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Showing posts from March, 2012

Tech-Only Agile Goes Commando--And Not in a Good Way

Pop culture aficionados will be familiar with the South Park "Underpants Gnomes," who roam through people's homes stealing underwear in the night. Their business plan is classic and simple:

Everyone likes a plan with three steps.

I have been thinking a lot about the Underpants Gnomes lately, and here's why.  If you invert the first two phases, you get a pretty good model for tech-only agile:
???Collect underpants Do Agile Technical PracticesProfit It has the reassuring three steps, but something important is missing.

Let's talk about the company which attempts to roll out agile with a primary focus on the technical practices.  That would be...almost the whole world.  Look at the first line of the Agile Manifesto--it says the goal is "working software," not "VALUABLE working software," although the v-word does come in at the top of the list of "principles" which accompany the manifesto itself.

The IT department generally acts first wi…

Lead and Lag Measures for Agile Transformation

"Oh for goodness sake, you put it in upside down!"
"I'm sorry, Secret. I thought the pointy end went in first."
-Secret Squirrel and Morrocco Mole, Secret Squirrel

I'm always excited to learn something new, and this week a colleague introduced me to the "Lead/Lag" concept of measuring the performance of a change program such as an agile transformation.  He also introduced me to the "Secret Squirrel (and Morocco Mole)" Hannah-Barbera cartoon series from the 1960s, which briefly seemed to be a more interesting thing to discuss, but I'm pretty sure you guys should all pursue that on your own without further commentary from me.  We agilists are a fun bunch.

Seriously, though, this Lead/Lag thing gets you exactly where you want to be as you design your agile transformation, and it keeps you from drowning in a pool of agile purism. "Is not Scrum/Is so Scrum" is not the discussion you want to be having for very long, especially …

Product Owner Safari

I was privileged to conduct a workshop yesterday at the Agile and Beyond Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, on how to be an enterprise Product Owner.  The deck is available here.

Thanks to all who attended!

Almost Painless: Surviving Feedback

"And everyone likes a party/But no-one wants to clean" -Keb Mo, "Victims of Comfort" The concepts of "continuous feedback" and "continuous improvement" are central to agile and lean philosophy.  Esther Derby and Diana Larsen have a wonderful book entirely about team retrospectives.  "Inspect and adapt" itself,  the 12th principle underlying the Agile Manifesto, has been subject to inspection and adaptation and trumped by "Plan-Do-Check-Act."  Teams, processes, work-in-progress--all are ideally subject to frequent observation and tuning.

But what about the people?  As agilists (or non-agilists with common sense), we recognize that we succeed or fail based on the quality of the people and interactions on a team, regardless of the process followed.  If we are going to squeeze maximum value out of ourselves, shouldn't we be putting something in place to tune our people even before we tune our processes?  The grim specter of …