Thursday 24 November 2011

Over Committed to Commitment

Interesting post by Yuval Yeret

There's a lot in there, but what resonates with me is the danger in commitment becoming at best a "comfort blanket" for product owners, at worst a stick to beat teams with.

Developers seem to be a willing bunch, and often (in my experience) are too eager to please. Now that shouldn't be a bad thing, but it is when you commit to something that you cannot deliver. It easy to skip over the risks in any piece of development work when estimating, and risk is a very hard sell to the business. "Why are you asking me to invest in anticipating problems that might not occur?". Tricky one that.
So, we settle on the "Best Case" scenario as the likeliest outcome. Inevitably, the team will soon be trapped on the "Hamster Wheel of Death", never able to meet the "commitment".

What really matters to me is prioritisation. What gives the business most value, and how can the team best use their resources to ensure swift delivery of that value?

Rather than committing to a fixed number of points, commit to delivering the highest priority item as quickly as possible. Then do the same for the next item. Focus on rapid and continuous delivery of value, and you will feel the love.

Monday 14 November 2011

Putting the agility back in Agile

Ok, I don't get around to writing much here, but I have been on a bit of a journey. Having been working with Scrum for many years, I have, over the last 18 months or so, begun to question it's effectiveness. No, let's re-phrase ... Scrum IS effective. It will (if done anything near properly, which isn't usually the case I'm afraid)surface the issues that you have with delivering software. Whether you choose to do anything about those issues seems to be optional with many teams, which makes the exercise a bit pointless. This is the where many then start complaining that Scrum doesn't work.

Scrum does work. It will get you from delivering sod all, to delivering something. That is an achievement, so don't knock it!
However, it is possible to deliver more, and that is where you begin to run in to it's limitations.

What if I want to deliver more often than every 2-4 weeks?

What if my business priorities change weekly or daily?

What if I am spending too long in planning sessions?

Dan North gave a talk which captured many of the reservations I've been having, and offered some possibilities. Have a look and listen.

Friday 7 January 2011

Heads up!

Wow, it's been a while, but I finally have a bit of time to get back to this stuttering attempt at blogging.

Something that I have come across with teams and maybe others have experience of this, is the need for teams to make sure that they are aware of where they are in terms of the sprint.

Scrum, for example has the basic mechanisms for informing us how we are progressing. The burndown should be on a nice angle downwards, and our stand up questions should indicate if anyone is having issues. But does the team, as a whole, have a good feel for how the sprint is panning out?

I ask this because as an ex-developer, I know how easy it is to immerse oneself in the coding and become a little island.

One thing I like to do is get the team to take a step back and take a good look at the the Scrum board. After a stand up, once you're in to the sprint (but not so it's too late to fix things!) have a look at where the cards are. Do things look ok? Are the top priority items getting done? Will there be time to test and fix?

If not, the team can think about how to deal with things. Maybe switching themselves around a bit to help with blockages.

Now - before you tell me this should automatically happen with the stand ups etc, what I find is that you can sometimes surface things that the 3 question format may have missed.

I also like to remind everyone to lift their heads up occasionally and see how evryone else is doing.

Agile development should be collaborative, but sometimes, as individuals, we drift in to isolation. All I am saying is that it doesn't do any harm to say, "heads up!" now and then.