Monday, April 11, 2011

How we do Sprint Zero

Today, a reader of my newsletter asked me,
What is the purpose of Sprint Zero?

A colleague of mine argued that during Sprint Zero, the team implements the most important features from the product backlog with the object of determining the team's velocity. I disagreed, because we have the velocity from previous sprints/projects. So could you help me to understand clearly what is Sprint 0 about and when and why do we need it? I really appreciate your helps and articles. Thank you!
Sprint Zero is often used to mean 'getting ready for the first sprint.' Some Scrum coaches don't like the term because every sprint should produce an increment of value for the customer or user. A sprint 0 which creates say, artifacts like a design document or development environment, violates this rule, because such artifacts have no value for the customer or user.

Still there are some things you need to have ready before you can do your first sprint planning:
  • You must have the roles identified (Product Owner, ScrumMaster, Team).
  • You must have an initial product backlog (and you probably should have a product vision). 
  • Enough of the product backlog must be estimated and prioritized that the team can pick a reasonable amount of high value work from the backlog in the first Sprint Planning.
  • You might need to train your Product Owner and Team on Scrum.
By the end of Sprint Planning 1 (first half of the sprint planning meeting), you will need to have defined:
  • the sprint length
  • the initial Definition of Done.
All of these are legitimate things to address during "Sprint Zero" or the time leading up to the first sprint planning.

What does not come into 'sprint zero'? Creating the development environment, test environment, high level design or other artifacts, and any development or testing. Actual work related to the project (as opposed to getting ready to do Scrum) gets prioritized in the Product Backlog, then is agreed upon during the Sprint Planning 1, and must produce some increment of customer value.

I wrote previous about my experience with a Sprint Zero. I hope the above and the blog entry are helpful!

Friday, April 8, 2011

LAS Conference 2011: Submission Deadline Extended

We have extended the submission deadline to April 30. Since the most of the Program Commission is on vacation the last two weeks of April, it didn't really make any sense to require submissions by income tax day.

In the meantime, the Scrum Alliance has announced that Stephen Denning will be Keynote speaker for the Scrum Gathering in Seattle, so this conference will be an opportunity to meet him for those Europeans who cannot make it to Seattle.

Full details about the CFP are on the conference homepage (English, German)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interview: Mary Poppendieck on Lean, Scrum, Kanban and Leadership

Last year Mary Poppendieck delighted the participants of the Lean Agile Scrum Conference in Zürich with her stories about and approach to lean leadership and 'the tyranny of the plan.'

She told an amazing story of the building of the Empire State Building in New York. Although 4 times bigger that any previous building, it was built in just a year. The architects did not even have a design when they started! At it was completed on time and held the record of world tallest building for 40 years. The lessons of this building illustrate core principles in managing companies and software projects.

Peter Stevens: Mary, what is the core message of lean leadership? 

Mary B. Poppendieck: The core message of lean leadership is 1) focus on delivering ever increasing value to customers, and 2) do this by leveraging the brainpower of bright, creative people.

PS: What is the biggest obstacle to adopting Lean Thinking in Management?

MBP: As I see it, management incentives usually focus on maximizing a part of a system - and managers respond by doing exactly what the incentives ask them to do. However, by maximizing a part of a system, the overall system is always sub-optimized. Thus managers look to reduce costs in their departments, rather than reduce overall costs even if this means that some department costs may not be as low as possible. For example, the clothing company Zara does not seek to minimize shipping costs or even manufacturing costs, the company treats fashion as a perishable commodity, so it seeks to replenish stores very rapidly with what will sell immediately. This strategy leaves the company with much less unsold merchandise than its competitors.

Another example of sub-optimizing measurements is the focus in some companies on making sure that everyone is busy all of the time; and generally this is done by assigning people to work on several things at the same time. However, this strategy causes enormous waste because trying to drive utilization high creates the equivalent of traffic jams and slows everything down, while time spent thrashing between assignments mounts.

PS: What advice would you give to a leader getting started?

MBP: Probably the most important thing for a leader getting started is to learn how to lead people effectively. New first line supervisors and team leaders should receive training in how to teach people to do a good job, how to improve work processes, how to create a motivating environment, and how to resolve personnel issues.

PS: And what advice would you give a leader who wants to introduce lean thinking into their organization (where a leader could be a thought leader, or anyone from a first level manager to top level manager)?

MBP: Lean thinking starts by focusing on customers – so the most important thing for introducing lean thinking is to gain and continually improve your understanding of what customers find valuable. Then try to get everyone to think about their customers – first of all their immediate customer, and then, the end customer. A development team, for example, will often hand their code over to a system testing team. Does everyone on the development team understand what system-testable code is? Do they understand the needs of the operations group? The support group? How can these needs be better served?

Next get everyone in the habit of thinking about the end customers who pays for, or uses, or derives value from the code. Are all efforts focused on increasing the value these customers receive? How could they receive even more value? What efforts are not contributing to delivering this value?

Finally, a leader should focus on the people delivering the value to customers. How can they be empowered to improve their work processes and deliver even more value to customers?

PS: How do Scrum, Kanban, and Lean Thinking complement each other? How do they step on each other's toes?

MBP: Scrum is basically a method of accomplishing work through cadenced iterations. Kanban is a method of accomplishing work through limiting work-in-process and managing flow. I have found that some work (especially creative work) is more effectively managed with iterations, while other work (especially naturally sequential work) is more naturally managed with Kanban. Generally, you would use one or the other of these techniques, but not both at the same time for the same work. Determining which workflow management technique is best for a give situation should be done through experiments and system-level measurement of results.

Lean does not give you a specific set of techniques to manage work, but rather a set of principles to help you decide how to deliver the most value with the least effort, and how to keep improving your current techniques. Thus Lean principles would encompass the use of both Scrum and Kanban - and other methods of managing workflow as well. Sometimes people are frustrated because Lean does not provide a set of rules on how to do things, but rather a set of thinking tools (principles). For these people, Scrum and/or Kanban are very good starting points. But Lean would have every company view these techniques as starting points that are constantly improved, so after a few years, Scrum and Kanban should evolve and change to something quite different than their starting point.

PS: What will participants learn at your course next month?

MBP: The participants will look at their specific companies and learn to see the waste in current processes. Then after some time spent on examining lean approaches to technical discipline and managing workflow, the participants will sketch a future set of processes that should eliminate the biggest waste in their process. They will also learn about problem solving approaches that will help them constantly improve their processes.

Come join Mary & Tom Poppendieck for a 2-day intensive lean leadership retreat the Karthause Ittingen. Principles, Tools and Problem Solving Skills to continuously improve your business. Info & Registration...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scrum Breakfast May: Demo Driven Development

Meeting real deadlines is a hard and stressful job. It's a job that typically eats all resources available because when the best way is known, it is preferred to go full steam ahead. Except that typically the best way is not known. While the status quo can be comfortable, it is certainly not perfect. There always is something to improve. However, when entrenched in a routine, it is hard to find that something and how to improve it.

In this talk, Tudor Girba draws a number of lessons learned during seven years spent in the research world. These principles are universally applicable.

His approach is simple, easy and inexpensive to apply, and can be used with a wide range of activities, including the design of software systems, understanding clients' requirements, or managing teams.

When: Wednesday May 4, 2011, 8.00 to 11.00
Where: SwissICT, Vulkanstrasse 120, 8048 Zürich
This talk will be held in English.
More Info and Registration: SwissICT

And of course, we will have the usual coffee & gipfeli beforehand, a 15 Minute introduction to Lean, Agile & Scrum for those who need it, and our Scrum Clinic 'The Doctor Is IN!' - free member to member for coaching during the networking session after the talk. CU There!

Changes to DasScrumTeam Course Program for the Fall

In a few days, we at DasScrumTeam will announce our Swiss course program for the fall. We are planning 4 courses in Zürich (including 2 CSPO's) and 3 in Bern (including 1 CSPO). My partners, Andreas Schliep, Peter Beck and I decided to take this opportunity to make some improvements to our course program.

Here is a summary of the changes:
  • Consistant naming of all courses. "Jumpstart" now refers to entry level Scrum courses, so we have:
    • Certified ScrumMaster/Jumpstart -- in Switzerland, this is our current practice; in Germany and Austria, these are new names.
    • Certified Scrum Product Owner/Jumpstart -- the Jumpstart name is now applied to CSPO courses as well.
  • There are no new dates for "CSM for Scrum Professionals." We plan to re-evaluate our advanced course concept in the context of new guidance from the certifying bodies.
  • Our CSM/Jumpstart course will become a 3 day course, like the CSPO. We made this change because our participants repeatedly asked for more time for questions, more in-depth handling of more topics and more time for lunch and coffee breaks. That certain certifying organizations seem to prefer 3 day courses confirmed our decision.
  • Starting in January, 2012, these changes will apply to our courses in Germany and Austria as well.
What do these changes mean for courses that have already been published? Nothing. Published courses remain exactly as they are. Only new courses courses will be announced as 3 day "/Jumpstart" courses. The dates, descriptions and prices of existing courses remain as they are.

The prices for CSM/Jumpstart and CSPO/Jumpstart in Switzerland will be CHF 2'700 (early booker) and 2'950 regular price. Compared to our current CSPO prices, the early-booker prices are reduced by CHF 100. There is not VAT on public courses in Switzerland.

In Germany and Austria, the corresponding prices are €1'900 and €2'100. Again, the early booker price have been lowered by €150 compared to the current CSPO prices. Prices exclude VAT.

Scrum Breakfast April: Agile Leadership

A last minute reminder:

It's easy to start an Agile project. It's hard to do it well. Siegfried ("Sigi") Kaltenecker an experienced corporate coach has observed that this is often a leadership problem. So, how should leadership be set up in an agile context? Who is involved in what way? How does the team manage itself and what does line management do?

His most recent study, 'Leadership Success Factors in an Agile Environment'  brings possible answers extracted from extensive interviews with 60 experts from various organizations. He also proposes two new training concepts, in which learning team leadership and agile management are the focal points.

When: Wednesday April 6, 2011, 8.00 to 11.00
Where: SwissICT, Vulkanstrasse 120, 8048 Zürich
This talk will be held in German.
More Info and Registration: SwissICT

And of course, we will have the usual coffee & gipfeli beforehand, a 15 Minute introduction to Lean, Agile & Scrum for those who need it, and our Scrum Clinic 'The Doctor Is IN!' - free member to member for coaching during the networking session after the talk. CU There!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview: Seth Kahan on Getting Change Right

I met Seth Kahan, virtually, after I decided to participate in the Washington Gathering on Radical Management. So I downloaded his book on getting change right. While browsing through the table of contents, I came on the section 'Jumpstart Storytelling' - I jumped to it directly!

My reaction? "Wow, this guy really does know about making change happen!" So I am all the more honored and enthusiastic to be part of the gathering. We corresponded a bit on the change process - here is an excerpt from our discussion:

Peter Stevens: You have written about getting change right. What is the wrong way to go about change?

Seth Kahan: The biggest drain on momentum and brainpower in change efforts today is obsession with the project plan. I have seen more projects flounder and die because leaders and consultants are hammering out finely detailed project plans rather than engaging people.

People create project plans for many reasons. Here are three I see often:
  1. It is tempting to imagine how you will create change. The downside is that people get sidetracked into imagining it rather than doing it.
  2. It is challenging to engage people. This requires good interpersonal skills and a willingness to repeatedly open up messy conversations. Many technical experts prefer to avoid this.
  3. People often confuse building a mental model with the real thing. But until the rubber hits the road, you have accomplished nothing.
It's true that a project plan is useful and even necessary in most situations. It's a question of appropriate emphasis. When I am after change, I want to make things happen--get results, reap rewards. This happens through people, interactions, networks of conversations, and people working together.

Project planning is a support process. Engagement is the main event. It's where people shift attitudes and behavior. You do not want the project planning to occur at the expense of engagement, replace conversation, delay interactions, or exclude participation. Instead, you need to become expert at getting people involved in co-creating the future, jump-starting bold conversations that draw people in, and triggering professional excitement.

PS: What advice would you give to a first level manager who wants to effect a change in his/her organization?

SK: The same advice I would give for a C-Level Executive! First you must know what you are trying to do. This is probably the most powerful and least developed building block I run into when helping people create worthy change. They are generally filled to the brim with jargon, but when you dig down deep to find out exactly what they want the details are frustratingly sparse.

Once you are clear about your intentions, you must identify the Most Valuable Players (MVPs). This is the select group of people who will be responsible for your success – the ones who will make it happen.

In sports, an MVP is often isolated from the team, recognized for prowess and performance that goes beyond team playing and exceptional individual achievement. But, your MVPs include every person of influence and anyone who plays for your cause.

Make no mistake: all business success depends on people. The action people take is the performance that makes things happen. Your MVPs are human beings; blood and guts; hearts, minds, and hands. If you treat them respectfully and appropriately, you will increase the already powerful impact they wield: their ability to wring results from an uncertain future.

Some of your MVPs will emerge completely unsolicited. You may never even meet them. Instead, you will hear about them far outside your own sphere of action. When your success travels far and wide, outpacing you, this is the case. However, this does not obviate the need for VIP attention to members of this special crew.

Many MVPs can be turned on like a light bulb. By that, I mean they are dormant until you come along with an invitation to be part of something special. If you make it possible for them to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them, you may observe someone who appears dull and lifeless suddenly perk up and become engaged. This is because many people are trapped in uninteresting, lackluster jobs or situations that have worn them down. Engaging them by simply inviting them to give more and get more for themselves in the process awakens them.

Other MVPs are already high performers and latch on to great new ideas because that is their way. They pick up whatever innovations make sense, anything that helps raise the bar on performance, or anything that is part of a greater cause they support.

Once people express an interest in helping out, you must provide them with everything they need to succeed. Just as specific tools are needed to do a particular job well, your MVPs need skills, information and relationships to make their work effective. Make every effort to equip them with the best you have to offer as their results can make all the difference in your success.

PS: What does getting change right have to do with Radical Management?

SK: Steve Denning (author of The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management) and I have been thinking and working together for over 15 years and our thinking is inextricably linked. Fundamentally we share the same views and hope for humanity. Each of us is doing our level best to help the world of work evolve so that it becomes more humane and a more worthy expression of the human spirit.

Radical Management codifies the emerging knowledge about how people work best together, achieving results that go beyond satisfied workers and extend to generating value for the world at large. My work is about how to engage people, bring out their best, and generate transformation as a result. Everything I have written is embedded in Steve’s work.

My processes provide people who want to implement Radical Management with concrete step they can take to bring the change to life.

PS: Why is the gathering in DC so important to you and what are your hopes for what will take place?

SK: This is a coming together of a unique collection of powerfully innovative thinkers. It will be first of all, an opportunity for a group to meet face-to-face that has the noblest of aspirations, and, secondly, a bastion of practical guidance. I look forward most to the camaraderie and the results we generate together.

PS: Thank you Seth! I look forward to meeting you at the Gathering.

Come join us at an event where coolness, innvoation and serious fun intersect: the Washington Gathering: Revolutionizing the World of Work. These two days, hosted by Steve Denning and Seth Kahan, will be dedicated to remaking the management mindset; that is, reinventing business, government, education, and health. I am proud to participate as a practice partner! More information... Register...