Tag Archives: agile

Flow or Iterations – What Do You Try First?

There was an interesting discussion on the LeanAgileScrum Yahoo Group early in December regarding the difference between flow (lean) and iterations (agile) that caught my eye. I only just now have had the time to write about it.

Continue reading Flow or Iterations – What Do You Try First?


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Agile 2008 Silver Sponsor

Berteig Consulting is a Silver Sponsor for Agile 2008.  Hopefully our logo will show up on their home page sometime soon :-)  We also have several proposals for sessions in and we are planning some really fantastic stuff for the conference.  Make sure you attend if at all possible!


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Scaling Scrum and Agile – Seven Online References

I’m working with a number of companies using agile methods that have between 10 and 20 teams all working on the same product/project/program. They didn’t start small. These aren’t cases of organically growing from one good agile team to many good agile teams. Rather, these are organizations that have grown up in a non-agile approach and now want to reap the benefits of agile with their many teams. What is interesting is that these organizations all have some common problems and then all have some unique problems. There isn’t an obvious prescription for how they should be doing their agile implementations. I hope to write a few articles about scaling agile and scrum, and this one is our starting point: what reading should you do if you find yourself in the situation of trying to build a large agile organization.

Continue reading Scaling Scrum and Agile – Seven Online References


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Agile Blogs

There’s a great discussion on the Extreme Programming Yahoo! group where a whole bunch of folks list their blogs out. If you aren’t part of the group, you should probably join it (it focuses on technical practices, and there’s lots of other good agile stuff there too). The discussion starts with a message from James Carr where he asks who else here blogs?

It’s probably still cool to jump in with your own blog link if you have an agile-focused blog (I’m sure Scrum, Lean and other agile methods would be welcome even though it’s an extreme programming list!)


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Patterns of Agile Adoption by Mike Cohn

Mike Cohn has written an excellent article that covers a number of different options that can be taken when someone in an organization desires to implement an agile method.  These Patterns of Agile Adoptions are described as three sets of contrasting options:

  1. Start Small vs. Go All In
  2. Technical Practices First vs. Iterations First
  3. Stealth Mode vs. Public Display

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Requirements Management – What’s Wrong Here?

I just read through this article about Requirements Management in an Agile World.  It’s a pretty brief article (just the one page), so there isn’t too much there.  Have a read, and then come back here and tell us all: what is wrong with this article?


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Excellent Article about Planning Velocity

J. B. Rainsberger has written an excellent article about the usefulness of planning velocity (and the places where it is not useful as well). I highly recommend reading it, particularly if you are a manager or a project manager.


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3-Day Scrum & Agile Course Announcement (Toronto)

This course offers ScrumMaster Certification in Toronto. The training is hands on, interactive and highly effective. By the end of the course participants will receive a professional certification in Agile Software Project Management. The dates of the course are January 16 – 18, 2008.

Click here to sign up!

The complete winter and spring course list is available here.


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Estimating Software Projects

There is an interesting article called “Software Estimates and the Parable of the Cave“. It starts out well. The cave parable is effective and clearly conveys the problem with estimating software work. However, there is a big section of the article called “Applying this Wisdom” which I think does a dis-service to everyone. Let’s look at this closely…

Continue reading Estimating Software Projects


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Other Resources on the Benefits of Agile

Having just finished a substantial series of articles on the Benefits of Agile, I thought it might be good to let you all know about some other ideas about these benefits. I don’t agree with everyone who has written on this topic, but of course, you can judge for yourself!

Continue reading Other Resources on the Benefits of Agile


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Agile Benefits: Five Essential Reasons to Try Agile

Although there many other benefits of agile, and although those provide us with other reasons to try agile, the five essential benefits of agile are:

Rapid Learning – disciplined application of the scientific method to explore the best ways to deliver valuable results.

Early Return on Investment – opportunity to use the results of work starting with the work delivered at the end of the first iteration.

Satisfied Stakeholders – engagement in the process in a way that allows meaningful contributions from all stakeholders.

Increased Control – mechanisms to track/measure and therefore steer the direction that work is going so that it meets goals.

Responsiveness to Change – processes, tools, roles and principles that allow a team and an organization to embrace change rather than reject, control or suffer from change.

These reasons are sufficient and apply to operations work, project work and open-ended research work, whenever humans are involved. The above links take you to more detailed descriptions of each of these benefits.

What are some of the other benefits of agile?


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Four Methods for Dealing with Interruptions

Recently I’ve talked with a number of people who have a simple question: what do we do with teams that are constantly interrupted by urgent support requests for their time?

Continue reading Four Methods for Dealing with Interruptions


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More on Scaling Agile

One problem with having multiple teams working on the same project will be the tendency to compare the teams’ performance. Why is this a problem?

Continue reading More on Scaling Agile


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The Seven Core Practices of Agile Work

Agile Work consists of seven core practices. These practices form a solid starting point for any person, team or community that wishes to follow the Middle Way to Excellence.

Self-Organizing Team

Any group of people that wish to be an Agile Team need to take the initiative to determine for themselves how they are going to work (process) and how they are going to do the work (product). The term “team” really applies quite broadly to any size group of people that are working together towards a common goal.

Teams go through stages of development as they perform their work. The most important result of team development is the team itself, and not the specific skills and abilities that the individuals learn.

If the team is part of a broader organization, that organization must give the team the authority, space and safety to learn to be self-organizing. The organization’s leadership is responsible for determining the “why?”, some constraints on “how?”, and then letting the team respond to the need as best as it can.

Also Known As: Whole Team (Extreme Programming), Cross-Functional Team (business management).

Deliver Frequently

Agile Work uses short fixed periods of time to frame the process of delivering something of value. Each of these iterations or timeboxes is structured so that the team or group actually finishes a piece of work and delivers it to stakeholders. Then, the team builds on what has previously been delivered to do it again in the same short amount of time.

The sooner that valuable results can be delivered, the more value can be obtained from those results. This extra value is derived from opportunities such as earlier sales, competitive advantage, early feedback, and risk reduction.

There is an explicit tradeoff: the shorter the time to delivery, the smaller the piece of value will be. But, like investing in one’s retirement account, the earlier you start, even with small amounts of money, the better off you are in the long run.

Also Known As: Sprint (Scrum), Iteration (Extreme Programming), Timeboxing (generic), Time Value of Money (accounting).

Plan to Learn

Every type of work is governed by a Horizon of Predictability. Any plan that extends beyond this horizon of predictability is bound to fail. Agile work uses an explicit learning cycle tied in with the planning of work to accomodate this inevitable change.

First, a goal is required. This goal can be long-term. Teams using Agile Work then create a queue of work items to be done in order to reach this goal. Each iteration, some of these items are selected, finished and then the queue is adjusted. The changes in the work queue are based on external factors, and learning that the team does as it goes.

One of the most effective methods for the team to learn about how it is doing its work is the retrospective. After each delivery of results, the team holds a retrospective to examine how it can improve.

Also Known As: Inspect and Adapt (Scrum), Kaizen (Lean), Adaptive Planning (generic).

Communicate Powerfully

A team needs to have effective means of communicating, both amongst team members and also to stakeholders. To Communicate Powerfully, a team needs to prefer in-person communication over distributed communication. Synchronous over asynchronous communication. High-bandwidth over low-bandwidth communication. Multi-mode communication over single-mode communication.

The results of failing to communicate powerfully include wasted time for waiting, misunderstandings leading to defects or re-work, slower development of trust, slower team-building, and ultimately a failure to align perceptions of reality.

The single most effective means to communicate powerfully, is to put all the team in a room together where they can do their work, every day for the majority of the work time.

Some types of work do not lend themselves to this approach (e.g. creating a documentary video), but every effort should be made to improve communication.

Also Known As: Visibility (Scrum), Whole Team and Team Room (Extreme Programming), War Room (business management).

Test Everything

Defects are one of the most critical types of waste to eliminate from a work process. By testing everything, by driving all the work of a team by creating test cases to check the work, a team can reach extremely high quality levels. This ability to prevent defects is so important that only an executive level decision should be considered sufficient to allow defects into a work process. Quality is not negotiable.

In Agile Work, removing a defect is the only type of work that takes priority over any new features/functionality/production. If the end result desired is to maximize value, then removing defects is an important means to that end.

A team has an ethical duty to discover new ways to effectively test their work. This can be through the use of tools, various feedback mechanisms, automation, and good old problem-solving abilities.

Also Known As: Canary in the Coal Mine (Scrum), Test-Driven Development (Extreme Programming), Defects per Opportunities (Six-Sigma).

Measure Value

Since Reality is Perceived, it is important for an agile team and organization to have a clear method of describing and perceiving what is important for the organization. Measuring value is a critical method for describing and perceiving what is important.

A single metric can be used to drive all the measurement and goal-setting and rewards in an organization. All other measurements are secondary and must be treated as such: limited in use and temporary.

There are many things which are easier to measure than value. It is often easy to measure cost, or hours worked, or defects found, or estimate vs. actual… etc. However, all of these other measurements either implicitly or explicitly drive sub-optimal behavior.

Also Known As: Measuring Results (Scrum), ROI (business management), Economic Driver (Good to Great), Running Tested Features (Extreme Programming).

Clear the Path

Everyone in an organization using Agile Work takes responsibility for clearing the path, removing the obstacles that prevent work from being done effectively. Clearing the Path doesn’t just mean expedient, quick fixes to problems, but rather taking the time to look at an obstacle and do the best possible to remove it permanently so that it never blocks the path again.

In the Agile Work method, the Process Facilitator is the person who is responsible for tracking obstacles and ensuring that the path is cleared. To do this, the Process Facilitator maintains a Record of Obstacles.

Clearing the Path is sometimes painful work that exposes things we would rather not deal with. As a result, it is critical that people build their capacity for truthfulness and work to develop trust amongst each other. Building a capacity for truthfulness is not something that can be done by using an explicit process.

Also Known As: Removing Obstacles (Scrum), Stopping the Line (Lean).


Remember also, that these practices must always be viewed and implemented in the context of the Agile Axioms. These axioms provide a check to ensure that the practices are not being applied blindly, but rather applied appropriately to the given situation.


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