New Organizers for DFW Scrum Dallas location

We kicked off 2016 by announcing two new organizers for the Dallas DFW Scrum meetups: Steve Fraser and Pradeepa Narayanaswamy. Both Steve and Pradeepa have been regular attendees at our meetups and were interested in getting more involved. I realized that I’d been organizing events for four years, and the new year presented a great opportunity to inject the group with new energy and ideas.

As a Senior Consultant with Improving, Steve Fraser has experience in all the Scrum Roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developer. He enjoys discovering, applying and sharing new techniques to produce customer value with elegant design, practical architecture, and wicked code. Steve is passionate about sharing his talents in software development, including automated testing at all levels from user journeys through unit testing and using specification by example to build living product documentation.

An agile coach and Professional Scrum Trainer, Pradeepa Narayanaswamy is a self-proclaimed “Agile Passionista” who strongly believes in agile values and principles. In her current role, Pradeepa works as a trainer, agile coach, and mentor to several teams and helps them succeed in delighting customers. She works with leadership teams in their transformation journeys using agile values and principles. A frequent speaker at national and international conferences, Pradeepa is passionate about and specializes in agile testing.

I am thrilled to have Steve and Pradeepa involved in coordinating topics and speakers for the group and appreciate the support they’ve provided over the last four months. You have probably seen them take over front of the room introductions each month, and I am excited to see how they continue to grow as leaders in our community.

Wrapping Up 2015

It’s the last day of 2015, and it seems only appropriate to tie up loose ends with a short post about our year.  I continue to be amazed by the energy and dedication of our community.  Our membership grows each week and attendance is strong at our meetups. Some folks thought I was nuts for holding a December meeting, and you all showed that it was worth it!  I am extremely happy that we were able to have Nirmal Malhotra in November and Mike Rieser in December to provide us great content and learning during the holiday season.

In case you missed those meetups and want a taste of what they were about, both presentations have been posted to our DFWScrum.com site:

Thank you for a great 2015, and I look forward to seeing you the third Tuesday of the month in 2016!

Overcome the 6 Traps of an Agile Transformation

We were fortunate to have David Hawks of Agile Velocity speak at our Dallas October meeting–it was a great session! Accelerating learning is the key to unlocking the true potential of Agile, and David shared the 6 traps agile teams fall into which prevent learning and how to overcome them. Often organizations implement the process aspects of agile/scrum but fail to find the key to unlocking its true potential. His slides on “Overcome the 6 Traps of an Agile Transformation” can be found on slideshare:

How to handle [fill-in-the-blank] work in Scrum

As more teams are adopting Scrum around Dallas, I’ve been hearing more questions about how to handle work that is not specifically requested by the Product Owner.  How do you handle production support issues in Scrum?  How about technical debt?  How do you plan time for research?  How do you manage defects?  According to the Scrum Guide, “the Product Backlog lists all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that constitute the changes to be made to the product in future releases,” but what does that look like in execution?

Our September Dallas meeting was an open discussion for folks to bring their questions and share experiences about how to deal with all of the work that doesn’t fit so neatly in a Product Backlog.  We ended up with NINE topics:

  1. Dependencies on infrastructure teams
  2. Dependencies on waterfall teams
  3. Dependencies on external vendors
  4. Hybrid work — agile + waterfall
  5. Unable to finish stories because of multiple opinions/committee
  6. Date-driven + fixed scope + fixed budget challenges
  7. Production support
  8. Multiple projects/changing velocity from one project to the next
  9. Supporting multiple apps/products

Since there were so many topics, we held two rounds of small group discussions and reported out learning after each round.  It was a productive and engaging meetup, and the comments afterward were great:

  • I had a great time and learned some valuable insights from fellow scrummers.
  • Best experience [at the meetup]. Gained lot of insight.
  • Great breakout sessions and helpful recommendations. Allison, thank you for facilitating.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made it a rich evening of learning!

Three Thoughts From August’s DFW Scrum Meetup

This writeup comes from Quentin Donnellan who originally posted it on his blog on August 18, 2015. 

I’ve got a flight to Kansas City to meet the SpiderOak marketing team tomorrow morning, so I’ll make this quick! I just got back home from my first DFW Scrum meetup, and I highly recommend it to any software guys in the area (they meet on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, in Addison and Southlake concurrently).

I had originally planned to fly out to Kansas City late tonight, but a couple weeks ago I noticed that this meetup group was going to be hosting a talk on “Release Process” and figured, as I’ve been tasked with the role of release manager for the SpiderOak web team, this would be a hugely beneficial experience. It was.

You can find the presentation by William “RED” Davidson in full on the group’s Meetup page; I wanted to just mention a few things that stuck out to me during the course of the talk/discussion.

1. Jeremy wants to do…

One of the early slides Mr. Davidson showed us was a picture of some dude’s face, and this sentence below it: “Jeremy wants to do…”. The point was that when coming up with user stories, you shouldn’t put them in terms of some ambiguous “user” (i.e. User needs to select X from Y on page Z), but instead think about it in terms of what actual people need to do. “Jeremy needs to do this thing on this page”. And add a huge picture of a person’s face. Seriously; thinking of your “user” as actual people (with real faces) is powerful.

2. Sit down with your customer while they use your product.

One gentlemen in the room made the very awesome comment that, if possible, you should sit next to one of your customers while they use your product. That’s awesome advice. For those of us out there who build internal tools for our respective companies, this is a very simple thing to do. While I’m in Kansas City let’s see if I can’t get my team member to work on the CMS I built for them – just by watching how they interact with the thing will tell me more than any feature request ticket that they could come up with.

3. Three-legged stool

One of the big ideas from Mr. Davidson’s talk was that a release process (and the development process in general) is a 3-legged stool:

  1. Deliver Value & Delight
  2. Improve Product & Processes
  3. Develop the Team

His point was that if you focus too heavily on one of the “legs” (or not enough on one) then you stool become unstable. There was also a sage comment made by another member of the group that went something like this: it’s likely the stool will “wobble” – though it should be a goal to not let the stool fall over, as it were.

There were many comments from leaders among the group about how they were guilty of ignoring some/one of the legs themselves.

Wrap up

In all, I’m very glad I decided to take an early flight out tomorrow so that I could make the trek over to Addison to meet with the DFW Scrum group. I met some good people and definitely learned some valuable things. I highly recommend this group to area developers and will definitely be making it over to my next meeting.

Note: I don’t use Agile/Scrum currently – but I did get a ton of utility out of this talk.

Developing Your Facilitation Skills

I’ve been talking to a number of Scrum Masters recently, specifically about their retrospectives.  They don’t know how to handle the group dynamics comfortably or how to design a fun yet productive meeting or how to deal with the issue that no one wants to bring up.  And as I talk with them about ways to address these, I remember my own path as a Scrum Master and how I grew my facilitation skills: I had experience facilitating meetings from college, I took training workshops after I graduated, and I read and applied what I read intently for each retrospective over a couple of months.  Planning and executing retrospectives became part of my craft, and I am thankful that I learned it because it has paid off tremendously in helping teams and Scrum Masters get better.

If you want to develop your facilitation skills, the Agile Coaching Institute is offering its Agile Facilitator class in Dallas on November 12-13.  It’s a wonderful course that provides techniques and practice–I attended it last year and came away with some new ideas on how to plan meetings that has been really beneficial!  For more information about the course, please visit the Agile Coaching Institute website.

Technical Excellence Takes Discipline

Scrum is the most popular agile framework, and part of what I like about Scrum is that it is elegant in its simplicity and does a great job of making things visible. And after years of seeing Scrum implemented in various organizations and talking to others in the industry, it’s clear that technical excellence is too often neglected by Scrum teams. As an Agile/Scrum Coach, I think it’s important to talk to teams and managers about more than what Scrum alone defines–we must have conversations about other practices and ideas to address the stuff that Scrum has made visible.  Technical practices must be in those conversations, regardless of our own technical backgrounds.

It seems like teams can create technical debt faster in agile than they did previously if they are not following good technical practices. Practices that ensure we are building the code right so it is “rigid in the right places and flexible in the right places.” This is important because successful software may suffer from performance punishment: it did well, so now it needs to do more. Which means that the initial benefits provided by Scrum can come to a screeching halt months or years later if teams are not continuously focused on technical excellence. If Agile is about “embracing change,” then an Agile codebase needs to be able to “embrace change.”

Our July Dallas meetup was titled, “Technical Excellence Doesn’t Just Happen-Igniting Craftsmanship Culture.” Mike Rieser and I co-presented our experiences with Flaccid Scrum and shared how we partnered as coaches to help an organization through a technical turnaround with some tips for others who need to do the same. In our experience working with multiple teams in a single codebase, developers can feel victim to a legacy codebase if only a few people are writing clean code or refactoring; guiding them on how to decrease technical debt while delivering their projects helps “unstuck” their other agile practices.  If you’re interested in learning more, tweet Allison or Mike.