Mutual respect and caring are the cornerstone to the team’s success and it needs to be integral to their culture and beliefs. Not just saying but living the belief there are no heroes or scapegoats. Everyone, including the business, executives, team members and leadership must collaborate and share in celebrating the successes as well as accepting responsibility for setbacks and failures.
Everyone must have the right attitude and commit to not only DOING as needed by attending the ceremonies or following the process and practices but truly wanting to BE part of the solution by willingly changing the way they think, work and collaborate. (Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
To ensure consistency and a shared understanding, whole teams (including the business, IT, and their leadership of executives and managers) should receive a common skills development and education experience in proper Agile Thinking, the Scrum Framework, aligned practices and mindset training. Coaching should then reinforce this new knowledge and encourage appropriate behaviours to turn these new practices into habits. Indeed, learning should be a continuous cycle and endless journey towards excellence, and Scrum leverages this through frequent retrospection and continuous improvement.
“Start executing and worry less about planning.” QA Consultant
This statement appeared on a recent feedback form after a BERTEIG learning event. It summarized a Quality Assurance Consultant’s learning from the CSM training they attended.
This statement so accurately summarizes one of the key principles of agile methodology which is to do minimal planning and review often. It doesn’t mean “No Planning” it just means different kinds of planning and the willingness to jump quickly into action.
Mishkin published an article on this topic in 2015 and it is re-posted here now because it is still so relevant today.
Agile Planning in a Nutshell
By Mishkin Berteig
Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban and OpenAgile do not require long-term up-front plans. However, many teams desire a long-term plan. This can be thought of as a roadmap or schedule or a release plan. Agile planning helps us build and maintain long-term plans.
Agile Planning Process
The steps to do this are actually very simple:
- Write down all the work to be done. In Scrum these are called “Product Backlog Items”, in Kanban “Tasks” and in OpenAgile “Value Drivers”.
- Do some estimation of the work items. Many Agile estimation techniques exist including Planning Poker, The Bucket System, Dot Voting, T-Shirt Sizes. These tools can be applied to many types of estimation. There are three kinds of estimation that are important for Agile Planning:
- Estimating relative business value. Usually done with the business people including customers and users.
- Estimating relative effort. Usually done by the Agile team that will deliver the work.
- Estimating team capacity. Also done by the Agile team (this is sometimes called “velocity”).
- Create the long-term plan. Use the team capacity estimate and the sum of all the effort estimates to come up with an estimate of the overall time required to do the work. (In Kanban, which doesn’t have an iterative approach, this is a bit more complicated.) Use the business value and effort estimates to determine relative return on investment as a way to put work items in a logical sequence.
Agile planning allows a team to update estimates at any time. Therefore, the techniques used above should not be thought of as a strict sequence. Instead, as the team and the business people learn, the estimates and long-term plan can be easily updated. Scrum refers to this ongoing process at “Product Backlog Refinement”.
Principles of Agile Planning
In order to use Agile planning effectively, people must be aware of and support the principles of Agile planning:
- Speed over accuracy. We don’t want to waste time on planning! Planning in and of itself does not deliver value. Instead, get planning done fast and use the actual delivery of your Agile team to adjust plans as you go.
- Collaborative techniques. We don’t want to be able to blame individuals if something goes wrong. Instead, we create safe estimation and planning techniques. Inevitably, when an estimate turns out to be wrong, it is impossible to blame a single individual for a “mistake”.
- Relative units. We don’t try to estimate and plan based on “real” units such as dollars or hours. Instead, we use ordering, relative estimation and other relative techniques to compare between options. Humans are bad at estimating in absolute units. We are much better at relative estimation and planning.
Jerry Doucett is now offering consulting in implementing SAFe 4.0, as well as teaching the following courses and workshops:
1) “Leading SAFe 4.0” course for the SAFe Agilist (SA certification)
2) “SAFe Product Manager – Product Owner” workshop (SPMPO certification)
3) “SAFe 4.0 for Teams” course for the SAFe Practitioner (SP certification).
Please reach out to Jerry by email or on LinkedIn if you have any questions about SAFe or about scaling Agility.
The next SAFe class is “Leading SAFe 4.0” on September 08 and 09. Please see WorldMindware.com for more information including registration.
Co-located teams are more effective communicators and can sometimes experience increased productivity by up to 60% if situated together in the same room. More simply stated, the greater the dispersion factor, the greater the challenge of collaboration. Note that time zones are often considered the largest dispersion factor and can have a greater impact than geography.
Although it is strongly recommended that teams be co-located, it is not mandatory to success. In fact, certain Agile practices have factors, tools and techniques inherent to them to help bridge some of the shortcomings of increased dispersion, such as a higher reliance on frequent collaboration and communication. But to be clear, they do not replace the value of face-to-face conversation, they are merely a crutch to not having it. (Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
There must be a consistent commitment and engagement from all parties in the organization towards adopting the Scrum framework, Agile methods, and thinking. The initiative must be an open, collaborative experience and there must be complete understanding and alignment by all parties in assuming the risks and rewards as well as sharing in the effort. This includes not only business partners and their IT counterparts, but their leadership as well as all of the people and teams supporting an Agile initiative. (Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
“Leadership is the key to driving change and progress. Executives and managers of Scrum teams need to nurture the environment, let go of the “how”, allow the team to learn from mistakes, and encourage and coach the growth of the collective team knowledge and overall experience.
Understanding the dramatic impact leadership has on a transitioning team is also very critical, as a single word or direction from the executive level can single-handedly affect (either positively or negatively) the team’s future behaviours and resulting successes or failures. And without a true environment of trust built by the leadership, team members will often shy away from taking a risk to try something new or unknown.” (By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
Michael James, Certified Scrum Trainer, shares an article listing his understanding of the key obstacles to Enterprise Agility which can be found in the link on this site. He lists seven obstacles and the most meaningful seems to be number seven, staying committed to the transformation. Each individual on the team must be committed to the transformation, to be willing to endure the “storming period” which a team goes through when they are learning to work together in an agile way.
When they stay committed, as Michael James describes, then they are well on their way to adapting the agile methodologies which will allow for high-performing teams.
Experts in the field will be well aware of this concept by now, but for beginners it is worth breaking down into bits. Every conversation about agility in an organization ultimately involves a whole team changing – and not just one or two members by the way — so that an entirely new and more productive environment can allow for more efficient delivery of product.
Have you seen an agile team go through storming? What was it like? Did you see positives come out of it? Please describe your experiences here.
Having a good process is only part of the equation. A good Scrum Master will champion and enforce that process, protect the team, encourage collaboration, highlight (escalate when necessary) and encourage the removal of obstacles, facilitate discussions, provide fair and constructive feedback, cultivate a culture of continuous improvement and learning, and work to help the team live the Agile values.
Remember that the Scrum Master has authority over the process but not over the team. As the process champion the Scrum Master may sometimes even find themselves in a conflict between maintaining the Scrum rules and guiding the team as they discover the need to adapt practices to better align with their own needs and ways of working. In that regard a Scrum Master should understand and embrace the servant leader role. In the end, a Scrum Master needs to be the person that helps the team make decisions, but not the person that makes decisions for them. (By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
Ben Yehoolda, author of two excellent articles on LinkedIn’s Pulse, has recently connected with BERTEIG and I am happy to share these insightful pieces which offer steps to success for software development teams.
“Rather than building a costly team made up of only the best, the leading parameter which should dictate team composition is the complexity of the work. For the average software project the bulk of the work could be handled quite well by a B (or intermediate) level developer. The more complex work (design patterns, architecture changes, frameworks research) constitute a smaller portion of time but would definitely require an A (or Senior) level developer. To make the best use of your development budget, you should keep in mind that every development project has some very simple yet time consuming work which could be done be a C (or Junior), such as; code clean up, commenting, adding disclaimers, building unit test and small GUI alignments.”
“The challenging wizardry-like act of leading a development team requires knowing more about the tools and craft of software development than the other team members. At the same time, every good leader should have the drive and charisma of a top-tier sales person to motivate the team. These two sets of skills can be hard to find in the same person. If you’re struggling to find an external candidate with these qualifications, consider looking within the team to promote or expand the responsibilities of an existing employee. Keep in mind, however, leadership training to a senior developer might work better than technology training to junior managers.”
I was (wo)manning the Berteig booth for most of this day-long event with my colleague Nima Honarmandan, since we were one of the Open Agile Conference sponsors. Still, I was able to nip away and take in a seminar called “Value: From Meh to Wow” delivered by Mike Edwards, author of leadingforchange.ca
After a personal introductory story about his dog dying while he was away from home, and WestJet Corporation’s remarkable assistance to him to get home as soon as possible, he listed three kinds of value: that which is monetized, that which is frugal and that which has a wow factor.
He believes WestJet has the wow factor because people are not just numbers or resources to them – people are truly people. He said that the employees of WestJet are empowered to act as if they’re owners, and so can make important (and compassionate) decisions for people on a case by case basis.
Edwards feels companies need to know what their customers’ values are, and allow themselves to align with them. Companies cannot hope to “wow” people with freebies. His point was that to create a wow factor in one’s business one needs to focus on relationships.
In an exercise, he had attendees make 3 columns on a sheet of paper. The first column was to list our employers’ values, the second to list our own values, and the third to list our customers’ values. I was “wowed” to see that, as regards my own employment and our customers, there was a great degree of alignment between all three groups, valuing such things as learning, honesty, encouragement, responsiveness and agility.
As for most of my day in the stands (at the Berteig booth), I observed that agilists (practitioners of Agile) are, by and large, very caring and user-friendly people. Between seminar sessions, hundred of them flowed through the hallways. Many of them greeted each other like long-lost buddies with big hugs, many engaged in in-depth conversations, and most were joyful and energetic.
As my colleague Nima and I met people at our booth, responded to questions, and handed out packs of Estimation Cards (freebies are fun at an event like this), I mused on the blessing of human contact. As wisdom would have it, there is a time for all aspects of life: to work, to learn, to rest, and a time to enjoy the diversity of our human family.
Your Product Owner needs to be informed, available, business-savvy, knowledgeable, collaborative, and empowered to make decisions about what to build and what order to do it in. They also need to be a strong negotiator and very capable at conducting business driven trade-offs. In the end, a Product Owner needs to effectively communicate, convey and deliver on a clear vision to the Team and Stakeholders to ensure a useful solution is created. Without empowerment, knowledge, and vision in a Product Owner the team will struggle. (By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
Scrum team members should be allocated to as few different initiatives as realistically possible. The more projects you are allocated to, the more task switching you may have to perform, the longer it will take to complete any one item, the thinner you will be spread and the less effective you will be. In other words, people (and teams) should limit their work in progress as much as possible and focus on completing those things that truly matter most. This is true for any framework, but it is particularly emphasized with Agile ones. Note there is a slight but fundamental difference between being allocatedto a team and being dedicated to a team – that is a topic for a future article.
(By Senior Agile Coach Jerry Doucett)
Jerry is leading a series of SAFe training classes in Toronto, Ontario from September through to December 2016. See here for more details.
On May 03, 2016 wildfires encompassing Fort McMurray, Alberta forced the evacuation of more than 88,000 residents, including many friends, family and associates of BERTEIG.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
One such resident was Garry Berteig, a co-founder of OpenAgile, and long-time resident of Fort McMurray.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Garry from his home in northern Alberta. He presents some meaningful insights into how living and working with an agile mindset helped him and his family move through the disaster with stability. The following articles shares, in his words, some highlights of his experience during and after the event.
BEING AGILE IN A CRISIS
By Senior Agile Coach Garry Berteig
Most of the time, when you are acting with agility you are sort of ready for change or turn in direction anyhow. You know what you have to do so your tasks are already in motion, your tasks are already moving towards “done”, not that you have your suitcase packed already but you already know what is the most important thing.
It’s the same for corporations. It’s just not so direct or life-threatening as this catastrophe was but for some companies catastrophe is a slow burn.
The actuality about what occurred, was quite different than the media reports. The media reports were at best simple, at worst a high-level notion.
Yes there was a line of cars, and they show a line up of cars [in the news] but it doesn’t tell you that some people were in one way or another in a state of calm because they are used to being involved in safety measure. That group was relatively calm.
There’s another set of people who were actually terrified and not able to be rational so they have to be handled carefully.
Then another group of people who were on the opposite extreme were kind of ‘having a good time.’ It was taking them away from their normal routines so they were making light of the whole situation. They were rolling windows down, playing loud music, giving peace-signs, stuff like that.
The real take-home point, having landed in Edmonton and being involved with people here is that the kindness, hospitality, generousity and sympathy that people revealed was amazing.
This is a feature that I share and have been sharing with other people who have also found the same thing. It’s been quite remarkable. Their private lives had an opportunity present itself openly. In my opinion, it represents a spiritual condition. Usually people hold that in to themselves and have no opportunity to express that. [They want to be kind, generous and helpful but keep it internalized.]
The government and non-profits have also been incredibly efficient and helpful. Because of all the other experiences with other catastrophes, their quick response to 90,000 people leaving Fort McMurray was remarkable. Within one week they had arranged for financial support for all those people. That to me is the material future of Canada. It is positive. The material and spiritual future of Canada is very great. And that is what I’ve seen here.
The other point is that before Fort McMurray was black-listed by the media but that has turned 180 degrees. Now people will realize the participation in this city from all over the country. The nation raised 1 million through the Red Cross.
Thankfully, not only is Garry and his family safe and well but all other friends and associates are also settling back into their routines and beginning the long journey ahead of restoration and recovery.
UPDATE: August 03, 2016 – Unbelievably, epic flooding has now hit Fort McMurray, and in places the flood waters are damaging houses which had survived the fire. More updates will be shared as they emerge. Garry’s family is still doing well.