Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lean Leadership with Tom & Mary Poppendieck

I am again pleased to sponsor the Lean Agile Scrum Conference in Zurich and to enable a workshop led by important thought leaders in our domain.

Just after the conference, Keynote speakers Mary & Tom Poppendieck will offer their new course in Switzerland, Leading Lean Software Development. Lean Software Development combines two successful approaches to management: "Lean" -- well known for its impact in the manufacturing sector (and familiar to management through their business school training) -- and Agile -- which, especially in the form of Scrum and despite unfamiliar terminology and guiding principles, has become quite widespread in the software sector.

In this management retreat at the idyllic Seminar Hotel Unterhof on the Rhine, leaders will learn why "Results are not the point." Success comes from people, and creating a system so that your people can achieve successful results is the point.

Special Early Bird Pricing:

Conference participants will get a 10% discount once the program is announced and conference registrations are open. If you register before then, you qualify for a special 25% discount. See the Course Description for details or just Register now.


Scrum Breakfast/May Agile Methods in a Global, Regulated Environment

International, virtual teams are more the rule than the exception in Software Development Projects. Customers, Suppliers and Development Partners come together for a project, separate and regroup in a new form for the next project. Further, such projects are often confronted with strict regulatory requirements. These start with requirements for documentation and may include prescriptive definitions of how to develop the software and manage the application.

How can you optimally use an agile approach within this strict legislative context? What makes sense? What problems can you expect?

Ralph Dröge, Senior Consultant at Liance GmbH in Kaiseraugst, will examine these questions based on his project experience.

When: May 5, 2010,
Where: SwissICT, Vulkanstrasse 120, Zürich-Altstetten
Registration: SwissICT

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Zero WIP Moment: Achieving the Point of Maximum Agility?

Recently, I asked myself, "What does it mean for a company to be agile?" and came to the conclusion that "Agility is the ability to change your mind intelligently, based on new information."

Why is the Waterfall so cumbersome, so un-agile, and why are companies stuck in the waterfall? One reason is Work in Progress. Let's take the example of a large services company which provides its services to other large, institutional customers. A typical such organization might have:
  • Sales Department - they sell service contracts
  • Pre-Sales/Engineering Department - they determine the business requirements and write specifications for custom development
  • Software Development Department - they write the software
  • Quality Assurance Department - they protect the company from disaster
  • Operations Department - they deploy, uh, working software (and Development babysits the system until it really works).
Sales is selling services which the development team will work on, say, a year from now. Pre-Sales is writing specs for software which the development team will work on in 6 months. The development is working now to satisfy contracts that were signed over a year ago. And the QA is working on software that the development team "finished" 3 to 6 months ago and for which the contracts were signed as long as two years ago.

The pipeline is permanently full, it takes a long time to for wishes to be transformed into working features, and there is constant pressure to keep the flow moving (just like in fluid dynamics!). So the company has great difficulties changing priorities, because that means throwing away vast amounts of unfinished work, and that can be expensive!

So if WIP creates inertia which makes a company cumbersome, stiff, inflexible or worse, what would be the state of perfect corporate agility? Having no work in progress at all.

At the end of every sprint, a Scrum team should have no work in progress. The software is (potentially) shippable.  If the Scrum Team has done its job well, all backlog items are "done", there is no undone work, and there is nothing preventing the product owner from requesting a shipment. This is a natural point for changing priorities and direction.

As I understand Kanban, it emphasizes limiting WIP to improve flow. But the pipeline is never empty. The pressure is limited, but there is no point where there is zero WIP. Scrum provides natural points to set entirely new priorities: the planning for the new sprint.

Is Zero WIP something that customers value? One concrete expression of the Zero WIP approach is the "Money for Nothing, Changes for Free" contract. Since the project has Zero WIP the end of each sprint, there is no reasons not to accept changes in the product backlog, or for a fee, the cancellation of the rest of the project.

Are moments of Zero-WIP a desirable goal?  Does this offer an important advantage to Scrum which is not achieved by the flow optimizing Kanban?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Scrum at Six Card Solutions (or why I think managers are needed in Scrum)

Six Card Solutions belongs to the earlier adopters among Swiss Financial Institutions deploying Scrum. They started rolling out Scrum among their 80 developers in Zurich last Summer (2009). So, how did it go?

Christoph Loher (Product Owner) and Stefan Kinigadner (ScrumMaster) were the leaders of the first team to transition to Scrum at Six's Development Group Zurich. The organization presented to usual challenges one expects when trying to transition one team to a cross-functional Scrum in a company that is organized on function division. Despite this challenge, the team was able to achieve a pretty good Scrum (based on Henrik Kniberg's Scrum Checklist).

One problem in particular stood out: As the project unfolded, the team grew. This was a relic of the classical project planning. At some point, the team became unwieldy - 12 people or so - and performance stagnated. The P-O wanted to split the team in two. Although they talked about it in several retrospectives, the team was never enthusiastic about splitting. Eventually, the P-O insisted (but avoided falling back into command and control). Although not all variables have been eliminated, after the first sprint after the split, it looks like the team(s) substantially improved their productivity and everyone agreed the split was a good thing.

You can download their presentation here:  Scrum at Six Card Solutions

A lot of the discussion centered on why the team could not agree to split. My take: the members of a team are expected to form a unit, to commit to that unit and to solve problems together. Even the ScrumMaster is taught 'When in doubt, ask the team!'  Asking a team to split itself up is asking the team members to reject their identity, something they are not all inclined to do!

Perhaps there are limits to what problems self-organizing teams can be expected to solve. And this hints at the role of management in a Scrum organization.

What's your experience? What are the limits of a self organizing team?

Monday, April 12, 2010

LAS Conference CFP -Submission Deadline postponed until April 30

Due to the realities of Swiss school holidays (and their indirect impact on the organizers ), we have postponed the submission deadline for the Lean Agile Scrum Conference in Zurich to April 30.

We have already received several good proposals, but still need some more, particularly for the tutorials. In the name of the conference committee, I'd like to encourage to submit talks about your experiences connecting the agile team to create a lean enterprise!

To the CfP in English and German.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Last Minute Auction: On-Site Certified ScrumMaster Course on eBay

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

Well, the course in Geneva did not really sell, 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.

So we decided to cancel the public training and offer a company training on the same date via eBay. Result: we sold the course! An interesting experiment, which helped us out of a difficult situation. And I learned a lot in the process. Look for more auctions in the future...

If you would like Scrum Training in Switzerland, check out our course page. If you would like a in-house course, you can contact me on my contact page.