Retrospective 78 – CAO, Certified Agile, Tester, RIP

Our Legacy System’s Creator is Dead

“We just inherited a heavy call center system that needs to be updated/migrated based on Microsoft Access… and the creator of this massive system just died. We have no documentation. Can Agile fix this?”

Yes. I just finished a conversation with a client. Yes, this is a scary place to be in. Yes, we can take an agile-approach to documenting, understanding structural decomposition, migrating, and updating. Yes. It’s all possible.


Please, do yourself a favor. Do not wait until somebody dies to consider upgrading, migrating, documenting, or improving anything within your business.

No guarantees in this life. Prepare for the unexpected now. (Potentially) prepare for the worst now.

CAO – Chief Agile Officer – New Title On the Market

Chief Agile Officer: Charged with employing agile techniques and bringing together teams of business users and technologists.

Hmm. Looks like Agile is taking over the c-level suite with a newly appointed CAO role… Now you can aspire to be a c-level executive in Agile!

A colleague sent me a link and a screenshot of a comment about this new title. I had to LOL in my seat:


An Agile Virtual Office? Beam Me Up, Brody! – Sococo Virtual Collaboration


If you really work alone, without collaborators, then you can skip the rest of this post. It probably won’t matter much to you.

I value agile collaboration. I work with others, at various times and places. If you do, too, then please continue reading…

When you can’t be in the same room or building with your team and others, how can you work together?  Sococo Team Space!  That’s how. You can be remote…yet visibly present and connected…very much so!

Sococo, where were you when I needed you?

I spent most of my past three years working remotely…

I was a full-time member of an awesome organization (NASA), staffed with amazing people (engineers and, yes, rocket scientists!) who engaged in plenty of collaboration around the work (Independent Verification & Validation). I was hired to work from home, with travel as needed to various locations.

To be sure, we made good use–heavy use–of our phones, conference lines, screen sharing apps, content management systems, file sharing, secure virtual private network, messaging and email. That technology stack was good enough that some people would “dial in” to a meeting from the same building! If you are working from a wheelchair, you already know how valuable that technology can be, especially on a hilly, ice-and-snow-covered campus of several buildings! (West Virginia is known as “The Mountaineer State” for good reason!) Continue reading “An Agile Virtual Office? Beam Me Up, Brody! – Sococo Virtual Collaboration”

Certified Agile Tester – New Certification

A new Agile Certification software testing training course, Certified Agile Tester (CAT), has been launched worldwide by iSQI. The training course is supposed to help “software tester’s gain an understanding of their role within an Agile project and teaches them how to apply existing testing skills and new techniques to any Agile project.”

“Agile testing is now a mainstream discipline that in many companies is the preferred approach to systems development for their business critical projects. Certification training courses bring structure and a common language for their software testing to play a key part in an Agile project. The training course is designed to enable students to positively contribute as an Agile team member and help them to appreciate the challenges and difficulties associated with the non-testing activities performed in an Agile testing team, as well as being able to differentiate between the testing role in Agile projects compared with the role of software testers in non-Agile projects.”

Ok. Cool. Another certification. I like the devil eyes on the homepage. I searched through the site to find out why they chose RED EYES for the top image… but couldn’t find one. What do you think it means?

All I know, if you want to be a good QA Tester, you may want to learn how to code first.

Retrospective 77 – Leadership, March Madness, and Assysting Others

Weekly Commenters:

On Leadership – Good Leaders are Good Teachers

A review of an article (for my Masters program back in 2008):

  • Vasilash, Gary S., “On Leadership”, Auto Field Guide. (2008), URL (cited on 2008.04.15)

In this article the author, Vasilash states outright that the difference between managers and leaders are that managers are hired. Leaders are inspired. He sites Noel Tichy, who has recently written a new book called The Leadership Engine: How Winning Companies Build Leaders at Every Level, saying that “There is a multibillion-dollar consulting industry in the world today that thrives largely on the fact that most managers don’t want to lead.” With this point in mind, Vasilash states that leadership is for everyone, and anybody can become a leader.

Quoting Tichy throughout this article is often used and the definition of ‘leadership’ is from Tichy’s new book: “[Leadership] is the ability to accomplish things through other people that wouldn’t’ happen without you.” One of the important attributes of leadership is that the leader teaches others to become, in their own ways, leaders. In a sense, the legacy of a leader is that she or he leaves a stronger organization behind. Continue reading “On Leadership – Good Leaders are Good Teachers”

[Announcement] – AgileScout joins Ted Gaydos as Executive Contributor is happy to announce that we’ve grown +1 (again).

We’re happy to introduce Ted Gaydos as he joins AgileScout as an Executive Contributor.

My goal is to help people become better at what they do at work and who they are as individuals. I think agile is a form of personal transformation. The greatest asset a company has is its people. You can have all the structure, process and controls in place. Without people to challenge the status quo a company will never reach its full potential.

I started my working career in environmental science. The day-to-day activity of a service based laboratory led me to my first taste of agile using lean manufacturing techniques and short, fast feedback loops. I now focus on IT with a side of agile and have served from entry-level programmer to CIO. I have been writing software for about 10 years and enjoy every moment of it. I currently serve as a team lead and software developer of web applications.

“There is nothing like breaking down complex problem into nice simple solutions that work. I believe in sharing knowledge that helps people become more satisfied with their work and themselves.”

I classify myself as a technologist with empathy. I understand the intricacies in the cold logic of computers. I also try to understand the inner workings and flaws within all of us that write simple yet complex systems and the dichotomy of those two things.

I have a Bachelors in Computer Science and starting work towards a Masters in Applied Psychology. I also hold a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) designation. I believe an agilest is a blended set of technology and humanities experience.

For fun, I like to study my craft by learning new technologies and techniques, applying those ideas to everyday life. I try attending as many conferences in my budget. If I am broke, I will take my dog for a walk or fly an airplane three states over to get a sandwich.

Why a Basketball Team is a Scrum Team

Welcome to my world of March Madness. I’m happily up to my eyebrows in brackets and game times. Go Lady Huskies!

Do I really think a winning basketball team is like a Scrum Team?

Sure do. Here’s why…

Head Coach is the Scrum Master. They remove obstacles, shield teams from outside interference, call several Sprint Reviews during the game, keep the team on a sustainable pace and most certainly conduct a Retrospective at the end of the Sprint. The team respects the Head Coach.

Basketball teams are organized into a Scrum Team of five on the court, maybe a dozen more in total. Who plays is determined by changes in the game strategy. On court, the cross-functional team manages their workload but works together. Each member provides an assist whenever necessary and performs against a clear set of goals – to not foul out and to win!

Continue reading “Why a Basketball Team is a Scrum Team”

Agile Assyst – Helping People with Disabilities

Sometimes Agile can create things that really help people. I was excited to come across a story of an application that was built, using Agile methods, to help people with disabilities. This company is called AGILE ASSYST.

The Product Cycle

Each semester, Chao, an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Computer Science, teaches a software development course for both undergraduate and graduate students. In the class, he believes hands-on and real world collaboration with a client is key.

Chao is director of Agile Software Development, a program that is part of the Department of Computer Science. It provides software developing services to individuals and organizations in the community.

“People come to me with an idea of a software they want created but can’t do it on their own,” Chao said. “I then have them meet with my students to tell them what they want and my students begin work on the software for this client throughout the semester.”

In fall 2010, Chao’s students created an app to help people with cognitive disabilities accomplish everyday tasks. The app is used on hand-held devices to help them view video and picture models as an aid.

The Back Story Continue reading “Agile Assyst – Helping People with Disabilities”

Retrospective 76 – Billionaires, Backlogs, and QA

Weekly Commenters:

Who is Lord of the Backlogs?


One Backlog to list them all, One Backlog to find them,
One Backlog to prioritize them all and in the Sprints deliver them
In the Land of Agile where the Stories lie.

Copyright (c) 2003-2012, K.C. Ritchie, Classmaker(SM), with gratitude to J.R.R. Tolkien for the inspiration. Permission granted to distribute with attribution.

Do you work in the Land of Agile?

  • In your Land, where you labor, where do the Stories lie? How are Stories listed, found, and prioritized?
  • Are there many Backlogs? Is there One Backlog, a Master-Backlog to list them all?
  • How is it that you lay hold of your Stories, tasks, or assignments? Are there any Technical Stories there?
  • Are Stories delivered in Sprints or Releases?

Who is the Lord of the Backlogs in your Land?

You need not reveal the Land in which you now labor. But please, do tell about your Stories, Sprints, and Backlogs… And who is their master?

The Road goes ever on and on… perhaps through Lands in which our Agile Scouts have not yet traveled.  Yet, through your eyes, we hope to gain a glimpse of other worlds beyond The Shire

Will you tell us, please?  Thank you, my Precious… Thank you!

-K.C. Ritchie 😉

[Announcement] – AgileScout invites Ed Hill as Executive Contributor is happy to announce that we’ve grown +1 (more!).

We’re happy to introduce Ed Hill as he joins AgileScout as an Executive Contributor.

Ed Hill is Search Marketing Manager. After many years of managing marketing projects the waterfall way, Ed believes that Agile marketing has made his marketing tactics faster to implement. Iterative Agile also helps the marketing team to test and to quickly identify successful marketing tactics. With short two week sprints, unsuccessful marketing initiatives are quickly identified and phased out. After 9 years in TV advertising, online marketing and SEO, Ed is a committed agile evangelist.

Ed’s specialty is combining search engine optimization, content building and social media marketing to gain the optimum effect in online marketing. Ed enjoys teaching these methods to make copywriters and marketing teams more effective.

Ed is a skilled photographer and enjoys mountain biking and hiking with his wife Stacey.

Marketing Teams Can Use Agile Methods Too

Marketing (product marketing, sales support marketing, social and marketing communications) can use Agile/Scrum methods to  adapt to changing conditions, provide metrics and add real value. Development and software teams are not the only product teams who must be responsive to global challenges and attentive to customer requirements – in short, “be Agile.”

I am a marketing product manager in the B2B technology sector.  My IT roots are deep as consultant/developer/analyst, but I am first a business person.  I think results, profits, and gaining share of markets and minds through creating and launching great, successful products. Structuring Agile methods to work within a department’s organization is a critical success component  in this fast paced, competitive marketplace.

Testing Scrum Methods in a High Visibility Project

My first experience using Scrum with a global software product team was great.  The team included product manager, technical web manager, web site editors, regional product marketing managers and marketing product manager (me).  This was the first time we worked together. The goal was to launch an app from our community site within a very aggressive Sprint time-frame. I knew enough about Scrum to know its methods could lead to our success and I was ready to experiment.  Continue reading “Marketing Teams Can Use Agile Methods Too”

Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile


So says Sara Blakely, 41, just turned billionaire, landing on the cover of Forbes, March 26, 2012.

As I write this, it’s Friday night in Atlanta, where Sara Blakely set up her company, Spanx. Both are “local news” around here. I don’t watch much news, but when I can catch them, I enjoy the uplifting short stories aired on the ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. (Kudos to both shows!) Tonight I saw a diamond!

What caught my attention? The encouraging, agile dialog patterns reported by Diane Sawyer in tonight’s story, “Spanx Entrepreneur Shares Advice” (March 9, 2012).

“What did you fail at today?”

That’s what Sara Blakely’s father would ask his kids at their dining room table in the evening. They would all talk about it. That sure sounds like an agile retrospective to me. What do you think?

Then came the best part: Sara’s dad would raise his hand and say something like this…

Way to go! That’s a high five!” Continue reading “Become a Billionaire and Fail – Sara Blakely is Agile”

Retrospective 75 – Guns and Open Offices

Weekly Commenters:

Stop Boring Meetings Fast with a Gun

SpeechJammer is a gun that “jams” people’s speech, by firing their words right back at them within milliseconds of being said.

In the above video, the wizards at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan show how the gun works.

Now, consider how many great uses it would have in your workplace…

Is it Agile? 🙂

[Announcement] – AgileScout Welcomes Karol McCloskey as Executive Contributor is happy to announce that we’ve grown +1 (another one)!

We’re happy to introduce Karol McCloskey as she joins AgileScout as an Executive Contributor.

Call me a longtime techno-catalyst and marketer – passionate about product and innovation, I am happy becoming more Agile!  Some would call me a Product Professional and Agile Explorer 🙂

Listening to the market to identify customer needs, I work with development and stakeholder teams to build engaging, profitable, cool products. What’s not to like about learning to use methods that enhance interpersonal, team building and product management skills, at the same time growing the bottom line? I welcome your feedback and support while I undertake this journey.

The personal history:  I have a black belt in Ho Shin Do karate, I kissed the Blarney Stone and rode a bike down Mt Haleakala in a windstorm (hated those tour buses). It was the blend of seeing the innovation at Xerox Parc firsthand while working with PC that made me believe technology doesn’t have to be hard.


Does your Bartender Understand Agile?

For the past three years, my mom could simply tell her friends, “my son Ken works for NASA.” Now that Curiosity is on its way to Mars, mom wants to know what it is that I am doing next…and when I’ll visit again, of course!

What do you say, when someone asks, “so, what is it that you do at work?” Are you prepared to explain it, in simple terms?

“An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.” –Ernest Rutherford, quoted in Einstein: The Man and His Achievement (1973) by G. J. Whitrow, p. 42.

What’s the big deal about “Agile teamwork?” How do you do what you do? Why?

How do we do what we do?

To an outside observer, patterns and practices will be evident in our behaviors and artifacts. For example, a daily standup, a cumulative flow diagram, a Kanban board. What might you feel compelled to say to a visiting friend or relative, as you give them a quick tour of your workspace? What about a newcomer joining your team, on their first day, if they haven’t yet been indoctrinated through training, experience, or study?

Manifest behaviors and artifacts create a “visible” perspective. How we do what we do is discoverable. Our “why” may be a mystery.

Why do we do what we do?  Continue reading “Does your Bartender Understand Agile?”

Do NOT Have Agile Open Offices?

We’ve covered the value of open offices before… (Blog: Setting up an Agile open office). But it would seem that we may have been incorrect about a couple of things.

Wait, what? Every Agile Coach out there believes in the power of open offices, transparency, and increased communication, right???

Well, not so fast, tests carried out for a recent UK TV programme called The Secret Life Of Buildings have produced further evidence that open plan layouts create massive distraction, damaging productivity. The Channel 4 programme’s presenter, architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff, wore a cap that measured his brainwaves while trying to work in an open plan office. The scanner revealed intense bursts of distraction.

“Open plan offices were designed with the idea that people can move around and interact freely to promote creative thinking and better problem solving, but it doesn’t work like that. If you are just getting into some work and a phone goes off in the background, it ruins what you are concentrating on. Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions.” – Dr. Jack Lewis

Further evidence comes from innovative office environment research outfit Leesman. Their comprehensive research on the effects of offices on productivity, wellbeing and satisfaction also shows that noise is a massive problem in modern offices. Continue reading “Do NOT Have Agile Open Offices?”

Retrospective 74 – #Kanban Week

Weekly Commenters:

#Kanban & #PKFLOW Flamewar – Who Owns the IP?


Sometimes people get very territorial over ideas, ideals, philosophies, religion, politics, and even software development methodologies and intellectual property.

Sometime people are very sensitive around who references whom, and who is credited with what.

A reader of mine forwarded me a recent twitter arguement around the genesis of kanban and personal kanban from David J. Anderson and Michael Bolton.


The info-graphic to the right is ‘annotated’ with some pretty humorous anecdotes, but the main point remains the same:

  • Who owns what?
  • Who should reference whom?
  • Is it unsafe to use methods without citing their genesis or beginning?
  • What’s the big deal?
  • Why the call out?
  • Over sensitive?
  • Twitter a good medium?


  1. I totally understand @agilemanager’s points (except the hanging out with American Agilists…).
  2. I also understand @michaelbolton’s points (handled the situation well).

So what’s the stink?



David is saying that the kanban and pkflow stuff is in the public domain – a priori. As a responsible journalist, or a researcher, it is expected that we reflect a priori or existing research that mirrors our own research. David and Jim both do this in their works reflecting the existing knowledge that they build and – and reflecting other movements that have indirectly influenced and informed their thinking. The argument is not that David invented something – but that Bolton and SQE have not following responsible journalism and research protocol.

All David asked Bolton to do was to reflect that the Alcatel Lucent work reflected what is going on in the industry around kanban and pkflow. And while apparently the Alcatel Lucent version evolved without direct influence of a kanban / pkflow coach, David is absolutely correct that it is inconceivable that this precise implementation evolved completely independently of the kanban / pkflow movement.


[Humor] – My New Agile Software Development Methodology

I truly believe I have NEVER laughed so hard in my entire life around an Agile-focused blog post. I laughed heartily and loud, for a long time. Maybe this shows my “sick humor.” Here it is:

I have invented a new Agile software development methodology. It makes use of analogy and metaphor as valuable tools.

My new process is based on Scrum, but it uses a modified system of iteration which I call “Rotations.” So I have named this new methodology “Scrotum.”

Like Scrum and Kanban, its basic workings are deceptively simple and easy to describe: at the meeting for each Rotation, you determine Necessary Adjustments to Improve the Rotation, or N.A.I.R.

Then, every Rotation, you simply apply N.A.I.R. to the Scrotum, until everything is nice and smooth.

Rinse. Repeat.

You will find that all those hairy development problems you used to have will almost magically disappear.

[VIA: UtterlyPreposterous]