The Agile Tribe

The path to Agile

Author: Susan Akers

 Two of the most common questions I get asked as the Agile Academy Advisor are:

“How can I start my Agile journey? 

What type of training can I get?” 

 So I thought perhaps it was about time that I put something together in one spot to make it easy for people to see a clear path ahead of them and feel confident in moving to an Agile way of working.  One way to see what training might be useful is to have a look at our role based Training Roadmap and then read the course overview to make sure that you have the necessary pre-requisites.  The roadmap shows the recommended courses and pathway.

The Agile Academy has also produced a number of artefacts to complement our training courses and give budding Agilists an opportunity to have open access to easy to understand material.  These include our Agile in Practice Help Sheets which cover a number of Agile practices and techniques.  Most of these also have a complementary video which explains more about how each of these techniques can be used. 

All the very best on your Agile journey.  Don’t be discouraged if your path becomes a little windy, there are many resources to guide you and if you have any questions at all around Agile or training please feel free to contact us directly.

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What's your role in an Agile team?

Author: Susan Akers

 This is an issue that many people face working in an Agile team particularly those in the role of Project Managers or Iteration Managers

Common questions around these two roles can be – 

  • Are they the same role?
  • Should the Iteration Manager just be someone from the team?
  • How much time should be spent on being an IM? Full-time/part-time?

To help answer these questions and more, the Agile Academy has produced yet another handy Agile in Practice Help Sheet on Agile Team Roles and an accompanying video of the same name for those who want a bit more information about the difference between being a Project Manager and Iteration Manager; as well as seeing what other roles should be part of the Core Team and Extended Team.

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Agile is in the house!

Author: Susan Akers

I had the great pleasure to sit in on a talk given recently by Christian Scheiber, a project manager who has transferred his work experience with Agile to renovating his family home. Christian described it as an Agile journey where they have delivered several iterations and also put some stories into a backlog when priorities changed.

My first thought was – What a joy it must have been for his wife when he talked to her about what she wanted in the house and then he proceeded to fill the walls with storycards.

Christian argued that this helped both of them get a clear picture of how their requirements differed as the stakeholders so by setting up this basic Agile structure they were able to “get the right information at the right time” and the extensive upfront planning also gave them greater control.

So getting the right people involved at the right time is essential as well. What this meant was that Christian and his wife collaborated and used the MoSCoW principles to help them work out what was a Must Have, a Should have and a Could Have (or Nice to have). The business value to them was that they were able to describe their requirements clearly to the architect all at the same time and being a creative person himself, he understand the work required and how they, as users wanted to interact with each room.

It has not all run smoothly and what project, Agile or otherwise does? An unexpected blocker came in the form of how builders see things – not design, not the cost of this tap or wall unit, not how the room was to be used, the colours and all the other nice things you look forward to when building or renovating – No matter was the question was, the answer they always give was in Linear Metres!

So the renovation continues….. and so do the iterations and the strategies to remove the blocker. Agile remains in this house!

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"Stories drive a stand-up"

Author: Marc Galbraith, Iteration Manager

On a recent project the rather large team came to a consensus that stand-ups they were doing didn’t have the value attached to them they had been expecting. A suggested change in format was, “Let’s just talk about the stories!”.

OK, so we started to talk about the stories on the wall. The first issue that came up was WHERE DO WE START? We soon realised the best place was at the end of the story life-cycle and work backwards from there.

Complete > Sign Off > Test > Dev > Review > Analysis > Scope

  • We would reflect on what we had completed the previous day (Team).
  • Discuss current challenges to Signing Off stories (QA and Business Rep).
  • Issues in Testing would be discussed (QA / Dev).
  • Devs would walk down in priority order each story they are pairing on currently (Devs).
  • Stories that are ready and may need final review are highlighted (BA / QA / Dev).
  • Issues in Analysis discussed (BA).
  • Any new Scope highlighted (Team).

So this approach is driven by two key points, the state and priority of the story. We start from the highest and work to the lowest. In our case the highest priority story is in ‘Complete’ and was the latest addition to that pile. So if you were looking at a Scrum backlog it would simply be the item at the top of the backlog and work down the list.

As the project team is split across Melbourne and Sydney it is performed by each part of the team locally in front of their respective walls. Then twice a week we bring the whole team (approx 25 people) together over video and perform the same stand-up, which we call the ‘National Stand-up’. Just focusing on the stories has made the large stand-up more efficient, informative and productive for the team.

We achieve this over videoconferencing by printing out an electronic version of the wall, as we need to be in a room with dedicated video facilities, and nominate a facilitator to conduct the driving from the printout. At the end, the team walks out of the rooms with a good picture of where they are at overall, and where the focus needs to be.

Having a natural process to the stand-up also enhances the self-managing ethics the team wishes to improve on. It appears to take the guess work out of “What should I cover off at stand-up?”, especially on Mondays when the weekend has had a negative impact on their memory.

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