coaching and training for adopting agile and scrum
Posted in Agile Success, Organisations

Hull Speed for Systems

TL;DR: Work smarter, not harder.

I have noticed that all systems have some natural capability for productivity, value delivery and quality. As the people in the system gain experience in the system, their performance will start reaching that systemic speed. Just like with a ship, this happens quite easily, but when the “hull speed”* is reached, the amount of effort / power to go faster dramatically increases, up to the point that a certain speed seems unsurmountable regardless of power expended. In systems, we can perceive this e.g. in overtime, which does not yield real benefit since the extra effort translates to more mistakes and other negative factors that detract from real progress.

I continually observe that also in the ball point game, where people psyche themselves to try harder, but they still get the same result.

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Posted in Agile Success, Project Management

Story of Release Planning

While I have many stories of release planning, I like to share this one.

Getting started… a little late

I was coaching this game team/organization. The original plan for the next game called for about 6 months of design and development. However, due to other pressures, a lot of things were prioritized over this project and when the first people were able to start the work, only three months were remaining. There was hope that using Agile could help them speed up the development (through prioritization, backlog refinement and faster development), but it was still known that it will be tough.

At the beginning of the work, the game concept was available. A backlog had been built collaboratively with the team. For the first two sprints, only half of the team was available, and they started on the most critical stories. During this time, the backlog was radically refined and prioritized (i.e. features slashed), up to the point that PO started to be concerned that “there was no fun left”.

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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 Success, Project Management

On Relative and Absolute Quality

I sometimes struggle between relative and absolute quality, and how they affect the way we work in businesses and the success we gain. That is, I really would like to think we should strive for better outcomes as a kind of value on its own (and merit from that as business success), but I so much more see “being better than competition” as “sufficient” for most people (and frankly, it is good enough for many companies to stay in business).

In practice, the questions boils down to “we’re already better than our competition, why over-invest?” The way I hear that is “let’s cash in on our advantage now, until we lose it”. I also hear “let’s gain in short term, and figure out long-term competitiveness later”. And I can see the logic in that. But it’s the same logic that has effectively crippled so many companies and destroyed their long term profitability.

I recall reading somewhere that the founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, once said that “the worst thing that could happen to Ikea would be to go public.” He was referring to the tendency of publicly traded companies to focus on short term outcomes and shareholder value over any other business priorities. While I’m no fan of Ikea, I can appreciate the success they have built (and yea, some few of the items they have designed have appealed also to me). And I can appreciate the mindset.

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Posted in Agile Success, Scrum

About the Role of ScrumMaster

I’ve been too busy for too long to write blog posts, but here’s one, about the role and authority of the ScrumMaster.

The way I understand the Scrum framework is that the ScrumMaster is the person who does have a lot of authority over the process, but in the same way as in any other matter – everyone in the team is responsible for their own work. I don’t see how ScrumMaster has any authority to say anyone in the team that they must work in a certain way. He/she can certainly talk about the process, educate about better ways of doing it, showing where the process currently fails, etc., but I believe every single person in the team is responsible for the way they do their work.

This is not unlike in a soccer team – the coach does train the people, help them practice to become better soccer players, have a vision how the team should/could work together better, suggest better strategies, BUT when the game is on, the players are responsible for playing the game. I don’t know any single soccer game where the coach scored a single goal from the sidelines.

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Posted in Agile Success, Organisations

What Has Nokia Done Right and Wrong?

A colleague asked me very recently, regarding Nokia being in the headlines with Elop’s recent internal memo, what has, in my opinion, Nokia done right and wrong over these years. After all, they achieved a massively dominant position in mobile phones and are now losing it all.

I think they did a lot of things right in the late 1990’s and very early 2000’s.

They were the first ones to focus on customer experience. Even if the processes weren’t very refined compared to best practices today, Nokia phones were considered to be the easiest to use for almost a decade (until iPhone hit the market).

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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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