At the Advanced ScrumMaster Training, Ken Schwaber presented a substantial amount of thinking about metrics used with Scrum. The main driver for thinking about metrics has come from implementing Scrum in enterprise situations. Management expects metrics to be used in order to provide visibility into the progress of the Scrum implementation.
Empowerment is the ability of a team to make decisions about how to do their work and execute on those decisions without outside interference. If a team is empowered, then it will be more capable of responding to change, and it will be able to focus on manifesting the members’ creative potential. Empowerment comes from a combination of several factors:
An information radiator is a large display of critical team information that is continuously updated and located in a spot where the team can see it constantly. The term “information radiator” was introduced extensively with a solid theoretical framework in Agile Software Development by Alistair Cockburn.
As part of the Advanced Scrum Training, Esther Derby presents a section on conflict. One very insightful part of the presentation is a description of four reasons for the existence of conflict or disagreement. They are as follows (adapted from “Advanced Scrum: Collaboration Skills for Scrum Teams” (c)2004-2005 Esther Derby):
I’ve come up with a short quiz about agile readiness. It has never been tested anywhere. Rather, it represents my observations about what conditions have been in place in organizations where agile has taken root and flourished vs. places where attempts at agile have failed.
Kent Beck’s book “Extreme Programming Explained : Embrace Change” provides a good introduction to how software development can embrace the constant change that affects our world. Some of the practices he introduces are very software-specific. However, the overall basic message is sound and provides a foundational principle for all agile work. (By the way, the book is excellent.)
Change really does occur everywhere. Change is constant. A google search for “embrace change” or “change is constant” will both turn up an incredible variety of articles, papers, discussions, books and viewpoints that all affirm the constant nature of change and the need to embrace it.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult to accomodate change when we also have a legitimate and deep desire to know what is coming next.
For many teams, the environment in which they work is constantly changing. This change can be caused by competition between organizations, scientific or technological advances, fads and cultural shifts, major events in people’s personal lives or even just a change of opinion with a stakeholder. Any change, even small change, can invalidate a planned course of action. However, goals (as distinct from plans) are more stable and often survive even major environmental changes. Therefore, rather than trying to plan the future, an agile team can focus on being able to respond to change while still reaching a goal.
Nevertheless, a team needs some sense of what it will do in the near future. A team can work with a “horizon of predictability”. This is the distance into the future which a team can be reasonably certain that plans will be stable. Depending on the environment, this may be as little as a few minutes, or as long as a month. It is rarely longer. The horizon of predictability is not a precise demarcation, rather, expect change with a probability based on the horizon of predictability. Then, plan to respond to change. Be detached from the concrete details of a plan, particularly if they occur outside the horizon of predictability.
Responding to change requires a major mental shift for many people that is difficult and takes time and environmental support. People are often penalized socially or formally for being flexible or adaptable. This quality can appear to be “wishy-washy”, uncertain, indecisive, uncommitted or even rebellious.
The terms “agility” or “agile work” refer to this principle of embracing constant change since it is the most visible of the principles. However, the ability to respond to change relies on the establishment of agile work disciplines and practices.
I have just run across a web site about applying agile practices, specifically from Extreme Programming (XP) to architecture. This site, called “Architectural Practices – Extreme Project Management for Architects” has a great deal of information.
Index cards are an excellent tool to use to optimize communication. There are two primary types of use for index cards.
Plan driven methodologies which attempt to mechanize the process of doing work are in opposition to the three Agile Work Principles.
We are Creators
A plan methodology attempts to define intermediate and end work products independently of the input and effort of those who perform the work of creating the work products. This disenfranchises people from their work and leads to low morale. It also establishes a heirarchy of value for the people working on an effort where those who create the plans are perceived as more important or valuable than those who execute on the plans.
Change is Natural
This principle is usually acknowledged, but is usually described as a “problem” to be dealt with rather than as a basic principle to be fully embraced. A plan methodology has “change control” or “change management” and “risk management” and puts the whole notion of change in a negative light. This approach also disenfranchises people because they are constantly placed in opposition to reality.
Reality is Perceived
Plans attempt to legislate reality. “Thus and so must the project go” results in a constant struggle between the plan and peoples’ perception of reality. Plans marginalize the importance of perception on the belief that reality can be objectively understood. If reality can be objectively understood, then it can be mechanistically manipulated. Thus results can be pre-determined without regard for the perception of those results.
Waste is the result of activities or environmental conditions that prevent a team from reaching its goal. The opposite of waste is something that adds value (more, faster or higher quality) to the desired result.
A few more words are in order about how Truthfulness is the foundation upon which the three Agile Axioms rest. Taking them one at a time:
Mishkin Berteig, the founder of Berteig Consulting Inc. and the Agile Advice blog has been listed on the Control Chaos web site as a Certified Scrum Master Practicing. This certification represents acknowledgement of Mishkin’s real-world experience as a Scrum Master. Scrum is a collection of management patterns used to implement agile principles and practices for new product development.
An article called Are You Ready for the Agile Future presents a brief discussion about the role of HR in an agile organization. There are several very good ideas. The basic idea is that the HR function must adapt to the nature of agility. This in turn means, for example, hiring people that are agile, nimble, adaptable etc.
There are however some mis-steps in the article.
Two interesting visual presentations of the progress of adoption of Scrum practices. These are marginally software-specific but could very easily be adapted to non-software agile work situations.