coaching and training for adopting agile and scrum
Posted in Uncategorized

The Five Big Pitfalls in Using Scrum

The list already says more than 54 words. There's 55. But they imply much more than their measly number. Let's put a little depth into the 5 critical pitfalls.

Lacking Definition of Done

Scrum is silent on technical practices, simply because it's a work management framework and agnostic to the context. But that doesn't mean the the technical level doesn't matter. Imagine putting Kimi Räikkönen to drive a Lada, will he perform well in a race?

For a Scrum to really take off and work, the team has to at least be able to complete a working version of the product at the end of the Sprint. That's the absolute minimum. It should be better than that, really. Ideally, at the end of every single small modification. The working increment is a confirmation that whatever the team tried to do is working and enables us to actually eliminate the technical risk associated with that change. The smaller the timeframe, the smaller the risk.

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Team Formation

Conditions for Team Formation

In the previous blogs we looked at what teams really are and what the choice of team vs. workgroup means. Here we’re getting to the very foundations of team formation as a process.

In 1936, Kurt Lewin coined his famous formula:

B = f(P, E)

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Team Formation

Why might we choose a team approach?

In the first blog I compared two primary approaches for group coordination – workgroup and team. I also tried to emphasize that the two are both valid approaches (I’m assuming everyone understands that a bad workgroup is not a good approach). So when might we choose one or the other?

We can see the most important difference in the graphs below. On the X-axis we have time. On the Y-axis we have “value generation potential”, which is really a terrible way to say how awesome they can get. 

Pros and Cons of Workgroup

In the first graph, to the right, I have the workgroup. The great thing about a workgroup is that it’s easy to set up and get started. As long as we know who the people are and what they can do, the leader can quickly assign them to tasks and things start getting done. It’s also easy to delegate things further to other people. The main drawback is that the potential of the team is limited to the sum of the members individual abilities (including the leadership ability of the leader).

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Team Formation

What is a real team?

The word “team” invokes very positive feelings in people. We associate it with working together towards a shared goal, as in sports. But if we look at the way these groups work in most workplaces, we often find that they really don’t match with what the literature means with a real team.

Teams and Workgroups is all about the internal stuff, not the externally visible qualities.

There are two primary ways to coordinate the collaboration inside a group of people working towards a shared product – workgroup and team. It’s a spectrum, to be precise, but we’ll look at the extremes. I’m also including a “bad workgroup” column, to emphasize that I’m trying to compare two good approaches for organizing groups, rather than “team trumps all others”.

Please keep in mind that in the table below I am talking about the same group. In all columns, we have a group with the same external purpose, the same members, and the same externally recognized leader/manager. We will also assume that the group is small, because teamwork does get difficult with group sizes exceeding 9. The only thing that differs is the way the group organizes and operates internally.

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Posted in General

Comments turned off

I decided to turn off commenting on this website, because 1) there were so few comments anyways, 2) I really didn't need one more place to keep track of, and 3) there were tens of thousands of spam messages waiting for "moderation" (i.e. deletion).

This blog is more a collection of things I want to share more permanently. I will post regularly to LinkedIn and Twitter, too, so the conversation on those posts is better held there.

I hope you understand.

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Posted in Uncategorized

The Project Leadership Coin

The traditional project approach has three core roles - the Customer, the Project Manager, and the Project Team. Similarly, Scrum has three roles - the Product Owner (PO), the Development Team, and the ScrumMaster.

It’s easy to see that the Customer and the Product Owner map rather nicely, since both have the money and the business need. Also the Project Team and the Development Team map nicely, since they are the people who have the skills to create the product needed by the business. 

The last one is a bit trickier. It’s easy to think that they map nicely, too. But they really map only in the goal of that role - both roles want the project to succeed. But other than that, they are the two opposite sides of the “project leadership coin”.

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success

Servant Leadership as I understand it

There seems to be a perception that a "servant leader" equates closely to the classic image of Jeeves, the british gentleman servant, or something alike.

My perception is quite different.

Servant

I'm going to start with the first word first. This may be a little badly chosen word, at least in English (I don't know about the translations to other languages). A better word might be "service", "serving", or "host" (as suggested by some).

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success

Writing perfect user stories

To write perfect user stories, the do this:

Step 1: Ask users what they need from the software and why.

Step 2: Look at the most common answers and try to express them in the form “<someone> can <do something they need>, in order to <main benefit>”. At this point, only write a small number of stories, like 20–50, so that each story is “an epic”, big and unclear, but captures an essential need for some user or group of users. In some way, validate with users that you’ve understood them.

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