Tips to Start Agile in a Hostile Environment

Although Agile methods are very popular (particularly Scrum), there are still many organizations or departments which may not yet have official support for adopting Agile methods formally.  In some cases, management may even be hostile to the concepts and practices of Agile methods.  If you are interested in Agile, you don’t have to give up hope (or look to switch jobs).  Instead, here are some tips to start using Agile methods even in hostile environments.

Regular Retrospectives

Some Agilists claim that the retrospective is actually the key to being Agile.  In some ways, this is also the easiest practice to introduce into an organization.  Start with “easy” retrospectives like “Pluses and Deltas” or “Starfish“.  These are retrospectives that can be done in 15 minutes or half an hour.  Try to do them with your team weekly.  If you are are a team lead or a project manager, it will be easy to include this as part of an existing weekly status meeting.  If you are “just” a team member, you might have to get some modest amount of permission.

So why would it be good to do a retrospective?  Because it’s a high return-on-investment activity.  For a few minutes of investment, a team using retrospectives can become aware of dramatic opportunities for improvement in how they are functioning.   Here are a couple more articles about the importance of retrospectives:

What’s an Agile Retrospective and Why Would You Do It?

What is a Retrospective?

Practice-by-Practice

Although I strongly recommend starting with retrospectives, sometimes that’s not the best way to start.  Myself, my first formal Agile environment, I started with the Daily Scrum.  Another time less formal, I started with Test-Driven Development.  In both cases, starting with a single practice, done well, led to adding additional practices over a relatively short period of months.  This gradual adoption of practices led, in time, to attracting positive interest from managers and leaders.  This is the practice-by-practice approach.  Start with a simple Agile practice that you can do without asking anyone for permission.  Make sure it is a practice that makes sense for your particular environment – it must produce some benefit!  If you are technical contributor on a team, then practices such as refactoring or test-driven development can be a good place to start.  If you are more business-oriented, then maybe consider user stories or one of the Innovation Games.  If you are responsible for administrative aspects of the work, then consider a Kanban board or burndown charts.

It is important to get the chosen practice done consistently and done well, even when the team is struggling with some sort of crisis or another.  If the practice can’t be sustained through a project crisis, then you won’t be able to build on it to add additional Agile practices.

Stealth Project

Sometimes you get an unusual opportunity: a project that is funded but hidden from the bureaucracy.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, but often it is because some executive has a pet project and says (effectively): “make it so”.  This is an opportunity to do Agile.  Since there is little oversight from a process perspective, and since the overall project has a strong executive sponsor, there is often a great deal of freedom on the question of “how do we actually execute.”  There can be challenges as well: often the executive wants daily insight into progress, but that level of transparency is actually something that Agile methods can really support.  In this case, there is no need to ask anyone on what method to use, just pick one (e.g. Scrum or OpenAgile or XP or Kanban or Crystal or…) and go for it.  Don’t talk about it.

The “just do it” approach requires that you have some influence.  You don’t have to be an influencer, but you need connections and you need charisma and you need courage.  If you don’t have at least two of those three, you shouldn’t try this approach.  You have to do things and get away with things that normally would get people fired – not because they are illegal – but simply because they are so counter-cultural to how your organization normally works.  Here are a few comments on Stealth Methodology Adoption.

Co-Conspirators

There’s nothing like working with a band of rebels!  If you can find one or two other people to become co-conspirators in changing your organization, you can try many lines of action and see which ones work.  Getting together for lunch or after work frequently is the best way to develop a common vision and to make plans.  Of course, you need to actually execute some of your plans.  Having people to work with is really part of the other tips here: you can have co-conspirators to help you launch a practice-by-practice Agile transformation, for example.

But, like any rebellion, you really need to trust those you work with in these early stages.  Lacking that trust will slow everything you do possibly to the point of ineffectualness.  Trust means that you have, for some time, a formal vow of silence.  Not until you have critical mass through your mutual efforts can you reveal the plan behind your actions.

Read “Fearless Change”

I can’t recommend this one enough!  Read “Fearless Change” by Mary Lynn Manns and Linda Rising.  This is a “patterns” book.  It is a collection of techniques that can be applied to help make organizational changes, where each technique has its own unique context of use.  Lots of research and experience have gone into the creation of this book and it is a classic for anyone who wants to be an organizational change agent.  Patterns include basics such as “Do Lunch” to help build trust and agreement with your ideas for change or “Champion Skeptic” to leverage the value of having systematic, open criticism of your change idea.

Don’t Call it “Agile”

This isn’t really a “tip” in the sense of an action item.  Instead, this is a preventative measure… to prevent negative reactions to your proposals for change.  The words “Agile” or “Scrum”, while they have their supporters, also have detractors.  To avoid some of the prejudices that some people may hold, you can start by _not_ calling your effort by those names.  Use another name.  Or let your ideas go nameless.  This can be challenging, particularly if other people start to use the words “Agile” or “Scrum”.  By going nameless into the change effort, people will focus more on results and rational assessment of your ideas rather than on their emotional prejudices.

A minor variant of this is to “brand” your ideas in a way that makes them more palatable. One company that we worked with, let’s call them XYZ, called their custom Agile method “Agile @ XYZ”.  Just those extra four symbols “@ XYZ” made all the difference in changing the effort from one where managers and executives would resist the change to one where they would feel connected to the change.

Get Some Training

Okay, some blatant self-promotion here: consider our Certified Real Agility Coach training program.  It’s a 40-week program that takes about 12 hours/week of your time for coursework.  The next cohort of participants starts in June 2015 and we are taking deposits for participants.  This training is comprehensive, top-notch training for anyone wishing to become an organizational change agent focusing on Agility.

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Full-Day Product Owner Simulation Exercise

This simulation exercise rests on the idea that people learn a lot better by doing something than by talking about it.  My Product Owner classes were getting great reviews, but I really felt like there was something missing compared to my ScrumMaster classes which have a full-day ScrumMaster simulation exercise.  It took a little while to figure it out, but this article describes in detail how I do the simulation for the Product Owner class.  I’m sure it will evolve and get refined from here since I have only used the simulation twice so far.

NOTE: Permission to use this exercise / print associated materials is granted with a simple request: please link to this page on your blog, in a LinkedIn group or Google group, like it on Facebook etc. or write a comment in our comments section!

Pre-requisites: None!  No prior Scrum or Agile knowledge or experience required.

Audience: Product Owners, Business Analysts, Project Managers, Product Managers and other people responsible for business results and who interact with a Scrum team.

Timing: This simulation takes at least 7 classroom hours.  I usually run it from 8:30am to 5:00pm with a one hour lunch break and two 15 minute breaks during the day.

Materials Needed:

  • Coloured pencils and/or coloured markers
  • Black Sharpie fine-point markers
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Scotch tape and/or glue stick
  • Blank white printer paper
  • Pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners
  • Blank white 4×6 and 3×5 note cards
  • Blank white box (e.g. a shirt box from U-Line)
  • Planning Game cards (email me if you want a bunch for free!)

Room Setup: Round tables with 4 to 6 chairs at each table.  Materials distributed to each table.

Agenda (with facilitator’s notes):

  • Lecture: Simulation Overview, Backlog Preparation and Refinement
    The purpose of the overall simulation is to learn to create a good Product Backlog in preparation for a Scrum team’s first Sprint. Review the agenda with participants.
  • Discussion: Choosing a Product for the Simulation
    Give participants four product options (suggested options: “Doggy dating web site”, “iPad app for plastic surgeons”, “POS for food trucks with social features”, or come up with your own app idea).  A table group must agree to one of the options.  They will stick with this product for the remainder of the simulation.  5 minutes to decide (usually takes much less).
  • Part 1: Product Vision
    • Lecture: Innovation Games – Product Box
      Talk about the need for a compelling vision as a pre-requisite for high-performance teams, and a way to decide what is in vs. out of a Product Backlog.  Introduce “Product Box” as a way to do market research in an Agile compatible way (collaborative, light documentation, quick).  Talk about the pattern of a product box: front to attract, back to showcase, sides to deal with objections.  Use of online resources / web research is allowed but should not dominate the exercise.
    • Exercise: Building Your Product
      30 minutes, with warnings at 15 minutes and 5 minutes remaining.  Ensure that by 10 minutes in, the group has actually started using the craft supplies and isn’t just talking.
    • Exercise: Presenting Your Product
      5 minutes – give additional time to allow groups to prepare for a trade show (in their market) presentation where other groups (or yourself) will role-play sceptical trade show participants.
    • Discussion: Debrief
  • Part 2: Product Users
    • Lecture: User Categories
      Describe “end users”, “customers” and “admin users” as the three major categories.  Users can be in hierarchies where a general user type may have two or more specific sub-types.
    • Exercise: Identifying Users
      10 minutes.  One user of each main type (end, admin and cust), at least 5 users in total.  More is okay.
    • Lecture: Personas, Usability and Empathy
      Introduce Persona concept (great reference: “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” by Alan Cooper).  Usability as part of Agile, not separate (i.e. “working software”).  Identifying personas as a way to build empathy from the development team to the end users/customers.
  • Part 3: User Stories
    • Handout: User Stories and Splitting
    • Lecture: Writing Effective User Stories
      Use the example “As a Job Seeker, I can upload my resume, so that I get a job.”  Explain the user story template based on the handout.  Emphasize the idea of end user functionality.  Explain user stories as an important tool, but optional part of Scrum.
    • Exercise: Create User Stories
      Goal: 20 user stories for each group’s product, at least two user stories for each type of user, all done in 20 minutes.  User Stories must be written on 3×5 note cards with a 2cm blank area on right side of each card.
    • Discussion: Review User Stories
      Workshop examples from each group.  Ensure that the “benefit” section of each story does not contain a feature.
    • Lecture: Splitting User Stories
      Go through each of the “top” six splitting methods.  Provide simple examples where the group needs help.  E.g. error conditions as an example of splitting by business logic.
    • Exercise: Split Some
      Goal: result in at least 30 user stories, use each of the top six splitting methods at least once, give 15 minutes.
    • Discussion: Review Splitting
  • Part 4: Estimation and Financial Modelling
    • Lecture: Effort, Value and ROI
      Customers and business stakeholders estimate value, Scrum team members estimate effort, and ROI is the calculation of the ration of value over effort.  Discuss examples of ordering based on these ratios, e.g. 8/2 vs. 8/4 and 200/20 vs. 20/2.
    • Handout: The Bucket System
    • Lecture: The Bucket System
      Review process based on handout.
    • Exercise: Estimating Business Value
      10 minutes.  Goal: all user stories get a business value estimate written in the top right-hand corner of the user story card.
    • Discussion: Debrief the Bucket System
    • Handout: The Planning Game
    • Lecture: The Planning Game
    • Exercise: Estimating Effort
      20 minutes. Goal: estimate 3 user stories using the Planning Game.  Use the Bucket System to estimate the remainder with the ones already estimated as the reference points.
    • Discussion: Debrief the Planning Game
    • Handout: Methods of Ordering the Product Backlog
    • Lecture: Ordering a Product Backlog
      Review ROI as a method to order the PBIs.  Reminder that the Product Owner has final authority and can ignore the estimates in deciding on the order.
    • Exercise: Calculating ROI and Ordering
      5 minutes.  Just simple divide-and-conquer calculations of business value divided by effort for all the user stories.
    • Lecture: Simulation Wrap-Up – Where Does This Fit?
      Reminder of the idea of creating an initial Product Backlog that is “good enough” to start the first Sprint.

NOTE: Permission to use this exercise / print associated materials is granted with a simple request: please link to this page on your blog, in a LinkedIn group or Google group, like it on Facebook etc. or write a comment in our comments section!

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Super-Hard ScrumMaster Quiz – Test Yourself!

For a little while last year I was using a quiz in my Certified ScrumMaster courses that was deliberately designed to be super hard.  Why?  Because if anyone could answer it correctly before the end of the class, I would give them their certification early and allow them to leave.  Not a single person out of several hundred was able to do it.

So… want to give it a try?  I’ve got two files here.  One is the quiz without answers.  The other is the answer key.  Let me know if you have any questions!!!

CSM Class Test – Super Hard! (PDF, 1 page)

(Please, give it a try before you even download this next piece!!!)

CSM Class Test – Answer Key (PDF, 1 page)

This test was first created by me and one of my close colleagues, Julien Mazloum from Outsofting.  We were trying to make the CSM class something that the Chinese audience would really appreciate culturally.  It worked well, up to a point.  The main problem was that some of the questions were too subtle for people for whom English was their second language.  That said, when I used it in my North American courses, still no one passed it!  In fact, the best score I ever saw was 25 correct out of 30.

Have fun!

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Announcement: Agile Coaching Patterns Wiki

Coaches for Agile teams and organizations is a growing profession.  I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I’ve used/invented/learned-about many different techniques or interventions for coaching in the context of Agile teams.  I have recently started a Wiki to capture some of this information.  (Originally, I was hoping to write a book, but I don’t have the time to do it on my own or even to coordinate a multi-author effort.)  This is an open invitation to participate in the wiki.  I won’t make it fully open (like wikipedia), instead, it will be by invitation.  Connect with me on LinkedIn and mention you would like to contribute, and I will set you up with an account… and then you can go nuts :-)  If there end up being several contributors, I’ll make a block on the front page for links to contributors and/or their organizations.

Check out the Agile Coaching Patterns wiki.

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Certified ScrumMaster one of the top paying certifications of 2014

Interesting list here on Global Knowledge (a certification and training vendor (just like Berteig Consulting :-) ) ).  CSM is #6 in pay at $107,396 (is it really 6 significant figures of accuracy?  Wow!).  Anyway, it is cool to see the CSM cert on such a list since I’m one of a small number of Certified Scrum Trainers.  If you’re interested in coming to one of my classes and getting this certification for yourself, please check out my course listings in the sidebar on the right here on Agile Advice.  There’s many in Canada, there’s some in the US and there’s some in China.  Hopefully see you at one of them sometime soon!

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New Seminar: Certified ScrumMaster – Toronto – April 2013

The most popular Agile certification! This two day course gives you the foundations to be an effective ScrumMaster and contributes towards the requirements of the Scrum Alliance’s Certified ScrumMaster program. Delivered by Berteig Consulting’s own Mishkin Berteig!

By successfully completing this course you will be able to:

  • Remove obstacles that prevent teams from becoming high-performance.
  • Enable a team to follow the Scrum process to deliver great products and continuously improve their quality.
  • Describe Scrum to others including roles, meetings, artifacts and principles.
  • Fulfill the requirements of the Certified ScrumMaster program.

Days: April 3, 2013, April 4, 2013

Location: Courtyard by Marriott Toronto Downtown, 475 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON Tel: 416.924.0611 (Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/EyFH4)

Audience: This course is ideal for those who desire to create high-performance product development teams. Team leads, project managers and functional or line managers all can benefit from understanding Scrum’s amazing transformational power and the critical role of the ScrumMaster. If you are a member of the Project Management Institute, this course counts for 16 PDU’s and as part of the requirements towards the PMI-ACP designation.

Price: $1400.00

Contact: Valerie Senyk at 1-905-868-9995

Phone: 1-905-969-9995     Email: valerie@berteigconsulting.com

Link to Register: http://www.worldmindware.com/Certified-ScrumMaster-Toronto-April-2013

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Certified ScrumMaster – Mississauga – March 2013

The most popular Agile certification! This two day course gives you the foundations to be an effective ScrumMaster and contributes towards the requirements of the Scrum Alliance’s Certified ScrumMaster program. Delivered by Berteig Consulting’s own Mishkin Berteig!

By successfully completing this course you will be able to:

  • Remove obstacles that prevent teams from becoming high-performance.
  • Enable a team to follow the Scrum process to deliver great products and continuously improve their quality.
  • Describe Scrum to others including roles, meetings, artifacts and principles.
  • Fulfill the requirements of the Certified ScrumMaster program.

Days: March 26, 2013, March 27, 2013

Location: Fairfield Inn and Suites Toronto, 35 Courtneypark Drive West, Mississauga, ON 905-546-2030 (Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/ee9IX)

Audience: This course is ideal for those who desire to create high-performance product development teams. Team leads, project managers and functional or line managers all can benefit from understanding Scrum’s amazing transformational power and the critical role of the ScrumMaster. If you are a member of the Project Management Institute, this course counts for 16 PDU’s and as part of the requirements towards the PMI-ACP designation.

Price: $1400.00

Contact: Valerie Senyk

Phone: 1-905-969-9995     Email: valerie@berteigconsulting.com

Link to Register: http://www.worldmindware.com/Certified-ScrumMaster-Mississauga-March-2013

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Upcoming Seminar: Certified Scrum Product Owner, February 26, 2013, Markham

The Product Owner role is the most difficult in Scrum to do well. This Learning Event solves that problem by giving you real practical techniques that you can apply immediately!

Learning Objective(s): Create a Product Backlog that allows your Scrum team to start delivering value quickly.

Days: February 26, 2013, February 27, 2013

Location:The Courtyard Marriott Markham, 65 Minthorn Blvd, Markham ON L3T 7Y9,

1-905-707-6533

Audience: This course is designed for those who care about the business success of their products and projects: product managers, project managers, business unit leaders and business analysts. Some basic knowledge of Scrum is recommended prior to attending this Learning Event.

Price: $1600.00

Contact: Valerie Senyk

Phone: 1-905-969-9995     Email: valerie@berteigconsulting.com

Link to Register: http://www.worldmindware.com/Certified-Scrum-Product-Owner-Markham-February-2013

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Upcoming Seminar: Certified ScrumMaster Seminar, February 05, 2013, Toronto

This two day course gives you the foundations to be an effective ScrumMaster and contributes towards the requirements of the Scrum Alliance’s Certified ScrumMaster program.

By successfully completing this course you will be able to:

  • Remove obstacles that prevent teams from becoming high-performance.
  • Enable a team to follow the Scrum process to deliver great products and continuously improve their quality.
  • Describe Scrum to others including roles, meetings, artifacts and principles.
  • Fulfill the requirements of the Certified ScrumMaster program.

Days: February 5, 2013, February 6, 2013

Location:The Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown, 475 Yonge at Wood Tel. 416-924-0611

Audience: This course is ideal for those who desire to create high-performance product development teams. Team leads, project managers and functional or line managers all can benefit from understanding Scrum’s amazing transformational power and the critical role of the ScrumMaster. If you are a member of the Project Management Institute, this course counts for 16 PDU’s and as part of the requirements towards the PMI-ACP designation.

Price: $1400.00

Contact: Valerie Senyk
Phone: 1-905-969-9995     Email: valerie@berteigconsulting.com

Link to Register: http://www.worldmindware.com/Certified-ScrumMaster-Toronto-February-2013

 

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2013 Calendar Agile Training Courses from Mishkin Berteig now Posted

Hi Everyone!  I’ve posted my calendar for 2013 training: Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) and OpenAgile Team Member (OATM) at WorldMindware.com.  All of the courses are scheduled in Southern Ontario in Canada (although I also deliver courses in China).  Please check out World Mindware to find public learning events on agile methods!

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Upcoming ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner Training

Hi Everyone!  Berteig Consulting has just updated the schedule for training on the World Mindware site.  We have a finalized set of listings for the summer and fall.  I will be delivering these sessions and I look forward to seeing my readers there!  Check them out and sign up!  As usual, readers of Agile Advice get a discount.  Use this code for a 20% discount on our regular prices: 20-PERCENT-YNYE

Certified ScrumMaster Logo

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Agile Project Management + Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) + Certified OpenAgile Team Member (Level 2) + Kanban – Halifax December 14-16, 2011!!

Last 3-Day Intensive Training of 2011!

Don’t miss out on this unique seminar, where Berteig Consulting  will be offering a practical view of three important Agile methods.  The training includes both theory and hands-on training!

OpenAgile - used for general agile project management and agile teamwork including projects and organizations doing any kind of work

Scrum - used for software new product development and IT project management

Kanban - used for teams doing operational work

This seminar contributes towards three certification programs: the Scrum Alliance’s Certified ScrumMaster program, the OpenAgile Team Member level and the IPMA/PMAC Agile Project Management certification.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

This course is for team leads, project managers, functional managers, and anyone who is interested in improving the performance of their teams and organization.

Click here more information!

Register Now!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ScrumMaster + OpenAgile + Kanban training in Markham November 23-25,2011

We have an upcoming three-day agile training seminar in Markham on November 23-25, 2011.

In this unique seminar, we will be offering a practical view of three important Agile methods: OpenAgile – used for general agile project management and agile teamwork including projects and organizations doing any kind of work. Scrum – used for software new product development and IT project management. Kanban – used for teams doing operational work.

This seminar contributes towards three certification programs: the Scrum Alliance’s Certified ScrumMaster program, the OpenAgile Team Member level and the IPMA/PMAC Agile Project Management certification.

For more information: http://www.berteigconsulting.com/UpcomingAgileScrumOpenAgileSeminars
To register:
http://www.regonline.ca/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=988401 

Proudly delivered by Berteig Consulting, a Canadian organization since 2004.

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Why we SCRUM: Achieving Hyper-productivity. Presented by Myplanet Digital and Berteig Consulting

On Friday, October 28th at 1pm join Paul Heidema from Berteig Consulting and Shanly Suepaul from Myplanet Digital as we discuss what Scrum is, how we use it at Myplanet Digital and how Scrum can help your team.
 
Scrum is the lifeblood of Myplanet. When executed properly it empowers teams and individuals to stay motivated and achieve excellence. Most importantly, Scrum allows us to continually learn and improve our people and teams.
At Berteig Consulting, we are experts at using agile methods such as Scrum to transform people, process and culture in order to produce high-performance teams and organizations. From ScrumAlliance.org: “Scrum is an agile framework for completing complex projects. Scrum originally was formalized for software development projects, but works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are endless.”

Sign up here: https://eval.webex.com/eval/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=924723906 


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Introduction to OpenAgile Half-Day Workshop – Nov. 4, 2011 in Toronto

For those of you who are in the Toronto area, you might be interested in a half-day session being put on by Berteig Consulting: an Introduction to OpenAgile.  There are two sessions scheduled for Friday Nov. 4 – one in the morning, one in the afternoon.  The price is $50/person and at the end of the session, you will be fully prepared to write the OpenAgile “Readiness” certificate exam.  The session is being held at the Hilton in downtown Toronto.  The session agenda is as follows:

  1. Welcome
  2. History and Purpose of OpenAgile
  3. Foundations of OpenAgile
  4. Overview of OpenAgile Processes
  5. OpenAgile Capacity-Building
  6. Benefits of OpenAgile
  7. Case Study: Suncor
  8. Q&A

Register now for the Introduction to OpenAgile morning session.

Register now for the Introduction to OpenAgile afternoon session.

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