Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kanban and Scrum, Black Box and White Box

This post is a good description of Scrum vs. Kanban - Scrum is a black box (and I'd add "a closed black box", isolated from the Enterprise, but that's part of why it works) and Kanban is a white box. It seems part of the success of Scrum is it's simplicity - you can cover the process, roles and artifacts in 10 minutes. But my experience is that it works best out of the box in small, flat, focused, and/or aggressive companies and needs adjustments for other environments (not thrown away, just adjusting). I've seen some throw it away because Scrum didn't work immediately and easily. Scrum is not a panacea, but commitment and tailoring when needed (e.g., combined with Kanban) will still bring success.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Improving Retrospectives

For years I've done the classic retrospective at the end of each sprint, asking the team "What worked? What didn't work?" or "More of? Less of? Start? Stop?" But I tried some new techniques recently, and the response was much better.
Most importantly, I used several ideas listed and described in Agile Retrospectives. To start, I asked the team members to choose one of four categories to represent how they felt about being there. This helped to focus and confirm what they hoped to get out of the meeting. I then clarified our values, updating our team agreement with this key, guiding information. The last thing I did was have each of the team members write down 5 idea for improving our scrum. After collecting their papers, I wrote them down on the wall and had the team come up and cast four votes per team member (we had about 20+ ideas).
Throughout the rest of the week of sprint planning, their clarified values and top ideas/problem solutions were referred to again and again, and really helped to shape and guide how the user stories and acceptance criteria were crafted, as well as how the tasks were broken out.
You can also use the "What worked/didn't work" at the end of any recurring meeting in order to improve it the next time.
I highly recommend Larsen's book. The return on investment for improving your retrospectives is significant.