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Showing posts from November, 2011

The Product Owner is a Metaphor Too

I've been having many conversations recently about how to set up the agile teams I'm coaching with the right Product Owner.  As we all know, the PO must be empowered to make decisions, yet must also be knowledgeable enough about what the software should do that she can make constant small decisions for the team so they don't have to wait.  The PO understands the big picture, understands the small picture, and can set priorities.

I blogged a few months back about how the "Team Room" must be considered a metaphor, not a literal prerequisite to trying agile for the first time.  I know I am stepping into equally sacred cow pies here, but I am going throw my weight behind greater thinkers than I who have already posited that the "Product Owner" should be considered as a team, not an individual.  A small village, not a literal person.  Consider these "Product Owner Team" proposals from Mike Cottmeyer, Ben Linders, and Marc Löffler, specifically whe…

Just In Time Software Requirements: Introducing "Value Spikes"

I've been pondering further difficulties of being a product owner, both silently and aloud, so yesterday I was happily bowled over by a new idea on the topic from my new ThoughtWorks colleague Jasper "Dutch" Steutel (@dutchdutchdutch for twitterphiles).  He calls his discovery the "design spike," and we ended up talking together about a related concept, the "value spike."  So what's this all about?  Aside from being "Vampire Month" on the Pragmatic Agilist?


The Problem

It may be different in a small start-up or a firm well-organized into small, highly integrated business/technology verticals, but in a typical large corporate enterprise with matrixed silos, it is quite challenging for a Product Owner to speak for all of the stakeholders on a project.
The PO must be able to speak fluently to the technical people on the teamThe PO must be able to provide one reliable set of priorities which reflect acquiescence among all of the PO's hori…

BDD, Feature Injection, and the Fallacies of Product Ownership

Product Ownership is very difficult.  Take a big step away from the Agile Manifesto and think for a moment about project stakeholders, user stories, and how they don't fit together as neatly in real life as they do in Mike Cohn's User Stories Applied, as awesome as that book is.  How in the world is it possible for there to be a single person standing in for all project stakeholders in negotiating with the team?


Conveniently, Cohn himself points out The First Fallacy of the Product Owner.  And that is, of course, that such a being actually exists:
On an ideal project we would have a single person who prioritizes work for developers, omnisciently answers their questions, will use the software when it’s finished, and writes all of the stories. This is almost always too much to hope for, so we establish a customer team. The customer team includes those who ensure that the software will meet the needs of its intended users. This means the customer team may include testers, a prod…

Roles with Teeth

As a coach and trainer, I have noticed that when I start the "Roles, Personas and Goals" discussions, attendees in the room are 40% more likely to start surreptitiously checking e-mail their smartphones than they when we talk about comparatively exciting topics such as "stand up meetings," "story boards," the "burn up versus burn down chart" debate, or "evolutionary design."   I had to lure you to this blog post, in fact, by riding on the coat-tails of the Breaking Dawn, Part 1, premier tonight at midnight.  You aren't interested!   You have heard it all before!  "To write good software, you need to know who will be using it and what they want to accomplish."  Blah blah blah--sounds like something your mom would say.   "Give the roles names, and think of them as people.  If multiple types of people play the same roles, give them different names, and call those things 'personas'"  Now you sound trendy an…

Agile Velocity: The Numbers All Go To 11

Jim Highsmith recently posited that "velocity is killing agility!" which is kind of a fun hypothesis.  Jim observes that company leaders he talks with around the world these days are a little too quick to measure the effectiveness of their agile software development teams by keeping track of the teams' velocity (the average amount of estimated software effort the team delivers per software delivery iteration).
This is quite ironic, of course, since one of the rudimentary things you learn when you first study agile software development is that "velocity" is measured in abstract terms like "points," or "ideal hours."  The numbers are relative to each other, and mapping points to time is a fluid process, and only valid to one team at a time.  The idea of tracking velocity is so absurd, in fact, that there is an entire web site devoted to the concept of estimation using fruit (cherry for very small amounts of effort; watermelon for large amoun…