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Showing posts from 2013

3 Reasons Agile is Best in Cynical, Cutthroat Cultures

As agile divas coaches, we are prone to think things like:  "agile is never going to work in a company [like this one] with a horrible, toxic culture. [but I will take the money and give it a shot.  What the hey, it's job security.]."  In fact, "company philosophy or culture" was one of the top two "leading causes of failed Agile efforts" for the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 "State of Agile" Surveys administered by the Scrum Alliance.  And I don't think the 2013 results are out yet.

One pictures the coaches of the world flouncing around in art deco silk wraps and soft curlers waving our collective hands and wailing things about "not being able to work under these conditions!"  It's poison I tell you, poison!
But let's turn the question around.  If we, as agile coaches, have a preference to work solely with small groups of (kind) super-geniuses in converted warehouses which have bean bag chairs, and everyone is …

Don't Just Conform: Harness the Power of the Surprise Attack

I was privileged to hear Sallie Krawcheck speak last week at a Chicago meeting of a women's networking organization she co-owns, called 85 Broads.  Those of you who are interested in women's networking should definitely look into this organization.  And the rest of you should please keep reading, because this is not going to get all hissy--there's something for everyone!

At the 85 Broads meeting, a young African American woman stood up and asked Sallie, "what if nobody wants to network with me?  I don't look like anyone else I meet in my male-dominated industry."

Krawcheck, who has made a phenomenal career out of building relationships with sponsors and coworkers, responded brilliantly, saying that people from any minority group within their work environment need to proceed with caution. Paraphrasing, Krawcheck's suggestions were:
Understand the unwritten rules and work within them.  They are not fair, but they are real.  In most of corporate America, it&…

Staffing for Scaled Agile: Retention is Better Than Acquisition

As you begin your large-scale agile transformation, you may find yourself printing out posters of The Big Picture, jack-hammering cube walls into pulp, and negotiating an awesome corporate site license for an Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) tool.  Plus you are likely putting rigorous product management, architecture and continuous integration practices into place, along with test driven development, and automated functional testing, without the last of which you will be completely helpless under your regression load.

This is all heady and exciting stuff, and just keep doing it, but I would recommend that as you do, you put staffing at the top of your list of concerns, and put a fair amount of energy into the effort.  The Agile Founding Fathers weren't messing around when they put the words "Individuals and Interactions" at the very top of the manifesto.  Make no mistake--agile lives or dies by the quality, motivation, and communication of the people practicing it…

The Periodontal Probe: A Cautionary Metrics Case Study for Coaches

Did you visit your dentist today?  If not, perhaps it is because in modern dentist offices (at least in the US), a routine dental checkup consists of four key steps:
A hygienist grimly and repeatedly stabs your gums with a pointy stick called a periodontal probe (6 stabs per tooth!), and loudly calls out numbers from 1 to 15 with each stab, where anything over 3 means "tooth about to fall out." These numbers, they assure you, go on your permanent record. The same hygienist scrapes some stuff off of the teeth along your gum line, a painful process appropriately known as "scaling."The hygienist gives you a choice of grape, watermelon, or mint toothpaste, and uses that little round tooth cleaning widget to clean the remaining surfaces of your teeth.  They don't say it, but you know and they know that the widget is actually a disguised drill. The dentist comes in, looks things over, and gives you some summary advice and follow-up requests, like "come back in s…

From "Agile" to "Astute:" Value Wrangling Requires Technique

I've been putting my shoulder to a wheel which Jim Highsmith has steadily pushed for a long time, and which Gojko Adzic has started actively evangelizing over the past year or so, which is a group effort to brand, rationalize, and advertise practices to help teams "build the right thing" as a complement to the fairly well established "agile" practices for helping those teams "build things right."

Like the Agile Manifesto drafters, who came together in 2001 as established and successful software delivery practitioners, Adzic has brought together some wonderfully talented practitioners into his discussion space, many of whom have already published substantively on the topic.  To name just a few:
Adzic himself with his 2013 book, Impact Mapping: Making a big impact with software products and projects, building on his previous explications of specification by example. Ellen Gottesdeiner and Mary Gorman with their 2013 book, Discover to Deliver:  Agile P…

Lean Sideways or Up, and then Down

Sheryl Sandberg has become internationally famous in 2013 (and even more fabulously wealthy than she was before) by publishing her bestselling book, Lean In. Corporate women everywhere are now encouraged to perambulate on a perpetual forward pitch, which adds even more difficulty to the challenge of wearing pumps every day.  One is tempted to accessorize with a rescue helicopter dangling a safety wire.
On the one hand, I love that we are talking about equality for women again.  It isn't as though we really succeeded completely before we gave up on Second Wave Feminism, even from a legal perspective. Seriously, the US wouldn't pass the Equal Rights Amendment?  What (medieval) century do we live in here?And clearly, we are even further behind culturally than legally, when we see that women in the US can be making 80 cents to men's dollar in wages for the same job, on average, without laws being violated. And 20 years after 50% of the annual US college degrees began to go to w…

Non-Crazy Job Hunting in 5 Steps

No matter how much you like your current job, you should always have a Plan B.  And if you're finding that job hunting has suddenly become Plan A, this advice may be even more timely.
What You Think You Should Do:
Find a list of jobs somewhere.Apply for those jobs. You can do it this way.  But this method might make you crazy and sad.  By the time a hiring company posts a job to their web site, and especially by the time they post to or, they have committed their hiring process to recruiting professionals who will do agonizingly specific resume screening, word-by-word, on a lot of resumes.  Hundreds or thousands.

For each 50 resumes you send out, you will be lucky to get one non-automated response (drafted and sent by a human), and even more lucky to get an interview.  Chances of getting an actual job this way are microscopic, viewed in terms of submitting a single resume to a single job posting.  Applying by resume is the equivalent of advertising a product b…

Agile Quality Tactics Explained in 7 Easy Steps

Are you new to the testing concept, or the "quality" concept, as I've learned to describe it?  I'm still learning, myself.  You may have seen some previous attempts, but I'm happier now.  Here's the framework I've devised most recently to help express how I think you need to design and implement agile quality tactics.  Your mileage will of course vary.  Experienced quality people please jump in and help me, where I've gone completely off the mark!

Step 1:  Know what to test.  This can be a metaphysical question, but our friends at ISO have come up with a good practical starting point, code named SQuaRE:  Systems and Software Quality Requirements and Evaluation, aka ISO 25010.  It has 31 separate quality dimensions which roll up into seven "non-functional" categories, and one "functional" category.

There are many quibbles out there about whether the ISO categories are the right ones or not.  If you have a better set of categories, …