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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 ...

 
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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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A Focus on Organizations and Value Chains

If there was one major development in the Agile field in the last year or two, it’s been a shift of focus from teams and methodologies to organizations and value chains. I expect this development to gain more speed and depth in the next three years — becoming the major issue of the debate. I see three main threads within the focus on organizations and value chains emerging. These seem to address different needs and markets. The first thread is a tendency to “blueprint” an organization in order to facilitate Agile’s introduction. The “Scaling Agile Framework” belongs, in my opinion, in this group, as do the initiatives of the PMI. Despite a heated debate about …

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If you visit an Agile conference these days, it’s hard not to hear talks like “Scrum within a RUP project” or “Agile in a Traditional Organization.” From a dogmatic Agile point of view, this reminds me a little bit of a veggie-stuffed beef recipe promoted as vegetarian food. From a management perspective, it means that you are only exploiting about 10% or 20% of the potential of Agile . Many consultants would consider such an implementation as failed, and I’m sure you will find a lot of “Scrumbut” practices in these organizations. But does that necessarily mean such an approach is bad? I don’t think so. To the contrary, a fast judgment of these approaches often …

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The more agile software development becomes mainstream, the more often I run into a typical pattern of management mismatch. It comes in several flavors. A recent client CTO who is responsible for the IT of an online store illustrates one example. “We have just raised an additional budget of 1 million Euros for this year to implement this fantastic feature,” he told me. “And now I’d like to talk with you about how to cut the teams.” A management workshop on agile contracts with another client demonstrates a second example. The workshop began with its current situation: “We want to build this platform and already have three Fortune-20 clients on our list. Our mission is to …

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Nov 282012
 
New Ways of Management

For nearly 20 years now, management theory has been changing. It started with single books, such as Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline.  By the end of the 90s it had developed into several independent movements/management models. One of them was the Agile Software Development movement; others included the Beyond Budgeting movement and the Human Systems Dynamics movement. Though each of these movements was launched from a completely different perspective (e.g., organizational development, software development) each came to a very similar conclusion: The traditional way to organize companies is well suited for industry and mass production but hinders knowledge work and is unable to adapt to the ever-growing pace of the market. Traditional companies are based on a deterministic …

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I recently watched a talk by a self-appointed agile "expert" who tried to explain the key elements of Scrum. There were lots of minor and major mistakes in his presentation, but the sentence that struck me most was: "User stories are what we call requirements in agile." The sad thing is not that much that this guy said was completely wrong, but that his view is quite common. Another "Scrum" team I was visiting recently showed me its task board. On the left, the group had "prioritized" their stories by assigning them to three categories. Their choice was pretty representative: they had eight cards with priority one, three cards with priority two, and not a …

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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 …

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“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 …

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