Agile Insights From a Couple of Combat Pilots...

April 29, 2011

The Inspiration for the Burndown Chart
Believe it or not, the inspiration for the Burndown Chart originated from Jeff Sutherland’s experience as a pilot in Vietnam. The corollary to software projects is that, as Jeff says, “Bad things are always happening. Things are breaking. People get sick. Software doesn’t do what you think it would do. There are issues with the hardware. There’s always something every day that’s trying to take your project down.”

Book Review: Agile Product Management with Scrum

April 26, 2011

Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn))The Foreword by Brett Queener, Senior Vice President, Products of Salesforce.com, articulates the advantages of Agile/Scrum development using product owners:

“As the chief product owner at Salesforce.com, I needed a way for my product managers to effectively connect the wants and needs of our customers and the business directly to the development teams in a highly dynamic and responsive way. Using Scrum allows us to put the product managers firmly in charge of delivering customer value. It enables them to direct the team to build the most business-critical feature first and to get them into the hands of our customers as soon as possible.”

Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love by Roman Pichler provides a solid picture of being a product owner working in an agile context, which is definitely a collaborative affair! Early on, Pichler builds the case for teamwork, with teams being close to the customer:

“To create a winning product, the product owner, ScrumMaster, and team must develop an intimate understanding of customer and user needs, and how these needs can best be met. The best way to do this is to involve customers and users early and continuously in the development process.”

Making an Agile Adoption Stick

April 22, 2011

Studies are demonstrating that the most significant barriers to further Agile adoption are:
  • The ability to change organizational culture
  • General resistance to change within an organization
  • Management
(VersionOne State of Agile Surveys, 2008, 2009 and 2010)

My last post discussed the need for educating and garnering management support as key ingredients to improving the odds of success of an Agile adoption. In this post I’ll cover a few techniques that can help to smooth the Agile transition and make it stick (with a Scrum bias, since that is what we use). And if Agile is going to take, people have to truly understand what it is, agree to changing behaviors, and continually apply themselves to learning, inspecting, and adapting.

How to Improve the Odds of Success in Your Agile Adoption

April 19, 2011

Studies are demonstrating that the most significant barriers to further Agile adoption are:
  • The ability to change organizational culture
  • General resistance to change within an organization
  • Management
(VersionOne State of Agile Surveys, 2008, 2009 and 2010)

How can you improve the odds of success with your Agile adoption and overcome some of that organizational inertia?

Agile Development is More Than a Framework

April 15, 2011

In my last post I talked about Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (JDK) system and how it challenged the thinking of other martial artists when Lee introduced it, noting that Bruce Lee’s situation is analogous to Agile development today. Examining what occurred with Lee’s JDK can also serve as a beacon for what we in the Agile community need to watch out for in the future.

For example, during the 1980s Lee’s original chiseling away of the inessentials gave way to the excessive adding of techniques to JKD, the goal being that JKD would always have the correct counter for any given attack. JKD began evolving into less of a system to guide others in their martial arts journey, morphing into a grab-bag of techniques.

Spreading Agile: Let’s Open Minds, Not Close Them!

April 12, 2011

As a past student of the martial arts, I’ve noticed that there are some interesting parallels between Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do –The Way of the Intercepting Fist – and Agile software development.

As I pointed out in a prior post, Bruce Lee on Software Development, Bruce Lee introduced a new system that was highly controversial because Lee challenged the thinking of his peers. Lee was advocating change, but this did not resonate with everyone – for more than one reason.

TDD Training!

April 8, 2011

We’ve had yet another busy week, but at least this week involved a few days of learning something new... I’m very grateful to Steve Ropa of VersionOne, who spent three long days with us providing Test Driven Development training as well as speaking at our TechMaine Agile Users Group one evening. The training was excellent, and everyone came away with a solid understanding of Test Driven Development, refactoring, and a renewed appreciation for software craftsmanship.

The Essentials of a High-Performing Organization

April 5, 2011

Do you conduct employee satisfaction surveys? Employee satisfaction is important, but it is just one building block towards becoming a high-performing organization. Being a satisfied employee is a component to being an engaged employee, which leads to greater individual performance.

The performance of engaged employees is superior because engaged employees take full responsibility for their work and go the extra mile. They are motivated and willing to apply discretionary effort towards achieving organizational success.

There isn’t, however, a single driver of engagement. People place premiums on different things, but consider how important some of these drivers of engagement are to a high-performing organization:
  • A bold vision of the future
  • Recognition of achievement
  • Being a part of a great team
  • Having control over your work
  • The opportunity to grow and improve

How to Make Recognition Meaningful

April 1, 2011

I spent most of this past week on the other side of the United States at our corporate headquarters. A majority of my time was spent in management meetings that are designed to get all of us development managers together to collaborate and learn from one another as well as become more informed about how we are doing on a variety of fronts, such as product/financial results, employee survey results, and to talk about what we need to do to improve the performance of our organization.

One area that we are focusing on is employee engagement. Since I’m an avid – and fast – reader, I loaded up my Kindle with a few books that I managed to work my way through during my flights. One of them was, We: How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement by Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse.