Monday, 26 May 2014

Upcoming Events: May 29 and June 10

Upcoming events for Agile South Coast...


May 29 2014 is the next meeting at the Unicorn Training HQ in Bournemouth. It will be a Lean Coffee session, and I'll be coming along hoping to talk and learn about Lean ideas in Agile. I'm sure that Adrian H will correct me on my terminology every time I confuse Lean, Lean Startup, and Lean UX!

I'd also like to talk about story points in Scrum. If you work in a Scrum team and you estimate stories in Points (or "Ideal Days"), do you re-estimate the points for a story that starts to look time consuming when you look at it in detail during sprint planning?

If there's anything Agile that you'd like to share or ask about, just register (free) via the EventBrite link and come along!

Free registration via EventBrite:


In Southampton Dave Mace suggested that we should run a Games Night at the next ASC session at the Ordnance Survey HQ. We're going to try out some collaboration activities and learning activities that should be a lot of fun and good to take back in to our own teams. 

That's on June 10, select the right date in the drop down on this page to register for free: 


Finally, here's one that's likely to be of interest to people here: an Open Space Discussion on the #NoEstimates ideas that started on Twitter. That's in Basingstoke on May 27. A busy couple of weeks!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

What is a Servant-Leader? [ASC Southampton 2014-05-13]

What makes a good Servant-Leader?

The final topic of three discussed at the Agile South Coast meet up at the Ordnancy Survey HQ in Southampton on May 13: What makes a good Servant-Leader?

Scrum Masters are often described as "Servant-Leaders to the Team", but the question doesn't directly reference scrum masters, so our discussions weren't constrained to the Scrum Master role. 

First up is to agree that what Servant Leadership is! "Leadership without authority", or perhaps "Leadership without exercising power" seem reasonable.

Commonalities from our discussions were that a good servant leader would be
  • Humble (seeking to collaborate and serve)
  • Available (present and approachable)
  • Inspiring and Influential (charismatic, well connected)
  • Empowering (coaching and mentorship)
  • Knowledgeable and Experienced (able to provide direction and vision)
Check the white-board photos for the full range of ideas from the group on the night. Also, see this great link that John Barratt found after the event: The Best Leaders are Humble Leaders

Are you a servant leader? How does it guide the way that you work with the people in your team? 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Do You Need an Agile Coach to Become Agile? [2014-05-13]

How to Introduce Agile Processes and Practices Without an Agile Coach

We met in the smart new Ordnance Survey HQ in Southampton
Here are my thoughts on the second of the three topics discussed at the May 2014 Agile South Coast meet up in Southampton. Three groups of 5-7 discussed this separately, and spent a few minutes presenting conclusions back to the full group at the end of the evening.

It was another topic suggested in advance via the Agile South Coast LinkedIn Discussion Group.

How could you introduce agile to your organization without an Agile Coach or agile experience in the organization? (Give specific examples.)
Although it would be interesting to understand why the question says that there is no Agile Coach, we couldn't get clarification. In my discussion group there was a response that the obvious solution was to get an Agile Coach :)

If we admit defeat on that (perhaps if the upfront cost is too big), at least one person in the organization is going to need to become an Agile Coach. And I suppose we have to rule out paid training for that person or people too! That was pretty much my first experience introducing agile processes in to the software development team inside a growing Enterprise Content Management company. It was not supported by any (paid) Agile Coaching or consultancy, and it was a difficult experience!

Looking back, I maybe didn't realise that I would need to become an "Agile Coach", I thought that I could just tell my colleagues about some cool new practices that I'd learned about, and off we would go. Another unexpected challenge was not realising that others in the business were learning about Agile and looking to reorganize us developers - a little lack of communication leading to friction there.

So with the benefit of the insight of the Agile South Coast participants, here are our suggestions for introducing Agile to an organization without paying for an external Agile Coach:
  • Find the people in the organization who are interested in change, or becoming agile, and discuss what you want to achieve
    • Identify your start point
    • Identify where you want to be (clear goals)
    • How broad and deep is the organizational buy-in?
  • Find people who will become the agile coaches, people capable of coaching and with time to research and understand the challenges and approaches
    • Self-aware, servant-leaders
    • Keep discussing what you find, and relate it to your own context
    • Consider your organizational culture
      • Delegation is good
      • Remove negative influences
  • Just do it!
    • Find on-line resources, great content is free on YouTube and elsewhere
      • The short Agile Manifesto gives you 4 values and 12 principles to judge your process by
      • The free 13 page Scrum Guide pdf - Scrum is a very common starting point, and many people can't distinguish Scrum and Agile - it's helpful to know what Scrum is
      • I keep a little YouTube playlist of some of the Agile Process presentations that I've found useful - some really excellent content in there!
    • Read some of the great books on Agile and related processes and practices
      • I got great value from the book 'Agile Estimating and Planning' by Mike Cohn; also 'Agile Retrospectives' by Esther Derby, but there are many other great books and in a field of continuous improvement, more great ideas being shared constantly
    • Pilot project or team as champions or a "beacon"
    • Extreme Programming (XP) Practices
      • Co-location
    • Introduce ideas through games: XP Game; Lean Game
    • Make changes in small steps
      • Kanban process improvement ideas: start from what you have and make small evolutionary changes
If you think we missed anything (or I didn't pull out any particular idea from the session), let me know in the comments. Thank for your time reading this, and thank you to everyone who comes and shares their views, knowledge and experience at our Agile South Coast meetups!

Here are the three flip charts created by each of the groups on the night...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Scrum Master: Selling the Role [ASC Southampton 2014-05-13]

Elevator pitch for the role of Scrum Master

Disclaimer: These are my notes on a topic from the Agile South Coast meet-up in Southampton in May 2014. They are unlikely to represent the views of other attendees, and by the time you read this, they are possibly no longer my own views either!

We met in the smart new Ordnance Survey HQ in Southampton

Topic 1 of 3 up for discussion was the following question and challenge:

What responsibilities does a Scrum Master have? Explain this to a non-Agile trained CEO or Marketing professional 

As usual we split to smaller groups to discuss each question, and summarised our views back to the full group at the end of the evening.

I've put pictures of each group's flip charts at the bottom of this post. Because the person who suggested this topic was not in our group to explain it we decided to interpret it as "Give your 30 second 'elevator pitch' for selling a new Scrum Master role to a busy CEO." We didn't quite get to that stage on the evening, but  here's my elevator pitch distilled from what we spoke about:

Scrum is a process framework that provides transparency in software development, and enables better predictability and efficiency in delivering valuable new features to customers. In order to do this the development process will change, and the organization will change to support this. 

As a Scrum Master I will coach the delivery team and business in fostering an Agile culture of continuous improvement. Day to day I will facilitate the planning and collaboration necessary for the team to estimate the effort required to deliver new value, learn from the work that they do, and respond to learning and changed requirements during their work. 

(The words above do assume that a Scrum Master is intending to follow the Scrum process framework, and that the business in question delivers value by creating new software - neither are necessarily true.)    

What would your 30 second executive elevator pitch be?

Here are pictures of the flip-charts from each of the 3 groups that discussed this topic: