Scrum 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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New Agile Training Classes Announced

ICAgile Accredited CourseThough I’ve been doing Enterprise Agile Coaching with LeadingAgile for over a year now, I haven’t been doing a lot of training (or blogging).  I’ve been sticking to agile transformation work and the occasional private class.

Well, it’s time for an update.  Dennis Stevens and myself co-authored the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) Agile Project Manager learning objectives back in February.  The result was a solid certification even a PMP could respect.

New Classes and Locations

LeadingAgile has decided to offer more public training.  We’re offering classes in Atlanta, Denver, Orlando, and Washington DC.

Scrum

Certified ScrumMaster certification class

Certified Scrum Product Owner certification class

PMI

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification prep class

ICAgile

Fundamentals of Agile (CIP certification awarded)

Agile Project Management (to be announced)


Are in interested in some public training?

Send me an email and I’ll get you a special discount code.


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New Scrum Team Challenges

Velocity ChartA while ago, I published a post titled: Simple Cheat Sheet to Sprint Planning Meeting.  Though I understand every team is different, I thought it would be helpful to those who are new to agile processes.  People are always looking for cheat sheets, templates, and stuff like that.  What is the harm of giving them what they want?

In retrospect, I think the harm is the lack of context.  When people come to a training class, they are provided an ideal situation.  Even the Scrum Guide was written as though you’ve been doing Scrum for a while. It doesn’t talk about things that happen leading up to your team’s first Sprint.  It doesn’t talk about the complexity of scaling to the enterprise.  It’s just vanilla.

I just got back from coaching a new team and I’ll be heading back next week to see how they are doing.  To get them moving forward, I facilitated release planning and sprint planning.  That’s where things started to get interesting.  What if your team has never done release planning or sprint planning?

Release and Sprint Planning

The purpose of Release Planning is so the organization can have a roadmap that helps them reach their goals.  Because a lot of what we know emerges over time, most of what we actually know is that we don’t know much.

The purpose of the Sprint Planning is for the entire team to agree to complete a set of ready top-ordered product backlog items. This agreement will define the sprint backlog and is based on the team’s velocity or capacity and the length of the sprint timebox.

You’re new to Scrum.  You don’t have a velocity (rate of delivery in previous sprints) and you are not sure of your capacity (how much work your team can handle at a sustainable pace).  What do you do?

The Backlog

The product backlog can address just about anything, to include new functionality, bugs, and risks. For the purpose of sprint planning, product backlog items must be small enough to be completed (developed, tested, documented) during the sprint and can be verified that they were implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner. 

Again, you’re new to Scrum.  How do you know what small enough is?

Right Sizing Backlog Items

Product backlog items determined to be too large to be completed in a sprint, based on historical data of the team, should not be considered as sprint backlog candidates during the sprint planning meeting and should be split into smaller pieces. Remember, each story must be able to stand on its own (a vertical slice).  It should not be incomplete or process based (a horizontal slice).

Again, you’re new to Scrum.  You have no historical data.

Determining Velocity

The velocity of a team is derived by summing the estimates of all completed and accepted work from the previous sprint.  By tracking team velocity over time, teams focus less on utilization and more on throughput.

If you have a new team, not only do you not have a velocity, you won’t have any completed work to compare your estimates to and you won’t know how many deliverables to commit to.  What do you do?  I think you just go for it!  You keep track of what you are completing and collect historical data.  You get through the sprint and establish some context for future sprints.

The first few sprints are going to be pretty rocky, until the team begins to stabilize. Just ask yourself.  WWDD?  What would Deming Do? Plan a little; Do a little; Check what you did versus what you planned to do; Act on what you discover.

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Agile on Non-Software Projects

Joe Justice and Derek Huether at Agile 2012Regardless of where I coach or teach, there is always someone who approaches me and says something like, “Agile is great for software projects but what about projects that aren’t software related?”  When asked the question, I usually give examples like a U.S. Marine fire team or air crew or a home construction site. (I’ll save those stories for another time).  I now have a new story to tell about a cross-functional, highly collaborative team, which competed for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.

While I was at Agile 2012, I met Joe Justice of Team WIKISPEED and had a chance to actually touch a car that was designed and built using Agile methods. (see cool photo enclosed)

Here is some back story from a 2011 press release:   Based in Seattle and led by Joe Justice, WIKISPEED is a collaborative team of over 50 experts and volunteers dedicated to offering ultra-efficient, ultra low-cost, mass-production road-legal vehicles. In 2010 the team’s SGT01 prototype placed in the top 10 in their class out of 136 cars overall in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.

Joe was able to build his first functional prototype in just three months.  The car that competed in the X Prize got 114 MPG (Highway). Compare that to the Toyota Prius which currently gets 51 MPG (Highway) and was introduced in 1995.  The reason auto manufacturers are so slow to “better” their products is because change is very expensive for them.  It is not uncommon for auto manufacturers to operate on 10 to 25 year development cycles.  Before Object-oriented programming methods were introduced, software teams used to operate much the same way.

By modularizing how we build software, we’re able to shorten our development cycles down to days.  By shortening our development cycles down to days, we give ourselves the opportunity to get feedback from our customers and create things that they really want, not things that we think they want.  We save ourselves and our organizations countless dollars in wasted development, due to waiting too long to get feedback from our customers or by operating in functional silos.  My breaking our teams down into small, cross-functional, empowered teams, we shorted feedback cycles as much as we can.

Being Joe is a client facing software consultant, building Agile teams and practices, why would he limit the benefits of Agile to just his customers?  Joe and his team have a car that has a development cycle of seven days.  They do this by modularizing the car.  They can switch the gasoline engine to an electric one in about the same time it takes to change a tire. They could change the car body from a convertible to a pickup truck.  All of this allows them to make changes and develop quickly.

The car is safe (passes road safety standards), because Team WIKISPEED developed safety tests before building the actual parts.  This helps them lower waste (Lean).  Next time you say you can’t afford to do test-driven development, think about that.  They do all of their work in pairs, avoiding time training that is not productive. (XP Practices) Again, the next time you say you cannot afford to pair people, think about that.  Pairing also helps lower the need for most types of documentation.  If everyone has a shared understanding, you have less need for it.  They visualize their workflow to help identify hidden delays and deliver something every seven days (Scrum).

So, do you still think Agile is only for software projects?  The fact that they use 7 days sprints on hardware, when I hear people say they can’t do anything less than 30-days on software, just goes to show you where there is the will there is a way.

Check out Joe’s session from TEDxRainier

Post originally appeared at LeadingAgile

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Chasing After The Latest Fad or Evolving

Washington DC PMI Chapter LinkedIn GroupThis last weekend, I had an interesting exchange on the PMIWDC LinkedIn Group discussions board.  This healthy exchange of viewpoints came about from the following message:

In June, PMPs numbers are down by over 4000 while the PMI Agile certification numbers are on a steady rise. What is preventing the ACP from really getting traction?  http://ow.ly/i/NRLD [link to graphic showing the upward trend of the PMI-ACP]

Because that LinkedIn group is not public, I won’t include the persons name.  Rather, I will refer to him as “Mr. PMP, CSM, ITIL” and include his responses in red.  Even if I don’t agree with everything he writes, I have to respect a differing viewpoint.

PMP numbers likely vary slightly throughout the year and 4,000 is less than 1%. Plus, in the current economy, I don’t think a drop is surprising at all.

Now about PMI-ACP. In my opinion, the PMI-ACP has no market (no one asks for it and, as you note, no one is really seeking it even after PMI lowered qualifying standards to get it). It is simply a me-too certificate competing with already established certifications by Scrum.org and ScrumAlliance.org. Besides, it is mislabeled as Agile when all it talks about is Scrum without ever using the word Scrum–making it even less distinguishable.

Personally, I’d rather see PMI focus its efforts on strengthening the PMP, and the overall body of project management knowledge and practice, than chasing after the latest fads.

[Mr. PMP, CSM, ITIL], interesting opinions. I always find these “corrections” compelling. Everyone can read the August edition of PMI Today (the source of my numbers) and draw their own conclusions. It could be there were 4000 people who really weren’t project managers in the first place, thinking they needed a PMP, and then realized they really did not. We’ll never know for sure.

As for the PMI-ACP, the qualifying standards were corrected while the certification was still in pilot. I know this because I was in Miami with PMI when it happened. It just took several months to get the change implemented in the application process. At least there is a qualifying standard. You and I both have a CSM, yet we both know there is no qualifying standard for that.

The PMI-ACP is not all about Scrum. Again, I know this because I helped create the ACP and because I am the Co-Lead of the ACP support team at the PMI Agile CoP. I won’t disagree that a large percentage of the ACP is Scrum related but in VersionOne’s latest State of Agile survey, a majority of Agile practitioners are using Scrum to deliver value to their respective organizations. I think the certification is pretty representative of contemporary Agile practices.

If you’d rather PMI focus its efforts on strengthening the PMP, I’m curious how you will feel about the upcoming PMBOK Guide revision and Software Extension. Both include Agile knowledge and practices. Does that mean PMI is chasing after the latest fad or is it evolving?

Derek, I’ll admit the 5th edition draft PMBOK is troubling–almost as if some folks are trying to sabotage the PMBOK or simply making changes for the sake of changes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against change but some of what is occuring is not good, doesn’t fix some problems in the 4th Edition and introduces some new contradictions and confusion. Waiting to see what the final release settles on. 

Stats can be fun and too often misleading. I don’t think month-to-month changes in active certificate holders is very meaningful and PMI-ACP’s less than six month track record is nonetheless too short. It’s 7 to 18% month-to-month increases are already faltering, losing 32% of it’s growth rate in the latest month. During this same time, PMPs dropped just under 1%. If both of these two latest trends continue, PMI-ACP will max out around 6,923 and reach parity (with current month declining) PMP in just over 38 years. 

As a reality check, PMP and CAPM make up 99.2031% of PMI’s certificate holders. I suspect the overall number of ‘traditional’ projects is a not too dissimilar ratio. Adding in the few thousand CSM and other certificate holders won’t significantly shift this ratio. And traditional project management is, if practiced well, agile and not the caricature painted by Agile and Scrum advocates.

Listening to people who are participating in the PMBOK revisions sounds a lot like legislation in the government. In the beginning, a bill with a bold new idea or fix is presented. In order to close the deal, the bill gets watered down and new stuff that really has nothing to do with the original bill gets introduced. I can totally see that happening with the PMBOK. But I do think common agile concepts and practices should be included. The question is, will it be a square peg in a round whole, based on the format of the PMBOK?

Speaking to the certification stats, I once presented a correlation graph claiming an increase in ice cream sales caused deaths by drowning. It was merely illustrating that metrics can be used to support just about any claim. If PMI gets more market penetration in India and South America, I think the overall growth rate for the PMP (and ACP) will continue. With PMI being the marketing machine that it is, I see the ACP cannibalizing market share from ScrumAlliance and Scrum.org, not from the PMP.  Only time will tell.

It’s my belief that “Agile” practices will be accepted as “Traditional” practices over time. Until then, the misinformed will believe it is a silver bullet. It’s funny, when I coach new clients, I always have at least one project manager tell me that he or she proposed similar changes to leadership but was ignored. I’ve also had attendees of my training tell me that having PMI offer an “Agile” certification legitimizes it as a possible delivery mechanism. This isn’t new stuff! Whatever gets people talking works for me.

HT: Project Management Institute

HT: VersionOne