Coaching, Coach Training and Everything In Between Blog
Weekly Scrum Interview Question: What Is Velocity?
What is Scrum Team Velocity?This is a tricky one, and you need to be answering it in the context of the organization you are interviewing with and its complementary practices.Let’s start with the basics. Velocity is mentioned quite a few times in connection with Scrum in various contexts. First thing you might hear is that the velocity is a measure of the team’s ability to deliver value to the customer. That’s quite an okay definition you might give to your interviewer. Just be ready for an onslaught of questions it might bring, such as, “What do we measure”, “How do we measure it”, “Why do we measure it”.Velocity is recognized by Scrum.org as a complementary practice. This means, that Scrum framework does not have a prescription for a Scrum Team as to how to measure its ability to deliver value. Remember that Scrum is a framework, which can work really well with a variety of practices that fit teams needs, desires, and abilities. And velocity is one of such practices.
Agile Metrics: What Happens in Vegas stays…
In the previous 3 articles I reviewed some of the most important Agile metrics that Dan Vacanti’s ActionableAgile software helps you to get with ease. Those were Cycle Time with the help of the Cycle Time Scatterplot, and a multitude of metrics, provided by the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD). In the latest article we looked at Work Item Age and its importance with the help of Aging Work in Progress Diagram.Looking at the Cycle Time Scatterplot we discussed the significance of percentiles and how they can be used to predict the cycle time and avoid the trap of a single-number, point-in-time answer. This is cool, you’d say, but not merely enough, and I would agree. We need better techniques to predict possible timeframes for a completion of a set of work items. And, sometimes, we need to know how many right-sized work items can be completed within a given time frame.Let’s face it, we live in a real world, where “When Will It Be Done question” is as omnipresent as ever. We cannot bury our heads into the sands of the #NoEstimates beach and hope the questions will go away. Let’s learn better ways to answer those questions.
Getting to 85 – Agile Metrics with ActionableAgile Part 3
In this part of reviewing Agile Metrics let’s turn our attention to another kind of a chart – Aging Work in Progress. Unlike both the Cycle Time Scatterplot and the Cumulative Flow Diagram this one takes a much narrow just-in-time snapshot of team’s work.
Weekly Scrum Interview Question – What is the Sprint Length?
This question "What is the duration of a Sprint" is seemingly simple, but depending on the interviewing situation, company, interviewer, and their familiarity with Scrum you might need to give them more or less details and answer additional questions your answer might bring up.
Getting to 85 – Agile Metrics with ActionableAgile Part 2
In the first part of Getting to 85 – Agile Metrics with ActionableAgile we looked at the Cycle Time Scatterplot as generated by ActionableAgile software. That piece also discussed some ideas the scatter plot could bring about and conversations that potentially might occur.Let’s take a look at another important chart and set of metrics the ActionableAgile can produce based on sample or custom loaded data – Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD).
Getting to 85 – Agile Metrics with ActionableAgile Part 1
The topic of Agile Metrics inevitably comes up in many situations and conversations. I have been hiring Scrum Masters lately. One of my screening questions read, “What standard metrics would you track if any and for what purpose?” I cannot tell you how many candidates mention Velocity, Burndown and Burnup charts. Very few can reasonably explaining the meaning and use for those.So far, I hired 2 Scrum Masters whose answer to the question didn’t have any of those metrics. What these two have in common, they mentioned and could talk about Cycle Time. Mind you, that was not the only reason they got the job, but it gave them advantage over others. Rarely do you hear Scrum practitioners bringing up Cycle Time, Lead Time, Throughput, Work Item Age. These all firmly used to belong to the Kanban world. Somehow during the Holy Scrum Kanban decades of feud these metrics were banished from the Scrum land and forgotten by many.
Start with Your Customers
One of the pillars of the Kanban Method is the mantra, “Start where you are.”, start with where your customers are, with what your work is. Which is great! For the low maturity organizations and teams, it allows to skip the requisite pain and suffering that usually come with change.While creating their first Kanban boards with many a team, I noticed that one of the steps in STATIK is harder than the others – defining who your customers are and what their pain points are. And that is not surprising for a bit. People are usually tremendously busy, switching context multiple times a day (or an hour). They tend to build personal relationships with those who ask them to do the work. They do their best, satisfying the request and moving on. They rarely have enough time to stop and think whether the status quo is acceptable. Whether their customer pool is satisfied in general, whether they are doing a fine job at properly prioritizing the work.This is the definition of chaos.
Do You Think You Are Done?
As a Professional Scrum Trainer for Scrum.org I get to think about the Definition of “Done” and its meaning a lot. In one of the Sprint Planning event the other week, a Product Owner asked an innocent question, “I need this small thing changed, how long that might take?” An answer followed almost immediately, “it’s just a couple of lines of code.” I heard that conversation many a time before and almost always it ended with, “of course we are going to get it done, no problem.”To those kinds of exchanges, I always have a couple of questions. What exactly do you mean you will get it done? Do you know what getting done means? Quite often the responses are either an indignant, “of course we know what done means, we have been doing it for years, do you think us fools”. Sometimes I just get a blank stare, “what do you mean.”
Manager as Coach
In order to understand the role of manager as coach, it is first vital to understand the difference between coaching and … well, everything else. I often find that people confuse coaching with other things such as dictating, micro-managing, performance managing, mentoring, teaching, and other things that I can’t quite name.
Information Radiator – Sprint Health
Information Radiators are a great way to make things transparent for a team or organization. The radiator pictured above I a sprint health radiator. It can be used however you choose to implement and using whatever colors you select. I just happened to be using a white board and green, blue, and red dry erase markers when I created the one pictured above.You could also make this smaller on a flip chart and create a new one daily to show progress over time which is really cool because the team can see how far they’ve come each day. It also shows them when new work is added to the sprint or when things are not moving along as expected. Take care to ensure that this information radiator is used to display and radiate information that is useful to the team to see the health of the sprint and make decisions about changes they might need to make in the way they are working. Don’t use this as a whipping stick to prod the team to work harder, faster, or more recklessly!Let me give a description of the radiator parts, options, and how it’s used.
Information Radiator – Gut Check
Information radiators are a great way for you to communicate information to a team that they just are not seeing for themselves. It also helps you to not have to nag the team with information they aren’t ready to hear about things they are doing that self-sabotaging.I created this radiator when I was working with a team that had gone through several sprints where they kept voicing that they were going to finish all the work until the last day when they finally admitted that they were not going to finish. I’m not sure if they were deceiving themselves or if they were afraid to admit failure but either way there were several reasons why I could see early in the sprint that they were not going to complete the work, but they couldn’t accept fate until the last day of the sprint. By then, there wasn’t much that could be done to change directions or not frustrate stakeholders with surprise unfinished work.
The Power of Interlocking Roles
So, now you know two things about me. I write in my books and I can’t draw. I snapped a shot of this image from the Coaching Agile Teams book – Chapter 7, (Lyssa Adkins) because it is an amazing way to portray how the role of the scrum master, product owner, and agile manager work together. Too often I see coaches running off managers and basically telling them that they no longer have a job. Managers are seen as the enemy of Agile. It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. We should be teaching managers what their new, even more powerful, role is!This picture really stirred me up because it put into writing questions I have often had explaining to the scrum master and agile manager. There are also pieces of this that validate things I’ve always instinctively known but didn’t have anything but my gut to tell me it was true.