Luke Walter

About Luke Walter

Luke Walter is a Certified Scrum Trainer® and Agile Coach, helping organizations maximize value delivery using the Scrum framework and Agile development practices. He guides senior management, development, and operations through the challenges intrinsic to agile adoptions, enabling them to adopt more meaningful measures of progress and realign for effectiveness. A 9-year Scrum veteran with over 8000 hours logged on high-performing Scrum teams, he brings an uncommon depth of real-world agile experience to organizations seeking to transcend procedural and cultural barriers to success.

Getting Beyond Agile Best Practices

Agile Best Practices

As working adults, most of us have limited opportunity to assimilate new skills and information. This is especially true for information that presents a disruption to established patterns that ease our already taxing cognitive load. So, while misbegotten, the search for ‘best practices’ for agile development is understandably popular. With plenty to do, and precious little time, most prefer the elevator pitch, the executive brief, the Cliff’s Notes version. Seeking agile best practices is essentially asking for a pre-sort: “help me fit this into a frame I already have so I can use it immediately with a minimum of effort”. …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Questions on Distributed Agile

Our Agile Guru series of webinars gives our coaching and training participants an opportunity to ask follow-up questions of their coaches and trainers. One of the perennial questions we get is on the subject of geographical distribution and whether & how it works with agile practices. In my last session, we had a few questions on the subject, and I’ve transcribed them and my answers below: Q: How to manage distributed teams and remote teams? A: The first thing to recognize is the damage done to communication, alignment, trust, and team flow by geographic distance. These effects won’t magically disappear …

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Resist the Temptation of Sciency-Sounding Estimation Schemes

Some organizations suspicious of relative estimation “enhance” their estimations with other methods offering a veneer of sciency-sounding objectivity; “Function points” or “Complexity Points” are some you may’ve heard of. These methods often feature schemes that calculate predicted operations, algorithmic complexity, or even simply lines of code. Without going into the weeds, the failure these schemes have in common is in trying to objectify the inherently subjective. Remember that story points for user stories should take many aspects of a story’s size into account, including complexity. I like to consider three rough concepts for synthesis into a user story’s estimate (in …

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The gift of failure

Scrum will help you fail in 30 days or less. — Ken Schwaber, c2001 I spent some time talking about risk and failure in my last post, noting the pathogenic fear of failure endemic at most waterfall development organizations. To a person conditioned to such an environment, the above quote probably appears nihilistic or dangerously clueless. At traditional organizations, failure is hidden, denied, rationalized and otherwise treated in ways that ensure its continued reappearance in the most destructive ways. In other words, the culture of fear of failure prevents most organizations from using it not only to learn and improve, …

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Agile isn’t academic. Still, beware the ‘pragmatists’.

There’s a perception that agile is somehow academic – that it was cooked up as part of a PhD dissertation, or is the rarefied result of years of private funding and fevered intellectual inquiry by ivory-tower eggheads at some software equivalent of the Brookings Institution. Unfortunately for anyone subscribing to this misperception, the exact opposite is true. The folks that came up with agile practices did so out of long experience and frustration with the failures of the dominant method of software development, waterfall. And ironically waterfall itself owes its popularity in large part to the seductiveness of a theoretical …

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Agile won’t make you faster

A common misperception of what agile is about is speed – specifically, that it makes development faster.  I hear this a lot when asking folks what they’ve heard about agile development – “Agile will make us faster.”  I suppose this is unsurprising given the chronic lateness and cost overrun of the typical software project.  Slowness is the disease, and agile is the cure. Or are they? Merriam-Webster defines agile as: 1: marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace <an agile dancer> 2: having a quick resourceful and adaptable character <an agile mind> The Cambridge Dictionary defines it …

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