What Does Agile Mean to You?

Over on Techwell, my monthly column is Agile Does Not Equal Scrum: Know the Difference. I wrote the article because I am tired of people saying “Agile/Scrum” as if Scrum was the only way to do agile. I use iterations, kanban, and the XP technical practices when I work with teams. I am not religious about the “right” way to do agile. I like any combination of approaches that help a team deliver value often. I like anything that helps a team to get feedback on their work and their team process. I like anything that helps management ask the right questions and create an environment in which teams can succeed. Dogma doesn’t work very well for me. (I know, you are so surprised.) If you are thinking about your agile approach, ask yourself, “What does agile mean to me? What value will agile deliver?” Before you decide on an approach, answer that question. You might be more Dan in my most recent Pragmatic Manager, Define Your Agile Success. Once you know what agile means to you, you might start to read more about possibilities that fit for you. If you are a leader in your organization trying to use agile more effectively, consider participating in the Influential Agile...

Value of Burndown and Burnup Charts

I met a team recently who was concerned about their velocity. They were always “too late” according to their manager. I asked them what they measured and how. They measured the burndown for each iteration. They calculated the number of points they could claim for each story. Why? Because they didn’t always finish the stories they “committed” to for each iteration. This is what their burndown chart looked like. A burndown chart measures what you have finished. If you look at their burndown, you can see there are times when not much is done. Then, near the end of the iteration, they finish more. However, they don’t finish “everything” before they run out of time. An iteration is a timebox, by definition. In this case, having to “declare victory” and assess what they were doing should have helped them. But, when this team saw the burndown, two interesting things happened. They beat themselves up for not finishing. And, when they didn’t finish everything, they didn’t always do a retrospective. In addition, the product owner often took the unfinished work and added it to the next iteration’s work. Yes, added, not replaced. That meant they never caught up. They tried this burndown chart next, to see if they could meet their ideal. They realized they were “late,” off the ideal line from Day 2. They felt worse about themselves. They stopped doing retrospectives, which meant they had no idea why they were “late.” A burndown emphasizes what you have completed. A burndown with the “ideal” line emphasizes what you have done and what you “should” be doing. I have used story...

Influential Agile Leader, Boston and London, 2016

Is your agile transition proceeding well? Or, is it stuck in places—maybe the teams aren’t improving, maybe the people are multitasking, maybe you are tired and don’t know how you’ll find the energy to continue. You are the kind of person who would benefit from the Influential Agile Leader event in Boston, April 6-7, and in London, May 4-5, 2016. Gil Broza and I co-facilitate. It’s experiential, so you learn by doing. You practice your coaching and influence in the mornings. You’ll have a chance to map your organizational dynamics to see where to put your energy. You’ll split into smaller sessions in the afternoon, focusing on your business challenges. If you would like to bring your agile transition to the next level, or, at the very least, unstick it, please join us. Super early bird registration ends January 31 for London. Our super early bird for Boston is sold out, and the early bird registration is still a steal. If you have questions, please post a comment or email me. Hope to work with you there. (See the servant leadership tag for the Pragmatic Manager  and the leadership tag on this blog to see relevant articles I’ve written...

Four Tips for Pair Writing

I am shepherding an experience report for XP 2016. A shepherd is sort-of like a technical editor. I help the writer(s) tell their story in the best possible way. I enjoy it and I learn from working with the authors to tell their stories. The writers for this experience report want to pair-write. They have four co-authors. I offered them suggestions you might find useful: Tip 1: Use question-driven writing When you think about the questions you want to answer, you have several approaches to whatever you write. An experience report has this structure: what the initial state was and the pain there; what you did (the story of your work, the experience); and the end state, where you are now. You can play with that a little, but the whole point of an experience report is to document your experience. It is a story. If you are not writing an experience report, organize your writing into the beginning, middle, end. If it’s a tips piece, each tip has a beginning, middle, end. It depends on how long the piece is. When you use question-driven writing, you ask yourself, “What do people need to know in this section?” If you have a section about the software interacting with the hardware, you can ask the “What do people need to know” and “How can I show the interactions with bogging down in too much detail” questions. You might have other questions. I find those two questions useful. Tip 2: Pair-write I do this in several ways with my coauthors. We often discuss for a few minutes what we want to...

Terrific Question for Assessing Culture in a Job Search

In The One Question You Should Ask About Every New Job, Grant says, Ask people to tell you a story about something that happened at their organization but wouldn’t elsewhere. There are four categories of stories: The human-ness of senior management (or not) Promotion opportunities for anyone How the organization fires/lays off The consequences for mistakes A terrific question for cultural fit. Does this organization make decisions the way you want a potential employer to make decisions? Grant goes on to ask about the one universal practice: How does this organization have meetings?  (See Ask Questions of the Hiring Manager and the Interview Team for this and other questions.) If you have not articulated your values—what culture means for you—consider drawing a timeline of your career. (I have more guidance in Manage Your Job Search, but the blog post is a good start.) If you interview with enough people, you can ask these questions during your interview. You can ask the questions on a phone screen. Don’t wait to ask until the interviewing is over and you already have an offer to ask. That’s a little late. You can rule out toxic cultures before...