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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 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 Scrum.org 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 www.effectiveagile.com
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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.
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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 Scrum.org 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 www.effectiveagile.com
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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! 

Creating an ATDD Ready Sprint Backlog

The arcticle about ‘Creating an ATDD Ready Sprint Backlog’ can be found here
 
Enjoy,
Ralph





Ralph Jocham is the founder of effective agile. GmbH 




effective agile. believes that agile is more than just working in iterations, doing a daily standup or writing a unit test after the fact.
effective agile. believes that people are the most important part of a successful project and that we should focus on ways to enable them.

effective agile. believes that the world for knowledge workers is changing faster than ever. Only by harnessing the skills of each individual and putting trust into them, technology companies are able to survive.

effective agile. believes that we have to address our current believe system and that we need to challenge everything.

The Separation of Power in Scrum

There is one element in Scrum which I really appreciate. It is the separation of power in Scrum. 
What exactly do I mean with this? Democracies are based on the separation of powers they require.
  • Legislative
  • Executive
  • Judicative
Each one has their rights and responsibilities. The other two watch out and make sure, that third doesn’t abuse it’s power.
In totalitarian governments this is not given. One entity reigns over all three. The usual result is that a few benefit and many suffer – from individuals to whole economies.

What does this have to do with Scrum. Well, nothing – at least at a first glance. But if we apply this concept to classical management, the project manager has the possibility to act as a dictator. Screen Shot 2012-04-12 at 13.59.42
He or she can decide about all three elements: scope, schedule, people.

The image above is the incomplete ‘iron triangle of quality’. It tells us, you can choose two out of the three, the third has to give. For example, if we have a certain amount of scope to implement by a given date, we need to adjust the number of people working on it.
If all three are set then the quality of the product under development will be sacrified when things get tough. Quality is the forth hidden element. Often the manager tries to convince us about the attainability of the goal with sentences like ‘I know it is aggressive but …. ‘, ‘You are not a team player ….’ and more. Screen Shot 2012-04-12 at 14.00.11
Quality dies first on every software project. It is not transparent per se, it won’t show until very late in the project or even until the product has been released. This manifests in very high TCO (total cost ownership). Eventually the developers require to rewrite the piece of sh.. garbage software. (see my blog Resetting the Shitty Counter)

How is this handled with Scrum? In Scrum the Definition of Done (DoD) states certain attributes or activities which have to be present in order to guarantee a high quality, potentially releasable product. The compliance of the DoD is paramount to a high quality product with happy customers and low TOC. Now Scrum is not immune to crunch times, times when the Product Owner (PO) is tempted to push the Development Team a little further. In those situations it would be just to easy to abandon the DoD and reduce quality to keep the date and make the Product Owner happy.
This is when the Scrum Master comes in. She will make sure that the DoD stays enforced and keeps the PO at bay. Essentially she protects the people (Development Team) so that they can work in the agreed way and thereby create a high quality product. 

In Scrum the Product Owner has the right to decide which feature gets developed in which order. His tool for that is the Product Backlog.
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and the Scrum Master ensures that the Delelopment Team has the right to estimate the work according to the Definition of Done and to implement it according to the Definition of Done.
Screen Shot 2012-04-12 at 14.00.39
The separation of power protects the Development Team and allows it to deliver high quality product increments throughout the project. This sustainable approach guarantees high quality software with high ROI, low TCO — easy to maintain, easy to support, easy to enhance — for a long time. Best, you should see happy, engaged developers.

In the end everybody wins!


The 1000 students challenge (2)

In May of last year 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 there:  The 1000 Students Challenge
Last week-end I had the chance to do the second run at the University of Applied Sciences (FHNW) in Brugg Switzerland. 20 students volunteered their week-ends to learn about Scrum by attending the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master Training or short PSM. It was great fun for them and myself and it is good to know that 20 future IT specialists will join the workforce pre-equipped with Agile and Scrum.
967 more to go …
PS If you are interested in hosting such an event at your institution please contact me at www.effectiveagile.com
Scrum.org-PIF-PSM-001.2012a