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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Secret recipe for building self organizing teams

I authored this short post for image as part of Agile chronicles.

image Some time back I noticed something odd with an agile team. Team temperature used to be 10 out of 10, and each team member expressed their happiness working on this project.  I was curious to find the secret behind an “always happy team.” A bit of interaction with the team and the ScrumMaster revealed some disturbing secrets.  Here are the key ones:

  1. The team is self-organizing, and individuals can pick the story of their choice and deliver at their discretion!!
  2. Team has neither time pressure nor delivery timelines

I thought to myself that this is not a self-organizing team, but a directionless team.

As Esther Derby points out, there are several myths and misconceptions about Self-Organizing teams.  I did cover a bit about these myths during my talk at Lean Agile Systems Thinking conference(LAST) in Melbourne, which is available on Youtube (toward the end at 1:03 minutes).

I understand it is not easy to build a self-organizing team, but there are principles enabling leaders in building such agile teams.

One of the best analogies that I have heard so far about self-organizing teams is from Joseph Pelrine.  As Joseph puts it, building self-organizing teams is like preparing soup.  I thought it would be easier for readers to understand the self-organizing concept if I map the soup preparation steps to the self-organizing steps. Yes, soup preparation involves many more steps, but the key ones below would give the clues to readers for further analysis.

Read rest of the article on  : Agile Chronicles

Photo courtesy : https://flic.kr/p/ayhjag

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Measuring Business value in Agile projects

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Because the first principle of the Agile Manifesto talks about delivering valuable software to the customer, many agile practitioners are constantly thoughtful of the value in each step of the software-development lifecycle.

At the thirty-thousand-foot level, value creation starts with gathering requirements and continues with backlog creation, backlog grooming, writing user stories, and development, finally ending with integration, deployment, and support. Even with knowledge of all these moving parts, it is common to see organizations only measuring value during development and ignoring the rest of the steps.

What’s the fix? During backlog creation, user stories need to be compared and contrasted in order to promote maximum value delivery. The product owner might need to use different techniques, such as T-shirt sizing, in order to better prioritize the project’s stories.

An alternate approach to measuring the business value of user stories is to use a three-dimensional metric that incorporates complexity, business value, and the ROI. Creating value can often require a change in perspective from the normal project’s tasks and functions. Thinking outside the box, identifying business value before writing the user stories is much better than writing and then trying to evaluate.

Read  the complete article about measuring business value on TechWell

Picture courtesy https://flic.kr/p/8E7Dr5

Saturday, July 26, 2014

LAST (Lean Agile Systems Thinking) 2014 Conference

image Last week I had the pleasure of speaking  at the LAST 2014 (Lean Agile Systems Thinking) conference. This is my second consecutive year of having opportunity to speak at this popular Melbournian event.I  have seen this event growing year after year. First year, we had 150 attendees, the second year 350 and third year is even more successful with 450 people. The event is highly affordable and run by the Melbourne community.  Some call this conference as  “Meet up on Steroids”. 

The two passionate people who are successfully managing this event are Craig Brown  and Ed Wong.  Organizing such a large scale event managing speakers, schedule, events and sponsors is not a simple thing. The event was such a smooth one, didn’t realize that the day had already passed.

This is a classic example of power of passion and network in the community.  You don’t need many people to make a positive difference to the society, you just need one or two passionate givers.

The session was organized by  TABAR 

I spoke about  10 Irrefutable laws of Agile Coaching.  The presentation slides are available on Slideshare as well. Feel free to download/share.  

My intent for sharing these ideas was to encourage Agile coaches to think beyond  Scrum, Lean, XP, etc.   Agile coaching involves a broader systems knowledge to succeed.

More details about my session:  Agile coaching is one of sought after skills in the IT industry and many experienced coaches are doing extremely well. However some change agents are struggling to make an impact, not because, they don't know Agile but because, they don't know some ground rules dealing with the coaching teams and leaders.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced coach, there are irrefutable laws governing Agile coaches. Based on my own personal experiences coaching teams/leaders since the last several years, I have come to realize the 10 secrets. Irrespective of where you are in the journey as an Agile coach, practicing these 10 laws will help you to become a successful Agile coach. These handy rules can help you anywhere in Agile coaching journey.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Upcoming Agile Project Management MasterClass at Swinburne – Aug 21st and 22nd

This two day Masterclass commences with an introduction to the foundation and history of the Agile movement. It then looks at common practices and frameworks used by teams including Scrum, Kanban, Lean Start-up and XP.

Day two drills into project management activities related to planning, monitoring and controlling projects highlighting the role of collaboration, developing appropriate feedback and quality systems, including elevating the focus from schedule and budget targets to delivering customer value.

This course introduces

  • The background and history of Agile management
  • Leading frameworks used in industry and their features and benefits
  • Principles and practices to initiate and plan a project
  • How Agile practices and techniques can be used to manage a project, with particular focus on dealing with a changing project scope

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Check out here for more details.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Enterprise Agile Transformation through Centralized Agile Group – Benefits and Challenges

Authored the following article for Cutter Consortium as part of their Agile advisory series.  In this article, some analysis has been done detailing pros/cons of setting up centralized Agile excellence or group to promote Agile as part of Agile transformation in the enterprise.

Here is just a snippet and the complete article can be accessible by  Cutter members.

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Read rest of the article on Cutter

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Changing the mindset of Agile teams

Recently I penned a guest post for Version One  about the why people behave in the way they do and how to change them ?

Agile is not about practicing Scrum, XP or Kanban. It is a mindset that one needs to cultivate. It is not about doing a daily standup or retrospective but knowing the values/principles behind it. Most of the agile teams are interested in practices and very few are interested to learn the values/principles.

People resist adopting new values and principles as it expects a change in mindset of teams. Changing the mindset of agile teams is always a bit difficult. I have started believing that it is easier to change the people than their mind. The good news is, there are some tools and tips available to help in this journey of changing mindset.

Let me explain one of the tools with an example. A couple of weeks ago, I came across these two dustbins outside of our apartment complex.

venkatesh-dust-bins

As one could see, one of them a simple open cardboard box and the other one is a proper dustbin. Not sure why they had kept these two together. In the next few days, I noticed that people were throwing wastes mostly into the open box. However, the other one needed additional effort to open the lid to throw the wastes, which was left unused.

What I learned from this experience is, if you want people to follow ideas, make it easier for them to learn and use. Or else they will never change.

Another case study is from one of my agile projects. The teams were using an agile project management tool which was not so user-friendly. Teams diligently added all the user stories and tracked them on a regular basis. However, when the need came to extract the key metrics like Velocity and Cycle times, the team had to write queries manually and tweak it regularly. They always resisted this manual, cumbersome process, which was time consuming as well. The teams always used to fall behind sharing these critical agile metrics with the stakeholders.

I suggested an alternate approach, which involved adding a dot on the user story cards after their daily standup until it is complete. It looked something like the one shown in the picture below for measuring the cycle times.  They used a simple sketch pen to put the dots on the cards.  This was so much easier, and the team loved it.  After this little change, they never resisted sharing the metrics.

Conclusion: If you want to change the behavior or mindset of agile teams, create an environment that is easier to navigate and use. The non-intuitive tools and processes could be a major blocker in the change journey of your teams.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Some buzzwords in Agile community and new trends

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In the recent times the following ideas/buzzwords are getting filled with the void of struggling, adolescent Agile

1. Holacracy :   Read more here from Zappos example.

2. Real Options Theory :  Read more here

3. For scaling Agile:  SAFe(Scaled Agile Framework) is already popular,  Craig’s  LeSS(Large Scale Scrum) and now ScALeD

4. Open Agile Adoption

Photo Courtesy: Flickr