Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lessons from an Author

The fact that I can title this blog “Lessons from an Author” is both amazing and surreal.  You see, my first book was just published so I guess I can officially say that I am an author.  (Buy it here!) Holding the book in my hands led me to reflect on the last 18 months and the journey that my co-author, Sondra Ashmore, and I have been on.  For what they are worth, here are the lessons that I have learned along the way.cover

Persistence Required

When writing a book, or doing any meaningful and challenging undertaking, you must have persistence.  This is obvious, I know, but let me share the backstory.  There were two chapter in our Agile textbook that were particularly difficult – the chapter on roles and the one on culture.  Not that we didn’t have plenty of content, that was never the problem.  It was trying to figure out a way to convey the information in a logical and cohesive fashion.  Each chapter was re-written nearly from scratch three times.  By the time you are writing a chapter for the third time, it is easy to get frustrated, depressed, aggravated, annoyed (can you tell that the memories are still fresh??) and a whole host of other emotions.  This is when you need someone to pull you back to the surface.  In my case, I was lucky to have Sondra.  In my time of doubt, Sondra reminded me that this is the time and circumstances that separates published authors from those with unpublished work sitting in a drawer.  It is persistence.  Pure and simple.  There are lots of great writers out there.  But persistence is the distinguishing trait for true authors.

Agile Book – Culture

For the final blog post in our series about our upcoming book, Introduction to Agile Methods, we are going tackle the cultural impacts of an Agile implementation.  Agile is a simple set of concepts to understand (once you read the book, of course) but that doesn’t mean it is easy to implement.  It can be challenging for organizations to adopt principles like self-organizing teams, continuous improvement and frequent delivery.  This chapter examines creating an Agile culture from the perspectives of a team member, manager and an executive.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand organizational culture and why it matters in an Agile implementation
  • Dive into ways things might be different in an Agile organization from a developer, manager, and executive viewpoint
  • Look at successes and failures in behaviors to see the cultural impacts
  • Understand how the Agile principles drive different behaviors in an organization
  • Investigate the healthy team dynamics of self-organization teams, continuous improvement, frequent delivery, effective seating arrangements, incorporating virtual resources, and adapting to the changing environment
  • Explore how an Agile workplace differs for managers and the ways that they must change with regard to teamwork, trust, and transparency
  • Review the role of executives and how their behavior can position an Agile transformation for success with executive alignment, respecting priorities, creating supportive environments for the teams, and driving the right behaviors with metrics

There is so much great content in this chapter, it is hard to pick one excerpt to spotlight.  We chose the executive viewpoint and how important it is for the executive sponsor to embrace the change and provide consistent leadership.

Staying the Course

Image source: http://blog.lifestyleforhealth.com/stay-the-course-guest-blog-by-anna-townsley/

Image source: http://blog.lifestyleforhealth.com/stay-the-course-guest-blog-by-anna-townsley/

An Agile transformation is challenging for most organizations. Some command and control managers will fight the change, offering dire predictions of failed projects as examples of why this is a bad idea. Developers may not embrace the increased accountability and transparency, and some may choose to leave the organization. There are new expenses in the form of seating arrangements, training, and Agile tools that may stress the budget. Agile transformations also have a history of bringing chronic issues that the organization has ignored for years to the surface where they must be confronted. All of these are reasons why an executive might abandon the effort and simply revert to what is comfortable (but ineffective). Any change worth making is going to require effort, and Agile is no different. The strong Agile executive will work through these issues without wavering on the commitment to Agile.

Agile Book – Marketing

Our Agile textbook is just weeks away from being a real, tangible thing and it is so exciting.  Continuing with our blog series with excerpts from the book, this one comes from the final chapter titled Agile Beyond IT.  One might wonder why an Agile textbook marketingwould dedicate a whole chapter to marketing products developed by Agile teams or even how Agile has been deployed in Marketing and other corporate departments.  My co-author, Sondra Ashmore and I believe that it is important to remember that a product is not successful because it was created by an Agile team.  Successful products have to be launched correctly too and that can be an equally significant challenge.  Here are the learning objectives from this chapter as well as an excerpt on marketing with agility.

 Learning Objectives

  • Learn how the Agile values apply to bringing products to market, beyond the development efforts
  • Understand ways to systematically collaborate with the marketplace through discovery and validation
  • Explore the changing dynamics for marketing of products with the proliferation of new channels and the complexities of brand management with social media
  • Review how wireframes and prototypes can be used in the marketplace to inform priorities for Agile software development teams
  • Learn how to be Agile when launching products by managing features, limiting the initial audience, and pursuing continuous enhancements
  • Take the Agile concepts beyond IT and product development and see how other corporate organizations can benefit from Agile values and principles
  • Discover how Marketing has taken Agile to a whole new level of discipline by creating their own manifesto

Marketing with Agility

There are a number of ways to effectively market products built with Agile development teams. Some Agile purists are uncomfortable committing dates and features to the marketplace, but in most industries, it is not optional: Existing customers and late-stage prospects demand to know when and how the product will evolve. We outline several ways to balance these two sides.

Agile Book – Tracking

One of the amazing things about co-authoring this Agile textbook (Introduction to Agile Methods) with Sondra Ashmore has been the opportunity to learn new things and research other methodologies.  For our excerpt from Chapter 8, Tracking and Reporting, I had the opportunity to research Feature Driven Development (FDD) and a great concept called Parking Lots.  Here are the Learning Objectives for this chapter and more on FDD Parking Lots.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand Kanban, its effectiveness, and when it is used
  • Learn the definition of work in progress (WIP) limits and how they can identify bottlenecks in processes
  • Explore different tracking mechanisms used in XP, Scrum, Lean, DSDM, and Crystal
  • Understand burn charts, both burn-up for release management and burn-down for sprint tracking
  • Examine feature-driven development (FDD) parking lots and how they assist in tracking large and complex projects
  • Learn the different strategies for tracking quality through an iteration
  • Understand the importance of meetings in tracking progress and course correcting
  • Learn the purpose and desired outcome for each meeting—the daily stand-up, the Sprint review, and the retrospective
  • Consider the metrics for measuring the success of Agile projects

 

Feature-Driven Development (FDD) Parking Lots

FDD incorporates an excellent way to track progress on larger projects where many activities are contributing to a cohesive whole. For our Cayman Design project, we want to create and sell weather-related calendars to customers; this is a large departure from the other features in our weather app because we have to consider inventory, shipping, and payment details. An example of an FDD parking lot might look like what is shown in Figure 8.7.

FDD2

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tells us that the feature “Collect Customer Information” consists of seven stories totaling 32 points. At this moment, we are 75% complete, and the feature is needed by August 2014. The color on the story can indicate its health, this particular story being yellow, meaning it is in jeopardy. Although this is an interesting depiction of information, it is not necessarily more valuable than any of the other Agile tools we have discussed—that is, until you add many other components, and then the picture painted by the FDD parking lot is incredibly useful (see Figure 8.8).