Are pizzas and hamburgers in Peru the same?

Are pizzas and hamburgers in Peru the same?

Scrumban is a hybridization that results from a team’s, or organization’s need to address specific process or organizational constraints. We’ve examined a Scrum-y Scrumban instantiation.  Kanban-y Scrumban, on the other hand, is usually a reflection of a high degree of specialization of personnel (e.g. developers, business analyst, testers, DBAs . . .). Work is done by one specialist and then handed to the next specialist.  Kanban-y Scrumban helps improve communication and identify unbalanced processes that constrain the flow of work. A Kanban-y version of Scrumban would include the following features:

  1. Release Cadence: Scrumban that is more Kanban than Scrum will generate a continuous flow of work for some period of time. At some point the software will be released into production (or to the customers).  An explicit release cadence is generally a feature of this version of Scrumban.  It should be noted that a continuous delivery cadence is possible, but is very rare. Monthly, quarterly or semi-annual releases are very common.  There is no requirement for any other time-box.
  2. Pull and Work-in-Progress Limits: Each step in the process will have explicit WIP Limits and work on new items will only started if the step has capacity.   This is a common feature of all forms of Scrumban.  Unlike the Scrum-y version of Scrumban, unless you just beginning a project or completing a project there is no requirement that the Kanban board be cleared of in-progress work.
  3. Stand-up or Scrum Meetings:  The team holds a daily planning meeting in which team members address what has been completed, blockers and what is to be done next and by whom. When using any form of Scrumban, I find it beneficial to have team members move work from column to column on the Kanban board during the stand-up meeting.  Seeing progress reinforces motivation.
  4. Backlog Grooming: Backlog grooming and prioritization occurs as work is pulled onto the active portion of the board. The Product Owner (or proxy) should ensure that the backlog is continually prioritized, as backlog items will be addressed as capacity becomes available.  I recommend sizing backlog items small enough that they can move through tasks on the board in one to two days.  In Kanban-y Scrumban, there is no other requirement for estimation.
  5. Attack Bottlenecks:  If bottlenecks, steps in the process where WIP starts to build up, occur, you need to fix the problem. This might mean making process changes or reallocating team members. If this version of Scrumban is being used, swarming rarely occurs because the organization is highly structured with specialists in each development role.
  6. Release Demonstration/Review:  Prior to release, the team (lead by the Product Owner) will demonstrate and facilitate interaction with the software that has been completed for the release.  Many organizations couple the Demo/Review with a more formal user acceptance test (UAT) step, doing the demonstration then UAT. If you wait until just prior to a release to generate feedback, there is a substantial risk of rework.  One organization I recently observed uses a continuous approach to the review step, demonstrating as each unit of work is complete.

A Kanban-y version of Scrumban differs from a pure Kanban process predominately thought use of the daily stand-up meetings, backlog grooming and demonstrations.  The focus on flow will tend, over time, to put pressure on the organization to align the people into teams, and blur the lines of around specialties due to improved visualization of hand-offs and bottlenecks.  The use of teams will make tactics like swarming to problems easier to accomplish and will lead to increased flow.

A leader or a hermit?

A leader or a hermit?

There is no single precise definition of leadership, despite the fact that leadership is considered to be one of the most important attributes that any team, group or organization must have.  Myriad books, models and frameworks attempt to define it and tell you how to cultivate it. Theories of leadership tend to break into three camps: innate-attribute based, process and position based, and hybrid.

The innate attribute camp is breaks down further into either great man (i.e. leaders are born) or trait (i.e. specific traits lead to leadership) theories. In the innate attribute camp, even when traits can be developed, they are based on fundamentals that you either have or don’t have. In most cases these theories are somewhat archaic, for example the Great Man Theory was first popularized in the 1800s. These types of theories tend to resurface because they are easily discussed and consumed.

Process-based theories focus on honing behaviors and skills.   These theories tend to reflect that in different situations, leaders use different approaches.  The approaches are learned and improved, rather than representing intrinsic traits. Consider Winston Churchill – he was a great wartime leader, but as less successful during peacetime. Churchill was most powerful when motivating under stress with a particular pinch of oratory.  As situations changed Churchill continued to use the same actions and behaviors, which did not translate to success in a different circumstance.  Process-based theories predict that situations dictate different leadership behaviors.

Hybrid theories combine the best of both worlds.  An example of a hybrid model is the 1994 Transformational Theory described by Bass and Avolio. In this theory, leaders apply their attributes to specific situations to inspire individuals, develop trust and personal growth.  The concept of servant leadership, another hybrid leadership style, reflects a synthesis of a leader’s attributes and situational leadership requirements.

Picking a definition of leadership is important to ground how you will guide and coach teams. When coaching teams the model of leadership that I use is that a leader provides guidance, creates structure, sanctions methods of work and defines levels of performance to attain a goal. How he or she does that, or whether the mantle of leadership is situational depends on the organization and the team itself.  Both the traits of the leader and situation become important to understand who will be able to lead and when a leader should cede the mantle to another.  Regardless of the theory, leadership is about influencing a group of people to achieve a goal. Even if the leadership pundits can’t agree upon a precise definition, they will agree that a leader must have followers that will pursue the goal or visions the leader provides. In the end, a leader without followers is a hermit.

3-4 2013 Peru Blue Door

We have all seen the poster of a bridge built from two side of river that does not quite meet in the middle. The moral of the story is that planning and communication is required for a project to achieve its goals. It is easy to pass off this advice as something that no one would really fall prey.  Interestingly I have been told that the bridge that shown on the poster exists in Arlington /Rosslyn, Virginia. Unless we build collaboration and communication into how we work rather than just creating reports and status meetings it is all too easy for projects with more than one team to make mistakes that cost money or even worse, lives.

Think that this just happens in your industry or in your country? While preparing to hike the Inca Trail in Peru, I came across a building with a door on the second floor opening to . . . nothing. My Spanish was not good enough to get the whole story but I would certainly not want to get out of bed and mistakenly step through the blue door. You can either try to inspect communication errors out of your project or you can use frameworks that are collaboration heavy (or some combination of both). I know which one I think is more effective but make sure you do something or don’t ask me over for a sleep over.