Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Agile (but not now...) Manifesto

If you are not ready for the manifesto, here is a revised version...

- They(*) insist on the process
- They(*) insist on documentation
- They(*) don't allow us to bypass the contract
- The plan is binding.

That is, while we value doing the right thing, we value keeping our job/ playing it safe more. 

(*) See previous post about who 'They' are...

Who is the They that is blocking You?

Most people think they are better than average. (or so 'they' say...)

I ran a session yesterday - an introduction to Agile.

A group of people (managers, Scrum Masters, Analysts, you know - people...) was introduced to the Agile Manifesto.

The manifesto is basically a short belief system in the format of:

We value X over Y  (example: we value Responding to change over following a plan)


Hence, after a short discussion about the short value-set, I asked them to vote.
Q: For each of the four - do you agree
(1: I value the one on the right more, 3: I value both the same, 5: I value the one on the left more)

Summing the results, it sounded promising!

- Votes on all four values were in the 3-5 range. (example: we indeed value Responding to change over following a plan)
- Hence, everyone is aligned on the value-set! great news!

Perceived misalignment

Next question: Does your environment share these values? (to what extent do the entities you interact with value Responding to change over following a plan?)

And (as you might expect?) most results are in the 2-3 range (They value Following a plan over Responding to change!! )

And now, for the key question...
Who are these They?

Perceptional bias?

And then it hit me!

Assuming the people in the session represent the organization, how come everyone's surrounding values agility less than the people in the room?

Hence They, are the perceived We!

Could it be that everyone is reluctant to "go agile" because everyone is afraid of everyone's response? everyone wants to change but thinks the others will resist??

Think about it 'till nextime, will you?

Your Scrum'em Bear.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kick-starting a backlog

Another one of the "so I don't forget" series.

We had a session with some stakeholders this week - to start a product backlog.

Purpose was to create an initial backlog big enough to cover the following 2-4 sprints.

Damien started by presenting the purpose, and asking participants to present themselvs, and their expectations from the workshop.

Next, we described shortly the suggested format (as explained below)

And then the fun begins !

Gather features:

  1. All participants were asked to write on a postit (the Agilists ultimate tool ;) The SINGLE most valuable feature they would like in the product.
  2. All postits were explained briefly and merged (if needed)
  3. All postits were broken down to the smallest features that still bring value <Picture to be added> using a different color postit. (and we marked some id on them to link them to the parent story (Epic)
  4. Next we repeat step 1, for any missing feature (and repeat steps 2 and 3)
  5. Next we ask if anyone has a feature they think are more important than the least important story (in her/ his eyes), and repeat the process one last time

Now we have a list of the most important features!


We layed all the feature cards on the table in a random order, and ask the team to (silently!) take turns in switch the order of two cards (bubble sort) until a reasonable order is reached. <photo>

Storyfying the features:

  1. We took the most important story, and ran a small workshop to understand
    • Who is the story for
    • What is the addressed need
    • What is the expected benefit 
    • What is the proposed solution
    • What would you expect to see in a demo?

      (Or, in otherwords - make a Story out of the selected feature)
  2. We distributed A4 papers, split the team to three (we had two BAs in the sessions to help) and asked each team (in a timeboxed manner) to take one of the three first features and:
    • Write the story on a page. (as described above)
    • Present the story to the team (and modify accordingly)
  3. Then we took the next three stories and (rince and repeat... - well - you get the idea!)
    (One thing we forgot to do is change the teams each iteration (some teams are slower/ more theril, others are faster/ shallow, we want the team to evolve...))
We explained that:
  • The backlog is a living document, so priorities can be changed, and stories can be added/ removed/ changed all the time (except if they are in the current iteration)
  • Other stakeholders will intervene and add their stories, so we need a mechanism to shre priorities with other participants (and it is the role of the PO to facilitate this process)
  • We don't have any estimates yet, but we will update the stakeholders once we start having them.
  • We received a great feedback
  • The only regreat is that not all relevant stakeholders were present.

Hope you enjoyed reading my note! ;)

The Scrum 'em bear.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Iterative Fruit-salad

So, after we have estimated our fruit salad, let's get our hands dirty!

After last time we prioritized and estimated out fruits, now it’s time to get our hands sticky!


  • An excited team (10 people) with some budget to go and buy fruits during lunch break.
  • A workspace (kitchen).
  • Some basic tool: 2 boards, 6 knives, Some bowls and spoons

We create an expert team, who know about fruit-salad, and they just received their first customer!

First iteration:
Damien meets the team and describes his needs:
- I have 6 friends coming from France, and would like to offer them some fruit salad, what can you offer?

Team asks a few questions, like:
- Do you have allergies? (Smart! We planned an allergy in one iteration!)
- When is it?
And Damien’s response is basically - you are the experts, I trust you. I’ll come back in 5 minutes to see what you can offer.

And the team offers damien to have small two salads ready for the demo so he can understand better what is possible to produce.

They decide to split in two and start working frantically…
Cut them fruits!

When Damien comes back after 5 minutes, they happily present him with…
...Two identical big salads…
Two identical salads, find the difference...

The disappointed is written all over his face, he was expecting two…

but then he tastes them!
And we find out that:
- He is looking for a much sweeter salad
- More finely cut
- And more esthetic.

Also - he adores this small fruit that he never tried!!!

So, what can we improve?

We started to have tons of proposals for improvement, we need a paper-board to write all of them!

Oranges would be great! and we may not have oranges - but we have a near-by drink distribution machine, could we use ready-made orange juice?

Second iteration:
Damien is willing to try orange-juice in the salad but isn't sure he will like it,
and the team commits to four different salads for the next sprint! but asks for 10 minutes!!!
- Damien says it is too much, since his guests are coming soon and he won’t tell them to reschedule their visit just because there is a problem with desert, right?!
- Oh, turns out Damien may be allergic to the strange fruit he likes so much...

Team is much more organized, there is an owner for the clock, to warn everyone 2 minutes before delivery (so they prepare a nice demo)

During the demo:
Orange guice in the salad is nice (not too much though), in fact he likes the salad not to be too dry... , and some fruits are left out.

Also - the easthetics still needs improvement.

And the demo work so well Damien is happy to give the team an advance! So they can buy better tools (an apple peeler and another cutting board!)

An excellent demo from Ram the vegeterian, he sure knows his salad!

Third iteration
Damien’s friends are arriving soon, he has to have the fruit salads at the end of the iteration!
Turns out he didn’t have an allergy after all!
And a news flash! there are only three friends arriving and one of them has melon allergy

The team is eager to deliver!

In the middle of the sprint they have a brilliant idea! Let’s delight our customer! We will add m&ms as a side-dish (since we have more budget, and the vending machine is nearby)

Then the demo arrives, we have a lovely table, an m&m dish, but…
...only two dishes are ready…

(Damien is happy about the m&ms but really disappointed only two salads are ready…)

Perhaps it would have been better to assure delivery before extras feature?

As a last exchange, damien is asked what is his favorite desert in the world?
The surprising answer is: chocolate!
Luckily we had a tablet of Dark Chocolate With A Touch Of Sea Salt!!!

Sometimes the solution is simple if you understand the need and not just the requirement, I guess ;)

All’s well that ends well

Personal learning:

  • We didn't force the team to work in 'scrum', the customer wanted iterations and had time constraints, and the team self-organized around it.
  • The whole exercise tool about 90 minutes, we wanted to add two more iterations but we ran out of fruits...
  • If you don't wash the dishes end of each iterations, at some points you spend unexpected time to wash them (technical debt?), so you have an iteration where you deliver less.
  • The main value was from authentic emergance in the team and with the PO.

Oh, and if you do the exercise, remember to buy more fruit, I asked the group to buy enough for the whole team but they were too modest...

And don't forget to thank the creator of this activity !

Till nextime!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Agile France - ☯ Mindfulness & Agile ☯

Was a great session yesterday!!

Will probably put all materials here, but I'll start with the slides:
(Feel free to leave comments - en Fran├žais!)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fruit salad estimation

As part of a scrum training, I ran a great activity today, (in France)
(And I just ran it again - 6 monhs later in Thailand)

(I am writing very lean, so I won't forget, expect updates soon...)
(But will try to intertwine my fresh experience...)

To learn estimates, I have prepared cards with names of about 50 fruits, some exotic, some (like tomatoes) non-fitting a fruit-salad (or maybe yes?), some non-fruits (mint, ginger), etc.
- Since We have people from Thailand and India, I've put Thai-specific and Indian-specific people can bring different knowledge to the team)

- The participants (15) were split to three teams, and I have split my deck to three as well (randomly).

First task for each team:
- Could you sort the deck you received by value - hence, if this fruit was cut so it can be part of a fruit salad, what would be its value (consider color, taste, texture, exotic-ness, etc),
I dont ask for a value, just for the order
(- You can use a voting mechanism if you want)
 (3 minutes, and 5 in Thailand)

Second task for all the teams:
Merge the three decks into a big one. so I can have a big deck sorted by value.

Hence: now we have an initial backlog!

At the end of this iteration there was about half the deck that was not sorted - since they considered all these are not worth the effort (a tomato, ginger, etc)

Third task for each team:

- Now I split the deck I received to three, keeping the order (if the deck was 123456789....., first team receives 147... second 258.... and third 369...)
- They are asked to estimate the work it takes to cut each fruit in Half-Banana points.
- Hence if cutting a banana is an effort of 2, how much effort is cutting an apple?
(a small retro to see if they leaned something about fruit cutting in this discussion - indeed! a Kiwi is easy to peel with a spoon!)
- Each team gets the estimates of one other team to see if they (more or less) agree.

Fourth task:
- Now that you know the effort, would you like to re-work the order?
We tried several ways to work - the one that worked best is this:
We have put all the card on the table in order, and each team member can switch the order of two cards... BUT IN TOTAL SILENCE
worked like magic!!

Hench we:
- created an ordered backlog
- estimated the most relevant items
- did a backlog grooming.

And tomorrow - to finish off:
I'm buying the fruits they chose and we are having a fruit-salad Scrum project... (shhhh... don't tell anyone - it is a surprise...)

Thanks to Lyssa Adkins for the inspiration!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

☯ The team-management Koan ☯

How do you manage a self-managed team?

Challenge (extra bonus):
Once you reach enlightenment, please try:
1. Drawing the org-chart
2. Explaining this to HR/Management