Agile Police or Ambassadors

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What do some vegetarians and some agilists have in common? It sounds like the setup of a bad joke, doesn’t it?  Actually, some believe their practice is best and you are wrong for doing things differently.  Well, at least that’s my first hand experience.

Over the weekend, I overheard a conversation while we were dining out.

So-and-so isn’t a real vegetarian. She eats fish.

It was a little deja vu to me.  Just days earlier I overheard a similar conversation.

So-and-so isn’t really doing Scrum.  They use a Product Owner team.

Read More…

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Correct Context for an Agile Transformation

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A few weeks ago, I spoke at the Heart of Agile conference up in Philadelphia. The conference was a two-day conference dedicated to educate attendees on Alistair Cockburn’s new methodology, The Heart of Agile.

The Heart of Agile is focused on getting back to the basics of Agile. In the last 15 years, Agile has been weighed down with frameworks and practices of many shapes and sizes. At the Heart of Agile are 4 key concepts: Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve. From this center we can branch out to all of the principals, practices, skills, and tools.

The two-day event offered:

Opening and closing keynotes by Alistair Cockburn focused on the “Heart of Agile”
Speakers – presentations and discussion tracks for Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect, and Improve:
Tutorials – Speakers provided presentations and facilitated conversations on hot topics and key trends on Agile principles and practices. This was an opportunity for experienced practitioners to demonstrate and share their knowledge in a specific topic, solution, or technique.
Collaborative Conversation – Joint problem-solving with other experienced participants in a topic. A facilitated peer-to-peer event, where everyone had something to contribute to the topic, though may not have been an expert at the topic. The coordinator proposed a topic and a facilitation structure, the attendees worked in small groups (typically 4-8 people), and mutually exchanged and collaborated their outputs.
Experience Reports – Experience reports contained first-hand information and reflection: “We saw this…,” “Our team did that…,” or “We learned the following from our experience…” Experience reports served as an exchange opportunity for practitioners to learn from others. Focus of these discussions was to share successes, failures, and lessons learned.
Open Space – Ongoing facilitated discussions of topics that were suggested by the attendees.

Experience Report

I was asked to present a report on one of my recent experiences.

Instead of presenting the below embedded deck about the correct context for an Agile transformation, I drew everything on a flipchart. If you know your content, you don’t need a PowerPoint deck! I wanted to make the original presentation available for others who were not in the room (and those who were).

Correct Context for an Agile Transformation

If there is one question I would ask, to know if you should view/download this presentation, it would be: Are you exactly like Spotify?  If you are not Spotify or your company business goals do not align with Spotify, then this would be a good presentation to view or to talk with me about.

Get a free copy of the presentation from Derek Huether
Categories: Agile, Application Development Tags: Tags: ,

Personal Agility

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Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how to increase personal agility. No, I’m not talking about doing somersaults or some crazy yoga poses. I’m speaking of the ability to focus on value and be adaptable in what I do every day; the agility mentioned in the values and principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.  When the Manifesto was written back in 2001, there were representatives from Extreme Programming, Scrum, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmatic Programming, and others present.  So, when I say agile, I don’t necessarily mean Scrum.

Scrum for One?

For the sake of this post, I want to direct focus to people and not organizations.  Being an Agile coach and consultant, I have learned a lot of strategies that have helped me manage customers and accounts.  While working with large complex organizations, I have seen productivity improvements on organizational levels by leveraging Lean and Kanban and on a team level by leveraging Scrum and Kanban. But what about all of the individuals who work for those organizations or on those Scrum teams? What about people who have no idea what Scrum is and don’t care? How can they better their productivity?

In the Lifehack article “Scrum for One,” Dustin Wax describes how many of the elements of Scrum could be adapted for individual productivity. When reading the article, I wasn’t sold on the idea. Scrum is an awesome framework for teams but it’s like jamming a round peg in square hole, if you want to use Scrum for your day-to-day productivity.

In Scrum, you demonstrate value to your customer or customer representative every 2-4 weeks, as part of a sprint.  Does that make sense for managing your personal work? No.

In Scrum, you have a 3 roles: ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Team.  Unless you have a split personality, it’s just you!

Most of the things I think about when getting things done include: Aligning activities to outcomes, breaking work into managing chunks, iterating on what was creating so it can be improved over time… The list goes on.  To that, these are not elements exclusive to Scrum.  So, why limit yourself to Scrum?

Personal Agility Manifesto

I believe personal productivity needs to be rethought.  Is personal productivity about being really busy or is it about getting things done?  To be productive, it means you must produce.  If not, you are active. There is a difference!  To help shape my thoughts, I wrote a personal agility manifesto.  You’ll notice it’s a lot like the Agile Manifesto.  But, there are key differences.

First, (any) outcomes are the primary measure of progress.  This isn’t all about software development.

Second, I’m focused on minutes, hours, and days to get things done.  Teams will continue to focus on days, weeks, and months to get work done and shipped.

Conclusion

I’m looking to dig into something anyone can use.  When you hear “Agile” it’s actually a pretty niche group. But, when you talk personal productivity, the audience size explodes.  Like with agile, I don’t think there is a single right way.  So, I’m looking to experiment and continue to try and get better. Hell, I’ve been writing about Personal Kanban since 2010.  You’d think I’d have this figured out by now.  Well, I don’t.  If you have any tips or tricks, I would love to hear them.

 

Categories: Agile

How You Can Get Valuable Time Back: Part 2

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This is Part 2 in a series I’m writing about how you can get time back in your day, week, month, or project.   When a team reaches a natural velocity or throughput, how can you get more out of them? They physically can’t deliver any faster, given current conditions.  If we assume we have stable teams, let’s focus on governance and process.  Specifically, I’m going to talk about meetings again.  Why?  We all hate meetings but we all still have them.

In part 1, I wrote about a strategy to enable your email auto-responder to help manage the inbound meeting invites. In Part 2, I’m going to give you a simple strategy to start Spring Cleaning your calendar.

Spring Cleaning

If you’ve ever had a professional organizer come to your house for Spring cleaning, they may have employed a common strategy to weed through your crap.  It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or some person appearing on an episode of A&E’s Hoarders. We all have too much stuff.  In this case, we’re not deciding if you should keep that mountain of National Geographic magazines sitting in the corner or all of those plastic shopping bags you’ve been keeping when you return from the grocery story. No, we’re going to inventory your meetings. Over time, we tend to accumulate meetings.  Time to take inventory and do some Spring Cleaning.

Inventory

As mentioned in the last post, some meetings have value than others. We’re going to need see which meeting we need to keep, which meetings we’re going to give away, and which we’re going to throw away.

Remember, meetings are supposed to be about the exchange of information.  Unfortunately, they are wildly inefficient and offer limited value.  For the most part, they are a waste of our time.  Nobody wants to listen to you go on and on about how many meetings you have, now that you’re becoming a bottleneck in getting things done.

To start, I’m going to review every existing and new meeting request and bucket those meetings into 3 categories.

  1. Non value added but it is necessary.
  2. Non value added but it is NOT necessary.
  3. Value added.

1. Non Value Added But Necessary

Instead of automatically accepting the next meeting request, pause and consider the meeting’s return on investment to you.

  • Does the purpose of the meeting align with the company’s strategic goals and priorities?
  • Are the objectives of the meeting clearly defined?
  • Can the organizer explain specifically why you were invited and the value you will provide?
  • Will this meeting assist you in achieving my objectives?

If the first four questions were all answered with a yes, you should still ask.

  • Will anyone notice if you didn’t show up?
  • Is attending this meeting the highest and best use of your time right now?

If any of the first four questions were answered with a no, you should seriously consider declining the invitation. If I was Spring cleaning, this pile would be earmarked to donate.  Because we can’t “donate” meetings, I would propose having someone else attend on your behalf or find some way of being informed of the meeting outcomes or action items.

2. Non Value Added But It Is NOT Necessary

Did you read that right?  This meeting not only does not provide strategic value but it’s also not necessary.

If I was Spring cleaning, this pile would be earmarked for the trash.  This is like a meeting to prepare for a meeting.  Before outright refusing, try to meet the organizer part way.  What problem are they trying to solve with the meeting?  Can it be solved some other way?

To ensure everyone has a shared understand of what meetings are not NOT acceptable, I would recommend making an actual list.

Thou shalt not have meetings about putting cover sheets on TFS reports

3. Value Added

If I was Spring cleaning, this pile would be a keeper.  This is something that you want or need, as part of business process.  Release Planning, Sprint Planning, Demos… I see these as all valuable meetings.  They all require decisions.

Conclusion

Remember, every time you say yes to a meeting, you are saying no to something else.

Check out some of these templates, including Meeting Agenda/Minutes template

Categories: Agile, Project Management Tags: Tags: , ,

How You Can Get Valuable Time Back: Part 1

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Recently, I’ve been swamped with meetings.  I’m not talking Portfolio Planning, Release Planning, or even Sprint Planning meetings. I’m talking a lot of in-the-weeds type meetings.  After I walk out of some, I realize I could have been informed of the outcomes and action items and that would have been good enough. I didn’t need to sit through the whole damn thing.  There are times everyone walks out an hour later, are looking around, and are asking how to get that valuable time back.  It got me thinking, I need to write about this!  Then, as I started writing, I realized that this was either going to be a seriously long long-form blog post or I was going to have to write a few parts to it.  Being the bloggy-blog type, I vote for short form and write a series.

The Scenario

You arrive to the office at 8am on a Monday, only to realize you are late for a meeting someone on Friday after 5pm scheduled.  You’re not in the office 5 minutes and you’re already behind schedule.  What the hell!?  How does this happen?  You look at your calendar. You have back-to-back-to-back meetings all day Monday and Tuesday.  When are you supposed to actually do your work?  Given the current conditions, you’re going to need to catch up on things before or after work. This sucks!

The Problem

You have become a meeting hoarder.  That’s right.  At any moment, A&E is going to show up at the office and start filming an episode about you.  In this episode, they follow you around the office.  They confront you and the addiction of accepting too many meeting invites.  Of course this is ridiculous but you really do need some practical strategies to deal with this problem and get back on the track.

Meetings are supposed to be about the exchange of information.  Unfortunately, they are wildly inefficient and offer limited value.  For the most part, they are waste of our time.  Nobody wants to listen to you go on and on about how many meetings you have, now that you’re becoming a bottleneck in getting things done.

To start, I’m going to bucket meetings into 3 categories.

  1. Non value added but it is necessary.
  2. Non value added but it is NOT necessary.
  3. Value added.

I see very view meetings offer direct value to the customer.  Most meetings a non value added but we don’t have a sufficient method to exchange the information so we settle for the meeting.  It’s necessary.

Going forward, assume most meetings don’t add value and you should make them prove their worth to you.

The Solutions

In this post, I’m going to give you a strategy to begin controlling the volume of meeting invitations coming into your calendar. First, stop accepting meeting invites for meetings that are less than a full day away.  If someone invites you to a meeting at 5pm on Monday for a meeting at 9am Tuesday, they are being disrespectful of your time.

Set Limits

You may have a standard eight hour work day but the reality is that only half of that day is likely to be productive.  With that assumption, you should guarantee you have 4 hours of productivity. If you don’t, your day will be taken up with meetings, responding to email, browsing the Internet and related activities.  Block out 4 hours a day on your calendar for actual work. Make the events private.

Tip: Schedule your most important, high value tasks in the morning, before you get worn out from your current meetings

Turn On Your Email Auto-Responder

Until you can get your meeting addition under control, I recommend you begin using your email autoresponder.  I actually did this several years back, after reading The 4-Hour Work Week with very good results. When someone sends you an email or meeting invite, they automatically get an email from you (with the assumption that you have NOT read their invite).  This will buy you time to focus on real work and not just respond impulsively to the request.

Let’s look at a basic template

Greetings,

Due to high workload and too many meeting invites, I am currently checking and responding twice daily at 12:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M.

If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12:00 P.M. or 4:00 P.M., please contact me via phone at 555-876-5309. All meeting invites will require 24 hour notice. Though I appreciate the invitation, sending me a meeting invite does not mean I will be accepting your invitation.

Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Conclusion

I can guarantee this is going to help, at least a little.  The more we can slow down the influx of meetings, the more we can assess the value of them and decide if we really need to accept them or not.  The autoresponder will put people on notice and inform them that your time is valuable but that you’re not being unreasonable.  If this gets you out of 1 meeting, won’t it be worth it?  I know it will do better than that.  Try it and let me know your results.


In my next post, I’ll write about how to triage your meeting requests, so you can begin spending more time doing real work and less going to meetings.


Categories: Agile, Project Management Tags: Tags: , , ,

3 Apps All Agilists Should Have on Their iPhones

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So your company has decided you’re going to use Agile on your next project or product, they need someone to lead the pilot team, and you’ve been nominated for the job. It’s time to really step up your game. Time to set your iPhone settings to Agilist. Here are three apps you should download to help you get there. I’ve been using the LeanKit and Pomodoro for several years now and they just get better and better. I’d do a write up for Android phones but I’ve never seen a list that didn’t have a little controversy.

 

1. LeanKit

leankitLeanKit supports the implementation of Lean principles, practices, and work methodologies across all business functions, to help organizations create an environment of continuous improvement and innovation to deliver customer value, faster. By visualizing your work as it flows through your process, LeanKit provides a big-picture understanding of the work that helps teams work together more effectively.  I’ve been using LeanKit for years for both private (Personal Kanban) applications and professional (portfolio management, help desk,…)

2. Pomodoro

pomodoro-proPomodoro Time is a powerful personal productivity tool incorporating the principles of the Pomodoro Technique. Create tasks, configure breaks and track your progress throughout the day, week or custom period. I set the timer for 25 minutes. After the 25 minutes, and I set the timer to take a 5 minute break. I can guarantee I’m more productive by taking two 5 minute breaks each hour. Combined, LeanKit and Pomodoro are my one-two punch to keep ADD in check and my day moving forward.

3. Slack

slackOver the years, I’ve used a lot of IM and persistant message tools. Hands down, Slack offers the lowest friction of use. All your team communication in one place, instantly searchable, available wherever you go. That’s Slack. – It’s real time messaging, file sharing, supporting one-to-one and group conversations – Powerful search and archiving, meaning no one is ever left out of the loop.

 

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