Monday, August 26, 2013

Today's favorite agile tweet

Check out @ProjectsAtWork's Tweet:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Favorite Agile Tweet of the Day

Check out @mike_bowler's Tweet:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Backlog Grooming

I was going over some backlog grooming ideas with one of our Product Owners recently, so I thought I’d share these ideas with everyone.  

When preparing for sprint planning sessions, please take a moment to make sure the top 20 stories in your project backlog are “shovel ready”.  What do I mean by this?  Shovel Ready means that the stories have advanced to a state that allows teammates to IMMEDIATELY start working on them.  Ideally, this should be done even before Release Planning, but that can’t always happen.  

Here’s how we get them shovel ready:

·        UAC in EVERY user story
o   The team needs to know what the Product Owner’s definition of done is.  Your definition of done is your user acceptance criteria.  Don’t leave this to sprint planning.  We tend to go down rabbit holes as to what DONE actually means.  Product Owners, it is your job to set this standard, and it is the team’s job to tell you whether or not your UAC is possible in the context of the story.  THAT’S what needs to be discussed during planning. 
·        Possible story breakdown
o   Evaluate your user stories so succinctly that you can foresee whether or not they need to be broken down into smaller stories.  If you think you can group certain data flows or business rule variations, then do that ahead of time.  If you are not sure how to break them down, check out Richard Lawrence's How To Split a User Story again .  If you’re still at a loss, then by all means bring it to the team. 
·        Prioritize the backlog
o   Have the most important things you want worked on AT THE TOP of the backlog.  Make sure the team knows this priority, and make sure this priority is reflected in the goals you set for the sprint. 
·        Story Language
o   Please try to write stories in the format of “As a <blank> I want <blank> so that I can <blank>”.  This helps us keep the end user in mind.  I understand technical stories come up, but we need to try to stick to this idea as much as possible.
o   Be very specific in the language of the story.  Make it reflect the end goal.

If you have any other ideas you’d like to share, let’s share them!  Let me know if you have questions, as well.  Each of you have your own awesome style of handling user stories, so I encourage you to learn from one another as well.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How many types of Agile Retrospectives are there, anyway?

The other day I noticed that we were getting pretty stagnant with our sprint retrospectives.  I have been asking these questions: “What went well? What went less well? What areas improved from last sprint? What areas need improvement?”  Sometimes we get some good discussions going, but most of the time I have to prod my teammates for answers and feedback.  This prompted me to go in search of something new and better. 

I have 4 teams, so it is important for me to come up with good ideas that can be used across the board.  My teams are also spread across the United States and Canada, so activities in which ALL of us can participate is definitely limited.  Pickings were slim.

I found a nice wiki that listed out many different types of retrospectives.  I pulled the below table from there. I had NO IDEA there were so many, and there were quite a few listed that I'd never heard of before. You can go to the link to delve further into each type of retrospective if you like.  This was a good start for me to get some ideas.

Approx. Duration (mins)
Uses De Bono's 6 Thinking Hats to investigate process improvement
General use, but also a good alternative to shuffling card type retrospectives
A retrospective in which teams rated their abilities in each of the categories, displayed the different ratings on a spider graph, and then discussed the result.
To talk about what abilities are important to an Agile team and how your team rates against them
Uses Appreciative Inquiry to identify what went so well. There is no blame or negativity, and builds on the Prime Directive, that everyone in the team did the best job they could possibly do.
To remind everyone what a good job their doing rather than focusing on negatives every time you run a retrospective.
Participants choose top 5 issues and bring them along for group to discuss and resolve
Expose the most pressing issues in an initially anonymous manner and determine the most effective actions to resolve them
A Retrospective Technique for short term actions from long term goals
Really good for forcing achievable actions from your retrospectives.
The facilitator captures team open-ended feedback using a wheel that encourages team members to assess an iteration or milestone using 5 categories. Allow some time following completing the “wheel” to discuss and agree on specific changes to implement
Obtain feedback on team process in order to learn what should be continued and what should be adjusted as the team moves forward. Is a fast way to conduct a “meta” process discussion.
The method ensures that each participant meets and interacts with every other participant.
When retrospective participants do not know each other well
Use various tools such as a complexity radar to discover and find out how to deal with the complexity in your project
Many projects go awry due to excessive complexity; use this plan to evaluate whether your team is approaching things in the simplest way that can work; especially when the deadlines begin to loom.
A plan designed around the force field analysis technique
A retrospective for your whole company/department or to analyse a particular topic
Focused and time-constrained by using the Pomodoro technique
Useful for determining a single action to improve the work of a small team
A retrospective for retrospectives
To learn how to improve the effectiveness of your retrospectives
Iteration retrospective
To get different perspectives on the same events
Simple sprint retrospective
Basic / everyday retrospective plan
90 - 120
Liked – Learned – Lacked – Longed For
Iteration and project retrospectives as well as for retrospection of training and conference events.
90 - 120
What anchors slow the team down, what wind propels it forward?
Good for the "gather data" and "generate insights" portions of a retrospective
90 - 120
Review, Plus-Delta, Vote, Actions, Owners
A weekly retrospective for your project
Use the answers as base to get all the good things and bad things that happened
A different way to "gather data" and to get all different opinions on a subject
An approach to scaling retrospectives by collecting outcomes across an Agile Release Train, Tribe or any multi team scenario.
Use for understanding challenges and opportunities across when scaling agile.

I’ve decided to try a few of these: Plan of Action, Start /Stop/ Continue/ More of/ Less Wheel, Retrospective Surgery, Four Ls Retrospective, and Bubble Up .  I also like the ideas listed in the Everyday Retrospective, but I’m not sure I can cram all of that into the 15 minutes I have allotted for each team scrum.  In any case, I’ll chronicle the results here over the next few weeks. 

I was most excited about Sailboat, because it was touted as being great for distributed teams.  I was excited until I went to the website and found that it is no longer available as a collaborative game.  However, there are many other tools on that website that I found useful.  For instance, I might do the “Actions for Retrospectives” game with my distributed teams.  You can check out all the fun at .  I might try using the Sailboat, though, for co-located teams. 

If you have any retrospective ideas you’d like to share, please let me know!  I welcome your feedback!