Scrum teams are “Tiger Teams” for everyday work


There’s a term I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “Tiger Team”. Ostensibly these teams are more aggressive, tenacious, skilled – maybe even more agile – than an ordinary team. But every time I hear the term, I wonder: “Then what are your normal teams – Kitten Teams? Teddy Bear Teams? “. Because if you need some extraordinary project or circumstance to form a team so unusually effective that it deserves such a namesake, it doesn’t speak well for your regular state of play. What it is about all your other projects that doesn’t deserve the same treatment? Are they worth … LEARN MORE »

When is it okay to terminate a sprint?


A common misconception about the Product Owner is that he can indiscriminately change his mind about priorities or requirements at any time – including mid-sprint. I’ve had clients who clearly were excited at this liberating prospect, only to be disappointed upon clarification. If the Product Owner’s job is to maximize the return on investment of the development effort, why isn’t this true? Because maximizing the ROI is achieved by various means, some of them having nothing to do with chasing every stakeholder whim or twist of the market weathervane. One of the primary reasons for fixing priority for the duration … LEARN MORE »

…and an Agile New Year!


The last few weeks of the year are already upon us. In addition to the slew of upcoming “Best Of” lists, the end of the year means travel, family, food, drinks, and that thing we all dread: a resolution. Rather than suggest that we all resolve to be more Agile in the New Year, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on how some basic principles of Agile can make us all more successful in keeping our resolutions; or at least recognize measurable success. I think this video perfectly captures the essence of Agile outside the realm of software … LEARN MORE »

Transitioning to Agile: Complex Releases Q&A

webinar Q&A

Q: At what point does an agile user story become a task and what is the best way to balance informing the development team of the intended functionality versus telling the development team how to complete the functionality? The user story is broken down into multiple tasks, typically during the Sprint Planning Meeting, but increasingly I see this happening with the team on a per Backlog Item basis. If we are ever in a situation were we are telling the development team how to complete the functionality that might indicate that we are having some issues with roles. Based on … LEARN MORE »

Transitioning to Agile: Headlight Reporting Q&A


We had a great turnout for the first in our Transitioning to Agile Webinar series, and many questions came in that we were unable to answer. Below you will find my answers to the questions that we weren’t able to get to on during the Webinar. Q: Can Scrum succeed without XP engineering practices? Won’t the rate of progress drop to a crawl if you’re trying to deploy every two weeks without taking advantage of the XP practices related to quality and automation? Possibly, but I can’t imagine trying to practice Scrum without at least many XP practices. Scrum and … LEARN MORE »

Can You Be Agile Without Teams?

When presented with the idea that agile development requires stable, cross-functional teams, people coming from traditionally-managed or matrixed organizations often ask whether it’s possible to gain the benefits of agile without the team part. Fair question. Aren’t agile practices just that – practices that, when performed, confer agility? Not quite. Some practices – relative estimation, for instance – are flatly impossible or utterly useless without a team. You can certainly perform others – daily standups, for example, or have a customer sit next to your developers – but I’m not sure how agile any of this will make you. Without … LEARN MORE »

Beware Complacent Scrum

Now that agile has essentially gone mainstream I have had the opportunity to work with teams that have been practicing Scrum for several years. These organizations have generally embraced the Scrum framework due to experiencing first-hand the benefits Scrum can offer, such as consistent team output, more collaboration and improved communication between IT and the business. Most of the initial pain points of Scrum adoption are over with, people have accepted the framework and the chaos of implementing change has worn off. The teams are working in consistent sprints and producing relatively consistent results. However, the teams and the organization … LEARN MORE »

Limiting Work in Progress: A Treatment for Organizational ADHD

A friend of mine who has ADHD recently began taking medication for it. When he described his before-treatment symptoms – the inability to maintain focus, the ease & frequency of distraction, the dissociation of present situations from the past – I realized he might as well have been describing the behavior of some companies I’ve encountered. Evidently there’s an institutional variety of this ailment, what I’ll call Organizational Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (O-ADHD). The salient features of the syndrome are similar to its human analogue: Too many things to do; No clear determination of priority; Obsessive but incoherent attention paid … LEARN MORE »

Kanban is a Tool, NOT a Solution

There has been a lot of interest lately in so-called “Kanban.” While it would greatly alleviate my personal angst to discuss the use of this term, what it really is/means and so forth, that would likely only be interesting to me (and a few other pedantic people who will remain nameless). Instead, I want to talk about taking an Agile approach to what is generally more predictable work than new product development (e.g. for support teams). I get asked about “support” all the time. Recently I was asked via email, “How can I ‘use agile’ for support issues? Scrum seems … LEARN MORE »

Agile NYC

I attended the Agile NYC conference this week and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of speakers and overall professionalism of the event. For the last several years, I have only attended bigger conferences like the annual Agile Alliance or Scrum Gathering so it was refreshing to mingle with a smaller audience that allowed more intimate connections with people. CollabNet hosted the obligatory booth, allowing us to share our story with potential customers. We met nice people from all kinds of organizations from retail, finance, publishing and many more. As with any conference people were at all different stages of … LEARN MORE »

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