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Showing posts from August, 2012

How to Do Project Cost and Time Estimation for Distributed Agile Teams

Danger Will Robinson!  Long post!

There is a chance this will be useful to you if some of the following are true:
You're an agile software development practitioner who needs to provide an overall "fixed cost" type estimate for your work.  This might be because the corporate entity paying your team insists on you providing such an estimate before it will commit a single penny to pay you, your team, or your "team room snacks" bill.  Or you're billing time-and-materials, which is great, but someone still wants a ballpark of what the total will be for what it currently seems the project subject matter is kind of about.You would normally do your estimate by getting everyone into a room for a co-located "project inception" or "planning game" or "story mapping and release planning session" where you would do this estimating by moving physical cards around on a table, floor, or wall.You don't actually have the whole team physically…

Ban Bullies From Your Teams

If any of you have dealt with a bully, you will be quick to tell me that the bullies we encounter day-to-day are not ON the team.  They are ABOVE the team, or parallel to the team, or in some position of authority, and that's how we notice them.  This is true.  A bully, or as Robert Sutton defines her, "an a**hole,"  is defined by the difference between how she "manages up" compared to how she "manages parallel and down."
 A bully uses her position of strength to behave badly towards people who can't stop her.  Some bullies simply lack empathy, and some actively enjoy inflicting pain.  This is a serious problem, not just a "personality detail" about an otherwise valued coworker or employee.  Sutton has a wonderful New York Times article about how, in contrast to the Donny Osmond position on the matter, "Bad Apples Infect the Tree."  Well, for Osmond, it was "the whole bunch, girl," not the "tree," but the t…

Be Proactive

I once spent an hour at a facilitated "C-level" meeting where we discussed what we could learn about leadership by considering the "Dancing Man at Sasquatch Music Festival" video.  Yes, the meeting was compulsory.  Excerpts from my meeting notes:  "Note the importance of the moment when the SECOND crazy dancer joins the first!"  "How does one man eventually become a crowd?"  "What is the tipping point?"  "What are YOUR day-to-day 'crazy dancer' moments?"  "Let's all go be crazy dancers!"

This type of meeting, along with any event in which adults need to play musical chairs or "self-organize" into groups using color-coded name tags, is what keeps Scott Adams in business with Dilbert.  If there's an important lesson to be learned from the crazy dancing guy, it's probably: "if you want your average executive to be courageously proactive, you will need to get him drunk and send him to…

Hands Across the Conference Table: Coordinating Simultaneous Agile Work Streams

Most of the people I interact with are unequivocally excited about the opportunity to try agile for the first time. Not.

Most people have doubts. And one of the top questions I often get is "can I seriously use agile for a very large project with multiple work streams, and with cross-impacts from other groups who aren't agile at all?" Yes! Yes, you can. In fact, agilists and the agile approach has a particularly strong set of tools for helping you manage cross-team interactions. These tools not only help you scale your "pure agile" project management approach, but also can help strengthen best practices in your "waterfall" PM approach, if you're working in a hybrid environment. So let's talk about that.
First, a few myths that you might have heard, but I'm sure you agree aren't true.
Agile doesn't scale.  Um, wrong.  Agile Scaling has been around for almost as long as agile itself, discussed, for example, this year by Tom G…

How to Control Scope Creep in Agile

Project managers and others new to agile often ask me "how do you control scope creep in the Agile software development life cycle (SDLC)?"

Scope creep, for those of you reading this blog purely for the joy of it, is when a team has agreed to build a piece of software for a given price in a given time frame, and then the person who wants the software changes their mind about what they want, and they ask the team to do something outside the initial agreement, often without concomitant adjustments to the budget or the time frame.  Scope creep is nasty, and left unchecked may cause blindness or death.  Or at least loss of sleep for the team members, or perhaps loss of hygiene if they opt to skip showers in order to fit in a nap.

And yet business needs change.  Nobody buys VT-100 terminals these days, and only audio aficionados buy vacuum tube stereos.  The iPhone 4 gives way to the iPhone 4S (but still doesn't provide turn-by-turn spoken navigation).  If you're the per…