Archive for July, 2012

1

Defining The Qualified User Story

User StoryRegardless of the client I work with, the teams seem to initially struggle with understanding how big (or small) a User Story is, relative to Epics, Features, and Tasks.  It doesn’t help when they first ask how big user stories are and my first response is “it depends“.

It’s not uncommon to find team members asking if they can call smaller stories a minor or sub-story or a larger story a major story.  But then they get distracted by colors of index cards or some ancillary attribute.

The Distinction

Those who identify what the business wants (you may call him or her a Product Owner) take a stab at breaking down stuff to manageable chunks.  You can call those chucks an A/B-level requirement, epic, theme, feature, or spike. It doesn’t matter what you call it.  But when the team estimates that stuff, it is still sometimes (more often than not) too big to fit into a sprint or iteration or just isn’t ready to be worked.

We need to label [this] to set it appart as work that will be committed to next.  Either it will be scheduled in an upcoming sprint or it will be pulled to the next step on a Kanban.  To be clear, I’m not saying the team should start working on [this], merely because they think it is small enough to be completed within a predetermined cycle.  Until your team has sufficiently defined and mapped requirements, developed acceptance criteria, and removed all known blocking dependencies, it is still not a Qualified User Story.

Though I still use the term User Story as that placeholder for conversations, I believe the Qualified User Story more appropriately identifies a placeholder for conversations that meets a definition of ready and allows the team to commit to complete something within an estimated period of time.

Image Source: Pictofigo
HT: Originally posted at LeadingAgile

 

2

Glass Half Full

glass half fullThis morning, I tried to explain a very important concept to my son. I filled a glass with water to the half-way point. I then asked him if the glass was half empty or half full.

This all came about because he was playing a video game. He placed fourth out of ten and the message better luck next time! appeared on the screen. I could hear him from the other room. That’s so rude!

I asked him what the problem was and he read the message with a negative tone. I corrected him and said people misunderstand stuff like this all of the time. This is why we talk with each other, I explained. If you can’t confirm what they meant, you need to assume they meant it in a positive way. Games are rarely sarcastic.

I know there are people out there who will always be looking for the cloud in the silver lining.
Don’t be one of them.

Image Source: Pictofigo

3

Agile or Waterfall (Podcast)

Back in late 2010, I was features on the Talking Work podcast. Then in early 2011, I appeared at the WorkOut 2011 conference.  Because Ty Kiisel and Raechel Logan were such gracious hosts each time, I couldn’t help but say yes when they recently asked me to make another appearance.  Hear what I have to say, when Ty asks me, “Which is better, Agile or Waterfall?”

I love being asked a provocative question and then given full liberty to articulate what I really think.  All too often, people already have their own set of beliefs on a topic. They’re polite, but only to a point.  They aren’t listening. They’re waiting to talk.  Thankfully, Ty and Raechel are good listeners.

 

 

 

0

New PMI-ACP Classes Announced

PMI AgileI am happy to report that LeadingAgile is ramping up its Public Training Program.  We will now offer regularly scheduled public training classes in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.  Early bird registration (30 days or more before class start date) will be heavily rewarded, by way of a $300 discount.  The first class to be announced is the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner.

For those unfamiliar with LeadingAgile, though all of us offer training, we’re all actually Agile practitioners by trade, with years of real-world experience.  We come from a variety of backgrounds, allowing us to offer relevant training specific to the needs of the individual student. Both our public and private classes move at a steady but relaxing pace, delivering the right combination of applicable information, Q&A, and interactive exercises.

When it’s time for your respective exam, you will pass because you understand the concepts, not because you memorized questions and answers. When you go back to your organizations, you will have the confidence of knowing that you understand the fundamentals and how to apply then.

Why Us?

There are a lot of companies out there who offer training but do so from an ivory tower.  The trainers aren’t actual practitioners so they aren’t going to be able to answer your questions based on their experiences.  When it comes to knowledge about the PMI-ACP content, no company comes close to LeadingAgile.  Both Mike and Dennis were on the ACP Steering Committee and I was an Independent Reviewer.  After the exam pilot phase concluded, I transitioned to a new role as Co-Lead of the PMI-ACP Support Team at the PMI Agile Community of Practice.


Contact Hours/PDUs: 21
CEUs: 2.1
Public or Private: Both
Duration: 3 Days – 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

DATE LOCATION  EARLY BIRD PRICE
August 20-22 Tampa, FL  $1395.00 $1695.00 Register
September 10-12 Reston, VA  $1395.00 $1695.00 Register
October Atlanta, GA  $1395.00 $1695.00 Register

Who Should Attend

Certainly, if you’re interested in getting the PMI-ACP certification, you should take this class. But, it doesn’t matter if you’re an executive, traditional project manager, or a member of a team.  This class is going to give you a lot of value.  In a typical workshop, I’ve seen anyone from a CTO to an Extreme Programmer to a Tester.  Come with an open mind and you’ll see how we’re on the bleeding edge of Agile thought leadership.

Class Materials

Attendees will receive a complementary copy of the class training material, ACP practice exam, and ACP flashcards.

Course Content

Though this course was originally designed to be an exam prep course, it was enhanced to be an introduction into the principles, values, and practices of Scrum, Lean, Kanban, and Extreme Programming. Our course is developed around a fun 3-day exercise, simulation, and game driven curriculum that encourages signifiant interaction amongst everyone participating in the course. Topics include:

  • Understand the Agile Manifesto Values and Principles
  • Have an end-to-end understanding of Scrum, its key roles, artifacts, and meetings
  • Understand what are and why we use big visible charts or information radiators
  • Understand Scrum from a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and empowered Team perspectives
  • Know and understand the XP (Extreme Programming) roles and who does what
  • Understand Test Driven Development. Know how it works and why it’s valuable
  • Understand Continuous Integration. Know how it works and why it’s valuable
  • Understand the Lean Software Development Principles
  • Know what Lean Portfolio Management is and how your organization could benefit from it
  • Understand what Value Stream Mapping is and how to do it
  • Understand the basics of Kanban, WIP, and why it works
  • Know how to write and identify good User Stories
  • Know what Personas are and how to use them
  • Understand what makes a Servant Leader and what they do
  • Understand Velocity and its usefulness
  • Know Agile Estimation techniques
  • Know facilitation methods
  • Understand how Agile deals with risks
  • Understand the Definition of “Ready” and “Done”
  • …much more…

Private Training

If you are interested in private training for your organization or team, please contact us for more information.

2

Operating Outside Your Comfort Zone

Operate Outside Your Comfort ZoneLast week, I facilitated an Agile game, with the goal to increase product delivery throughput.  At the beginning of each iteration, I would remind the team “The seven rules of the game are…“.  Upon completion of the third iteration and only seeing modest gains, one of the team members questioned the need for one of the rules and proposed a change in the delivery process.  She asked me, “Is it ok if we do that?”  My response didn’t give her much solace.  Though I knew she was concerned with potentially lowering delivery throughput, I said “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. Just do it.”  The team then changed their process, resulting in a dramatic increase in delivery throughput.

Though I know success isn’t always the outcome, if you don’t go outside your comfort zone and do something different, you’re never going to see dramatic results.  This applies on both organizational and personal levels.  Within the game, I allowed the team to pilot the new processes so they would either fail quickly or prove their theories.  Over the course of a few iterations, they figured out what worked and what did not, while adhering (directly and indirectly) to the original seven rules.

Within an organization, I recognize things can be much more complicated.  We have regulatory compliance, mandates, and policies to contend with.  I do challenge you to question if they all apply to your current situation.  As with the game, the team just assumed if the rule was listed then it must apply to them.  Without questioning the rules, the results are heavy and burdensome processes.

On a personal level, we litter our lives with artificial constraints.  We accumulate a lifetime of unnecessary rules, rarely stopping to ask ourselves why we do things that prevent us from excelling in the areas we desire.  I’m not promoting living or working recklessly or unethically. Uphold a few guiding principles and reteach yourself to intentionally go outside your comfort zone.  Stop asking permission and let the magic happen.

You can also read this post at LeadingAgile