A Blog About Agile from Davisbase Consulting

Becoming Agile is the Davisbase Consulting blog about all things Agile. It features regular posts by our staff, whose diverse expertise and backgrounds enable us to offer fresh perspectives and insightful observations.

Check out some of our favorite entries by visiting the top posts page, and be sure to subscribe by RSS feed or email to keep up-to-date.


Print pagePDF page

Agile Q&A: Improve Backlog Collaboration

The Question: My team refuses to make time for collaborating on backlog items. What should we do?

The Answer: Retrospect, Experiment, Retrospect

If you read our #BecomingAgile blog very often, then the pattern of having a retrospective, trying something new, and reflecting again should not be new to you. The idea of continuous improvement is a core tenet of Agile.

In order to answer this one for you I’ll touch on:questions!!!

  • The team retrospective
  • A personal retrospective
  • Compelling them with CvC
  • Experimentation
  • Capacity Reminders

Team Retrospective

Does the team recognize that there is a need to improve? If not, it will be very difficult to change behaviors.

If the retrospective goes well, and the team sees an opportunity for improvement, then I would baby-step into a more comprehensive & collaborative approach for backlog refinement. Suddenly instituting a 4-hour Story Refinement session, Story Review session, and strict adherence to a Definition of Ready will probably be too much too fast. Based on your team dynamics select the one technique that could improve the understanding of story details and work incrementally from there.

Personal Retrospective

If the team doesn’t acknowledge a gap, then it may be best to look inward first. Have you done a personal retrospective? Is the team really doing OK? Do they have a strong and stable velocity? Is the Complete vs. Commit (CvC) ratio sprint-over-sprint consistently above 85%-95%?  If so, you may be trying to add extra weight to the process. Simply because refinement workshops, review sessions, and other techniques have proven to be successful, it doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.

Compelling CvC

Let’s assume the team’s CvC metric is not consistently above 85%-95%. While the team doesn’t “feel” like there is a problem, something fishy is definitely going on. Pointing out some obvious indicators may be helpful.

Some of the classic symptoms I see with teams struggling in this area include:

  • The first few days of the sprint seem really chaotic and we are running around trying to figure out how to go about delivering solutions for these stories. What can we do to reduce that churn?
  • Task planning at the beginning of every sprint is a nightmare; we struggle to know what the tasks are. It might be useful for us to set aside a little time in advance of sprint planning to collaborate on stories so that we can get better.
  • Alternates of this include the team having a low level of accuracy when estimating task hours, or they have a pattern of discovering a significant number of tasks  mid-sprint.

CvC metric, don’t just consider “Complete” as in all the tasks are finished: it really is “AvC” Accepted vs Committed. Of the stories the team committed to delivering during the sprint, how many were actually accepted? If the team is finishing all the tasks, but the stories are continually rejected during the demo, that’s a very clear sign better collaboration is needed.

Remember, when looking at the CvC metric, don’t just consider “Complete” as in all the tasks are finished: it really is “AvC” Accepted vs Committed. Of the stories the team committed to delivering during the sprint, how many were actually accepted? If the team is finishing all the tasks, but the stories are continually rejected during the demo, that’s a very clear sign better collaboration is needed.

Perform an Experiment

When in doubt, work with the team to try out a new cadence for collaboration. You don’t have to commit to doing it forever, but you can start somewhere.  A 2-sprint trial of Story Refinement sessions might be enough. At the end of the 2 sprints you can reflect on whether or not it made things better. If it did, keep on going and a few sprints later try another experiment to add an additional technique.

Be Sure to Reserve Capacity

Don’t forget, when you’re introducing these techniques, make sure the team doesn’t inadvertently start overcommitting. If a 7-person team is going to start allocating 4-hours to a Refinement Workshop each sprint, that is 28 hours of capacity no longer available for doing tasks during the sprint. Make sure the team is decrementing available capacity properly so that sprint planning commitments remain authentic.

Final Suggestion

Check out our webinar recording “Strategies for Grooming Your Backlog.”*  If the idea or intent of terms like “Story Refinement Session” or “Story Review Session” are confusing, it will help you shore up your understanding of the recommended cadence and time it may take to keep a well refined backlog.

*Note, “Grooming” and “Refinement” are synonyms. Since the recording of the webinar, the industry has moved away from the term “grooming” and adopted “refinement” in its place.


Print pagePDF page

Agile2015 Highlights

Check back next week for insights from Leslie Morse!

As another Agile conference comes to an end (Agile2015) we are left with a wealth of knowledge to process and share with our companies and teams. If you weren’t able to attend, never fear! We have you covered. Here are some conference highlights from the Davisbase team members who attended. Also, be sure to visit our Twitter feed @Davisbase for even more #Agile2015 info!

 

CV Photo - Troy Plant - for printAn Overview of Agile Passionfruit: Growing Agile Champion capability through a Learning Culture by Troy Plant

One of my main goals for the Agile 2015 conference was to attend sessions that talked about how to create a learning organization. Cultivating a learning organization is critical for building a sustainability plan so that after coaches leave organizations can continue on their Agile journey. One session that fit this requirement was by Renee Troughton, an Agile Coach from Unbound DNA in Sydney, Australia.

The focus of Renee’s talk was how to build a model for growing Agile Champions internally and how to educate and support team members to make the transition to an internal Agile Coach.  Renee has created a 10-week program for Agile Champions to participate in. Through the course of Renee’s session, I took away some key points:

  • Five individuals are identified as a team and they go through the program together for accountability and support. We are always better when we do things as teams!
  • The program is a pull process – people decide if they want to go through the program, no one is forced.
  • The program spans ten weeks and supports the idea that becoming an Agile Champion is part of a learning journey! Unlike a 1- or 2-day class, the 10-week program includes self-study, hands on activities, and reflection on personal progress throughout the program.
  • Weekly time commitment was approximately 2 hours per week in meetings, and 4 to 8 hours of self-study/work.
  • At the end of the program, some participants would become Internal Agile coaches, while others would continue to be Agile|Lean leaders, albeit better equipped after participating in the program.

If you would like to learn more about this session by Renee Troughton, you can download the presenter slides or view the session: http://sched.co/36TT




CV Photo - Bonnie Bennion - thumbnail webAgile is About the People by Bonnie Bennion

I found a common theme to many of the Agile2015 sessions I attended. Agile is about the people. In Jake Calabrese’s session about Building Antifragile Relationships, he pointed out that the Agile Manifesto reinforces the importance of people: “We are uncovering better ways of doing complex stuff by doing it and helping others (slightly modified and emphasis added).”

Through the course of Agile2015, I collected a number of thoughts on how to support people during their Agile transformation and as they continue their Agile journey. Here are my Top Five:

Remove impediments:
Bill Wake introduced the Helium Balloon of Productivity analogy: People want to be accomplished and they want to succeed. They will rise (think: helium balloon) until someone or something stops them. When obstacles are removed, productivity continues to rise. If you want to increase productivity, remove the barriers.

Think outside the box with games
Infuse learning with FUN. In her keynote, Jessie Shternshus taught the similarities between Improvisation (have you seen Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Agile. Interacting with your teams using FUN games similar to improvisation activities will help people learn in creative and motivating ways. Teach your team to better support others’ ideas (Good Times), respond to change (Super Hero & Sidekick), set others up for success (Last Letter Conversation), celebrate failures (Failure High Five), and understand the importance of constant iteration (Telephone Pictionary). You can watch the session HERE.

Coach the person
Lyssa Adkins taught about the difference between Coaching and Mentoring. My main take-away: Don’t coach the problem, coach the person and they will find an answer to the problem.

Nurture people through change
In Esther Derby’s session about the Six Rules of Change she put it simply: “You can’t just install change. It’s not plug-and-play.” Change is difficult. It will be uncomfortable, scary, challenging, exciting, and through all these situations and emotions, we need to support the people going through the change. Working from a stance of congruence or empathy (Rule #1) will help us uncover ways to best support these people.

Reduce the chatter
Finally, returning back to Lyssa Adkin’s Coaching vs Mentoring session, Lyssa provided many tips to professional coaching but the one that stuck out to me is to really and truly focus on the person you are in the coaching. The “chatter” in our minds needs to subside while coaching. Focusing on coaching conversations will catapult further than the chatter.



CV Photo - Barry Gavril - thumbnail webAgile 2015 = People by Barry Gavril

A few buzzwords that were floating around the Agile 2015 Conference were SAFe, EQ, Portfolio Inventory, Value Streams, Influence Map, Lean, Continuous Improvement, Story Map, Dev Ops, Anti-Patterns, Risk, Testing, MVP, and the list goes on.

While these topics are great, I learned that above all…

Agile 2015 = People

I went to many 75-minute sessions that discussed the topics I listed above, but it turns out that talking to people during and in between the sessions was what Agile 2015 was all about. This collaboration with other Agilists was where I could really dig deeper into the topics I was passionate about. We shared stories, experiences, what-worked-what-didn’t-work, and above all, we shared inspiration. As great as the sessions were, this inspirational collaboration can only come from direct interaction. Individuals and interactions are most valued, right? Agile 2015 once again proved this to be true.

Below I have listed the top five speakers and topics that I found most interesting for you to research. They are in no specific order but all offer great insights into agility.

Esther Derby – Six Rules for Change
Elliot Susel – A (Story Map) is worth a thousand words
Lyssa Adkins – Mentoring vs Coaching: Show Me the Difference
Sarah Baca – Rewire Your Brain: Practices to Use Brain Plasticity to Become a Better Coach
Em Campbell-Pretty – Thawing the “Frozen Middle”

 


Print pagePDF page

NASA Inspired Agility

In the May 2015 issue of Fast Company Master Class section, there was an article NASA’S CHIEF SCIENTIST ON THE POSSIBILITY OF FINDING ALIEN LIFE: “IT’S GOING TO BE MINDBLOWING by @JonGertner. Not only did I find it fascinating that the @NASA Chief Scientist was a woman (Ellen Stofan @ellenstofan #KnowYourValue), but I found that article inspiring for #BecomingAgile.

Within this article you’ll find my spin on the articles 5 sections

  1. [S]pace Yourself
    Reinforcement that we need to deliver value in small digestible chunks.
    .
  2. Don’t Be Afraid to Veer Off Course
    Encouragement to take a lean and flexible engineering approach.
    .
  3. No More Flying Solo
    Evidence that delivering value cannot be done alone, or in a silo.
    .
  4. Tap Into Natural Curiosity
    Inspiration to move away from purse ROI and think about transcendent purpose.
    .
  5. Star Trek: The Next Generation
    Advocacy for giving back to the community and helping others become better.
    .

[S]PACE YOURSELF

NASA Chief Scientist Stofan said, “We have to ask, ‘How can we break a huge challenge like sending humans to Mars into a series of doable, affordable steps? How can we break that problem down into chunks in order to keep making progress?’”

Seriously, if NASA can take that approach to the Mars mission, then I think we ALL can find a way to decompose large nebulous (often “junk drawer”) project visions into small chunks of usable value.  Are your Product Owners & Product Managers doing a good job defining Minimally Marketable Features and/or Minimally Viable Products?

DON’T BE AFRAID TO VEER OFF COURSE

When referencing the fact that 1) The mission to Mars will involve “extraordinary challenges” and 2) Technology will most certainly evolve between now and the mid-2030’s (projected date for humans arriving on Mars), Stofan said, “…We make sure that the path we’re choosing has enough flexibility, so that as technology develops we can adapt what we’re doing… That way, if someone figures out how to do something much better, you can adapt without starting from square one or making costs go way up.”

Talk about a Lean|Agile Engineering approach. Wow!

It never fails, anytime I’m teaching an Agile Bootcamp, and I start talking about “slices” versus “layers” for user stories, the technicians in the room immediately push-back and say,”We can’t do it that way because…” I remind them that than an Agile approach is more than just changing the way you think about collaborating with peers. Agile is more than redefining our processes for planning and requirements definition. Adopting a Lean|Agile approach requires us to rethink everything about how we deliver value, and that includes all the engineering components as well.

Are your developers channeling their inner NASA?

NO MORE FLYING SOLO

You might think of this insight as a stretch. Stofan discussed the public/private sector partnership as well as international collaboration required to make humans on Mars a reality. The article stated, “These days, budgets are tighter and cooperation is key.”

She’s right, budgets are tight. In today’s economy is important to do more with less. As long as organizations take a project-based funding approach and allocate budgets to business units/departments (over value streams), turf-wars and silos will prevail.  At the end of the day, our highest priority is to satisfy the customer (thank you Agile principles). It doesn’t matter your title, reporting structure, or even if you’re a vendor. “We’re all ___(insert your company name here)___!”  If <Company> doesn’t satisfy customers, get a healthy ROI, and find ways to rapid delivery value, then we are all out of a job.

TAP INTO NATURAL CURIOSITY

The article states, “Studies have shown that NASA’s investment in science and tech has yielded a national return on investment that amounts to several times its cost.”

I’m curious, what are you doing to change lives for the better?

What are you doing to measure ROI in your organization, and are you looking at more than the financial aspects of it?  The most successful companies look beyond the “profit motive” and have a transcendent purpose that makes associates want to get up in the morning and come make a difference in the world. (Can you hear my inner Dan Pink? Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us) I love the idea of a “national return on investment.”

.STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

“The astronauts who will actually travel to Mars in 2035 are currently kids, so part of Stofan’s job is to get today’s children excited about exploring the universe.”

Final thoughts
Many company cultures stifle the idea of curiosity.  Oh, curiosity takes too much time. We need to hurry. There’s a good solution – now go! True Lean|Agile leaders (and organizations that have embraced design-thinking as part of their culture’s DNA) have found ways to harness curiosity. Space for divergent and convergent thinking is a must. Solution alternatives must be pondered. Through this experience, teams experience the right level of positive (healthy ) conflict that produces true innovation. (Agile Principle: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.) When partnered with fast feedback loops, we mitigate the risks associated with this experimentation model and rapidly learn how to add value. I challenge you, what is the next one good change you’re making to focus on Developing Teams that Deliver ValueTM?

Do you have non-Software/non-Agile articles you find inspiring? I’d love to hear about them. Follow me on twitter, @lesliejdotnet, or reply to this post and start a conversation!


Print pagePDF page

Live Tweeting from Agile 2015

Agile2015 Live Tweet Image

Unable to attend Agile2015? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Below is a list of our 6 team members who will be live tweeting the event, we have also created a list called “Agile2015″.

All of our tweets will have the hashtag #Agile2015 to insure that they are categorized and easy for you to access. Just give the “Agile 2015″ list  a follow, tweet at us, and become a part of the event!

Follow The DAVISBASE Team on Twitter

CV Photo - Steve Davis - thumbnail web
Steve Davis, CEO
Twitter: @stevedavisbase
CV Photo - Troy Plant - thumbnail web
Troy Plant, Director
Twitter: @troy_plant
CV Photo - Leslie Morse - thumbnail web
Leslie Morse, Director
Twitter: @lesliejdotnet
CV Photo - Josh Fruit - thumbnail web
Josh Fruit, Agile Coach
Twitter: @joshfruit
CV Photo - Barry Gavril - thumbnail web
Barry Gavril, Agile Coach
Twitter: @barrygavril
CV Photo - Bonnie Bennion - thumbnail web
Bonnie Bennion, Agile Coach
Twitter: @bonnsbee

Follow Our Strategic Partners on Twitter

V1Icon96x96_400x400
VersionOne
Twitter: @VersionOne
vErUOsCK
ICAgile
Twitter: @ICAgile
Uhr1Uxgn
Scaled Agile
Twitter: @ScaledAgile

Print pagePDF page

Celebrating Successes, DriveTime

Q&A with Adam Swofford, IT Director of Product at DriveTime

Author’s Note: Adam and I worked together back in 2004 at a small start-up company that ended up being sold to Merrill Lynch. The first thing I remember about Adam is that on his first day of work he managed to reset the administrative password to our system without having any credentials. I remember our seasoned CTO’s reaction to having some young kid fresh out of college steal the administrative password to our system: it was one of those moments you can’t forget.

Needless to say, I knew there was something special about Adam from the start, and he’s as amazing a human being outside the office as he is inside.

I remember pairing (before I knew what it was called!) with Adam literally all night long as I’d write code and he’d run tests; then we’d sit side-by-side and evaluate the cause of any bugs Adam found. Those all-nighters and the time we spent developing that system was one of  the best times I’ve ever had working for a company. There was something special about our small group, and Adam was a standout among us.

It didn’t surprise me in the least when Adam recently posted to Facebook about Computerworld adding DriveTime to its top 100 Best Places to Work in IT, and ranking DriveTime at #15 for its first appearance on the list.

Dan Moody, Davisbase (DM): Adam, first, congratulations on DriveTime being named #15 on Computerworld’s 2015 Top 100 Best Places to Work in IT; I’m sure you are a driving force to promote a culture that would be recognized as a top place to work. In the article, I really enjoyed the quoted phrase, “speak up and think fast.” Because it was in quotes, I presume this is a mantra coined by DriveTime and something that you live by. Two-part question: 1) How did this slogan come to be (if you know) and how is it applied in the day-to-day IT operations at DriveTime? 2) How do you think this fits in with Agile Values and Principles?

Adam Swofford, DriveTime (AS): Honestly, “speak up and think fast” is a shorter version of our “Way” of execution.  It’s another phrase in quotes that is used to help us all execute as a team.  We feel the way to successful execution is through five core values: urgency, ownership, flexibility, an optimistic attitude, and over communication.  This “Way” is the way we approach Agile Values.

I honestly didn’t know they were called “Agile Values”…look, more quotes, but we have them as the background to all of the stand-up screens in our office.  Don’t get me wrong, when I say that we over communicate, I don’t mean comprehensive documentation.  We feel it is better to error on the side of communication than not.  We change a plan when necessary and if you spend a little time communicating why (normally a better understood customer need) we will all support the change and work together to course correct.

DM: Clearly, whatever you’re doing at DriveTime is working. What advice would you give to companies just starting out on their Agile journey?

AS:  DriveTime has been Agile for 10 years.  It is always a work in progress.  We have changed from Scrum to Kanban, we have changed tools countless times, we have grown 7 fold, and we have spun off many groups to start new ventures.  I would say, always look for that next improvement and try something.  Pilot a change.  Maybe a third of our pilots are successful, but that is still a lot of success.  When you fail, realize it, fall back to what you know works, and then tweak it and try again.

DM: Many companies just starting on their Agile journey may look to your success and want to emulate all of your practices. If you could suggest one and only one practice at DriveTime for others to emulate, what would it be and why?

AS: An important practice that is not a simple step in the process, but rather something to work on throughout the process is focus.  Focus on your role, responsibilities, and the task at hand.  In an open environment, communication and collaboration are high but so are distractions.  It’s a hard balance but one that is important to get right.

DM: When we teach our Agile Bootcamps, we will often ask our class to choose both one of the 12 Agile principles that they think is the most important, and one that they think will be most challenging to live by at their company. I pose the question to you: Which of the 12 Agile principles do you think is the most important? Which is the most challenging to live by at DriveTime? Why?

AS: We are here to solve business problems.  Working software is the way we do that and the primary measure of our progress.  We can’t lose sight of that.  We have a lot of people that bring continuous attention to technical excellence and good design, however it is hard to keep that focus.

The focus is always on what problem we are solving and how soon we can provide the solution.  That leads to a push for a solution and not wasting time to determine how best to solve the problem.  We need to remind ourselves that the right technical solution will itself be more agile and will provide us a better building block for future solutions, which in turn will save us time. It’s the “think fast” part of our mantra.

DM: Do you think DriveTime’s commitment to Agile Values and Principles played a role in creating the corporate culture that caused Computerworld to recognize DriveTime as the 15th Best Place to Work in IT? And, give me virtual a fist of five on how important DriveTime’s commitment to Agile Values and Principles is to creating that culture: 1 being “not at all important” and 5 being “the single most important factor.”

AS: Lucky for us, DriveTime’s corporate culture pushed IT into Agile practices a decade ago.   Our executives are 100% bought into technology being the solution, so the support we’ve received along the way has been incredible.

Our commitment to Agile within IT has encouraged our teams co-create, innovate and work on projects that drive them, which are all reasons why we have such a great culture.  I’d rank our commitment to Agile at least a 4 in promoting our corporate culture and a 5 in IT.  The IT layout of open spaces and rolling desks has spread over the years as more areas of our corporate headquarters embrace Agile practices.  Today the entire building and nearly every department is structured around Agile philosophies.

DM: Last question: Is there anything you’d like to say about your personal Agile journey, or advice you’d give to someone just starting on their own journey?

AS: Implementing change is hard.  Implementing change in yourself is harder.  If you can be Agile in thought and not just in practice you will be open to solutions that were not previously available to you.  That was the hardest thing for me to figure out.

DM: Adam, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate you making time to answer some questions for our readers. I’ve discussed your success with everyone here at Davisbase, and on behalf of all of us, I’d like to tell you how thrilled we are for you and DriveTime and to offer our congratulations. Personally, I know there are more great things to come in your future; I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next. Congratulations again to you and to DriveTime’s success in IT.

Print pagePDF page

Learn to Lead in a Lean|Agile Organization

Enhance Your Leadership?

Contact us about scheduling an event for your organization.

Contact Us

What does it mean to be a Lean|Agile Leader? Lean|Agile Leaders are devoted to amplifying the success of the people within their organization. They do not necessarily need to have authority within an organization. Lean|Agile Leaders can naturally exhibit behaviors aligned with Agile values, principles, and practices, and enable a Kaizen approach for influencing good change. Learn more about becoming a Lean|Agile Leader at Davisbase’s new course: Lean|Agile Leadership.

The course covers five modules:

    1. Refresher of values, principles, and practices at the core of Lean|Agile
    2. How values and culture can help or hinder a transitioning organization
    3. Qualities the manager/leader must develop to be a servant leader
    4. Team dynamics and how to enable teams to become more empowered
    5. How to lead the change management process from current to future state

Lean-Agile-Leadership-Modules

The Lean|Agile Leadership course is a  two-day course for directors, managers, team leads, and program/project managers. By the end of the course, leaders will understand how to promote and advocate Agile principles and practices within their organization and, ultimately, how to support a Lean|Agile transformation.

 


Print pagePDF page

Flash Sale, Today at 2:00ET!

 unnamed (1)Our Flash Sale starts today at 2pm ET and will last 48 hours! During this time you will get deep discounts on select Leading SAFe events, regularly priced at $1395. In order to take advantage of this offer, use promo code FLASH715.

What You Need To Know:


Print pagePDF page

Meet us at Agile2015!

Are you attending the Agile2015 conference?
agile2015  Steve, Leslie and Josh will be attending the Executive Forum.

If you haven’t already made your Agile2015 plans, time is running out, and tickets will likely sell out soon. Festivities in Washington, DC kickoff on Sunday evening with orientation & a casual meet-and-greet. Folks from the Davisbase team will be there!  Also, if you didn’t know, on Monday, August 3rd there is an Agile Executive Forum that runs in parallel to the first day of the conference. Registration is limited to 125 participants, so be sure to act fast!
.

Let us know you’re attending Agile2015!

Lunch, Dinner, or an Informal Conversation
We’re truly interested in getting to know you better, and there’s no better place than our industry’s largest annual conference with Agile Alliance. Please complete the form linked below and we’ll be in touch to plan a time we can meet.

Register Now

If you’re a current Davisbase client, and attending the conference, be sure to sign-up because we will be hosting a client dinner and would love for you to come!
.

Be sure to look for these faces when you’re in DC!

CV Photo - Steve Davis - thumbnail web
Steve Davis, CEO
Executive Forum + Conference
CV Photo - Troy Plant - thumbnail web
Troy Plant, Director
Conference Only
CV Photo - Leslie Morse - thumbnail web
Leslie Morse, Director
Executive Forum + Conference
CV Photo - Josh Fruit - thumbnail web
Josh Fruit, Agile Coach
Executive Forum Only
CV Photo - Barry Gavril - thumbnail web
Barry Gavril, Agile Coach
Conference Only
CV Photo - Bonnie Bennion - thumbnail web
Bonnie Bennion, Agile Coach
Conference Only

Print pagePDF page

The What vs. The How

The What vs. The HowI drew this picture last summer when co-coaching with Dan Moody for a client down in South Carolina. It was one of those cool moments where I magically drew something on the white board and everyone loved it.

Since then, I’ve used this image with other clients, captured it (in this form via Paper by FiftyThree) to use in conference presentations, and shown it to my Davisbase colleagues at our all-team meeting last week in Utah during an open space session on Info-graphics (thanks Bonnie!). Now, I’m sharing it  here for you to use as well. Hope you enjoy!

The What vs. The How

User Stories are not a once-and-done sort of thing. They are a placeholder for conversation.  They should be written on a card in order to keep them brief, and they are ABSOLUTELY negotiable.

The challenge is that team’s often jump straight to the solution (the how) before having a clear understanding of the what. There is progressive elaboration that must occur for each user story, and it’s nearly impossible for a team to derive the best solution unless the “what” for the story is clearly articulated up-front.

The lifecycle of a user story has 6 main stages. (Visual on the lifecycle of a user story to come in some future post. Perhaps co-authored with Jeffrey Davidson.)

1. Rough Cut 2. Clear What 3. Planned
Something on a card, with high-level acceptance criteria. Enough for the team to make a guess at its relative size. Refined story content with more detailed acceptance criteria and a more confident sizing. Its also now prioritized. The story has been targeted for a specific iteration within the release horizon (see Sizing to the Horizon).
4. Ready 5. Committed 6. Accepted
The team has refined the content, talked enough about the “how” to feel it matches a Definition of Ready. The team has committed to the story during a Sprint Planning session. The team has demo’d the story to the Product Owner and it has been accepted.

As you move through the stages, the “what” conversation becomes more of a “how” conversation. I also don’t expect a team to know 100% about the story before they commit to it. You learn more as you go. Its a good thing, and requires collaboration among ALL team members. I suggest you try it!

The What vs. The How

PS – You probably don’t even know 100% about the story at the end of the sprint. You don’t really know if it satisfies customers until it is in production! ;-)

PPS – It’s nearly impossible for me to write about, or talk about, user story refinement and the idea of “rough cut” versus “good what” without fondly remembering one of our fearless and inspirational leaders, Bill Gaiennie. He will forever be missed.


Print pagePDF page