Tag Archives: agile

West London Lean Coffee – 2nd March

We had some great discussions at the last West London Lean Coffee session which was held in Carluccio’s in Westfield on 2nd March. Here’s a brief write-up of what we talked about.

What We Discussed

Finding the Right CTO For a Tech Startup

We talked about how to go about finding a CTO. If, as a founder, you have a great idea but no clue about how to get the technology enablers completed in order to get to market then what should you do?

We discussed using specific CTO and founders meetups and websites to help with the search. It’s important to spend a lot of time choosing the right CTO (so many startups fail due to differences of opinion between the founders and early employees). Having a strict spec can be un-helpful and it’s as much about whether one can work with someone, than it is about their pure technical skillset.

There’s also the opportunity to consider part time CTO’s to help guide you. We also talked about whether having one right from the start is even required and that time would be better spent iterating over an idea, testing it through marketing or consumer research, before even thinking about how to partner with someone to built it.

How To Choose The Best MVP

What does a good MVP look like? How do you go about defining it?

We talked about whether it’s actually better to look at Minimum Pitchable Product first, vital for securing funding. We also discussed trialling ideas on customers, segmentation and why it’s important to consider that the customer base is not a base of you.

Revenue can be your best proof of an idea or a minimal pitchable product. You need to prove that you can deliver value.

In that respect I’d certainly recommend reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris which contains a lot of tips.

What Are The Key Behaviours That An Agile Coach Can Demonstrate?

What should you look for when choosing an Agile Coach? What behaviours make great coaches? We came up with this list:

  • Calm
  • Knowledgable
  • Lack of arrogance
  • Contextually aware
  • They want to make themselves out of a job or contract
  • Good agile knowledge but not prescriptive
  • Behaviours are the most important thing

Alignment Of Lean/ Agile To Customer Value

How can we ensure we are aligned to the needs and value gained from customers? We talked about gathering value as early as possible. But in order to do that one needs to understand what value means and this has to come from stakeholders. Identification and relationship building with those stakeholders becomes is so important.

How Much Transparency Should a Team Provide During a Sprint?

How much should a team feedback progress during a sprint vs just getting their heads down and getting on with it?

Our discussion started by talking about the pros (stakeholder management primarily) and the cons (perceived lack of trust, reporting overhead) of providing visibility. We agreed that the key point was not to disrupt the team during the sprint and to that end, automated reporting solutions (within popular tools like JIRA, Trello, etc) were key. But on their own reports could be misunderstood and lack context so if teams do want to report during sprint then there is a human overhead to do that, perhaps falling to the Delivery Manager or Scrum Master.

What We Didn’t Get Time To Discuss

  • Product Owner role in a larger product company
  • How close to an actual customer do you take user stories?
  • Sharing failure stories – good or bad
  • Process of website up and pitfalls (yep – I don’t understand what this really means either 🙂
  • Have you ever worked with someone who stood out in a positive way and why was that?

The next West London Lean Coffee will be on March 30th in Carluccio’s in Westfield at 8:30am. Hope to see you there!

West London Lean Coffee – November

West London Lean Coffee – November. Here’s a write up of the event.

Lean Coffee

We had a group of 9 people and some great discussions.

Things We Discussed

Experiences of Beyond Budgeting

We talked about experiences of Beyond Budgeting and how working incrementally can help finance teams support agile technology teams. We thought that this would work best in non listed companies, and the key point was enabling buy-in from finance teams to the approach. Wondering what Beyond Budgeting is – look at this post.

How Do You Demonstrate Savings Of Scrum Before You Start?

How can you convince a team to try scrum, or any other agile methodology? How can you demonstrate the savings that could be possible? We discussed how focusing on the outcome was important and how selling a change as a low risk experiment could help you get approval to try something new out. It’s well worth looking at the information that Government Digital Services make available for hints and tips – if it works in government then it must be do-able elsewhere, right? 🙂

The Differences Between Startup Lean and Large Company Lean

Some great discussions about the differences between small and large companies and their cultures. We agreed that behaviour was very important and how the requirement for more structure comes as companies grow. There was a great example of sizes and one scales; making a business unit max 80 people, a squad no more than 12 and teams of 6-8. Once one reaches these limits then it’s most likely time to start thinking about an alternate organisational setup in order to keep a company able to effectively employ agile methodologies

It’s worth checking out Management 3.0 for more details on ways in which you can help build great teams.

If You Were Joining a Team Without a Specific  Remit To Implement Agile Then How Would You Approach It?

We talked about how joining a new team is a challenge and how one might initiate change, despite being the new person on the team. The key point were to not focus on agile as such, look at the culture and pain points and lead by example. Use the opportunity of being new to ask simple questions and highlight what might appear obvious. And make sure that the team can see what the improvement could be by using some agile approaches.

It’s also worth establishing if you have a remit to change things and if so, then understand what the change appetite of the company is.

Things We Didn’t Talk About

  • Differences between software and physical product lean and development.
  • Agile reporting beyond burn down.
  • Sizing bugs and estimations. This post from Johanna Rothman could be useful.
  • Tactics for handling sprint disruption.
  • Multiple mobile teams using the same codebase.
  • Agile and lean for the old and corporate.

The next Lean Coffee is on December 15th, 8:30am in Carluccio’s Westfield, Shepherds Bush. Hope to see you there.

West London Lean Coffee – October

Last week saw the latest edition of West London Lean Coffee, slightly delayed from October into early November. We had a group of 8 people and some great discussions.

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Things We Discussed

Does Agile Need Updating

A detailed discussion about whether the agile principles are still valid and if they are not then does the manifesto need updating. Is the language right? Is it just a matter of applying general principles to the correct context?

It’s worth reading this article from Ben Linders on the same subject.

Transitioning Teams From Waterfall

How can you transition teams from waterfall methodologies? We talked about the complexities when fixed deadlines are involved and how negotiation with Product Owners is key. We then discussed about the importance of focusing on outcomes and not outputs from a team and avoiding falling into a trap of merely doing mini waterfalls. Identifying where the value is and tying everything to measurable business goals can help. I’ve found a lot of what Johanna Rothman has written to be very useful in the past so it’s worth checking her website out.

Impact mapping is also great at ensuring that the team are focused on outcomes from the start.

Alternate Benefits To Contracting For Developers and Testers

We spoke about the difficulties of retaining employees when the contracting market is so strong and what could be done to help. Focusing on team culture is key and ensuring that there are strong, personal bonds between team members. Treating people like adults and helping them adapt to change, while protecting a team from a lot of outside influence can also help. The focus on autonomy, mastery and purpose in a role can mean that the money aspect becomes far less important.

It’s worth checking out Management 3.0 for more details on ways in which you can help build great teams.

How Best To Organise and Delineate Different Workstreams Across Kanban Boards

We talked about whether it was best to have one large Kanban board that covered a number of different workstreams, or let teams have their own. It was agreed that team ownership of boards was the clear winner and something like a portfolio board could be used to bring the results together if needed. We then talked about how using a tool like JIRA could also help and could be used for reporting as much as tracking.

It’s worth checking out some of the presentations from LeanKit as a starter to learn more and this blog post about Portfolio Kanban.

Integrating UX/UI Into Agile Delivery

What’s the best way to integrate UX and UI design into agile? Do you just have the designers work a sprint ahead? But what happens if there are problems with the designs?

We spoke about how putting regular checkpoints or design reviews into the process can help and getting the ‘QA’ aspects of the design process as early as possible can de-risk having design ahead of development.

Things We Didn’t Talk About

  • How do you know what are genuine (non vanity) metrics for MVP? This article could help.
  • Any experience about sizing addressable markets?

The next Lean Coffee is on November 24th, 8:30am in Carluccio’s Westfield, Shepherds Bush. Hope to see you there.

 

West London Lean Coffee – 15th September

West London lean coffee runs every month in Carluccios in Westfield Shepherds Bush. Here’s a brief writeup of this morning’s session.

The next session will be on 27th October. Hope to see you there.

Topics We Discussed

‘All Work and No Play’…But How Much Work?’

How much are activities like 10% time and hackathons of benefit to the team and the business? What works for one team may not work for the others. We had some good discussion on context and why giving room for innovation is important.

Agile and Lean For Management Teams

Some great discussion on whether adopting agile and lean works for management teams, a.k.a. the scrum of scrum masters. The idea of quick, focused meetings, transparency and team involvement is important no matter whether it’s a team of developers and testers or a team of managers. Some great tips including ‘make the focus of meetings on how to improve’.

False Agile Promises

What happens when you join a company and you find out that they are not as agile as they implied during the interview? Should you try and change the company from within or cut your losses and move on. The questions that you ask in the interview are important and need to be detailed enough to ensure that you really get a feel for the company culture. We talked about how successful agile transformations are not technology focused and how working with HR and finance first can be the secret to a transformation that works and becomes embedded in company culture.

How Much Are Personas Important When Looking At Market Segments?

We talked about persona’s and how those seeking to validate product ideas can use them. There was some previous experience in the group with the use of persona’s in technology and software development, including testing, in order to understand the customer better. We discussed how segmentation is important but need to be detailed enough to be useful.

Topics We Didn’t Get To

  • Working with sales partners and how much to involve them in the design of a product canvas.
  • London – high turnover of staff.
  • Managing people through change
  • Remote teams and tips on how to run them
  • Capacity management with stakeholders
  • Continuous delivery – how to implement in a new team
  • Embracing new tech internally
  • Is lean for tech users clients or can we convince business to go with it?

West London Lean Coffee – 28th July

I’m the organiser of the West London Lean Coffee meet-up – here’s a write-up of the July event.

(If you are wondering what a Lean Coffee is then take a look at the Lean Coffee website to find out more).

Topics We Discussed At Lean Coffee

Which Is Better – Move Fast and Break Things Or Test Thoroughly?

A great discussion about whether it’s better to release rapidly and test more in production vs testing and then making a release to production. It’s key in this situation to understand how any changes will be monitored in production, how quickly deployed changes can be rolled back or patched, and how released work is supported. Books like Continuous Delivery and also Lean Startup are good places to start to lean more.

I gave the example of Pokemon Go, where a worldwide phenomenon has occurred and been very successful despite the quality being actually very poor.

Product Manager vs Project Manager

We talked about the differences between product managers and project managers. Is there a difference or is it just semantics? Does the widespread adoption of agile and the product owner role mean that we now see more Product Managers? My take on this is more about permanence – a project is essentially transient in nature and therefore a project manager will manage many different projects over time, whereas a product manager becomes the expert at something more permanent, i.e. a product. But, as was brought up in the discussion, how does one define a product anyway, and since products change so rapidly then is there really a difference between product and project management anyway?

Keeping Teams Engaged

How do you keep a team engaged between projects? Is 20% time, hack days, shipit days and learning enough, when the gap is long and the team’s vision isn’t clear enough? We talked about how you could focus teams, including involving them in project definition decisions as well as the other options mentioned above.

Lean – With a Working Prototype, How Far Back To MVP Should You Go?

We talked about the importance of MVP and how far back towards MVP should you go, particularly when you are a lone inventor of a hardware solution rather than something purely in software. Topics included defining your measurable business goals, how to measure these and how to ensure that you produce a true minimum feature set for validation. And how this is difficult when you have such as emotional attachment to a particular idea.

Topics We Didn’t Get To Talk About

  • People management while trying to be agile
  • How to work with or manage someone who doesn’t like to document their work in detail
  • Experience using lean with physical products (as an aside – if you are reading this and you do have experience then please get in touch)
  • Working in an agile manner with consultants

Hope to see everyone next time, which will be in September. If you haven’t been before and fancy coming along then join the meetup group.

Agile In The City 2016

I’ve just got back from Agile In The City, which is a relatively new agile conference held in London. It’s in its second year and this was the first time it had been extended to two days. I had a great time; there was a good mix of talks, tutorials and workshops, a decent venue and even some good food as well.

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As usual I did some mind maps of the sessions I attended. My favourite session was Managing For Happiness from Jurgen Appelo, a really inspiring keynote about how to manage better, with some great tips.

My mind maps from all the sessions I attended are below.

Keynotes

Managing For Happiness by Jurgen Appelo
Managing For Happiness by Jurgen Appelo
How To Derail Agile Rollouts - Katherine Kirk
How To Derail Agile Rollouts – Katherine Kirk

Track Sessions

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Scaling agile development at the Government Digital Service by Adam Maddison

 

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Punishment driven development by Louise Elliott

 

Develop The Product Not The Software - David Leach

Develop The Product Not The Software – David Leach (with free water pistol 🙂

 

Value by Andrea Provaglio
Value by Andrea Provaglio

 

From Oil Tankers To Speedboats - Jonathan Smart
From Oil Tankers To Speedboats – Jonathan Smart

 

#NoProjects - beyond projects - why projects are wrong and what to do instead - Allan Kelly
#NoProjects – beyond projects – why projects are wrong and what to do instead – Allan Kelly

West London Lean Coffee – 9th June

I’m the organiser of the West London Lean Coffee meetup and I thought it would be good to do some short write-ups of the events and an overview of what was discussed. Useful for those who attended and hopefully also for those who didn’t.

lc(If you are wondering what a Lean Coffee is then take a look at the Lean Coffee website to find out more).

 

Topics We Discussed At Lean Coffee

Applying Agile To Non-Software Tasks

A good discussion about how you could apply agile to HR, finance, change management, etc. It got me thinking about this TED talk about how you could use agile to plan your families tasks.

What Is The Easiest Way To Transition To Cross Functional Teams

We got talking about how you could transition teams from being discipline focused, i.e. development team, test team, etc to cross functional agile teams. There’s some good examples in this blog post and also it’s worth thinking about skills mapping as part of the exercise.

Sizing In Points Vs Time

Is it best to size in points or time? Or both? Or neither? We talked about how you might bring two teams together who size differently, why the most important thing about sizing is not the method you use, but the fact that it gets the team to think about the tasks, and how that can help drive commitment.

Topics We Didn’t Get To Talk About

  • PO = Business?
  • Does agile estimation bring value?
  • Idea to bring a good but impersonal team together.

Hope to see everyone next time. If you haven’t been before and fancy coming along then join the meetup group.

A Christmas Retro

Ho, ho. ho, Merry Christmas!

At this time of year it’s a great opportunity to sit down with a team and reflect on the year that has been, and to look forward to the year to come. And being Christmas then it’s also a great opportunity to look a bit silly, dress up in Christmas hats and jumpers and have a  bit of fun.

With that in mind, I decided to organise a Christmas retro for the team I’m working in. We are responsible for a brand new product  which launched this year, so we’ve had a very busy, very exciting and very experimental year. Getting the team together to reflect on that year was very important.

The Idea For a Christmas Retro

My first step was to look round for inspiration for Christmas themed retros. Had anything like this ever been attempted before? Fortunately I was in luck, both Em Campbell-Pretty and David Manske have both written about a great way to run a retro at Christmas, based upon the Dicken’s book ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Em’s blog article, where she applied the technique to a large group was my first inspiration, and then I stumbled upon David’s article as well, which helped to add some more details, and was helpful for the smaller (15 people) group that I work with.

Basically speaking, the idea is that you base the retro around the ideas of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. In A Christmas Carol, the main character, Scrooge, is visited by ghosts on Christmas Eve who show him how Christmas was, how it is presently for others who rely upon him. and how Christmas will be, were he to continue on his current path. It’s a great book and I’d definitely recommend reading it. Or, watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. It’s great 🙂

present

Adapting It For a Retro

Since the Muppets theme seemed to be a fun way of introducing the idea of the Christmas Carol retro format then I went with that. The team love Muppets.

Adapting the story to use in the retro was pretty straight-forward and heavily based on Em and David’s ideas. In order to get the team thinking about everything that had happened throughout the year then myself and our Product Owner prepared a set of posters, one per month of the year and then pinned them up on the wall of the room where the retro was to be held. It was pretty amazing to look back at everything that the team had achieved throughout the year. We focused on delivered work; features, numbers of tickets, etc, and then interspersed this with press cuttings from the year that mentioned our products, team details and fun stuff, such as number of Percy Pigs sweets eaten, etc. Which is important to this team, believe me 🙂

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We also bought lots of Christmas hats, food and even a Father Christmas beard for yours truly, then invited the team into the room to start the retro.

Christmas Past

past

For Christmas past we got the team to look back at the year and then think about whether there was anything that they regretted or wish had gone differently. They wrote these on post-it notes and kept them to themselves.

Christmas Present

present2

Next I explained the idea of Christmas Present, and encouraged the team to think about what had gone well throughout the year, what had made them feel good, and who in the team they would like to thank for helped with particular pieces of work. Again, they wrote these on post-its.

Christmas Yet To Come

yettocome

The third piece, Christmas Yet To Come, was about the hopes for the next year, What did they want for the team, themselves and our product? The idea was to get them thinking about future priorities and to work on putting together a short list of what we, as a team, think is important for the future.

How It Went

So the stage was set, people were wearing silly hats and eating Christmas food. More importantly they could also see how much we had achieved throughout the year, and they were thinking about how we could work in the future.

The Grinch

grinch_by_crazymic-d6yvfkp

Once everyone had written down their thoughts on Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come I introduced a fourth category, The Grinch. This was an idea that David explains in his blog post and the intention was to get them thinking about what could happen to us, as a team, that could threaten next Christmas. Essentially  it was about identifying project and team risk. So everyone also had a think about that and wrote down their ideas.

The Retro

We then went through Christmas Past, Present and Future, and The Grinch in turn.

For Christmas Past everyone was expecting to come and pin up their post-its, rather like a usual retro. But instead, being Christmas, it was time to let go of regrets and so I encouraged everyone to tear up their post-its and throw them away. When I was planning the retro I wasn’t sure how people would react this – would they view this as a waste of their time in writing the regrets down in the first place? It turned out they didn’t – after much hilarity with people throwing post-it’s at each other, the feedback was good, with some people saying that the idea of throwing away regrets rather than sharing them, was the best part of the retro.

For Christmas Present and Future everyone came up in turn and discussed what they had written on their post-it’s. People thanked each other for work that they had helped on. We talked through trends and actions that could be taken from what had been discussed. This gave everyone a great view on where we are as a team and where we want to be going.

For The Grinch we talked through the risks that everyone saw, and how we could deal with these in the next year.

From all of this we were, as a team, able to decide on what was important to us going forward; with actions that were both product focused, and also team focused, such as organising more social events and sharing the responsibility for doing so.

Merry Christmas

We finished by thanking the team for what they had done and explained how they should all be very proud of what they had achieved throughout the year. Then it was time to go off on our team Christmas event offsite.

Overall I think that this retro format works very well. By combining something seasonal, fun and focused, it made looking back on a whole year much easier and more exciting than a more traditional retro format would have done. The format engaged people and made it easier to share experiences.

And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like wearing silly hats and Christmas jumpers once in a while? 🙂

A Coaching Cafe Service Menu

I’ve just finished speaking at Nordic Testing Days about my journey from Test Manager to Test Coach and beyond.

As I mentioned in the presentation, as coaches we started to generate a pull for our services by using a coaching menu. Since some people asked me after the presentation about what that was, then I thought I’d make it available for all.

So here it is 🙂 Hope you find it useful.

Stephen Janaway | Coaching menu