International speaking engagement!

Dear Matte and Kalle (If you are actually still reading this)

So, I am very excited to be asked to speak for the first time ever in another country!
I will be speaking at Agile Vilnius 2013!

So, the only thing left to decide is which topic I want to talk about…
I lean heavily toward my retrospective talk, as that is my best material. But…
Vaidas (who invited me) Thinks a talk about testing in an Agile environment will draw more of a crowd…

Opinions?

Customer Collaboration Win!

Dear Kalle and Matte

I think we already have a post along these lines, but I thought I would make one anyway.

Yesterday my team went to trafikverket to watch our system that we build be used live by the customer service department. I know! Watch the people who use the system actually use it…. Crazy right?

Anyway, this was a super positive experience for all that were involved and I just wanted to share a bit about it.

1) You can never know how the user actually uses the system:
Within 10 seconds of having sat down, I (and other team members working with other people) observed an issue with the system that I had never observed before. This revolved around a search function that we never really use on this end. Simply because of the way our test system is configured, it is not really needed for functional testing. (I should note, we are completely unable to test in the production environment at the moment for reasons I won’t get in to). So, this function always seems unneeded to me when trying the system. But a quick observation of live use revealed they use is on every single call they take, and it is SUPER slow. The fix for this will be a very small amount of work (don’t know how much at the moment) and will save the service rep a few seconds per call, over several hundred calls a day, across 20-30 reps. You do the math!
This is only one example of a few 20+ actions we took away from the day. Most of which are easy changes that will make the system much smoother to work in.

2) Showing our faces:
I think the biggest benefits from this is showing our faces to the customers, letting them understand that we care about their feedback and how things work for them. I think this alone has a big impact of the customers perceptions of the system and their willingness to work with us to make it better. I would however note, I think there is an inherent risk with this. It now becomes absolutely essential that we implement some of the things they requested, or that they see some impact from these sessions, otherwise, the attitude of “we complained but nothing happened” will develop.

3) Getting the team charged up:
I think my team deserves major props for taking the initiative to do this kind of thing. As simple as it is, so few teams actually do it. So, they go and get the gratification of seeing that the system is actually being used by people, they get to feel good about themselves for making the effort to do so, and finally they get to feel charged up about making changes to make the system even better going forward!

So, in closing, what I am trying to say is that everyone wins in this scenario! This is just an overview I think I could write on this subject for hours, but I won’t 😉

//Jeff

Best naming convention ever

Dear Kalle and Matte

My new team has the best naming convention ever!
Every sprint is given a alphabetical identifier. So, we are currently is sprint K, but that’s kind of dull right?

So, each sprint is named after a particular cake. Last one was “jordgubbstårta” and this one is “Kladdkaka”.

Then, after each demo, the teams and the customer eat said cake to celebrate a successful sprint!

Very nice way to end a sprint, have clear naming for future reference, and socialize with the the customer!

Will be advocating to teams going forward!

//Jeff

Rentastartup

Dear Kalle and Matte

Just an idea I have been bouncing around in my head… I would like to hear what you guys think.

Would services like rentacoder or elancer be good for startups? I have actually no experience with these services, so, this is purely an intellectual exercise.

Possible Pro’s:
Quick prototype:
One of the main focuses of the lean startup is to get something (anything) out fast, and see how people react. Since rentacoder has people at extreemly low prices, and you are not yet overly concerned about questions like code quality, you could have something hacked together for very cheap that you can use to test your first assumptions.

Possible Con’s:
Hard to iterate…Maybe?
Since you hire the coder for a limited amount of time, they may not be there when you need to iterate to test your next assumption.

No passion:
I suppose it would be hard to expect a hired gun to be passionate about the product you are trying to create… Although, is that really any different from any employee in the short term? I am of the opinion that most developers are self motivating, at least in the beginning.

Opinions?
There are a lot of things to consider around this, but I will leave that to you guys to bring up 😉

//Jeff

Making your retrospectives better!

OK, so Mattias asked me about retrospective tips today.

This is a video of basically exactly what I have started teaching my classes. All credit here goes to Ola Berg, I stole this from him basically line for line.

Also, I forgot to add in the video: since we have regular retrospectives  we don’t need to find a perfect solution to our big issue, we just need something we can try for 2 weeks (or until next retro) and then we reflect again and see if that worked, if not, we try something else.

This is a very quick job on the video, but I am considering making a nicer version for distribution. This version is totally unedited and missing the bit I mentioned above, also, what I write on the board could be better.

 

Personal improvement

Dear Kalle and Matte,

So, I have been thinking about this a lot lately…

Quite a while back I had a sort of epiphany to do with continues improvement (CI), I decided that CI was the true key to successful agile implementations, after that I started to see the need for this in everything I looked at, especially myself. But for this post I will focus on my role and a Scrum Master/Agile Coach.

So, there is a lot of places I want to practice CI, and I have had some limited success with this… Monthly meetings with the Scrumbeers group let’s bounce ideas off people, get feedback and think about new approaches… But, it’s not enough!

The issue is 2 fold:
1) Motivation and focus:
I basically know I need to spend some time reading blog posts, books, attending conferences,  probably a lot of other stuff… But I can’t seem to get my butt in gear and do it. I was trying for a while to read 1 fiction, then 1 agile book… The problem was it was always easier to read a fiction after a hard days work. I am thinking what I need is a solid plan of how often to spend on what. Like 2 hours book, 1 hour blogs a week. And 2 conferences a year… Or something along that line… Then I have to work hard on focusing myself and doing this. Thoughts? Maybe if we vowed to do something as a group? (Could include blog posts here)

2) What do I do!?!
There is soooooo much out there, it is really difficult to decide what to focus on. I tried looking online for a Scrum Master development path, but got no good results from that (Aside from the certification path). I feel I need to set some goals and limitations on myself, while at the same time leaving time to explore and examine ideas I would not normally…
Anyone got ideas about what to focus on? I have too many ideas is my issue…

So, what do you guys say? Who wants to commit a few hours a week to personal improvement? Or, do you think this needs to be a personal journey?

Also, any of our other readership is invited to weigh in on this conversation!

Jeff

Public Speaking, Terrifying and Rewarding!

Hey guys!

So, as you know, I have recently began teaching classes on Agile methodologies at quite a large organisation. And I wanted to share some of my feelings about this.

Some background:

So far, I have taught about 5 classes, all on the subject of Kanban, each to a group of about 20-40 people. These people work as IT delivery outwardly to the rest of their organisation. They are unsurprisingly overworked, and receive more requests then they can realistically deal with, all of which are HIGHEST priority… So, all in all, a completely typical IT teams.

Before I started, I assisted in a 2 half day classes with someone who had been doing this for a while. (The best possible thing I could have done!)

My first class:

The first day of standing up there was absolutely terrifying, at least right up until the point I started speaking. Also, a side note, I woke up sick as a dog that day and really never should have left the apartment, let alone stood up and spoke for 8 hours.

So, as I said, I was extremely nervous in all the time leading up to this day. I was barely able to sleep for several days before hand. I tried practicing by myself in a room about 20 times, and I can tell you that this only served to make me more nervous.

However, the night before I practiced on my girlfriend, which went a long way to making me feel better. The problem with working alone in a room was, I got no feedback from participants and nothing to work from, so, I was basically trying to read a prepared speech for 4 hours’ worth of class, and every time I stumbled was completely devastating, because it seemed so huge without anyone there.

When I started to practice with an audience, I suddenly had engagement to work off of, and that made a major difference. I felt more like an expert, and was able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of the people I was speaking with (in this case, 1 person) So, when the day came, I was terrified right up until I started speaking and then it all dissolved. I realized very quickly that I did indeed know what I was talking about, and the audience was engaged enough to help me find discussion points whenever I ran dry.

My second class:

Each class was broken in to 1/2 day segments, so when I say 2nd class I mean part 2.

On the second class, I went completely the other way, I did very little preparation and decided to let the classes questions drive the discussion more (they had been using the stuff from the first class for about a week, so they had a lot of questions.) While I feel these were also successful, they were less so… I think I needed a little more “go to” material to bring a bit of order to the discussions. These discussions tended to get off topic, and felt less professional.

The conclusion:

Prepare a lot, but not too much!

Remember that you are indeed an expert in your area, and will be able to deal with the unexpected.

When you need to stall to think, ask the class a question 😉

Now the important part!

The reward:

The first reward was simply pulling off the class, realizing it went well.

But after that came the real reward, seeing that you got through to some people. I should be clear, the majority of people you spoke with, most likely went back to doing exactly what they were doing before. But there were a few people in every class who you could see you really reached, and that was a amazing feeling! To feel you inspired someone, and maybe made a small difference in the world was one of the nicest feelings I have ever had. I can only imagine how it feels for school teachers to see!

I love doing this work, and apparently I am fairly good at it, the classes gave me an average score of 5.2/6 which is apparently extremely high.

It is extremely exhausting, to attempting to make 20-40 people enthusiastic and engaged, and is often times terrifying, but also the most rewarding work I have ever done.

I suggest you all try it; I personally can’t wait to get better at it!

Jeff