of Scrum, Lean, Agile and related disciplines to learn and share their experiences. As a low cost community event, it is open to a large spectrum of interested parties.

This year's motto is: "From Scrum Team to Lean Enterprise." The conference seeks to bridge the gap between managers, project leaders, business analysts, testers and connect the management perspective with the view from the trenches.

After a free event in the morning, the official conference starts at 10:00 with tutorials on Lean and Scrum. Afternoon another Keynote followed by 6 Sessions on interesting topics. The Keynote Speakers will lead a Workshop in parallel with the sessions for a limited number of participants. The conference will close with a World Cafe followed by an Apéro, to enable participants to share and summarize their experiences.

This year's keynote speakers will be Tom & Mary Poppendieck and Henrik Kniberg.

You are invited to submit Abstracts for Tutorials and Sessions. The call for participation is now online in English and German. Submission deadline is April 30, 2010.

[ Update: due to the realities of Swiss School Vacations and their impact on the rest of us, the deadline has been pushed back from April 15 to April 30 ]

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On-Site Certified ScrumMaster Course on eBay

Necessity is the mother of invention. Peter Hundermark and I are planning an exchange of experiences. He and I will co-teach a pair of CSM courses, one in Geneva, Switzerland and one in Capetown, South Africa.

Well, the course in Geneva is not really selling, so what's the plan B? Usually customers want in-house training on very short notice, but most Scrum Trainers are booked two or three months in advance. And then there are the price discussions...

So we decided to cancel the public training and offer a company training on the same date via eBay:
Certified ScrumMaster Course in Europe 15/16 April 2010
The starting price is rather below market prices and the notice is rather short. We are really curious to see how this works. If you need a course soon, just go bid on it!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scrum is Lean with a Turbo-Charger

A colleague and Lean-Master at a large financial institution gave me a copy of Lean Kaizen: A Simplified Approach to Process Improvements by George Alukai & Anthony Manos. More than anything else, this book drove home to me the similarities and differences between Scrum and Lean (at least Lean, outside of Software Development).

‘The heart of Lean is the Kaizen Process.’ Kaizen means ’change for the better’ and is loosely translated at Continuous Improvement. This is actually a misleading translation, because Kaizen does not imply an iterative repeated process.

The core Kaizen event is nothing else than a Scrum Retrospective. In fact, the descriptions of how to run the meetings are so similar, I suspect they have a common source.

Two differences become quickly apparent:
  • While Lean talks ‘bottom up’, it assumes top-down management. This book describes (sometimes in excruciating detail) how to organize a Kaizen event, including one month of preparation, a few days for the event itself, and then a month of post processing. My favorite suggestion was creating posters ‘Coming to a Workplace Near You: IMPROVEMENT!’ I can see the staff rolling their eyes.
  • Each Scrum Team holds a Kaizen event once per sprint. You might even argue that the daily scrum is a Kaizen event. So 12 to 24 times per year is typical.
By following the approach in this book, one group might get 6 Kaizen events per year, but probably more like one to two, because of the effort involved.

The more subtle difference is that management organizes & choreographs the process. The advantage of the Lean approach is that management is more committed making the suggestions happen. I have experienced that this can be a problem for Scrum teams...

Under Scrum, each team sends a filtered, prioritized list of improvements, usually one or two top issues to management after every sprint. When management supports the Scrum teams, wonders can happen. Would you like to be one of the companies which discovered ‘we got more lean doing 6 months of Scrum than doing 3 years of lean with traditional management’?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Scrum Value Simulation

But please don't call it a game. Call it An Interactive Simulation on Optimizing the Creation of Value.

At Jeff Sutherland's CSM Course in Zurich, I witnessed him lead the class through Joe Little's Scrum Penny Game. It teaches the importance of small batches and optimizing the whole. I was really intrigued by the game, and thought it had much more potential, so I revised it and tried out the first incarnation at the Open Space in the Scrum Gathering. I wanted to see a) if the game (and especially the revised game) had the same impact on the assembled experts as it did on me, and b) get feedback for improved or alternative versions.

I wanted to emphasize principles that management could implement to improve value creation:
  1. Process Small Batches (unchanged from Joe)
  2. Remove Impediments
  3. Do Less (but do the right thing!)
So I set up the game as follows:
The Players:
  • Customer: sends the batch of coins to the workers, accepts (by touching) the received coins from the last worker.
  • Customer's Boss: Measures the time elapsed time between between sending out the first coin and receiving a) the first value (coin) accepted and b) all coins accepted.
  • Workers: Each worker receives a batch of coins, flips them, and moves the bath to the next worker
  • Efficiency experts: measure the time "their" worker spends flipping coins.
I deliberately identified the timers as 'efficiency experts' rather than 'managers.' Better not to antagonize the people who will influence the adoption of Scrum... ;-)

The Props: per team, 20 coins, consisting of
  • 5 quarters (25 cents each)
  • 5 dimes (10 cents)
  • 5 nickels (5 cents)
  • 5 pennies (1 cent)
  • Each efficiency expert and the customer's boss need a stopwatch with a lap split. Most cell phones can serve this purpose.
(During the briefing, I do not mention the values of the coins).

Constraints: Just so that the game is not too easy, there are a few constraints:
  1. All workers work with their left hand only.
  2. A worker may not combine coins for processing (added this one during the game)
  3. A worker may only pass on a complete batch.
  4. The moderator will specify the batch size.
We played several rounds. As there were only enough people for one complete team, We did some things sequentially, which I would have preferred to do concurrently (with the teams in competition with one another).
  • Round 1 - Lot of 20 (well 19 actually)
  • Round 2 - Lots of 10
  • Round 3 - Lots of 5
  • Round 4 - Lots of 5 without constraint on using one hand.
  • Round 5 - Reduce total volume. Customer selects the 10 coins with maximum value.
(Note: I only entered the totals for the last round on the table below).

Perform in Small Batches

Round 1 establishes the baseline. It also established competition between the team members (the one lefty was very proud that his time was the best). Note that the sum of the individual times != the total time measured by the customer's boss. Some workers blamed this on the slow reaction of the customer to accept the coins. There were also gaps because the measurements don't account for transit time.

Round 2: Before starting, the team noticed that a coin was missing. This was not intentional, but a great addition: Where is the missing functionality? What does this say about acceptance testing? This round showed the improvement of reducing the lot size from 20 19 to 10: Processing Time went from 1:41 to 1:03, a 38% reduction. Although that 3 of 4 worker's times were slower in round 2 than round 1, the time measured by the customer was substantially better.

Round 3: There was some disbelief about the effects of the batch size, so the third round was made with smaller batches still: 5 instead of 10. Individual performance was about the same, but the customer time improved again, declining to 0:43, a 32% reduction from round 2.

At this point, the team accepted the importance the first principle: produce in small batches.

Remove Impediments

I asked the team if anyone noticed that they had one hand tied behind their backs and pointed out the rules are there for a reason, but improving performance is not usually one of them.

Round 4: Same configuration as round 3, but team members may use both hands. Time to produce full customer value: 33 seconds, a further reduction of 23% from the previous round.

Do Less, but do the right thing!

I asked the team how much value they had produced. The sum of all the coins was $2.05. I asked the customer to pick the 10 coins with the most value (the quarters and dimes). This reduced the processing time a further 30% (down to 23s), but only reduced the value delivered by 15% (to $1.75).

As I write this, I realize that if the team had processed the pennies and nickels instead of the quarters and dimes, the value produced would have been $0.30.

Summary and Discussion


After playing 5 rounds, we had a spirited discussed on the lessons of the game and other lessons which could be learned from the game, and how to use the game to address other issues, such as:
  • the problems of a hand-offs in a phased model
  • self organization
  • swarming
  • rivalries between team members and teams
  • impact of bonuses
  • tension between optimize team and optimize self
  • need to release earlier than planned
  • what happens if someone is pulled out of the team
  • use different activities, some of which are harder than others
 Thank you

I would to thank everyone who came to the game for their help and energy, and above all for the great discussions afterward. There will be a picture here in a moment. If you use this game (uh, simulation) or modify it do drive home some other points, please leave a comment ( or a link to your own blog) so that this simulation can develop its full potential! Thanks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

#SGUS: Jeff Sutherland: What does Management Do Under Scrum

Jeff Sutherland at the Scrum Gathering in Orlando. What is the role of management in a Scrum environment:
  • Have a business model that works 
  • Ensure that the resources are present to achieve the business model 
  • Eliminate impediments - this should get board level attention
  • Challenge the teams 
 The role of "management" changes: it should become leadership.

My Philosophy, Sharpened at the Scrum Gathering

The day before the Scrum Gathering officially starts: I had a great talk with CSC Bob Hartman about Books, training techniques and the importance of values to a person or organization.
  • Quoting from 'the Last Lecture': Tell the Truth. 
  • To which Bob would add: All the Time. 
  • And I would prepend: Live your values! 
Tell the Truth is about Honesty and Openness and is the basis for effective communication. All the time demands an atmosphere of Trust and Courage.

This for me is what Scrum is about. In my life, I have never gotten into trouble as long as I was staying close to my values. Lose sight of them, and bad news! IMHO, these are the problems that led to the fissure in the Scrum Alliance last fall, and also caused Toyota the problems that they are having now.

When I ask myself, what do I do as a coach? I teach people to apply these three principles:
Live your values. Tell the truth. All the time.
And that they don't need to be afraid of doing so.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Retrospectives as Perspectives

(although the visual pun works better in German).

At last Wednesday's Scrum Breakfast in Zürich, Hans-Peter Korn presented an approach to conducting Retrospectives based on the Solutions Focus Method (which Adrian Cockburn translated in to the Delta Method). The idea is that a retrospective is like prospecting for gold: Building on your strengths and looking for improvements to make your life and work better.


Once I understood the Delta Method (which I didn't until I read Alistair's article), I had a real 'Eureka!'-Moment. The idea is simple: Don't than focus on a) what you are doing wrong or b) the unreachable goal on the horizon. This doesn't help. Reflect on where you have come from (things are better now than they used to be) and what is the next step in your to making things  (even just a little bit) better?

Alistair visualized this with a picture:

I have found this approach to be enormously helpful in implementing change processes. It gives people encouragement, helps them understand what they have accomplished, and makes the goals ahead seem much more achievable.

You can find download the presentation here. You may need to ask for the password.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lean Agile Scrum Library

At the Scrum Breakfast in February, regular visitor Arnaud L'Hote proposed: "It would be really nice if we had a book-swapping library of relevant literature. You bring a book that you've read and can borrow a book that you haven't. Just one question to be answered: Where do the initial books come from?

I discussed the idea with Daniela Grecuccio, Manager of the SwissICT office, and she also thought it was a great idea. She immediately offered to order a suitable bookshelf and agreed to match any cash contributions one to one, up to a maximum of CHF 1'000. So if we raise 1'000, we have 2'000 to spend on books.

Today at the Scrum breakfast, we raised 1 book and CHF 290, so we have 580 Francs at our disposal. The bookshelf is on order, so hopefully next time, the library will be available!

Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Domain Sierra Charlie Back Up

Update: The Domain is Working Again! Hallelujah! The only think worse that having Google erase you is having your registrar erase you. I have kindly asked my google calendar to send me an email and SMS 30 days before expiration. Hopefully one of them will work!



I love E-Mail, really. Not one single reminder from my Domain Registrar arrived in my email account in the last 3 months. And so it expired. Fortunately, I have not lost it (the domain stalkers apparently have to wait 3 months now), but it will take a day or two, before it is back online.

If you wish to contact me or register for a course, please go to the registration page.

I hope the domain and email will be working again tomorrow!