Free

Free Agile PDU List

I was juggling some ideas on how I could list some free "Agile" PMI-ACP or PDUs for people. I think there is a crazy amount of free resources for PMP PDUs.  Because of that, I think there needs to be more giving for the Agile contact hours or PDUs.  So, without getting too spamming and self-promoting, please feel free to list some places you know of that have free PDUs or contact hours to offer.  Make sure you list which PMI PDU category it is applicable to.  I will add them as well.  

I'm going to be a little self-promoting here.  If you would like some Category E (Volunteer Service) PDUs, come help the PMI Agile Community of Practice build and iterate the Community Guide of the ACP.  You can claim up to 45 PDUs for your efforts!

Image Source: Pictofigo

Simple Cheat Sheet to Sprint Planning Meeting

WHAT IS SPRINT PLANNING?

Sprint planning is a timeboxed working session that lasts roughly 1 hour for every week of a sprint.  In sprint planning, the entire team agrees to complete a set of product backlog items.  This agreement defines the sprint backlog and is based on the team’s velocity or capacity and the length of the sprint.

WHO DOES IT?

Sprint planning is a collaborative effort involving a ScrumMaster, who facilitates the meeting, a Product Owner, who clarifies the details of the product backlog items and their respective acceptance criteria, and the Entire Agile Team, who define the work and effort necessary to meet their sprint commitment.

HOW DO WE PREPARE?

Ensure all sprint candidates meet the team’s definition of ready.  In the days and weeks leading up to sprint planning, the Product Owner identify the items with the greatest value and works towards getting them to a ready state.

  • Assign a relative story point value
  • Remove dependencies
  • Create testable examples
  • Define acceptance criteria
  • Meets INVEST criteria

WHAT IS THE BACKLOG?

The product backlog can address just about anything, to include new functionality, bugs, and risks. Product backlog items (PBI’s) must be small enough to complete during a sprint and should be small enough to complete within a few days. All stories must be verified that they are implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner. 

ENSURE RIGHT SIZING BACKLOG ITEMS

Based on historical data of the team, first determine if product backlog items are too large to complete in a sprint.  In these cases, do not consider these stories as valid sprint backlog candidates. Rather, in order to consider for sprint planning, split the stories into smaller pieces. Additionally, each story must be able to stand on its own as a vertical slice.  Therefore, stories should not be incomplete or process-based as a horizontal slice.

CALCULATING A COMMITMENT

To calculate a commitment, mature teams may use a combination of both team availability and velocity.  However, new teams may not know their velocity or they may not be stable enough to use velocity as a basis for sprint planning.  In these cases, new teams may need to make forecasts based solely on the their capacity.

DETERMINING VELOCITY

First of all, as velocity is unique to every team, never use another team’s velocity to plan your sprint.  Derive team velocity by summing the story point estimates of all completed and accepted work from the previous sprint.  By tracking team velocity over time, teams will begin to focus less on utilization and consequently more on throughput.

DETERMINING CAPACITY

For teams without a stable velocity, each team member should provide three simple measures to determine capacity.  First, what are the number of ideal hours in their work day?  Second, how many days in the sprint will that person be available?  Third, what percentage of time will that person dedicate to this team?

THE PLANNING STEPS

  1. Remind the team of the big picture or goal
  2. Discuss any new information that may impact the plan
  3. Present the velocity to be used for this release
  4. Confirm team capacity
  5. Confirm any currently known issues and concerns and record as appropriate
  6. Review the definition of DONE and make any appropriate updates based on technology, skill, or team member changes since the last sprint
  7. Present proposed product backlog items to consider for the sprint backlog
  8. Determine the needs, sign up for work, and estimate the work owned
  9. Product Owner answers clarifying questions and elaborates acceptance criteria
  10. Confirm any new issues and concerns raised during meeting and record
  11. Confirm any assumptions or dependencies discovered during planning and record
  12. ScrumMaster calls for a group consensus on the plan
  13. Team and Product Owner signal if this is the best plan they can make given what they know right now
  14. Get back to work

// If your team is new to Scrum, download a copy of the Sprint Planning Cheat Sheet //

Drawings by Pictofigo

Zero Cost Effect

I had dinner with a colleague the other night.  I inadvertently quoted something verbatim from Dan Pink's book, Drive. My colleague said if I liked Dan Pink's work, I should read something from Dan Ariely.  So, I started on Predictably Irrational:  The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Wow, this book is crazy!  I'm not going to go into any more details in the post other than a comparison of an experiment detailed in the book and something I've seen in the real world. In the book, the author described an experiment on 34 Halloween trick-or-treaters. As soon as the children knocked on the door, they received 3 Hershey's (each weighing about 0.16 oz.) and were asked to hold the Hershey’s they had just received in their open hand in front of them. Each child was then offered a choice between a small (1 oz.) and a large (2 oz.) Snickers bar, under a Cost Condition and under a Free Condition.  In the Free Condition, they could simply get the small 1 oz. Snickers bar (for free) without giving up anything or they could exchange 1 of their 3 Hershey's for the 1 large Snickers bar.  In the Cost Condition, the children could exchange 1 of their .16 oz. Hershey's for the small (1 oz.) Snickers bar or exchange 2 Hersheys for the large (2 oz.) Snickers bar.  They could also choose to do nothing but all of the kids chose to make an exchange.

Experiment Results

In the Free Condition, in which the small Snickers bar is free, demand for it increases substantially (relative to the Cost Condition).  The results demonstrate the attractiveness of zero cost.  People gravitate more toward options that do not require giving up anything.

Example of this on a project

At work, I've had a Product Owner (PO) who wanted to add items from the Backlog to the Sprint.  During sprint planning, the team basically added a buffer, to account for unforeseen events.  I know people are going to crucify me for this, but basically, the Product Owner always seemed to want to shift priorities of work mid-Sprint.  Rather than killing the Sprint, we added a buffer.  This would allow new work to be entertained without totally derailing the work already being completed.  Yes, we could have used Kanban and all of this could have been avoided.  But, Kanban wasn't an option.

So, what happened?  I offered the PO a deal.  I could allow him to add a certain amount of work to the Sprint for free. When I did this, he usually asked for smaller deliverables (relative to other items on the backlog that were ready to work).  But, when I said some work would have to come off the table to pay for the new work, he always went big.  He would choose larger deliverables relative to other items on the backlog that were ready to work.

All I can say is we truly are predictably irrational.


Yes, the links to the books are affiliate links.

Pictofigo Promotion

I've been working with Pictofigo for a few months now.  I give them ideas for drawings I think others would find helpful.  In turn, I get access to some pretty cool (and original) stuff.  It's quid pro quo at its best. There are currently over 900 drawings available for free on the Standard Pictofigo site.  In addition to those, there are 13 Premium items.  These items range from a few free desktop wallpapers to Scrum posters and traditional project management posters.  What's the difference and why pay for stuff?  The standard site has drawings at 72 dpi resolution, perfect for a blog, website or presentation.  The Premium site has drawings at 300 dpi resolution, suitable for print or products.  Yes, I do offer links from my site to CafePress, if you want printed posters.  But, the actual high resolution drawings are available if you want to print out a few posters at a lower overall cost.  I got a notice today that Pictofigo is going to run a half off promotion on their premium content.  Because I like to encourage and support entrepreneurs, I wanted to write this quick post.  If you're in the market for some original drawings, look them up.  They are constantly iterating on the site so check back often.  If you have an idea for a drawing or poster, give them a shout.  If you want, you can send me the request and I'll forward it along.  To be clear, I am not Pictofigo.  I merely love what they do and want to see them succeed.

HT: Pictofigo

Meetings: Get To The Point

Upon a brief review of my site analytics, I noticed something striking. For the month of February, almost nine percent (9%) of my page views are for one thing:  Free Meeting Minutes Template Back in March 2009, I wrote a post about helpful tips for running a meeting.  With it was a free copy of my meeting minutes template.  So, I think it's time for a brief refresher with a few updates.

Free Meeting Minutes Template Trend Data

When Hosting a Meeting:

[1] Write out the purpose of the meeting with actionable events in mind. e.g. “Provide an updated status, identifying risks and opportunities, and identify new action items.”

[2] Identify your attendee list but only keep those you can map to the actionable events listed in step 1.  There is a difference between an attendee list and a communications distribution list.

[3] Create an agenda.  Never schedule a meeting without a written agenda. A meeting without an agenda is inefficient and a waste of time.

[4] Identify who will run the meeting and who will take notes. It should not be the same person.  Both people should know their roles before the meeting begins.

[5] Ensure discussion points align to the agenda. If the conversation drifts off topic, recommend taking the discussion to another forum.

[6] End the meeting by having the note taker read back discussion points and the action items. Make sure there is a consensus before the meeting ends.

[7] Send out the meeting minutes within one to two days. Consult your distribution list to ensure all necessary people get a copy.

As a disclaimer, I hate meetings.  Many are unnecessary.  But, when meetings are necessary, get them done as quickly as possible.  Get in, get to the point, get out, get back to work.

Bonus Recommendations:

[1] Start on time. If you don't start on time, you can't finish on time.

[2] Do not schedule your meeting to end at the top or bottom of the hour. I'm a fan of the 22 minute meeting.  Have meetings end a little early.  Some people need to get to other meeting and this will help prevent them from being late.