Skip to main content

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.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

10 Warning Signs, that your team is not self-organizing

How do you know that self-organization is working? The Bern Chapter of Scrum Breakfast Club looked into this questions, and identified the following warning signs (which I have taken the liberty of translating).

The team reports to the Scrum Master at the Daily ScrumPeople wait for instructions from the Scrum MasterTeam members don't hold each other responsible [for their commitments]The same impediment comes up twice"That's the way it is" => resignation"I" instead of "We"Flip charts are lonelyCulture of conflict-avoidanceDecisions processes are unclear, nor are they discussedPersonal goals are more important than team goals
To this list I would add my a couple of my favorites:
you don't see a triangle on the task board (not working according prioritization of stories)after the daily Scrum, people return directly to their desks (no collaboration)there are a least as many stories in progress as team members (no pairing)
P.S. You can join the …