Skip to main content

We have the best tools - why do we not use them?

See Also:  13 Agile Tools to Use.

I was observing a Scrum daily stand-up for a new team the other day - here is one observation I had.  At the end of the stand-up the Scrum Master asked the team who was going to update the burndown chart today.  One team member stepped forward and started adding up task estimates (in his head) and then drew the bar on the chart (paper on the wall) representing the daily estimated work remaining on this sprint.  We talked briefly about the shape of the graph (classic downhill ski jump shape) and last sprints graph (similar shape) and what that implied.  There was no big discussion about if the data was truly represented in the information - because they all understood the derivation of the chart information, they had created the information (the chart).

This is a great break through for this team - because of the status quo in the organization.  It is not until you know 'The rest of the story' that the new behaviors become so awesome in my view.

... the rest of the story
The organization is heavily reliant on using a big name tool for tracking the agile teams and creating charts.  Yes, this well known tool is on many list of agile tool sets (another list of agile tools).  Yet, it is not well liked by the people.  There are questions as to weather it is just plan wrong in the information it is creating (burndown charts). Or if the tool is being used inappropriately (problem exist between keyboard and chair - PEBKAC).  These charts are not trusted by the teams and thought leaders at the organization.  The agile coaches have even created an excel spreadsheet and manually extract data from the agile management tool to plug into the spreadsheet thereby creating better charts and graphs.

"The Sprint Burndown Chart is a valuable tool for team self-management. Excessive management attention to team self-management artifacts will lead to finger-pointing and “looking good for the boss,” impeding the candid interaction among team members necessary for hyper-productivity."
-- Michael James, An Agile Approach to Measurements

Since the teams and leaders do not trust the tool, and have created another layer of tool abstraction, the teams do not really feel responsible for the information being presented.  It is just some numbers (a lot of numbers) in a spreadsheet that someone created, that is telling us something, but what do we do about it?  "I don't know what to do, I'm sure they will tell us."

In my opinion, the problem's root cause is that the team has been dis-empowered by removing them from the responsibility of managing them selves.  It is their responsibility to decide if they are going to get to Done on the sprint.  It is not the responsibility of some tool to report to someone else this information.  And then result in that someone else directing the team in how to correct the inadequate burndown rate.

This team has accepted their responsibility.  They own the task of tracking.  They have modified the tracking tool they are using to give them better information (note graph paper above, and plan paper last sprint) over time (inspect & adapt - learning).  Now that they have a deep understanding of the information, they may be able to draw conclusions that lead to changes in behaviors that improve the shape of their graphs, and allow them to project if the sprint will get to done early and with confidence.

If there is no confidence in the information - wouldn't that mean the use of the tool to produce the information is WASTE.  Oh - that Lean thinking will get me in so much trouble - or - perhaps the status quo will change.



See Also:
A Burndown chart that radiates progress

Why Paper is the Real Killer App - BBC

Comments

Steffi said…
Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!


Agile Coach Training

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?



Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: http://tinyurl.com/3br9o6n. Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, then yo…

Do You Put “CSM” After Your Name?

I’ve noticed a new trend—people have been gaining titles. When I was younger, only doctors had initials (like MD) after their names. I always figured that was because society held doctors, and sometime priests (OFM) in such high regard that we wanted to point out their higher learning. I hope it was to encourage others to apply themselves in school and become doctors also. Could it have been boastful?

The Wikipedia describes these “post-nominal initials”:
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honor. An individual may use several different sets of post-nominal letters. The order in which these are listed after a name is based on the order of precedence and category of the order. That’s good enough for me.
So I ask you: is the use of CSM or CSP an appropriate use of post-nominal initials?
If your not an agilista, you may wonder …

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.

Introduction

Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

Agile Story Estimation via Dog Grooming Exercise

Practice story estimation techniques with this exercise in dog grooming.

Related Post:
Affinity Estimating: A How-To by Sterling Barton.
Dogfood David why I feel like an expert in the concept of eating one's own dogfood.
   Slideshare:  Affinity Estimation - Size 60 Stories in about 20 Minutes.
For each dog below, estimate the work effort (size) required to groom the dog.  Assuming that you have the tools and experience to groom dogs.  Grooming includes washing, drying, combing, nail clipping, and hair triming in some cases.


Start with the ever popular:
Golden Retriever (22-24 in, 50-90 lbs).




The short haired Dachshund (15-28 lbs).



The Standard Poodle (15-18in, 40-80 lbs).




Bernese Mountain Dog (25-28 in., 65-120 lbs).




German Shepherd (23-26 in, 50-90 lbs).



Yorkshire terrier (5 in, <10 lbs).




Beagle (13-16 in, 18-35 lbs).



Boxer (26-31 in, 55-110 lbs).




Bulldog (40-55 lbs).





Labrador Retriever (21-25 in, 55-130 lbs).





Great Dane (28-38 in, 120-200 lbs).




Komondor (25-32 in, 90-130 lbs).


Situational Leadership II Model & Theory

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought the technique needed to move forward was one thing, yet the person leading (your leader) assumed something else was what was needed?  Did you feel misaligned, unheard, marginalized?  Would you believe that 54% of all leaders only use ONE style of leadership - regardless of the situation?  Does that one style of leading work well for the many levels of development we see on a team?

Perhaps your team should investigate one of the most widely used leadership models in the world ("used to train over 5 million managers in the world’s most respected organizations").  And it's not just for the leaders.  The training is most effective when everyone receives the training and uses the model.  The use of a ubiquitous language on your team is a collaboration accelerator.  When everyone is using the same mental model, speaking the same vernacular hours of frustration and discussion may be curtailed, and alignment achieved, outcomes …