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Posts Under "Agile"

4 Ways to Shorten a Project Schedule
By Alan Zucker
Every project manager can construct a good project schedule. Great project managers can take that same body of work and deliver it more quickly without reducing scope or compromising quality. The great PMs can cut 10%-25% from a schedule by understanding how teams work and where there are opportunities within the project plan itself. Parkinson's Law states, “Work expands to meet the time available for its completion." The project corollary is that tasks are not completed before their planned finish date. Project planning has deep roots in engineering principles. Henry Gantt (developer of the Gantt Chart) worked with Frederick Taylor... Read More»

5 Steps to Cultivating an Agile Culture
By Brian Irwin
We’ve all heard the maxim change is difficult. The reasons that change is hard are far too numerous to discuss in a single blog posting. My intent here is to specifically focus on organizational agile transformations and the difficulty of changing culture. Additionally, I want to leave you with some hope. While it is difficult, it is not impossible. There are steps that you can take as an individual that can help the organization as a whole move in the right direction. The 2013 VersionOne State of Agile Survey indicates the top three reasons cited by practitioners for adopting agile... Read More»

Are You Elegantly Solving the Wrong Problems?
By Brian Irwin
I recently read an interesting article by Mark Shead outlining how good we are at problem solving and how notoriously bad we are at identifying the correct problem to solve. That notion resonated with me in both personal and professional contexts. Being emotionally invested in outcomes can occasionally obfuscate the true underlying issues; or, if we are aware of the underlying issues, we might dare not address them directly for fear of the unknown (insert personal reason here). Alas, we attempt to address what we perceive to be the real issue which often turns out to be only a symptom... Read More»

Training Does not Equate to a Learning Organization
By Brian Irwin
In a recent discussion it became apparent to me that there may be a fundamental misunderstanding about what it is that defines a learning organization. The discussion was centered on how to help drive agile adoption throughout an organization. My revelation about the misunderstanding came when the individual mentioned that attempts have been made in the past to “institute organizational learning by bringing in agile training and supporting those who desired to attend. The organization was also supportive of individuals pursuing advanced degrees.” First, let’s discuss what a learning organization “is not”. Sending individuals, or teams, or departments to training... Read More»

First Things First: Scale Agile Values and Principles
By Brian Irwin
Over the past few years there’s been an interest in scaling agile to the enterprise. The desire to scale agile seems to have intensified over the last year. Almost without exception, every conference remotely related to software development and/or project management seems to have some presentation on the topic of scaling agile. While I don’t believe this is a bad thing, per se, I believe it misses the point on three levels. First, almost all of the discussions I’ve heard and most everything I read refers to scaling a process. I can understand why so many are looking at the... Read More»

Scrum is not Difficult; Abandoning the Familiar Is
By Brian Irwin
Scrum is one of the easiest frameworks to understand. I’ve heard it said that, while Scrum is easily understood, it’s difficult to do. While teams and organizations do struggle with Scrum, I tend to disagree with the wholesale statement that Scrum is difficult to do. One of the reasons I believe this statement came about is that teams and organizations aren’t realizing the benefits they originally expected they’d receive when first adopting Scrum. The Scrum framework is intentionally lightweight and easily understood. Struggling to implement something that’s easily understood is indicative of different issues. Before I get too deep into... Read More»

Agility Does Not Exist in the Absence of Organizational Learning
By Brian Irwin
I've become increasingly convinced that a lack of learning is one of the largest inhibitors of agile transformation results. One can argue that we are at, or nearing, the end of the knowledge era. Knowledge is ubiquitous. Simple possession of knowledge is not sufficient for either the individual or the organization. Today's rapidly changing business climate requires the coalescing of knowledge and experience into rapid learning that can be applied to problems and opportunities we can leverage for business value–quickly. The amplification of learning is a key principle in lean and agile methods. However, this is where traditional organizations making... Read More»

An Open Letter to Executives Leading Agile Transformations
By Brian Irwin
Dear Executive, Let me congratulate you on your decision to introduce agile methods within your organization. It is a wise decision that holds incredible potential for your employees, your company, and its customers. If you are just beginning your improvement, or are yet to begin, the journey upon which you are about to embark is one that will be well worth the effort. And it will take effort—long, arduous, and at times frustrating effort. Although Machiavellians do exist, my experience is that they are exceedingly rare. In general, people are good, honest, and hard-working and really want to do the... Read More»

Retrospectives and Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
By Brian Irwin
The tension is palpable and suffocating, as if a pillow is being held over my face in anticipation of drawing my last breath. The last team member enters the room and it’s time to begin. “Welcome to the sprint retrospective,” I say with conviction. Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself that I’m emotionally ready. Or, maybe I’m trying to be an insulator to the electricity of anticipation coursing through the team room. Welcome to the retrospective. For me, and many other coaches or ScrumMasters, the sprint review is the most difficult undertakings. Yet, in my view, it is one of... Read More»

Story Maps - Your Path to Product Success
By Brian Irwin
Personally, I tend to grasp things better visually. Tell me the directions to your house and, while I'll get there, it will probably take me longer and cause me more frustration than if you had also provided a map. It can also be helpful to create a map of functionality when developing products. In their simplest form, products are bundles of functionality that end users utilize for benefit. Early in the agile product development life cycle it can be very difficult to develop an initial prioritized product backlog of user stories. The story map is one tool we can use... Read More»

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