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

Comment

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.

Comment

4 Quadrants + 1

Comment

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 ;-)

Comment

The Trap of being an Embedded Agile Coach

18 Comments

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.

18 Comments

Riina on Transformational Leadership

Comment

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.

Comment

Practices vs. Culture

1 Comment

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?

1 Comment

We’ve tried that before…

1 Comment

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.

1 Comment

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

1 Comment

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

1 Comment

Listen to ME!

Comment

Listen to ME!

We were sharing stories in a recent CAL class. One of the students talked about the dynamics of release engineering related to gaining customer feedback. I shared a recent post from Jason Fried where he mentioned the importance of releasing a product to get feedback. Making the point that customers are the only arbiter whether you were on track or not in your MVP development path.

Here’s the link -

https://uxplanet.org/10-things-i-learned-from-jason-fried-about-building-products-5b6694ff02aa

The young man brought up his frustration with the phenomenon of organizations often listening more to outsiders rather then listening to their own teams or internal experts. Either in person or as names being dropped in conversation.

I sometimes liken this to bandwagon syndrome and I shared on that here –

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2014/4/13/bandwagons-the-good-and-the-bad

I fully resonated with his comment. Being an outside consultant, I often hear “insiders” say something like:

I’ve been giving my leadership team that feedback for several (days, months, even years) and they’ve never really listened to me. You (consultant Bob) come in and say it once and suddenly everyone takes it seriously. 

Do you know how frustrating that is?

Actually, I do. And I’m incredibly empathetic to the point.

I remember when I was at iContact as their agile transformation coach, I had everyone’s ear for the first year or so. And my recommendations were easier to make and have them stick. But as time passed and everyone got used to my voice, stories, and style, they started to tune me out a bit.

So, this phenomenon happens to us all.

I started to bring in other thought leaders, either hired or invited, to mix the ideas (and voices) up a bit. And this seemed to work beautifully to break through the ice and renew some of my influence.

Wrapping up

While this can be a bit frustrating to folks on the inside, I think this is a natural occurrence in all organizations. Folks get accustomed to our voices and we need to augment them with book / article references, outside perspectives, and other ideas.

I think it’s simply the way it is. And you know…

It doesn’t matter where or who the idea comes from as long as the organization gains a flow of ideas, tries and experiments with new things, and continues to learn & evolve.

It’s all good.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

Comment

The Agile Coaching Dilemma

1 Comment

The Agile Coaching Dilemma

Renee Troughton is someone that I don’t follow nearly enough. But when one of her articles crosses my path, it nearly always resonates nicely with my own experience or helps define a concept or notion that I’ve been struggling with.

Renee published - What do people want agile coaches to do? on May 7th.  

I’ve found that striking the right balance (or stance) in my own agile coaching journey is a constant exercise of self-awareness, situational-awareness, and leveraging all my years of experience. It’s really, really hard.

Here’s a snippet from Renee’s article that explains the dilemma from her perspective –

I have had a lot of feedback in the past that I tend to be different from other coaches. I’ve even seen people refer to coaches as two different types, often not in good terms. One commentator referred to the schism as “fluffy agile sprinkles coaches” who are all oriented around mindset and “delivery coaches” who are all oriented around practices and techniques. To this commentator, the middle ground of coaches who are both and have the expertise to know when to use one approach over the other is a dark art that few know well.

1 Comment

Back to Basics…Part Deux

Comment

Back to Basics…Part Deux

In May of 2018, I published this Back to Basics post -  

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2018/3/5/back-to-agile-basics

The intent was to refocus attention back to some of the original thinking and mindset of the early days of agile. Not to sound too nostalgic, but life was much simpler then.

I want to add to the list I shared then:

If you want to get back to the roots of agility I encourage you to research the following…

And you might want to investigate how Spotify is implementing agile practices. Not putting them up on a pedestal but considering them a role model for learning the basics of agility in practice. https://www.infoq.com/news/2016/10/no-spotify-model

Comment