Posts Tagged "process"

Choosing the Right Measure of Progress

Posted on Aug 9, 2014 | 0 comments

Choosing the Right Measure of Progress

What is Progress? Defining progress will help you to better understand the difference between being busy and productive. Unfortunately, I often see very intelligent and productive people falling into the trap of doing busywork instead of making progress. In order to effectively combat this problem, it helps to define progress much in the same way we define a vision: envision the end state. Attempt to describe in detail the properties and aspects of the ideal end state for your current task or project. For example, if I was trying to build an office chair, I may describe the end state as follows: “I can sit comfortably in the chair for several hours,” “The chair is elevated from the floor,” or “I can rotate the seat of the chair easily.” Each of these properties can be easily measured, whether objectively or not, and represent true progress toward completing my goal. Tasks do not represent progress. Continuing with my example from earlier, there may be many things that I need to do in order to build a great office chair. Perhaps I need to buy materials such as wood, steel, and fabric. Maybe I need to sketch designs, cut out upholstery, and assemble arm rests. All of these things represent actions that I can and probably should do in order to reach my end goal of having a lovely new office chair, but none of these things represent true progress. Tasks act as hypotheses to be tested, not the results of an experiment. For each task you decide to act on, you make an implicit statement: “If I complete this task, then I will be closer to achieving my goal.” Experience probably tells you that even the most successful and accomplished people regularly learn otherwise. At the end of each completed task, and often before, we learn about new tasks that must be completed. For example, before you can buy wood you need to find a store that sells the wood. Perhaps the store is closed and you now need to find another store or different wood, let’s say you chose to change to a different kind of wood. Now, the store that sells the new wood is open, but when you get there, they have run out and recommend another store. You don’t have enough gas to get to the other store, so you start off toward the gas station. We now have a situation where in order to make progress on my chair, I must go to the gas station. If I measure productivity by the tasks completed I may find that I am immensely productive, checking off task after task after task. However, without any measurable and tangible progress being made on the chair itself, I am failing to achieve my goal. How you measure progress directly impacts whether you feel most productive doing busywork or accomplishing your goals.  Measure Real Progress The real challenge with choosing a measure of progress is recognizing incremental steps toward a goal that represent true progress and not the busywork of tasks that may or may not contribute to the goal. This can sometimes be more art than science, but focusing on realized benefits as a measure of progress will almost always deliver results. Since user stories are the primary measure of progress on most Agile projects, it is important that they represent realizable benefits as opposed to tasks. Using our existing example to tie everything together here, the following benefits would be great measures of progress on our office chair. The chair has a designated seat. The seat is elevated from the floor. The elevated seat can hold...

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Agile Jenga

Posted on Feb 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Agile Jenga

After several years… Working across a variety of industries trying to adopt Agile development practices, I can confidently say that Agile Jenga is the single most popularly played game among Agile adopters.  If you are part of a large organization that is adopting Agile after years of doing things the traditional way, then you already know the rules.  Here are the rules for those who are unfamiliar with the game…   Much like the party game Jenga… We need to start by creating a structure or model of our desired software development process as a set of building blocks.  In order to achieve this first step, most organizations will pick a popular existing structure like “Scrum” or “SAFe.” These structures are already set up for us so that we do not have to go through the tedious process of learning how to build such a structure, which is typically seen by most large organizations as a waste of time. Now, as the name of the game suggests, the goal is to create a new structure based on the original that stands much taller and more statuesque to reflect the uniqueness and complexity of our company by moving pieces around.  We carefully remove the building blocks from the foundation of the existing structure and defer them for later adoption by placing them at the top of the “todo” list. As the game progresses… It will start to become more and more difficult to continue deferring foundational blocks without everything crashing down around us, so we need to get some structural experts to help keep the structure steady.  We refer to these “experts” as Agile coaches, and they have years of experience helping organizations play Agile Jenga.  However, we need to be careful when choosing an Agile coach, because there are many coaches out there that want to revert all our hard work by taking the pieces off the top and putting them back into the foundation! We refer to those unproductive coaches as “Agile zealots,” and usually can keep them out of our organization by interviewing coaches to make sure they understand the rules of the game beforehand. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and expert support… The structure may become unsteady and people may start to become nervous that everything is going to collapse.  There are many different ways we can address this, and just like any game, trends in the ways to address it have emerged and shifted over time.  Five or more years ago, when Agile was a young concept, the most common way to address the unsteady structure was to knock it over on purpose and play a different game out of frustration. As organizations matured in their Agile Jenga playing, new trends emerged, like leaving some of the important foundational pieces alone, and deferring other pieces that were less load-bearing in the structure.  Good Agile coaches could help us to better understand which pieces were more load-bearing, and which ones could easily be deferred, which allowed us to get much taller and more complex structures without full collapse.  We hired good coaches earlier so that we didn’t make weak structures prematurely.  However, even with this more advanced technique, we still eventually discovered that the structures would become unstable. Let’s skip forward to the trends of today’s savvy Agile Jenga players. We now have access to many case studies from large companies that have built monumental and impressive structures that have, to date, entirely avoided collapse. We look at these in awe of the marvel of engineering that created them and hope that one day our organization can also...

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