Music City Agile

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Music City Agile

My colleague Mary Thorn and I just got back from speaking at Music City Agile.

It was our first time going there and it was a wonderful event. There were about 850 total attendees. Everyone was very engaging, curious, and excited about the conference.

One thing we realized was that the conference hadn’t asked us for materials. So, we’re posting them here and hoping that attendees can pick them up.

  • We delivered a 1/2 day workshop on Agile Leadership on Thursday.

  • Then I delivered a talk entitled - Putting the STORY Back into the User Story

  • And we wrapped up by delivering a talk entitled - Agile Scaling, Having it YOUR way.

You can grab the slides here.

It was GREAT meeting everyone and we hope we get the chance to return next year.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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The Trap of being an Embedded Agile Coach –  following up…

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The Trap of being an Embedded Agile Coach – following up…

The original post on this topic was one of my more popular posts. As of, August 14th, 2019, it’s received: 

  • On LinkedIn, ~9,500 views, 86 reactions, and 40 comments

  • On my website, ~2,500 views and 18 comments 

What’s particularly noteworthy for me is the number of comments and the overall depth, breadth, and thoughtfulness of them.

Here’s a link to the LinkedIn post - https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6561537228772831232/

And here’s a link to my original blog post - http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2019/6/23/the-trap-of-being-an-embedded-agile-coach

As I review the comments and thought about the article and my original intentions, I realized that a follow-up would be helpful.

I want to react to some of the comments, but I also want to clarify some of my intentions in the article. As I think some folks might have misinterpreted them. And this is mostly due to my writing.

That being said, I’m not apologizing for the original article. I think it represented my thinking…and still does. I’d just like to clarify a few things.

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12 Considerations for User Story Spikes

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12 Considerations for User Story Spikes

I periodically do a coaching circle as a service to our agile community. I invite anyone to it and it’s free. Think of it as a Lean Coffee format discussion with folks looking for coaching advice.

This question came up the other day:

I'd like to hear how your teams handle spikes - do spikes have acceptance criteria - yes/no? Do spikes have story points yes/no?

And it generated quite a nice discussion around the idea of spikes. And it made me think about whether I’ve ever written about them before. I was shocked to realize that I really hadn’t done a deep dive into my thoughts on spiking. Well, here goes nothing…

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Product Owners – can / should they weigh-in on story estimates?

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Product Owners – can / should they weigh-in on story estimates?

I engaged a contractor to come over to my home the other day to give me an estimate for doing some external work on my house. I needed some carpentry repairs to my siding, a few windows replaced, and a few repairs to my screened-in porch. 

The weather has been challenging lately in NC so the house has taken on some damage. Not too much, but I like to stay ahead of things regarding maintenance.

He gave me an estimate for his time (hours) and costs to repair each item.

I was sort of taken aback by the estimates. They seemed much longer/larger than the ones I had done on my own so I shared them with him.

When I did, he gave me a sideways stare. He said that if I wanted to do the work, then my estimates were valid. But if I wanted him to do the work, then mine were irrelevant. He noted that this is what he did for a living, that he had glowing recommendations (he did!) and that he stood by his estimates as valid.

He also mentioned that, with all due respect, I was biased. I was the customer so I saw things in a different light (easier, quicker, lower cost) then he did. He also mentioned that I had little (recent) experience ;-)

In the end, he said that I either trusted him or not. And he asked – did I want him to do the job?

I quickly apologized for my presumptuousness, and wholeheartedly said YES.

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4 Quadrants + 1

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4 Quadrants + 1

One of the product owner models that I’ve been sharing for many years is the 4-Quadrants of Product Ownership. I write about it in my new Scrum Product Ownership book and I’ve also shared it in this blog post.

But it recently struck me that I missed an important aspect of Product Ownership when I explored the quadrants.  

I think there should also be a quadrant that focuses on:

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-care

  • Personal growth & learning

  • And personal happiness

I know and can read your mind.

How in the world could I have “left out” these personal attributes? To be honest, I’m embarrassed. But that being said, it’s not too late to correct this wrong ;-)

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The Trap of being an Embedded Agile Coach

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The Trap of being an Embedded Agile Coach

I was having dinner the other evening with a few agile coaches after teaching a CAL class all day. I think we all wanted to “trap” each other into either: 

  • Revealing our coaching secrets

  • Checking to see where out passions lie

  • Challenging each other on our “agility”

  • And simply, learning from one another

It was a small group and we engaged in some serious discussion and debate around our agile experiences and how to help our client engagements.

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Riina on Transformational Leadership

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Riina on Transformational Leadership

Riina Hellström is the CEO of a Finnish company focused on Agile HR. She often writes about topics related to that area and I really like here style. 

She is a no nonsense, straight-shooter who you can tell has lots of experience collaborating with leadership teams.

Not that long ago, she wrote a piece in a LinkedIn comment about how she approaches agile transformations. I thought I’d share it with you…

  1. Grill the CEO or Unit head before you start teaching them Agile. Tell her/him that she/he is 100% responsible for making agile work.

  2. Train the Leadership team in Agile for 2 days - make them go through a mind-blowing transformation backlog building exercise together. It must hurt. Grill them all - tell them nothing’s going to happen if none of you actually take an item off that backlog and finish it. Very few of these people have been very action oriented lately. It is a stretch to them to actually see that shit gets done.

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Practices vs. Culture

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Practices vs. Culture

I saw a LinkedIn discussion thread that was initiated by Allen Holub. The initial post was: 

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6503389838526468096

What practices are best at promoting culture? A couple years back, Robert Martin and I had a somewhat public debate about whether culture or practices come first. Bob advocates the shu-ha-ri approach: start doing practices, even by rote, and the culture will naturally arise. He used someone bowing when stepping on the mat as an example. At first, it's just rote. Eventually, respect emerges. I took the opposite approach: start with culture and good practices will emerge. If you have a culture of trust and autonomy, better lead time is a natural outcome.

In the real world of consulting, however, it's very difficult to *start* with culture. The people writing the checks typically want to improve something more hands on. So, my question is: in that world, where you need to start with practices, which practices (if any) lead to a good culture the fastest? If you're introducing practices in order to change culture, which practices would you introduce? I have my own ideas, but I'm interested in your experience.

I’d like to riff off of this a bit. I’m thinking of a couple of things:

  • Do practices lead to culture OR flip it. I think it’s a flip and Allen seems to agree BUT then backs off because it’s hard.

  • Is that the right approach? Or is it a business-related copout?

  • And what about the idea of Culture Hacking. Which I haven’t heard a lot about lately. Could that be part of it.

I like this post because it gets to the root of what a view as a BIG problem. And if everyone ignores it, where does it leave us?

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We’ve tried that before…

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We’ve tried that before…

Many years ago, I volunteered to help a local conference team reenergize their conference program. They had been putting on the conference for a number of years and were looking for some new, fresh, and outside opinions on how to change the format and reenergize it. 

You see attendance was declining, not too much, but a troubling trend. And attendee feedback, while positive, pointed to getting a bit bored with the current repeating recipe.

We went out to dinner to brainstorm. It was attended by the long-time program chair and an invited set of 4-5 outsiders who were asked for their ideas.

We’ve tried that before…

As the dinner commenced, the introductory conversations turned into a brainstorming session All seemed to be going swimmingly and I was excited about the possibilities.

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Opportunities in an Iteration or Sprint, Review and/or Demo

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Opportunities in an Iteration or Sprint, Review and/or Demo

I was reading a blog post from a coach who was working with a continuous deployment team. In essence, every story (work item, PBI, etc.) from their sprint made it into the customers hands immediately. They received feedback on each in real-time and took follow-up actions as appropriate.

Since they were using Scrum, they were still conducting a Sprint Review every few weeks. The coaches question related to the value of the review. As it seemed that everyone was questioning it in this particular context. That is, since they saw (and accepted) things in real-time, what was the need to see them again in a review? Or were they just doing it because the Scrum Guide said to do it?

And the backstory was that the coach was struggling with dogmatic Scrum in the organization. I.e., doing things just because the book said to do them, rather than thinking and adapting.

This question made me think a bit about Sprint Reviews. And it led to the following online response to that coach –

My reply

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