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
1 comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

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…

What is your Engagement Model?

What must an Agile Transformation initiative have to be reasonably assured of success?

We "change agents" or Agilist, or Organizational Development peeps, or Trouble Makers, or Agile Coaches have been at this for nearly two decades now... one would think we have some idea of the prerequisites for one of these Transformations to actually occur.  Wonder if eight Agile Coaches in a group could come up with ONE list of necessary and sufficient conditions - an interesting experiment.  Will that list contain an "engagement model"?  I venture to assert that it will not.  When asked very few Agile Coaches, thought leaders, and change agents mention much about employee engagement in their plans, models, and "frameworks".  Stop and ask yourselves ... why?

Now good Organizational Development peeps know this is crucial, so I purposely omitted them from that list to query.

One, central very important aspect of your Agile Transformation will be your Engagement model.  

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, …

Refactoring - examples from the book

Martin Fowler's book Refactoring:  Improving the Design of Existing Code has a simple example of a movie rental domain model, which he refactors from a less than ideal object-oriented design to a more robust OO design. Included in this Refactoring_FirstExample.zip Zip file are the Java source code files of the Movie, Rental, and Customer classes. Along with a JUnit CustomerTest class. Using these example source files you too can follow along with the refactoring that Fowler presents in the first few chapters of his book.


Metrics for a Scrum Team (examples)

What metrics do you collect to analyze your scrum team?

We live in a world of data and information.  Some people have a mindset that numbers will diagnose all problems – “just show me the data.”  Therefore many directors and senior managers wish to see some list of metrics that should indicate the productivity and efficiency of the Scrum team.  I personally believe this is something that can be felt, that human intuition is much better in this decision realm than the data that can be collected.  However, one would have to actually spend time and carefully observe the team in action to get this powerful connection to the energy in a high-performing team space.  Few leaders are willing to take this time, they delegate this information synthesis task to managers via the typical report/dashboard request.  Therefore we are asked to collect data, to condense this data into information, all while ignoring the intangible obvious signals (read Honest Signals by Sandy Pentland of MIT).
What if …