One Example of How to Use an Agile Tool with Balance

best agile toolbox
So many tools… which one to choose? Check out our great list of Agile Tools

Using an Agile or Scrum tool like many that we have in our list and those reviewed can be a challenge. We’ve helped many companies utilize their ALM’s well, and we’ve even helped even more remove the challenges that Agile tools can create… and let’s be honest, sometimes the problems they create.

I, for one, am tool agnostic, any client that’s worked with me will tell you the same. My adage when it comes to any type of tool usage is this:

The effectiveness of any tool is the discipline [enterprise-wide] to use it well.

Working with assertive people is always great, they even sometimes come up great ideas, like a colleague of mine, Jason did on their current implementation of Jira:

Current benefits of Jira

The tool provides a number of benefits if properly maintained

  • Mechanism for anyone, including customers, to quickly log issues or create stories
  • Easy integration with Confluence, the document repository
  • Easy integration with Tempo, the time tracking tool
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the product backlog
  • Snapshot of stories and defects in the sprint backlog
  • Easy integration of combined backlogs
  • Snapshot of stories planned for a release
  • Email notifications when a ticket is created or updated
  • Quick dissemination across the team of this information, including offsite and extension to customers

Current challenges of Jira

Currently, the tool is over-engineered, resulting in abandonment

  • Too many options available; it is a Frankenstein of new fields and options built over a long period of time over many projects and types of projects
  • Workflows too complex (provide screen capture of the current WFs. They are spider webs)
  • WFs have unnecessary steps; people just ‘click along’ to close stories
  • Too much effort to move tasks and stories through the queue, resulting in waste
  • Workflows are built at the task level, requiring an unsustainable amount of discipline by every team member to keep it updated
  • Email subscriptions result in a torrent of email, so they get ignored or filtered out. Can’t differentiate between an important update versus a trivial comment
  • Too difficult to understand what’s ready/backlog, what’s WIP, and what’s done
  • Unless every team member has updated every task at all times, it’s not accurate
  • Few PMs/SMs use it for release planning; they either don’t have the time to maintain it or they don’t know how
  • Some resources rely on the tool to assign tasks, expecting the task to be done, and the task assignment to the assignee is lost in email
  • Using a tool to “assign” tasks inherently results in a push system, further resulting in pushback and missed commitments
  • Due dates are seldom applied, and when they are, they come and go. If something needs a due date, a team discussion is needed, NOT data entry into a tool that isn’t used
  • Therefore, predictably, teams have abandoned the tool. It takes ALL of these things in perfect synchronization for each piece to be meaningful. This model is unsustainable and not scalable
  • And therefore, Mgt. cannot point to a single project where the status is concise, simple, and clear to them what’s happening; it communicates little meaningful information for our managers unless a PM/SM is physically there to walk them through it. This defeats the purpose of having a web-based tool in the first place

Proposed solution

In short, use the tool to do a few things well, instead of everything for all projects

 

Things to change or stop doing:

  • Pull the existing workflows. The workflow should be one simple workflow:
    • Initial state: Open. It stays open and only open while assigned to the product backlog or the sprint backlog
    • Then you only have two options:
      • Means it’s done.
      • Means it’s rejected, duplicated, de-scoped, working as designed, etc. Keep these selections when cancelling.
    • That’s it. Anything more complicated than that and the tool will be abandoned
  • Tasks and subtasks no longer maintained in Jira. These are for the team to manage and should be done on a physical board
  • Stop relying on Jira to communicate due dates. If something is urgent and a due date needs to be committed, a team discussion should take place to understand the impact to the current work queue and negotiate what is deferred in its place
  • Stop relying on Jira to push tasks through a queue. Tasks should be pulled by the team, not pushed onto individuals

 

Things to keep doing

  • Open new defects and stories
  • Close or cancel defects and stories
  • Maintain product backlog; use the rapid boards to move stories into sprints
  • Track stories to epics
  • Track releases and release dates
  • Assign stories and epics to releases
  • Link stories as-needed to Confluence
  • Maintain relationship with Tempo
  • Assign an onsite resource to update the physical board for offsite resources; send photos of board(s) to offsite team members

VMEdu Inc [ScrumStudy] – Spamtastic!

scrum-study-spam-scam
These guys don’t quit. This is like the 5th time I’ve received emails from them telling me I can make a shit-ton if I use them…

 

Hello Peter,

I represent VMEdu Inc (US based company), a leading learning platform dealing with professional training and certifications. We are funded by Sequoia Capital – the leading PE fund in the Silicon Valley, which has also funded companies such as Apple, Google, Cisco, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, AirBnB etc. *REALLY?*HHMM

The VMEdu platform is a one-stop shop for training providers where they can assign coursework to students, buy courses, schedule exams and even order the study materials they need. Another unique feature of the VMEdu platform is its simple pay-as-you-go model that enables partners to join and use the courses when and where they want, taking advantage of the great flexibility VMEdu offers.

How does it benefit you………. blah blah blah.

[Consumer Alert] – If you want half-ass training. You got it. Apparently, anyone can be a trainer with these guys. Go get’em!

If you want best-in-class training. Go with the big dawgs. Find your (legitimate) course at ScrumAlliance.org

8 Ways in Which Geniuses Think and How You Can Apply This to Your Team

I love reading articles from the people that are really, really, smart – the people that are spending the time doing incredible amount of documentation and research about how we interact and the whys and hows of what we do.

Michael Michalko, the author of Creative Tinkering, has done an incredible amount of work studying creatives and geniuses and how they engage problem solving. His book is definitely one to pick up if you have time but I wanted to distill a few key points that he lays out about how strategically geniuses encounter problems, as opposed to normal thinkers.

Here they are, which his key point and some of his thoughts, as well as my additional thoughts on how it can be applied to your team and organization:

Continue reading “8 Ways in Which Geniuses Think and How You Can Apply This to Your Team”

The Diamond “Status Flight” for Delta – A Small Tale

diamond-status-flight-peter-saddington-1
Boeing A330

This very nice A330 plane is where I spent just under 20 hours…

Flying can be complicated. Flying can be stressful. But, for the seasoned traveler, you understand where the best places to fly into are, where the food is, and where all the Delta Sky Lounges are…

Sometimes though, to keep your elite status, you have to fly a “Status Flight” so you can just get the miles so you can reap the rewards the next year.

I’ve met with many ‘up-in-the-air’ type of people who have had amazing stories to tell around their “Status Flight.”

This year, mine was Hawaii. I’m 8000-9000 miles short of the required 135,000 in-the-seat miles to keep my coveted Diamond Medallion status (Plus Delta Reserve Amex+) 🙂

My cool pod!
My cool pod!

Business class pod-style seating was just the ticket. I get a cool little toiletry pouch with everything you need:

  • Lotion
  • Tooth brush & tooth paste
  • Eye covering (forget what it’s called… so it allows you to sleep)
  • Comb
  • Lip balm
  • Pen (for Hawaii’s agricultural survey)
  • SOCKS! I love the tube socks they give, so I can take of my shoes 🙂
  • Too bad you can’t keep the nice headphones…

The flight wasn’t bad at all. Leaving around 10:50AM on Monday, and arriving on … MONDAY at 4PM.

Nice view coming in!
Nice view coming in!

TIME TO GO PRO

Yes. I spent a total of 50 minutes on the ground in Hawaii. This is truly pro. As it allowed me to take a picture of the … mountains:

Nice view... for just a second.
Nice view… for just a second.

The 50 minutes gave me just enough time to grab some COFFEE!:

diamond-status-flight-peter-saddington-5
Oh yeh. KONA COFFEE! … at $40/per bag…

After brushing my teeth for the 3rd time already, washing my face, and changing into a new shirt, I got back through security to board the EXACT same plane I just arrived on… I called the CEO, and let her know I’m heading back!

Calling the Captain
Calling the Captain!

I arrived at 7AM on Tuesday on a red-eye.

Even though I’m drained, I felt SUPER accomplished! Here’s the deets:

  • Spend $2000 for a flight (to get the miles because my upgrade tickets Delta gives me are shit…)
  • Get easily over $20K in status updates next year – WORTH IT
  • Leave on MONDAY MORNING
  • Get back on TUESDAY MORNING

That’s pro my friends. 🙂

A Personality Profile Isn’t Enough!

personality-attitude

I was speaking with the founder of a company the other day about a new potential hire and her personality survey results (they use one of many different personality surveys) – my initial comment to him was simply this after seeing the results:

Interesting…

You see, after working with his team and increasing awareness organization-wide of each person’s natural aptitudes and communication styles, it became incredibly clear that any new hire that walked in would have to fit the bill, not just functionally, but also from the cultural results that the entire team collectively creates.

I’m not familiar with the entire recruiting or interview process (and I don’t have to know) of their organization but I do know they only hire the best in class employees (like everyone, right?) and they go to extreme to make sure whether they are going to be a cultural fit.

But what this leader was seeking counsel for was specific to the specific role they had created and whether this candidates results would function well for them and the rest of the team… and the personality profile… wasn’t enough. Continue reading “A Personality Profile Isn’t Enough!”

On Joining Agile for All – Peter Saddington

AFA
My new home 🙂

Many people have asked me for the reasons behind letting my company, Action & Influence, be acquired by another Agile consultancy. It’s been a very interesting ride… as the emails, DMs, LinkedIn messages, etc continue to pour in.

peter-saddington-new-job-agile-for-all
Lots of comments and likes. Me like!

The Agile community is a small community, in some pockets, very tight-knit. These types of major changes don’t go unnoticed and that’s ok.
To make it clear, I’m really interested in only two things:

  1. I want to be better. I want to improve my game as an organizational consultant and trainer. I want to train with the best, learn from the best, and be mentored by the best. Agile for All, LLC with Bob Hartman and Richard Lawrence are easily some of the best in this game.
  2. I want sustainable living. I grew Action & Influence to a point beyond my current capabilities of managing. It got so large in the span of 2 years that it no longer was fun. It was a wonderful relief to get acquired by Agile for All in that they can help me recharge, and focus on doing the best work I can.
Spike in traffic! People are interested...
Spike in traffic! People are interested…

I’ve sold businesses before, this isn’t my first rodeo, but this one is significantly more personal than all the rest. It’s a wonderful thing to grow a business out of nothing, grow explosively, manage a slew of contractors and employees, and even getting noticed and voted the Best Training Company in Atlanta in 2013.

It’s interesting how you can work so hard, lose sight of what made it fun, and actually want to quit. I can’t tell you how many times I talked with my wife about just closing it down and becoming an FTE at a large and clearly dysfunctional company, enjoying the fringe benefits of working a 9 to 5, getting nice healthcare, and not caring a whole lot about much else… other than eating dinner every night with my wife and kids.

Current Clients

No worries to all you out there! The top-notch (if I do say so myself) service you receive from Action & Influence will continue, just under a new banner, and now we have more capabilities! Feel free to contact us here!

On with the Future!

I’ve never been so stoked and excited to join another company since I joined my first job as a developer at a large Fortune company back in the 90’s. It’s been a long time coming and 2015 already looks wonderful.

Thanks again all for the kind words of support and love!

I’m excited to be part of the Agile for All community! Here’s to 2015!

Delta Upgrades – What a Waste

delta-flight-upgrade-certificate-waste

As a Diamond Medallion [RESERVE] Million Miler+ … … … I always get a shit-ton of upgrade certificates that go to waste every freaking year.

They really need to allow me to trade them in or something. This year… I have 10 going to waste.

But! I do have two free companion tickets… that are almost IMPOSSIBLE TO USE. Trust me, I’ve tried. They put so many limitations on it, it’s ridiculous.

Remove Your Constraints

the-affect-of-constraints-agile-scrum
An exercise showing the power of removing constraints on a team… then adding constraints… and seeing the delay increase…

Considering our constraints of our system can be a powerful exercise. What is so wonderful about even [thinking] about it can reveal wonderful ideas around how to deliver effectively. Often companies want to increase speed of delivery, but speed doesn’t matter if you have a lot of constraints to delivery.

Removing constraints to delivery will allow speed of delivery to increase, but not for the sake of speed. Speed becomes an outcome of the removal of constraints.

Consider a powerful idea of cross-functionality (by me):

Teams should have all the technical aptitudes and functional roles to deliver end-to-end value without peripheral constraints

If we create an ethos of continual growth and learning on teams and empower teams (as management) to deliver without constraints… Imagine the possibilities!

This is the type of idea I use when working with management. Helping them create a vision for flow of work by considering great examples of flow that they’d like to see in their teams and work. From there we can begin considering how to change… or at least, have the conversations with the right people to remove these constraints.

Management Training – How to Win Friends and Control Everybody by Yelling

Scenario: I’m teaching a class. Next door, for two full days, are people yelling, screaming, and … well, sounded like they were fighting.

I came to learn that this was a Management Training 2-day course on how to … Control a room. Be the manager. Win friends. Become the all-seeing-and-controlling Eye of Sauron. 

Geez!

I did get some feedback from some students that were in there… apparently they were sold. I got comments like:

It’s too much for us to talk to you about, it’s a life changing experience.

It’s how to project yourself as a winner, as the boss, as the controller of the room.

If you’re in your comfort zone at any time in this class, you’re not doing it right.

A ton of growth happening in two days.

I’m incredulous, but apparently this stuff sells.

Thoughts?

The Future of Recruiting 3.0 is Cultural Understanding

Ron Thomas at StrategyFocusedHR, recently wrote about “Recruiting 3.0” – the next level of recruiting based on making meaningful connections. Meaning, hire based on whether the candidate connects with your business strategy.

What happens is that a requisition for a request for candidacy goes out to the world asking that candidates create a short movie of how they fit within your culture or strategy:

Tell us your story.

Yup, you guessed it – UGC (user generated content).

I love the idea, but I also see some very potential gaps and pitfalls of this approach: Continue reading “The Future of Recruiting 3.0 is Cultural Understanding”

On Removing Organizational Mental Constraints

Joyful fun
Joyful fun

Many people may not enjoy doing classes on the weekend. However, I actually enjoy it. [Reason below]

It occurred to me during this last class, as I was discussing with the group ideas around bias, organizational constraints, and common dysfunctions around cultural change.

One student made a comment that spurred an idea in my brain:

Removing oneself from constraining cultural nuances often allows our minds to flow freely into the unknown… allowing for more emergent innovative thought processes… and the ability to speak freely about … things… anything.

I was speaking with an individual during a break about just this idea, and he said to me that he wouldn’t speak as freely if we had held this course on company property. This, is a sad fact for him! I empathized and felt a bit sad that this was the case!

Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from our current situation to see things from a different perspective. Maybe a fresh light. I think, the trouble here is… what to do with the information if you get to a profound revelation. What. To. Do.

That decision will be based on compromise… or rather, what will you be willing to compromise for (positive) change to happen.

Alvin Toffler – Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

I love this quote from the futurist Alvin Toffler, who is has studied the shifts of technology and how it changes and impacts the society at large:

The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

One of the largest challenges that any organizational change agent experiences is resistance to new ideas, new concepts, and new perspective of how to do what they do better.

When handled badly the person can be shunned, put out, or even demonized for even proposing such a “dramatic shift” that would fundamentally challenge the tightly-held philosophies and corporate culture. The problem is that they are perceived as a threat while in fact a new idea, in and of itself, is not a threat – it’s just a new idea!
Continue reading “Alvin Toffler – Learn, Unlearn, Relearn”

You Create the Ceiling for Your Organization

BU010602One of the biggest reasons why some organizations can’t seem to grow and have hit the proverbial ceiling for scalability is because their leaders have stopped growing themselves.

I can remember the first time I heard one of my mentors share this with me and it hit me like a freight train to my chest:

The organization will not be able to grow past you as it’s leader.

The context of the conversation was my ability to balance the day-to-day needs of my organization and the time allotted for continuing education for myself so that I could be personally challenged, fed into, and led myself.

I asked my mentor how, after leading (and exiting) a few multi-million dollar enterprises, how he had learned to handle that delicate balance and he just looked at me and asked me whether my current business was growing – I told him that it was but I felt like we had hit a few roadblocks, that we had slowed down a bit, and that we may have lost a bit of momentum.

He just stared at me blankly and then asked when the last time I had intentionally been fed into and allowed someone else to challenge, inspire, and lead me in a serious way. I shook my head because I knew the answer already.

Continue reading “You Create the Ceiling for Your Organization”

Let it Go. #pmiacp

elsa-let-it-go-pmi-agile-acp

As a recovering PMP, and someone who got the PMI-ACP, I understand the pull to get these types of certifications. Whenever people ask me about “Which certification I should get?” I always respond in the same manner:

Get certifications for WHERE YOU WANT TO BE. If you want to work for a company that supports and encourages waterfall (and you want to work there), then get your PMP or PMI certifications! If you want to work for companies that love agile, then go for certifications there. It’s your choice!

Once again, I’m asked to make a decision: Renew my PMI-ACP, or let it go.

I’ll go with Elsa on this one.

Business Success is about Instilling HOPE

“I hope to pursue a fulfilling career as a change agent within my company and beyond. Thanks so much for showing me the possibility!” – S. Hsu

Hope

  • If you are a manager, when was the last time that you inspired and instilled hope into your team?
  • If you work for a manager, when was the last time your manager inspired you?

I hope the answer is “daily.” If not, why? Are we not all built to create? Seth Godin says that we all were created to create. If we don’t have opportunities to create, to be inspired in our work, to hope for something better as we grow, then what are we doing?

I believe, as an Organizational Coach, my role is to instill hope in people. 

I believe this is the most rewarding and fulfilling role anyone can play in a company and in other people’s lives.

Consider it. There should be a title in business like: “Chief Inspiration Officer” or “Chief Hope Officer.”

What do you think?

Happy 5 Years for AgileScout! [GIVEAWAY]

agile-scout-peter-saddington-birthday

Happy 5 Years to the Agile Community! We’re glad we’re here. 🙂

kindle-reader-agileTO THE CELEBRATION!

To celebrate, we’ll be giving away 3 KINDLE READERS!

The reason behind this is simple, I was given an Amazon Kindle Reader and it literally changed my life. As an (ex) analog reader who finishes about a book a week, I was incredulous about the “value” of going digital format for reading.

Someone blessed me with a Kindle. It. Changed. My. Life.

So… giving back to the community! YAY!

HOW TO ENTER:

  1. Tweet this… AND
  2. Leave a comment about what book you’ll load first! (Or what I should load onto mine as a recommendation!)

We’ll be running this for the NEXT 3 MONTHS (ends Dec 27th). Winners will be notified on Oct 27, Nov 27, and Dec 27!

Good luck and stay Agile my friends!