PBI (Story) MVP

Podcast on PBI jargon

I’m rather excited to write about this post this week. I recently had a few recommendations from friends to go and check out the new Netflix series called The Dark Crystal. Having spent my last weekend checking out the series, I can highly recommend that you also check this series out. Its a spin off of from the 1982 movie. I have included a Netflix trailer if you are interested in learning more about the new series.

The Dark Crystal Netflix Series Trailer

I’m going to do my best to not spoil the series for you and relate it back to our podcast episode. There is a race of Gelfling that are part of different clans. There are seven Gelfing clans: The Dousan, The Drenchen, The Sifra, The Spriton, The Stonewood and The Vapra clan. Each clans has their own traditions and a specific thing that they are known for across the region. From a viewership perspective, there is so much to uncover about the characters and customs. However, if we take a step back and look at the Skeksis, they view Gelfings as pretty much the same thing overall. They aren’t unique or special from a distance. Now what does that have to do with PBI’s in Scrum? Well from a standpoint of what do want to call our work on the teams? PBI is meant to show that there items in the backlog that need be done and worked on. Now there are some things that have flowed over from XP to now. For example Stories and Spikes. If you are in that boat, that okay. Just agree on what you will do. Check out our latest podcast to learn more. In addition I have included below a YouTube video about everything you need to about the new series on Netflix.

For huge fans interested in the making of The Dark Crystal Netflix Series

Carry Over Trap

Podcast about the carry over trap.
Running in a big crowd
Running from Capacity? Ouch, my knee hurts.

In the Carry Over Trap podcast we address problems that arise around carrying story points from sprint to sprint. In real life we face similar challenges. The most relevant topic that comes to mind is running. For those of you out there that run or workout this will help you make the connection.

Every so often, I commit to a running plan or goal that I want to achieve. If you want to try and do a half marathon or tri-workouts, there are plans out there that you can follow. For the first couple weeks the plans are relatively easy tasks to complete. As the weeks progress and your own work and life schedules compete for your time, your running or workout schedule slips. I’m sure you thought this before like me: “I can catch up by working out longer or run a little further tomorrow”. Eventually a day turns into days, and you are left wondering what happened. Usually I will end up overdoing the running part to catch up and injure my foot or knee. After a couple weeks to months I will have to start all over again. This is very relatable to sprints. Eventually everything that was supposed to be completed in previous sprints will burn through and the team will be left with a clean slate. The good news is that starting over in running and sprints can let your learn from the previous mistakes and avoid the problems that arose in the past. Our lastest episode tackles whether carry over is in fact always bad or is it okay in some cases. You can find the episode listed above. Below you will find a great short video that will talk about your future self taking on commitments you won’t be able to accomplish.

This episode is sponsored by MNRegister’s jobs page. MNRegister has the best local jobs, just for you! www.mnregister.com/jobs

Future us will know how to deal with the problem

Capacity Planning Pitfalls

Listen to avoid pitfalls.
Coffee bean bag over flowing with beans that has already reach capacity.
Reached capacity to hold coffee beans

With Spring Training in full swing again, we thought we would touch on how pitch counts in baseball relate to capacity planning in Agile. We have this notion that most Major League Baseball starting pitchers are going to go out and pitch 7 inning every outing. Sounds like a great plan, right? With the rise of statistics and data in baseball, most pitchers are limted to 100 pitches to prevent injury. The result, most pitchers are pulled way before 7 innings. If you team has a power pitcher on the mound, you may see the star go 5 innings a outing. Often fans are rooting for pitches to stay out on the mound and continue to shut out the opponent. Pitchers who are asked to go out and pitch more than the standard 100 pitch count end up giving up more runs then expected or get injured. We will hear about new pitching stars appear without a pitch count, but in a few short years later their careers are shortened or their skillset diminish.

Baseball mound meeting with a pitcher to swap a different pitcher in.
This pitcher has reached his capacity before he was able to complete his goal. Poor guy.

In Agile you can make the same mistake with your own teams. Its easy to burnout your team or not accomplish what your team had hoped for. In this latest episode about Capacity planning pitfalls we will address common mistakes made on teams. Hopefully you will be able to take away some new tools for your teams. Below we found a short video where Al Leiter talk about the importance of the pitch count and how this impacted his own career.

Al Leiter talks about the importance of pitch counts

Key to Stand-up

The good, the bad, and the stand up.
A man giving a presentation to a group of people
Interesting and engaging speaker

Have you ever attended a conference or watched a YouTube speaker that you were excited about listening to? We all have. Have you ever been disappointed as the topic goes into far too much detail? I think its happened to quiet a few of us. Thinking about the speeches that I’ve really enjoyed listening to were the ones that focused on th high level topic. Usually these speakers have rooms that are packed or are the videos that are highly downloaded. Often observed are many interactions between the audience and the speaker.

Now what does this have to do with Stand-ups? While its easier to operate a 15 minute time box robotically or drone on for a hour update. To truly make a ceremony effective in Agile, it has to be engaging. You want the collective team to stay engaged and actively eager to help each other out. Seems easy enough, but most teams tend to struggle with this. Listen to our latest podcast about what we have experienced. Its sure to be impactful. We have included a mock stand-video from YouTube to get a few laughs about things you may see in your own experiences.

Check out this funny video on a mock Stand-up

Charter of death

Charter of death podcast

FYI – This podcast is about Charters. It is not about death. We just wanted to have a little fun with the title.

A few years back I would home brew a batch of beer every now and then. Home brewing beer was fun but a lot of work. First you had to buy the ingredients. After that you needed to find several hours to brew. Lots of setup, cleaning, boiling, mixing, straining, cooling. After that you needed to have the batch ferment for a few weeks. Not done yet. Still need to bottle and clean up. Lots of work and guess what? My last batch failed. It was useless. Thus it was my last batch.

Charters are like home brewing beer in our opinion. Sometimes they workout, other times you should pour them down the drain. Doug and I think Charters can be useful but you better be thoughtful about why you are chartering and then adjust accordingly.

Home brewing kit that is a mess
This brewing equipment is the equivalent of a 4 page charter.

Are all your New Year resolutions “Must Haves”?

Why MOSCOW prioritization does not work
A image of success on how you have to go get it
Goals are the secret to success

I had time to reflect the other day about my own New Year’s resolutions. A couple months ago, I sat down and pondered what I wanted to accomplish in 2019. I thought to myself, “this will be my year to accomplish everything and redeem myself for past new years resolution flops”. The opportunties were endless for self improvement, I just had to narrow the choices down. The usual suspects flow out from pen to paper: spend less and save more, become more fit, workout, travel to a new place, become a better snowboarder and host a fun social soiree for friends. How could I not accomplish this all?

Fast foward to present day self, I was at local brewery with a group of friends. We stumbled upon a conversation about our 2019 goals. I was telling my friends about the plethora of goals I had set for myself. Much to my chagrin I got probing questions and troubled facial expressions. My best friend asks: “Do you think you can really accomplish all of the goals you set for 2019? They seem pretty lofty”. My answer was simple, why yes I do and they are all my priority. After all New Year equals new me.

Realizing not everything can be must haves on your list

It took this latest podcast on Moscow for me to realize my mistake. I simply priortized everything as my number 1, and had too may things on my plate to focus on. I’m happy announce that I have paired my list down to 3 priorties that I hope to accomplish this year. Those goals were simplified into: work on my fitness, save more money & spend less money on dinners out. By sliming the list down to something more manageable, I know I can to meet these without feeling overwhelmed. Often times, we all try to list out a million and one things we want to accomplish and it overwhelms us. We aren’t able to improve incremental chunks because of everything we choose to bite off. If you find yourself needing motivation, you can watch the Arnold Schwarzengger speech (below), to help find your own . I know this will be the year I get out of my rut, what about you?


Value is in the eye of the beholder

Value is in the eye of the beholder.

American Pickers is a TV show on the History Channel. Mike and Frank “earn a living by restoring forgotten relics to their former glory, transforming one person’s trash into another’s treasure.” They will go to a hoarders place and see something they really really want (high value). Usually Mike spots a vintage bicycle or motorcycle from early 1900’s. However the guys realize, in order to break they ice, they must go after lower priority items like old toys and oil can first. This tactic builds some trust with the collector, so after a full day of buying up toys, oil cans and signs they try their luck with their number 1 priority. Sometimes they are able to get the motorcycle, but other times they build that relationship so one day down the road they may be able to purchase the item.  

Examples of Mike and Frank obtaining their top priority items and how it turned out

This is a real life example of understanding top priorities but not going after the top priority right away. It sure is easy to say to go after high priority first, but sometimes the real world gets in the way. Doug and Jack talk about some reasons why Agile teams don’t always go after the high priority Roadmap items from the get go. Come check out our new episode, Value is in the eye of the beholder, that identifies why companies and teams don’t always tackle the highest listed Roadmap items right away.

A pile of clutter in a garage
The owner of this garage believes everything here is valuable. Wonder where he parks his car?

Interview – There is a place for BSA in Agile

Jeremy answers hard hitting questions.

Jeremy Mann is a professional contractor who hangs his hat on the BSA hat rack. While Jeremy’s passion lies with BSA work, don’t let that fool you. He is a Scrum Lord who can talk and teach scrum with anybody. 

This interview is geared at the work BSAs do in the Agile world. Jeremy makes his case for why BSAs are important. Here is list of questions asked and answered.

  1. What is the difference between a BSA and a BA?
  2. What value does a BSA bring to an Agile team?
  3. Who does the BSA work on a team with no BSA?
  4. What makes a BSA a good Agile BSA?
  5. Story formats. What does Jeremy use?
  6. What are keys to keep story mapping from spinning out of control?
The land of stored paper in the corner of some office.
The Island of Lost Story Maps.

Someone drew a line in the sand

Every morning you wake up and do the morning ritual. The order varies for people but the tasks are usually the same. Turn off the alarm clock. Stumble out of bed and get coffee. Go the bathroom. Stare at your phone and check your social media. Take a shower. Do your hair. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Pack a lunch. Have some breakfast. Stare at phone for a bit. Check the weather on TV or your phone. There are plenty of other things probably on your list if you have kids or pets (fish don’t count). The line in the sand is you want to be out the door by 7:45am.

Traffic with a funny message to drivers that they will be late
Agile deadlines

What happens when you forget to set the alarm. I know you are nodding your head yes because this has happened to all of us. Guess what? You still need to be out the door by 7:45am. And guess what? You did manage to get out the door by 7:45am and get all the stuff done you needed to get done. Sure you skipped a few things but you ended up getting into work on time and still managed to be presentable. I don’t care what you skipped but don’t ever skip brushing your teeth or combing your hair. Skip feeding the fish, they don’t eat much anyways. Skip staring at your phone. You’ll end up staring at it a dozen more times during the day.

Agile by the book says there are no hard deliverable dates. Teams figure out the work and the work drives the delivery date. This happens a lot but we have been faced with hard deadlines many times. Listen to what causes hard deadlines. We will propose our solutions to help you survive the deadline perils. Ensured to make your commute go by fast. 


Gold Rush or Gold Trap?

Gold mining or Metrics trap?

For those of you who are fans of Discovery, you may have stumbled upon Gold Rush. The TV show follows miners in the Yukon mining for gold. During the first season, Todd Hoffman, pictured, brings a crew from Oregon up north to Alaska to mine.

Todd Hoffman and his crew learn how to mine for gold in the tundra, eventually mining almost 1000 ozs of gold. Going into the fourth season, Todd, confident in the crew that he put together, takes them down to Guyana in search of gold. He’s confident in the data they have acquired and what potential drill holes have shown. However, he was lead into a trap! He comes home with a lofty 2 ozs of gold and almost gives up on mining entirely.

Based on the crew’s experiences in Guyana, one would think that the same mistakes would have been prevented in the future. Todd did over the course of two seasons go back and mine in the north where he found success on proven ground with over 3,000 ozs mined. With all the data before him, he again gained confidence with the crew he built. He took the information going into the next season to move the team to Oregon to for gold in the lower 48. Much to his dismay, every drill site supposedly having gold was almost barren. The crew left him and he was left wondering if he would ever mine again. Luckily for him, Freddy, a member of the team, found a site in Colorado to go mine. Going into the next season, Todd once again decided to roll the dice and mine in an area he was uncertain about. This season once again was a disappointment even though they mined over 1,500 ozs of gold. Todd had to pay up on a bet with Parker, who himself mined far more than Todd would have hoped.

What does this all tell us about Scrum Traps? When you focus on the delivery of the team, you will lose focus on what you are delivering. Todd’s crew may have run a lot of dirt through the wash plant, but in the end it didn’t yield the result they had hoped for when they moved to less proven ground. Come listen to our take on metrics and the traps that you can fall into.

For those of you wondering where Todd Hoffman is now after quitting Gold Rush, he is now pursing a singing career.


Velocity Schmelocity

Medieval sprint planning.

They say that the velocity of an agile or scrum team is the Holy Grail for agile metrics. We think that velocity is cool but not that cool. King Arthur would be disappointed in us. Velocity is filled with false positives that we will discuss. Working with velocity is an art, not a science or simple math equation.

Podcast about using velocity for sprint planning and estimating a release date.

Interview with an agile Tech Lead

Podcast interview with Doug the Tech Lead

In perfect agile world, all team members are clones of each other. While the secret labs are still perfecting the cloning process, the real world must deal with all different types of agile developers. Doug and Jack are believers in an agile team having a Tech Lead. The Tech Lead on an agile team can be delegated by title or by experience and personality but it’s important to have that type of developer on your team. Doug and Jack interview Doug the Tech Lead. This dude has been in the industry for a few decades and knows his stuff. Doug the Tech Lead is a humble guy but if all agile Tech Leads acted like Doug, the agile world would be a better place.

Doug, Doug Tech Lead and Jack
This isn’t a comedy. This is how Packer fans act in almost real life. Poor bastards…..
Weather dude

Notes for Another Time

Podcast on story notes
Getting a oil change

I had to ask myself what could possibly relate to our latest podcast on story notes. I’m sure glad that I decided to get my oil changed on my car today. I pulled up to a Valvoline Instant Oil Change near me. I waited in line for about 5 mins and pulled into the bay. There I was asked if I had been there before and what service I was looking for. The normal items came up in conversation like oil request and anything that was flagged in the carfax for recommended maintenance. They asked me if I wanted them to make a note about anything. I opted to have them remind me about an engine filter change the next time I stopped in and a tranmission fluid change in the next 15,000 miles.

Now you must be sitting there and thinking about how this all relates back. Well with anything, you need to make notes that are helpful to you. For example, next time I go in there will be the notes that we dicussed. I won’t remember what we talked about an if there are no notes then I wouldn’t maybe do the routine maintenance that my car requires. Check out our latest podcast about this exact subject. We don’t believe it is a straight forward as you may think. There is also a flipside of this point that we will touch on. Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Mother says bigger is not always better.

Podcast about large agile stories

A few months back I stumbled across Arrested Development on Netflix. I heard it was good so I started watching it. Great show. Straight up comedy with no attempts to be serious or heartfelt. I like that. Jason Bateman is outstanding as the son (Michael) who just tries to do the right thing but his family thwarts him at every step. I would like to think I am the Michael of my family but my mom says I’m more like Buster (she would say that).

Thats Buster on the left. He loves his mother.

There are 5 seasons on Netflix. It turns out the first 3 seasons aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006. Netflix picked up the show years later and made seasons 4 and 5. This makes complete sense to me as the first 3 seasons were comedic awesomeness. The characters were great and their lines were delivered the exact way that my sense of humor responds to.

Seasons 4 and 5 did not touch my funny bone. They didn’t even come close. The episodes didn’t really advance the storylines or the characters much imo and at the end of the day, the show just wasn’t that funny anymore. All good things must come to an end.

The problem was, Arrested Development didn’t end soon enough (season 3). Think of an agile story that is too big and bloated. It cannot get to done in a sprint and just keeps dragging on and on and on. Good agile stories are like Arrested Development seasons 1 to 3. They are enjoyable. Large agile stories (seasons 1 to 5) just go on past their time and lose their edge. I think this makes sense because no one wants to see an adult George Michael (Michael Cera) just like no one wants to work on a giant story that carries sprint to sprint.

Recipes don’t always make good stories

Podcast about story formats

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been doing a lot more cooking and baking. To be fair to Doug, this is Jack writing the blog. Doug is a young guy. Since I don’t have the “baking gene” nor the “delicate palette” I rely heavily on recipes. I’ve learned that some recipes work and some produce what taste like dog food. Sorry dogs but your food is terrible.

For instance, a good friend of mine gave me her ginger snap cookie recipe (see image). This recipe is rock solid. Do not change a thing. I have always loved ginger snaps, so trust me when I say follow the recipe.

I grew eating Chicken Chow Mein. Mom and dad would buy it (take out) and bring it back home. For years, my wife and I have been customers of D Fongs Chinese. In my brain, their Chicken Chow Mein defines the meal for me. I searched several Chow Mein recipes online and finally found one that might turn out like D Fongs. Nope. Terrible recipe. Not even going to share it with this small yet discernible audience. But it did give me a foundation of the ingredients. Since then, I’ve made several changes to the recipe and have come kinda close a few times where the meal was decent. The quest for perfecting that recipe continues.

Think of story formats like a meal recipe. If you like how things turn out and so does your audience, then keep following the recipe. If you or your audience is struggling with your story format, then maybe you should try cutting down on the soy sauce and add a little more corn starch to thicken things up a bit.

Bake for 9 to 10 mins.

Ginger snap baking notes.

Cream shortening and sugar together. Beat in egg until well blended. Add molasses. Then add flour and spices. Roll into 1 inch diameter balls and dip into sugar. Put on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes. You want to remove cookies from oven before the fall so that they remain soft. These freeze very well.

Do testers make good cleaners?

Podcast on agile QA

We recently did a kitchen and dining room remodel. We knocked a small wall down, readjusted the floor plan a bit and now we have a nice open floor plan. One of the finishing touches on this remodel was getting a big dinning room table that seats eight people. Now our house has a great setup to entertain and hold all the major family events like birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

One of the benefits from entertaining so many times, is we always do a thorough job cleaning the house the night before. We pride ourselves on keeping a clean house year round, but cleaning before a gathering forces us to take those extra little cleaning steps. Extra dusting, moving shoes and coats out of the entryway, organizing the coupon bin and important mail bin on the counter, extra thorough bathroom cleaning and just a better job of tidying things up.

My wife is a clean freak and first level germaphobe by nature so when she sets her mind to thorough cleaning she can sometimes get a little too thorough. I’m all about the thorough cleaning but I need to steer her away from cleaning the hidden corners of the guest bedrooms. It’s good to clean the shower floor but when cleaning for a gathering, just make sure the shower curtain is closed. Vacuum the hallway that leads to the washer and drier? Not needed at the moment. No guests will go there. Do that another day.

Hallway to nothing that important.

House cleaning is kind of like agile testing. The hardest part about being an agile tester is knowing what to test and when not to test. Testing the AC on a story seems like an easy concept. Evidently it’s not an easy concept per the conversations I have had about over testing stories. Take the time to find and educate your tester on what to test and what not to test. We don’t need to vacuum that abandoned hallway every day.

What flavor of agile coach do you want?

How to find your agile coach

The urge hits me around 730pm most nights. It’s been a bit since dinner and I want to have a snack. Not sure why this is. Was it something I learned from my dad? He always had a bowl of ice cream most nights. When I say he, I guess I mean we. Or maybe it’s natural to want a little sack before bed.

So when the snack urge calls and I answer, the question comes down to this, do I crave salty or sweet? As I’ve grown older, salty has been winning. Currently Chili Fritos is my achilles heel. Hard to stop eating them. BBQ Pringles are also a salty favorite. For sweet, Cheetos are my go to snack. Cheetos and me go way back.

Just wonderful.

If you are looking to hire an agile coach, you need to figure out what you want them to do because agile coaches come in different flavors. Don’t hire a salty coach if you want a sweet one.

Steve is a “promoter”.

Don’t tie yourself to a bad developer.

Podcast on finding an agile developer

What does finding the perfect tie have in common with our latest episode? Well actually a lot. Below you will see my amazing tie rack with all my great ties. I’ll admit it’s not the greatest collection of ties but they do the job. Recently I took a step back and looked at my ties. Good lord some of them were from the early 90s. My better half (my wife) advised me to get some more hip updated ties. She is my fashion muse and I’ve learned over the years to listen to her on certain things. This was one of those moments.

So I went tie shopping. While it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t easy. I had to think thru my wardrobe. What did I have for shirts? Thats important because fashion etiquette says plain ties with patterned shirts and patterned ties with plain shirts. I like that etiquette and followed it. Nothing to say I could wear patterned shirts with patterned ties but thats not me. Jack doesn’t roll that way. Doug might, but Jack won’t ever.

Looking for a developer to join your team is a lot like buying ties. Sure you want to find someone you like but also think about what is expected of them in an agile world. Do patterned developers look nice with a patterned team? So remember that you may have found the perfect developer but if they don’t fit your team, then it might not work like you expected.

Looking for a Agile BSA

Looking for an Agile BSA

The topic for today is a tough one in the real world to relate to, but I think I have the perfect example. With the football preseason is full swing and every fan across the country watching their team closely to see if their team will be good. For most fans, this is a chance to see the Quarterback their team: drafted, signed or traded for. For most teams, the season will be pinned on the hopes that they found their guy.

If you are a Cardinals fan (we pity you), then you most certainly know what I’m talking about. You signed Sam Bradford last year to see if your team could make the playoffs, while Rosen was drafted in the first round to be the future. Last year didn’t end like you maybe hoped, but this years draft led to your team trading Rosen to Miami and drafting Kyler Murray number 1 overall. Time will tell if this is in fact your future franchise Quarterback who can lead this team back to the playoffs. Comparisons of what RG 3, Lamar Jackson and Andrew Luck have done in their rookie campaigns will give hope to this years rookie class. However when the team is wrong about their choice at quarterback, then fans hope that next year will be better. The team that comes to mind is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, they got rid of Bortles for Foles to see if thats the answer.

Finding a QB is hard

Much like finding a Quarterback that will help the team move in the right direction is difficult, some teams just know what to look for from a future quarterback like the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. They stick to specifics around what skills they look for and what they want in player. I haven’t seen those teams reach, and will pass on players that don’t meet expectations.

Finding the right BSA for your agile team can be extremely tricky. Agile BSAs understand how to write good user stories. They understand the size of a story even before the team estimates it. They understand that their work is consumed by the team, not by the Product Owner. I think a good agile BSA is much like a great NFL quarterback, they are unicorns. You can find them but it isn’t easy.

This poor quarterback will never have a chance to succeed and he knows it.

Looking for a Product Owner

Podcast on hiring an agile Product Owner

Comparing a relevant topic to “Looking for a Product Owner” was a little tough this week. Good news, I do have something that relates. Its actually because I’m changing up my wardrobe with different brand clothes. The hard part about this, is finding new items that are comfortable yet work with my body shape.

Doug’s closet.

I have always been amazed at how difficult it is to find different dress pants or jeans that fit. I am often surprised that when I go to try pants on, they can either fit perfectly or look absolutely ridiculous on me. I’m at the point and time now where I know if I want to try something new, I should probably put aside a couple hours. I have learned my lesson to not go and buy 4 of the same items until I put them into my normal rotation to see how it will all work out. In the past I’ve been caught by having clothes that fit when I tried them on but horribly shrunk up or fell apart in the wash. So what I have learned to do is buy 1 of a couple items to see if I would want more added to my wardrobe. By doing this little test, I have saved myself a lot of time by avoiding mistakes that would have led me to buy more items in the future.

Just like figuring out what clothes will work for you, searching for a perfect Product Owner is just as difficult. Thats why in our latest podcast, we leave you with advice on how to find them. Often you have to test their abilities to ensure you have the right person.