Agile Project Management

Cutting-edge Agile methodologies, software development techniques and project management practices.

May 072015
Seriously Gaming At Cutter Summit 2015

This Monday, on the first day of the Cutter Summit 2015, it was my great privilege to moderate a session about serious games as tools of disruptive innovation. By changing the normal rules of interaction, we can have more productive interactions during the innovation process, including the all-important collaboration with the customer. Serious games also help in the education process, driving home lessons in a way that words alone often cannot. They also provide an opportunity to “try before you buy,” simulating new innovation strategies, such as adopting Agile or managing your portfolio differently. During the session, we played three games, one representing each of these potential benefits that serious games offer. (There are others.) Read more

Apr 272015
Truly, One Size Does Not Fit All

Software development is not really a single discipline. What comes under the overall field is a combination of disciplines that address a range of problems: Maintaining and evolving fielded code Adding significant new features to an existing application or platform Building an entirely new application or platform These differ in the amount of innovation required and the amount of information available for delivering a quality system. Teams working on type 1 problems generally are not required to invent anything and they have detailed information on the code change required and available technology. Teams addressing type 2 efforts may need to be innovative in building out and integrating the capability. Also, they usually have incomplete information Read more

Apr 212015
The Importance of Cross-Training

Cross-training reduces reliance on individual experts and extends a firm’s capabilities without hiring externally. A single specialist can become a bottleneck in a business process simply because he or she is the only person with a necessary skill. This is evident in areas such as software development where the idea of multi-skilling has become a component of Agile development. The problem that cross-training solves is the natural creation of islands of expertise and its consequences. While some people certainly need to be experts, cross-training problems occur at a lower level. Overall, it is important to recognize that isolated skills and resultant bottlenecks develop as a process over time. Consider an individual familiar with a particular Read more

Apr 142015

Agile practitioners are often proud — and justifiably so — that when people are seriously adhering to the principles and practices, they keep the focus on value. They usually do a better job on average, I would argue from both first-hand experience and a fair amount of research, than the adherents of Waterfall methods. That’s not the same as saying that there’s not room for improvement. Value is a slippery concept. What’s valuable to you isn’t necessarily valuable to me. That statement extends to user stories, in which the “so that…” clause differs, depending on the persona identified in the “As a…” section that precedes it. We’re supposed to write stories that have some value Read more

Mar 312015

Lean, like Agile, is an increasingly nebulous term. At its core, Lean centers on paying attention and continuously improving our processes and our products. Tools like Kanban, Personal Kanban, A3s, Validation Canvases and the like are spreading Lean thinking — but the focus is more and more on tools, not on continuous improvement. The more we learn about how software is created and the modern product lifecycle, the less certain the processes are becoming. Change happens quickly, and business needs to respond quickly. We want to increase predictability, but the best we can hope for is to simply understand what is predictable and build systems to suit. Since we are dealing with evolving products in Read more

Mar 242015
Retrospective Meetings: What Goes Wrong?

[Editor’s note: Don’t miss Diana’s keynote The Heroic Learner: Courage, Compassion, and Confidence for the 21st Century at the Cutter Summit, May 4-6 in Cambridge, MA.] Too many retrospective meetings receive cursory planning or inadequate facilitation and are thus unable to reap the potential benefits. Too many retrospective meetings are held to “check the box” on the process meetings template, rather than to focus on real improvements. Too many teams never implement or revisit the action plans coming out of retrospectives. Disguised as retrospective action planning, too many teams seek to shift blame and responsibility for action to others. In too many organizations, retrospective meetings don’t deliver the promised return on time invested (ROTI). It’s Read more

Feb 132015

When you read technology news, security (or lack thereof) dominates many of the headlines. When you scan the titles of talks at Agile conferences, or you skim blog posts about Agile, you don’t see as much discussion about security. Agilists aren’t indifferent to security, but there are few clear guidelines for how to incorporate security into Agile practices. Fortunately, the ways to address security within Agile practices are not too hard, but as with anything related to security, the earlier you deal with it, the better. Security often fits into the work of an Agile team in the following ways: Tasks needed to implement a story. Security often appears within implementation tasks (“When I write 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

Dec 232014
Talking About Value Instead Of Requirements

Words shape thoughts. The word “requirements” has limited software professionals to a very narrow set of information about the value they produce. In the end, we’re supposed to be delivering software value, which is a much broader, more ongoing conversation than the content you create just before working on the code. While a switch to user stories helps start this transition away from traditional requirements, that’s only a step. How do we understand what capabilities will help the customer? Do we understand the customer at all? What hypotheses are we posing about the value of adopted software? How do we test these hypotheses, so we can make adjustments, if the software isn’t providing perceived value, Read more

Dec 222014
2015: Align Organizational Structures with Agile Practices

The appetite for risk is all but gone. Enterprises aren’t allowing the luxury of “seeing where the chips fall”. The need for predictability will dominate over some of the agile idealism of allowing things to emerge. Balancing this insatiable need for predictability with the agile culture will require enterprises to become much more self-critical about how they operate.  2015 will be about alignment. Users of agile practices are maturing. Enterprises are learning more and more that agile practices aren’t just for development teams alone. In 2014 we saw a broader shift among large enterprises’ thinking about how they’re going about taking advantage of agile. Many more of these companies realized that agile practices at the Read more