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Jens Coldewey

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Jens Coldewey, based in Munich, Germany, is a Senior Consultant with Cutter's Agile Product & Project Management Practice. He specializes in deploying agile development and object-oriented techniques in large organizations. Read more ...

May 312016
 
Attention Agile Organizations: Alignment = Better Decision Making

A frequent complaint we hear from Agile teams is that their self-organization is not respected and their manager routinely overrules their decisions. If you talk to the manager, he or she complains that the team doesn’t respect company policies anymore and makes decisions it’s not entitled to make. What seems to be a battle about power in many cases and like a confusion of self-organization with autonomy turns out to be an unfinished Agile integration into the organization. Last December, we discussed this topic at a workshop of the “Supporting Agile Adoption” program of the Agile Alliance from the perspective of decision making. Decision making has been a topic of management literature since at least the middle of Read more

Jan 122016
 
The Agile Challenge in System Design

While Agile is pretty mainstream by now in Web and app development, it is still a major challenge in system design, where software plays only a part of the game, although that piece is steadily increasing. Whether we’re talking about manufacturers of cars, chips, or medical devices, they all need to respond to the increasing pace in the market. Only one or two decades ago, these industries were content with product cycles of three to five years. Today, some chip manufacturers are capable of delivering a new version of their product every second month, causing excitement for their customers and despair for their competitors. Obviously, Agile in these industries means something different than in pure Read more

Jan 262015
 
Abandon Distribution in Pursuit of Collaborative Invention

Imagine you are responsible for a production plant. Let’s assume it’s a plant that produces a few hundred cars per day. Now you hire a new consultant who promises to reduce your cost by a factor of four. He issues some policies and makes some changes to your production process and, alas, after five months your cost really drops down to half. This was not really what he had promised, but it’s still quite impressive, isn’t it? However, you also observe some other changes. The staff becomes quite upset, and you sense a steep increase in people quitting due to burnout. The customer complaints rise steeply for a significant lack of quality. And the plant’s Read more

Nov 042014
 

If you only adopt one practice of Agile, adopt retrospectives. The rest will emerge from that. This is old wisdom among Agilists, and back in the early 2000s, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn boiled down his Crystal Clear method to “Iterate and Reflect.” I thought everything of interest had already been written on this topic — until I was involved recently in a mostly failed transition during which this was a major topic. Looking at leadership models, you find the concept of post-heroic leadership where the heroic leader solves problems by either being the expert him or herself, or an “achiever” who pushes others to solve the problem. The post-heroic leader works by providing the Read more

Aug 262014
 
Leadership for Successful Agile Transitions

If you only adopt one practice of Agile, adopt retrospectives. The rest will emerge from that. This is old wisdom among Agilists, and back in the early 2000s, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn boiled down his Crystal Clear method to “Iterate and Reflect.” I thought everything of interest had already been written on this topic — until I was involved recently in a mostly failed transition during which this was a major topic. Looking at leadership models, you find the concept of post-heroic leadership where the heroic leader solves problems by either being the expert him or herself, or an “achiever” who pushes others to solve the problem. The post-heroic leader works by providing the Read more

The Agile Island

 Posted by on Sep 20, 2011  No Responses »
Sep 202011
 

One of the saddest patterns I’ve seen several times in my career is that of an agile island. The story usually goes along this route: a highly motivated middle manager finds herself in some difficult situation and decides that agile is the right way out of her turmoil. She starts to read books, she engages skilled consultants, she gets the team on board, introduces self-organization, finds skillful product owners, and, after one year or so, she has a highly successful agile team. Well, not everything is really perfect, but after all, the situation is way better than it was before the transition and the clients notice a significant difference — though there is still some Read more

Mar 082011
 

“You did not finish the stories you committed to!” a product owner at a client of mine recently raged against the team. “What the hell are you doing all day long? This commitment was pointless!” And he was right. The team commitment Scrum includes as part of the planning ritual is a dangerous practice that needs care — and committing on a certain number of stories or story points really is pointless. “Commitment” is one of these management buzzwords you have to use carefully. You should be very clear about what you commit on, what the appropriate tools to keep that commitment are, which tools are illegal, and what happens if you don’t keep the Read more

Dec 072010
 

The next two years will show a major change in the Agile world: The predominant position of Scrum will suffer from both the inside and the outside. On the inside, the struggles within the community will weaken the thrust effect of the certification program. Right now, we already have two competing certification programs, and, at least in Europe, single trainers are trying to establish their private programs, too. This will lead to several dialects and maybe even more competing certification programs. Though competition generally helps progress a profession, I consider this a sign of increasing weakness for the Scrum Alliance. The ongoing merger between Scrum and XP – now marketed as “Scrum development practices” – Read more

Jan 192009
 

How much architecture does an agile team need up front? Most agile methods are surprisingly silent when it comes to this question. Scrum regards architecture as an issue the team has to deal with on its own discretion — and thus does not include any advice. In Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn suggests having a lead designer who is responsible for creating the system architecture description — “usually fairly early in the first iteration” — but also emphasizes that “the architecture will probably evolve” and gives two strategies to help evolving: Walking Skeleton and Incremental Rearchitecture. XP finally suggests using a metaphor to keep up the technical Read more

Oct 212008
 

Last week, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of software engineering. Between 7 and 11 October 1968, the NATO Science Committee hosted 62 leading academics and professionals of the young computer industry in Garmisch, a beautiful place in Bavaria, Germany, at the foot of the north face of the highest German mountain. During this conference, the term “software engineering” became popular and started its journey through our domain. Not too long ago, I understood agile development as an oppositional concept to software engineering. I had identified software engineering with the heavy document-driven processes widely in use in the 1980s and 1990s. This is a popular conception; especially one the proponents of traditional methodologies like to support. Read more