Back to Agile Basics

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Back to Agile Basics

There’s been a movement afoot in the agile community for a while. It’s about getting back to basics. I characterize it as:

  • Agile leadership is nice, but…
  • Agile planning & forecasting is nice, but…
  • Agile Project Managers are great, but…
  • All the certifications are nice, but…
  • Scaling frameworks are nice, but…
  • Accenture, Gartner, etc. interest is nice, but…
  • DevOps and Business Agility are nice, but…
  • Adoption, transformation, etc. are nice, but…
  • Making $billions is nice, but…

We’ve lost the essence of agility. We’ve forgotten the very things that got everyone excited in the first place. The simplicity. The power of the team. The results that an engaged customer can inspire.

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Guidance for Soliciting (Receiving) Feedback

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Guidance for Soliciting (Receiving) Feedback

We’ve all been there. Someone walks up to you in the hallway, musters up their courage and gives the gift that keeps on giving – direct, thoughtful, feedback.

In this case, I’m presuming it’s constructive or otherwise challenging feedback to share with you. And if you’re a leader within the organization, you have to realize that it was probably hard for them to muster the courage to give you that feedback. Let’s say it’s critical.

Or conversely, you're walking down the hall and run into a colleague. And you ask them for feedback on how you're handling yourself in a critical agile project. As a leader. Again, they muster up their courage and share honest and open feedback with you.

So, what is the next thing you do?

Of course, you don’t:

  • Consider it a gift;
  • Thoughtfully digest it;
  • Look for the “truth” in it;
  • Thank the person for their candor;
  • Ask them for any other feedback;
  • Confirm an example that supports the feedback;
  • Ask clarifying questions to better understand the feedback.

Instead, you ask them for precise examples that support the feedback they just gave you. Probing, inquiring, and looking for direct evidence. Picture an episode of Law & Order. Clearly, putting them on the defensive and making the feedback their challenge versus your own.

If you’ve followed my writing, you know that I’m quite enamored with Kim Scott and her Radical Candor book. (check out another post here) I saw this blogs picture on a LinkedIn post and it inspired me to write this short reply.

The "Gift"

Whenever someone gives you constructive feedback, you want to consider it a gift. Don’t challenge them. And don't ask them for "supporting evidence".

Instead, simply accept it and consider it. Most of the time, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Forget about setting goals?

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Forget about setting goals?

For years and years, I've been a strong advocate of goal-setting within your agile teams. Ares where I think goals are important include:

  • At the daily stand, focusing the conversations towards the teams' goals;
  • During sprint planning and at the sprint review, focus towards the sprint goal;
  • If you're doing releases, ala SAFe release trains or a similar mechanism, then having a release-level goal is important;
  • To me, Definition of Done and Definition of Ready, are goal-oriented. Providing clarity on the teams' constraints;

But...

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Hiring a ScrumMaster?

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Hiring a ScrumMaster?

Introduction

A colleague of mine in Dallas, Jack Schwartz, sent me an email asking the following:

Bob,

I’m working on a presentation focused towards Hiring a ScrumMaster and I wonder if you could provide some insights to the following questions:

  • What are the top skills you like to see in a good Scrum Master?
  • How can a hiring manager tell if a prospect is truly an agilest and not just using scrum words with ‘legacy’ project management? (other than clairvoyance)

Thanks,

Jack.

Well, Jack here is my initial stab at a response…

What are the top skills you like to see in a good ScrumMaster?

Well, first I’d like to say what I’m not looking for:

  • I’m not looking for someone who is strong in a functional area within the team. For example, if I’m staffing for a ScrumMaster in a team with a weak or non-existent Development Team Lead in it, I’m not looking for the SM to fill that role. Or an equivalent, PO, UX, BA, Testing, or any other role. If I have a skills gap or weakness in a team, I need to fill that with someone with those skills.

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Recommending Lean Agile Intelligence

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Recommending Lean Agile Intelligence

February 5, 2018

I’m experienced enough in the Scrum community to remember several early attempts at assessing the maturity of agile and Scrum teams.

My point in taking you down “history lane” is that agile assessment tools and frameworks have been thought about since ~2007. So, for the past 10+ years.

The problem is, that none of these, and the ones introduced later, have really done an effective job of helping teams improve.

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Is Leadership a Lonely Place to Be?

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Is Leadership a Lonely Place to Be?

I came across a blog post by Tricia Broderick in January 2018. I often read Tricia’s thoughts and really enjoy her perspectives. This one was entitled Leadership Is Lonely and it largely lamented this aspect of leadership. To her credit, Tricia shared some activities that leaders could use to combat the effects of the inherent loneliness.

But I wanted to provide a different take or perspective.

I’ve been in leadership roles for over 25 years. In the early days of my leadership journey, I felt very much like Tricia. In fact, it was one of my early and shocking discoveries of leadership.

When I wasn’t leading, I was “friends” with most of my work colleagues.

But when I was promoted to a leadership role, things changed. I was no longer Bob. I suddenly became “the Boss”. And in today’s terms, that often meant being equated to the pointy-haired boss in the Dilbert cartoons. It also meant that it was suddenly a very lonely place to be.

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GO EAGLES!

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GO EAGLES!

I’m originally from central Pennsylvania, having grown up on a farm in Lancaster County. We were about an hour and a half from Philadelphia. And you couldn’t help but connect to the local Philly teams.

The Eagles are one of those teams that always seemed to struggle, yet the local fan base is incredibly loyal to them. Disgruntled, complaining, obnoxious, whiney, but still loyal. And I am one of those diehard Eagles fans.

Now I moved away from Pennsylvania in the 1980’s. But my heart is still with those sports teams. So, you can imagine how I felt when the Eagles won the 2017 Super Bowl.

Elated, surprised, justified, humbled, fulfilled are some of the feelings that came to me.

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3 Key Agile-centric Metrics

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3 Key Agile-centric Metrics

My friend and colleague Shaun Bradshaw and I were coaching at a client recently. We started to have a conversation about velocity, not directly driven by the clients’ context, but simply in general.

Shaun was focused on velocity as a relevant metric within agile teams to drive conversations between teams and upper management. And I was struggling to “get there”.

Part of his focus was to create visibility around the difference between average velocity and current sprint velocity. Furthermore, the teams and management would be able to see:

  • Velocity gaining stability over time (predictability, low variance)
  • And increasing over time (short-term burst)

As part of newly formed and/or newly coached agile teams.

Now I really get what he was saying. And I agree that teams in these contexts should be displaying activity and behavior towards those two results.

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Communicating with Metaphor’s

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Communicating with Metaphor’s

One of the things that I’ve come to value in my agile journey is our local Raleigh / Durham agile community. It’s one that I’ve had a hand in creating and guiding over the years. But one that’s taken on a life of its own.

I can’t tell you how many wonderful agilists are here in my local area. Some are:

Mary Thorn, Josh Anderson, Ken Pugh, Jason Tanner, Laurie Williams, Agile Bill Krebs, Andy Hunt, Ken Auer, Catherine Louis, Cory Bryan, Jeff Barschaw, Tom Wessel, my colleagues at Zenergy Technologies, and the leaders of our local AgileRTP and ALN groups. Literally, we have a community of thousands in our Meetup groups and our local TriAgile conference draws 500+ folks annually.

www.triagile.com

A couple of other local folks that I want to call out are Laura Burke Olsen, Arjay Hinek, and Matt Phillips. They are collaborators in a group/website entitled Collaboration Explored. It is a website focused on Collaboration inspired by the late Jean Tabaka. I think it’s wonderful that these folks (and others) are continuing the work that Jean inspired.

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Bob’s 8-Rules of Agile Architecture, part-2

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Bob’s 8-Rules of Agile Architecture, part-2

In the first part of this post, we explored these “rules”:

  1. Allow Architecture to Emerge
  2. Treat it Like a Product
  3. A Picture is Worth…
  4. Everyone IS an Architect and Everyone OWNS the Architecture

Now, I’d like to continue sharing the final set of four rules for your consideration in your agile architectural travels.

#5) Keep it Simple and Connect to the Customer

This one is quite near and dear to my heart. Why might you ask? Because I really like complexity. I like engineering complex solutions to simple…complex customer problems. And it’s also quite comfortable for me to fall into that over-engineering, gold-plating, doing more than is required mindset.

Why?

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