Episode 64: Interstate 40 East with Nick Muldoon

The Agile Revolution Podcast

Nick-CraigOn a road trip to Agile 2013 from Dallas to Nashville, Craig chats to Nick Muldoon while cruising in a Chevy Equinox eastbound on Interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville. Nick is an Agile Coach at Twitter and formerly the Product manager for GreenHopper at Atlassian and whilst doing 65 miles an hour they chat about:

View original post 91 more words

Agile Encore 2013: Visual Management: Leading With What You Can See

AgileEncore2013My presentation from the Agile Encore 2013 conference called “Visual Management: Leading With What You Can See” is available on Slideshare.

Renee Troughton was unfortunately unable to join me to present this reprise of the talk we presented together at Agile Australia 2013.

Using task boards or story walls is a key Agile practice, but are you making the most of it? Visual Management is more than just putting cards on a wall, it is a growing style of management that focuses on managing work only by what you can see rather than reports or paper being shuffled around. Visual Management allows you to understand the constraints in the system, mitigate risks before they become issues, report on progress from the micro to the macro. Visual Management can also be used to demonstrate to customers and clients where the work they care about is at. This presentation is all about taking the management of your work to the next stage of transparency. Discover:

* How to identify when your story wall isn’t telling you everything and how to adjust it
* What the three different types of story walls are and which one is more suitable to certain circumstances
* Different ways to visualise your product backlogWhy queue columns and limiting work in progress is so important regardless of whether you are using Scrum or Kanban
* How symbols and tokens can be used to give more information
* What else can you use other than story walls to visualise information
* How to ingrain Visual Management into both the team and management structures of your organisation
* Visualising Your Quality, Testing and Team
* What is systemic flow mapping and why is it important

Unfortunately the talk was interrupted about three-quarters of the way through by a rogue video conference call into the auditorium. My attempt to try and answer questions why people were trying to fix the problem were interrupted by audio coming through the call. We soldiered on – but it interrupted the flow.

And here are some feedback from the feedback forms – much appreciated!

  • Lots of ideas
  • Very informative with real world examples
  • Delivered as per advertised. Was relevant and interesting to listen to. Some great take outs
  • More relevant to where we are as an organisation
  • Big wall
  • Most applicable as I am a newbie
  • Kept the audience engaged from start to finish
  • The task based techniques most relevant
  • Gave more understanding of how to do better Agile

 

Agile Australia 2013 Review

Agile Australia 2013Agile Australia 2013 was recently held in Sydney with over 850 attendees and 3 days. Between running a pre-conference workshop, recording interviews for InfoQ, presenting a session and being a MC for a number of sessions, it was a fairly busy time but I did get to sit in on a couple of sessions.

I was once again one of the conference advisors, although this year we introduced the role of Stream Chairs and Reviewers who took the bulk of the review of the 240 plus submissions and, I think, went some way to making the whole selection process more transparent and community driven.

Pre-Conference Workshop – Introduction to Agile

There were a number of pre-conference workshops running on the day before the conference, and on behalf of Software Education I ran an Introduction to Agile workshop for a small but engaged group of people new to Agile. According to the course overview:

This course provides an independent one-day introduction and overview of Agile Software Development. We look at the underlying philosophy and motivation for this trend in software development and examine the core values, principles, practices and techniques that fall under the broad “Agile” umbrella. Independent of any single brand, this course looks at the key factors that are needed to apply Agile effectively and provides an experiential introduction to working this way.

InfoQ Interviews

InfoQ was a media sponsor for Agile Australia this year, and being the Australian based Agile Editor for InfoQ, I undertook the organisation iof the recording of sessions and interviews. I recorded a number of interviews throughout day 1 of the conference and I look forward to seeing them available on InfoQ in the coming months.

Visual Management: Leading With What You Can See

The session I presented with Renee Troughton had a great turnout and plenty of questions afterwards.  The slides are available in a separate post.

In relation to the sessions that I attended, here are my notes.

Keynote: The Lean Mindset

Mary Poppendieck delivered the opening keynote, her slides are available here.

  • going beyond software
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – two types of thinking – system 1 (fast, instinctive and emotional) and system 2 (slower, more deliberative and logical)
  • need to see the waves and learn how to surf them, rather than trying to control the waves
  • cognitive biases – confirmation biases (align with people with same thinking), anchoring (hang on first piece of information), loss aversion (careful not to lose what we already have rather than gain)
  • dealing with options – teenage decision making (either/or or whether or not), widen the frame (what about both or none of the above), multiple options, patterns
  • speed and quality are compatible, you learn that you can’t go fast without high quality
  • Continuous Delivery by Jez Humble and Dave Farley has become the bible, supersedes iterations and Kanban because it’s too fast, whole feedback loop from customers to the development team
  • Ericsson – the past is not good enough for the future, stop projects because they are big batches
  • accept uncertainty and learn how to live with it – range estimates over point estimates and manage flow
  • managing complexity – probe, observe and adjust; dealing with it – flow, obstacle, adjust
  • wisdom of the crowd, widen the perspective, zoom in/it, look at base rates (probability of success in your market and what makes you different)
  • why do companies fail – they focus too much on success, take what they have and make it better, forget to look at the big picture and see what the world is doing – Garmin and Magellan lost 70% of their market overnight due to Google Maps on the iPhone
  • Carol Dweck on the Growth Mindset – fixed mindset versus growth mindset
  • perfection paradox – learn to fail and learn to prevent rather than striving for perfection, resilience is learning to fail
  • flow depends on your engagement – deeply engaged, no distractions, time evaporates – otherwise you drift between anxiety and boredom depending on your expertise

Keynote: Managing for Serendipity

I was quite looking forward to seeing Dave Snowden and hoping his talk would cement in my mind the Cynefin Framework. His slides are available here.

  • it is better to have a partial view of the whole, than a complete view of the parts
  • theory deals better with uncertainity than practice
  • exaptation (taking something that exists and enable it to a different purpose, usually two unrelated things)
  • agile manifesto swung too much towards customers and away from how we can educate them
  • you absorb complexity, don’t delude yourself into thinking you can eliminate it
  • outliers are where opportunity and threat manifest themselves first – most research and search eliminate them
  • only way you can understand a complex system is via experimentation.
  • evidence supports competing hypotheses
  • Dave’s Harvard Business Review article

  • you want to cycle between complicated and complex, stuff that goes to simple usually becomes complacent and dies
  • cynics care about your organisation – they are the only ones making noise
  • meetings should not be used to resolve problems – you get dominant players – you want to to do 5-7 parallel safe to fail experiments
  • interventions should be coherent, safe to fail, finely grained, tangible – tackle problems oblique (plant different ideas, like managing a teenager), naive (anthropology experts in the Holiday inn), a few high risk high return options
  • process is what you need to change people (sorry mainfesto), naive if you think you an change one person at a time
  • complex domain action form – if it doesn’t fit in top 4 boxes it is not safe to fail
  • micro narratives are what we want (stories developed in workshops are not the same as the discussions around the water cooler)

Keynote: Beyond Budgeting

The highlight of the conference for me was to meet and hear from Bjarte Bogsnes, as I have long been a fan of his Beyond Budgeting work. His slides are available here.

  • the purpose is not to get rid of budgets, need to change traditional management and the budgeting mindset to make organisations more agile
  • written into The Statoil Book, but has not reached all corners of the organisation
  • transparency is a great social control mechanism and good for learning
  • management recipes – someone has done all the thinking for you, beyond budgeting is not that
  • Beyond Budgeting principles
  • we budget for targets, focussing and resource allocation – inefficient and in one number – separate the numbers and be event driven not calendar driven
  • change the mindset from do I have budget to is this really necessary and how much value it is creating
  • Statoil abolished annual budgets, but they still have project budgets but can get money at any time (the bank is always open)
  • need good information to make decisions – current status as well as capacity
  • use a burn rate rather than a budget, with some variance
  • use a unit cost, keep exploring as well as you stay within a unit cost
  • bottom line – good costs create value, eliminate the bad ones
  • express cost in words rather than dollars as strategic actions and objectives
  • need to start trusting our people
  • “the way we deliver is as important as what we deliver”
  • objective > measure > actions > goals
  • KPIs – perfects KPIs do not exist, make them ambitions to action
  • dynamic forecasting – don’t put everybody into the same limited time buckets – some people need small time frames, some people need years
  • apply pressure to the KPIs – were they ambitious, did you stretch versus low balling, were there outside influences
  • mechanical link and no judgement between KPIs and performance bonus is dangerous

The Guessing Game: Alternatives to Agile Estimation

Neil Killick has become the voice of the #noestimates discussion in Australia (whether he likes it or not). His slides are available here.

  • estimation – what am I going to get and when
  • estimates set an expectation level
  • in 12 moths time if estimates come true – either by good guessing or by adjusting for over runs
  • we have known unknowns – can’t predict them and can’t ignore them
  • use real constraints – what can we build for this money, budgets create a real deadline and bring out creativity
  • create mini constraints and iterate and learn, come up with a mini solution for what we can do, small iterations to keep options open and diversify our risk
  • need an a-team that can build solutions continuously
  • iterative pricing – allows the customer to cut the cord early, possible even with traditional contracts
  • present customers with expectations of of what they are going to get and when – flexible options
  • slice things to the same size, avoid story points, count cards – price per feature
  • story points will be gamed – people will make the burn chart look good

In Conversation with Patrick Eltridge

I was the MC for this session that was a coffee table conversation between Beverley Head and Patrick Eltridge, the CIO of Telstra. When I introduced this session, I made the comment that it was interesting to see how Telstra was progressing on their Agile journey and Patrick was at the conference for his third year now; in the first year we didn’t really believe they would be able to make an Agile transformation and in the second year we weren’t sure how much was fact and fiction. In 2013, they are certainly making their presence felt with over 70 people at the conference, a title sponsorship and a number of sessions being presented.

I did not get to hear all of the session, but hear are some snippets I picked up

  • IT strategy needs to be driven by the corporate strategy, then creating an environment that can change and people being the best they can be
  • huge “opportunity” when he joined Telstra
  • celebrate successes as much as possible – stiffens the spine for the naysayers
  • reverse mentoring – mentor older staff with younger ones to pass on new thinking and ideas, both sides learn
  • nations can benefit if agile leadership is successful
  • simplified scorecards and KPIs – single number of financial performance (EBIT), engagements with stakeholders, employee engagement plus project outcomes
  • Scaled Agile Framework and weighted first has allowed Telstra to have acute business control and adapt as required

This discussion also spawned some news articles around graduates mentoring CEO’s and five day interviews.

Agile Australia 2013: Visual Management: Leading With What You Can See

Agile Australia 2013 Speaker ButtonMy presentation with Renee Troughton from the Agile Australia 2013 conference called “Visual Management: Leading With What You Can See” is available on Slideshare.

Using task boards or story walls is a key Agile practice, but are you making the most of it? Visual Management is more than just putting cards on a wall, it is a growing style of management that focuses on managing work only by what you can see rather than reports or paper being shuffled around. Visual Management allows you to understand the constraints in the system, mitigate risks before they become issues, report on progress from the micro to the macro. Visual Management can also be used to demonstrate to customers and clients where the work they care about is at. This presentation is all about taking the management of your work to the next stage of transparency. Discover:

* How to identify when your story wall isn’t telling you everything and how to adjust it
* What the three different types of story walls are and which one is more suitable to certain circumstances
* Different ways to visualise your product backlogWhy queue columns and limiting work in progress is so important regardless of whether you are using Scrum or Kanban
* How symbols and tokens can be used to give more information
* What else can you use other than story walls to visualise information
* How to ingrain Visual Management into both the team and management structures of your organisation
* Visualising Your Quality, Testing and Team
* What is systemic flow mapping and why is it important

Lynne Cazaly did an awesome visualisation of the talk!

We had some great feedback from people after the talk as well as via Twitter.

Renee also has a (slightly earler) version of the slidedeck online via her Slideshare, with one slide change and one omission…

Agile 2011 Day 4 Review

Agile 2011Day 4 at Agile 2011 brought a full day sessions full day of sessions followed by the conference dinner. For the first session I used the law of two feet and landed in three different sessions.

Stages of Practice: the Agile Tech Tree

Arlo Belshee and James Shore led this hands on session to build a technical tree of agile practices. I didn’t stay for long, but I was interested in the output, which I found hanging on the walls later in the day.

From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011

Creating Customer Delight

Steve Denning (author of a large number of leadership books) delivered this presentation based around a blog post of a similar name that I sat in for about 30 minutes. His presentation is available here.

From Agile 2011
  • move from output to outcome
  • customer must be surprised and delighted
  • move from implicit goal to explicit goal
  • custom delight is the new dimension of done
  • product owner adds contingent valu
  • bottom line is whole organization, not just the team
  • customer delight is measured eg. net promoter score
  • delight is happiness, joy, customer success – everybody has a story or understands this concept
  • identify your project that you wish to delight – who is your customer?
  • what do customers say they want? – warning! they don’t always know eg. New Coke
  • what is it that core customers might not like about your product? eg .why they made the Nespresso machine because people did not like cleaning up, need to get inside their head to understand what you need to change

Agile From the Top Down: Executives Practicing Agile

Jon Stahl delivered this session, and I wish I had been there for this one all the way through as his presentations are always entertaining and informative. His slides are available here.

From Agile 2011
    • visualise your work  in progress (WIP) by putting every project in progress up on the wall, also visualise your demand
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
    • model your application assets – you will be surprised what you will find – link them, then order them by business value
From Agile 2011
    • create a radiator wall for each one of your assets – understand technical debt, print out each of your defects, be ambarrased!
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011
    • visualise your org chart – particularly where your skills are, then rank them by apprentice, journeyman, master – then you can score your aptitude
From Agile 2011
  • get HR to create their own room to map the organisation and look for patterns – finding the truth isn’t simple but putting stuff on walls creates conversation
  • create a tool wall – who cares what tool you use, as long as you are adding value
  • get the practice vocabulary up on the wall – matched with a booklet with more detail
  • when tracking practices move away from traffic lights and use smiley faces to track how people are feeling – don’t care about if they are doing stand ups but how are they working for them – good way to figure out where to send coaches, where the frowns are
From Agile 2011
    • transparent leadership – post and show your people what roadblocks you are working on
    • everybody wakes up everyday thinking they are doing the best thing they can – as a business the executives need to check each other to make sure they are working on the most important thing and allow each other to question
From Agile 2011
  • make roadblocks visible – you will get more respect from you people – put one up for every person who has the title manager in your organization
  • leadership team to do retrospectives every two weeks – take people out of their element, makes them more likely to talk
  • continuous improvement – force it by shutting down email, block out meeting rooms
  • you would save money on coaches if you got people to read books, free ice cream by reading a chapter in a room and talking about it in an hour
  • pair management – pair on everything to get better, pair in public which will show developers pairing is ok
  • change name of PMO to MSO (manifesto support office), make them in charge of ensuring the visual radiators are up to date
  • dashboards are costly and evil – they are not the truth, data is mostly inaccurate
  • speak in story cards – create a wall to get answers to things you want to know

Acceptance testing in the land of the startup

Joseph Wilk presented this session, his slides are available here.

From Agile 2011
  • Relish – the only way the customer will read Cucumber tests
  • two way mirrors – ensure the users are integrated into development and they can use the software, outside the building
  • good coders find stuff hard – easy to Cucumber test the full stack but the build time blows, unit tests are hard but are fast, so limit the amount of cucumber tests and isolate them
  • features rot if the Customer does not read them or not exposed via tools like Relish
  • manual testers duplicate automated tests – expose features, pair, give Cucumber ownership to QA
  • how to test lots of permutations – pairwise testing is OK, or just automate the happy path and one scenario and manual test the rest
  • Crazy Egg – monitor what users are actually using
  • use WIP to keep testing under control
  • metrics – JUnit Max to predict probability of failure
  • Limited Red – calculates the probability of Cucumber failure to improve the way we work – found features that never fail – just keep them in nightly build – means a long build usually fails very quickly
  • use JMeter to check everything is up like a tracer bullet – eg. a row has appeared in a table
  • got 8 hour build down to 20 minutes by distributing over 24 EC2 nodes – but think we were solving the wrong problem
  • slice up the architecture and have thin tests to test them
  • Spork – helps to speed up the start up time of an application – hard to know whether to reload and it adds a lot of overload at the protocol layer, so almost as efficient to run the tests
  • people have core responsibilities but we all meld in our roles to be one team and deliver

I enjoyed this session, particularly as I read about Joseph’s company in Specification By Example. I am excited about the prospect of a tool such as Limited Red as well.

Telling Better Stories with User Story Mapping

Jeff Patton led this session to a packed room that included a live appearance from his children! His slides are available here.

From Agile 2011
  • user stories are the simplest idea in the world, but like any simple idea they all get screwed up
  • it’s easy to lose the plot when you have a lot of stories
  • story mapping – tells the whole story of your product and still gets down to the iteration level
  • you already know this stuff!
  • “sharpie markers smell like ideas!”
So…
    • dump ideas onto stickies, on your own – they should almost always start with verbs – we need verbs to do things
    • verbs are a user task – they are a small task
From Agile 2011
  • now we want a flow of what we do from left to right – stack the duplicates and group the similarities – create a user workflow
From Agile 2011
  • mark where the natural breaks are – this is called a user activity – a grouping of things that a user does
  • next, identify where the pain points are
  • because it is a map you can find stuff in it
From Agile 2011
  • how to change the world – start with an idea which is product > feature > specification > requirement
  • learnt that requirement means “shutup just build it”
  • outcomes result in impact – agile is to maximize outcome and impact we get
  • stories are a conversation about the future
  • stories are 5c’s – card –> conversation –> confirmation –> construction –> consequences (when we realise our ability to predict the future sucked!)
  • Kent Beck called them stories because they were meant to be heard
  • need to figure out the who, what, why – this is the richness behind the story
  • add a short title, add a description (story template), add notes, specifications and sketches and write acceptance criteria before writing software
  • stories shrink in size and grow in detail as they travel through a pipeline
  • start with capabilities or features (understand value) –> break to release size stories– > upcoming iteration stories (priority, UI design, business rules) –> break to iteration size stories (details user acceptance tests, small enough to fit in iteration) –> completed bits of software
  • user story mapping – based on story mapping in films
  • ultimately we have big things that break down to little things

Build story maps by:

  1. talking to real users
  2. brainstorm user tasks to help them organize
  3. research and build from a narrative
  • discussions with users in front of a map drive out conversations
  • plan incremental releases as a team event – developers will actually read the plan
  • start talking about adding stickies and notes, finally get a fist of five for confidence
  • don’t prioritise user stories by ROI – target a user segment
  • like ripping a $5 note, the small stories are not valuable (Jeff actually ripped a $5 note to illustrate the point)
  • map at MVP (minimal valuable product) and MMF
From Agile 2011
From Agile 2011

Finally, Jeff has a User Story Mapping book in the pipeline which looks really interesting. I have had the pleasure of meeting Jeff a few times and always enjoy his presentation and learnings, and I am keen to give these learnings a go in my next storycard workshop.

Flirting With Your Customers

Jenni Jepsen delivered this presentation, the slides are available here.

From Agile 2011

We started with an exercise – 3 things that make a great project – trust, hard work, common goals, transparency, clear direction, grown ups, togetherness, support, communication, budget, right skills, creativity, quality, teamwork, fun, support

We then discussed 3 things that make a great romantic relationship – trust, communication, clear expectations, respect, common goals, honesty, integrity, similar values, enjoy spending time together, depth, support, compromise, patience, back rubs, teamwork, equality, chemistry, humour, passion, sacrifice

  • there is a lot of commonality between projects and a relationship
  • flirting is about making people feel valued
  • need human touch to thrive, keeps immune systems strong
  • people who are happy and feel valued at work results in increased profit
  • introverts need to take care of themselves, take energy from within – they can flirt but it takes energy
  • extroverts thrive in social situations – if your customer is an introvert they may not share your energy

The 8 steps are:

  1. radar – makes you aware of the people around you, takes confidence
  2. target – figuring out who you want to connect with in an organization, who has the real power
  3. move in – show interest, practice your opening line – make eye contact, making the person feel like they have knowledge, makes them feel valuable, interactions become richer because of this
  4. back off a little – the other person may not be ready for the interaction, give the other person space
  5. open up – being honest and laying it out, you have now created a comfort zone, you are also making yourself vulnerable, there might be some back and forward bargaining here
  6. dance – have a little fun, create conversation – lunch, cook together, virtual coffee over Skype, celebration to mark a milestone, dinner club
  7. get real – go through a crisis together, if you have flirted and built a relationship
  8. enjoy – enjoy the relationship
  • have a list of questions to get over the anxiety
  • all good steps for people you manage
  • body language is 93% of communication

Conference Party

The conference party was entertaining as always. Here is me hanging out with Alan Bustamante (who I worked with on the reviews) and the gang from Seapine Software

From Agile 2011

The acrobatic team doing their trampoling indoors was certainly a highlight:

From Agile 2011

Podcast

Finally, I recorded a short audio podcast for The Agile Revolution wrapping up Day 4 of the conference.