Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Review - Agile Software Development w Scrum

ASDS is a very good book, but only for the few who want to be Scrum experts. The material is thorough, and not necessarily easy to get through, in part because the Schwaber and Beedle walk through every part of Scrum in detail, as well as cover situations that likely don't apply to most, and they even go through philosophical views that some may care little about.

To be sure, there are gems in the book, and I learned a few important points, but I have been to ScrumMaster certification training, read two other agile books, and been mentored by a CSM/PMP. I feel the book only moved me from 80% comfort level with Scrum to 85%.

If you are a consultant managing projects, or you want to teach, coach or train in this area, read the book. If you a internal project manager,product manager, or IT manager, I recommend you get Agile and Iterative Development: A Manager's Guide and read the section on Scrum. It's simpler, cleaner, and the rest of the book gives good background to agile and options you may want to consider.

If you are a team or development lead, or the senior developer, get Agile Project Management with Scrum. It's an even easier read, focused solely on Scrum and gives lots of enjoyable stories of real situations the author went through, good and bad.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

After Scrum, the Agile Enterprise

The other day, Joseph Little (blog here) posted to the Scrum Development board on Yahoo! asking for input on what to include in an advanced course that he and Jeff Sutherland were leading (Agile 201). One item I raised was "What do you do when your agile project efforts are going well? What's the next step to capitalize on successful to move agile into the enterprise?"

Well, I came across a great post on exactly that - Agile Leaders - The Next Hurdle from Steve Garnett. Simply put, the next step is Lean Thinking & Financial Understanding

"It's alright being bloody great at Agile, and knowing how to deliver software and create self-organizing teams, but always remember that the engine for change, the real way to effect change, is control of the P&L."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Agile2008 Conference Submission

Agile2008 released the conference track recently here.One presentation that won't be there is my submission. Though it had some positive feedback, it didn't make the cut.

As the presentation was unique among the others I reviewed, I thought I would post it for others. I submitted it under the Leadership and Teams track. Despite the let down that I wasn't selected, I had a career highlight in getting very positive feedback from Jim Highsmith. :-)

Agile Strengths-Based Teams - How to Coach and Lead According to Strengths

This workshop will review the different approaches and levels I’ve used with a strengths-based approach on my Scrum teams. We will discuss my experiences at the individual level, listing team members’ specific strengths (with descriptions) and how I created new team roles tailored to allow each member to play to their strengths, involving the team in the way they work, and fostering improved communication and interdependency. Also, group discussion could cover hypothetical roles and situations, or run through a simplified strengths assessment for attendess and then walk through how they could make adjustments to leverage those strengths more on their team and with stakeholders and customers.

How Does Strengths Relate to Agile?
Jim Highsmith writes, “Agile Software Development Ecosystems are designed to capitalize on each individual’s and each team’s unique strengths.” and also that “developing each individual’s capabilities” is a key contribution to project success. In the spirit of agile, working with others according to their strengths is part of valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools. And adding the strengths paradigm to agile project management addresses several key points from the Agile Project Leaders Network Wiki of Knowledge, such as:
  • Individual Leadership Style - Involving the team in determining the way they work
  • Handling Team Dynamics - Encouraging individuals to self select tasks
  • How to generate an open environment where people feel safe to express themselves.

Aren’t We Already Doing This?
Agile leaders should use a strengths-based approach as a tool, but don’t often do. Most people don’t know how to identify their strengths at a granularity that is practical and helpful. Those that do most likely don’t know how to make changes in how they work that enables them to capitalize on those strengths.

Strengths Is Not a Silver Bullet, But an Agile Accelerator Tool
In terms of in terms of productivity, profitability and employee retention, managers using a strengths approach had a 86% greater success rate than other managers. Strengths-based teams performed 44% better. But the most powerful benefit of the strengths movement is when agile leaders use it.

NOTE: Depending on group consensus, have a separate short session or workshop where the group takes Gallup's StrengthsFinder assessment. The results could be discussed, and attendees could then come to this workshop knowing their strenths profile.

Facilitated a discussion on my experiences of introducing a strengths-based approach within a Scrum team at the individual level, listing team members’ specific strengths (with descriptions) and creation of new team roles tailored to allow each member to play to their strengths.

I. Samples of My Agile Strengths Implementation Experience
  1. Team Member A has Strengths of ‘Focus’, ‘Deliberative’ and ‘Competitive’
  2. Team Member B Goes From Impractical Complainer to Responsible, Driving Junior ScrumMaster
  3. Team Finally Understands Team Member C, Because of Her Strengths
II. Review how to leverage strengths for better performance from ourselves and our teams. We would discuss:
  1. Strengths themes vs. granular strengths
  2. How to grow your strengths week by week
  3. Ways to leverage the power of the agile + strengths combination
  4. What if there is lots of overlap or gaps?
Finally, discuss how my efforts and experience coaching and influencing the organization in both agile and strengths, and the parallels of improved communication and collaboration.