Thoughts for improving your business

What is agile? Get in touch

Sarajevo Special Product Owner Training

Studies* show that certain memories help us learn and remember more effectively. Combine a course with a team building exercise, an appraised movie, and you have something amazing – a training with lasting impact.
This is exactly what we wanted to achieve with the first Bosnia Agile organised Product Owner training.
The PSPO (link) training was build around two events, the Sarajevo Film Festival  and a rafting team building exercise. It does not come as a surprise that this event was sold out 6 weeks ahead.
IMG_7772 20140823_125104
Between watching a great movie ‘The Railway Man‘ and rafting in this beautiful region, the students where also learning everything important about Scrum, value, lean and agile product ownership. Since I was the trainer it might sound pretentious from me to say how awesome this training was, but in all modesty, it truly was. It was an outstanding and new experience not just for myself. I made many friends and shared many great moments with my fellow students. I am sure that Sarajevo played a big part in this. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is a very dynamic and friendly city surrounded by beautiful nature and with good reason was the host for the ’84 Winter Olympics. I for myself cannot wait to go there again.
25 happy Product Owners and a happy trainer cannot be wrong. We have been so pleased that the organisers and I decided to repeat this setup once again next year.
If you live somewhere in the EU you should consider combining education with worthwhile memories. More training content will stick and even better, you will have more fun learning. Consider this: even with budgeting in the costs of transportation and accommodation, it is probably still cheaper than your near-by training provider.
See you next year at the 21st Sarajevo Film Festival …
20140823_123552 20140822_115801 20140822_115508

Half-Life of commitments

Half-life is the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. 

During private PSF (Profession Scrum Foundation) classes my students create a Change Backlog. The idea of this backlog is to codify the things that need to be changed in order to become agile. Actually, after they finished creating the backlog I ask them to put a name on each sticky note, meaning that the person whose name is on the note is responsible for acting on that item and is accountable for it. Finally, I ask them right away to define a date at which they will review this backlog. Inspect and Adapt.

I am doing this to avoid the training conundrum ‘Yeah, this has all been very interesting but right now I don’t have the time and right situation at hand …’

In my opinion if you don’t go out immediately after the training and walk the talk, your motivation will decrease rather dramatically. Not that I have researched, but my feeling tells me that the half-life is about one week. So, after two weeks your motivation is down to a quarter.

Also, I see best results when whole teams get a company private class. Even better when their superiors join in too, if not for the entire training but for the last 3 hours of the second day when we create the Change Backlog. This exercise creates a transparency which hardly can be reproduced in a later setting. At the end of day two, most of my students are really enthusiastic to get started and the managers sense this as well. 

High chances of success: An enthusiastic team with management support: you are ready to roll on your path to agility.

The Antibiotics of Software Engineering – Agile Testing

Surgery is not a recent invention, it dates back millennia. 

Notable Milestones in Surgical History (

6,500 B.C.E. – Skulls found in France show signs of a rudimentary surgery called trepanation, which involves drilling a hole in the skull.
1540 C.E. – English barbers and surgeons unite to form The United Barber-Surgeons Company. These barber-surgeons performed tooth extractions and blood letting. Physicians were considered an entirely different profession, treating illness with medications.
1818 – First transfusion of human blood.
1843 – First hysterectomy performed, in England.
1843 – First use of ether.
1867 – British surgeon Joseph Lister publishes Antiseptic Principle in the Practice of Surgery, extolling the virtues of cleanliness in surgery. The mortality rate for surgical patients immediately falls.
1885 – First successful appendectomy performed, in Iowa.
1890s – Widespread use of chemical agents to minimize germs. Carbolic acid was put on incisions to minimize germs and decrease infection rates.
1896 – First successful heart surgery performed, in Germany. Surgeons repaired a stab wound in the muscle of the right ventricle.
1905 – First successful cornea transplant.
1917 – First documented plastic surgery performed, on a burned English sailor.
1928 – Antibiotics discovered.

Even if the procedure was successful, often the patient suffered and usually died of subsequent infections. 
Also, not to ignore is the discovery of Ingnaz Semmelweis, a physician at a Vienna hospital. While working at a Vienna hospital in 1847 he discovered that far more women died after childbirth by the so called childbed fever in the medical ward then in the midwifes ward. Semmelweis postulated the presence and spreading of germs causing the illness by doctors. Even though, after applying a chlorine and lemon based hand-wash solution the death rate could be reduced from ~35% to 1%, he was being labeled a heretic by the doctors. Ignaz Semmelweis was ignored until Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory.

Now, after it was accepted that germs caused infections and that hygiene was mandatory for good outcomes it became also obvious that there was a need to have a treatment once an infection set in. As listed above, on September 3rd  in 1928 Alexendar Flemming discovered the antibiotic effect of Penecillin and transformed medicine as we know it. Nowadays, antibiotics are used to treat all kinds of infections and antibiotics are prescribed in a preventive manner for many medical procedures. 

In software development we are able to develop rather fast and make significant changes to existing systems quickly. However, after these procedures the system often falls sick, suffering from bugs, side-effects and other ailments. I like to consider these as infections. Those infections even arise after well planned and executed engineering efforts.
The fundamental question is, how can we cope with them or even better avoid them – what is the the antibiotic equivalent in programming?
For me, the answer is: Agile Testing

Agile Testing is the process to validate that new functionality performs correctly and more importantly to verify that the existing behavior has not changed – that no infection has set in.

1. We have proof that the current system is healthy before the procedure starts
2. We are able to monitor the systems health during the procedure
3. We can intervene the moment side effects set in
4. We have proof that the procedure was successful 

A well done Agile Testing strategy is the equivalent to clean medical equipment and antibiotics. 

The 1000 Students Challenge (4)

In May of 2011 I was able to run my first Pay It Forward Scrum Training at the University of Bern in Switzerland. I had blogged about this event here:  The 1000 Students Challenge
Last week-end I had the third run at the University of Applied Sciences (HS-AlbSig) in Albstadt, Germany. 20 students volunteered their week-ends to learn about Scrum by attending the Professional Scrum Master Training or short PSM. The class was an even mixture of Master and Bachelor students. It’s been great fun for them and myself and it is good to know that 20 future and current IT specialists will join the workforce pre-equipped with Agile and Scrum.
A big thanks to the Hochschule Albstadt for being supportive and to Kunt Kliem for organizing.
My mission is to train 1000 students in Scrum – 918 more to go …
PS If you are interested in hosting such an event at your institution please contact me at
P1010717 P1010723 P1010736 P1010737

Cynefin – Making sense of complexity

In my trainings, I’ve been using the Cynfin framework which was developed by Dave Snowden in 1999 while he was working for IBM, for a long time.
It really helps to describe the significant distinction between ordered and unorded – when a defined process works and when to use an empirical approach i.e Scrum.
Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 11.37.00
So, I’ve been looking forward to listen to Dave Snowden first hand at the 5th LAS (Lean Agile Scrum) conference in Zürich last week.
Snowden is a great speaker with lots of insights and british humor. However, each sentence counts and it is loaded with information and very technical terms. As of know I am still digesting his talk.
For exactly that reason, I decided to summarize my take aways and share it for you and myself:
If you don’t understand you cannot adapt – If it works just keep doing it; however what to do if it stops working. Then you are out of your depth and since you did not understand it in the first instance you cannot effectively cope with it
Cookbook – Everyone can cook with a cookbook given the right kitchen with the right tools and all ingredients are available. However, if you lack tools or ingredients you need a ‘chef’ someone who understand the theory and knows the practice. By that time the cookbook is useless to the novice.
Consciousness is a distributed function – the brain, nervous system, hormonal system, … all have an impact in how we work. Consciousness is what a knowledge worker works with.
Body of Knowledge – BoK requires theory and practice. You need the theory and 2-3 years of practice (nervous system) to acquire the skills. Apprenticeship and serving time is key. Theory and practice combined are called praxis. Praxis makes perfect.
Exaptation – using something for something else – far more successful then adaption. Exaptation requires granular elements for recombination. Adaption causes slow change; exaptation is a far more successful strategy for innovation.
Architecture in Software – needs to allow for exaptation. Fairly fine grained objects, good scaffolding allow for free interaction and combination. Software development is a service based provision.
Taking a linear process and drawing it as a circle doesn’t make it non-linear (ditto not faster) – Scrum-er-Fall
Coherence – not perfect data but usable, semantically meaningful. Often we have to make decisions on data which is coherent but not absolute.
People make decisions based on ingrained patterns on past experience – whatever data available, it will be filtered by past experiences.
Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) cannot be eliminated – we have to manage the non-linear causal dependencies and resulting turbulence in unordered systems.
Meaning exists between the gaps of people, not the people themselves – it is the interaction what counts, the relationship between is more important then the things themselves. Don’t change the person, change the way they interact. Manage networks, the vague gaps between things
Agents are anything that reacts within/withon a system – people, ideas, groups, myth
In the Simple domain – agents are fully controlled
In the Chaos domain – no constraints on the agents, wisdom of the crowds; chaotic system have value but they are complicated to create 
In the Complex domain – beneficial coherence through boundary management and attractors. We manage the emergence. (Emergence requires less resources then other processes). You can only understand it while interacting with it.
The Simple domain is adjacent to the Chaos domain – If an unordered problem is approached in a Simple fashion it  will transition straight to Chaos through an catastrophic event.
We like order, like to conform
The more bureaucracy the more informal networks in an enterprise
Hindsight doesn’t lead to foresight
Stupidity and Intelligence with Deception are the same thing.

The 1000 students challenge (3)

In May of 2011 I was able to run my first Pay It Forward Scrum Training at the University of Bern in Switzerland. I had blogged about this event here:  The 1000 Students Challenge
Last week-end I had the second run at the University of Applied Sciences (FHNW) in Brugg Switzerland. 29 students volunteered their week-ends to learn about Scrum by attending the Professional Scrum Foundations Training or short PSF. It was great fun for them and myself and it is good to know that 29 future IT specialists will join the workforce pre-equipped with Agile and Scrum.<
A big thanks to the FHNW for being supportive and to Prof. Martin Kropp for organizing.
My mission is to train 1000 students in Scrum – 938 more to go …
PS If you are interested in hosting such an event at your institution please contact me at
photo4 photo3 photo1 photo2

Agile Testing Days 2012 – Take Away

Last week I’ve attended the Agile Testing Days 2012 Conference in Potsdam, Germany. It has been a great conference with great talks from various well known thought leaders. I for myself was invited to talk about  ‘Sprint Backlog in ATDD’.

Every conference has its take away the one thing you take home nagging your mind. For me it was the talk from Gojko ‘Reinventing Software Quality’.

Here my current take away:

1. Measurement
We/business usually measure the wrong thing. In his example he took his book ‘Specification by Example’. In the print he found over 20 P1 bugs like sentence cut off, over 70 P2 bugs and so on. So he was very upset with the printing house which allowed the bad quality. However, in the end it has a five star review at Amazon. The errors did not matter as the final product still provided excellent value to the end user. His understanding of quality was different then the readers ones.


2. The third Wheel
Gojko’s lesson learned was that we should aim to create the right high quality product but that this is only the beginning. With the two wheels of Sprints and Daily work we only address our internal point of view. We need to make sure that we have delighted customers who are willing to pay for our product and like to use it. 
Therefore we need to add a third wheel powering the other two – the business measuring the satisfaction of the end user.
In my opinion, this is were we will see a future connection between requirements engineering and idea behind ‘The Lean Startup’ of  Eric Ries.
This is also in alignment with the quote (can’t remember the exact words) from Jim Highsmith where he challenges business: If you want us (development) to measure our productivity you (business) need to measure the benefit for the company.
source: Gojko Adzic

source: Gojko Adzic

3. Agile Testing Quadrants I am a big fan of the Agile Testing Quadrants which were first described by Brian Marick in 2003 and became famous through the ‘Agile Testing’ book of Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory. 
The quadrants Q3 and Q4 which are described as to ‘Critique the Product’ are in Gojkos mind wrong as they are still in house before the product hits the market. Essentially we test our process and not the product. We test the adherence to the agile requirements, not how satisfied our customers are. In this regard it should be renamed ‘Critique Process’.
source: Brian Marick

source: Brian Marick

How could we then integrate the ‘Critique Product’ testing? I had a great talk with Janet Gregory about how this could be visualized but there is nothing firm yet. We talked about various add-ons and shapes. 

Final thought
For me the circle from Agile to Business and Business to Agile is slowly starting to close – the time to merge management and development has the chance of becoming reality.

I for myself, will dive straight into learning and using Impact Mapping ....

Enterprise Team Spike

When faced with new technology or other not well understood programming problems we like to implement a spike. What is a spike? I like the definition from  

Create spike solutions to figure out answers to tough technical or design problems. A spike solution is a very simple program to explore potential solutions. Build the spike to only address the problem under examination and ignore all other concerns. Most spikes are not good enough to keep, so expect to throw it away. The goal is reducing the risk of a technical problem or increase the reliability of a user story’s estimate.

Well, this spike is of technical nature and does an excellent job to mitigate technical risk. However, I am suggestion another type of spike:

Enterprise Team Spike

What do I mean with Enterprise Team Spike? Before answering this, let’s look at why a spike is a good thing. In my opinion it sheds light on dependencies, weak spots and all other kind of problems. During this discovery process it creates a possible path and provides alternatives. It mostly generates knowledge of how to solve the problem in the given context. So, it is all about generating information and to extract knowledge. How could information and knowledge help us in an enterprise team spike? In Scrum we favor cross-functional teams featuring all skills needed to deliver a done, high quality product increment at the end of the Sprint. Sounds good and works even better when we really do have a cross-functional team. The reality is that too often we have external dependencies to other systems. In large enterprises this could be an ERP, CMS or any other back end system. Typically, those departments we are depending on aren’t working in iterations and increments but with one or two releases a year in a strict serial defined process. In short we cannot be really be done at the end of the Sprint unless it coincides with a release of such a department (and their deliverable actually works out of the  box).
An enterprise team spike is not of technical nature but addresses the team’s skill composition. In an enterprise team spike we identify all the skills we need from the very top to the very bottom and aggregate these into our development team. I am sure that once you start to pull this thread all the way out you will discover far more dependencies and skills than you actually thought possible. Once you have this knowledge we can start the HR game in order to get the right people into our team. In my experience this is the biggest problem as we fight existing company structures and believe systems, and worse, attack long established empires within the corporate empire.
It will be a long battle, but once you have the enterprise team spike in place you have a proof of concept that shows how to generate value quickly and reliably. 

In contrast to the technical spike, this spike is absolutely of production quality and must not be thrown away!