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The idea of hybridizing agile evokes all sorts of responses ranging from “do” to “don’t:” (usually with more vehemence). The reaction to the Simple Checklist for Assessing Hybridizing Agile Frameworks or Techniques was no different.  For example, Anthony Mersinso stated, “It has been my experience that the driver for hybridization is ignorance or resistance to change.” John Voris suggested in a comment that acknowledging the usefulness of hybridization fosters experimentation. What neither of these two gentlemen suggested was that the principles in the Agile Manifesto should be ignored and that teams should be transformed into robots locked into ineffective processes. The Simple Checklist spelled out a list of reasons that when all of them were satisfied (with perhaps one or two NAs), hybridization made sense. There are, however, a number of “no-go” scenarios that when recognized should immediately send coaches and practitioners running for the hills or at least for more advice!  The anti-hybridization simple checklist is: (more…)

I recently spoke with Susan Parente while recording an episode of her Not A Scrumdamentalist column about the idea of hybrid agile. The definition of hybridization spans a wide range of territory ranging from combining methodologies and frameworks to changing techniques. For example, Scrumban combines Scrum and Kanban.  SAFe combines many frameworks and methodologies. Prima facie evidence suggests that hybridization at the methodology level is part and parcel of agile implementations. Hybridization of techniques is characterized as changing or combining techniques so they serve other purposes.  For example, changing the daily scrum from a planning meeting to a status meeting. Hybridization has the potential to generate value or conflagrations that destroy value.  

Evaluate Hybrizations using the following simple checklist: (more…)

So the answer is . . .

A minor update for Sprint Planning in late 2019!  At some point planning for planning needs to give way to planning.  Planning identifies a goal and helps to envision the steps needed to attain that goal. In Agile, the planning event also sends a message about the amount of work a team anticipates delivering in an iteration. While every team faces variations based on context and the work that is in front of them, a basic planning process is encapsulated in the following simple checklist. (more…)

Plan or CRASH!

At some point planning for planning needs to give way to planning.  Planning identifies a goal and helps to envision the steps needed to attain that goal. In Agile, the planning event also sends a message about the amount of work a team anticipates delivering in an iteration. While every team faces variations based on context and the work that is in front of them, a basic planning process is encapsulated in the following simple checklist.

Planning Preamble:  

As the team gets settled and before they leap into breaking work down into smaller stories, activities,and tasks the facilitator (e.g. Scrum Master in Scrum) should remind the team of the basics of planning, the ground rules, and expected outcome. The basics include:

___  How long the planning session will last (everything is time-boxed)

___  The time frame the team is planning for (e,g, a day, two weeks or several iterations).s

___  Everybody writes and everybody needs to participate.  

Not using a scribe tends to keep people involved. Also having everyone involved in the recording will help ensure that the records are not the sole responsibility of a single person which is a potential future constraint.

___ Decide on the planning order.

Planning order is often addressed in grooming, by organizational and/or team culture, or up front as part of the chartering. Review  the order and the rationale for it.  The three most prevalent ordering strategies are:
1. Hardest Part First
2. 
Highest Value First
3. Dependency Driven (those that can’t be avoided)

___ Definition of Done

Everyone in the planning should agree what the base components of done mean and whether anything out of the ordinary needs to be kept in mind during planning.  Remind everyone that done is not the same as acceptance criteria.

Business Context:

Providing business context is similar to reviewing the basics.  Business context serves many purposes, including motivation and answering the question of “why?” for the team.  Business context will help the team to make decisions more effectively and efficiently.  Business context items include:

___ Iteration Theme.  

The theme defines the overall goal.

___ Business Constraints

Are there business constraints that should be accounted for during planning?  For example, sometimes functionality is needed on a specific date due to legal mandates or other events.  One client had to plan to deliver a prototype for an industry show.

___ Important Discussion From Grooming

Grooming, like any business conversation, is a data gathering event.  Always share relevant information with the whole team.  

Planning:  

Planning is a process of decomposing work into smaller pieces.  Teams begin with groomed user stories and then break them into tasks.  Breaking the work down allows team members to gain a better understanding of what need to be done and how much work can be accomplished during the iteration.  Breaking work down also allows the work to be spread across the team based on capabilities and so that the team can swarm to the work when there are issues.   Considerations and guidelines include:

___ Take the first cut by breaking stories into big tasks before getting into the details.

This step helps teams not to get frozen into planning paralysis and into specifying the solution early in the process.

___ Target a consistent level of granularity for tasks.  

I recommend all tasks be slightly less than a day’s effort which makes it easy to show progress or to identify roadblocks quickly.

___ Plan out loud.

Planning out loud helps to keep everyone involved, away from silo thinking, and makes sure planning stays reasonable.

___ Plan slightly over capacity.

The team should plan a bit more than their productivity or velocity indicates.  The over plan represents a stretch goal and allows the team to  be positioned to continue moving forward if progress is faster than anticipated.

___ Remember to set aside capacity for maintenance and support (if needed)

Wrap Up:

Running out of time is not a great way to end a planning session.  Two normal steps help to provide  the team with planning closure

___ Review and commit to the plan.

The team should be able to agree that they will accomplish the plan based on the planning exercise.  I suggest testing commitment as planning progresses. However if the team can not commit to the plan, the issue will need to be identified and another planning session convened to address the problem. Note: if the facilitator is testing commitment during the session, this should be a rare event.  When a team will not commit I generally find they have been forced to oover-commitby an external party.

___ Do a retrospective

As a team, identify one thing you can do better and commit to making the fix!

The simple planning session checklist is useful to get a team ready to plan, keep the team on track and to improve the process. I have used the checklist as a training tool and as a tool to help guide new facilitators.  

Next: dealing with common planning variations.    

Woman looking at a guide book.

Your goals can be your roadmap.


We set goals to help channel our energy and filter out the less relevant demands on our time and attention.  Goals should reflect what is important to you now and be sticky enough help keep you on track when things get tough. However, context and circumstances do change, and when they do, goals can change.  For example, one of my neighbors had set a goal of canoeing in the Canadian wilderness in all four seasons in 2015. The goal had to be replaced when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He replaced the original goal with a new more pertinent goal. Given the importance of goals to direct our behavior, allocate our effort and to defend our attention, a simple checklist might be useful when creating resolutions or setting annual goals.
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A wrapping paper change barbarian

A wrapping-paper-change barbarian

When you begin a change process it is important to remember a few critical points. If you were getting ready for vacation, the checklist might include identifying who is going and who is in charge, deciding on a destination, a map, and hotel reservations. Beginning a process improvement project is not very different. Here is my simple checklist with five of the most critical requirements for preparing to embrace a journey of change. My critical five are:

1. An Identified Goal

2. Proper Sponsorship

3. Sufficient Budget

4. A Communication Strategy and Plan

5. A Tactical Plan

The first item on the checklist is an identified goal. The goal is the definition of where you want to go; the destination in the vacation analogy. A goal provides direction and a filter to understand the potential impact of constraints. Examples of a goal can range from something as simple as, “reduce the cost of projects,” or as complex as “attain CMMI Maturity Level 5.” The goal also sets the table for discussing all of the other items on the checklist, such as the required budget. One piece of advice: make sure your goal can be concisely and simply stated. Simplicity increases the chance the goal will be broadly remembered, which reduces the number of times you will need to explain the goal, which will increase the amount of time available for progress.

Proper sponsorship is next on the list. Sponsorship is important because it is provides the basis for the authority needed to propel change. There are many different types and levels of sponsorship. The word “proper” is used in this line item to remind you that there is no one type of sponsorship that fits all events and organizational culture. One example is the “barbarian.” The barbarian is the type that will lead the charge, but typically is less collaborative and more a command-driven personality. Barbarians tend to be viewed as zealots who harness their belief structure to provide single minded energy towards the goal they are focused on. Having a barbarian as a sponsor can infuse change projects with an enormous amount of power. The bookend to the barbarian type of sponsorship is the “bureaucrat”. Sponsorship from a bureaucrat is very different. Instead of leading the charge, bureaucrats tend to organize and control the charge. They may provide guidance, but they rarely get directly involved in the fray. The examples show two different varieties of sponsorship each that will fit in different organizations. In a life or death situation, I would like to have a barbarian for a sponsor. However if I was affecting incremental changes in a command and control organization, the bureaucrat would make more sense. Remember sponsorship is important because sponsorship give you access to power.

Budget is next on the checklist. The term budget can cover a wide range of ground ranging from money to availably of human resources (effort). The budget will answer the question “how much of the organization’s formal resources can you apply?” The budget that ends up being identified to support change is always less than what seems to be needed. Use this constraint as a tool to motivate your team to find innovations on the way to attaining the goal rather and a reason to rein in your goal.

The first plan I recommend building is an organizational change management plan (OCMP). The OCMP is frames how your project is going to transform the future state of the organization. It will integrate the project roles and responsibilities with the requirements for communication, training, oversight, reporting and the strategies to address resistance, and reinforcement activities. The OCMP is a mixture of a high-level map and how-to document that is critical to ensure you are as focused on how you are change the organization as to tasks required to define and implement specific processes.

Finally you will need a tactical plan that lays out the tasks you need to accomplish and the order the tasks need to be done. The focus and breadth of the tactical plan you use will be different depending on the project management technique that you use. For example, if you use a time boxed technique like SCRUM your tactical plan will focus on identifying tasks for the current sprint based on the backlog of items required to reach your goal. Regardless of the planning technique used you must have a tactical plan or risk falling into random activity. Use the technique that conforms to your project’s needs and your organization’s culture. The bottom line is that you will you need to understand the activities and order they occur in to get to your goal.

Change is difficult to accomplish in the best of times, and almost impossible if you fail to start properly. This simple checklist for change readiness was developed and compiled to help you focus on a set of topics that need to be considered when beginning any process improvement project. Are there other areas that should be on the list? Can each topic area be deconstructed into finer levels of granularity? I believe the answer is certainly yes, and I would urge you to augment and deconstruct the list and further to share your results. In any case a checklist that focuses you on getting your sponsorship, goals, budget and plans in order can help you start well.

For all undertakings (home improvement as well as measurement programs) make sure you have resources, a plan and the right attitude.

For all undertakings (home improvement as well as measurement programs) make sure you have resources, a plan and the right attitude.

Part of the Simple Checklist Series

Beginning or continuing a measurement program is never easy. The simple Measurement Checklist is a tool to help generate a discussion about the attributes that are important to be successful either as you implement a measurement program or when you have shifted into support mode.  The tool has been broken into 3 categories: resources (part 1 and 2), plans, and attitudes.  Each can be scored and leveraged separately. However, using the three components will help you to focus on the big picture.

Scale

The simple checklist can be used as a tool to evaluate how well you have prepared for your measurement journey.  As a reminder, each question in the survey is evaluated as a multiple-choice question.  The scale is high, medium, low and not present (with one exception), and each response is worth a point value (some are negative).  Scoring a question with a response that has a 0 or negative value is usually a sign that your program faces significant issues; in which case, proceed with caution.

Section and Question Weights:

Resources: Forty-two total points. Each component contributes up to 7 points.

Plans: Eighteen total points. Each component contributes up to 6 points.

Attitude: Forty total points. Each component contributes up to 8 points.

Scoring

Sum all of the scores from each of the three categories.

100 – 80  You have a great base. Go live the dream.  Use techniques like continuous process improvements and retrospective to make improvements to your program.

79 – 60   Focus on building your measurement infrastructure.  Use focused improvement projects to target weaknesses in your measurement program.  The changes will be bigger than the changes that are meant to be identified in a retrospective.

59 – 30   Remediate your weaknesses immediately.  If you have not started your measurement program, focus on the problem areas before you begin.  If you have begun implementation or are in support mode, consider putting the program on hold until you fix the most egregious problems.

29 –   0   Run Away! Trying to implement a measurement program will be equivalent to putting your hand in the garbage disposal with it running; avoid it!  In this case consider significant organizational change initiatives.