Lean Thinking

Dave Martin  

Dave Martin

10 February 2014

To Task Or Not To Task

I have noticed a trend recently in the Scrum community of de-emphasising, or getting rid of entirely, the concept of Tasks. Teams are encouraged to just run with stories and no finer grained level of detail. I’m not sure this is a good idea. I do have to say here that when I say "tasks", I am not necessarily talking about technical tasks. A task (to me) is something of less than a days duration that needs to be done in order to get the story done. It could be a sub-story, a technical task or a single acceptance criteria, or whatever the team uses to break down the stories into smaller chunks.

One of the arguments for cutting out tasks is that it saves time in sprint planning. One scrum coach told me that “we can cut sprint planning down from 3 hours to just 45 minutes” by essentially cutting out the entire second part of the sprint planning meeting and just work out a list of stories to be done. That implies that the time spent breaking those stories down is waste. I don’t agree.

24 February 2014

Story Smells

Most agile teams these days organise their backlog into user stories. The user story isn't mandatory in any agile methodology but they have become the defacto standard for agile projects. There are many good reasons for this, not least of which is that a well written user story keeps the focus squarely on delivering something of value to the user. Many user stories though are not well written. It takes more than using "story normal form" - As a I want so that I can - to generate a good story.

Many of the backlogs I see are filled with stories that, frankly, stink. Bad stories don't keep the focus on what is important. They distract, confuse and mislead. There are some criteria like INVEST that we use to assess user stories and properly applied they make a big difference to the quality of the stories. They do take some time to learn and apply though so I'll give you a few quick tips to get started. Over the years I have come across a number of common mistakes that teams make when writing stories that cause their backlogs to stink –

Hi Folks

Hope the Holiday Season is a good one for you and yours.

I'm taking a break over the holiday season so the hoards of you who are waiting with baited breath for my next post (I can dream can't I?), will have to wait till February.

Have a Happy New Year!

Cheers

Dave

Published in Agile 1 comment

I do a lot of coaching at large companies. Big, monolithic, and often very conservative organisations. Organisations like that are very difficult to change. They have become big and successful by being conservative and risk averse. There is a lot of resistance and inertia. They may recognise the need to change. They may recognise the benefits of change. Actually making that change though, means taking risks and they just can’t quite take that step. They will fiddle around at the edges and do some cosmetic stuff, but actually changing into an organisation that embraces innovation and risk is just a step too far.

So how does a coach actually implement change in an organisation like that? By making a small change that changes the behaviour of the organisation in a way that drives more change. Let me explain –

02 December 2013

Let's Get Physical

At work I do a lot of stuff. I help teams produce software that is used by millions of people. When I am home on the weekend I do more work, but it's different work. I work with my hands producing things. Physical things. Although what I do at work is valuable (far more valuable in dollar terms than my attempts at DIY) I almost feel more of a sense of satisfaction at seeing a finished thing worth $50 roll out of my workshop than a million dollar project roll out of one of my teams. Because it's real. Because I can touch it and pick it up ( well, maybe pick it up... some of them are quite heavy). Because it is a physical thing.

I react differently to physical things than I do to electronic things. Maybe this is because I am not in my first flush of youth and don't qualify as a "digital native". Maybe to younger people, electronic stuff feels just as real as physical things but I doubt it. People are hardwired to treat things they can see and touch as more real than things they can't. Even in the physical world. People will often take the single chocolate bar they can see now, rather than wait for ten chocolate bars that are waiting in the next room. The one they can see is more real than the ten they can't.

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