Being an Agile Coach – Dealing with Conflict

conflict-agile-fingers-pointing

The word “conflict” tends to stir up emotions in corporate America. Few companies want to find themselves in conflict. Most employees will view conflict as a bad thing and something to be avoided at all costs. But some conflict can actually be healthy. The reality is that disagreements do not have to turn into fights. We can keep our differences in check if we have a few basic understandings regarding conflict. Conflict occurs when two or more people with mutually exclusive viewpoints attempt to solve a problem.

Two kinds of Conflict (healthy and unhealthy)

Conflict is unhealthy when it negatively impacts the company or team by hindering or limiting their ability to do productive work.

Conflict is healthy when the opposite occurs. When conflict is viewed and handled appropriately.

We know conflict is unhealthy when:

  • People no longer calculate their remarks to edify or change others. Instead, they plan their remarks (often unconsciously) to hurt, demean, defame, or even destroy another
  • People begin to question whether their relationships can weather the storm of difference
  • People feel rejected by those who were once considered friends
  • People feel they have no control and the odds are against them
  • The pain of the competition is greater than the exhilaration of the challenge
  • People make accusations, and it seems that “others” want to destroy or split relationships down the middle.
  • People use words that have violent connotations

Conflict is healthy when:

  • The people involved feel confident they can manage the differences
  • Those involved adhere to firmly to decision-making processes authorized by the team and working agreements of the company
  • People operate within the specifically stated, generally understood rules of appropriate behavior in the company
  • People cooperate in the process suggested by the leadership

Reactions to conflict

  • Conflict is wrong.

Some individuals believe that conflict is always wrong. The mindset is that people in a copmany should be in agreement and live in harmony. They become nervous when team members express differences of opinion. They “lovingly” try to encourage people into one opinion. The attitude does not acknowledge that legitimate differences can exist among different people.

  • Conflict is an opportunity to exercise power.

Some people view any discussion as debate and any issue as a time to win at any cost. These people get their thrills in the competition of the moment. Winning the issue is oftentimes far more important than the issue itself.

  • Apathy (this doesn’t involve me)

Some people do not care much about the outcome of the issues involved. The apathetic spirit comes from several sources including burnout, fatigue, stress, a defeated spirit, or a different set of priorities.

  • Personal affect (this does involve me)

Some people do have a considerable stake in the outcome. These often include the leader, staff, board members, managers, and other directly involved individuals. People often believe that the outcome will affect their reputation and/or their feelings of self-worth. Oftentimes the emotional involvement clouds an individual’s reasoning and judgment surrounding an issue.

  • Conflict might split a company

Some people become nervous when any disagreement occurs in a company or team because they believe it will divide the team needlessly. These individuals many have vulnerable feelings left from past conflict that was handled in a hurtful way. Whatever the reason, they tend to sweep all controversial issues under the rug and hope they go away. They would rather stay in a bad situation than risk the unknown.

Responses to Conflict Continue reading “Being an Agile Coach – Dealing with Conflict”

Make a 15 Minute Daily Scrum Pure $1,500 Cash (Whaaaat???)

daily-scrum-giveaway-1500-3d-printerIf you haven’t already taken the 2013 State of Agile Survey, definitely check this out…

Now in the final 2 weeks’ stretch, VersionOne is trying to get at least 1,000 more people to take the survey. In doing so, they just announced an expanded prize offer – For the first time ever, the grand-prize winner of the drawing can choose to win this 3D printer OR just take the cash – $1,500. Plus lots of other cool swag.

The idea is this: the bigger the data sampling, the more value peeps will get from the report, which has become the largest and most cited survey in the agile community. The State of Agile Survey helps software professionals (that’s YOU) make tough decisions and get the most from their agile initiatives.

Take the survey before it closes on Oct. 16th and your email address automatically goes into the drawing.  While you’re at it, try passing it on to at least 5 of your software peers (don’t worry; if you don’t forward it, nothing bad will happen to you!)   #StateofAgileSurvey.

Agile – Preparing to Make it Work for Your Organization – From Agile Practitioners

v-for-vendetta-agile-UK-parliamentThe term “Agile” is fast becoming a more common word within the software development community. It’s growing, morphing, being attributed to successful projects, and also being blamed for unsuccessful ones. What comes to mind, for many, when considering Agile as a tool to be used for teams, companies, projects, and products alike, is whether there truly is enough hard evidence around the value of adopting Agile methods.

I would believe it fair to say that there are a lot of doubts and misconceptions around Agile. Do any type of search for examples of Agile success on Google and you’ll find the web short of concrete evidence to support their claims. More often than not, you’ll find success stories that are very specific to a particular demographic, team, company, environment, and situation. Moreover, you’ll find critics of Agile methods and their viability. There seems to be no real foundational 12-Step program to implementing Agile successfully, and there will never be one.

This paper is not going to have all the answers for you. It is not intended to be that. Rather, this paper is an opportunity to take a deeper dive into how you can get started with resources that can help you take your first steps into Agile. Prepare yourself to plan for the change you desire in your team or company, and eventually, help you have the right types of conversations with your management.

I’ve recruited 4 other thought-leaders within the Agile space to help me take in the fuller picture of Agile and what considerations we need to have as we progress towards Agile. I’ve chosen practitioners, not theorists. People who are in the deepest trenches of Agile transformations and adoptions. It is from this lens that I want to people to view this paper. Much has been written about things to consider when adopting Agile to the enterprise and this paper does not belong to that group. This is a view from practitioners, giving you only what is applicable, and executable.

It is fair to say that Agile CAN work for your organization, but it isn’t easy. Let’s take a deeper look into what practitioners of Agile have to say and dive into the deep end with us.

Our contributors:

Agile – What is it Anyway?

An easy click over to the Agile Manifesto tells us pretty clearly what the guiding principles are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

But what about applying these principles? How do you execute within a complex organization? Some light research has been done around what Agile means to many people. It was found that at the end of the day, Agile, to many, is collaboration and cultivating culture within an organization. Derek Huether would agree with this, saying that, “Agile is the embodiment of empowerment and responding to change.” Meaning, that Agile is simply a term for what businesses and even individuals should strive for: A continued state of being flexible and enabled to change accordingly.

For Don Gray, “Agile is what I call, A high order of abstraction. You cannot put a pound of Agile in a wheelbarrow. Agile can be understood by the Manifesto. That’s a good place to start.” It would seem that many organizations are adopting some facets of Agile at this point. You may not even need to call it “Agile.” In reality, it may be just improving something. Mike Cottmeyer agrees with this an states that, “Agile is a set of principles, 4 principles in the Agile Manifesto expressed through family of methodologies from which the methods are derived from principles. In the end it’s about the Manifesto.” It would seem that how you apply that is a different matter.

“Agile in a lot of ways, represents two different things, approaching and developing projects and products. The belief system from the Agile Manifesto: Being flexible, and being open to how you approach projects. Secondly, Agile is new way of thinking of how to develop projects. Prior to Agile, there wasn’t a codified method. I believe there still is a lot of evolution that needs happening. People will learn and new things will be added to Agile-thinking,” – Chris Goldsbury

Bottom Line Around the Term “Agile”

Agile  is a set of principles, a way of considering approaching projects differently, being flexible, and creating a culture of collaboration. In a sense, Agile is all about being open to new ideas.

Adoption or Transformation? – Should Your Company “Adopt” or be “Transformed?”

Often times we hear about “Agile Adoptions” or “Agile Transformations.” Is there a difference? Our practitioners say yes. “People don’t agree on what Agile means because often they don’t have a common definition of how to apply it,” Don states. “For me, adoption of Agile is taking on principles. Transformation is a more embedded process.” Mike adds to this in that, “Adoption is about the things you do. gaining benefit is the transformation. Transformation is a look into the total organization as a whole and more importantly, the cultural transformation that needs to happen.”

It’s apparent that “adoption” and “transformation” are not the same thing. While the term “Agile” may be a mindset of openness and collaboration, how you undertake that in your business, enterprise, or team is a matter of what you’d like to see happen.

In regards to adopting Agile. “Absolutely yes,” Mike states. “There are certain principles and constructs behind Agile that are inarguable. Most organizations can benefit from doing some parts of being Agile. It really is a matter of whether your company can you do the right things in your org to make Agile successful.” One has to be mindful about the current reality of your organization or situation. Take a good look at where things are. “Be flexible,” Chris adds, “You generally get better success when you’re flexible and open to change.” 

Derek adds some noteworthy insight to this and comments that “Yes, absolutely, try Agile. But it starts on an individual level. There are people that want to be Agile, or be naturally Agile, but then there are individuals who don’t desire for that. There are people who don’t want to be autonomous, but want to be the cog. You don’t have to respect it, but have you have to accept it.”

Individual Readiness Is A Part of Change

“The first step is transformation of the individual…The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.” – Edward Deming – System of Profound Knowledge

As an individual reading this paper, you probably want positive value-add change to your organization. First and foremost, change starts with you. Communicating Agile principles and practices are great, but it really takes a servant leaders attitude to be the conduit for positive change from yourself out to your environment. Chris says that you should always look into your situation clearly, and see what is really needed. Be flexible and be prepared for tough questions, pushback, and a potentially long road ahead. If you are dogmatic about your approach then it will not work. Chris has seen a lot of people doing this, pushing a philosophy. Not taking the time to understand the business culture, readiness, and even how it will impact the customers.

Derek adds that he enjoys seeing small wins happen over time, than no wins at all. “Is it a full Agile adoption? No. Usually there are constraints on an environment that will not allow full adoption or areas of the environment that are conducive to being Agile.” In a lot of ways it is about perception. How you effectively communicate value is so important. “Small businesses are more conducive to Agile. Less overhead, less process, and less governance you’re working against. The larger the enterprise, if you are dealing with that as a standard, the harder it can be. But not as the exception.” 

“Never attribute to malice or stupidity that which can be explained by moderately rational individuals following incentives in a complex system of interactions.” – Hubbard’s Corollary to Hanlon’s Razor

As you prepare, remember that you are interacting within a complex system of people. “To create something new is where Agile lies. That creates discontinuity.” Don states. You are on the cusp of something new and fantastic. To become a change agent is exciting, but it can also be daunting.

Chris adds that you need to be sometimes painstakingly cautious about your approach. Meaning, you will have to take baby steps in some organizations. “Lead by example. Demonstrate Agile. If you are a manager, that may mean giving up the empire underneath you.” What Chris is talking about is referent power: The power that doesn’t come from people that directly report to you. “When people want to be led, they choose who they want to follow.” How this may apply in your organization is to raise up internal champions for Agile. Whenever you come upon a new problem or consideration, it may not be you who needs to fix it! A different leader may need to be chosen. “If you find yourself making all the decisions all the time, then there is something wrong with that.”

 Bottom Line: Do Adopt Agile, Transformation is the Long Road

All our practitioners agree that all companies should adopt the mindset of Agile. Any and every organization can benefit from being open, flexible to change, and creating a better collaborative place to work. One could agree that all of these are great ideas. Now, how do you apply or transform an organization? We’ll jump into that next.

Should Your Company Adopt Agile to be Transformed?

This is where the rubber meets the road, and where many companies have failed. Giving lip service to a set of methods, ceremonies, artifacts, and practices will have you driving down a long road of disillusionment, burn-out, negativity, and suffering. Sounds harsh? Probably because it’s true.

 “The righter you do the wrong thing, the wronger you become.” – Russell Ackoff, Organizational Theorist, Author and Co-Author of 31 books

I was very encouraged to hear from all four of our guest contributors the same question: “Why?” – Any good beginning starts with the question of why you are doing it: “Why would you want to do Agile? Increase customer satisfaction? Increase quality? How are you measuring these things? Let’s start with some fundamental assumptions around change. When you adopt Agile you are talking about how we change the way we do something,” Don asserts. “So the real question is what do you want to do? If I’m looking at improving time to market, quality, and increasing customer satisfaction, that is something we can measure.”

“An improvement program must be targeted at what you want, not at what you don’t want.” – Russell Ackoff

If a company truly begins to look at the reasons around why they want to become more Agile, the more focused they will be in their strategy to know it, apply it, and internalize it as a business culture. Start by understanding where your company is today and ask tons of questions. Questions like:

  • Why do we really want to change?
  • What does success look like?
  • What data will be able to support value-added changes to our business?
  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What is the goal we are trying to achieve?
  • What is the target we are trying to hit?
  • Does our company desire increased transparency throughout the business?
  • Is our company environment and culture support increased collaboration?
  • Does management and leadership support change?
  • Does our company culture support more flexibility?
  • Is our company organizational structure and culture in alignment?

These are tough questions to ask, but our coaches agree that if you don’t ask these types of questions before you embark, you may find yourself in a place that was neither helpful for your company, nor valuable for your customers.

“You have to build a culture, or have a culture that supports ‘being Agile.'” Derek says. “There may need to be a leadership change, and a cultural change, meaning that there need to be people to support that change.” Chris adds that if you go into a company and think that you can to push something down their throats it won’t work. If you’re dogmatic about your approach you won’t succeed.” He goes on to say that: “I see a lot of people doing this. pushing a philosophy. Not taking the time to understand the business and their customers.”

Agile Isn’t a Good Fit If You’re Not Willing to Change

“Creativity is a discontinuity.” – Russell Ackoff

Agile in total is creating something new. Agile is a new way of thinking. Agile is introducing change into a system. “Anytime to introduce change into a system, things can get all messed up. People go through a period of chaos, and until it becomes normalized, things are going to be weird. A good coach normalizes the experience of change in a company” says Don. Mike adds that “Certain principles of Agile that are transcendent. I think that Agile is a good fit when you are delivering some tangible product or a good fit when you’re dealing with problem domains where either you don’t know the direction your heading, or you need to figure it out as you go. It may be that it’s not even valuable to figure it out up front because you need feedback. If you have brutal top down organization with heavily matrix’d projects structures… it might not work.”

Some organizations are already Agile because they are already set up in a way conducive to Agile. Meaning they fully embody the culture of collaboration, communication, flexibility, empowerment of teams and individuals, and try to do the best they can for their customers and get out of the way.

Bottom Line on Agile Consideration for Your Company

When thinking about whether your company should adopt Agile or not, take into consideration: Culture, the type of projects, products, or services your company builds, and even regulatory issues. Ask the tough questions: What problem are we trying to solve? Are we ready for change? Is our culture ready to bend, stretch, and ache a little to get there?

What to Prepare to Communicate to Management About the Value of Agile Implementation

You are ready. You are prepared. You have taken a look at your current environment and see that it is ripe for Agile opportunity. You know where you can find small wins. You know how to measure success in them. You have asked the tough questions and have received enough positive feedback from management and stakeholders on the potential. You are ready to roll. So what next?

“One never becomes a leader by continuously improving. That’s imitation of the leader.” – Russel Ackoff

At the end of the day, we need to back to the question: “What problem are we trying to solve?” Don asserts, “If we are trying to solve a simple problem, why are we taking on Agile? That may not be the best course of action.” Consider thinking about what sort of change you want to plant into your organization.

Define the Problem First, Then Ask How Agile Adoption Will Resolve That Issue

“When a system is taken apart, it loses its essential properties. The system behavior is not the sum of its parts, it’s the product of their interactions.” – Russel Ackoff

Take into consideration who your management is. Your message may just depend on where you management comes from. In terms of Personality Theory – People who come from development side are generally intuitive in nature. The business side? Data oriented. Don suggests that a healthy combination between showing data and describing what it means is a good approach.

Derek, speaking from his experiences, suggests looking at and preparing to discuss what we can deliver now. “You don’t need to ask for the kitchen sink every time. I want to give you the most important thing the quickest. The pain point often is the long duration of delivering value. Focus on the highest priority and problems we need to solve. From there your strongest critics can become your strongest allies.” 

Demonstration of successes can often help win over management. Chris suggests doing an assessment of the current environment, system, or processes. From there, one can easily see where some universal Agile practices make sense. “You also have to consider their context. Some care about how you improve things, some don’t care about that type of detail. Do they have to show stockholders? Do they need to be able to communicate risks and management overhead?”  

For Mike, he is cautious about what to communicate to management: “Very rare that management even cares whether you are using Agile or not. You may not even want to talk about team culture, retention, or happy developers. To me it’s about business value and predictability. Is the business getting the outcomes they desire or want?” 

Bottom Line for Communicating to Management About Going Agile

There are several factors we need to consider before we communicate:

  1. Data – Show measures of potential change and value of those changes
  2. Small wins – Sometimes bootstrapping small areas within your control can show demonstrable value
  3. Management Speak – Communicate to management about things they care about: Business value and predictability

 Summary

Agile can work for you and your organization. It takes patience, resilience, and even a bit of gumption. There are a lot of misconceptions around Agile and where it works and where it doesn’t. We agree that it can work in all companies, but your companies milage may vary on its environment, readiness for change, and management style. True Agile transformation is the goal. Take incremental steps towards that goal and exposure yourself to others who have faced the challenges you are facing. There is a whole community out there ready to help you.

Setting and Achieving Goals as a Change Agent

setting-goals-agile

SETTING AND ACHIEVING GOALS

I. Goal Achievement and Organization

  • These go hand in hand. There is much that can be said about goal orientation. It has to do with attitude. The attitude of the leaders to the goals and their potential problem and the followers and their attitudes. We need to be concerned as to whether our teams are “problem-centered,” or “objective-centered.”
  • Keep your eye on the doughnut, not the hole.
  • Of course we know that problems will arise, but we need to remain focused on the goal.

How can you tell if your team is goal-oriented or problem-oriented?

Questions to consider …

  • Are we generating new ideas to accomplish goals and objectives?
  • What has caused any changes?
  • Do we have room for the “out of step” leader … those with different ideas?
  • How do we utilize business session times? What happens in our church meetings? How much time do we discuss goals vs. problems?

How can a problem-centered company be “turned around?”

4 ways to develop objective-orientation

  1. Reorganize the decision-making process – decisions should be made at all levels of authority – decentralization
  2. Eliminate timidity – people must be willing to speak up
  3. Decentralized systems input – decentralizing the kind of information that is necessary to operate a company or organization – people in the organization then will know what is going on from the top and they are able to have input as to what happens at the top – employees are able to speak to the powers-that-be and share concerns and ideas
  4. Reduce long lead times – setting goals with sub-objectives – It is tough to keep people motivated by a long-range goal if they do not see anything intermediate (smaller achievement levels need to be built in) – Iterative development!

Goal Orientation

5 Aspects of the Importance of Goals and Objectives

  1. Objectives must be derived from what our company vision is, what it will be, and what it should be
  2. Objectives must be operational, capable of conversion into specific targets and assignments
  3. Objectives must make possible the concentration of resources and efforts – you nail up a specific target/goal so that everyone can focus on it
  4. Objectives must be multiple, never singular. We have many objectives.
  5. Objectives must relate to all areas of which the progress of the company depend

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT AND TIME MANAGEMENT

10 Common Time Wasters

  1. lack of planning – leads to crisis management
  2. crisis management – running from here to there, no plan for approaching the issue
  3. lack of prioritizing
  4. over commitment
  5. undo haste – rushing to do stuff – we are never really efficient in the heat of the moment
  6. paperwork (busy work) and reading (not all) – in the office only read that which is directly related to your goal achievement
  7. interruptions
  8. meetings
  9. indecision
  10. failure to delegate

The Seven Major Time-Wasters

  1. Telephone interruptions
  2. Unexpected visitors (drop-ins)
  3. Meetings (planned and extemporaneous)
  4. Fire-fighting (unexpected crises)
  5. Procrastination
  6. Socializing
  7. Indecision

Keys to Effective Time Management

  1. Make a firm decision to become excellent at time management
  2. Set clear goals and objectives that are consistent with your highest aspirations
  3. Create detailed plans of action and get organized for productive work
  4. Establish clear priorities and always work on your highest value tasks
  5. Develop good work habits and learn to concentrate on one task at a time (the most important task)
  6. Think through and carefully plan large jobs or complex tasks that involve several people

According to time management specialist, Michael Fortino, over the average lifetime people spend …

  • 7 years in the bath room
  • 6 years eating
  • 5 years waiting in lines
  • 4 years cleaning house
  • 3 years in meetings
  • 1 year searching for lost items
  • 8 months opening junk mail
  • 6 months sitting at red lights
  • 120 hours brushing your teeth
  • 4 minutes per day talking with your spouse – as it averages out
  • 30 seconds per day talking to you kids – as it averages out

We, therefore, must learn to save time …

We must continually ask…

  • “Why am I on the payroll?”
  • “What have been called to accomplish?”
  • “What am I supposed to do?”
  • “What results have I been called to achieve?”
  • “Is what I am doing right now contributing to the accomplishment of my most important goals, objectives, and responsibilities?”

These are some ideas on what is going on… now, what do we do about it? Time to focus. Do great work. I would/could say… that FOCUS… or the ability to focus is the key in a lot of ways. What other things would you add to my thoughts here?

The Best Training Isn’t What You Say, It’s What You Do

Dear Peter Saddington,

Thank you for the two day course for Scrum Masters.

I really liked the way you helped us learn Agile and Scrum through team activities.   Your training method itself reflected the principle that doing is more important than reading theory.

And you overcame so many obstacles (no projector / bad TV / faded markers / locked doors / late comers / fire drill) to enable us to focus on the session.  You showed us the qualities of a true Scrum Master.

Thank you also for sharing anecdotes from your personal experiences.  Your career path and academic qualifications inspire many of us.

I have been a huge fan of Agile principles, and I long to be part of a true Agile team.  You helped me picture the ideals with so much clarity that I truly hope my aspiration to be in an agile organization will come true soon.

Thank you.

Regards,
Sudeep

Making the World Round Again with Agile

scrum-cycle-peter-saddingtonOnce upon a time, the world of software development was flat. The customer had a product to be developed, which they handed off to a vendor, who handed it off to workers. In this linear process, odd schedules and isolated teams were the norm, and any true collaboration was limited to a few hours a day at best. The bible of instruction was a Requirements Document that stayed the same even as months passed and the software evolved in unforeseen ways. The unfortunate byproduct of this arrangement was a distance in time, geography and understanding – and the final product often suffered as a result.

Then agile came along, shook things up and gave outsourcing what it needed – a way to make the world round again. With agile, development is collaborative and flexible, rising from a foundation of frequent interaction and fast-paced response cycles. Instead of relying on an up-front set of instructions and working through testing and revision cycles at the end, teams work with customers throughout the cycle to optimize the design in real time. The result of this streamlined model: an accelerated road to market with a product that’s perfect the first time.

Consider this example:

Let’s say an online shopper needs to enter a credit card number to place an order. In our flat world model, that’s all we would know – we wouldn’t know what the screen should look like or what other data should be collected. The odds are high that we’d turn in a product very different from what the customer envisioned, and have to make expensive corrections. But in our round world model, we’d start with a well-rounded user story that would help us flesh out a more accurate, satisfying product. We’d also repeatedly meet with customer to collect their feedback and refine the product based on their ideas. The end result would be software that matched the customer’s vision.

So just how do you make this new world happen? Collaboration is key – that much is clear. However, it’s also important to know that this round world doesn’t just happen laterally, but longitudinally. Read on for the best practices that can turn your software development world round again.

Tactical Execution – Lateral Agile

Communication.

Like we said above, in the flat world of waterfall development, customers hand the Requirements Document over the fence to the provider as a static directive that lays out a problem to be solved – and the two businesses don’t intersect again until the vendor hands back complete, working software. As you might guess, that leaves more than a little room for guesswork and assumptions. Agile, however, relies on frequent communication and multiple interactions per day to keep the project on course. The teams clarify what will be built, answer questions and request feedback. We synchronize the communication rhythm and ensure that all team members have tools like Skype to enable immediate conferencing.

The difference is colossal. Imagine building a house in the United States; normally the owner would provide regular feedback on the flooring, shower tiles or cabinet finish so the builder could rectify mistakes on the spot. But if the owner only saw the house once it was complete, correcting all of the wrong features would be a massive and costly endeavor. This is the exact fate good agile communication prevents.

Location.

Even when you’re working on a project within your own company, smooth collaboration can be a challenge. When a project involves a customer, a vendor and an outsourced team, the potential for communication breakdowns and lost opportunities are even greater. For this reason, smart customers and vendors recognize the wisdom of using workers who are close by. Using an Indian team might make the most sense for a company in that time zone, while using a Mexican team could be the best choice for an American business. The physical proximity can lead to more efficient supply chains, faster delivery times and easier meeting access, something not to be overlooked.

Meetings.

Agile is all about staying attuned to user stories and customer needs, so we can build the most relevant, useful product possible. And the way we do that is through meetings. Daily huddles help us identify potential problems, reduce email, eliminate roadblocks, and incorporate customer feedback. Instead of disconnecting from the customer during development, we invite them to experience the software features in progress and provide feedback for corrections and enhancements. Not only does this lead to greater customer satisfaction, it saves time and money correcting errors post-production.

Strategic Choices – Longitudinal Agile

Cultural compatibility.

While outsourcing models involving offshore teams may work for some projects, agile teams benefit far more from using teams in culturally relevant locations. Near-shoring has become a popular model for agile development for many reasons; it offers the considerable cost savings of outsourcing while eliminating time zone difficulties and language barriers. Instead the team works with developers that live in complementary time zones and share a similar culture. The result is deeper engagement, tighter collaboration and increased profitability.

Shared agile understanding.

To design the best possible software, all players on an agile project should ideally operate as one team – and this is best accomplished by utilizing a shared framework that defines roles, processes and systems. All teams should observe the same daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly operational rhythm, as well as a common vocabulary; when you consider the potential for different definitions between team members or with customers, the need for precision become clear.  Taking the time to clarify coding terms or testing stages can eliminate misunderstandings and enhances communication, ensuring that the teams grasp the customer’s expectations.

There’s no doubt that agile has simplified and accelerated the world of software development. By adopting agile methodologies, teams can reconnect with their customers and each other for cost savings, faster time-to-market and greater productivity. And by weaving communication and collaboration into every step of the project cycle, agile teams can offer their customers the most accurate and perfect product possible.

[Cliff Schertz is the founder and CEO of Tiempo Development, which provides cloud-focused companies with a powerful, integrated platform of services know as Tiempo Quality System™ (TQS)that transforms the way their products are developed, deployed and supported. For more than 25 years, Mr. Schertz has been leading and growing successful technology service companies, enabling his customers to achieve superior performance, high customer satisfaction and profitability.]

Agile Coach Leadership Traits

scrummaster-agile-leadership-servant-job-description

What is Leadership? 

Three Styles

  1. Autocratic – Has to do with a totalitarian approach to leadership. This is more of an attitude than a leadership style.  This leader demands instant obedience, no discussions from underlings are desired. This is NOT a desirable leadership approach.
  2. Free-rein – The opposite of autocratic. This is more of a “hands off” approach. This is a good approach when dealing with highly skilled and expert individuals (professionals). Some of the more “blue collar” type individuals actually do not desire a free rein approach. They are told what to do and when to do it at work, they almost expect similar treatment at church.
  3. Participatory – Typically the best approach. Group decision-making, multiple leadership. There is, however, a leader at the head.

 Three Components

  1. PersonThe particular personality traits and leadership attributes the leader brings to the table. There are different personality types and individuals will respond differently and accordingly to this personality depending upon his or her personality.
  2. Group – The question is: “What kind of leader does this group actually need?” AM I WHERE I NEED TO BE?
  3. Situation – Leadership is situational. We can take the same leader who was successful in one scenario and place him or her in another scenario and NOT have the same exact results. Happenings may be slower, faster, not at all. Rather than success, failure could be more commonplace.  This could be related to any number of factors: geographical, cultural, social issues, political differences, phraseology, management approaches, leadership styles, etc.

Three Terms

  1. Leader – Really comes down to what a person is. He or she IS a leader. Generally a leader is one who has the ability to influence individuals to follow a particular direction or pursue a particular goal. John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leaders are goal-oriented.
  2. Administrator – These are more result-oriented. They strive for order, to correct failures, and operate systems.
  3. Manager – same as administrator.

Leaders inspire people, but managers depend on systems. Managers attempt to adjust to change, while leaders attempt to produce it.

Leadership Check Up Continue reading “Agile Coach Leadership Traits”

Becoming an Agile Coach – Effective Communication Techniques

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Effective Communication Techniques 

Communication requires cultivation of techniques. It is not something that comes naturally. The number one reason relationships fail is poor communication (leads to massive misunderstanding).

Five Conditions to meet for effective communication:

  1. Desire – you must want to be effective. It really must be a consuming passion. Love for coaching and teaching should drive you to desire excellence.
  1. Understand the process of communication – the three aspects of communication MUST be understood and appreciated. We use words, but we also use imagery and gestures. We also receive data back from listeners. What seems so easy is really a very trying art and science. But this can become quite easy once we appreciate the process of communication. We are dealing with needs, emotions, feelings, and realities. These are serious issues and we must take them seriously.
  1. Master the basics – three basic skills
    • Connecting with the listeners
    • Conveying information in ways they can understand it
    • Checking responses (interest levels and connectivity is seen in body language)
  1. Dedication to Practice – It’s time tested. Which means you won’t be a rockstar on day one.
  1. Patience and Persistence – time is our friend. We will get better. There is simply no way it cannot happen if we follow the first four conditions. Self-evaluation is of tantamount importance.

How do I get people to pay attention to me?

We all want attention. We thrive on it and want more of it.  It is human nature, but it is also an enemy of the Agile communicator. Why? Because we want to draw people’s attention, not to us, but to the potentially life-changing affects of being agile…

The first law of communication is audience attention. You must get their attention.

Three techniques for getting and keeping attention:

  1. Pay attention to others and they will pay attention to you. Work the crowd. Don’t simply appear. We must be the right person, at the right place, at the right time. We speak truthfully to needs, fears, hurts, and on practical and relational matters. In the speaking event, the listeners are our top priority, not us or even our message..
  1. Overcome the stiff competition for attention. People are no longer getting the personal touches they desperately need. We are closer physically than ever before, but fail to connect with most people. Ever notice the service attendant at the drive-through window? Ever notice how people will not acknowledge each other in elevators? People tune out or “filter” people out of our lives or environments. This makes communication very difficult.
  1. Be interesting! Build messages in creative ways! Push yourself beyond your self-created limitations. People come to speaking events prepared to “turn on the filters.”

5 tactics to improve communication Continue reading “Becoming an Agile Coach – Effective Communication Techniques”

Ideas on Managing Distributed Teams Using Agile [3/3] – Review and Conclusion

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Things to be followed by Distributed team in Sprint review meeting:

  • Keeping Track of the Stakeholder Comments -During the sprint meeting, the distributed team needs to capture these comments so the Product Owner and the development team can decide which ones they will act on.
  • Effects of Distance – The facilitator of a distributed retrospective needs to understand the cultural differences in the team. SM needs to understand how different cultures interact when they want to change something
  • Or have issues they want to talk about that can help the facilitator encourage participation from all team members.
  • Release Planning –The number of Sprints to map out and use with “Look ahead Planning Technique” will depend on Sprint length, dependencies, and needs of the teams involved.
  • Engaging Stakeholders – At enterprise level environments, to address the diversity of data by the Scrum team, the PO can help identify which customers are representative of different markets.
  • Resolving Blockers – The SM should create a list of blockers and assign them to team members or managers. The SM should also ensure the team is burning through the blocker list.
  • Handling New Requests in the Middle of a Sprint – In Distributed Scrum, it becomes mandatory that the team commits to sending requests through the Product Owner(s), who will decide the priority of the request in the Product Backlog.
  • Demos May Provide a False Sense of Completion – Add a DRAFT watermark on any screenshots or to use data that is clearly not real, to avoid false sense of completion to the stakeholders. Setting Expectations – The facilitator, for distributed teams, should talk to the team ahead of the first retrospective and explain the expectations for the retrospective.
  • Remote Demonstrations – Network Delays and Poor Performance – Distributed Team should test their tools ahead of time to be sure the distributed meeting will run smoothly, without network poor performance

The team can also consider making the recordings available for download before the demonstration meeting and discussing them through a teleconference.

Understanding the Team Members’ Personalities

Team have a different combination of personalities, and the facilitator of the retrospective needs to understand the personalities of team members to lead the meeting effectively.

  • Teleconference Meeting – Distributed teams with overlapping work hours should use a teleconference call to the same phone number every day to hold their Daily Scrum meetings.
  • Videoconference Meeting – The main advantage of this approach is that team members get to see one another, so there is less nonverbal communication loss. Dealing with Defects – Distributed team may want to consider creating a user story with a certain number of story points in the Sprint to deal with the problems, OR, they can set a priority for the maintenance tasks as per the customer log OR create a subteam to focus only on handling these issues during the Sprint OR depending on the skill set of the technical support team team to make the necessary code changes
  • Services May Vary by Location – Set up a single machine with a standard configuration that everyone uses during the demonstration meeting. Before the start of the meeting, distributed team members can access the machine (remotely or locally) to bookmark links, set up scripts, and do a quick dry run of their presentation.
  • Respecting Cultural Differences – SM needs to make sure cultural difference should not be taken lightly during the retrospective meeting in distributed teams
  • Managing Dependencies within the teams – Agile teams will not try to account for every possible dependency at the start of the project, but will look ahead two or three Sprints to ensure that teams are ready to deal with dependencies, using INVEST model
  • Gaining Commitment – With a distributed team,team members who are sensing that other team members have unspoken issues need to take responsibility for drawing attention to the issues to SM because of this, the SM needs to rely on the whole team to take responsibility for ensuring good communication.

Approaches to Handling Time Zone Issues

Distributed Teams can use four different methods to deal with distributed Daily Scrums where the team has members with no overlap in their work hours, as follows:

  • Daily Scrums through documentation
  • Liaison approach
  • Alternating meeting times
  • Share the pain Disruptions at the Team Member Level – Handling Stories the Team Cannot Complete During the Sprint – Before working toward the solution, the team first needs to identify the work they need to do to complete the story through meetings between team members or with the Product Owner.
  • Asking for Comments Before the Retrospective Meeting – What Went Well and What Can We Improve?
  • Ask the team for comments about issues or problems they noticed since the previous
  • Sprint retrospective and summarize them for team discussion. The result is still an action plan and a list of behaviors the team needs to change or continue in the period until the next Retrospective.

Risks

During the Release Plan, the PO will want to identify the risks associated with the project and teams, when possible, the mitigation plan for each of them Note: No one should interpret silence as agreement. Team members should phrase questions in a way that needs a verbal response to improve the understanding within the team. Precautions to be taken while conducting Distributed Scrum meeting

  • Increased distraction – Background noise can be distracting on a teleconference so teams should chose a room to conduct the meeting.
  • Handling Blockers During the Sprint – In the large scale enterprise transitioning to agile, the SM needs to hear from Distributed Scrum Team members who are facing blockers and dealing directly with inhibitors will help increase the velocity of the team over time, as well as the velocity of other teams as they transition to Scrum.
  • Provide Questions to Focus the Discussion – In distributed setup, team members respond to a set of questions developed or selected by the team. The purpose is to focus on a few issues and address them effectively instead of trying to address a lot of issues and address them poorly.
  • Coordinate Multiple Product Owners of different teams – Product Owners meet regularly to discuss Product Backlogs, dependencies, and links between and boundaries between user stories w.r.t. different teams
  • Release Plan Check or Update: Enterprise Scrum Teams often begin providing tasks for high-priority user stories before the Sprint Planning meeting. All team members discuss the tasks because it helps with communication for distributed and scaled teams and provides opportunities to find better ways of completing the user stories. Silence on a teleconference is not a commitment.
  • Keeping the Team Engaged – Possibly the best way to stay engaged and to make sure that others on the team stay engaged is: Awareness. Build awareness of what the team is working on.
  • Advertising. Advertise for collaboration.
  • Attack blockers. The team and SM should strive to fix all blockers within one hour of the Daily Scrum
  • Responding to Questions During the Sprint – For enterprise product development, the PO should look for ways to match representative stakeholders with the teams’ working hours and to be available during that time as well. For applications the team is developing for a specific client, the Product Owner may not have the flexibility to choose stakeholder representatives available during the full working day of the client.
  • Discussing Reported Issues – During their retrospective, the team reviews the reported issues and, if others feel strongly enough, the team addresses them, creates their action plans, and log them as actions they will revisit in follow-on Sprint retrospectives to evaluate their success.
  • Facilitating the Meeting – In a distributed environment, as individuals come into the call, they will identify who they are. The SM calls each person and asks for their response. They may respond in the order they arrived at the teleconference or the SM may choose to call on each person
  • Sharing Time Zone Challenges – One approach to help manage such cases is to make sure that distributed teams in different time zones are fully self-sufficient and the team spreads the work to minimize dependencies.
  • Managing Time Effectively – Limit the discussions to a limited set of issues, it is important for the team to agree, this is the right set to be talking about in the meeting. The meeting facilitator may want to keep a window of time open for unplanned issues that come up during the retrospective.
  • Invest in Smarter Development – Test automation and continuous integration help agile teams to complete user stories within a Sprint, working together or for distributed teams.
  • Taking Daily Scrum Notes – Helps the distributed team members to overcome language problems, plan and learn. Chat Tools & Wiki help distributed teams to do Daily scrums.
  • Continuous Integration – Continuous integration is the key to delivering stable, high-quality code consistently and quickly, which results in reducing time to market for any distributed agile team Release Retrospectives – The team talks about the project, and then defines and records the milestones in the project like initial training, team formation, Stand -up Meetings, start of development, middle of release, deployment etc.

Coordinating Agile and Non-Agile Teams

Making sure the non-agile team is aware of the priorities of the agile teams and keeping dependencies visible can help to prevent blockers between the teams. Scrum of Scrum can solve distributed team road blocks, future dependencies, commitments to other team members, issues with integration, and other points that impact one another.

  • Reports Any Build Failures to the Team – Allows the Distributed team to know the current state of the code in the integration branch of the source control system, generating a notification email for build success or failure.
  • Face to Face Collaboration –SM should reduce the amount time spent each day on project setup tasks, which will extend the duration of the project startup tasks and enables to build trust and relationships needed in distributed development efforts.
  • Reduces the Risk of Integrating Code – Continuous integration ensures a build runs regularly and allows the distributed team to identify integration issues earlier when they are less costly to fix. This practice helped the team to identify design problems and avoid introducing defects in scenarios we did not cover. These smaller testable deliverables allow the team members testing the feature to start their work in parallel with the development.
  • Establishes Greater Confidence in the Product – When developers are doing the unit testing of their code, they should also create automated unit tests as continuous integration certifies every build, developers can make changes with more confidence and the entire team can remain in sync with the latest build.
  • Reduces the Time to Find Integration Issues – Developers receive the build status by email, so they can see and fix problems. The next time the build runs, the build status changes from fail to pass automatically.
  • Improves the Efficiency of the Team – Distributed Teams efficiency can be improved by automating once and then reusing as much as possible. This removes human error, provides consistency, and frees up people to do higher-value work.
  • Builds Can Run at Different Frequencies – Setting up the hourly build helps the distributed team to know about a failure closer to the time of the code integration, and team members can take action on it earlier.
  • Test Automation – To streamline the testing and help the distributed team to get as much done as possible within a two week Sprint, teams should automate time-consuming manual processes where possible
  • Dedicated Automation Teams- The developers in distributed teams should tell what is ready to be automated to allow testers to closely couple with the product. And other testers in the distributed team doing manual executions and informs their highest-priority items for automation as well.
  • Identify High-Value Automated Tests – Testing installation and configuration of the operating system, regression tests, as well as acceptance into testing tests all have a high rate of return because the distributed should often repeat and in different environments.
  • Automate What Is Stable – Automated test cases should be created for parts of the project that are stable will help teams improve their effectiveness and avoid rework.
  • Test-Driven Development – For distributed teams, if someone is working on code written by a developer in another geographical location, having the built-in documentation in the code helps reduce their dependency on the author and enables them to work with the code faster. Working directly with the source code provides a common language for the developers and removes languages barriers.
  • Helps Reduce the Time to Fix Defects – By using such tests and fixing the area where the problem is occurring, the developer in distributed teams can save the time needed to create a full build, start the application, get to the right place, and test the fix manually.
  • Helps Improve Code Quality and Provides a Safety Net for Changes – As the distributed team should write the unit tests first, providing test coverage for all or most of the code, thus, provides an early defect detection process where developers can improve the code knowing the existing set of tests will detect any problems.

Conclusion

Distributed team needs to go for mandatory training to run into full fledge agile teams so that they could understand the potential impact of making the change. Although the project teams are undergoing through while adjusting to be a distributed agile teams, it becomes more important for them to understand and adhere to Scrum, rather than immediately thinking that Scrum needs to be changed.

I believe that collaboration becomes very important in distributed teams as they collectively responsible for delivering on their commitments. One important key to having success in managing distributed team is to have a high commitment level from all team members, and the best way to get that is to give them ownership over how they will work.

Another key to embrace self-managed distributed team is valuing the entire team and not having an “us versus them” atmosphere between different Scrum Teams on the project. The best ways to build relationship within teams is to find ways to share the pain of being a distributed team, to get to know each other as people, and to foster frequent, quality communications between team members.

Another way to introspect the distributed team management is to use their Sprint Retrospectives to see what they are doing and how they are communicating is working for them; when they need to adjust, they should do so as fast as possible.

I must say the teams with members distributed across sites can enhance code ownership and improve autonomy essential to team self-organization. Automated communication of Product and Sprint backlogs throughout the organization combined with upward reporting of teams’ status to management can tightly align the team distributed teams together.

Ideas on Managing Distributed Teams Using Agile [2/3] – The Retrospective

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Retrospective Timings :

To be effective and timely, distributed teams should call joint retrospectives as soon as possible after having their own team meeting. Depending on the no. of teams involved in a joint retrospective, teams may want to limit the number of participants from each Scrum Team to keep the meeting productive.

  • Team Composition – Teams >=9 people should consider geographic closeness and proper distribution of skills as well as team size so as to build self-organizing teams
  • First level of Sprint Planning – The PO, SM will use a screen-sharing tool to display the vision, sprint goal, user story, the estimates the team provided, and the acceptance conditions for the user story.
  • Answering the 3 questions: Team members should communicate information that brings value to others on the team. They should also try to identify team members that can help them resolve their issues.
  • Documentation helps to Overcome Distance: Because of language barriers, distributed teams often need more written documentation than collocated teams. Another approach is to record the demonstration before the meeting to allow the developers to create the recording at their own pace in the language of the meeting or to have a fluent speaker speak over the recorded demonstration.
  • Hold Joint Retrospective – The Distributed Teams working together will conduct their individual
  • Sprint retrospectives at the end of each Sprint and then will conduct a joint retrospective.
  • The benefit of this approach is that it promotes communication between the various teams involved in a project
  • Individual Scrum Teams should aim to have the lowest distribution level possible encouraging feature teams over component teams.

Dealing with Incomplete Stories

The PO takes the impact of dependencies into consideration when reprioritizing the Product Backlog due to work the team did not complete during the Sprint, highlighted in Scrum of scrum Coordinating the Team on a Daily Basis – Priorities can change daily. The Daily Scrum meeting provides a daily synchronization point for the team and allows them to revise their plans regularly. Using the Right Tools : In a distributed environment, tools and good practices can help team members communicate more effectively, but it is more important to make sure the tools the team introduces will help them get the job done.

Scheduling for Teams with Overlapping Work Hours – Make sure all team members of distributed team, regardless of the time zone, can complete their work and prepare for the demo within overlapping work hours.

Larger Retrospectives

Distributed team members can reflect and comment on release quality and capability. The team talks about the project, and then defines and records the various milestones within the project to improve on or continue in future releases.
Enterprise planning tools for distributed team members, PO & SM to develop more than one feature to address a single solution so as to disaggregate the higher-priority features into user stories that can fit within a Sprint.

Checking Estimates from Preplanning Teams

In scaled environments where teams send representatives to help with preplanning, it is important
the teams who are going to be doing the work revisit the estimates

Committing to the Team

Team members are making a verbal commitment to their team when they state what they are going to do today, creating an opportunity for the rest of the team to confirm they met their commitments yesterday.

Valuing the Whole Team

SM should focus on an “us” versus “them” attitude in the distributed team, due to more delays in communications & fewer opportunities to work together Scheduling for Teams with No Overlapping Work Hours.

Alternate meeting time

The distributed team holds one Sprint Review meeting during the normal workday for part of the Scrum Team and holds the other Sprint Review meeting during the normal work hours of the other part of the Scrum Team.

Building Trust

SM needs to develop a sense of trust and honesty with one another, which in turn will lead to a wider degree of openness.

  • Single Backlog for Multiple teams – The different skill sets in the team needs to deliver user stories that are available across each distributed location
  • Separate Backlog for Multiple teams – The Scrum teams work independently from one another and have their own individual Sprint backlogs, but the Sprint dates are the same marking their interdependencies and risks in the Sprint preplanning sessions or in a Daily Scrum of Scrums.
  • Reviewing Changes Based on Stakeholder Feedback – The team would review changes made since the preplanning meeting, and the PO would confirm the priorities of the Product backlog.
  • Verifying Progress – Tasks not opening and closing regularly are an early sign the team may be going off track. Team members not showing regular progress may be facing outside distractions the SM should reduce or remove.
  • Transparency – Distributed agile teams should use project management tool to identify tasks that are open, in progress, and completed so everyone is aware of the current status.

More on the Sprint Review and Conclusion next!

Ideas on Managing Distributed Teams Using Agile [1/3] – Introduction and Ceremonies

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Today the businesses are shifting to emerging economies due to reduced business operations cost and easily available workforce, like Russia, China, India, Philippines etc. If I put it more precisely, tomorrows business would be more virtual and distributed with distributed as its key element. Hence forth, the need for better managing the teams, using right tools and process become critical day by day for any enterprise company.

Shift and Need of having Distributed Agile Teams

  • Globally distributed teams reduce costs
  • Reaching Market more quickly with the “follow the sun’ Model
  • Distributed Teams Expand Access to New Markets
  • Acquisitions as a result of consolidation resulting in companies working together to integrate their business
  • Expanding for Innovation and Thought Leadership
  • Telecommuting gives options to communicate with their teams more effectively
  • Collaboration Tools – Improved tools for distributed communications and server-based, multiuser tools for product development are removing barriers, and more teams view distributed collaboration as an alternative.

Handling Distributed Agile Teams

Distributed teams heighten the need for clear, timely communication between sites. You might be thinking of some questions as the complexity increases with distance as time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences get in the way, let me resonate it for you:

  • Are distributed teams difficult to manage?
  • Are they failing to meet some expectations?
  • Are they having trouble working as a team?
  • Is team morale a problem?

Agile can’t fix every problem, but it can bring them out into the open where the team can evaluate and correct them. Agile puts challenges under a magnifying glass. As the image under the glass grows larger, they scream for attention, and your team’s performance will improve after they address the challenges and correct dysfunctions. Continue reading “Ideas on Managing Distributed Teams Using Agile [1/3] – Introduction and Ceremonies”

Why It’s So Hard to Hire Great People

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Google admitted that its infamous brainteasers — e.g.: “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” — are awful at predicting who will be a good employee.

Your reaction might be: um, FINALLY. And, sure, thinking about windows-per-housing-unit isn’t the most direct way to assess engineering skill or creativity. But Google’s flawed strategy was the answer to another brainteaser: What’s the best way to hire great employees, anyway? People are complicated, organizations are complicated, matching people and organizations is complicated, and it’s extremely difficult to predict who will be brilliant and who will be a bust.

“Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring,” Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, told LinkedIn. “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess.”

Brainteasers didn’t matter. Colleges didn’t matter. GPAs? Yeah, those didn’t matter, either. The ability to hire well turned out to be utterly random for everybody…

Frankly, this is why understanding culture is so important. Google could have used something like TeamScience to help them:

– Understand their unique team culture
– Then hire the right cultural fit to their teams

Makes sense right? We already know that it makes sense… but most companies don’t take the time to do a cultural survey.

[HT: The Atlantic]

Agile Habla Aqui?

Agile doesn’t speak English, Spanish, or Martian. It just speaks efficiency and speed to market. Here’s how to implement agile across languages.

As agile grows in popularity, many businesses are finding that one of its greatest gifts is its common vocabulary. Other methodologies often struggle to communicate across different languages, processes and cultures. But by working from a foundation of mutual understanding based on a shared language, agile prevents misperceptions, delivers the customer’s vision and accelerates time to market – all by implementing some simple yet highly effective practices.

So how does this common language of agile development work? While smart vendors and customers will make an effort to work with culturally compatible teams, the effort to synchronize expectations and processes can’t stop there. Teams from different regions, backgrounds and companies will still need to reach out and create a synchronized language.

The five agile practices below can help teams work across their differences to ensure a smooth, streamlined project cycle.

Provide real-world examples of what we mean

Effective agile teams will find a way to work around an unavoidable truth: we all define words and concepts differently. We come from different backgrounds, some of us speak different languages, and all of us are influenced by sources such as former training, bosses or projects. As a result, our viewpoints and definitions can vary widely, which can quickly lead to erroneous assumptions on a project. By using real-world examples to accompany our agile terminology and directives, any guesswork is eliminated.

Let us look at the following scenario. We recently entered a new software development domain. There is usually “shorthand” that has developed among team members when they have worked shoulder to shoulder for a long time. In this particular case, our customer’s team has worked together for over 15 years. So the terms used while expressing requirements in user stories are clear to them. For us as an external developer it would have been easy to misunderstand the meaning of that shorthand. However, the real-time interaction required of agile allows us to overcome such deviations due to misunderstanding in just a matter of hours.

Implement a framework like CMMI or SCRUM

On one project I found myself in Mexico with an extremely diverse team. Engineers, developers, economists and government workers all played different roles on this project, and everyone was focusing on a different piece of the puzzle. The viewpoints and ideas clashed to such an extent that I really doubted we could hit the project deadline or meet the customer’s goals. Yet in the end we did deliver a successful product – and it was because we implemented a framework that helped everyone understand and carry out their specific roles. The magic of implementing the right framework is that it defines parameters, institutes clear communication and spells out the right processes and directions. Putting a framework in place at the start helps dispel any confusion over priorities and roles down the road.

Define the literal language

This is absolutely necessary in a time-boxed iterative process. The reason is obvious; if we’re working with 14-30 day development cycles, even a slight misunderstanding can lead the project disastrously off course in a very short time. Once again, remember that we all bring different understandings to a project.

done-not-equal-doneThis is never as evident as it is with the word “done.” Generally, a team’s Definition of Done (DoD) is aimed at bringing a standardized quality to meeting client demands and making success repeatable throughout the project. But the standards themselves can differ from team to team. One team might decide that all coding, testing and peer review must be completed, before it can be called done. Another team might decide to split their DOD into additional levels of Done Done and Done Done Done. Still another might have adaptable DoD depending on the project type. To make sure that everyone is on the same page at every point in the project cycle, precise definitions are critical so take the time to develop them and ensure all team members use them.

Think of it like building a house

In the United States, you often pay for your house long before you move into it, since the house has to pass certain inspections and is only considered ‘move-in ready’ after those inspections. In another country, on the other hand, you might move in before construction is officially complete and then keep working on it while you’re in residence. Such different practices and expectation can easily lead to a misunderstanding – so you can see why it’s vital to clarify the meaning of our words.

Stay focused on the promise to the customer

True, a lot of businesses like to talk about their “promises” – but when it comes to agile, this isn’t just empty talk. Accountability is woven into every fiber of the agile model, while teams keep the customer’s needs in mind at every stage. The Promises Triangle aligns customers, providers and workers by ensuring the workers are both informed of the promise to the customer and empowered to fulfill it. The purpose of this diligent accountability? Avoiding a common pitfall of waterfall model, where the Requirements Document begins a promise that eventually winds through non-technical staff who then add in unrealistic promises – a process that often leads to disappointment in the final product.

Prioritize frequent communication and feedback

Agile cycles are built around user stories – first by gathering those stories, then prioritizing user needs, then deciding what can be delivered within the designated timeframe. Teams also constantly solicit and incorporate feedback to maximize customer satisfaction. On a practical level, this means that customers must be prepared for frequent interaction and able to deliver clear feedback, while vendors must be able to explain how element X affects element Y in a way their customers will understand.

Overcoming different backgrounds and conflicting expectations is important in any business endeavor – but in agile development, it’s absolutely critical for a successful product. By implementing thoughtful and effective strategies to align efforts, teams can eliminate potential missteps and fulfill their promises to their customers. In the end, it doesn’t matter what languages and backgrounds teams bring to the table – by following the above practices, everyone will be speaking the shared language of agile.

Guest post from Tiempo Development, which provides cloud-focused companies with a powerful, integrated platform of services that transforms the way their products are developed, deployed and supported.

Peter Saddington Session on the Science Behind High Performance Teams #agile2013

Dear Peter,

Thank you for being a part of Agile2013. Following is some information about your session.

  • Number of attendees at the beginning of your session: # 170
  • Number of attendees at the end of your session: # 170

We asked attendees to indicate whether they would recommend your session to their peers:

  • Yes (Green): # 120
  • Maybe (Yellow): # 3  ***CANT PLEASE EVERYONE*** 🙂
  • No (Red): # 0

 Thanks,

Agile Alliance Team

=========
Had a great time! Thanks Agile Alliance!

=========
Below is the scribd version:

Action & Influence – The Science of High Performance Teams Teams Agile2013 Peter Saddington FINAL

Only You Can Prevent Agile Pandamonium

It’s no surprise that VersionOne wants software teams to use an agile development tool. Preferably theirs. Now they have an ally… and these videos are so LoLs!

Meet Agile Panda, one mischievously destructive giant panda who has very little patience (ok who are we kidding?… NO patience) for those still using notecards, Gantt charts and whiteboards to track their projects.

Robert Holler as PandaAgile Panda’s sole mission is to find agile teams using manual tools and destroy shit around their office – just to prove a point that having a centralized agile project management tool is the only way to go. Of course if you do use old-school agile tools, you’re not likely to see this creature blowing something up in your office. Or nailing you point-blank in the crotch with a paint gun.  But you do risk creating pandemonium (or is it pandamonium?) without that centralized visibility.

I found this series entertaining. Looks like VersionOne has posted a few episodes so far; I’m looking forward to what Agile Panda jacks up next!

Check out the “Agile Pandamonium: Say Yes to the Tool” series on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEFSzPxFMkg&list=PLgtht2Pp8VhZM8iCNd0NUxy7mImbEkWGd[Oh yeah, and I did hear that some of the VersionOne employees involved in filming these things actually got called into HR for the stunts they pulled inside the building! So if you get even a tiny chuckle from these, make it worth their penalty and share the link!]

version-one-pandaAgile Panda on Twitter@StopAgilePanda

On Facebook at Agile Panda

Staying Agile Webinar – The Notes – High Performance Teams via Mentoring

If you missed last month’s webinar on How to Grow High Performance Teams Through Mentorship by Peter Saddington, we have attached the audio and slide deck below. Enjoy!

A few problems came up when recording, but we were able to save the audio.

$9.99 Apple Store Promotion! Get The Agile Pocket Guide Book on Sale! @ibookstore

apple-store-agile-pocket-guide

It’s here on the Apple Store: The Agile Pocket Guide. It’s right there in the “Learning Business Skills” brick on the main page, in conjunction with the Apple WWDC conference.

It is a two week Apple promotion dropping ebook prices to $9.99 starting 6/4 and running through 6/17.

Would love a tweet about it!:

The Agile Pocket Guide is now only $9.99 in the @iBookstore for the Apple #WWDC2013 – http://ow.ly/lHo6F

There are lots of other books on sale too… here are the other books at the promotion!:

Main Promo Link: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewRoom?cc=us&fcId=657275399&id=27829&mt=11&ls=1

agile-store-the-agile-pocket-guide-peter-saddington

A Personal Touch @JerryWeinberg @donaldegray

the-secrets-of-consulting

Having been a fan for so long of Jerry Weinberg’s work, I obviously took the opportunity to get something personal from him. His writing has so greatly influenced how I operate as a consultant and if you ever spend more than a couple hours with me, you’ll probably hear me quote him at some level.

Thanks a bunch Jerry. Even though the Law of Raspberry Jam is alive and well… coupled with the Weinbergs’ Law of Twins… sometimes statistical outliers do occur. Count me to be one of them.

Also, thank you Don Gray for being a great colleague, mentor, and friend. Oh, the client’s we’ll encounter together!

 

Transforming Your Business with Agile Culture [Guest Post]

Agile Team Structure

These days almost everyone is familiar with the benefits of Agile methodology. Marked by collaboration, self-managing teams and real-time response to customer feedback, Agile has evolved beyond buzzword status to become a pillar of the technology landscape. Its advantages are just as well-known: customer-oriented solutions, accelerated product release and cost savings, just to name a few.

The rewards are so remarkable, in fact, that some innovative companies are using the Agile paradigm to transform their business culture. My own business has done just that, and we are consistently meeting the goals we set out to accomplish. By applying the same Agile methodologies to drive business strategy and execution, many businesses – ours included – have achieved breakthrough results.

A Shift in Culture

So how do Agile businesses differ from traditional corporate cultures? It starts at the top. Many companies govern through a Command and Control management style that cascades instruction down a hierarchy. Communication and feedback are limited and slow-moving; rather than harness the expertise of the organization, the company acts on the judgment of a few, resulting in ineffective decisions.

Agile companies, on the other hand, operate with the flexibility and high performance of Agile development teams.  Because operations rely more on collaboration and communication, decisions and solutions are more accurate and effective. Employees are provided with their roles and the tools they need, then empowered to be self-managing.

Agile Business In Practice

You’re probably wondering exactly how Agile culture gets practiced on a day-to-day basis.

  • Daily meetings. Just as with Agile software development, brief and daily huddles should answer three questions. What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? What is your main impediment? To ensure thorough communication, huddles should occur first with managers, then with teams. These meetings reduce email, identify potential problems, and clarify any changes necessary for successful execution.
  • Focus on removing impediments. Agile developers tend to focus on identifying roadblocks and removing them. The same approach here can address and resolve impediments before any negative impact can occur.
  • Goals. Agile development teams start out with their end game in mind, and aren’t afraid to envision impressive products. Agile professionals should do the same, and set major goals. For us, we created a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) so that we had something to work toward. We had traditionally grown at 60 percent year-over-year but applying Agile to our business strategy has helped us position to reach our BHAG of 100 percent year-over-year growth.
  • Strategy. Working hand in hand with goals is strategy; smart Agile experts identify their desired outcome and draft a plan of how to reach it. Agile companies do the same thing by plotting a path to their goal, then empowering teams to execute that strategy throughout the company.
  • Success as a starting point. Demonstrating success right off the bat can motivate the rest of the company. Start with a department, give them an agile project with an isolated workflow, and then promote the success of that project to everyone else.
  • Self-managing teams. In Command and Control mode, you have an authority who controls and micromanages every project detail. In Agile culture, self-managing teams control their own destiny. On a practical level, this means your people must be trained and given the tools to be successful. Then you supply them with the task to be done and the timeframe, and let them execute.
  • Service. Agile teams pinpoint and prioritize “user stories” that highlight what they want to accomplish in a given time period. Once identified, the team owner assembles a cross-functional team that has the required skills to accomplish the project.  These teams self-organize and manage in way that they can accomplish the work in the require time period and produce world class service.

 

Roadmap to Revolution

As you might guess, adopting an Agile business culture can involve a learning curve. I considered it a control+alt+delete to the way we did business and still believe that you can’t dabble in applying Agile to your business strategy – you have to fully commit. The below tips can help you some avoid pitfalls. 

  • Be flexible. As the manager, it might feel unnatural to take on a non-management team role. But it’s important on agile teams to perform whatever work is needed at that time to succeed.
  • Establish and keep a rhythm. For our business, we set up daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual operations to ensure we had a thorough and well-executed plan. Your rhythm might be different, but it’s important to identify what your company needs, put that rhythm in place and stick to it.
  • You might not be developing software, but you do need a SCRUM Master, who is accountable for removing impediments so the team can deliver on their goals and deliverables. Make sure you have someone on the team who knows both the framework and the subtleties.
  • Give your team the tools for success. Team-oriented culture can benefit from tools like cloud platforms that facilitate collaboration and communication.

Embracing Change

Transforming your business with Agile methodologies requires a full commitment. This is a complete system overhaul, and leaders who adopt only half-measures will see inefficiency and poor returns.  But a full dive into Agile will bring the enhanced communication, empowered teams and faster execution that Agile is known for – and once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never want to go back.

Cliff Schertz is the founder and CEO of Tiempo Development, which provides cloud-focused companies with a powerful, integrated platform of services that transforms the way their products are developed, deployed and supported. For more than 25 years, Mr. Schertz has been leading and growing successful technology service companies, enabling his customers to achieve superior performance, high customer satisfaction and profitability.

Learn more about how to understand your culture using TeamScience.

3 Tools for Feeling Less Lonely when You’re Working Remotely [Guest Post]

Depression_02

[Guest post by Walter Chen] – In response to our post on depression and developers.

Developer depression is one of the most important issues that our community needs to address that no one is talking about.

The problem is often made even worse by the prevalence of remote work in companies that don’t recognize the risk of loneliness. Developers working virtually with their teams experience social isolation resulting from the diminished professional and personal interaction with your colleagues that you get from going into the office. And that literally can kill you.

A review of research published in 1988 found that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death” . . .

Even without indulging in unwholesome behaviors, . . . loneliness can impair health by raising levels of stress hormones and increasing inflammation. The damage can be widespread, affecting every bodily system and brain function.

Via the New York Times, Shaking Off Loneliness

Fortunately, even as technology, in enabling virtual work, facilitates an accompanying loneliness, it can just as well help us be less lonely as we work remotely. Here are 3 tools that make remote work less lonely and lead us toward making remote work what it should be: awesome.

  1. iDoneThis

Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia, told me that iDoneThis helps his company of 20 feel like it did when it was just 4 people sitting around a table.

That tight feeling of camaraderie comes from a shared knowledge on the team of what everyone is working on, feeding the sense that the team is rowing together in the same direction. And this is essential for distributed teams.

iDoneThis makes syncing up very simple and lightweight. iDoneThis emails everyone on your team every day to ask, “What’d you get done today?” Just reply. The next day, everyone gets an email digest showing the team’s accomplishments from yesterday — which gets everyone on the same page, aligned, and ready to go.

It takes the pain out of a daily standup for remote teams, which is a common source of friction. When people have to wake up at weird times and when Skype drops the call over and over, people get frustrated. iDoneThis provides a remedy because it works asynchronously over email.

For entrepreneurs, like Laura Roeder, who’ve built million-dollar businesses with happy and healthy remote teams, iDoneThis is an essential tool “to create a cohesive team where work is recognized and valued,” which is vital to combating the sense of isolation and being out of the loop that so often accompanies remote work.

  1. Sqwiggle

There’s no substitute for face-to-face conversation when it comes to fighting loneliness. In fact, psychologist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann defines loneliness as “the want of intimacy,” and talking with another person in real-time and seeing their face conveys a far greater sense of intimacy than text on a screen.

Sqwiggle is a video chat app that gives you the immediacy of being in the same office and the intimacy of face-to-face conversation while you’re working remotely. This is a browser-based video chat app that you leave on while you work. Unlike Skype and Google Hangout, you don’t have to initiate a call to talk, and unlike text-based chat, you can actually see the faces of your teammates.

Everyone on your team keeps Sqwiggle running in the background all day while you’re working. To speak with someone, all you have to do is click on their face in the browser. Instant connection with no dialing or inviting, and you can simply start talking.

You can use chat room services like Campfire or Hipchat with your team to maintain some degree of social sanity — but for actually, you know, seeing your team, and looking at their lovely faces, and talking like humans should, nothing really fits the bill.

Via TechCrunch, Sqwiggle Makes Working Remotely Less Lonely, More Awesome

  1. Turntable.fm

Turntable isn’t a productivity tool at all. It’s actually liable to make your team less productive in the short term — but over time, I’ve seen firsthand how it helps people working remotely feel connected through music, which is a boost for long-term productivity.

On Turntable, each person gets their own cartoon avatar. When you join the same room, which is like a virtual nightclub, you all hear the same music chosen by the room’s DJs. Anyone can be a DJ, and the DJs take turns playing music from their own personal collection or from the service’s wide song selection. If you’re enjoying a song, just click a button — your head will start bopping and the DJ will receive a point. There’s a chat feature to talk about which songs are your favorites.

It’s surprisingly fun and provides a way to express yourself through music. Exploring and discussing your colleagues’ music tastes is a great way to get the sense that you’re hanging out together. One of the biggest casualties of remote work is not only professional interaction around work itself but the missed opportunities to grab a beer after hours and chat on a social level.

Getting to know your colleagues as individual human beings is one of the most powerful sources of connectedness, a key to happiness with work. Feeling like you’re on the same boat, visually interacting with each other, and having a bit of fun all add to that all-important human connection.

Developers and Depression – Killing our Knowledge Workers

This presentation, by Greg Baugues:

“I am a developer, and I have Type II BiPolar and ADHD. It’s not something we talk about, but BiPolar, depression, and ADHD runs rampant in the developer community – they tend to correlate with higher intelligence. Many of the symptoms of this conditions make for great developers, but also cause incredible damage. We recently lost one of our co-workers because of untreated mental illness. I want to share my story – and let people know that it’s okay to talk about these things, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and how to get help, and how to help those around them.” – Greg Baugues

If you have 20 minutes, it’s worth listening to. As a developer I fully understand this. I remember the brilliance of some of my peers… and before my studies in the social sciences, I do remember once or twice wondering whether they were brilliant not just because they were awesome, but in addition, they might have a mental condition…

It does make you wonder… or at least it makes me wonder even more… whether our (often) terrible environment of busy-work and the insanity of hustle bustle at work heightens the mental condition… in other words, makes it worse.

Are we killing our brightest knowledge workers?

WordPress and Pictures [PressGram Kickstarter App]

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I know there are more than a few Agilists who are bloggers among us and even more than enjoy taking pictures of their families, friends, their work, and maybe even their food on occasion (admit it, you do it).

Well, if you’re a blogger then there’s a chance you’re also using WordPress, which is what we use here on AgileScout.com – and we’re always looking for neat implementations that help keep more pageviews and more eyes on the content and community we have here.
Pressgram, a recent Kickstarter project that connect filtered photos directly to WordPress, is doing just that. If you’re a fan of taking photos and blogging about them but also in growing your own business and brand around content, then Pressgram is something that you may want to back.
There are some strong business cases as well as creative control that are worth a second.

UK Government – What Agile Looks Like

[The following is from: https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/agile/what-agile-looks-like.html – What is so amazing is that this is a government website… yes. A GOVERNMENT website. I copied it here because I was so stunned… this is great stuff. Almost like Barack Obama telling us to do Agile]

what-agile-looks-like-gov-uk

Agile is a liberating way of working. It does not preclude the use of existing skills and knowledge. But it does require teams, users and stakeholders to adopt new ways of working together.

This short guide lists a few of the behaviours common to agile projects that support successful delivery and learning.

Understand your users

Real people will use your product

Prioritise features for them over everyone else – including your big, scary stakeholders, and seek their feedback early and often. Really listen to them. Even when they tell you things you don’t want to hear or disagree with. If possible, use data from real people using your product to influence the direction of the project. Your focus on the user should be relentless.

“What do you want next Friday? What have we learned last week?”

A sprint backlog, coutesty of http://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/

Iterate often. Build something focused on the next most valuable user need and show it to them; listen to their feedback and improve it. Keep doing this until you have something so useful that they would not be without it.

It perhaps sounds like over-simplifying the complexity of software development and project management, but at its heart this is what agile development is all about: “What do you want next Friday?”

The process of delivering incremental, production-ready software allows a team to deliver value to their users and stakeholders regularly. It shortens the feedback loops that might otherwise have been longer using a waterfall methodology. An iterative delivery cycle also forces the team to think about what the most important features are to deliver next and focuses the mind on useable software.

At the end of each delivery cycle, or sprint, teams should run aretrospective to review ‘what worked, what could be improved’ in the next sprint.

The software and the team continue to learn through delivery and iterate and improve throughout the project.

Small, agile teams

The unit of delivery is the team

Small teams of between five to ten people are often more productive and predictable than larger teams. Forget man-days and think about the team as the unit of delivery.

A good team includes members with all of the skills necessary to successfully deliver software. A fully-functioning team has three key roles embedded into them, usually full-time:

Product Manager – responsible for delivering return on investment, usually by creating products that users love. The team delivers the Product Manager’s vision.

Delivery Manager (a.k.a. Scrum master or Project Manager) – is the agile expert that is responsible for removing blockers (things slowing a team down). They also usually act as a facilitator at team get togethers.

Team member – Self organising, multi-disciplinary team that delivers prioritised user stories. Responsible for estimation.

You help each other and work together toward delivering your sprint goals. It’s common to encourage team members to pair. It sounds counter-intuitive to have two people work on one thing, but this is not so. Working together closely produces better software solutions, promotes better quality controls and spreads knowledge across the team.

A good team can estimate their output, or velocity, very effectively and consistently. This allows for much more accurate planning.

Fail fast

Failing, so fix it!

Releasing little pieces of code often improves quality and visibility and reduces cost to market, but using agile techniques does not guarantee success. You can still fail! What agile methodologies do allow you to do is to spot problems earlier and resolve them.

Here’s a few examples of how:

  • releasing working software to your users often allows you to get feedback quickly and hear or see what they think. If the product is wrong you can easily change direction and iterate.
  • if your software is rarely released to production you are not demonstrating value to your sponsor. You run the risk of creating a “too-big-to-fail” service that isn’t fit for public consumption but must be released anyway. That means another press headline! Ship! Ship! Ship!
  • if your teams’ velocity is consistently volatile, beyond the initial 4-6 sprints, then this is indicative of something that needs fixing. Perhaps there is hidden complexity or poor estimation.
  • Test Driven Development (writing tests in code before you develop the features) has a wealth of metrics that highlight quality issues early. Establish what these are early on, baseline and monitor throughout the project.

Don’t be afraid to fail or experiment. Learn to fail, and create a culture that learns from failure.

Continuous Planning

Planning session

It’s a myth that you don’t plan on agile projects. The freedom of agile projects does not come free: you have to plan. You just plan differently and continuously.

Agile planning is based as much as possible on solid, historical data, not speculation. The plan must continuously demonstrate its accuracy: nobody on an agile project will take it for granted that the plan is workable.

Typically teams plan together, usually on at least two levels:

  • at the release level, they identify and prioritise the features we must have, and would like to have by the deadline.
  • at the iteration level, they plan for the next features to implement, in priority order. If features are too large to be estimated or delivered within a single iteration, they break them down further.

These plans are usually reviewed after every sprint and adjusted based on “the weather yesterday”, new facts and requirements that will inevitably be uncovered along the way.

Bad smells

Do go here!

Teams new to agile should be wary of these familiar situations and reactions to doing things differently. They have a bad smell about them and undermine your project and its chances of success.

  • Your team is not full time. If your core team of product manager, scrum master, and key members of your multi-disciplinary team are not on the project full-time and spread over many projects then expect difficulties. The team is the unit of delivery and you need focus. Push back on managers and stakeholders if this is happening.
  • You don’t have a dedicated team area. Your team should be sat together, preferably in your own room, with space on the walls to draw ideas and stick up cards and post-its. As the project gets going, consciously ‘hack the environment’ to create a working environment conducive to team working. You might upset a few people and challenge some long-standing working practices. But this is so, so important, and really should not be a big ask.
  • There’s no continuous integration environment. Start right: with a continuous development environment. If your teams are not insisting on this from the outset then you’ve probably got the wrong team. So much about iterative software development is contingent on the ability to continuously deploy and run automated tests as you do.
  • You have a separate QA department. If your team’s attitude to quality is to throw the software they’ve developed over the wall to a QA department, then they’ve not got the right attitude to delivering production-ready software. You need to embed a quality culture into the team.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are most common things to watch out for.

VersionOne – 7th Annual State of Agile Survey

version-one-state-of-agile-7th-2013

Time to jump on it. Find the results here.

Some facts from the 2012 State of Agile Survey include:

  • Those who plan to implement agile for future development projects increased from 59 percent in 2011 to 83 percent in 2012
  • The number of respondents using agile practices across 5 or more teams grew 15% (from 33% in 2011 to 48% in 2012)
  • 35% of respondents worked in a company that had distributed software teams
  • On average, respondents used between three and four different development tools, with a handful having used as many as 15

The seventh annual “State of Agile” survey was conducted between August 9, 2012 and November 1, 2012 and collected responses from 4,048 agile practitioners. Sponsored by VersionOne, respondents were recruited from dozens of software development industry channels. The data was then analyzed and prepared into a summary report by Analysis.Net Research.

Atlanta ScrumMaster Training – Action & Influence Growing the Atlanta Market

In Atlanta, GA news:

Action & influence, Inc. announced today that they are hosting more Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Product Owner (CSPO) courses in Atlanta due to increasing demand. As the only company in Georgia to have a local Certified Scrum Trainer, Peter Saddington, they want to bring even more value to the Agile community and local Atlanta companies who want to leverage Agile or Scrum to bring quicker development value to their software and services. Having a local CST gives Georgia companies a great advantage, as their employees can attend local courses without incurring the costs associated with travel. Peter Saddington is one of the 140 Certified Scrum Trainers in the world and about half of them reside in the United States. Peter Saddington is the first CST to reside in the state of Georgia. Saddington says, “Our local clients who are looking towards Agile and Scrum have greatly enjoyed having a local trainer who can service their needs without flying in another trainer from out of state. Most of our clients in Atlanta have private courses for their entire development teams and organization.”

You can quickly find local Atlanta Certified ScrumMaster classes, http://atlantascrummaster2013.eventbrite.com/and sign up as an individual, team, or company.

According to one of Action & Influence’s students, Mike Rucker, who recently took a Certified ScrumMaster course in Atlanta said, “I was very pleased to find a local group that offered such a wide choice in class days and times. It was very easy to find a class that fit within an already busy schedule.”

Other testimonials of Action & Influence, Inc. classes:

“Peter’s mastery of the subject matter coupled with his excellent presentation and communication skills made for an outstanding learning experience.” – Jim Olwine from Atlanta

“Peter REALLY did change my life. He provided such great instruction on Scrum and the duties of a ScrumMaster. He gave lots of clarity on my career direction. Great job!” – Aletha Hill from Atlanta

“VERY INSPIRING. [Peter Saddington] is one of the best instructors I have ever seen in my life.” – Parveen Yadav from Atlanta

“I can honestly say that the ScrumMaster class has changed my view on software development, and breathed welcome fresh air into some tired sails. I am genuinely looking forward to the second half of my career now, with hopes to embody in my work all that Peter laid out in the class and the skill set of a true servant leader in the technical world.” – Mike Rucker from Atlanta

[HT: PRWeb]

Developers Should Outsource Their Job to Other Developers #LOL

A recent article from The Register was frickin’ hilarious. PERIOD. Snippets below:

A security audit of a US critical infrastructure company last year revealed that its star developer had outsourced his own job to a Chinese subcontractor and was spending all his work time playing around on the internet.

The firm’s telecommunications supplier Verizon was called in after the company set up a basic VPN system with two-factor authentication so staff could work at home. The VPN traffic logs showed a regular series of logins to the company’s main server from Shenyang, China, using the credentials of the firm’s top programmer, “Bob”.

“The company’s IT personnel were sure that the issue had to do with some kind of zero day malware that was able to initiate VPN connections from Bob’s desktop workstation via external proxy and then route that VPN traffic to China, only to be routed back to their concentrator,” said Verizon. “Yes, it is a bit of a convoluted theory, and like most convoluted theories, an incorrect one.”

After getting permission to study Bob’s computer habits, Verizon investigators found that he had hired a software consultancy in Shenyang to do his programming work for him, and had FedExed them his two-factor authentication token so they could log into his account. He was paying them a fifth of his six-figure salary to do the work and spent the rest of his time on other activities.

The analysis of his workstation found hundreds of PDF invoices from the Chinese contractors and determined that Bob’s typical work day consisted of:

  • 9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos
  • 11:30 a.m. – Take lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. – Ebay time
  • 2:00-ish p.m – Facebook updates, LinkedIn
  • 4:30 p.m. – End-of-day update e-mail to management
  • 5:00 p.m. – Go home

The scheme worked very well for Bob. In his performance assessments by the firm’s human resources department, he was the firm’s top coder for many quarters and was considered expert in C, C++, Perl, Java, Ruby, PHP, and Python.

Further investigation found that the enterprising Bob had actually taken jobs with other firms and had outsourced that work too, netting him hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit as well as lots of time to hang around on internet messaging boards and checking for a new Detective Mittens video.

Bob is no longer employed by the firm.