coaching and training for adopting agile and scrum
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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Posted in Agile

The Essence of Agile Thinking

When you start to use Scrum (or any other Agile framework), it will suck. So you try to fix it. Your mindset will define which way you will go – either back to Waterfall or to actual Agile.

To understand what I mean, please imagine a project that seeks to deliver a customer a system they request for. At the end of the project, we find out that the customer doesn’t like the outcome, despite the fact that it matches their original request. 

Why did that happen?

Our brain seeks to understand why things happen around us they way they do. These explanations, for the scenario above, tend to fall into two primary beliefs for the cause:

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Posted in Agile

Fundaments of Agile

Agile is a mindset. It is more important how you think than what you do, because your thinking drives your actions and behaviors. Repeating motions without understanding is not very useful, and tends to lead to disappointment.

That said, there are also certain behaviors that support the beliefs we have, so ultimately there should be an alignment between the way we think and the way we behave.

There are different ways in which the mindset (and some of the behaviors) have been captured, in the hopes of making the ideas more easy to understand and express. We do, of course, have the Agile manifesto. We also have Lean Software Development with its principles. Two more recent takes are the Modern Agile and Heart of Agile, both of which try to recapture the essence in four main ideas.

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Posted in Agile, Organisations

Organization Structure in 3D?

The traditional way to show the hierarchy of a traditional organization is with the CEO at the top and the workgroups/teams at the bottom. The Toyota way (as far as I know) is to reverse it, with the CEO at the bottom. I don’t think either shows the diagram as I’d really like, although the reversed model feels much better to me.

The reason is, the CEO role is a dual role of support and showing direction. In the support role, the role is certainly “at the bottom”, providing support for everyone else in their jobs. In the showing direction role, it is at the tip of the organization.

I have often wondered how I could show that duality effectively, both at the same time. Tonight, as I was going to sleep, an image came to me. I had to get up and do it (and then blog it) so that I don’t forget it.

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Scrum

UI Design in Scrum

Again, I’ll post an email response to question from an alumni. This post is also available on Futurice Blog.

The question:

I am working on an agile project and I don’t know when to incorporate prototyping.

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Posted in Agile, Project Management

“We don’t want to pay for X”

It is surprising how many IT customers (some of which are actually expected to know a lot about software development) decline to pay for good development practices. Be it preventive QA, TDD, test automation or whatever, many customers assume those are additional costs to them (i.e. by not doing them, they would get their software faster and cheaper – and then they demand up-front planning!).

What if you went to a surgery and only wanted to pay for the room and the surgeon. Afer all, it’s the surgeon who makes the cut and fixes you. How would that go? What else is happening in a surgery theater? There are other medical professionals ensuring that whatever the surgeon needs is available (or is quickly retrieved). Some monitor patient’s vital signs and some control the anesthesia. What about the cleaning staff who take care that the hospital is clean? Sure, it’s entirely possible to make surgeries unnecessarily expensive, but there is certain level which has to be maintained (or else the patient pays the difference). I don’t even know, really, and I haven’t been watching those TV series to be better educated. And I don’t have to; I expect them to know what they are doing.

On the other hand, why do we software developers so often ask customer permission for those things? I don’t ask the staff at a restaurant on how they create my food (and instruct them on not using certain types of knives or grill/oven/whatever they choose to use). I stick strictly to my needs and desires (“and the steak – well done, please”), and trust them to know what they are doing. And if the outcome, or it’s cost-effectiveness compared to other restaurants, isn’t to my liking, I probably choose to use some other restaurant next time.

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Organisations

“How Does Agile Make Me a Better Developer?”

In this blog post, I’ll share a bit of a conversation I was having with a participant of my CSM course, who had his team ask provoking questions. I’ll share the questions and my responses. Remember that this is a conversation piece, so I can’t guarantee it’s more than opinions :).

Snippety snip, start the email here (the original email in quotes, my response in blue):

I had a great retrospective with the team that was having buy-in issues last week and they expressed some fundamental questions that they had not been given answers to.

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Posted in Agile, Agile Success, Scrum

PDCA Cycles and Scrum

Recently I “rediscovered” the PDCA cycle, made famous by W. Edward Deming, consisting of Plan, Do, Check and Act phases, and forming the base for every process improvement cycle. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDCA):

PDCA (plan–do–check–act) is an iterative four-step problem-solving process typically used in business process improvement. It is also known as the Deming circle, Shewhart cycle, Deming cycle, Deming wheel, control circle or cycle, or plan–do–study–act (PDSA).

PLAN – Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output. By making the expected output the focus, it differs from other techniques in that the completeness and accuracy of the specification is also part of the improvement.

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