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Assessments in agile come under a wide variety of names: appraisals, health checks, audit or even assessments. These terms are commonly conflated.  Assessments are a tool to prove a point. There are many approaches to assessing agile in a team or organization ranging from self-assessment questionnaires to formal observer-led appraisals. What gets assessed and the approach an organization chooses depends on the point of the assessment. All assessments create a baseline, a line in the sand from which to measure change.  At the same time, an assessment is a benchmark. Benchmarks are a comparison against a standard (real or implied). For example, an organization could use the principles in the Agile Manifesto or the framework in the Scrum guide as a standard to compare their behavior against to generate a benchmark. Put very succinctly, baseline defines where an organization (or team) is at a point in time, while a benchmark is a comparison to a standard. Assessments of any type, whether to generate a baseline, a benchmark or both, require time and effort which might be better spent creating a product, unless there is a good reason to do an assessment. There are three macro reasons why an organization might assess the agile journey that can generate value:

Process Improvement – If a team or organization doesn’t have a clear understanding of their performance and/or behavior improvement there can only be random change (which is rarely very effective). Process improvement begins by assessing how a group has performed and then uses that assessment in order to generate a course of action.  A retrospective is a form of appraisal in the same way as a formal audit IF a team or organization uses the data to improve their performance. The degree of rigor often depends on how urgent the perceived need for a change is.

Marketing Material – If you have ever taken a long trip, you will recognize that the excitement for taking the journey is inversely related to the time spent on the road. Another way of saying this is that the longer a journey goes on, the more frequently the “are we there yet” question gets asked.  An appraisal shows the progress made and helps keep the energy for moving forward high. Somewhat more commercially, successful (the word commercially is chosen on purpose) assessments are useful tools for in the pursuit of contracts.

Flag Planting – An assessment can be a mechanism to recognize and declare victory.  Benchmarks against a standard are a tool to determine whether an organization has attained a goal.  An appraisal, for this reason, seeks to definitively answer the “are we there yet” question not to impart to keep going but rather so that a victory party can be held and a new endeavor can be chosen.

 

At reason at their most extreme, is exclusive of the other however very few teams or organizations pursue an assessment purely for one just one reason. For example, in the government contracting space, the classic CMMI appraisal is a tool to show achievement and a tool for securing contacts (marketing).  Blending reasons for an assessment generates the need to develop hybrid approaches to target different groups, behaviors, and outputs. For example, reviewing not only whether teams did the work correctly but whether they did the right work. These are two very different perspectives.

Next – Health Checks Focused On Mindset and Behaviors.

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SPaMCAST 534 features our interview with Al Shalloway.   Al returns to the SPaMCAST after far too long. This week we discuss the trials and tribulations of scaling agile, and his passion about getting knowledge transfer right! I hope you have as good of a time listening to this interview as I had creating it.

Bio

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas. Al is a former SAFe Program Consultant Trainer. Al has developed training and coaching methods for Lean-Agile that have helped Net Objectives’ clients achieve long-term, sustainable productivity gains. He is a popular speaker at prestigious conferences worldwide.

Website:  https://www.netobjectives.com/

Email:  alshall@netobjectives.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alshalloway/

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Chapter Three of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is a reminder of why this book continues to be important and useful. The density of ideas in this chapter is amazing. Stop borrowing your best friends copy and buy a copy of the book for yourself!  

Current entry:

Week 4 – The Stickiness Factorhttps://bit.ly/2GuSJ96 (more…)

Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Re-read Week 4 – Chapter 3: The Stickiness Factor

Chapter Three of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is a reminder of why this book continues to be important and useful. The density of ideas in this chapter is amazing. Stop borrowing your best friends copy and buy a copy of the book for yourself!  

Chapter Two, The Law of the Few, describes the role of people in passing messages along.  Chapter Three tackles stickiness. Stickiness is the attribute that determines whether a message is heard and internalized. Messages that are heard and internalized stand a chance to be acted upon. In this chapter, Gladwell uses Sesame Street and Blues Clues as the vehicle to discuss how messages can be packaged to make them sticky.   (more…)

Sometimes you just have to . . .

I was originally asked to help provide additional ideas to convince a Scrum Master that had recently joined a team due to a company rotation policy not to give up Scrum (full scenario). The change in team composition led to problems.  On the surface, the decision by the wayward Scrum Master to abandon Scrum in favor of Kanban is an emotional reaction and does not reflect many of the leadership problems the Scrum Master introduced. Assuming that the leadership problems have been sorted, it is time to contemplate how the team will work as they move forward.  The question was posed as use Scrum or use Kanban; however, there is a third (and possibly better) answer. Do both — Scrumban. (more…)

Sometimes you just have to . . .

If you were not moved by the case for Scrum then the next step, just as suggested by our wayward Scrum Master is kanban. If re-committing to Scrum is equivalent to putting the genie back in the bottle, then adopting kanban is the equivalent to throwing the bottle away. Kanban is a flow-based framework based that originated from concepts in lean manufacturing that have been tuned for software related projects.  A team or organization using kanban pulls work from a workflow (across the board) at a pace equal to the work in process limits for each step in the process. Kanban requires team members to have the discipline to observe the policies set for the team such as only pulling new work when it can be started and swarming to bottlenecks when they are identified. Efficient and effective teams using kanban are very disciplined; whether this is because of the people or the framework is debatable. (more…)

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SPaMCAST 533 features our essay titled, Can Agile (SAFe) Be Interfaced With Waterfall? The long answer is yes, but the short answer is yes, but try to find a way to avoid the self-inflicted complexity. If you can’t avoid mixing and matching frameworks, there are paths to success you can leverage.

Other essays in our series on interfacing SAFe and waterfall efforts include:

Can Agile (SAFe) Be Interfaced With Waterfall? – https://bit.ly/2SLUmou

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? – Transparency – https://bit.ly/2MWNYFT

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? –  Synchronization – https://bit.ly/2WVgLio

Interfacing Agile (SAFe) With Waterfall? –  Code – https://bit.ly/2I6eUUR

This week we also have a quick visit from Tom Henricksen.  Tom created the popular Online Agile Summit. Today he announces the DevOps Online Summit that will be held on April 8th through 11th.  After you listen, check out the website! https://www.devopsonlinesummit.com/2019

Jeremy Berriault brings a new installment of the QA Corner (https://qacorner.blog/) to the cast this week.  Jeremy leverages work by Simon Sinek and tackles the “why” of testing.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In chapter two, Gladwell dives into the law of the few.  There are three types of people that are important to pushing an idea up to and over a tipping point: connectors, mavens, and salespeople.  All three are required. Remember to dust off your copy or buy a new copy and read along!

Current entry:

Week 3 – The Law of the Fewhttps://bit.ly/2Buau46 (more…)

Tipping Point

This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In chapter two, Gladwell dives into the law of the few.  There are three types of people that are important to pushing an idea up to and over a tipping point: connectors, mavens, and salespeople.  All three are required. Remember to dust off your copy or buy a new copy and read along!

People are both the mechanism and the target for anyone trying either to understand why an idea crosses the tipping point or to push an idea across a tipping point.  Knowing who to influence or connect spells the difference between success and failure. Word-of-mouth is an extremely powerful effect, but just passing the information along one person at a time is not sufficient for getting an idea over the tipping point. People pass on all kinds of information all the time but only in rare instances does that exchange cause the idea to go viral. Gladwell theorizes that social epidemics happen because of the involvement of three types of people each with particular of social talents. (more…)