itSMF NT Q1 Meeting – 40 Agile Methods in 40 Minutes

My presentation from the itSMF NT Q1 Meeting in Darwin, Northern Territory called “40 Agile Methods in 40 Minutes” is available on Slideshare.

With 73% of the world using Scrum as their predominant Agile method, which has a direct impact on service management, this session will open up your eyes to the many other Agile and edgy Agile methods and movements in the world today. For many, Agile is a toolbox of potential methods, practices and techniques, and like any good toolbox it is often more about using the right tool for the problem that will result in meaningful results. You may also be surprised about how many methods have a direct relation or reliance on service management as well as the wider organisational structure and culture. So let’s take a rapid journey into the world of methods like Mikado, Nonban, Vanguard and movements like Holocracy, Drive and Stoos where we will uncover 40 methods and movements in 40 minutes to help strengthen your understanding and toolbox.

It was an honour to be invited to Darwin to present this talk to the Darwin tech community who are a small but extremely passionate community. Here are some photos:



Business Agility: Creating the Future

AgileBrisbaneAt the March 2017 Agile Brisbane meetup, we were lucky to have Pat Reed, an internationally recognised Agile transformational leader in Adaptive Leadership and Value Innovation, present on “Business Agility: Creating the Future”.

She provided a copy of her slides, and here are my notes from the evening:

  • Every leader at eBay (440 of them) are Agile Coaches, it’s the third round now for them, imagine the change if you get frozen middle on board
  • We need to thrive through uncertainity
  • Elon Musk practices first principles ways of thinking
  • Compasses are what we need to thrive on uncertainity, we cannot leverage maps because it is an unknown future
  • Don’t do more with less, do less, to execute in uncertainity
  • Change is changing, we need time for learning and innovating
  • If you demonstrate belief in the team and give an environment of safety, the team will believe in their potential – stop telling teams what to do, ask them what they think what we should do
  • Safe to fail is critical – we were all born with an Agile mindset (Carol Dweck) but our work and experiences push us towards a fixed mindset – if people can’t learn and thrive, your transformation will fail – as a coach we need to provide air cover
  • Keep timelines short all the time – the size of the iteration accelerates the learning cycle and the faster the learning
  • Using David Marquet’s Ladder of Leadership model at Ebay – cards you can download, when your employee says this, you say that
  • NeuroLeadership Institute – “Why Organizational Growth Mindset Matters
  • An adaptive framework – believing is seeing at centre, need to see awareness and understand the problem, need to process options through discovery (really short time frame, as for 3 value experiments), taking action (learn by doing not thinking), transform learnings into collective knowledge
  • DTA has some great tools around discovery
  • There is a cost to value, we won’t do anything that doesn’t have x% value, we need to stop being order takers and become value shapers
  • Principles for Navigating the Future  (Joi Ito) from the Media Lab at MIT, doing interesting stuff
  • Your organisation is not a machine, you can’t fix it – most organisations are setup to work how they were intended to work
  • Innovation, growth and transformation does not happen without tension – learn to identify good and bad tension
  • What could we do if we knew we couldn’t fail – embrace that
  • Do Stanford free Design School program online – same as the expensive in person program
  • Polarity Management – polarity is when you think you nailed a wicked problem and then it comes back to bite you, need to find the best win-win from any scenario, if you try to solve it traditionally you make it worse
  •  VUCA is here to stay, learning is our competitive advantage
  • Microsoft’s CEO Sent an Extraordinary Email to Employees After They Committed an Epic Fail
  •  Measure real value, speed to value and cost of value, need relative value not precision because it doesn’t serve us – Case Study and spreadsheet to calculate value

Instantly Better Presentations

IMG_0796At a recent YOW! Night, Damian Conway gave an excellent presentation on “Instantly Better Presentations”. His notes are online and the video of the presentation is below.

My notes from the session:

  • if you need to give the audience bad news, give it first
  • instantly does not mean effortlessly

1. Talk about your passion

  • to feel more confident, you need competence – talk about subjects you genuinely understand
  • seeing someone who is excited… is exciting
  • energy, enthusiasm and passion through your actions and speech will translate to your audience
  • find something in the required topic that gives you passion – even if you loathe the topic or have been forced by your boss to present it

2. Tell them a story

  • our memory is very volatile – stays for 8-10 seconds unless we do something with it
  • 7+/- 2 is horribly optimistic and not backed by research, real number is 4 +/- 1
  • stories are our oldest information processing tool
  • stories have a flow to assist acquisition and memorisation (all our memories are reconstructed from a storyline), have a hierarchy to assist comprehension and recollection
  • tell the historical story or the story of what happened, process or funny anecdotes
  • story is for your benefit to get the sequence and content right – audience don’t necessarily need to know
  • stories make complexity comprehensible, structure recognisable, information easy to remember, make audiences feel more comfortable

3. Don’t search for content, select it

  • what should I say is the wrong question, question you should start with is what could I say
  • humans are good at recognising important stuff rather than recalling important stuff
  • start with a blank sheet and write down everything you know about the topic that you might want to say – stream of consciousness
  • whittle down to 3-5 most relevant and important topics to talk about
  • these 5 points becomes the chapters, so go looking for the narrative that connects them – they may not connect so look for a couple of lesser topics that better connect the 5 important things
  • competency – think about the questions you were asking when you were learning

4. Simplify your slides

  • tools encourage a bad job
  • content matters but not as much as style
  • content is your payload to explode the audiences brains
  • style – the stuff the audience doesn’t see that prevents them seeing what they should see
  • bad style – anything that prevents the audience seeing what they should see
  • a wall of text – technical audience will read everything, regardless of whether it is relevant or not
  • Apple is good at presentations – simple but effective
  • big words – people at the back can still read them
  • slide numbers turn your presentation into a death march – get rid of background, name and title on every slide, get rid of the logos (audience sees salesperson)
  • slide deck is to focus audience on the presentation – if they need context give them a separate PDF or notes
  • each message is a different slide
  • cluttered is overwhelming and as a result they switch off the attention channel as they are trying to read everything
  • show less on more slides

5. Manage the questions

  • a presentation should always be for the benefit of the audience – give them what they need
  • have an explicit questions policy – hold to the end of each topic, end of the talk, or interactive through the talk (can however affect the flow)
  • always be keen to take questions – shows you care
  • make the questions fit in with your question – “that’s a really good question” makes others more comfortable to ask question

6. Animate code simulations

  • explain code temporally, not spatially
  • use animations to reveal information one thing at a time
  • walk through code as an animation and highlighting
  • low tech animations – use the same slide over and over – cell animation
  • don’t export your slides – notes
  • live coding – synthesise, automate or have a partner – need to keep contact with the audience

7. Deliver your message fearlessly

  • use your nervousness – turn fear into energy
  • never give a presentation for the first time – practice it live at least 3 times
  • use an audience image on a big screen

Lean Metrics & Time Tracking

Lean MetricsAt this month’s Agile Brisbane meetup, Ben Starr presented on Lean Metrics. His talk was based on metrics that they tracked at his previous company on an operational support team. A couple of points from the talk:

  • used Kanban – work item types to allocate capacity and 3 levels of service (standard, coordinated, expedite)
  • JIRA was the tool but was not the most ideal choice and not really up to the task
  • reported by type on backlog, work in progress, throughput (number of work items not size), velocity (throughput and velocity were similar which showed average size), cycle time, class of service mix, due date performance, estimation accuracy, cancelled WIP (started and then cancelled work) and demand balancing (clearing out the backlog)
  • flow efficiency – percentage of time you work on an item versus in progress, also referred to as touch time – using time tracking in JIRA to do this
  • time allocation – value add, failure load (defects), transaction cost (overheads of planning and releasing), coordination cost (management), used percentage of time spent rather than actual hours

The one things that got me thinking during this presentation was the flow efficiency report.

Early on my journey of being an Iteration Manager, my teams used to track times per card. We used to use XPlanner which had some reasoanbly easy functionality for tracking time (one of the good features was as the Iteration Manager I could enter time for my team if needed, tools like JIRA require the developer to record that data if you want it assigned to that developer). We used to use thee metrics for comparing estimates to actuals but over time I came to the conclusion that we would be much better off just making sure that the cards were completing on time (an average of 3 times) and splitting cards out if they appeared to big.

Lately, a number of people in my Agile classes have been arguing that time track is beneficial. My usual response to this (like for all metrics) that it is OK if it adds value, but my recommendation is not to waste your time. Even more so, this opens up the estimation debate that I also believe that a lot of time should not be wasted on (#noestimates), but that is a discussion for another post. My main reasoning is often we need to track for other sources (like timesheets) in different systems, and the overhead does not justify the effort. If teams need time metrics (often to see if time is being wasted away from the core work of the team, say on production support or corporate meetings), I suggest they are done at a team level and rounded to the nearest hour, and collected as time not spent not on project work.

In the graph above, flow efficiency is a good way for showing waste in the system (in this example, the team could potentially be way more effcient), but it relied on the team tracking time (in this case using the time tracking feature in JIRA against each card). I really like it as a graph, I am just not sure the effort to produce it is justified.

Some discussion in the Q&A revolved around recording time tracking (or similar metrics) is OK if the team understands it is an incentive for better metrics, and I can’t disagree with that thought. Just in my experience as an Iteration Manager, getting reliable and timely time and effort metrics ha been painful and the reward outweighed the effort.

Yehuda Katz on Ember.js (Ninefold Event Brisbane)

ninefoldYehuda Katz is a well respected figure in the Ruby and JS communities, so it was no surprise that it was packed house that turned up to see him last night in Brisbane. And whilst the room was hot, there was a lack of chairs and Yehuda himself was getting frustrated with the feedback and cutoff in the house audio system, it was a great night organised by Nigel Rausch on behalf of the guys at Ninefold.

Here were a couple of items I picked up on his talk on Ember.js:

  • like Ruby and Rails, Ember.js is not optimised for computer science but for developer happiness
  • ambitious app – optimised for building entire applications, long lived applications (like Gmail, lasts on the screen for a very long time) need a sophisticated architecture
  • MVC is not quite enough – model (all sessions), controller (just this session), view (what is currently visible)
  • use HTML and CSS to layout application, is the lingua franca of the web
  • HTML needs more dynamic features – {{ for data binding, # block form in Ember
  • URLs are important – good applications have good URL support – like Twitter or Rdio – primary way that people share information in Twitter and email for example – is the UI of the web, we should use them more universally and use them everywhere

Yehuda then gave a demo. Having not used Ember.js before I was impressed by how easy it was to build URLs and interactivity. I certainly will give it a closer look at some stage.

  • future of the web – take a look at the google project – Polymer
  • evergreen browsers – Chrome started this, once you download the browser that is permission enough to download new versions of the browsers ; Safari has not adopted this and will probably become the next IE6!
  • some good resources include embercasts and Ember 101

There was also an interesting kick off presentation by Toby Hede about some of the cool stuff Ninefold are doing, if for nothing else the animations were amusing!

Brisbane Agile Meetup: Scrum Masters: The Full-Time Role Conundrum

MeetupMy presentation from the Brisbane Agile Meetup in May 2013 called “Scrum Masters: The Full Time Role Conundrum” is available on Slideshare.

A replay of the talk delivered by Craig Smith at the recent Scrum Australia gathering in Sydney

The Scrum Guide defines the Scrum Team as being made up of three primary roles: Product Owner, Development Team and Scrum Master. The role of the Scrum Master is often misunderstood, particularly by management, so often questions start to get asked such as “can I share the Scrum Master across teams”, “can the Scrum Master do Project Management” and “can the role be rotated”?

In this talk we will take a look at some of the misconceptions around the Scrum Master role, discuss how it fits into the organisational structure and tackle the age-old question of whether the Scrum Master is a full time role. We will also look at an improvement plan template to help Scrum Masters improve in their role.

Brisbane Agile

Here are some comments from Meetup:

  • Great presentation. Definitely good value (Gustavo)
  • Very good presentation. Good value. (Wilfred Brimblecombe)
  • Interesting subject, nice presso, Craig good value. Great presso, good job Craig. Also brill venue – good old Suncorp. (Derek Walsh)
  • Great presentation, thanks. (Chris Fortuin)
  • Impressive presentation, invaluable advice. (Carlos Augusto de Oliveira)
  • Craig did a great job putting together and presenting his scrum-master-view-of-the-world presso… (Juan)

Victoria University of Wellington: Going All XP On Your Business

Victoria University of WellingtonMy lecture for students in SWEN302 Agile Methods at Victoria University of Wellington called “Going All XP On Your Business” is available on Slideshare.

Brisbane Agile & Lean Meetup: Agile Lightning Talks + OpenMRS

MeetupRecently the Agile Academy decided to get out of running community meetups and hand them back to the community. At the same time, Adrian Smith and I had been talking about the lack of meetup groups in Brisbane. As a result, we took over the established group that existed and created the Brisbane Agile and Lean User Group.

We held our first meeting last week at the Villager Hotel who kindly sponsored the venue and some nibbles. We had about 30 attendees turn up to listen to a discussion about OpenMRS as well as having some group discussions on distributed Agile and selling Agile.

For our first meetup (under our new identity), we are going to run some lightning talks in an open space format. With a number of members having just attended Agile Australia and a long time since our last meetup, we are looking for members to share their stories.

For those that attended Agile Australia, there was a calll to action to support the OpenMRS project ( With groups already kicked off in Melbourne and Sydney it would be great to canvas interest for a similar group in Brisbane.

If you are interested in giving a Lightning Talk please contact us and propose a topic. Alternatively, feel free to speak with us on the night as we setup the agenda.

We are also looking for suggestions on where and where to best host our meetup as well as looking for upcoming topics that the group is interested in hearing or speaking about.

After an overview of the new group and some discussion on potential upcoming topics, Michael Harrison led a discussion with Cathie Hagen on OpenMRS:

We then broke into two groups to talk about Distributed Agile:

Here is the output:

The other group talked about Selling Agile:

Here is the output:

AWS Lean Startup Event 2012

AWS Lean CloudThe planets aligned this week which meant that I was in Sydney for the Amazon Web Services Regional Premier Lean Startup Event, with the highlight being able to hear from Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup. A huge thanks to my friends at Slattery IT who got me registered for this event. Here are my notes from the event.

Eric Ries – The Lean Startup

I am a huge fan of the Lean Startup movement, so it was a thrill to hear directly from Eric Ries. His talk mirrored others of his that can be found all over the web and the content followed much of what is available in the book, but it was inspiring and awesome nonetheless.

From Miscellaneous

This is a copy of a similar presentation from another conference.

Here are some of my notes from the talk.

  • you can now rent the means of production and compete with big players
  • join the global conversation at #leanstartup
  • this is the boring part of entrepreneurship
  • Ghostbusters is the original movie on entrepreneurship
  • startup = experiment
  • we live in a time where we can build anything we can imagine – need to ask not can it be built but should it be built…
  • entrepreneurship is management
  • most products Eric has built have failed!
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor stated things that are obvious now yet had to be invented then – work needs to be done as efficiently as possible and breaking work into tasks
  • all of the tools of general management are based on planning and forecasting – but making an accurate forecast relies on a long operating history – need a new entrepreneurial toolkit because the world is filled with uncertainty
  • the pivot – successful entrepreneurs did not have a better idea, they take the leanings and change the direction without changing the vision
  • runway should not be amount of money remaining but amount of pivots remaining
  • achieving failure is successfully executing a bad plan – this is like getting good fuel mileage when driving a car off a cliff
  • the lean revolution was led by W. Edwards Deming and Taiichi Ohno
  • Agile only works well if you know who the customer is
  • failure is the great equaliser of quality
  • “we learned something important” is an excuse, need to learn early
  • ask what experiment am I trying to run, and what learning can I take from that
  • build > measure > learn loop – minimise time through the loop
  • measurement will slow you down but optimise the part to optimise the whole
  • drive down the batch size to one day – continuous deployment – many features take longer to prioritise than to build
  • The Toyota Way says foundation is long term thinking, the startup way says foundation is accountability
  • brink of success is indistinguishable from goofing off – need innovation accounting
  • business plans are rarely achieved – achieving failure – leap of faith assumptions need to called out
  • build a minimum viable product, iterate experiments and look for upward trends, pivot when returns are diminishing
  • better to have bad news that’s true than good news that’s made up
  • pivot meeting should be a milestone in its own right, need good information to make a good decision – micro scale experiments that help make future decisions
  • lean startup is still early adopter stage

Dr Werner Vogels – The Lean Cloud

Dr. Werner Vogels is the CTO of and opened the startup event. Here are some notes from his session.

From Miscellaneous
  • Animoto – upload images and music, analyses the music and creates a movie around the mood – went from 15 to 5000 servers in a number of days
  • web services is now called cloud…
  • Australia is not yet an Amazon Web Servixes (AWS) region – soon? – Asia Pacific region is based in Singapore
  • the number of objects in S3 has increased by 250% per annum consistently over the last 5 years, currently 762 billion
  • cloud is defined by its benefits not its technology
  • scaling is as much about using the Cloud to scale down as it is to scaling up
  • lowers cost – eliminate CAPEX, reduce OPEX
  • increase agility – not constrained by resources(eg. waiting for or buying servers), reduce time to market
  • remove heavy lifting – like scalability, security, reliability
  • foundation for next generation architecture, infrastructure cost should grow with your income
  • resource models changing due to competition, limited capital, power of customers, faster time to market
  • lean manufacturing – the machine that changed the world, lean startup
  • remove waste that does lead to direct value for the customer
  • an elastic and pay-per-use infrastructure – follow their demands to eliminate waste for peaks in traffic
  • AWS makes deployment, testing and staging trivial – tools for red-green deployment for example
  • need to build security in from the ground up when building a cloud application – lots of tools available
  • advantage of AWS is you are on a continuous innovation curve
  • DynamoDB – uses low latency SSD, predictable performance, zero administration NoSQL – database is no longer the bottleneck
  • no need to have your own transcoding anymore, it all sits on the cloud

8 Securities /  Q&A Panel

8 Securities gave an overview of their use of AWS ahead of a short lean cloud panel.

From Miscellaneous
  • are all the lessons US lessons? No, early on some cultures said this would not work, particularly admitting failure, the grass is not greener in Silicon Valley, understand the underlying principles, figure out how to translate strengths and build on the Lean startup principles
  • there is a new book by Jeffrey Liker who wrote The Toyota Way (The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership) – Toyota  has translated the approach to as many plants in the USA
  • need to communicate and connect with your employees – we are still solving simple problems
  • good thing about having a small amount of customers is that when you screw up you can apologise… personally
From Miscellaneous

Agile Australia 2012 Product Afternoon Review

Agile Australia Product AfternoonAs a precursor to the Agile Australia 2012 conference to be held in Melbourne, a product afternoon was held at the Hilton on the Park in Melbourne in November and had a good variety of Australian speakers. The success of the event means a similar event is being schedule for Sydney in February 2012. Here are my notes from the event:

Look What Happened When We Let Customers into the Product Development Loop at Lonely Planet!

Nigel Dalton from Luna Tractor led this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  •  you can’t say product you need to start saying customer
  • publishing life cycles are enormous – publishers have to wait up to 5 years to change a font
  • The New New Product Development Game – the last paragraph sums it up
  • need to avoid the next bench design problem – only ask the person on the next bench about quality, do not go to the wider world
  • for Lonely Planet, realisation was a competitor in the market who produced a colour guide, no sales the month they launched
  • went to customers 4 times in the process, took publishing from 2 years to 9 months, visualise the project
  • Rob Adams talks about getting the developers to do some of the initial marketing calls

Marketing is from Venus, IT is from Mars – and the Customer Doesn’t Care

Daniel Oertli from REA Group led this discussion that he hastily renamed to “5 Kick Ass Principles for Customer-led Development”, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • be customer focussed not customer driven
  • effect of marketing has changed over the last 5-10 years, we no longer control the marketing channel, need customer admiration
  • be a peeping Tom. Regularly – there is only one customer, the people who pay for products, none of this internal customer bull####, hard to put your business on the road regularly to talk to customers
  • 5 on Friday – Silverback on Mac, 5 internal employees for 15 minutes and ask them to do specific tasks with your product (eg. show me how to change the default colour scheme), continue to do this every Friday as parts of the product are developed
  • don’t ask for the solution – to get creative you need to figure it out internally, great people create great things
  • day and half every quarter – hack day – off tools, schedule around it, put ideas on intranet and vote, teams form around the idea self-forming, winning team gets a cash prize and gets sponsored product into production
  • 2 week inception process – use business canvas mapping to lay out the business drivers
  • democratize design – hard to get excited about something if you have not been part of the design, get everybody to draw
  • ready, fire, aim – Agile gives us opportunity to change things in motion but most organisations still execute iteratively what is planned up front, Agile gives you a bullet frequently, be very clear about your minimal marketable features, be ruthless about what you send to your Agile teams, you have a lot of go’s at this
  • teams win – good people outperform any processes, keep teams very small (6-8 people), have a mix of business fundamental understanding, lead designer and lead technologist and there for skills not core decision making, trust is essential
  • dealing with resistance – hardest change of all was getting business on the journey, need to get culture sorted and get teams focussed
  • more of what people do is outside of their hierarchy, biggest impact is dynamic thinking by thinking of type of things we will do rather than what we will do
  • public companies need a plan to show to shareholders, challenge is to make it more dynamic after that
  • engage people in their career progression – still report to a lead, but 90% of the time they live with their cross functional team – more about stretching their knowledge in their domain so have practice meetings

SEEK’s Approach to Product Innovation

Doug Blue from SEEK presented this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • put customers before profits – no display advertising on the front pages, founder would prefer to have a dollar tomorrow rather than a dollar today
  • build for the long term – customer core needs, competitive advantage, long term trends and shareholder value, in GFC let customers negotiate out of long term contracts
  • strive for a rock solid core and out innovate the competition – focussed on number of ads and size of audience, now need to focus on the product
  • focus – do a few things very well, carried this over to the iPhone app as well, but run business on the things that are do-able
  • people engagement – never compromise on engagement
  • data driven decisions – if we build or change something, we measure it
  • test and learn – put it out in market and do course correction
  • balancing customer needs – 3 different customers with different needs (job seeker, employer, recruiters) – came up with an invisible salary to balance the needs
  • on bigger initiatives, need to do your homework

A Start-up Approach to Product Delivery in a Corporate Environment

John Sullivan from Jetstar delivered this session, his slides are available here.

From Miscellaneous
  • XP Explained lacked an explanation on how to communicate effectively with customers to understand what they wanted to achieve
  • base costs on optimum team sizes that can manage constant delivery of a number of system concerns
  • have no process, when problems occur, take those problems away
  • don’t use iterations, they constrain the customer, need to be able pick up any card and get it into Production
  • ideas wall – backlog for where the business is going, anyone can post ideas on it
  • don’t talk about what the product we are delivering should do, talk about what the business should do
  • challenge everything – stand ups are almost useless in large organisations – only say things what people in the circle need to know about, because they work together, so they should know
  • most people in large organisations are disempowered – how do I know I am doing the right thing? Just do it, everyone is the business
  • need to help everyone understand the market – understand what the impact of features are
  • whole of company showcases every Friday
  • need multi disciplined teams that understand the market they are striving for

Panel: Why is Customer-led Product Development so Hard?

Keith Dodds from ThoughtWorks led this panel with all of the above speakers. Some of the key learnings were:

From Miscellaneous
  • it’s hard to ask hard questions
  • if you have leaders that are customer focussed, everything else will follow
  • most organisations try to make the workforce effective and efficient by putting structures around them, need to retain a functionalised structure and stay away from specialisation
  • companies are introverted because traditionally they have not had access to customers
  • it’s hard to keep up with all of the tools out there – there is lots technology to seek out what the customers are viewing
  • most products are designed to be obsolete within 1-2 years, especially those that are consumer focussed
  • companies are not set up to evolve things, they are setup to build, the world has changed where everything is outdated the minute you deploy
  • grass roots movements are usually the most enduring
  • most companies lack the balls to shut things down when they need to
  • frugal innovation – constraints help you channel great ideas, would be interesting to apply some artificial constraints to hack days
  • what doesn’t work are artificial constraints and the team know it
  • next C level job will be the chief designer – targeting the customer
  • Agile helps to get a customer led product out, because the person who wants the product can talk to the person who builds the product
  • report on value delivered to the business rather than velocity
  • the pool of talent is not that big, how do you keep people motivated – sense of purpose, sense of meaning (problems that have currency in the real world), ability to react and shape, ability to be heard, about making a difference
  • where do great Product Managers come from, how do we develop and train these people