Book List for Enterprise Agile Transformations

Leaders of Agile Transformations for the Enterprise need to have good sources of information, concepts and techniques that will guide and assist them.  This short list of twelve books (yes, books) is what I consider critical reading for any executive, leader or enterprise change agent.  Of course, there are many books that might also belong on this list, so if you have suggestions, please make them in the comments.

I want to be clear about the focus of this list: it is for leaders that need to do a deep and complete change of culture throughout their entire organization.  It is not a list for people who want to do Agile pilot projects and maybe eventually lots of people will use Agile.  It is about urgency and need, and about a recognition that Agile is better than not-Agile.  If you aren’t in that situation, this is not the book list for you.

Culture

These books all help you to understand and work with the deeper aspects of corporate behaviour which are rooted in culture.  Becoming aware of culture and learning to work with it is probably the most difficult part of any deep transformation in an organization.

The Corporate Culture Survival Guide – Edgar Schein

Beyond the Culture of Contest – Michael Karlburg

The Heart of Change – John Kotter

Management

This set of books gets a bit more specific: it is the “how” of managing and leading in high-change environments.  These books all touch on culture in various ways, and build on the ideas in the books about culture.  For leaders of an organization, there are dozens of critical, specific, management concepts that often challenge deeply held beliefs and behaviours about the role of management.

Good to Great – Jim Collins

The Leaders’ Guide to Radical Management – Steve Denning

The Mythical Man-Month – Frederick Brooks

Agile at Scale

These books discuss how to get large numbers of people working together effectively. They also start to get a bit technical and definitely assume that you are working in technology or IT. However, they are focused on management, organization and process rather than the technical details of software development. I highly recommend these books even if you have a non-technical background. There will be parts where it may be a bit more difficult to follow along with some examples, but the core concepts will be easily translated into almost any type of work that requires problem-solving and creativity.

Scaling Lean and Agile Development – Bas Vodde, Craig Larman

Scaling Agility – Dean Leffingwell

Lean Software Development – Mary and Tom Poppendieck

Supporting

These books (including some free online books) are related to some of the key supporting ideas that are part of any good enterprise Agile transformation.

Toyota Talent: Developing Your People the Toyota Way – Jeffrey Liker, David Meier

Agile Retrospectives – Esther Derby

Continuous Delivery – Jez Humble, David Farley

The Scrum Guide – Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, et. al.

The OpenAgile Primer – Mishkin Berteig, et. al.

Priming Kanban – Jesper Boeg

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Agile Advice Book Update

Well, last spring I announced that I was going to be publishing a collection of the best Agile Advice articles in a book.  I managed to get an ISBN number, got a great cover page design, and so it is almost done.  I’m still trying to figure out how to build an index… any suggestions would be welcome!!!  But… I’m hoping to get it published on iBooks and Amazon in the next month or two.  Let me know if you have any feedback on “must-have” Agile Advice articles – there’s still time to add / edit the contents.

There are six major sections to the book:

  1. Basics and Foundations
  2. Applications and Variations
  3. Agile and Other Systems
  4. For Managers and Executives
  5. Bonus Chapters
  6. Agile Methods Quick Reference and Selection Guide

The book will also have a small collection of 3 in-depth articles that have never been published here on Agile Advice (and never will be).  The three special articles are:

  1. Agile Mining at a Large Canadian Oil Sands Company
  2. Crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap
  3. Becoming a Professional Software Developer

Again, any feedback on tools or techniques for creating a quick index section on a book would be great.  I’m using LibreOffice for my word processor on a Mac.  I’m cool with command-line tools if there’s something good!

 

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The Agile Framework: Agile Values and Principles, The Agile Toolkit, The Agile Organization

When I am speaking with executives, ScrumMasters and other leaders of change in organizations, I often present a simple 3-layer model to understand the relationship between the various moving parts in the Agile Framework:

  1. The Agile Values and Principles – These describe the culture and, in the Agile Manifesto, are the definition of the word “Agile” as applied to software development. I didn’t write the Agile Manifesto so I don’t get to re-define the word Agile.  To give an example: in the manifesto it says “The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge out of self-organizing teams.”  As a former enterprise architect at Charles Schwab, I struggled with what I saw as incredibly wasteful up-front architectural activities when I knew that developers would (sometimes) ignore my glorious ivory-tower plans!  Therefore, if you are still doing up-front architecture and forcing your teams to comply to that architecture, you aren’t Agile.  Therefore, as an individual, a team or an organization, you need to make a conscious decision to “BE” Agile or not… and if you decide not, then please don’t call yourselves Agile.
  2. The Agile Toolkit – There are many hundreds of distinct tools in the Agile toolkit including Scrum, OpenAgile and other “large” Agile methods, as well as the Planning Game, Product Box, Test-Driven Development and other “small” Agile techniques.  Any group of people trying to BE Agile, will need to use dozens or even hundreds of different Agile tools.  I call them tools because the analogy with construction tools is a very good one.  Scrum is like a hammer.  But you can’t do much with just a hammer.  Scrum is a great, simple tool.  But you always need other tools as well to actually get stuff done.  All the tools in the Agile Toolkit are compatible with the Agile Values and Principles.  Even so, it is possible to use the Agile Tools without being Agile.  A Scrum team that never gets together face-to-face is not an Agile team: “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”  (Video conferencing doesn’t count.)
  3. The Agile Organization – When you start using a tool, there is a learning period.  We start by being conscious of our incompetence and as we persist, we become competent… but it isn’t natural or habitual yet.  Eventually, with continued use, we become unconscious of the tool.  IDE’s and version control are like this in most organizations: we don’t even think about them!  But getting through that initial stage requires us to change; to develop new skills.  This process usually requires discomfort or pain (including psychological pain).  An organization attempting to BE Agile and to use many of the tools in the Agile Toolkit will need to make many changes and often these will be difficult.  For example, incorporating the Product Owner role from Scrum into your organization requires new role definitions, new performance evaluation practices and criteria, new compensation systems, new communication and reporting mechanisms, new authority and accountability processes, etc. etc.  All of the changes required are about creating Enterprise Agility throughout the whole organization, beyond just software or IT.  These extensive changes are often started in a very ad hoc manner, but at some point they need to become systematic.  This is an important decision point for executive management: are we going to be Pragmatic about our Enterprise Agile adoption, or are we going to be Transformative about our Enterprise Agile adoption.

All of this is summarized in this graphic:

The Agile Framework [PDF]

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OpenAgile – Evolving Forward

“Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity”

Many people can see some validity or value in this statement, but it may seem strange to them to incorporate this component into business practices or corporate culture. After all much of what is common practice does not reward or encourage those who choose to be truthful.

But as Bob Dylan so aptly put it, “the times they are a-changin’”.

The environment, our capacities as human beings, and our tools to interact with the world are constantly evolving and growing. Yet much of what we do today is based on assumptions about human nature arrived at hundreds or even thousands of years ago when we had less knowledge and understanding about the world and ourselves. Along with the rest of the universe we are evolving as a human species, as such it only makes sense that our higher understanding and knowledge inform our decisions and practices, so we can keep progressing forward.

OpenAgile recognizes the true nature of humanity and how it can work to create a remarkable world in every endeavour. Scientific discovery is revealing this truth about our nature as well, as the video below so wonderfully illustrates.

The Empathetic Civilization

Be Open, Be Agile, Be Free.

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Agile Scam – Abusive Comments… What To Do?

This is “my” blog – I write most of the articles, and it is owned by the business in which I am a major partner.  I recently was reviewing comments in the moderation queue and came across this “gem”:

This man is a scammer, agile snake oil only 600, what a bargain. Filthy scamming piece of crap, he’s probably stupid enough to believe his own s**t too.

I’m assuming this person, who is anonymous, is upset either about something I said here on this blog, or possibly something that I (or one of my colleagues) did while we were working with one of our clients.

Several months ago, I was also made aware of a posting about Berteig Consulting (and myself) on Ripoff Report.  I’m not going to link to it, but I will quote it here:

Our company undergoes Agile transformation. Our management decided to hire Berteig Consulting

- a bunch of charlatans spending hours talking absolute nonsense.

They promise sky rocketing performance because they teach us to ( than follows a great number of words with no meaning). We must reflect in Buddish manner, talk to each other, discuss obstacles, be truthful, play stupid games,…. They charge company big money for waisting employees time for endless meetings and providing us with useless information.

Honestly, these sorts of comments make me a bit sad, a bit down.  But here’s what I think about them.

The Agile “Scam”

Let’s make sure we know what we are talking about.  Agile is defined in the the Agile Manifesto.  If you aren’t familiar with it, please take a look.  Basically, the purpose of Agile is to find better ways of building software that are based in practice.  In other words, by people actually building software, and sharing their knowledge, experience and the values and principles that helped them do what they did.

The thing about values and principles is that they are a bit like axioms in formal logic: you can’t prove them.  They are a starting point.  So, if you read the Agile Manifesto and you happen to think that

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.

is “Buddish” (whatever that is, presumably Buddhist), and that being “Buddish” is bad or useless, then that is certainly your right.  I can’t prove that this principle of the Agile Menifesto is “right” or “correct” or “always the best thing evar.”  But I like it.  I think it’s good.  I believe in it.  So I guess I am stupid enough to believe my own s**t.  Except that it’s not my own.  I didn’t write the Agile Manifesto.  But I do fully support it.  And, without exception, I think that if work environments tried to put in place the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, the world would be a (slightly) better place.

So is it a scam?  Well, if it is, I’m being scammed too.  I work crazy long hours, and although I make a decent living, I’m certainly not getting rich off this Agile thing.  When I think of a scam, I think of “get rich quick” or “lose 20 pounds in 20 days” or those sorts of things that promise unbelievable results with little or no effort.

Unfortunately, Agile isn’t like that.  Here is how I think of three Agile methods:

  1. Scrum: incredible results at the cost of incredible pain.  This is kind of like I imagine detox.  An organization is near death and needs to be revived so extreme measures (Scrum) have to be taken.  Requires significant outside help.
  2. OpenAgile: good medium-term results that require significant investment.  This is kind of like making a conscious change from a poor diet with lots of junk food to a good diet: takes discipline, but do-able with good encouragement and support.
  3. Kanban: modest long-term results with relatively low effort.  This is like deciding to change only one thing about your health at a time even if you have lots of health problems.  Lots of small wins accumulate over time.  Doesn’t require much outside help.

Of course, my descriptions of these are _vast_ simplifications for the purposes of discussing the Agile “scam”.  Do professional sports teams or Olympic athletes need coaches?  Probably most people would agree they do need that outside help.  Is coaching sports teams or athletes a “scam”?  Nope.  Not all coaches are good, certainly, but coaching is an essential (sometimes difficult) investment to get to that level of high performance.

Bad Agile

Of course, not all Agile transformations or adoptions are good.  The Agile Manifesto is not easy for most people, teams or organizations to truly embrace.  One of the most common problems I see is that an organization believes that it can have distributed or remote team members and somehow have effective communication among those team members.  This is just one simple example that comes directly from the Agile Manifesto:

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

I guess, technically, the Agile Manifesto doesn’t out-and-out say that a team must be co-located, but boy-oh-boy does it ever make a difference.

And yet, doing radical collocation is damn hard for most organizations.  So lots of organizations try to adopt Agile techniques without collocation.  And, mostly, their results suck.  Or they try to do collocation, but totally botch it.

Any given principle or value of the Agile Manifesto has its own challenges.  And so most Agile implementations are distant echoes of the incredible results that some rare organizations achieve when they really get Agile.

My Track Record

As a consultant, coach and trainer, I sometimes wish that I could say that I have never failed, that I have never given bad advice.  That’s because in complex human systems, it is very very very hard to sort out cause and effect relationships.  If one of my clients fails to have a dramatic transformation is it because:

  • I gave bad advice?
  • Someone at the client subverted the transformation effort?
  • An executive didn’t support it enough?
  • Market forces destabilized the transformation?
  • The organization’s culture treated Agile as an invasion and fought it off?
  • Agile just wasn’t “right” for the organization?
  • Agile wasn’t adopted soon enough?
  • etc….

On the other hand, I couldn’t very well be a coach, consultant or trainer if I didn’t have a clue.  My colleagues, Paul and Travis (who are named in the Ripoff Reports article), and others whom I have worked with (Nica, David, Mike, Deborah, Christian, another Mike, Allistair, Holleh, yet another Mike,a Michael, and another Michael (wow!), Garry, Jim, Mark, Mary, Sanjiv, yes even another Michael, Julien, Brenda, Derek…) are all smart, experienced, sincere, helpful people… who all know what it takes to produce good results.

The “Secret” Essence of Successful Agile

And, strangely, the essence of it is encapsulated in just a few basic basics:

Truthfulness (vs. hypocrisy, lies and deception)

Collaboration (vs. competition or individualism)

Service to Others (vs. greed and apathy)

and, ultimately, love between people.

So.  To those two people who felt they needed to spew out their hatred, their pain, or whatever it is that they are suffering from, I encourage you to contact me directly.  My email address and phone number are public.  I can’t promise to solve your problem, but I will give you love and whatever help I can extend.

 

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Real Agility Program – Recommendations (Assessment and Playbook)

Recommendations IconWe have already written about how Leadership and Delivery Teams operate in a Real Agility Program.  It’s time to look at our Recommendations component: getting started on the right path for Real Agility.

Recommendations = Assessment + Playbook

In the assessment portion of the Recommendations component, we gather information about the current situation at an organization.  This includes everything from detailed practices, processes and tools, to strategies and organizational culture.  This assessment work is designed to help everyone understand the organization’s current gaps, and what strengths it has that will best support it to cross those gaps to Real Agility.  The Assessment includes an online portion, an on-site portion and an off-site portion.  The assessment work naturally leads to the development of the playbook.

The online assessment requires that each person throughout an organization complete an online survey about corporate culture.  It includes three major sections: existing challenges, sense of urgency, and level of teamwork.  This cultural survey is the foundation of understanding how to be successful with Real Agility.  Managers and leaders are also asked to complete an additional questionnaire about the current environment at the organization.  This includes high-level information about the structure of the organization, client and vendor relationships, and staff.  Additional surveys may also be administered to understand other aspects of the organization.  For example, in an organization that is struggling to use Scrum, we will often use the Scrum Team Assessment.

The onsite portion of the assessment combines in-person interviews and workshops with staff and managers.  Interviews explore aspects of the corporate work environment in more depth and include questions about familiarity with Agile methods, and obstacles that people might see to adopting Agile.  The workshops gather data around current challenges and strengths, success criteria for projects, situational analysis for teams, and existing metrics (or lack thereof).  Typically we need a meeting room committed to our consultants for doing interviews.

The offsite portion of the assessment is used for us to evaluate and analyze the survey, interview and workshop results.  We also use some time to review any relevant documentation such as process templates, org charts, governance requirements, etc.  We may also use some of this time for follow-up phone calls or emails to clarify aspects of the assessment results.  Finally, this offsite work is also where we do the bulk of the development of the recommendations in the playbook.

Several aspects of our assessment are based on the OpenAgile Catalyst Assessment Tools which are open-source and can be found online.  We also have a number of proprietary tools.

The playbook maps out a path to a successful Real Agility transformation.  It is a road map that helps leaders, managers and team members make good business decisions as they strive for Real Agility.  The playbook aids the organization to effectively and appropriately launch Real Agility teams: management teams, project teams, and operational teams.  The Real Agility Program playbook includes analysis of the assessment results, recommendations for work that the organization can do on its own and suggests outside assistance that enhances Real Agility results.  Two critical questions that are answered in the Playbook include:

  • What Agile method or methods should we be using and why?
  • What organizational change approach should we take and why?

We deliver the recommendations in the form of the playbook and an executive summary slide deck in an iterative and incremental fashion so that stakeholders can give us early feedback and so that we can adapt our assessment agenda as we go along.  The recommendations include ideas about organizational structure, staffing, governance changes, departmental relationships, tooling, and many other aspects of how an enterprise can best become and Agile enterprise.

Following the Recommendations in the Real Agility Program playbook results in huge time-to-market improvements, 200% (or better) productivity boost for delivery teams, and extremely satisfied customers and staff.

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Real Agility Program – Leadership Transformation Team

Leadership IconOne of the main components of our Real Agility Program for enterprise Agile transformations is the Leadership Development track.  This track is a series of monthly leadership meetings with one of our consultants to help them establish their Leadership Transformation Team.  This team is based in part on the concept of a guiding coalition from John Kotter’s work (see “Leading Change“), and in part on Edgar Schein’s work on corporate culture (see “The Corporate Culture Survival Guide“) as well as our own specific experience on successful Agile transformations in organizations.

The very first thing, of course, is to establish who should be on the Leadership Transformation Team.  There are six major categories from which the team must find representatives:

  1. The Executive Sponsor, for example the CIO
  2. Business Management, for example an SVP of Sales or Product Development
  3. Process Management, for example the head of the PMO or Compliance
  4. Technology Management, for example VP of Technology or Development
  5. Human Resources, for example a Director of Staff Development and Training
  6. and Apprentice Agile Coaches / Agile Champions

In total, the number of people on this team should be no more than 12, but smaller is better.

Once established, this Leadership Transformation Team must execute on three core responsibilities in perpetuity:

  1. Urgency and Vision: constant, strong, repetitive, prominent communication of the reasons for change and a high level view of how those changes will happen.
  2. Lead by Example: use of an Agile approach to run the Leadership Transformation Team’s work – we recommend OpenAgile for the process, but Kanban may also be used.
  3. Empower Staff: focus on removing obstacles by making structural changes in the organization, helping staff master standard Agile processes and tools, and eventually, creating innovative Agile approaches customized for the organization.

This leadership support is a critical success factor for an Agile Transformation.  One of the first steps in our program for this team is to help with the creation of the team’s plan for the transformation.  This plan can be derived from an number of sources including assessment work, but includes a number of standard items that must eventually be addressed for a successful transformation.  At a high level, these include:

  • Hiring, performance evaluation and compensation
  • Reporting relationships
  • What to do with project managers, business analysts, testers and certain middle managers
  • Key metrics and processes for measuring progress
  • Technology and physical environment
  • Vendor relationships and contracts
  • Compliance, regulation and documentation

Many of these items are multi-year change efforts that need to be closely guided and encouraged by the Leadership Transformation Team.

One final point about the Leadership Transformation Team needs to be made: the work they do must not be delegated to subordinates.  If something is part of their three core responsibilities, it must be handled directly by the members of this team.  Therefore, the team members need to allocate a significant percentage of their time to the effort.  Usually 20% is sufficient to get started.  The proportion may wax and wane slightly over time, but if it gets too low, the Leadership Transformation Team will lose touch with the transformation and the risk of it going bad increases substantially.

See also our article about the Recommendations component of the Real Agility Program.

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A story about Acceptance Criteria and a medical procedure to help your Agile team

The following story is designed to help get your teams thinking about the topic from the “How can we learn this together” approach.
There are many detailed books with different points of view about acceptance testing.  I created this story as a way for teams to discuss this in a common language and figure out what works for them.

While you read this, I hope you see many similarities to the Agile Frameworks of your choice.  Perhaps quizzing your team on how many they find might be fun? (a different topic).

Please don’t give me a hard time about the medical inconsistencies.  I’m not a doctor and don’t have a medical degree.  It’s just a story and is completely fictional.

Fade in…..  The patient walks into a moderately lit room with an uncomfortable black chair that looks like it’s 20 years old, sitting next to a medical examination table.  The patient sits on the little black chair to discover it also feels that way.  He is going to be the patient for a long series of medical procedures to solve some medical problems.  The patient knows it will take many surgeries to get to where he wants to be.

Surgeon: So, we’re going to remove your appendix this week.  The team is anxious to get rolling.

Patient : I’m pretty nervous.  I don’t really know what to expect and I know I have all these other operations that need to get done for me to be totally healthy.

Surgeon : Don’t worry.  We have a really good team.  We also want to make sure you are 100% satisfied with the work we do.  We know that you want to get some cosmetic work done in the future and you have other important surgeries to do, but for now, let’s focus on the appendix removal, OK ?

Patient : Sure

Surgeon : We want to make sure we have a common understanding of what you want from us.  So, we’re going to ask you a few questions OK ?…Can I get the team in here ?

Patient : Sounds good.

(introductions).

Surgeon : Well, for this to be considered a successful operation, what kind of things are you looking for?  I already know, that to me at least, successful means two things.  1- The appendix is out and 2 – you don’t die during the surgery.  Well, actually, the not dying part is part of every surgery we’ll do for you.  We’ll assume that every surgery needs you to live.

Patient : I’m glad you said that!!! Phew.. I feel better already.  And ya, I agree, it would really be a drag to do the surgery and not end up with the appendix out.  I agree with both of those things.

Surgeon : We need to put a caveat.  If we start and see that it’s impossible to finish for some other reason, we’re going to abort the surgery.  We won’t continue if we can’t be successful.

Patient : Yes, that makes sense.

Surgeon : So, we’re agreed then.  Let’s go ahead and get you prepped.

Anesthetist :  Not so fast, I need to speak.  We want to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions.  Have you ever gone under?  Do you have any allergies ?

Patient : I’ve been under before, and have had no problems.

Anesthetist : Great.  Let me just record that on our surgery card.  We’ll need to know that we can make adjustments as we go if something bad happens.  Is that OK ?

Patient : Ya, whatever you need to do.. Go ahead and switch to another chemical if you need to.  I’ll be happy if you don’t kill me and you’ve done what you can if you notice an allergic reaction.

Patient : Since I’m on the topic, I would like to have a very small scar and not a big one. I am willing to pay extra for a smaller scar and therefore, for me, I won’t be happy unless the scar is small.

Surgeon : Well, that will make the operation harder and we might need to put off some work where we were prepping for your next surgery until a future date. The reason is that you can only be under a limited amount of time.  It won’t cost you more because the price of the surgery is fixed.  You might have to give something else up later.  Can you live with that ?

Patient : Yes, if I have a big scar, I won’t be happy. I am willing to pay the extra over the long run and maybe I’ll have something less done later.  I really don’t want big scars as we move forward.

Surgical Resident :  Hold on, that’s way too subjective.. What might be big to you could actually be a really small scar.  What does a small scar mean?

Here are some examples.  Which on of these is considered small enough for you?

(shows a batch of photos).

Patient : I’d like it to be at least this small.  (picks one).

Surgical Resident : OK, the scar will be under 30 CM in length and 1 CM in width.  Does everyone feel we can do this and this?

Everyone : Yes

Surgeon : Anything else?

Patient and the rest of the team : No.

Surgeon : Well, then, we’re a go.  Now that we all know what will be considered acceptable and a sign of success, let’s get prepped tomorrow morning first thing…

Fade out…

Fade in.. .the day of the surgery…. (beginning of the Sprint)… the patient is rolled in…

Doctor : OK team, let’s quickly review our acceptance criteria… Patient Alive, deal with allergic reaction and the patient expects a scar of under 30 CM and 1 CM in side.  I expect everyone on the team to help me make sure we meet these requirements.  Can everyone agree before I cut?

Team : Yes.

(Surgery is moving forward)

Surgical Resident : Doctor, if you do that just a little differently, perhaps you will be able to shave a few millimeters off the size of the scar.  What do you think ?

Surgeon : Great idea.. Thanks for that.  Why don’t you hold onto the medical gizmo while I do the next cut. Sure, that will make it easier for both of us to do this together.

Anesthetist : Hey guys, hold on, let’s just talk about this.  if you do that, his blood pressure will go up and you risk killing him.

Surgeon : Wow, thanks. I doubt we would kill him, but we’d probably have to do some extreme surgery which would definitely give him a huge scar. Let’s think about this.

(discussion takes place)

Team : Glad we figured out how to do that. We can safely do that without causing any risks to the patient in the future.  Let’s go for it…

(surgery continues)

Surgical Resident :  Hey Doc, we’re almost half way through the time for the drugs and allocated time for the surgery.  Can we all agree about how much work is left so we don’t keep him under too long ?  OK, we have about another 2 hours of work do here. We’re still good.  No need to worry.  Let’s update the surgical status board to say “surgery progressing appropriately” so his family knows everything is on track.

(surgery continues).

Surgeon : OK, let’s finish up.  Anything missing ?

Surgical Resident : Yes, don’t forget to take out that sponge.

Surgeon and Anesthetist :  Yikes!

Surgeon : Thanks for catching that.

Anesthetist : No kidding.  That wouldn’t be very professional and people probably wouldn’t think we’re very good at what we did if we left stuff undone and had to come back and fix it later.

(surgery is finished successfully and the patient gets rolled out).

… fade out

… fade in….   patient in recovery and the team comes to check on him.

Surgeon : So, the surgery went really well.   You’re obviously alive, your appendix is gone.  Only one last thing…..

(the doctor removes the bandage and shows the patient the size of the scar).

Patient : Wow, that’s exactly what I asked you for.  It hurts a lot, is that normal? I wasn’t expecting that!

Surgeon : Yes, that’s normal.  Once the swelling goes down, it will be even smaller.

Patient : Thanks Doc.

Surgeon : Thanks to the team. Everyone really worked hard to make this happen.

Patient : Ya, thanks team.

Surgeon : Oh, by the way, we had to correct an adhesion we discovered while working.  Not to worry, we didn’t charge you extra.  We charge for the amount of time we spend doing the surgery.  We just fixed it while we were in the area.  (yes, I can see the malpractice lawyers cringing.. this is just a story).  We knew it wouldn’t extend the amount of time for the surgery and we knew you would be happier with the results.

Patient : Thanks. The team is amazing!

Surgeon : Is there anything you didn’t like or any special comments you’d like to give the team for the next surgery?

Patient : Ya, I wish you would have warned me about how much it would hurt.

Surgeon (whole team nods) : Thanks for that.  We’ll consider that in the future.

…. fade out ….

… fade in ….   Medical Team room.

Surgeon : Well, that went very well.. any comments about what could have gone better?

(some discussion happens).

Surgeon :  Great, we’re agreed then.  For the next surgery and all the ones we do in the future, let’s have an open discussion with the patient ahead of time about the expected amount of pain so it doesn’t cause them alarm when they come out of surgery. It will be a better experience for them and improve our professionalism.

…. fade out….

Mike Caspar

 

 

 

 

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Using planning poker cards to estimate larger amounts of work (projects)

You have been fighting for the right for your SCRUM or OpenAgile team to do the right thing and allow the TEAM to estimate the work for a project instead of having a PM, senior manager or Committee just make something up for team.  Congratulations…

Then you realize.. Oh, Oh.. Now what ?  How am I going to pull this off ?   You will find all kinds of interesting material on the net with complex formulas and calculations.  There are some well written and recognized books about this topic that can help.  *Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn is a great place to start.

What is important is that the TEAM should estimate the work required to complete a Sprint (or a Project).  The people doing the work, really know best how long their work will take.

Please remember though, estimation is just that, and should not be cast in stone.  The reality is that at this early stage (or even 1/2 way through a project), there are still many unknowns.

I have used the following approach with as many as approximately 20 team members at the same time.  Maybe it will work for you.

The following procedure assumes you already have a team or teams that are familiar with their velocity and capabilities.

Here’s how it works….

At this early stage, their may be some stories, but likely everything is in Epic or Theme sizes.  Perfect.  You don’t need too much detail.

The Product Owner can give a brief overview of the vision.  You might find it useful to have stakeholders there to listen in and answer questions at this early stage.  This will help them to have an idea already of what obstacles they will need to be removing for the team in the future :->

Then, let the team use what they already know….  Planning Poker Cards.  For an overview of the process, here’s a link for a documented procedure from Mountain Goat Software.

Just change the scale of the cards to be 10 times more.  A 2 would become 20, a 20 would become 200.  The team members already know this system.  It will be easy for them to learn.

So, if your usual numbers are  1,2,3,5,8,13,20,40,100, use the same cards for team voting.  The values would just be 10,20,30,50,80,130,200,400,1000..

You will quickly get an overall estimate for each Epic with numbers from the team.  Just add up the numbers to get an overall number and divide it by the overall velocity and you’ll have some idea of how many sprints of work are left.

More importantly, you will also have started the process of communication among the team members and the Product Owner.  The Product Owner will already know which parts of the project may present challenges to assist them in their overall product planning.

Planning Poker Card Values Image

Card Values Transformed

As estimates really are just that, don’t get excited if the numbers aren’t what you deem to be perfect.  You will have an idea based on existing velocity of the “broad estimate” for the project.

Nothing fancy, works quickly, and gets everybody thinking about the big picture.

NO, it is NOT perfect.  That’s not the idea.  Spending too much time on this won’t necessarily give you more accurate results.  I find that letting everyone know it’s not perfect, removes a lot of pressure and keeps things moving forward.  People will STILL do what’s right and give their opinions on issues that really matter to them. Don’t worry about that ! :->

The hardest part is to keep things moving forward, especially with a larger group.  Be prepared for this or this will take far too long.

You may find that the numbers are Not what you expected and may be higher than you had hoped for.  Think about it this way.  If today, the team is telling you based on what they CURRENTLY know that the project will take 6 months to complete, what is the point of saying, NO, the exact amount of scope will get done in 3 months? As agilists, we know better.  Besides, at this point in time, we really don’t know what the work actually is yet.

Try and avoid having only developers, or only a certain group, and please don’t exclude testers or BA’s.  The idea here is that since you are working cross-functionally, you should be getting a cross-functional vote. Depending on your group size, you may have a hard time getting your WHOLE team involved.  Just resist the temptation to only have a few people.  You’re really missing the benefit.

This process has also worked for me half way through a very large project for a new team (it was not possible to do this at the beginning).   I was fortunate to be in a company that had a great attitude towards the results and used the information obtained to re-align their corporate objectives based on the teams’ input about how long epics would take.  That was a great experience and allowed for a very successful project delivery!

Listen to what the team is telling you!  They have all given their input this way.  There is no reason to think they are wrong about the their capabilities or the capabilities of the company to keep up with them.  The team will also automatically factor in the environment they work in and the corporate development culture.

I’ve successfully used this technique with a group as large as approximately 20 people from a variety of teams working on the same project in the same room with a Product Owner and 2 Stakeholders.

That same team also estimated approximately 6 months worth of epics in just under 2 hours. Longer than that would not likely have produced better results.

The goal isn’t to create procedures here, but to find a way to allow the team to estimate work instead of schedules being handed down to them.  More importantly, it will start the goal of communication between the Team and the Product Owner.

Maybe this approach will work for your team.  If you try this, please let me know how it worked out for you either way.

Mike Caspar

References:

Mike Caspar – Mike Caspar’s Blog

OpenAgile – http://www.openagile.com

Scrum – http://www.scrumalliance.org

Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn

*Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn


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Be able to explain WHY.

Every once in a while I’m reminded of the very important question: WHY?

If you are considering SCRUM, XP, Lean or any other Agile Framework, or if you are considering using OpenAgile which is an Open Learning System, you will be changing the organization.

Many people think they can do “Agile in a bubble” and therefore not interact with the rest of the organization.  You will likely find that you will quickly run into obstacles to using the Framework.

Just the iterative process alone will change the way stakeholders interact with teams, meeting rooms are scheduled, vacation schedules, communication requirements, team spaces and/or seating, the responsibilities of stakeholders, and even the interactions between team members and other departments.  Because of this, working towards Agility WILL change your organization.

You may start out with an aggressive framework such as XP(Extreme Programming), or something a little more gentle such as Kanban or Lean (which let you start out as you are and visualize your process).  However, please don’t kid yourself; you will eventually need to change the way things get done in the company.

 

Which WayWhether you are the OpenAgile Growth Facilitator, a Scrum Master trying to introduce Agile from the grass-roots, or if you are the CEO or CIO trying to introduce change from that level, you will eventually need to address the WHY for the change.

Managers and employees alike need to know why they are being asked to leave their comfort zones.  In some cases they will be going against everything they have learned in the past about people management or how they should work.  They need to know the reason.

 

Whatever level you are in at your company, please be ready to explain why you are making the change to an Agile Environment.  Something like “to be more efficient”, isn’t really going to cut it.

  • Is it to be more competitive against other companies breaking into our market and you need to change quickly to stave them off?  To give this message, you would need to let people know that you are concerned about this.  This is part of the Transparency of Agile.  If you know this, but are not willing to pass this on to your managers or teams, you will have struggles when managers don’t know why you are changing their environments.
  • Is it to stop the high level of turnover in your company ?  You will be changing to a more team-focused environment which might seriously change the way Project Management or even H.R. does things.  For this also, you will need to explain your changes to help you get support.

I could think of many other reasons.  You should have your OWN reasons.

If you started an adoption or transformation a while back, it’s a good idea to restate this every once in a while (if even for yourself).  It will remind you why you are continuing to improve and learn every iteration.

Asking yourself once in a while will also allow you to improve your message which will likely change slightly over time as the market and your environment changes.

Please, go home TONIGHT and ask yourself WHY are we transitioning or continuing to work towards being more agile.  You will need to answer this for others more than once as you continue on your journey.

If the answer to yourself is “this is our last chance to make sure we don’t disappear as a company”, that revelation is a good one as well, and you will know why you need to stand strong on the changes you are making.  Either way, it all starts with the same question.

Please make sure you always know the answer to the question “Why?“.

References:

OpenAgile, Growth Facilitator
XP (Extreme Programming)
SCRUM
Kanban, Lean

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Evolution of Agile Methods

I had the great honour of participating in two sessions of David Sabine’s excellent “Agile Questions” show – check it out!

Show One: “Should/can agile methods be blended?

Show Two: “As Scrum teams evolve, do they become OpenAgile?

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Facing the facts early on. Risk Mitigation can be a powerful motivator.

Recently, I was able to witness a remarkable event in a company that is relatively new to Agile. They have several teams at about Sprint 12, with several new teams just starting up. Many of their processes are waterfall based.

A failed waterfall project was moved to an existing Agile Team.

In the second Sprint, the Team (feeling trust in the organization and the process), came to the Scrum Master and said, “We’d like you to talk to management. We are not sure this project should be using the platform we develop on. We think another team’s platform may be more appropriate”.

The company had spent time developing a “specification document” for this “project” before Agile was introduced. There were detailed specifications as to how the product was to be created and which platform to use. NONE of this was done with the benefit of asking those that would actually be doing the work.

The project was initiated before learning about applying Agile. One developer was tasked with following the specification. After 2-3 months of frustration, the developer left. This left the company in a bad position. Not only was the project incomplete, but there was also no knowledge transfer. The project was basically stopped.

As Agile was now the new target way of doing things, the project (and new developer hired through the previous process) were added to an existing SCRUM team. The team is using one week Sprints.

After only two Sprints (two weeks), the team had recognized the futility of the approach that was “specified” and took this to management.

Traditionally, large organizations staff for projects. In an environment such as this, how could team members be expected to be truthful and honest about the state of affairs? It would mean the end of their jobs or contracts.

The key here is to allow teams to stick together. Not only will you avoid losing all the efficiency the team has built up, but you will also allow them to be truthful about their situation.

If you are a manager reading this, ask yourself. “Do I want to know that things will go wrong at the beginning of the project or wait until 5 months have gone by to be told, ‘We knew it would never work””. Or even worse… “We knew the product owner was asking for ridiculous features that had no Return on Investment for the company, but hey, you hired us for this contract. We just follow instructions”.

As it turned out, the project did continue with the current team, but with some changes to the specification. The parts of the system that were going to be problems in 5 months were re-evaluated and were removed as they really did not have any real value to the company. It was then decided to stick with the same platform.

Discussions did occur regarding moving to the alternate platform, but were deemed unnecessary after open discussion between the teams and the managers involved. Realistic expectations were set based on value to the company.

Sometimes features are absolutely mandatory for the product. This cannot and should not be taken away from the process. What we gain here is that we are able to have a discussion about necessity. In the end, the business has to decide what is valuable, not the development team.

In a case like this, ask yourself, “If my team is very against this, maybe I should at least think about it”.

The company is working in a very short iterative environment, they quickly recognized a flaw in the system design and dealt with it after only 2 weeks into a several month project.

Working incrementally allows the company to “Inspect and Adapt” on a regular basis. This has to include the question, “Does this still make sense?”. If you need to go backwards, let it be to reverse one or two Sprints of work, not months, or even years.

Fortunately, for the company, the product will come out on time, with appropriate technology based on Return on Investment, and likely with significant cost savings over the initial design. This will also allow the team to get started on other high value projects. Talk about win-win.

This project could have gone to another team. It would not have been negative for the first team. The next project would have just come down the pipe for them.

The early signs helped adjust the “expectations” and everyone is moving forward with a clear understanding that they are on a more appropriate path going forward.

For those of you out there trying to convince companies (or yourselves) that Agile is an effective framework, don’t be afraid to talk about “RISK MITIGATION“.

Think about it this way; The company wants to know early on that there will be a problem, not near the end of the project. This is part of the purposeful transparency of any Agile framework.

Mike Caspar
Mike Caspar’s Blog

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Scrum Master, Process Facilitator, Growth Facilitator. Managers or Leaders or Neither?

“I now can see why Corporations have such a hard time identifying the Scrum Master in their organizations. Scrum Masters basically don’t fit either category, yet most corporate hiring is done based on hiring of “leaders” and “managers”.”

For the complete text click here

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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 Toronto December 7-9,2011

We have an upcoming three-day agile training seminar in Toronto on December 7-9, 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=988417 

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

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