Minimum Viable Performance

Today is significant to me.

12 years ago, today, I started working full-time. I tested medical devices, mostly manually, working my way up a ladder to get “Senior” in my title. Towards the end, I dabbled in Agility as a part-time Scrum Master for my team.

6 years ago, today, I changed careers. I was a full-time Scrum Master for a couple of distributed teams, working my way through much learning and self-discovery to get “Agile Coach” as my title. Lately, I’ve dabbled in performance as a podcaster.

Today, I want to mark a new career episode.

Continue reading Minimum Viable Performance

Awesomify Your Retrospectives

Stale Retrospectives? Try Tasty Cupcakes!

And by that, I mean go on over to TastyCupcakes.org for ideas on different Retrospective formats. Just remember that the goal is one piece of Kaizen: one actionable item of improvement to try during the upcoming Sprint.

(I’ve said “piece of Kaizen” as a phrase a lot, such that at one gig it was misheard as “pizza Kaizen”, which got everybody repeating it. Hey, whatever works, amirite?)

One retro format I’ve enjoyed facilitating is the Spotify Health Check. Yes, there are articles that are closer to the source than the one to which I’m linking, but this is the one off of which I’ve worked.

(Yeesh, you try not ending a sentence with a preposition.)

I won’t repeat the mechanics here, but I will say I’ve giddily enjoyed reading aloud the aspirational description of each metric, the ability to show trends across time per team, and the ability to show trends across all teams per metric.

The metrics add focus to the discussion, on which I capitalize by offering up to discuss the highest rated ones, the lowest rated ones, the ones with the biggest change from last time, and the ones that are most polarizing (large number of positive and negative ratings) – the team chooses which ones to address, and the discussion order. These retrospectives become genuinely interesting, where the gathering phase can take 8 minutes, with practice.

And who’s to say these 10 metrics are sacred? I’ve had a team add a metric, truly making this format their own. Granted, it was the name of the team’s co-op student (intern), but Brendan took it like a champ.

The downside is that, after a few Sprints, this gets boring. For all my love of metrics and inspecting trend data, the teams found retros getting stale again, so I pleaded for us to invest in the 8 minutes every other week, and then move on to another retro format.

Want another Retrospective format? Bruce McCarthy uses Three Awesome Questions. I’m a big fan of his book Product Roadmaps: Relaunched – reading this was my second education in Product Management, the CSPO class being my first.

Here’s that retro format in Bruce’s words:

On a scale of 1-5, how awesome is it being at this company? On this team? And how how awesome is the work you were able to do this sprint (or since the last time we did a retro)?

We record those numbers, then also whatever comments the people have on each rating. We do this silently and anonymously, then share all the info for discussion.

We try to extract themes from the comments of things that are impeding our sense of awesomeness at any level. We pick 1-2 of these to focus on, then brainstorm ideas for addressing (even a little) each. We pick 1-2 ideas to implement and assign an owner.

Most of this is facilitated via our app, but it can be done with stickies and a white board. It’s just harder to track over time and across teams, and thus less useful for agile coaches or management. More info on the app can be found at www.awesomeness.team.

Bruce McCarthy, in an email to me

There. Two Retrospective Formats. You’re welcome.

This is All So Strange, so Give Yourself a Sprint Zero

Have you seriously paused since being told to work from home (because of the Coronavirus) (to enact Social Distancing) (to #FlattenTheCurve)?

Have you seriously paused since your kids’ school closed and now they’re home with you for more of the week, with fewer to no day care options?

Have you seriously paused since your state governor issued a stay-at-home order?

Have you paused at all?

My 4.5-year-old daughter calls this, “an unusual time,” likely because that’s how we’ve craftily termed it at home, and I’ve found that my habits & projects & routine & …’life stance’ are either out of whack, or …not internally aligned. Has your daily & weekly schedule been thrown for a loop?

When school then business then social closures occurred, I folded each event in, like being told the train would be delayed: it’s annoying, now super-annoying, now super-duper-annoying, but I’ll simply adjust my daily & weekly goals & expectations, that’s all, ain’t no thang. Who am I kidding? This is a thang. Have your goals & expectations been more than simply adjusted?

In Scrum terms:

  • Kaizen is not enough – this time is too unusual for small experiments in continuous improvement
  • Cancelling a Sprint is not enough – this time is too unusual for stopping, and then regrouping, and then doing Sprint Planning
  • Sprint Zero feels better – this time is too unusual for anything other than an effort in re-teaming & re-chartering

I recommend seriously pausing. I mean, I’m still doing work-related stuff, and I’m still supporting the school for which I’m on the board, and I’m still the husband & Papa of my family, and for everything else, there’s MasterCard I’m seriously pausing, if for nothing other than to grieve the normalcy that was lost, to take a breath and look around with eyes wider open, and to decide how I want to conduct myself given I have access to good health, friendly faces under a roof, a roof, a fridge of food, healthy food, funds to float us a few months, solid internet access for FaceTiming with my daughter’s friends, water, and toilet paper.

This time is not normal.

This is not a tweak, or a series of tweaks, from a month ago.

This time is seriously different. (I mean, we don’t have WWII-style posters saying how it’s our Patriotic Duty to stay at home) (yet)

Seriously pause.

Seriously pause, be introspective, and figure out how the fuck you want to conduct yourself for these next few months.

And then in a week, pause again, ’cause that shit sure didn’t stick.

POST-SCRIPT

And ain’t this the Agile thing to do?

  • Do stuff.
  • Get feedback.
  • Now ready yourself to do stuff again, incorporating that feedback.

So pausing, while disruptive, is Agile, just at a larger time-scale than Scrum tends to talk about it.

Oh, and know how to wash your hands.