5 Most Powerful Acronyms for Agile Coaches

AcronymsPhoto by tuchodi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Personally I love acronyms, because they serve me as mnemonic for some of the important stuff that I shouldn’t forget as an agile coach. Further they are simple to teach and made to stick. Here are my top 5 acronyms for agile coaches:

FROCC

The Scrum values can be easily remembered with the acronym “FROCC”, the misspelled frog:

Focus – we focus on a few things at a time
Respect – we respect our colleagues like we want to be respected
Openness – we express our thoughts about how we are doing
Courage – the team gives us the courage to take greater challenges
Commitment – we are committed to success

Source: https://www.scrumalliance.org/why-scrum/core-scrum-values-roles

DEEP

A well refined product backlog is “DEEP”:

Detailed appropriately – the details are added over time
Estimated – backlog items are estimated
Emergent – a product backlog changes over time
Prioritized – the most valuable items are on top

Source: https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog/make-the-product-backlog-deep

MoSCoW

When it comes to prioritizing your backlog “MoSCoW” can serve you well. Distinguish your features by:

Must have – the requirement is core and must be satisfied for success
o
Should have – the requirement is should be satisfied for success
Could have – the requirement is desirable but not necessary for success
o
Won’t have – the requirement will not be implemented

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MoSCoW_method

INVEST

“INVEST” in well-defined user stories. A user story must be:

Independent – the user story has no dependency to other stories
Negotiable – user stories can always be changed and rewritten
Valuable – a user story must deliver value to the end user
Estimable – you must be able to estimate the size of a user story
Small – a user story must fit into a sprint, but should be smaller
Testable – a user story must be testable

Source: User Stories Applied (Mike Cohn)

SMART

Make (iteration) goals always “SMART”:

Specific – target a specific goal
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest and indicator of progress
Achievable – be realistic
Relevant – check relevancy of the goal
Time-bound – assign a target-date

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria

Any other suggestions?

Practical Guide: The 7Ps Framework

Meeting

Meeting” by John Benson is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

In this blog post I introduce the 7Ps framework from the book Gamestorming, which is fundamental for me in regards of planning successful meetings.

James Macanufo’s 7Ps framework is a tool for planning and preparing meetings. I use it as a checklist each time I am inviting someone to a meeting. So here are the 7Ps that you should pay attention before sending out your next meeting invitation:

Purpose

Why are we having this meeting? – Giving people a purpose to meet is most fundamental. Explain your participants why you are having this meeting and if you can’t come up with a purpose don’t have the meeting.

Product

What specific artifact will we produce out of this meeting? – Think of what you want to produce as an output of the meeting and communicate it to your participants. Depending on the desired outcome people will set their expectations.

People

Who needs to be there and what role will they play? – Depending on the purpose and the desired outcome select the right people for your invitation. One strategy is to think of the questions that need to be answered first and than select the right people who might have answers to it.

Process

What agenda will these people use to create the product? – You can either define the agenda on your own or co-design the agenda with the participants in order to get more perspectives on the process.

Pitfalls

What are the risks in this meeting and how will we address them? – Risks can be laptops or smartphones that distract participants, lousy facilities (e.g. beamers, sound equipment, flip charts,…), a large number of participants, or personal issues between participants. Create rules (e.g. “no laptops/smartphones”) and check all possible pitfalls upfront to minimize bad surprises.

Preparation

What would be useful to do in advance? – Tell your participants what they must prepare for the meeting (e.g. if you expect them to have ideas or concepts prepared tell them your concrete expectations) and prepare yourself carefully (e.g. hand-outs, slides, room, speech,…).

Practical Concerns

These are the logistics of the meeting – Where and when is the meeting? Does the room have sufficient equipment (e.g. video calling equipment for a remote session)? When is the best time for the meeting? (e.g. after lunch people are often less energized, time zone constraints,…) Who is bringing lunch?

James Macanufo provides the following strategies on applying the framework:

  • Each of the 7Ps can influence or change one of the others, and developing a good plan will take this into account
  • Get others involved in the design of the meeting
  • Revisit the question “Why are we having this meeting?” for recurring meetings regularly
  • Make the 7Ps visible during the meeting
  • Have a plan and expect it to change

How do you plan your meetings?

Agile Coach Camp Austria 2014

From Friday, 12th to Sunday, 14th of September a small group of highly motivated agilists from Austria (and other European countries) met at Hotel Krainerhütte for the first Agile Coach Camp in Austria. Starting from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon we spend an energized time together in workshops, games, presentations, discussions and plenty of other fun activities (like guitar playing, singing, swimming, power point karaoke, beer drinking,…). Having the event happening on a weekend I expected to meet only enthusiastic professionals, but the richness of our discussions and the experience everyone had, was more than I expected. The participants made it a real invigoration and enriching experience for me. Admittedly after the weekend I felt kind of overcharged with information, I was clearly exhausted and my brain needed some rest and time to process all the new experiences that we were able to share. Nevertheless the time to rest was short and Monday came too early, I felt inspired and happy. Agile Coach Camp 2014 was a great event made by great people! Thanks to all participants making the Agile Coach Camp 2014 such an experience and hope seeing you next year again!

Agile Coach Camp 2014 Austria - Krainerhütte

Foto by Alfred Karner

Certification is Just a Start

Scaled_Agile_Framework(R)_SPC_Cert_Mark-transparent

Two weeks ago I received my SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) certificate. I did a 4-day training and I passed an online questionnaire in order to receive it. Due to the training I gained a good understanding of the SAFe framework, most of my questions could be clarified, and it helped me to reduce my skepticism about SAFe (finally I believe that it is a quite good compromise for large enterprises with a long waterfall and command-and-control history). Further as SPC I am allowed to teach an official 2-day SAFe training and certify people as SAFe Practitioner and SAFe Agilist on my own. Cool!

Regarind SAFe I am in Shu now! Now it’s time to gain experience on applying SAFe in the real world, read Dean Leffingswell’s book (and many more – have a look at my reading list), be active in the LinkeIn group for SPC’s and other online communities, exchange opinions on local and global gatherings, etc to reach Ha and maybe someday I will be one of the few who reach Ri (cf. Shu-Ha-Ri). That is how I see certification – it’s a start.

I have met people, who believe that a certificate (CSM, CSPO, CSD, SAFe SPC, CSD, PSM I, PSM II,…) means they are already in Ri – at least they behave like that. What is the value of a CSM, who never led a scrum team? Well, I would say it is rather low, because without experience he would do (almost) everything wrong when applying his knowledge in practice for the first time. Experience is, what distinguishes someone in Ha or Ri to someone in Shu. While most certificates can be bought, experience can’t. It needs to be gained truth experiments that sometimes succeed and sometimes fail (according to D. Reinertsen we learn most at a 50% failing rate). Respectively it is up to you to find your way to Ha and Ri with or without certificate.

The Scrum Master Maturity Model

This blog post is dedicated to Angel Medinilla‘s awesome “Scrum Master Maturity Model”, which describes three levels of maturity a scrum master can reach (before Agile nirvana is reached🙂 ):

  • The Scrum Dude: Scrum Dudes have rudimentary scrum master skills and little experience with scrum, which results into low-performing and mostly disoriented teams. Scrum Dudes are more like secretaries for their teams.
  • The Scrum Mom: Scrum Moms are solicitous and protective to their teams like a mother for her children. Teams with a Scrum Mum can be well functional, but Scrum Moms miss to challenge their teams, which often leads to stagnation.
  • The True Scrum Master: The true scrum master coaches, leads and develops high-performance teams that are able to self-reflect, learn and continuously improve. She addresses conflicts, keeps the team challenged, encouraged and motivated.

Scrum master maturity model

 

Angel’s model is of high practical value, because it gives us a visual representation of the actual scrum master role we find in the industry. In fact I have met many so-called “scrum masters” who later turned out to be Scrum Dudes or Scrum Moms, but very little who were actually true Scrum Masters. Let’s improve this! We need true Scrum Master to improve our organizations!

Source: http://www.infoq.com/presentations/hire-scrum-master

Yet Another Sprint Retrospective With “Moving Motivators”

In this blog post I want to share my experience with another great tool from the Management 3.0 workshop, called the “Moving Motivators” game. But first, let’s have a quick look into the science behind intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:

 

Daniel Pink tells us in this video that science has proven that extrinsic motivators don’t work for knowledge workers, which is a fact that has been ignored by most organizations for the last decades. The “Moving Motivators” game is a great tool to reveal what really motivates us to do our jobs.

Recently I decided to play the “Moving Motivators” game with one of my agile teams in our sprint retrospective.  Even if we shared an open team culture and we knew each other quite well we never talked about our intrinsic motivators inside the team. So I expected to get some new insights into that blind spot.

Preparing the game for our retrospective took me about 2 hours of time. This is what you need to do:

  1. Print the Moving Motivator cards: I used a bit heavier paper (e.g. 100g) than usual office paper and a color laser printer that produces good quality prints, because I think it is essential that the cards look nice and professional.
  2. Laminate the cards: The printed cards look great but laminating them makes them awesome🙂 It also protects the cards, makes them reusable, gives them a professional look and a nice touch. Your team will love them!
  3. Cut the cards and prepare the card decks for handing them out to your team

Champfrogs

 

During the retrospective we followed the 3 steps through the exercise, which took us about 45 minutes. And, yes, the team loved the nicely crafted cards🙂

In conclusion the “Moving Motivators” game was a welcome variation to our usual retrospectives that helped us to talk about our motivations for our jobs. Personally it revealed that I have had badly misjudged some of the team member’s in respect to their intrinsic motivators. The “Moving Motivators” game helped me to correct the view on my colleagues and made me start respond more accurately to their actions and behaviour.

If you would like to play the game with your team I can leave you some tips here. The exercise requires a high level of trust and an open culture. It is also crucial to talk to your team before you do the exercise with them – everyone must agree. Take your time to prepare the cards nicely. It will be much more fun! If your team fulfills the prerequisites the exercise is a great opportunity to get to know each other better and bring you one step further as a team.

Why You Should Define Reference User Stories

If your organization is new to Agile one of the things you might struggle is the shift from traditional to agile estimation. I have seen a lot of inexperienced agile teams struggling with the nature of story points and relative sizing. Often a lack of trust in their own estimates, which led to poor planning, was the consequence. A simple tool, called reference user stories, helped each of these teams to overcome these difficulties.

If you haven’t defined reference stories with your team yet, consider well-defined, well-sized, not too domain specific user story from your past sprint(s) as candidates. Ideally you want to have reference stories of different size (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 13 story points). Alternatively you can define artificial user stories that will serve as your references. Create a table of your reference stories, like the one below, and use it in your backlog refinement meetings. Feel free to add or exchange reference stories later if you feel the need later.

Size User Story
1 Story A: As a user I want to see my user name on the page so that I know that I am logged in with the right user.
2 Story B: As a user I want to write a comment to a topic so that I can express my opinion to the author.
3 Story C: As an administrator I want to block users for the forum so that I can prevent them from spamming.
5 Story D: As a user I want to register for the website so that I can use their premium services.
8 Story E: As a system administrator I want to migrate data from database A to database B via an automated script so that I can handle the amount of data.
13 Story F: As a user I want to purchase a product via the online shop so that the article is delivered to my home.

According to my experience reference user stories have the following main benefits for agile teams:

  • Supporting relative estimation: A user story (e.g. Story X) is relatively sized to the defined reference stories (e.g. Story A, B, C, D, E, F), which helps to focus on relative estimates (e.g. story X is bigger than story B, but smaller than story D) instead of absolute figures (e.g. story B will take 40 hours of work).
  • Increase accuracy of estimates: Relative estimates are more accurate, because our brain is naturally better at relative sizing then in absolute estimation. Defined reference stories also keep a stable reference and therefore reduce variability in the estimates.
  • Normalization of story points: Defining, sharing and using reference stories among multiple teams, normalizes their view on story points. With normalized story points we can calculate velocities for multi-team projects by just summing up the team velocities. (WARNING: Never abuse normalized velocities for team performance measures!)