Chapeau! to the Product Owner

Chapeau! to the Product Owner

Introducing Scrum in a company usually consists of the following steps:

  1. Having a Scrum Basics workshop with as many people from the company as possible to make sure everybody understands the new way of working and is familiar with the basic terms and artefacts.
  2. Working with at least one team operatively as a Scrum Master, to not just tell them about Scrum but to actively live Scrum with them. Usually this comes with the role of an Agile Coach for the whole company.

As a Scrum Master as well as an Agile Coach I tell Product Owners from my particular perspective how to fill their role appropriately. But now something changed: Recently I became a Product Owner myself. This experience changed my perspective on the work of a Product Owner significantly.
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Who’s in? – The Sprint Calendar

Recently I worked with some Scrumteams consisting partly of students, meaning they weren’t available every day of the Sprint, depending on their class schedule. So far during Sprint Planning I asked each team member for their availability during the Sprint (including vacations etc.) and the team based their commitment on this information. But when the Sprint started I noticed some uncertainty about missing team members within the team, e.g. when it came to the Daily Scrum. “Is Eric coming in today?” “Hmm, I’m not sure, isn’t he in class today?” “No, on Wednesday he’s usually in the office, but he might have mumbled something about exam preparation yesterday. Anyway, at least Mel should be around, right?” “No, Mel, took a day off spontaneously” “Damn, I didn’t know, I need her for a code review”. Continue reading “Who’s in? – The Sprint Calendar”

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Lean Workflow Design Game

A few weeks ago I was supposed to give a Scrum Basics workshop in France for a bunch of people who partly already knew the ballpojnt game and asked for another exercise instead. Fortunately I knew another way of demonstrating Scrum which I could use as a replacement: The Lean Workflow Design Game by Nancy Van Schooenderwoert. Nancy introduced and facilitated this interesting exercise at the Play4Agile 2011 Conference in Rückersbach, Germany. The goal of this exercise is to create and improve a workflow using some of the well known agile techniques like Sprint Planning, Timeboxing, Retrospectives. I got the ‘official’ rules from Nancy and will link to them here as soon as they’re available online. Due to some time restrictions I needed to slightly modify the original version from Nancy and will describe the modified version in this blogpost. During the workshop the participants had a lot of fun and were able to actively use the stuff I told the in the hours before. Continue reading “Lean Workflow Design Game”

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Story Maps – Let your product explain itself

Street MapIn most companies you find Product Backlogs prioritized by business value, as Scrum told us to do for several years. Since July 2011 the Scrum Guide softened this requirement, speaking of backlogs “often ordered by value, risk, priority, and necessity”. Either way you face the problem to have to split complex funtionalities into smaller ones and put them in a one-dimensional list. User Stories belonging to a certain Epic are usually not organized as a block but are interrupted by other Stories belonging to other Epics. Did you ever try to give your stakeholders the big picture just with your product backlog at hand? Or even just gave them the Product Backlog to read? No way. Some time ago Jeff Patton took care of this problem and came up with the idea of Story Maps. They offer the chance to show the whole product in a comprehensive way and make it much more easily explainable and discussable. With this article I would like to introduce the concept of Story Maps to you.

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Sprint Zero – Fasten your seatbelt

The german version of this post can be found here.
If you start a new project with a customer you often need to organize the project environment by yourself. At least you have to make sure it fits your needs. Especially in Scrum projects you don’t want to waste time dealing with organizational stuff but start implementing nice features starting with the first sprint. Nevertheless I’m often surprised how badly prepared some teams get sent on the road and into their first sprint. It’s so easy to give your team a good start – just have a Sprint Zero before your first sprint and get all the organizational stuff from your plate. You avoid the usual problems like having no access to development servers, a developer who wants another screen, chairs that hurt your back and so on. Of course there’s no general Sprint Zero for all companies and projects, but perhaps the following example from my daily work provides an insight into what can be achieved. Continue reading “Sprint Zero – Fasten your seatbelt”

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Get a grip on complexity – the TTM-matrix

The german version of this post can be found here.
During estimation or planning meetings with my teams I often get aware that the team refers to items that were talked about a few minutes ago. That’s great, since I encourage my teams to put items in relation to each other rather than to a fixed scale like hours or days. But quite often we have to pull up former item again since it already slipped from the minds. E.g. Sprint Planning: The team discusses a backlog item which was filed in JIRA (link) and projected to the wall for discussion. Afterwards we talk about the next one, the next one and so on. At the end of the meeting I ask the team which items they are willing to commit to and then it starts: “Could you show this one again?”, “Did this include the designs?”, “There’s just a smoke test necessary for that one, right?”. This made me think about how to keep things visible and the memory fresh. A few weeks ago then I stumbled across an article by James King who (among other interesting stuff) described the “things-that-matter-matrix”. I tried it with my current team and now I wonder why I never thought of something as simple and effective like this before. Let me explain how it works.

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