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Design Your Competition's Support Department

You are presented with a common business problem.  One technique that has always helped me to define the problem space is to invert the problem, take it to an extreme to explore the continuum of your domain.  Let's imagine that we want to redesign our software support department at MegaSoft Corporation.  Applying our inversion principle we will leave our MegaSoft support as is, and instead we will design the competitors support group. It's going to stink, people are going to hate to even call them, their people will be arrogant techies with no human compassion - they will actually hire with those skills required.  Let's pause and give this company a name...  TechHard sounds great.

Who's time is most valuable?  At TechHard the support engineers time is very valuable, so we will have process that time how long a support tech. is on the call with a customer so that our process gurus can optimize for the use of this most valuable resource.  A typical call from a director or VP in our internal support operation should be logged by an administrative receptionist (maybe even automated system) and then the support techs time can be queued up with return call tickets.  We will return the VPs call when it is convenient for our tech.  The tech can validate that the VP is authorized to access the system, and will confirm that they are still experiencing the problem by walking through a standard checklist.  Being efficiently minded the tech may skip over some simple question like power plug, on/off, reset/reboot, logout/in again if they feel the user is competent.


Answering the basic question of who's time is most valuable via the design of the competition's process is enlightening.  Which is it?  The support person's time - or the customer's time.

How are support systems designed?  Has anyone ever heard of a company that used Design Thinking or High-Tech Anthropology to create a customer centered support group?

Is this Conway's Law at work - are we truly designing the support function of our products/services - or are we just reacting?

Give me an example of great design for support:  Nest Thermostat and Fire Alarm Installation
Have you installed a Nest product?  Their installation and configuration process is well designed.  I don't know about their support department - but my expectations are set very high, if I have a problem.


History will repeat
In the 1980s universities started teaching about design for manufacturing (robots would make the parts).

Are you designing your business departments for it's function?

Speaking of support tools - your going to want a great issue tracking system.  Why not look to a market leader that has all the features your people can put on a check list?  Let's buy Jira - or should we look at the competition's product?



See Also:

Cable Internet provider Frontier's support group struggles with the corporate infrastructure that can not resolve customer problems.







Categories: Blogs

Dialogue on Prerequisites for Collaboration

IDEO-University 'From Ideas to Action' Lesson 1.

Join the dialogue on G+ Agile+ group.

Dialogue on Collaboration on Facebook (PDF)


Collaboration starts with who we are and our story - not the technology or the data
"The Future of Work Is Social Collaboration from Inside Out, where people connect around the why of work from who they really are as individuals in community.
They collaborate in generative conversations and co-create what’s next, i.e. their unique Contribution of value to society – what we might call Social Good.
They collaborate by taking the time to appreciate and align each other’s unique, hard wired, natural strengths, creating new levels of authentic and trusting relationships to take the Social Journey."Jeremy Scrivens Director at The Emotional Economy at Work

What does dialogue mean... what does it contribute to collaboration? Here's what the inventor of the internet Al Gore had to say about this:

Audie Cornish speaks with former Vice President Al Gore about the new edition of his book, The Assault On Reason.


Well, others have noted a free press is the immune system 
of representative democracy. And as I wrote 10 years ago, American democracy is in grave danger from the changes in the environment in which ideas either live and spread or wither and die. I think that the trends that I wrote about 10 years ago have continued and worsened, and the hoped-for remedies that can come from online discourse have been slow to mature. I remain optimistic that ultimately free speech and a free press where individuals have access to the dialogue will have a self-correcting quality. -- Al Gore
Excerpt from NPR interview with Al Gore by Audie Cornish March 14, 2017. Heard on All Things Considered.

See Also:

Mob Programming by Woody Zuill

If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together Is Pointless by Liane Davey - HBR

[View the story "Dialogue on Prerequisites for Collaboration" on Storify]
Categories: Blogs

Book Review:: Agile Noir by Lancer Kind


 Agile Noir by Lancer Kind    and I'm envisioning a 1956 black and white film Kartar is the metaphor of his project.



First, allow me to layout some ground rules and a touch of the backstory...

I'm not a professional book reviewer, nor paid in anyway to read.  But if I could get that gig... I'd be a happy camper.  I've never written a book, but I've hacked out some code, a few articles, some of which might be considered book reviews.  I've worked in the Agile industry for more than a decade (but who's counting), and so - I may be a little close to the topic to have proper literary impartial bias.  In fact let me just go ahead and be explicit - I've done this, been there, got the t-shirt; I shit you not - this shit is for real!

Agile Noir by Lancer Kind
Now the ground rules...  I think this review will be written ... what's the word... while I'm reading, at the same time, without much delay in the reading - writing phases....in situ.... iteratively... oh I give up...

So don't be surprised - dear reader - if I just drop off in the middle...
                       ... maybe check back every week until I finish
March 22,
I've studied the cover... quite a nice graphic - to bad the whole novel isn't a graphic novel; oh - maybe it would be too bloody,  I could see Agile Noir becoming a Tarantino film.  As I sat looking at my book to-do stack... I skipped a few levels down the stack and pulled out Lancer Kind's 2016 Agile Noir.  I have read some of his previous comics titled Scrum Noir (vol 1, 2, 3).  So maybe I know what to expect - should be a fun romp in the fast lane with lots of inside the industry puns, innuendo and metaphors.

Well the damn dedication just reeks of an Agile Coach - Servant Leader (puke, barf.... moving on).

The High Cost of Schedule Slip
Now you may not find the situation Kartar finds himself in funny...  allow me to add some overtones of irony....  I'm going to go out on a racist limb and suggest that Kartar is an Indian.  That he is working in the heart of the Indian nation (Los Wages, NV), perhaps on a job for an Italian crime boss.  And none of these circumstances have anything to do with one of the world of science's biggest failures - Columbus's discover of the New World - which the thought was India, and named it's inhabitants there by creating the confusion we will have to deal with evermore.  Now Columbus was of course searching for a way to reduce the schedule required for shipping spices.

Kartar appears to be very emerged in planning and the art/science/pesdo-truth of planning and predicting the future of projects.  And he may be a master with the Gantt chart (which is footnoted on page 18).

This is all ringing just too true ... and I'm envisioning it in the style of a 1956 black and white film...

Kartar is the metaphor of his project... it seems that it's not quite on schedule... he's late to a just announced meeting with some superior and is driving at break neck speed on loose sand in the Vegas out skirts creating over bumps and ditches in his car with the accelerator pinned to the floor - because some people in a van might be trying to kill him.  Happens ALL - THE - TIME.

April 4th
Finished chapter 1.  That Bastard.  He killed off our hero Kartar.  oh - OPPS - SPOILERS!
I truly don't know if I should throw the book in the garbage bin or keep reading... going to bed.

April 6th
OK - that was quite the trick, Chapter 2, Rowing over a better Waterfall is a twist... but now it's getting interesting and our hero is back, yet I fear not quite in control of his project.

April 10th
The chapter Death by Documentation is just that... a death march, I almost quit.  The chapter is worth skipping if you have ever been on one of these classic projects - then you already know enough to thumb to page 89 and restart.  However if your not in IT or project management work of any type (Record Scratch: then how in the heck did you find my blog - and why are you reading this book?) you might enjoy the chapter as it will explain how all of your companies IT project fall behind schedule and never deliver what you want.  Read it - little bells of enlightenment will chime in your head.

The introduction of the IT Mechanic is quite fun.  He's almost a stalker... yeah, he's definitely a PM stalker.  This character is going to be fun.  He's reminding me of someone I've met... and someone from my youthful days of reading Carlos Castaneda.  The character's name is "J" could it stand for Jaun (as in don Jaun Matus)?  He's got an interesting calling card with no numbers or email addresses.  I'd recommend he try Moo - best printing house in the business.  J has some psyc skills and quite a few trick up his sleeves (he is living in the land of Penn & Teller after all).

I really enjoyed this chapter, but then almost any thing would be great after that death slog of documentation hell.

April 12th 
Sprinting is the right word for the next chapter... it's a dash by Usain Bolt.  In Sprinting with a Bollywood Autobot Kartar learns to write user stories and mix drinks of analysis, design, requirement, and development.  He attempts to negotiate on delivery with the owner and in the end crosses the third rail of the PMI tracks in a Lovers quarrel.  Oh - damn, that's not at all what happens.  But it's a lot of fun and went by really fast.  Don't know if we can sustain this pace for the rest of the book.

April 19th
Scrumming in a Waterfall - nice visual, great chapter.  I'm pulling for Kartar, he's doing all the right behaviors, making mistakes and learning each step of the way.  One day he's going to land this project in the success column of management's spreadsheet.  It appears that's how interested the big boss is in the project (affectionally called "Winner").  It's right when Kartar is about got the dirty little secret of Scrum figured out in this iteration that the Lovers, Sis & Lex show up and we cycle under the pressure of the waterfall, tumbling and gasping for air.  

How do you explain water to a fish?  I'm thinking that Kartar is learning all kinds of things in this iteration.  He's gotten lesson at the firing range, upgrade his tiny pistol to an arsenal that Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice) would be proud of - maybe she'd invite Kartar to show her his car trunk.

But by the end of this chapter - we are back in the rabbit hole with Alice and late, we're late, for an important date.

Table of Contents:
  1. The High Cost of Schedule Slip
  2. Rowing over a better Waterfall
  3. Death by Documentation
  4. The IT Mechanic
  5. Sprinting with a Bollywood Autobot
  6. Scrumming in a Waterfall
  7. Product Vision
  8. Sustainable Pace
  9. Liberation and Libations
  10. Agile Development is about having FUN!
  11. Why Let Your Framework Limit You?



See Also:
Scrum Noir - several volumes of graphic novel about scrum masters and the projects they encounter - also by Lancer Kind
I will have a Double Expresso - Amazon review of Scrum Noir.
Categories: Blogs

Waggle Dance -or- Standup Meeting

Bees do a dance that bee keeper refer to as the Waggle dance...

It is with great pleasure that you can watch and using the power of science have this dance translated into English.

Bee Dance (Waggle Dance) by Bienentanz GmbH
What does this have to do with Scrum?  The power of a metaphor was well known to the creators of Extreme Programming (XP) - so much so, that it is one of only 12 "rules" that those really smart people decided to enshrine into their process.  It is also the most likely rule to not be mentioned in any survey of software development practices.  Unless you happen to be chatting with Eric Evens, and he may agree that he's captured the underlying principle in Domain-Driven Design, the Ubiquitous Language pattern.


Have you ever observed a great scrum team using a classic tool of many innovative company environments - the physical visual management board (Scrum Task Board). The generic behavior for a small group of people (say around 7 plus/minus 2) is for the group to discover that a form of dance where the speaker moves to the board and manipulates objects on the board as they speak gives everyone else the context of what story they are working upon and what task they are telling us they have completed. Then they exit stage left - so to speak. And the next dancer approaches from stage right, to repeat the dance segment. Generally speaking one circuit of this group is a complete dance for the day. The team is then in sync with all there team mates, and may have negotiated last minute changes to their daily plan, as the dance proceeded. In my observation of this dance great teams complete this ritual in about 15 minutes. They appear to need to perform this dance early in the morning to have productive days. And groups that practice this dance ritual well, out perform groups that are much larger and groups that don't dance.


So going all honey bee meta for a moment...  Let's use our meta-cognition ability to think about the patterns.  We love to pattern recognize - our brain is well designed for that (one of the primary reasons a physical visualization of work is so much more productive as a accelerator of happiness than virtualization of the same work items).

When do we use great metaphors - in design great NEW experiences for people that are reluctant to change.  And to communicate the desired behaviors, the exciting new benefits to adopting something new.  I'm thinking of the 1984 introduction of the Graphical User Interface by the Apple pirate team that produced the GUI, the Mouse, the Pointer, the DropDown Menu, etc.

Can you see a pattern in this... a pattern that relates to people changing systems, behaviors, disrupting the status quo?  It is resonating in my neurons, I'm having a heck of a time translating these neuron firing waves of intuitions, into the motor cortex to make my stupid fingers pound out the purposefully retarding movements on a QWERTY keyboard to communicate with you over Space-Time.  If only we could dance!

See Also:

The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee by Georgia Tech College of Computing
How can honeybees communicate the locations of new food sources? Austrian biologist, Karl Von Frisch, devised an experiment to find out! By pairing the direction of the sun with the flow of gravity, honeybees are able to explain the distant locations of food by dancing. "The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee" details the design of Von Frisch's famous experiment and explains the precise grammar of the honeybees dance language with high quality visualizations.
This video is a design documentary, developed by scientists at Georgia Tech's College of Computing in order to better understand and share with others, the complex behaviors that can arise in social insects. Their goal at the Multi-Agent Robotics and Systems (MARS) Laboratory is to harness new computer vision techniques to accelerate biologists' research in animal behavior. This behavioral research is then used, in turn, to design better systems of autonomous robots.


I was just reminded of @davidakoontz's wonderful metaphor for the daily #Scrum: waggle dance :) pic.twitter.com/h3c1B49mkC

— Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) April 7, 2017


Categories: Blogs

Can we have a dialogue about Estimation and the behaviors it drives?


Some topic are taboo - not safe to discuss.  I've never appreciated that concept.  Those taboo topics are my favorite topics to discuss.

Taboo Topics (ordered by fear of conversation)
  • Gender - Sexual preferences - non-standard practices
  • Religion as truth, my religion vs your wrong religion
  • Politics - the correct way to govern a group the results in my opportunity
  • Pay for services rendered - why my gender is paid more than yours
  • counting - off by one errors and how to mask them; we're # 1
  • estimates - how wrong your estimate was and why I'm missing my commitment
  • prioritization - ordering methods
  • laziness - the art of not doing work
I've recently been embroiled in a "dialogue" about the twitter topic of #NoEstimates.  I would write a summary of the topic but cannot do better that this one:

Estimates? We Don’t Need No Stinking Estimates! by Scott Rosenberg
"How a hashtag (#NoEstimates) lit the nerdy world of project management aflame — or at least got it mildly worked up."

A nice summary of the dust-up.  Imagine if the tag would have been #LeanEstimates?

There are two sides to this debate - at least two sides.  But I like that the taboo topic was raised and has questioned assumptions.  I think the think that drives a topic toward the taboo is this questioning of assumptions.  The saluter of scared cows (where does that term even come from?).

So what behaviors does the process or estimating drive:


  • a list
  • TBD
  • someone misplaced the list...


"Unable to estimate accurately, the manager can know with certainty neither what resources to commit to an effort nor, in retrospect, how well these resources were used.  The lack of a firm foundation for these two judgements can reduce programming management to a random process in that positive control is next to impossible. This situation often results in the budget overruns and schedule slippages that are all too common." -- J.A FarquharDoes a Scrum process framework and the Agile mindset resolve Farquhar's concerns that the manager may have without accurate estimates - via empirical measurement and relative estimation techniques?

I'm not sure that the Twitter-verse is capable of holding the dialogue.  My experience was not very fruitful nor enlightening.  I've been accused by a manager at work of being "anti-management" I've asked, but got no direct answer, what that term meant, and why he believed or thought this label to be useful.  I've wondered if it was because of this type of conversation.  I also asked these fellows, but didn't resolve my query with the rhetoric of the conversation.
@vishalsomal it's an anti-management movement started by Woody, where SWDev wants to run the show @PeterKretzman @henebb pic.twitter.com/lPxrYNDg9n— Glen B. Alleman (@galleman) March 5, 2017... deleted ... a lot of tweets about actions from years ago when when the #NoEstimates twitter conversation was beginning - some relating to a blog post being edited or complete deleted.  Something I find quite acceptable (and do quite frequently myself).
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco So if he deleted a piece you appear to object to maybe you made a point and he heard your view.— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco is it admirable to be the accuser but not reach out to talk,
to label one hyper-defensive when they are trying to understand? pondering— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@PeterKretzman @davidakoontz @henebb @duarte_vasco David, U do realize W and V and now N blocked any questions about the credibility of #NE.
There is NO conversation about NE just broadcast— Glen B. Alleman (@galleman) April 14, 2017
@galleman @PeterKretzman @henebb @duarte_vasco 3 people do not make the sum total of people discussing this topic.— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 14, 2017
@davidakoontz @galleman @PeterKretzman @duarte_vasco Of course not. No one is claiming that either. But they are the main champs. Traveling the world, spreading the message.— Henrik Ebbeskog (@henebb) April 14, 2017
@galleman @PeterKretzman @henebb @duarte_vasco So I reject your conclusion; and substitute #NE or #noestimates with #LeanEstimates— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 14, 2017
The conversation went on from there...  I'm reminded of Adam on MythBusters.



@henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco I don't know if this anti-management you speak of. Tell me more as I don't see connection to NE or as we call it now #LeanEstimation— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017 ... and there is some link to Anti-Management because one is willing to discuss better options or worse options than estimation...
@henebb Here's an anti-management tweet (one of many) from the NE founder. @davidakoontz @galleman @duarte_vasco pic.twitter.com/CdVrQxYOAz— Peter Kretzman (@PeterKretzman) April 13, 2017
@PeterKretzman @henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco Is it the answers or the questions you object to as being anti-management?— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@PeterKretzman @henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco ... 2/2 because I'm willing to engage in dialogue about #NoEstimates in public? Is anti-management contagious? #LeanEstimates— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017 There appears to be large amounts of animosity amongst the principle people that were having this dialogue - nope that word is not the best word, here... try debate... twitter shouting match...
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco well that certainly didn't happen, thanks to your vigilance; have you asked him if that was his intent?— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@davidakoontz @henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco Point: Woody won't talk with critics.
Second point: you're a little too fixated on this one example of anti-mgmt. As I said, there are many.— Peter Kretzman (@PeterKretzman) April 13, 2017
@PeterKretzman @henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco So you didn't ask Woody about the issue?
Is it just you he will not talk to, because I've chatted with him a lot.— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco I like that analogy... estimate are addictive - but not that powery - what is your object to the analogy?— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco brushing teeth is not addictive; it's nothing like heroin addiction I'm told.— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@davidakoontz @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco ...Yeah, and seeing healthy estimating as "addiction process" reveals that you despise estimates.— Henrik Ebbeskog (@henebb) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco wow - how did you jump to that conclusion?
"despise estimates" not many of the team members I work with would support your conclusion— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco ah... do we need to review the concept of analogy - I liked the analogy, I find it useful; I think that's different than what your stating— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@henebb @PeterKretzman @galleman @duarte_vasco that's not where I would apply the nature of addiction in the analogy. Yet I can see how you could get there.— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 14, 2017 How might the analogy of estimation is like addiction be a useful analogy?
@galleman @PeterKretzman @henebb @duarte_vasco That's not consistent with my conversation and experiences with @WoodyZuill (your good with logic - am I within the set of anyone?)— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017
@PeterKretzman @henebb @galleman @duarte_vasco I'm just guessing but I bet there was a period when he was willing to converse with you all.
pondering ... my experience extrapolated ...— David A. Koontz (@davidakoontz) April 13, 2017


See Also:


Impact of Schedule Estimation on Software Project Behavior
by Tarek K. Abdel-Hamid, SRI International Stuart E. Madnick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A Preliminary Inquiry into the Software Estimation Process by J.A. Farquhar, 1970
Categories: Blogs

Leadership re-envisioned in the 21st Century

Is there a new form of leadership being envisioned in the 21st Century?  Is there someone challenging the traditional form of organizational structure?

Leading Wisely - a pod cast with Ricardo Semler.
Leading Wisely
"Join organizational changemaker Ricardo Semler in conversation with leaders challenging assumptions and changing how we live and work."
S1E01: Killing the Dinosaur Business Model (Part 1) with Basecamp’s Jason Fried & DHH

S1E02: Killing the Dinosaur Business Model (Part 2) with Basecamp’s Jason Fried & DHH
S1E03: Reinventing Organizations with Frederic Laloux

S1E04: Self-organization with Zappos' Tony Hsieh
S1E05: Busting Innovation Myths with David Burkus

S1E06: Merit and Self-Management with Jurgen Appelo

S1E07: Letting Values Inform Organizational Structure with Jos de Blok

S1E08: Corporate Liberation with Isaac Getz

S1E09: The Police & Self-Management with Erwin van Waeleghem

S1E10: Season Finale: The Common Denominator with Rich Sheridan of Joy Inc.


A ran across this series of 10 talks because I'm a fan of Joy, Inc. author and leader of Menlo innovations, Richard Sheridan.  I saw a tweet about his talk and found a bucket of goodness.
The Common Denominator with Rich Sheridan of Joy Inc.

Richard Sheridan on podcast Leading WiselySee Also:A Review of Leadership ModelsExamples of 21st C. CompaniesSafety - the perquisite for Leadership
A Leadership Paradox

Book List:
Maverick!: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo SemlerJoy, Inc : How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard SheridanReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux
Categories: Blogs

Certified Agile Leadership course in San Diego April 25-27

Agile Game Development - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 15:01
The key to successful agile adoption and growth lies not only with developers, but studio leadership as well. We all know that cross-discipline teams iterating on features creates a benefit, but to achieve the far greater (and rarer) reward of developer engagement and motivated productivity, you need deeper cultural change.  This requires a shift in the mindset of leadership.
The Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) course provides this shift.  It distills the experience and wisdom of decades of experience applying agile successfully and leads to true leadership transformation.  In taking the course, I personally found that not only were my leadership approaches transformed, but it altered how I engaged with family, friends and my own life.
I will be joining the CAL course being taught by my friend and occasional co-trainer Peter Green In San Diego on April 25th through the 27th.  Please join us!
http://agileforall.com/course/cal1/
Categories: Blogs

Velocity Calculus - The mathematical study of the changing software development effort by a team


In the practice of Scrum many people appear to have their favorite method of calculating the team's velocity. For many, this exercise appears very academic. Yet when you get three people and ask them you will invariability get more answers than you have belly-buttons.


Velocity—the rate of change in the position of an object; a vector quantity, with both magnitude and direction. “Calculus is the mathematical study of change.” — Donald Latorre 
This pamphlet describes the method I use to teach beginning teams this one very important Scrum concept via a photo journal simulation.

Some of the basic reasons many teams are "doing it wrong"... (from my comment on Doc Norton's FB question: Hey social media friends, I am curious to hear about dysfunctions on agile teams related to use of velocity. What have you seen?


  • mgmt not understanding purpose of Velocity empirical measure;
  • teams using some bogus statistical manipulation called an average without the understanding of the constrains that an average is valid within;
  • SM allowing teams to carry over stories and get credit for multiple sprints within one measurement (lack of understanding of empirical);
  • pressure to give "credit" for effort but zero results - culture dynamic viscous feedback loop;
  • lack of understanding of the virtuous cycle that can be built with empirical measurement and understanding of trends;
  • no action to embrace the virtuous benefits of a measure-respond-adapt model (specifically story slicing to appropriate size)
... there's 6 - but saving the best for last:
  • breaking the basic tenants of the scrum estimation model - allow me to expand for those who have already condemned me for violating written (or suggesting unwritten) dogma...
    • a PBL item has a "size" before being Ready (a gate action) for planning;
    • the team adjusts the PBL item size any/ever time they touch the item and learn more about it (like at planning/grooming);
    • each item is sized based on effort/etc. from NOW (or start of sprint - a point in time) to DONE (never on past sunk cost effort);
    • empirical evidence and updated estimates are a good way to plan;
  • therefore carryover stories are resized before being brought into the next sprint - also reprioritized - and crying over spilt milk or lost effort credit is not allowed in baseball (or sprint planning)

Day 1 - Sprint Planning
A simulated sprint plan with four stories is developed. The team forecast they will do 26 points in this sprint.




Day 2
The team really gets to work.




Day 3
Little progress is visible, concern starts to show.


Day 4Do you feel the sprint progress starting to slide out of control?



Day 5About one half of the schedule is spent, but only one story is done.



Day 6The team has started work on all four stories, will this amount of ‘WIP’ come back to hurt them?




Day 7
Although two stories are now done, the time box is quickly expiring.


Day 8
The team is mired in the largest story.



Day 9The output of the sprint is quite fuzzy. What will be done for the demo, what do we do with the partially completed work?


Day 10
The Sprint Demo day. Three stories done (A, B, & D) get demoed to the PO and accepted.



Close the SprintCalculate the Velocity - a simple arithmetic sum.



Story C is resized given its known state and the effort to get it from here to done. 



What is done with the unfinished story? It goes back into the backlog and is ordered and resized.



Backlog grooming (refinement) is done to prepare for the next sprint planning session.





Trophies of accomplishments help motivation and release planning. Yesterday’s weather (pattern) predicts the next sprints velocity.


Sprint 2 Begins with Sprint PlanningDay 1Three stories are selected by the team.  Including the resized (now 8 points) story C.

Day 2
Work begins on yet another sprint.


Day 3
Work progresses on story tasks.


The cycles of days repeats and the next sprint completes.


Close Sprint 2Calculate the Velocity - a simple arithmetic sum.


In an alternative world we may do more complex calculus. But will it lead us to better predictability?

In this alternative world one wishes to receive partial credit for work attempted.  Yet the story was resized based upon the known state and getting it to done.




Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. — Leonardo di Vinci 
Now let’s move from the empirical world of measurement and into the realm of lies.








Simply graphing the empirical results and using the human eye & mind to predict is more accurate than many peoples math.




Velocity is an optimistic measure. An early objective is to have a predictable team.

Velocity may be a good predictor of release duration. Yet it is always an optimistic predictor.




Variance Graphed: Pessimistic projection (red line) & optimistic projection (green line) of release duration.



While in the realm of fabrication of information — let’s better describe the summary average with it’s variance.








Categories: Blogs

Team Size Matters, Reprise

Johanna Rothman - Thu, 04/13/2017 - 18:47

Several years ago, I wrote a post for a different blog called “Why Team Size Matters.” That post is long gone. I explained that the number of communication paths in the team does not increase linearly as the team size increases;  team communication paths square when the team increases linearly. Here is the calculation where N is the number of people on the team: Communication Paths=(N*N-N)/2. 

  • 4 people, (16-4)/2=6
  • 5 people, (25-5)/2=10
  • 6 people, (36-6)/2=15
  • 7 people, (49-7)/2=21
  • 8 people, (56-8)/2=24
  • 9 people, (81-9)/2=36
  • 10 people (100-10)/2=45

Here’s why the number of communication paths matter: we need to be able to depend on our team members to deliver. Often, that means we need to understand how they work. The more communication paths, the more the team might have trouble understanding who is doing what and when.

When team members pair, swarm, or mob, they have frequent interconnection points. By working together, they reduce the number of necessary communication paths. Maybe you can have a larger team if the team mobs. (I bet you don’t need a larger team then

Categories: Blogs

Multiple Views of Truth are Perceptions

These are a few of the images that resonate with me. For me they are very close to a door of perception. Now I've never done a mescaline trip, so perhaps I've no clue to what a door frame of perception even looks like... but these images are pretty good with a few beers and some colleagues to discuss there deep meaning and what truth is. Would we even know the truth if it walked up and slapped our face?


Translated: "This is not a pipe"

Cover image of book: Godel Escher Bach

This is Truth; while this and that are true
In any article I write that mentions a door of perception - I would be remise if I didn't mention one of my all time favorite poets and musical group - Jim Morrison and the Doors.  Now do you know that the band is named for?


Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception
"Huxley concludes that mescaline is not enlightenment or the Beatific vision, but a "gratuitous grace" (a term taken from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica).[50] It is not necessary but helpful, especially so for the intellectual, who can become the victim of words and symbols. Although systematic reasoning is important, direct perception has intrinsic value too. Finally, Huxley maintains that the person who has this experience will be transformed for the better."
See Also:

Godel Escher Bach An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
This Is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault
Art of Rene Magritte
Categories: Blogs

Why Getting to Done Is So Important

One of tenets of Scrum is the value of getting work done. At the start of a sprint, the team selects some set of product backlog items and takes on the goal of completing them.

A good Scrum team realizes they are better off finishing 5 product backlog items than being half done with 10.

But why?

Faster Feedback

One reason to emphasize getting work to done is that it shortens feedback cycles. When something is done, users can touch it and see it. And they can provide better feedback.

Teams should still seek feedback as early as possible from users, including while developing the functionality. But feedback is easier to provide, more informed, and more reliable when a bit of functionality is finished rather than half done.

Faster Payback

A second reason to emphasize finishing features is because finished features can be sold; unfinished features cannot.

All projects represent an economic investment--time and money are invested in developing functionality.

An organization cannot begin regaining its investment by delivering partially developed features. A product with 10 half-done features can be thought of as inventory sitting on a warehouse floor. That inventory cannot be sold until each feature is complete.

In contrast, a product with 5 finished features is sellable. It can begin earning money back against the investment.

Progress Is Notoriously Hard to Estimate

A third reason for emphasizing getting features all the way to done is because progress is notoriously hard to estimate.

Suppose you ask a developer how far along he or she is. And the developer says “90% done.”

Great, you think, it’s almost done. A week later you return to speak with the same developer. You are now expecting the feature to be done--100% complete. But the developer again informs you that the feature is 90% done.

How can this be?

It’s because the size of the problem has grown. When you first asked, the developer truly was 90% done with what he or she could see of the problem. A week later the developer could see more of the problem, so the size of the work grew. And the developer is again confident in thinking 90% of the work is done.

This leads to what is known as the 90% syndrome: Software projects are 90% done for 90% of their schedules.

Not Started and Done

In agile, we avoid the 90% syndrome by making sure that at the end of each iteration, all work is either:

  • Not started
  • Done

We’re really good at knowing when we haven’t started something. We’re pretty good at knowing when we’re done with something. We’re horrible anywhere in between.

What’s Your Experience?

Have you experienced problems with teams being 90% done? How have you overcome these problems? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories: Blogs

TrumpCare in its Infancy January 2017

I'm extremely concerned today for my country and this planet.  It appears that history is repeating.
    January 27th -- International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

President Trump bars refugees and citizens of Muslim nations entry into the U.S.A.

The New York Times
By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0827-318 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Four score and four years ago a dictator brought forth on the European continent an evolving plan to rule the world and subjugate the masses.

Now we are engaged in a great resistance, testing whether our nation, or any nations conceived from the learning of our mothers and fathers and so dedicated to liberty, can long endure.  We are met on a great social square of technologic creation.  We have come to dedicate a portion of our wealth, wisdom, and life to those in history that have offered their lives and wisdom so that we may learn and prosper.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this square.  The brave women and men, living and dead, who struggle here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here in the commons.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that this nation, ruled by law, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this planet.

-- David A. Koontz, human patriot


President Abraham Lincoln's address, on Thursday, November 19, 1863, to dedicate Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of GettysburgFour score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

"Abraham Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, was one of the greatest and most influential statements of national purpose. In just over two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence[6] and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis,[7] with "a new birth of freedom"[8] that would bring true equality to all of its citizens.[9] Lincoln also redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality.[6]".

"Lincoln's address followed the oration by Edward Everett, who subsequently included a copy of the Gettysburg Address in his 1864 book about the event (Address of the Hon. Edward Everett At the Consecration of the National Cemetery At Gettysburg, 19th November 1863, with the Dedicatory Speech of President Lincoln, and the Other Exercises of the Occasion; Accompanied by An Account of the Origin of the Undertaking and of the Arrangement of the Cemetery Grounds, and by a Map of the Battle-field and a Plan of the Cemetery)."
 -- Wikipedia, Gettysburg Address
The books title is indictavite of the author's ability to thoroughly cover a topic. Everett's 2-hour oration had 13,607 words.



See Also:
     The Address by Ken Burns - PBS. Did you hear the story about the person that would give $20 bucks to grandkids that learned the Gettysburg Address? Encouraged me to learn it and it's history. History has an interesting emergent property... it appears to repeat, this is a emergent property from a complex system. It is the complex system practicing and learning... Humans as part of this universe's system, are so far (as we know) it's fastest learning sub-system. Our apparent loop duration is currently around Four Score years.Why President Obama Didn't Say 'Under God' While Reading the Gettysburg Address
Lincoln's 272 Words, A Model Of Brevity For Modern Times by Scott Simon

    Germany's Enabling Act of 1933. "The Enabling Act gave Hitler plenary powers. It followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, which abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler's government into a de facto legal dictatorship."
     Women's March 2017 "A series of worldwide protests on January 21, 2017, in support of women's rights and related causes. The rallies were aimed at Donald Trump, immediately following his inauguration as President of the United States, largely due to his statements and positions which had been deemed as anti-women or otherwise reprehensible."
     Reichstag Fire Decree - Germany 1933  According to Rudolf Diels, Hitler was heard shouting through the fire "these sub-humans do not understand how the people stand at our side. In their mouse-holes, out of which they now want to come, of course they hear nothing of the cheering of the masses."[1].   Seizing on the burning of the Reichstag building as the supposed opening salvo in a communist uprising, the Nazis were able to throw millions of Germans into a convulsion of fear at the threat of Communist terror. The official account stated:  The burning of the Reichstag was intended to be the signal for a bloody uprising and civil war. Large-scale pillaging in Berlin was planned for as early as four o’clock in the morning on Tuesday. It has been determined that starting today throughout Germany acts of terrorism were to begin against prominent individuals, against private property, against the lives and safety of the peaceful population, and general civil war was to be unleashed…[2]
     TrumpCare: In the Beginning by Bill Frist - Nov. 2016, Forbes.  "Yesterday Americans woke up to news of a new president-elect: Donald J. Trump. The immediate question for those whose lives focus around lifting the health of individual Americans is, “What does this mean for health care in America?”
Categories: Blogs

Groundhog Day at the Agile Transition Initiative

Now that everyone knows about Bill Murray's movie Groundhog Day - I love February 2nd.  It's my favorite, most enjoyable, beloved, cherished, esteemed day of the year.  And I don't need to tell you again how many LIKES I give this redundant day... so on to the story.

Bill & Groundhog
Well this happened about ten years ago, and about 6 years ago, or maybe it was 4 years past, and seems like we did this about 24 months ago...  or it could be today!

The Agile Transition Initiative at the company has come upon an inflection point (do ya' know what that is...  have you read Tipping Point?).  I'm not exactly sure of it's very precise date... but Feb. 2nd would be the perfect timing.   The inflection has to do with which direction your Agile Transition Initiative takes from this point into the future.   Will it continue on it's stated mission to "transform" the organization?  Or will it stall out and revert slowly to the status quo?

How do I recognize this perilous point in the agile trajectory?  Well there are several indications.  But first we must digress.


[We must Digress.]
Punxsutawney Phil Says more Winter in 2017In this story we will use the germ theory as a metaphor.  Germ theory came about in about ... (wait - you guess - go ahead ...  I'll give you a hundred year window... guess...). That's right! "The germ theory was proposed by Girolamo Fracastoro in 1546, and expanded upon by Marcus von Plenciz in 1762."  Wow, we've know about these little buggers for a long time.  And we started washing our hands ... (when...  correct -again).  "The year was 1846, and our would-be hero was a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis."  So right away business (society) started using a new discovery - a better way to treat patients.... or well it took a while maybe a few months, or maybe  more than 300 years.

But back to the metaphor - in this metaphor the organization will be like a human body and the change initiative will take the roll of a germ.  The germ is a change introduced to the body by some mechanism we are not very concerned with - maybe the body rubbed up against another body.  I hear that's a good way to spread knowledge.

We are interested in the body's natural process when a new factor is introduced.  What does a body do?  Well at first it just ignores this new thing - heck it's only one or two little germs, can't hurt anything - (there are a shit load of germs in your body right now).  But the germs are there to make a home - they consume energy and reproduce (at this point lets call it a virus - meh - what the difference?).  So the virus reproduces rapidly and starts to cause ripples... the body notices this and starts to react.  It sends in the white-blood cells - with anti-bodies.  Now I don't understand the biological responses - but I could learn all about it... but this is a metaphor and the creator of a metaphor may have artistic license to bend the truth a bit to make the point.  Point - WHAT IS THE POINT?

The point is the body (or organization) will have a natural reaction to the virus (change initiative) and when the body recognizes this change it's reaction (natural - maybe call it subconscious - involuntary).  Well let's just say it's been observed multiple times - the body tries very hard to rid itself of the unwanted bug (change).  It may go to unbelievable acts to get rid of it - like tossing all it's cookies back up - or squirting all it's incoming energy into the waste pit.  It could even launch a complete shutdown of all communication to a limb and allow it to fester and die, hopefully to fall off and not kill the complete organism.  Regaining the status quo is in the fundamental wiring of the human body.  Anything that challenges that stasis requires great energy to overcome this fundamental defense mechanism.

[Pop the stack.]
So back to the indicators of the tipping point in agile transitions.  Let's see if our metaphor helps us to see these indications.  The tossing of cookies - check.  That could be new people hired to help with the change are just tossed back out of the organization.  The squirts - check.  That is tenured people that have gotten on board with the change being challenged by others to just water it down... make it look like the things we use to do.  Heck let's even re-brand some of those new terms with our meanings - customized for our unique situation - that only we have ever seen, and therefore only we can know the solutions.  Folks, this is called the Bull Shit Reaction.

Now imagine a limb of the organization that has adopted the new way - they have caught the virus.  There is a high likely hood that someone in the organization is looking at them a "special".  A bit jealous of their new status and will start hoarding information flow from that successful group.  Now true that group was special - they attempted early transition and have had (in this organizations realm)  success.  Yet there was some exception to normal business process that made that success possible.  How could we possibly reproduce that special circumstance across the whole org-chart?  Maybe we just spin them off and let them go it alone - good luck, now back to business.

What's a MIND to do with this virus ridden body and all these natural reactions?

Well we are at an inflection point... what will you do?
Which curve do you want to be on?  - by Trail Ridge Consulting
[What Should You Do?]
Say you are in the office of VP of some such important silo, and they are introducing themselves to you (they are new at the Org.).  They ask you how it's going.  You reply, well, very well.  [That was the appropriate social response wasn't it?] Then they say, no - how's the agile transformation going?  BOOM!  That is a bit of a shocking first question in a get to know each other session - or is it that type of session - what should you do?

I will skip to the option I chose ...  because the other options are for crap - unless you have a different motive than I do... and that is a very real possibility, if so defiantly DON'T DO THIS:

Ask the VP if this is a safe space where you can tell the truth?  Be sincere and concerned - then listen.  There response is the direction you must now take, you have ceded control of your action to them, listen and listen to what is not said - decide if they want the truth or do they want to be placated.  Then give them what the desire.  For example (an obviously easy example - perhaps); imagine that the VP said:  I want the truth, you should always tell the truth.

Don't jump to fast to telling the truth... how can you ascertain how much of the truth they can handle?  You should defiantly have an image of Nicholson as Colonel Nathan R. Jessep as he addresses the Court on "Code Red".


You might ask about their style is it bold and blunt or soft and relationship focused.  You could study their DiSC profile to see what their nature may tell you about how to deliver the truth.

Imagine you determine that they want it blunt (I've found that given a choice must people say this, and only 75% are fibbing). So you suggest that it's not going well.  The transformation has come to an inflection point (pause to see if they understand that term).  You give some archeology - the organization has tried to do an agile transformation X times before.  VP is right with you, "and we wouldn't be trying again if those had succeeded."  Now that was a nice hors d'oeuvre, savory.  The main course is served - VP ask why?

Now you could offer you opinion, deliver some fun anecdote or two or 17, refer to some data, write a white paper, give them a Let Me Google That For You link. Or you could propose that they find the answer themselves.

Here's how that might go down:  Ask them to round up between 8.75 and 19.33 of the most open minded tenured (5 - 20 yrs) people up and down the hierarchy; testers, developers, delivery managers, directors, administrators (always include them - they are key to this process - cause they know every thing that has happened for the last 20 years).  Invite them to join the VP in a half day discovery task - to find out why this Agile thing get's ejected before it takes hold of our organization. If you come away from this workshop with anything other than - culture at the root of the issue, then congratulations your organization is unique.  Try the Journey Line technique with the group.  It's a respective of the organizations multi-year, multi-attempts to do ONE THING, multiple times.  Yes, kinda like Groundhog Day.

See Also:

The Fleas in the Jar Experiment. Who Kills Innovation? The Jar, The Fleas or Both? by WHATSTHEPONT


Categories: Blogs

Dash off a Fiver to the ACLU

What can you do to save the world with an Amazon Dash Button?

Has a new era of enablement reached the hockey stick curve of exponential growth?  I think it has.  I've been picking up this vibe, and I may not be the first to sense things around me.  I've got some feedback that I very poor at it in the personal sphere.  However, on a larger scale, on an abstract level, in the field of tech phenomena I've got a bit of a streak going.  Mind you I'm not rich on a Zuckerberg level... and my general problem is actualizing the idea as apposed to just having the brilliant idea - or recognizing the opportunity.

A colleague told me I would like this tinker's Dash Button hack.  It uses the little hardware IoT button Amazon built to sell more laundry soap - a bit of imaginative thinking outside of the supply chain problem domain and a few hours of coding.  Repurposing the giant AWS Cloud Mainframe, that the Matrix Architect has designed to enslave you, to give the ACLU a Fiver ($5) every time you feel like one of the talking heads (#45) in Washington DC has infringed upon one of you civil liberties.


Now I think this is the power of a true IoT the fact that an enabling technology could allow the emergent property that was not conceived of in it's design.  No one has really tried to solve the problem of the democrat voice of the people.  We use the power of currency to proxy for so many concepts in our society, and it appears that the SCOTUS has accepted that currency and it's usage is a from of speech (although not free - do you see what I did there?).  What would the Architect of our Matrix learn if he/she/it could collect all the thoughts of people when they had a visceral reaction to an event correlate that reaction to the event, measure the power of the reaction over a vast sample of the population and feed that reaction into the decision making process via a stream of funding for or against a proposed policy.  Now real power of this feedback system will occur when the feedback message may mutate the proposal (the power of Yes/AND).

I can see this as enabling real trend toward democracy - and of course this disrupts the incumbent power structure of the representative government (federal republic).  Imagine a hack-a-thon where all the political organizations and the charities and the religions came together in a convention center.  There are tables and spaces and boxes upon boxes of Amazon Dashes Buttons.  We ask the organizations what they like about getting a Fiver every time the talking head mouths off, and what data they may also need to capture to make the value stream most effective in their unique organization.  And we build and test this into a eco-system on top of the AWS Cloud.
"You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him."What would it take to set this up one weekend...  I've found that I'm not a leader.  I don't get a lot of followers when I have an idea... but I have found that I can make one heck of a good first-follower!

"And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement."I will just through this out here and allow the reader to link up the possibilities.


Elmo From ‘Sesame Street’ Learns He's Fired Because Of Donald Trump’s Budget Cuts.  Would this be a good test case for a Dash Button mash up to donate to Sesame Workshop.

See Also:

GitHub Repo Donation Button by Nathan Pryor
Instructables Dash Button projects
Coder Turns Amazon Dash Button Into ACLU Donation Tool by Mary Emily O'Hara
Life With The Dash Button: Good Design For Amazon, Bad Design For Everyone Else by Mark WilsonHow to start a movement - Derek Sivers TED Talk
Categories: Blogs

Thinking About Cadence vs. Iterations

Johanna Rothman - Wed, 04/05/2017 - 17:42


Many people use an iteration approach to agile. They decide on an iteration duration, commit to work for that iteration and by definition, they are done at the end of the timebox.

I like timeboxing many things. I like timeboxing work I don’t know how to start. I find short timeboxes help me focus on the first thing of value. Back when I used staged-delivery as a way to organize projects, we had a monthly milestone (timebox) to show progress and finish features. The teams and I found that a cadence of one month was good for us. The timebox focused us and allowed us to say no to other work.

A cadence is a pulse, a rhythm for a project. In my example above, you can see I used a timebox as a cadence and as a way to focus on work. You don’t have to use timeboxes to provide a cadence.

A new reader for the Pragmatic Manager asked me about scaling their agile transformation. They are starting and a number of people are impatient to be agile already. I suggested that instead of scaling agile, they think about what each team needs for creating their own successful agile approach.

One thing many teams (but not all) is a cadence for delivery, retrospectives and more planning. Not every team needs the focus of a timebox to do that. One team I know delivers several times during the week. They plan weekly, but not the same day each week. When they’ve finished three features, they plan for the next three. It takes them about 20-30 minutes to plan. It’s not a big deal. This team retrospects every Friday morning. (I would select a different day, but they didn’t ask me.)

Notice that they have two separate cadences for planning: once a week, but not the same day; and once a week for retrospectives on the same day each week.

Contrast that with another team new to agile. They have a backlog refinement session that often takes two hours (don’t get me started) and a two-hour pre-iteration planning session. Yes, they have trouble finishing the work they commit to. (I recommended they timebox their planning to one hour each and stop planning so much. Timeboxing that work to a shorter time would force them to plan less work. They might deliver more.)

A timebox can help a team create a project cadence, a rhythm. And, the timebox can help the team see their data, as long as they measure it.

A project cadence provides a team a rhythm. Depending on what the team needs, the team might decide to use timeboxes or not.

For me, one of the big problems in scaling is that each team often needs their own unique approach. Sometimes, that doesn’t fit with what managers new to agile think. I find that when I discuss cadence and iterations and explain the (subtle) difference to people, that can help.

Categories: Blogs

How does backlog refinement work?

Scrum Breakfast - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 09:43
Last month, at the Scrum Breakfast Club, we looked at backlog refinement, so I had an opportunity to explain the product backlog iceberg, a popular metaphor for explaining the process. All about stories and features, TFB  and NFC, and everything else you need to know on a stories voyage from epic to grain of sand.
Categories: Blogs

Invert Time Management; Schedule Energy

One can not manage Time. Why we talk like this is possible, might just lead to a billion dollar self help industry. Or we could invert the way we talk and think…

Scheduling Your Energy, Not Your Time By Scott AdamsYes that Scott Adams!
In that short article Scott give you his secret to success - it's basically free.  Now you could go out and buy a book like one of these to get other advice about your time usage.  Or - you could start by taking his (free) advice ... the decision is yours; but it's past time to make it.


The Time Of Your Life | RPM Life Management System $395 by Tony Robbins
100 Time Savers (2016 Edition) [obviously time sensitive information]Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free by Amy Lynn Andrews


See Also:
I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional by Wendy Kaminer.    "The book is a strong critique of the self-help movement, and focuses criticism on other books on the subject matter, including topics of codependency and twelve-step programs. The author addresses the social implications of a society engaged in these types of solutions to their problems, and argues that they foster passivity, social isolation, and attitudes contrary to democracy."



Categories: Blogs

Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD) a leadership Metric

A rant on Metric's I wish I had written...  so I'm going to just include it by reference and call it my own.

One thousand Words on Metrics

Here's a quote to get you even more interested in clicking that link...
ConclusionIn short, I find most grasping for metrics to be a reliable metric for lack of understanding of human behavior, not only that of those who would be measured but that of those who would do the measuring.If a higher-up wants a metric about a team, say, as an input to their judgment about whether the team’s work is satisfactory, oughtn’t there be some other way to tell?And if I choose nearly any metric on someone else’s behalf, doesn’t that reveal my assumption that I know something about how they do their good work better than they do?Or worse, that I prefer they nail the metric than do something as loose and floppy as “good work”? Well - will you look at that!  Yareev's even willing to apply his own metric to his work.  What a great example of a leader...
Let’s try that againNew metric (expiration = next subhead, privacy = public): I’m 0 for 1 on satisfying conclusions to this post.I’m hardly an expert on human behavior. If I were one, rather than being passive-aggressive and obstructive, I’d have a ready step to suggest to metrics-wanters, one that they’d likely find more desirable than metrics.Instead I have to talk myself down from passo-aggro-obstructo, by which time they’ve chosen what they’ll observe and the ready step I can offer is limited to encouraging them to observe the effects of their observation.Can you give me some better ideas?Here's my very special response to his request for comments.

   I'm wanting to +1 your whole rant, I'd like to nail it to the front doors, I'm thinking about a tattoo, but unsure where on my leader's body it should go...

   I have sometimes fantasied about asking the VP that want's a new metric, if it would be good for us to add one that measured their leadership of our group - I'll call this metric Mean Time between Disruptions (MTD).  MTD is calculated much like the old factory sign that said:
 "its been 1023 days since we killed someone at this factory, please be safe."   So let's start counting (I suggest in weeks) the time between a major disruption to the team.  For this basic metric we are looking at team formation dynamics (your familiar with Tuckman's Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing) and you Mr. VP desire the P word - but it comes after 3 stages of development beyond the F word).

   Let's start at the beginning and count weeks between Forming and ReForming.  You know like when you move a person on/off a team.  When you move the team's physical location, or when you give the team a new objective, then let's reset the clock.

   The metrics I've seen range from MTD = 0 to about 20 weeks for many teams I've worked with.  And Mr. VP says they desire persistent teams.

I would have put it on his site in the comments but I got a very dissatisfied error message from the system when I posted it... (wonder if he has a metric for failed comments?).

Agile in 3 Minutes  a podcast that discusses a journey toward agility (each episode in exactly 3 minutes).  I'm pondering... why does the magic number 3 come up in the Agile community so often?  Personally I feel it has to do with the Book of Armaments, chapter 2, verse 9 to 21; because 5 is right out!



See Also:
Team Metrics - Case Study
How could we measure Team Happiness?
Metrics for a Scrum Team  but don't confuse that post with Scrum Team Metrics which discusses the necessary and sufficient metric Velocity.
Do you really need a Project Management Office? (PMO effectiveness metrics)


Categories: Blogs

Big Data for Little Problems

Big Data for Little Problems

-OR- What happens when the customer has better data about the service than the provider and has better networking, better press coverage, better clout, better market reach and reputations?


(Feb 23) My good looking wife just spent 2 hours trying to straighten out Frontier's billing machine... it's not easy.  The amazing thing I observed for my recliner while sipping an adult beverage was her influencing techniques.  Now another amazingly disconsernation (not a word) is that Frontier has some awesome support people.  But oh-my-god do they have a tough job.  It's the system that has failed.  And they have to figure out how to make some legacy piece-of-crap work.
But it's not going to lead to happy satisfied customers (testify).

Her father, Jim, moved into the home with us in December, he loves Western movies, and is an encyclopedia of knowledge better than IMDB.  So we called up Frontier (our FiOS provider for 6 years) and added cable and a voice line for Jim.  We cut the cable some years ago.

That's when the troubles began, December 28th.  A techie came out to the house and worked 6 hours, all the while on a phone line to his partner back at the home office (I now understand why it required this constant contact to install the new system).  When he left we had higher speed internet (from their 50Mbpm to 150Mbpm service), cable channels - Stars Encore Western premium channel, and a voice line (old school) phone tied to a wall socket.  Most every thing seemed good.

But the ability to login to their Frontier web site and get a TV guide didn't function, as well as some other issues of seeing our account info online.  We were told to wait a few days as the data took a while to move through their systems (in Frontier's universe data does NOT move at the speed of light).

I noticed that if one tries to take their Frontier problem to Twitter, @AskFrontier is an effective defensive machine that kicks in to appease the person.  They cannot do anything except type into a twitter post, and escalate your issue to a thing referred to as "an Account Manager".  I tried that technique and received a call one week later - yes over 6 days to address an issue raised on a social media platform know for instant messaging.


@davidakoontz If you would like an Account Manager to assist you, please send us a DM. ^KLB— Ask Frontier (@AskFrontier) February 24, 2017 Once burned - twice shy... I didn't fall for this in February.

We found out last night that while we have been paying $193 for a basic plan and the Stars Western channel - that Frontier would be happy to offer us ALL their premium channels for $198.  Something that the competition Spectrum is quoting online visible with detail for about $150ish (yes I'm writing this from memory of my influencing wife's exasperation attempting to get the support person to recognize her point of view at being fleeced by Frontier).  Frontier's business model includes an interestingly complex system of quoting the cost for a service.  They encourage one to call in to talk to their pleasant but hamstrung  sells reps.  Who can only read from a screen that may change any day now on the pricing that appears to be very time dependent (you never know if tomorrow they will have a sell and better price for what you will be receiving everyday for years to come).  Now the prices and "packages" you agree to buy will not be the names and labels on your bill.  Those will be completely different and if you can find a subset of items on your bill that sum up to the $198 you thought you had agreed to - well you should work for the IRS.

After that 2+ hour conversation with a great Frontier support specialist, my very intelligent wife influence her way to some deep refunds, and what we hope will be all the movie channels that Jim could watch in a week.  Yet after 2 solid months of working with Frontier's business model - we are done.  We plan to see what the next bill shows (it's a mystery)... and when the dust settles switch to Spectrum.

The phone logs for ONE month - let the Record show:

Frontier Customer Support Line is 800-921-8101

779 minutes of my life... give or take a migraine

Jan 25, 2017
     6:45pm Outgoing Call 2 hours 25 minutes
     1:53pm Incoming Call 1 minute
     1:28pm Outgoing Call  18 minutes
     1:16pm Outgoing Call.   9 minutes
Jan 24, 2017
     10:39am Missed Call
       7:11am Outgoing Call  54 minutes
Jan 23, 2017
     4:59 pm Outgoing Call 2 hours 10 minutes

Jan 22, 2017
     11:00am. Outgoing Call. 2 hours 22 minutes
     10:34am  Outgoing Call  22 minutes

Jan 22, 2017
     10:08am Missed Call
     10:06am Missed Call
     10:00am Missed Call
      9:59am Missed Call

Jan 21, 2017 Saturday
    8:19pm Outgoing Call. 37 minutes

Jan 16, 2017
    7:00 pm Outgoing Call. 1 hour 17 minutes
    6:38pm Outgoing Call. 58 seconds
    3:59pm Outgoing Call. 40 minutes

Dec 28, 2016
     7:41am Outgoing Call  31 minutes

Dec 27, 2016
     4:09pm  Incoming Call. 43 seconds

Dec 24, 2016
     11:18am. Outgoing Call. 14 minutes

Oh - why oh why - did Steve Jobs died before he fixed the living room TV problem?  There is no GOD.  Can an 85 year old man learn to use this complex thing call a cable box remote from his recliner and almost infinite time?
 My experiences say NO, Freaking WAY!  Hell, I can't figure this complexifictor out and I've got 30 years in the computer industry making these complexifictors for companies that say the want customer satisfaction.

After spending all this time on the phone to straighten out the tech part of the service - getting one account etc.  The next month we spent hours on the phone about billing items... my wife found a great billing support person and it appeared she was understanding and had credited our account for many things (on the order of over $300) so we thought it was all behind us.

Then we received this bill.  Most of the credits have been slightly altered and we are owing hundreds of dollars again.
"That's it - that's all I can stands - I can't stands no more."   -- Popeye.


Categories: Blogs

Empower - an action; not a command

You have not empowered a person by telling them "you are empowered."  This is a classic mistake in communication.  When one does this, they misinterpret their message, "I'm empowering you..." with the action that a verb such as empowerment requires to happen.  This person is taking a short cut, by giving the platitude of empowerment in place of any action that would be view by the other as empowering.

"When told that they are empowered to do something; this message is actually interrupted to dis-empower the persons agency."How does this misinterpretation occur?  Why do we humans mess up this simple act of communication?

Let's look at an example:

For a few months I had been working with a new team of software developers at a large organization.  Like many organizations they had already done the agile/scrum thing and it didn't work for them.  Recently the leadership had built a satellite office and started from a very small pool of tenured people to grow it's new "resource" of technical people.  This time the leadership decided that hiring some experienced people that had "done Agile" and "knew how to Scrum" might give them the needed energy to actually get somewhere with the initiative.  At least these experts could teach the new people how to do agile right.  I guess I was one of these "experts" (another term for a has-been drip under pressure).

Observing the new team for a few weeks I noticed they referred to their process by the label "kanban," yet they never appeared to move any sticky notes on their board, never made new ones or retired any old stickies.  Mostly they just pointed at them and talked about something not written on the note.  It was very difficult for the outsider (me) to follow the process they were using -- or maybe they were not using any process; and I was following them -- to nowhere.  This will take a bit more observation.

Although that was several months ago, and my memory is not the best at recovering details when there is no emotion overlaying the details, believe me there was little emotion at their stand up meetings, I'd call them boring (the meetings, not the people).  I don't remember in the 4 weeks I was observing that they ever shipped any software, never spoke about a customer visit, or discussing a solution with a customer - I don't think anything they talked about ever got done.

So, I some how convinced their manager that what they were calling a process, could not be named - and that wasn't a good thing (sorry Alexander that attribute is not the same as your "quality without a name" ).  It didn't reflect any known process.  He didn't know much about the process either.  It was labeled "kanban." Yet they didn't exhibit any of the behaviors of a team practicing the Kanban process, they didn't even know what steps the process might involve.  They had also tried scrum, but "it didn't work" either.  It was very difficult to discuss these failures with the team or the manager, they were reluctant to discuss what about the process had failed, nor what actions they implemented when these failures occurred.

I made a bold assumption - they didn't know anything about the processes they were espousing they were using.  They had been to training classes, therefore they knew ... something.  They could use the new lexicon in a sentence (90% of the time the sentences made sense).  But how do you tell someone they are ignorant (with the full meaning - that they no nothing about a subject and it's not their fault for having never been exposed properly to the knowledge).  That's a crucial conversation.  I rarely handle these well - I got lucky this time perhaps.  I suggested the team join me in a workshop to talk about the practices they are using and how these map to the Agile Manifesto.  We did this exercise and branched off into many valuable conversations.  During this exercise we decided they were already being Agile, so many of their practices supported the principles of the manifesto.  So the question was not if they were Agile, but how much was enough... could they improve their agility - did they want to try something different?  Along the way of this conversation we might have arrived at an understanding of a difference of opinion, when I used words in the lexicon I had intended to imply certain meanings that they did not intend when they used the words.  We often seemed to use similar phrases but rarely meant the same things actually happened.  That level of miscommunication can be tedious to overcome, while still keeping an open mind that the other person has something valuable to offer.

For example: they had been using the word "kanban" to describe the process they were using because that was the term applied to the Rational Team Concert (RTC) - template work flow the company created.  They had chosen that workflow because it was easier to use than the complicated scrum workflow the organization's PMO created.  Turns out it had nothing to do with the development process they were using.  They finally agreed that they were not doing Scrum, and didn't really know how to do it... they hadn't learned much from the powerpoint presentation (imagine that).

I got extremely lucky with one of the leaders of this team. She said to the team, that she thought the
team should give the scrum master (me) a chance, just go along with whatever I said, regardless of how stupid it sounded. Try it for a few weeks, it wouldn't hurt, and then in a few weeks decide if it was working for the team, or not.  I learned of this leader's suggestion to her teammates only months later.  It was without a doubt the turning point in the relationship.  After this détente, the team members began to implement with ease suggestions on how they could implement Scrum.  One might say that this leader empowered me, but never said a word about it to me.

We did more workshops in a scrumy fashion, we had a board of items to complete.  We tracked these items on a board right there in the workshop space.  Sometimes we split the topics up more.


Sometimes the topic didn't get finished in the time allotted and we had to decide if it was good enough to continue with other topics and come back later to finish the discovered aspects.  We used the rate at which we were progressing day after day to predict that we wouldn't get all of the topics covered by the end of the week.  But that was good enough, because each day the team selected the most important, most valuable topics and we put off the lease valuable.  Sometimes a topic was dependent upon another item on the board and we had to cover some of a less valuable item so that the dependency was resolved.  In these workshops we covered many Agile principles, the Scrum process framework (3 roles, 3 meetings, 3 artifacts, and a lot more), engineering  practices (many originally defined by Extreme Programming gurus), local organization customs, terms, policies, and procedures.  Much of what was suggested by some agile or scrum nutjob was in contradiction with the customs and policies of the organization - at least on the surface.  Great conversations were developed where the team joined into filling the shared pool of knowledge.  This pool of knowledge now with company and agile/scrum knowledge was easily sorted into new understanding of how both systems could co-exist and interrelate.  It wasn't easy but it generally worked.



The team started understanding the process of Scrum and working toward getting stories in the backlog to done.  Slicing stories that had proven too large in the past and delivering working software to the business each sprint.  They developed the ability to easily estimate a story or an epic set of stories within minutes.  Their ability to read their task board and predict which stories (if any) were not going to get completed within their sprint time-box that they quit wasting time tracking a sprint task burndown.  They understood that if they got into a new domain that ability might be diminished and they could easily revert to tracking task aspirin (a unit of effort; not time) on a chart in the future. The team knew their velocity and could accomplish a sprint planning session in about an hour.  They could predict when they needed to spend more time in refining tough stories before planning and they learned how to slice stories for value and leave the fluff on the cutting room floor.

But all was not well with a performing team...  (cue the scary music - set up a scene with dramatic lighting) ... the manager was looking for a way to measure the team.  And as people are wonting to do... without any thought they look for a dashboard to tell them how well the "team is being run."  They want to know if the "team is being driven at their top performance", and they need some numbers to prove it.  Generally this is a warning indication that many conversations were wasted and no learning occurred,  in hindsight the wrong person was doing too much of the talking and the other didn't draw from the pool of shared knowledge but instead just admired the pool from the shore, never bothering to enter.  The team's manager wanted me to build a dashboard tool using the company's tool of record (RTC) that would give him all the numbers that prove his team is performing well.

I've made a strategic decision over the years to not become the tooling expert - especially with the bountiful assortment of tools the software project management industry offers.  Needless to say I didn't want to become an expert in RTC (a tool rumored to be on it's way out for this organization that was in their 3rd Agile adoptions curve).  I asked what this dashboard would have on it, what it would display, etc.?  The answer fit on a sticky note, because that's what I had with me... something like velocity, the backlog, and what the team is currently working on was the manager's response.

Here's my Nth mistake.... I hoped the request would dissipate as many thing in a transition tend to do, so I wasn't motivated to create a dashboard for the manager that would reproduce the team's well maintained Scrum task board.  I offered to work with him in reading the board, he attended many of the team's Scrum sessions at the board, rarely engaged but appeared attentive.

[this story will continue ...  as I've lost my round-toit --  wonder if it's with my marbles?]

See Also:

The Rise of Emergent Organizations  by Beth Comstock

The ScrumMaster - How to develop a team - by Marcel van Hove

Categories: Blogs