April Dallas Recap: What Makes a Good Team Room?

A big thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to this meeting!  This session was all about sharing our experiences with team rooms—the challenges in creating them, characteristics that make for good team rooms, and even having breakout spaces where team members can work solo or in smaller groups as needed.  A few members shared photos of their team environments, and Ty captured notes on the whiteboards of the group discussion:

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March Dallas Recap: Building Continuous Delivery

Allen Moore, QA Strategist

Allen Moore, QA Strategist

Continuing on a theme of QA/testing, in March we had DFW Scrummer Allen Moore share his experience in implementing continuous delivery.  The full title of the session was “Building Continuous Delivery: A Retrospective (or how a QA Strategy succeeds without any “QA” personnel).  His story is particularly interesting as he is the only person with “QA” in his title at his company—Allen is a QA Strategist and defines the quality processes, cultivates a culture of quality, builds continuous delivery and automated testing frameworks and educates the team in testing practices and habits.

For the past two years Allen has worked with a great team to define and implement continuous delivery, and his presentation reflected what worked well and what he would do differently next time.  It was a great example of how people can work together to learn new skills, implement new technologies, and improve processes to deliver higher quality product to better serve customers’ needs.  Thank you, Allen, for sharing your experience and expertise with us!

February Dallas Recap: Discover the Power of Pair Testing

In February, we were fortunate to have DFW Scrummer Pradeepa Narayanaswamy present at our Dallas meeting. Agile teams are expected to deliver high quality product, and team members become more cross-functional and take ownership of quality. To address scarce testing talents within a team and an effective way to become more cross-functional, team members can pair up on testing efforts to ensure the shared eye on quality and learning.

Pradeepa talked about several pairing options and opportunities between various specialties in an agile team:

  • A programmer and a tester pairing can lead to clearer unit test names in plain English
  • Two testers pairing can lead to more comprehensive tests
  • A Product Owner and a tester pairing can lead to better acceptance criteria on product backlog items
  • A tester and operations pairing in a DevOps context can lead to better sanity tests/release testing for a smoother deployment
  • A UX person and a tester pairing can lead to better design of non-happy path scenarios

That’s a lot of greatness that can come from having a tester pair with someone! Each pairing greatly supports providing faster feedback and producing high quality product as a team. And to get started, Pradeepa shared a couple of tips:

DFW Scrum February

December Dallas Recap: Scrum and the 3 Pillars

To wrap up 2014, we reviewed scrum and the three pillars of empiricism—a topic that could be considered foundational to deeply understanding the framework and one that is often overlooked in favor of focusing on practices.  From the Scrum Guide:

Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known.

In order to do better today than we did yesterday, we need to not only learn new things but also remember what we’ve learned before. This topic offered a bit of something new and something old for our attendees.

DFW Scrum-AndyDFW Scrummer Andy McKnight presented the night’s topic and included a group game: without use of a thermostat, determine what types of things you would take into consideration to maintain the temperature in a 20×20 room. How would you inspect and adapt to maintain the temperature? The ideas from the group were quite creative!

A thermostat inspects and adapts, and it provides transparency. These are the three pillars of empiricism that are the basis of scrum.  According to Ken Schwaber and David Starr,

Opacity when inspecting an Increment is like covering a thermostat with a cold, wet washcloth. The thermostat doesn’t have the correct understanding of the actual room temperature, and would incorrectly initiate heating when it should be cooling.

 

Without transparent Increments, the stakeholders don’t have a correct understanding of what is actually happening, and may incorrectly take actions that don’t make sense.

 

In short, without full transparency, the ability of the teams to inspect and adapt effectively is lost.

Without empiricism, we run the risk of this:

I prefer meeting with fellow DFW Scrummers to enjoy this:

DFW Scrum-cupcakes

Thank you to everyone who attended our meetups in 2014. This year saw the expansion of our group with the addition of a second location, and more of our members helped by facilitating small group discussions, answering questions and sharing experiences, and presenting topics. We are blessed to be part of such a strong and thriving agile community, and we look forward to seeing you in 2015!

November Dallas Recap: Relative Sizing and Estimation

DFW Scrum-TyAre you familiar with relative sizing and estimation? They are are generally accepted Scrum practices. Even though many Scrum teams do some form of estimation, it can be a confusing topic to explain. Why are these oft-used practices so difficult, and how can we broach the subjects with our own teams to ensure we’re on the same page? To help us answer these questions, our own Ty Crockett gave a brief presentation and then opened the topic further for small group discussions.

Ty helped us start at the beginning: why do we estimate? There are many possible reasons why estimates may be wanted. Our stakeholders want estimates for forecasting purposes. We can use estimates as an indicator for risk and to highlight where we need to have further conversations. Perhaps most importantly, having team members estimate work can gauge whether or not we have a shared understanding of the work. And in some cases, we simply want an idea of how much effort something is to get an idea of how much we can do.

With that in mind, we moved onto the next challenging question: what is a story point? The short answer is that it’s the unit of measure commonly used for relative sizing. Story points allow us to compare items to one another to determine their size. Hours are problematic because the focus is often on precision rather than accuracy, and team members might complete the same tasks at different rates—how could a team ever agree on estimates in hours? As Mike Cohn notes, “story points are helpful because they allow team members who perform at different speeds to communicate and estimate collaboratively.” When estimating in story points, a team might consider complexity, effort, annoyance, or skill; the important thing is that the team members agree on what factors to consider when estimating.

Now that we know how big things are relative to one another, we can look at how much a team can get done over time. We can track how much the team is getting done each sprint, look at velocity trends, and forecast how long it will take to complete work in the product backlog. And we can do it with an easy-to-understand graph!

Those are the basics of relative sizing and estimation, and Ty provided more depth to the topic during our meeting. His slides are available on the DFW Scrum meetup site. Ty is an active member of DFW Scrum and is happy to talk more about relative sizing and estimation.

October Dallas Recap: Don’t DO Agile…

2014-10-21 19.07.27We kicked off the fourth quarter in Dallas with an entertaining and enlightening presentation by Bob Schatz on “being” agile rather than “doing” agile. Bob is a long-time Certified Scrum Trainer, and his passion for creating motivated teams was clear. Applying agile practices won’t automagically make your projects successful or your customers happier, but being more agile by using improved techniques can make a big difference. The truth is you have to have the right people on your teams, and expectations of employees have changed. Gone are the days of wanting people to do only as they are told; we want employees who will treat work as a practice. We want professionals who practice with purpose. Being professional is not the same as being obedient. We need people who will seek new ideas and not just answers.

2014-10-21 19.07.12

We want to create a winning culture that motivates people for better and create empathy for customers. Let’s design the organization to deliver and satisfy the customer. When do you want to find out customers don’t want your software? Find out earlier. We want to focus on quality in everything we do, which means always looking for a better way. By changing our mindsets to be more agile, we can deliver better.

September Dallas Recap: Integrating UX and Agile

This month was focused on one of the challenges commonly faced in agile adoptions: how to integrate UX and agile. We saw many new faces at our meeting, which confirmed what a hot topic this is. David Belcher, Director of User Experience at Improving Enterprises, shared his personal experiences and answered questions throughout the evening. As he reviewed the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of uniting the UX processes with Agile, it was clear that there is no simple answer.

If you missed the session and want to know ideas for a successful UX and agile merger for a project team, there is a video of this same presentation available online from the AgileDotNext Houston conference (thanks to usergroup.tv):

About David Belcher: 
David is a Consultant and Director of User Experience at Improving Enterprises. He has over 10 years of experience doing UX and most of that time has been working on Agile teams. UX is David’s passion and enjoys doing everything from user research, visual design and even gets into front-end development. When he is not working enjoys life and tries to live it the fullest by traveling and learning new things.