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Some time back I wrote about the first time I experienced delivering value to a customer, and the impression it made on me, early in my Scrum journey. There was a second massive learning moment from that product that’s worth sharing.

I was a lead developer on a team building an e-commerce website. Part of the work was a configurator that dynamically built product preview images, based on the shopper’s selection of a fabric, a print pattern, a color, and a product — either a pillow or lampshade in various sizes.

Once the image of the printed fabric swatch had been assembled with the right fabric image and the right pattern tinted to the right color, the last step was to make it into a “product”. For each item, we had a “mask” image — white, with a transparent “hole” in the shape of the pillow or lampshade. We laid that mask over the fabric swatch, and there we were. There was the pillow shape, with our custom fabric image visible on it. …


What a backyard full of 6-year-olds can teach us about agile development

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A couple weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner who have kids around my daughter’s age. While we sipped adult beverages and prepared dinner, the little ones went out to play in the yard.

While they were out there, they invented a game. I can’t say I understood it — I was an observer from the deck, not a player. It was cooperative, and it involved scoring points by moving a large inflatable beachball from one side of the yard to the other. …


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At TriAgile 2019 in Raleigh NC, I attended a talk by Jenny Bramble, Testing Lead at WillowTree, Inc. that was provocatively titled, “The Only Good Quality Metric for an Agile Team is Morale”.

In it, Bramble reviewed various quality metrics, both familiar and novel. She weighed pros and cons of various ways of measuring quality, and ultimately rejected most of them as not really measuring anything meaningful, actionable, and valuable. The punchline, telegraphed in the talk’s title, is that team morale has more correlation with quality than any other factor. …


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Is your team struggling to deliver “done” Sprints and working Increments? Maybe you need a Sprint Planning reality-check! Here’s a look at three of the fantasies that may be playing into your planning, and how to refocus on the reality of Agile software delivery.

1. Inside every developer, there’s a hero. We have to kill him.

Raised on a steady diet of comic books and cartoons, every developer is a cross between Batman, Underdog, and The Lone Ranger.

Faced with a towering heap of user requirements and an impending deadline, our heroic developer put his heroic fists on his hips, puffs his heroic chest, and heroically declares that he can Get It Done. His cape flaps in the breeze (heroically) and the puny mortals around him quail at the glory of his competence. …


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A product owner recently asked me what she could do to motivate her team.

“Don’t even try,” I replied. “You can’t. There’s literally no way to motivate another person. Real motivation, the kind you’re hoping to engender, is an internal phenomenon. Imposing motivation from outside is just carrot-and-stick behavior modification, not real motivation, and it won’t last or make any real difference.” She looked shocked. “Seriously,” I went on. “I couldn’t motivate you any more than I could pee for you. Whatever it is you’re hoping to have happen, trying to motivate your team isn’t the way there.”

Now generally speaking, I stand by this answer. Most of what people think of as motivational is ineffective at best and infantilizing at worst. But the more I think about it, the more I think Scrum and Agile gives us a unique access to the underlying mechanisms of motivation, unlocking a team’s potential for high performance. …


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Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation are the pillars that underlie the empirical process control theory that’s at the heart of Scrum. “Inspect and adapt” is a slogan on some Scrum teams — it’s what we do with results, failures, processes, market and stakeholder input, and basically everything else.

But what does it mean to inspect and adapt? What does that look like in practice? What mind-sets and approaches support it, and does it engender?

We’re going to explore these questions by way of looking at what Inspection and Adaptation both take, and what they provide.

What Inspection takes

Despite the fact that human beings are wrong an awful lot of the time, it’s often tough for us to admit we’re wrong — and often even to see that we are. The instant we have an idea that seems right to us, we tend to fixate on it, and stop thinking about alternatives. And we hardly every question the context (i.e. our view of the situation, and the way that the world occurs to us) within which our right-seeming idea exists. …


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The Scrum Guide says:

Sprint Planning is time-boxed to a maximum of eight hours for a one-month Sprint. For shorter Sprints, the event is usually shorter.

A lot of teams I know of are on two-week sprints, and give themselves a time box of two hours for Sprint Planning.

What if I told you that you could knock out Sprint Planning in 15 minutes, or 20 max? Would you mind having that 90 to 105 minutes of your life back?

How!? How!?

First you have to understand the purpose of the Sprint Planning meeting. …


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One of the most misunderstood sections of the Scrum Guide is titled “Scrum Values”. It’s often ignored completely, in favor of the more prescriptive and mechanical parts of Scrum.

It’s short, so I’m quoting the whole thing here:

When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone. The Scrum Team members learn and explore those values as they work with the Scrum events, roles and artifacts.

Successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living these five values. People personally commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team. The Scrum Team members have courage to do the right thing and work on tough problems. Everyone focuses on the work of the Sprint and the goals of the Scrum Team. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders agree to be open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work. Scrum Team members respect each other to be capable, independent people. …


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The risk with any Agile transformation is that an organization or team gets partway there, and thinks they’re all the way there. Scrum lends itself to this in particular, by being — as The Scrum Guide says — easy to understand but hard to master.

There are lots of teams out there in the world that are going through the motions of Scrum without really gaining any Agility from it. It’s easy to slap Scrum’s meeting structure on top of a Waterfall process and culture, and get all the overhead of Scrum with none of the benefits. …


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As “bibles of an industry” go, the Scrum Guide is downright tidy. At 19 pages (including cover page and table of contents) and fairly few big words, the text itself is quite accessible. But of course, anyone who’s dug into it far enough to really implement Scrum knows, those easy-to-read words open a rabbit hole that goes deep. As the Guide says, Scrum is lightweight, simple to learn, and difficult to master.

Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques.

My momma taught me that if you want to really understand what somebody thinks, you need to listen to what they say and what they don’t say. When it comes to processes and day-to-day operation of Scrum, there’s a LOT the Scrum Guide doesn’t say. Let’s look at a few of those. …

About

Dan Ray

20+ years in the Software trenches.

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