Category Archives: sprint planning

Regularly Scheduled Chaos

Oh – hey! I almost didn’t see you there. You know. From up here on the bandwagon. The view is great. But you’re not here for that. You’re here ‘caus-

Snake Oil! Snake Oil! Snake Oil! Get some now! It’s great for what ails ya! Anything! Anything at all! Grandma got bunions? Papi got the sniffles? Then Snake Oil is for you! Apply directly to the forehead! Snake Oil!

Geez, don’t you hate that? Here we are, having a nice conversation, you down there, me up here, on the bandwagon, out where the deer and the antelope play, and out of nowhere we get interrup-

Fording a river? Who isn’t nowadays! For these hazardous trips, don’t risk it! Leave it to the experts! Let us at Caleb’s help you with some of our special caulk! Caleb’s Caulk! Don’t leave home without it! Caleb’s Caulk!

…interrupted. You can’t predict these things. (Unless, of course, you can …at which point please help me with trading Bitcoins.) You just have to be ready to roll with it (chaos), and I recently learned how after my last sprint (scheduled life).

See, Sprint 141 was my first one back after not doing any disciplined self-Scrumming, so I planned to do all this stuff. I had all this energy at my personal Sprint Planning session, where I looked over my Product Backlogs, grabbed the top-prioritized stories, threw ‘em into the Sprint Backlog for Sprint 141, and was all like, “Yeah! I’m gonna DO this! Do it all! All the things!”

Yyyyyeah – no. I did not.

My Sprint 141 velocity was 37 points, which is respectable for me (more on how I’ve assigned points to personal/ScrumOfOne stories in a future post), but in the Retrospective, I looked at the stories associated with those 37 points, and noticed two things:

  1. I didn’t get done even half of what I had planned for that two-week period.
  2. I got a lot of other stuff done.

This ‘other stuff’ was mainly in reaction to unforeseen …interruptions, e.g., a buddy visiting, striking while the iron is hot for a surprise date, sudden extra work at …work.

So there I was, at my own personal Retrospective, feeling both good and bad at the same time. Good because I got a decent amount of stuff done – I was productive! Bad because half of my accomplishments weren’t from the planned Sprint Backlog, which meant they weren’t the top-priority… the things that would move me most towards the respective visions per personal Product Backlog – I was not efficient!

This last part is a downer. It’s a downer because I had done this all the time: planning to do a set of things over two weeks, and at the end of the two weeks, never getting them done. I have thus been injecting into my own life regular opportunities to show myself that I can’t get done what I planned, snowballing evidence of my inability to both commit and commit to myself! What’s a mother to do?

For just such situations (corporate teams encounter this, too), Scrum co-founder Jeff Sutherland recommends something called the ‘Interrupt Pattern‘. Essentially, be flexible to sudden direction changes by planning for less. Sprint Teams can do this by adding a buffer of points into their planned velocity, where this buffer is a placeholder for stories that suddenly crop up, like dealing with hot issues from a customer or a freak Y2K bug that was latent for 14 years.

For ScrumOfOne-rs like me, this means committing to fewer stories at the Sprint Planning, knowing that I will make up the rest of my bi-weekly productivity with either tactical accomplishments (reacting to life – stuff just came up) or strategic accomplishments (living proactively – stuff off my Product Backlogs).

This improvement to Sprint Planning was the more interesting Kaizen to come out of the last Retrospective. The piece of improvement I’m applying to this Sprint 142 is to push daily to complete a planned 1-point story. This ensures I’m doing something each day to refine myself. Today, that 1-point story is pumping out the weekly blog post.

Tomorrow, that 1-point story might well be to buy some of that caulk I’ve heard so much about…

How Not To Forgive Myself

Two guys walk into a bar. (Ooh, a joke…) One guy says, “Hey man, good to see you again.” (Alright, so this next part will be the funny part…) The other guy says, “Hey man, I don’t entirely want to be here.” (…well that was hardly worth a chuckle)

That’s what I actually said to him! Was that rude? (Oh, it’s not a joke, Merrill’s the second guy.)

At my Scrum Product Owner training session over three months ago, I met a Product Owner, started talking about my application of Scrum to Personal Development, heard how he was into using Scrum for Professional Development, and then took the conversation back up a couple of days ago. (A man-date?)

So when I told my buddy that I didn’t want to be there (“I was being a wicked rude jerk-face”), it was in the context of how I see a necessary level of forgiveness from the Product Owner in ScrumOfOne. In ‘regular’ Scrum, this is analogous to the practice of building a buffer into Sprints: a reservation of a part of the velocity for things the team or Product Owner decides to get done that arrive mid-Sprint. (You mean you can’t stick to a plan for a full Sprint?)

It’s because you can never plan what opportunities may arise or what fires may suddenly need putting out – and definitely not for a full Sprint. (Oh.) Thus, I almost NEVER fully follow through with what I set up at my ScrumOfOne Sprint Planning meeting. (And what, you beat yourself up for this?)

And I feel bad (oh) because I see these remaining Sprint Backlog items at the end of two weeks, staring me in the face from the glowing rectangle that lives in my pocket. (‘Glowing rectangle’, that’s funny.) This is what I brought up with my buddy. (Did you mention how you talk to yourself in your own blog posts?)

By me grabbing a drink with him, I’m NOT doing something I had already set up for myself. The forgiveness comes in if I ultimately believe that the activity I DO do (tee-hee) is effectively a story that gets me closer to some vision for myself. By chatting up somebody in the thick of promoting Scrum at corporations, I knew I would learn a tonne (the metric ton, good choice) about the various adoptions of the framework, and I think we were able to devise some concrete next steps for getting professional development underway where he is.

(I get it: doing the man-date meant you didn’t do stuff on your Sprint Backlog, but in the larger picture, it’s all good.)

So now here is my struggle: I want to replace the notions of forgiveness and anxiety over not accomplishing carefully prioritized stories towards building the product(s) of me, with the notion of judgement-free doing.

Yes, I’m trying to weave the Taoist concept of Wei Wu Wei (effortless action), or at least a consequence of this idea, into ScrumOfOne.

Suggestions?

(Yeah, he needs all the help he can get!)

Kaizen Story

As I’ve worked with Scrum in a context that is not software development, I’ve come to define Scrum thus:

Scrum is a framework for getting stuff done that embraces change, while promoting transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

You get transparency from the Daily Stand-Up meeting (this is called the Scrum, too), and both the Sprint Burndown Chart and the Release Burndown Chart. Everybody starts the day on the same page, blockers are identified, and outside parties are privy to the progress during the Sprint and towards a release-worthy product; these are formats for easy sharing and digesting of Sprint-related information.

From all the data being laid out from the Burndown Charts, we can get inspection. The Sprint-end demonstration (part of the Review) also allows for a frequent check on the state of the software and acceptance of the stories done during the Sprint: inspection of the work. Inspection of the process is done during the Retrospective.

And the Retrospective is THE place where adaptation is determined. After inspecting the process, using methods I’ve mentioned in the previous two posts, we ideally get a somewhat prioritized list of stuff we either want to keep, stop, or start doing: a backlog of adaptation options.

Now, we pat ourselves on the back, go straight into Sprint Planning, and restart the Sprintly cycle.

And fail.

I mean, if we just come up with a list of ways we can get better, but don’t really do anything about it, then the Retrospective was a jolly ol’ waste of time. Does this sound like post-mortem meetings you’ve been a part of? Were they called ‘Lessons Learned’ meetings? See, I passionately dislike that term, ‘Lessons Learned’. You cannot say you’ve properly learned your lesson unless you repeat a situation and then exhibit ‘better’ behaviour, thus proving that you have indeed learned your lesson. Until then, you’re just talking about ‘how it all went’, an ‘Issues Encountered’ meeting, sharing what you’d do better next time.

The Retrospective is different.

At the top of the backlog of adaptation options, there must be an immediately actionable process improvement that can be implemented. How to ensure you do this? Make it a story for the upcoming Sprint: the Kaizen Story. Kaizen? Yeah, it’s Japanese:

Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. Kaizen literally means ‘improvement’.

So, via Kaizen, we adapt. Via the Kaizen Story, a properly formed Sprint backlog item with points and acceptance criteria… and is independent, negotiable, valuable, ‘estimatable’, sized to fit, and testable… and is otherwise meeting a Definition of Ready for stories, the team is constantly working on improving the Scrum process, specifically using a measure uncovered and set by the team itself. (What’s that? At the back of the room… is that… is that the ‘self-management’ flag being waved? Why yes. Yes it is.)

I don’t have a clever way to end this post besides expressing how I think this idea is just so damn cool: Scrum becomes a framework for both getting stuff done and for improving how stuff gets done.

Genius.

Visualizing Via Pinterest

Crap, I’m addicted. I mean, I was addicted, but only for the whole evening yesterday.

Pinterest is a site to post linked pictures, organized by ‘boards’. Simple. It’s popular enough that when you’re reading an article that features a picture, right next to those buttons where you can Tweet it or Facebook it (that’s a verb now?) or Google Plus it (Google add it?), you can now Pin it to a board of yours.

What’s so (P)interesting about this?

I now have suit coats because I wandered in Marshall’s and knew what to look for. I knew what to look for because between Sprints (during my Sprint Planning), I read over all of my Product Backlog. Sure, this takes a few minutes, but it’s worth it – it reminds me of the person I want to be via clear (and Independent and Negotiable and Valuable and ‘Estimatable’ and Small and Testable) stories to get there. One of those stories for an awesome me was amassing a collection of suit coats. This wish comes from what I think is a better version of “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”

Dress as the man that I want to be.

And how did this get onto my Product Backlog / master-list-of-what-makes-up-a-future-and-awesome-Merrill? I sat and thought, like Pooh Bear, and wrote it down. I visualized and wrote it down. What does Pinterest give me? A way to visualize (and find online or snap a pic of something) and pin it up. It’s a vision board. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne covers this, where you work with The Law of Attraction to bring to you what you want, which only really works with some deliberate measure if you know what you want.

So, in the Scrum spirit of things, I’ll be transparent (shameless?) and share my Pinterest boards, so you can see how I use them as vision boards:

http://pinterest.com/mblamont3

Happy pinning!