Agile Archive

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Product Owner and the Scrum Team

iiba baltimoreOn March 11, 2014, I presented a talk to IIBA Baltimore on the topic of the Product Owner and the Scrum Team.  I have to say, this was an awesome bunch of people to talk with.  You know you’re at the right place when they offer beer and crab cakes with dinner.  Gotta love Charm City!

The last 10 years of Agile have focused on the team. I believe the next 10 years of Agile will focus on the enterprise. That said, should the Product Owner continue to be a single person or does it need to evolve as well? Let’s cover the basics and then see how LeadingAgile has been successful at leveraging the Product Owner role at scale.

iiba promo code

As a thank you to IIBA, I was able to get a promo code for 50% off an upcoming Agile Requirements Workshop. The code “IIBA” is limited to only 5 seats.  Are you a business analyst in the Atlanta area or want to go visit some friends in Atlanta?  Take advantage of this limited offer.

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My Personal Kanban submission for Agile 2014

agile2014_banner

I am happy to announce I submitted a workshop titled  “At home and work, how to get more stuff done. An introduction to Personal Kanban“.  After asking people to provide comments, I was informed that the submission wasn’t viewable. It looks like you need to be logged in. Go figure.

Submitted: Tue, 2014-01-14 01:40 Updated: Tue, 2014-01-14 01:43
Presenter: Derek Huether
Track: Learning Session Type: Workshop Audience Level: Learning
Room Setup: Rounds Duration: 75 minutes
Keywords: Learning, Process, kanban, flow, personal, WIP, Personal_Agility, process improvement

Abstract:

With a world of constant distraction, it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to get stuff done, regardless if it’s on a personal or organizational level. At some point, we’ve been sold the lie that multitasking is great and maximum utilization is even better. If we all drank the Kool-Aid, why are we doing more and getting less done? If there were a relatively simple way for you to get more stuff done, wouldn’t you want to know what it was? If there were a way for you to measure and improve your processes over time, wouldn’t you want to know how to do that as well? When getting stuff done is a primary measure for success, we need to introduce people to concepts that are simple but can be leveraged at scale.

In this session, participants will be introduced to the principles of Lean and the application of Kanban to visualize their personal work, limit distraction and waste, and get stuff done. I’ll cover the core concepts outlined in Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry’s book, Personal Kanban, to get you started. I’ll talk about how Kanban can be applied to everyday work and why you should do it.

Through my years of struggling with ADD/ADHD and my years of management, leadership, and coaching, I have learned and applied Personal Kanban techniques in my everyday life and Lean Kanban at both government and private organizations. This is your opportunity to experience what I am like after a few cups of coffee and for you to learn a few simple strategies that you can start using before you even leave Agile 2014. This workshop can help you map your work and navigate your life.

Information for Review Team:

My first blog post about my Personal Kanban story happened in August of 2009.
Since that time, I have evangelized the use of Personal Kanban for people who had tried everything from To-Do lists to Franklin Covey Planners to GTD, with little or no success. It gives me a profound amount of joy sharing this information to people ranging from parents who struggle to get their kids to bed to CEOs trying to make sense of a portfolio backlog. This workshop will begin with me telling me story and my challenges of staying focused and getting stuff done. It will conclude with people realizing how easy it is to grasp the basic concepts behind Personal Kanban, benefit from them, and then tell others.

Logistics:

Each table will have 3 sheets of 25 x 30″ easel pad paper with pre-designed Kanban boards, a stack of index cards with different (effort) activities listed and predetermined values. (Writing what teams will be asked to do would spoil the surprise but I promise we’ll have some fun) I will explain to everyone how a Personal Kanban works. Each 10-minute practice session is designed to bring to light the daily struggles we may have in completing our work. After each session I will ask how the room would approach their work differently. The expectation is that more work will get done during practice session two and then even more during practice session three, based on what the attendees will learn in the previous sessions and improving their processes.

Agenda:

• Introduction and Overview [10 minutes]
• Core Concepts [10 minutes] [20 minutes elapsed] What is the history of Kanban? What’s the difference between Kanban and Personal Kanban, what makes up a Kanban board, how do we design a Personal Kanban board, what is WIP, what is flow?
• Practice [10 minutes] [30 minutes elapsed] Round 1 / Our first board
• Retrospective [5 minutes] [35 minutes elapsed] What worked and what didn’t?
• Practice [10 minutes] [45 minutes elapsed] Round 2 / Our second board design
• Retrospective [5 minutes] [50 minutes elapsed] What worked and what didn’t?
• Practice [10 minutes] [60 minutes elapsed] Round 3 / Our third board design
• Retrospective [5 minutes] [65 minutes elapsed] What worked and what didn’t?
• Conclusion and Questions [10 minutes] [75 minutes elapsed] What did you learn? What were you surprised by? What other questions do you have?

Background Info:

• I have been successfully leveraging Kanban on an organizational level since 2008 and evangelizing Personal Kanban since August 2009.
• Jim and Tonniane’s book, which provides the basis of this session, is widely available. Here is a slide deck on the basics of Personal Kanban: http://www.slideshare.net/ourfounder/personal-kanban-101

Prerequisite Knowledge:

None

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand key definitions and terms of Lean and Kanban
  • Understand how to apply Kanban to your personal and professional life
  • Understand how you can measure and improve your processes

Presentation History:

I have been presenting since 2011, when I appeared at the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference. I’ve since been a guest at the Work Management Summit in 2011, and then presented at AgileDC in 2011, and 5 Project Management Institute events, including the Project Management Symposium 2012 (Washington DC), PMI Global Congress 2012, PMI Puerto Rico Simposio Anual 2012, Project Management Symposium 2013 (Washington DC), and most recently PMI SoMD Chapter 2013.

A few of my public sessions are available on Slideshare

 

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Limit your Holiday WIP with Personal Kanban

I’m asked on a regular basis how Agile or Lean practices can be applied during the holidays.  Let’s face it, we have a limited amount of time and todo lists as long as our arms.  Truth be told, people have limited success using the ever-growing todo list.  You either forget your list at home, you take on too much at one time, or you forget why some of the items on your list just aren’t getting done.  Several years ago, I found the answer to my “get stuff done” problem and it is known as Personal Kanban.

Personal Kanban borrows from several Lean principles and practices. With just two simple acts – visualizing work and limiting work in progress – Personal Kanban gives us clarity over our work and our goals, and the unprecedented ability to deal with distractions, manage expectations, make better decisions, and ultimately find a healthy balance between our professional, personal, and social lives. – See more

Using Personal Kanban

I’ve leveraged Kanban for Agile Teams with great success.  But I used a physical board, complete with sticky notes and painters tape. I also had a small board in my office, for personal stuff.  Unfortunately, the more I traveled for work, the less physical boards worked.  I always seem to have my laptop or phone with me but I didn’t always have a wall to apply sticky notes. What is an Agile coach to do!?  Of course, in this digital age, there are several inexpensive solutions.  I use LeanKit.  It works on the web, phones, and tablets. Everything is synced all the time.  There are other solutions out there but this has worked for me (and my family) for quite a while.

Here is the 50,000 foot view of how it works.  On a surface that is in plain view all the time, visualize your workflow.  It could be as simple as ToDo, WIP (work in process), and Done.  Being this is personal, label the columns anything you want. Identify what you need to get done on cards. I like the title to be actionable (Call, Find, Do, Finish, Get…). I then color code the cards so I know if it is for work or not. Let’s say you are traveling during the holidays: “Pack clothes, book hotel room, reserve rental car, get boarding pass”. Use specific card colors and you’ll know at a glance if you forgot to do something.  Limit the stuff you work on at any given time.  If you haven’t discovered it yet, multitasking is a big lie.  You don’t get more done! You just keep really busy.  Focus on getting stuff done, not starting more stuff. Don’t exceed WIP limits in a column.  If there is no room for a card in a column without exceeding a self-imposed WIP limit, you do not pull a card into the column!  This is important. By limiting what we agree to start, we will in turn finish a lot more.

peronsal kanban

Kanban Cards

Here are the cards for my “Holiday” Personal Kanban.  My board doesn’t go away after January 1. It just focuses on other stuff. The yellow cards are going to drop off after New Years. I left them on the board so you could see how we can have three groups on a board and it still have clarity.  Colors of cards are optional. I use every visual queue I can, including blocked and high priority indicators.

  • Red cards – Christmas and my birthday
  • Orange cards – LeadingAgile (work)
  • Yellow cards – Chanukah

Ready

I keep a backlog of stuff that isn’t “ready” for me to work on so I don’t even include those on my board. Even after having the highest priority cards appear at the top of the board, having too many cards on your board can paralyze you with choices.  I only add cards to my ready column, if they have limited dependencies and are ready to complete within the next few weeks.

WIP (Work in Process)

One of the secrets of a pull system is you only work on things you actually have capacity to work on. When you have capacity in the next step of your workflow, you can pull work into that step. Limit the amount of stuff that you’re working on at any given time and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get more done.  Personally, I know that I can only deal with three things at a time before things start to get dropped. Know your personal limits and set them accordingly.  If you’re working on something and you get blocked, don’t pull in more work. Add a visual indicator that indicates the item is blocked. and continue pulling working through to done. Once you unblock the work, you can pull it the rest of the way through your system.

Focus

I’m a strange combination of a little OCD, a little ADHD, a lot of grit, and a lot of drive.  I need a focus column.  If I walk away from my desk, read an email, or get a cup of coffee, I can pretty much guaranteed to forget what I was working on.  The focus column is my visual reminder of that one thing I’m trying to focus on right now.  Notice the image of my personal kanban above that I’m trying to wrap up this blog post.  Everything else can wait. I need to get this done!

Done

Ah yes, the done column. It is where all work needs to go.  When I look at it, it makes me feel pretty darn good.  We all feel busy but we commonly ask ourselves if we’ve actually gotten anything done.  Well, this will show you.  I recommend you reflect on what you’ve accomplished, feel good about it, and clear the column on a periodic basis. I do it either once a week or every other week.

Summary

I know this is a lot to put into a single blog post.  But if you’re wishing for a more productive and balanced 2014, I would recommend you give this a try. It’s super simple to start and over time, if you’re persistent, you’ll see it will bring more clarity to your work and your goals.

If you want to learn more about Personal Kanban, I would recommend you read Personal Kanban by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry.  It’s a great read and an awesome gift!

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Barriers to Agile Adoption

We’ve all seen it happen. Though we try to show organizations the benefits of using a mature agile delivery framework, we still run into roadblocks. Though the status quo is killing their organization, some barriers to further Agile adoption happen way too often among organizations that need it most. I recently had a client ask me to introduce the elephant in the room. I was asked to actually list some common barriers others have dealt with. I want to thank our friends over a VersionOne for distributing an annual survey of the Agile space. One of the questions? What is preventing you from further agile adoption? Within the last published survey, 4048 people responded and they were able to vote for more than one barrier. The responses may sound familiar.
Barriers to Adoption

Barriers of Agile Adoption

# Percentage Barrier
1 52% Ability to change organizational culture
2 41% General resistance to change
3 35% Trying to fit agile elements into non-agile framework
4 33% Availability of personnel with right skills
5 31% Management support
6 26% Customer collaboration
7 26% Project complexity
8 22% Confidence in the ability to scale
9 14% Perceived time to scale
10 14% Budget constraints

Did they miss any in the list?  How did you overcome your barrier?

 

Originally posted at LeadingAgile

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Cheat Sheet for Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement Meeting

What is it?

The purpose of backlog refinement (grooming) is to make improvements to the product backlog.  Though there is no official ceremony detailed in the Scrum Guide, the activity of refining the Backlog is.

Who does it?

Backlog Refinement is a collaborative effort involving:

  • (Optional) facilitator – (like a ScrumMaster) keeps the session moving toward its intended goal
  • (Optional) representative(s) from the Management Team – clarify the high level priorities
  • (Mandatory) representative(s) from the Product Owner Team – clarify the details of the product backlog items
  • (Mandatory) representatives from the Agile Delivery Team – define the work and effort necessary to fulfill the completion of agreed upon product backlog items.  It is recommended to have at least one developer and one tester when refining the backlog, to ensure alternate viewpoints of the system are present.

When is it?

Before development of a user story in the current sprint (iteration), generally sometime during the previous 1 or 2 sprints, the team sits down to discuss the upcoming work. Do not wait too late to add details, because the delay will slow the team down. Do not refine your stories too far in advance, because the details might get stale. Depending on the delivery rate of your teams, you should be meeting once or twice a week to review the backlog.

Before You Begin

We need to ensure:

  • The product backlog is top-ordered to reflect the greatest needs of Management Team and the Product Owner Team
  • Candidates for grooming include stories identified as not ready to complete within the next sprint or will require multiple days of research
  • Epics, features or other items on the Management Team roadmap are reviewed periodically

The Backlog

The product backlog can address anything deemed valuable by the Product Owner Team. For the purpose of sprint planning, when using Scrum as the delivery framework, product backlog items must be small enough to be completed and accepted during the sprint and can be verified that they were implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner team. 

Estimate

Backlog items must be completed in a single sprint or split into multiple user stories. While refining, give stories an initial estimate to see if they are small enough. If not, split them. The best way to split product backlog items is by value and not by process.

Acceptance Criteria

All stories require acceptance criteria. Without it, you can not define the boundaries of a user story and confirm when a story is done and working as intended. Ensure acceptance criteria is testable.   This is what your testers should be writing tests against.

Rewrite Written Stories

Ensure the user story format is consistent, INVEST criteria is being met, and is written from a business not technical perspective.  Know who the customer is. It may not be an end user. Rather, the story may be for something like a service, to be consumed by another team.

Image Credit: Pictofigo

Originally Posted at LeadingAgile