Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is your PO role working for the business?

I've never met a Scrum team that was highly performant (one commonly stated end goal) that did not have a highly engaged and participatory Product Owner.  I've also not met one person that can do all that that role requires for Scrum teams and the business.  Yes, Scrum's model simplification may mislead organizations into believing that the role is one and only one person.  It was designed this way for very valid reasons - to quit thrashing teams and increasing focus, also a form of limiting work in process, the concept of the PO as the one-ringable-neck responsible for the ROI of the team.

However this simplification rarely addresses the needs of the total business.  Here's a great article on the expansion of this simplification.

The Product Manager vs Product Owner by John Peltier

I've worked with numerous teams in my 10 years of guiding Agile transitions.  And reflecting upon all those teams, there success levels, the customer & team satisfaction with the product & process, and then generalizing a common pattern - the one key success factor is an engaged person playing the Scrum role of Product Owner.  The anti-pattern also holds true.  When there is a lack of Scrum's Product Ownership, the teams suffer, the product suffers, the adoption of the process suffers and therefore the original intent of the Agile transition sponsor reason for changing to an agile process such as Scrum will suffer.

At Navteq I saw an engaged product manager take on the role of Scrum PO in the very first session of a 3 day workshop to launch the new team & project.  The activity was for the group to write their elevator statement.  This person engaged with the activity, intuitively understood that this very abstract vision of the product would set a tone for how the team would understand the value they could deliver to the organization.  He did not dictate the statement, but facilitated receiving and sharing the visions he had and integrating the words and phrases that the newly forming team created.  After that activity, the group was well upon it's way toward becoming a team.  The next day, the PO had committed to memory the elevator statement and could recite it, as well as elaborate upon any of it's aspects.  He created a highly aligned team to the purpose they were to deliver for the organization.

See Also:

Do you need a Product Manager AND a Product Owner?


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Incompetence vs Common Sense


I'm angry.  I'm as angry as a hornet's nest that just got hit by a rock thrown by a 10 year old that has no idea what they just did.  Oh, there may be no intent of harm, but someone is getting stung.

Here's the current situation.  A 70+ year old person I know woke up a few days ago and fell in the bathroom.  We will call her M.  M was knocked unconscious for a moment.  M's spouse responded and called 911, the medics arrived and took M into the Forsyth County Hospital in Winston-Salem.  The medics were wonderful, very courteous and professional.  M was throwing up and had vertigo on the way to the hospital.  At the hospital she was treated and admitted for tests and observations.  When I talked to M, and she described the event it appeared to me that she had not had a stroke, they had done a CT scan and it was normal.

 I'm not a doctor, and have no medical training, yet I've never played a doctor on TV.  But I do work in the health care industry, not as a clinician, but as a software development team coach and organizational improvement consultant.  My disclaimer stated... here is my diagnostics after about 10 minutes conversation with M and just a few pieces of data from the event and the tests.  M awoke and fell (an accident) from no real medical condition such as a stroke, etc.  When she fell she hit her head and the jarring knocked her ball bearings loose - the inner ear's ability to balance is upset, and is treated by a therapist that moves the head in a very precise manner.  I suggest this diagnosis and that M would be OK in a few days.

Well getting your ball bearing rattled is not a very scientific term - but M seemed to understand and it helped explain a possible cause and treatment.  The next day after more tests and observation in the hospital M was treated for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.  Yeah, that sound like the right technical term -- who's idea was ball bearing getting knocked around.  "David you ignorant geek" -- Dan Aykroyd.

During her stay at Forsyth County Hospital M had many tests (CT, MRI, Heart Monitor, etc).  Turns out M is quite healthy and all the test prove this.  She was treated twice by a PT for the inner ear calcium deposit that are causing the vertigo.  And she was discharged.  At home she is doing well and all is back to normal - well almost.  M still has vertigo - note the phrase positional.  Also note that the calcium deposits must be reabsorbed by the body so that they quit interfering with the balance organ in the ear.  This will take days or weeks.

Here is what makes me mad as a hornet's nest.  In the thousands of dollars of testing and observation cost the doctors and the hospital have discharged a person with inner ear balance problems and did not recommend nor prescribe a walker for M.  A walker that rents for $25/week.  They pay thousands of dollars a year for insurance in case of traumatic accidents.  But the health care industry does not recommend a $25 piece of equipment that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars of future cost. And possibly even prevent M's death from another fall.   A fall that is exponential more likely in the next few days.

There is a mindset in America that doctors are intelligent and knowledgable.  That they give us good health advice.  And that we should follow their "orders" - yet we don't need to use our own common sense.  M said to me that the doctor didn't prescribe a walker -- so she didn't need one.  I have to disagree with this mindset.  I do not feel that the doctor that discharged M was remotely knowledgable or intelligent about the health of M.  Nor was the hospital operating with the best interest of the patient in mind.  The likelihood of readmissions because of a poor post hospitalization care procedure is unknown to me.  The scientific community could know this information.  Yet they do not make it available or public.  This is the very reforms that are happening in the health care industry.  The Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce this type of treatment.


What does this have to do with software?  How is software development like or dislike the medical field?  Let's draw an analogy between the software release of an application and the release from the hospital of M.

If M were like an application that had just been released into production.  Then the risk that M may fall and be readmitted to the hospital could be equated to the risk that running the application in production may lead to some form of data corruption.  In software if and when this happens we label this event a BUG, and we suggest that we couldn't have been expected to foresee the bug - that it is just an accident and an accepted risk.  We may set up quality assurance procedure to mitigate the risk.  Yet we in the software industry are notoriously poor at mitigating risk.  Let's just look at the failed roll out of the Affordable Care Act web site.

The fact that this risk in the health care field most likely has some real actuarial data and analysis is something that the software industry doesn't have - may never have - and this is a shame.

If M were to fall and be readmitted to the hospital, would there be a case for malpractice?  I believe so -- but I'm no lawyer - and don't play one in the movies.  "You want answers?  I want the truth. You can't handle the truth."

The truth is M better look out for her own best interest.  The doctors are not using common sense to make obvious recommendation that save money -- but more importantly reduce risk of serious injury, pain and suffering.

In software we are not a profession -- we have no professional malfeasant liability.  Our mistakes and poor procedures cost our businesses billions, account for serious economic injury, and in some case damage political careers.  Yet we continue business as usual.  Never admitting to the incompetence that we secretly sweep under the carpets.


This makes me mad.  And it is hitting very close to home this week.  Both in work and in life -- as if those were separate.  They are not.  My personal life is reflecting my "professional" life this week.  I hope my work life doesn't get reflected in my personal life next week.  I hope M will get a walker.

Friday, January 10, 2014

If you love Post-IT Notes....

Oh you gotta to try this ....  Bullet-Journal.

An organization system for daily journaling.  Perfect for the agile coach that loves the tactical analog system of sticky notes.  Did you catch that - it is NOT an App!

Bullet Journal - the analog system for sticky lovers

Watch the video and jump start 2014 with a journaling system to keep your stickies organized.

"Bullet - Journal - for the list-maker, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers.  Bullet journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page.  It's an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future."

I'm in - start mine yesterday.  I have the authority to make modification to the system (I'm a supper-user on this platform).  I'll let you know how they work out.

david@koontz.name

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Retro of 2013 Resolution: A Learning Plan

Wish there was an App for That!
As every cycle passes back through the beginning it must first go through the ending... so let's first see if I made any progress in last year's long forgotten new year's resolution.  It was to create a learning plan and bet back into the beginner's shoes.  To become a newbie on some new tech and experience the frustration and excitement of learning a new tech skill.

All in all I did very well.  I did create a learning plan.  And like all plans it was great to have one and worthless after a little bit of learning proved it to be a poor plan (almost like I created it out of ignorance - oh, yeah - I did!).  Yet, it did provide a direction and increased the motivation as I could measure the progress and see where it was directing me in the wrong direction (or a direction I no longer desired to go).

I did learn the basics of RubyMotion (an iOS tool chain - development stack for iPhone apps).
RubyMotion.com
 Ran a few of my example apps on the iPhone simulator.  Never payed to get an Apple developer key and publish my own apps.  I hear that process is quite a learning experience also.  I remember the days of passing the Novell Netware publication standard tests.  A tough code review if there every was one - no memory leak every escaped them - and people wonder why Novell servers could run for decades without reboots.  If you every published a Novell app you don't need to wonder about quality control, you have experienced real QC.  I expect the Apple App-Store is similar, and this aspect of Apples control of the user experience is largely responsible for the happiness of customers.  Windows is known for the blue screen of death, and it is a deserved reputation.   Perhaps human-kind has learned from this mistake so many years ago (1990s).

I would like to take this next step - but I need a team - a group - people to be accountable to - so that I can be my best.  Anyone want to join me - or know of a group I can join?

This is what I've learned about my learning plan - that to be truly successful I've got to enlist collaborators.  This is what Jane McGonigal suggest in her TED talk, it was a key to her recovery from brain injury.  And a key to all great games.  And perhaps a key to life.





See Also:
Review Constraints before Projecting Desires