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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
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David's notes on "Drive"

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

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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…

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, …

What belongs on the Task Board?

I wonder about these questions a lot - what types of task belong on the task board?  Does every task have to belong to a Story?  Are some tasks just too small?  Are some tasks too obvious?  Obviously some task are too larger, but when should it be decomposed?  How will we know a task is too large?

I answer these questions with a question.  What about a task board motivates us to get work done?  The answer is: T.A.S.K.S. to DONE!



Inherent in the acronym TASKS is the point of all tasks, to get to done.  That is the measure of if the task is the right size.  Does it motivate us to get the work done?  (see notes on Dan Pink's book: Drive - The surprising Truth about what motivates us) If we are forgetting to do some class of task then putting it on the board will help us remember.  If we think some small task is being done by someone else, then putting it on the board will validate that someone else is actually doing it.  If a task is obvious, then putting it on the board will take vi…

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.









In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.





Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    Stories
    To Do
    Work In P…

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.