Tag Archives: Scrum

Finding Predictability in the Velocity

Being an independent contractor is exciting yet somewhat lonely, having to support myself and find every opportunity. I look to constantly improve my craft by finding others to collaborate with and have found those needs met by joining Rally. I now concentrate on improving my coaching and training practice with other coaches. We have a support system around us and I get to work with people who have different strengths and skills. One of the clients I work with is a networking company. One of the teams I worked with had a difficult time establishing a consistent velocity. Forecasting when … Continue reading

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Figuring Out How to Construct Teams

After the Agile coaching group shut down at Yahoo!, I decided to take a chance at being an independent coach. I quickly found work with a network management group. The business unit consisted of over 70 people, mostly working in San Jose and Bangalore. The Vice President of the technology group wanted to “burn all the ships”, and hoped this no retreat attitude would help the team convert to Scrum within a quarter. I spent over nine months with the business unit. Creating the Initial Teams To begin Scrum, the managers created three large teams along architectural boundaries and HR … Continue reading

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Gauging the Rate of Progress

An interesting pattern was revealed to me. I noticed it in my embedded team and with other teams who asked for help. Product Backlogs were not being estimated. Teams were not estimating in points, days, nor even time. It is unclear what led to this lack of discipline. A consequence of teams not being able to say when something might be done resulted in other people setting deadlines for those teams. Playing the Team Estimation Game Demand for coaching was high and we were always being called in to situations. In looking around if I found a backlog with hundreds … Continue reading

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Dealing With an Overwhelming Amount of Work

I located a job as an Agile Coach working at Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA.  I worked with a group of internal coaches, offering both training and coaching for the nearly 500 teams that were experimenting with the Scrum framework inside the organization. My directive there was to observe teams in action and offer help when asked. Observing Team Behavior Pretty soon I was invited by a Product Owner to observe his team’s stand-up. This team sensed that something wasn’t right with their Scrum implementation and he was seeking advice. They had also recently lost their ScrumMaster and people were … Continue reading

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Reassigning Points to Validate Estimation

Keeping a Good Agile Estimation Practice As part of our Scrum practice at vianet, we spent time as a team tending to the Product Backlog. We played planning poker and kept all our stories sized. We knew the entire size of the Product Backlog. Every Sprint we looked ahead and refined some User Stories. Our velocity was stable and we could predict what User Stories would fit in a Sprint. The total size of the Product Backlog and the number of Sprints left projected that we would not hit the date promised to the customer. Verifying the Estimates The Product … Continue reading

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Keeping Progress High and Questions Low

Everyone Wants to Know Status Vianet established a cadence around Scrum and soon our customer, stakeholders, executives and others would ask how the current Sprint was going. The people asking questions numbered more than we had on the team. The questioning increased as a Sprint neared its end. I asked if people could hold off with the questions until the end of the Sprint. It had become too much of a distraction for the team. Designing Good Retrospectives A friend suggested that I read “Agile Retrospectives” by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. The book was recommended to me to help … Continue reading

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Staying Focused at Stand-up

Having learned what Scrum and XP could do; I convinced the next organization I joined to try Scrum, with me as the ScrumMaster. The company built a reservation booking and payment engine called vianet.travel. Small proprietors with manual bookkeeping used it to advertise and rent out their places to people on holiday. Stand-ups Take Too Long Splitting my time as a developer and ScrumMaster, I was as likely to join in the conversation during stand-up. Stand-ups took too long, where we did more talking than we should.  Sometimes it took us over an hour for everyone to answer the three … Continue reading

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Creating the Motivation to Pair Program

My first immersion in to Scrum occurred at StorePerform. We produced workflow solutions for big box retail stores. The company retained an external coach on contract and we attended training, which eased and accelerated the transition. Throughout the time we practiced unit testing and had a continuous integration server running. Keeping the Build Running Code coverage for us ran at about 30-35% and we had a company policy to keep it over 80%. We used a code review system to ensure, among other things, that unit tests were created. The team agreed that fixing a broken build was highest priority. … Continue reading

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Ten Tales of Positive Change – Introduction

Reading that AgileScout is looking for case studies and not just the theory of Agile, I thought I might start posting these stories from my career. These come from an IEEE paper that was first published for Agile2011. The paper is too long for one blog post. Leaving the tales as close to the original as I can, I am posting each one as a separate article. Ten Tales of Positive Change Is it possible to make a difference? Or at least enjoy the interactions more? These tales relate successful attempts at making improvements. They are my experiences working in software … Continue reading

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What’s going on?

When I ask someone “How’re you?” the response I usually get is, “fine”. If I ask “What’s up?” the response is, “not much”. These questions prompt rote responses. I can detect a little of how someone really feels in the inflection of the answer. There’s a subtle but important difference between “not much…” and “not much!”, but I am interested in knowing more than if you might be bored at the moment. For me, “What’s going on?” is the question that garners more than a habitual answer. In most instances, it triggers someone to tell me like it is. Not … Continue reading

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