Sunday, August 29, 2010

Agile 2010 -Part 3

Here we go about my 2nd day there. and bit of day 3 too..

In the morning I wanted to attend to some of the agile game sessions..
If you ask me why I attended to gaming sessions in such conference, I would say its due to 2 reasons..

1. We have many new recruits joining Exilesoft project organization frequently. They are coming from various project development/management environments. Getting them to agile thinking is fun but I must admit that its always challenging..Because we always have a limited time to get things going with new colleagues. So its time to learn some interesting games which helps us to get the people up to speed of agile thinking by adding more fun in to it.

2. At this time Ive realized how badly Jetlagged I am.. so it was becoming impossible for me to sit in a lecture room session.

In the whole conference I managed to attend to 2 gaming sessions. However there were too many games in this conference and made me realized how much games are integrated with agile training. One game session I attended was conducted by Michael Sahota and Gino Marckx.
Their game was about teaching strategies which will help to understand the backlog and prioritizing it.
The understanding of “must have” , “what can be negotiated” and how to fulfill stakeholder satisfaction was demonstrated by them.

The other gaming session I attended to was done by Michele Sliger at Innovation Games

In her session, each group had to volunteer to take care of a kennel during a holiday. She gave the same product backlog to each group. User stories were all about cleaning dogs, cats, brushing them, updating the database, cleaning equipments, feeding, walking dogs etc. It was a time box. We had to calculate the number of hours we have in hand to do the maximum must do ones. When we look at the backlog we understood that it was way too much hours needed. So we had to prioritize and each of us had to sign in to what we had to do during the day.

The most interesting part was the retrospective she conducted by asking everyone’s experience.. I couldn’t believe it...Some of the ladies in the class have taken this game way too serious.. they were very emotional about not having enough time to walk the dogs.. :D Some didn’t like Cats so they have refused to do the jobs related to cats.. :D I like that enthusiasm ;-)

Key“take home point” to me was that.., we need to have more games at office to get the concepts going.. That will add lots of energy to the teams.. But sure Dog Kennel is not something we see often in Sri Lanka.. ( Oops.. I hope those ladies will not read my blog.., Otherwise I will be in trouble. ) So I need to do some games wich they can relate more with their experience.. we are already planning to do one session in October.. which I will share with you for sure.
2nd day evening… .. what did I do.. Hmmm… Oh ok.. Dave arrived on Tuesday.. so we met with some friends..and we enjoyed Casino night by Rally and Reception by Version One. After that some of us had an awesome time playing dice but not cheating…

When it comes to 3rd day.. I really felt the pressure of our presentation to be done on Thursday.. and most the time I spent thinking of it and getting some points organised..talking with Dave about it... which I will explain in my next post.. Afterall this is my very first time at an Agile conference.. which made me little nervous.. but all the awsome people around me were so supportive to keep me going without getting exited..

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Agile 2010 - Part 2

Selecting which session to go after lunch was much more challenging... Many known industry experts such as Martin Fowler, Mike Cohn, Johanna Rothman, Alistair Cockburn, Robot Martin and many others had parallel sessions from 1.30 PM to 5 PM.
You can view the schedule here

Ok .. I selected to go to Agile Estimating & Planning: From Basics to Brain Stumpers by Mike Cohn because agile estimation and planning is never a “Done” topic and still challenging.
Now let me dig my memory a bit…
I can remember that I enjoyed the session a lot.. Audience involvement was so much that I thought he will run out of time to finish his presentation ( I expected it to be.. Because all of us who are in to agile estimation have our own share of confusion :) )
Many practical problems were discussed in the session.. Some stuff I remember even after 2 weeks are as follows;

- Talking about working with larger backlogs and estimating them upfront…
One of the ideas I picked at the session was that if the product is large, don’t go in to the entire user story capturing at once. First identify themes, epics and come up with a budget for the project. Not estimation. Because unless you are the “god of estimation” you will never come up with a right figure for any software project at this time.
Working with fixed price contracts was also discussed up to an extent, but not in detailed level.. still signing the contract with a budget of Min to Max would be a very good idea if you can get your customer understanding the same reality about software development as you are.
Once I noticed Mike was surprised that one attendee was mentioning about his huge backlog where they have realized user stories to be implemented for over a quarter of the year

- Estimation is not a commitment
I agree with his example to prove that estimation is not a commitment. You need to estimate. and you need to commit.. but its 2 different things and you don’t commit to the estimate. Still if you explain this to your manager or customer.. I want to know how long you have to find the next job……:-).. Anyway this is a lengthy explanation to do on how it works.. you can find some good explanation here.

- Estimating stories without hours
He went in to detail with the audience about estimating user stories only with story points without getting in to hours. Then he explained how to arrive at calendar estimation based on the average team velocity calculation.
There he got the question which anyone could foresee coming… How do you do this with new teams or new team members in a team.,. His answer was that in a situation like this you need few practice sprints to arrive in such facts.
I see a problem in this when we don’t have the same team continuing projects for a longer time.

In the evening we had the Ice breaking party again a network session provided by the conference. There I got involved over a discussion with some of the CSTS from Argentina, USA, Canada and Belgium. They had some discussions about how they think about agile alliance and their practical issues.

Agile 2010 – Part 1

Im Just thinking back 2 weeks, to refresh my memory in order to write something about Agile 2010. The longest waiting post in my blog so far:-) As I said before.. Lots of memories and lot to write about..Top of that, all my colleagues accuse me for being so silent about the whole experience.:-). So I will try to summarize my thoughts in very short form here. Im sorry that I have no much pictures to share.. But if you need any pictures.., here is the link for you

And I see few pics here too

Conference was very well organized I think. Organizing 15+ Stages is no simple task. I like the casual environment they created, very good networking with all the people around the world ( Mostly USA ;-) ) and almost every person I met there was passionate, knowledgeable, so friendly and so down to earth.. Needless to say that Ive made lots of new friends who are willing to share their ideas about agile software development and challenge each other’s thinking.

Starting from the beginning.. It was quite a long long long flight to me as I traveled all the way from Sri Lanka.. ( Am I the only Sri Lankan who was in the conference?? I think so…) I reached Orlando by Saturday midnight..dead tired.. But still got up early on Sunday morning… looked outside…Here my Beautiful view from the room at Disney Dolphin resort… Sure I was back in my full energy in no delays..

Thanks to my friend Caryl, I spent the day with her and her mom by going around and doing some shopping in Orlando on Sunday..I was so late to arrive back in the hotel. so I missed the “Dinner with a Stranger” event organized to facilitate networking among attendees. But it was an unbelievable experience to meet many people in real world whom I have been interacting online for a long time.

Monday was the first day.. It was hard to decide which lecture I should attend to as almost all the lined up parallel lectures sounded interesting. So for the morning session, I selected to go to Mary Poppendieck’s lecture on “Making Change Happen and Making it Stick”

I selected this session due to 2 reasons
1. Of-course she is a well known speaker and that was my idea for a while to see her presenting
2. At Exilesoft we have done the big change.. We have changed the whole project organization to agile. Now its time to learn how we stick with the change.

This is an informative post written by one of the attendees about her lecture
. So I think I shouldn’t try to write about the whole lecture here. ( Im not that disciplined person who makes any notes.still I try to listen during the sessions. :-)

Just to summarize my own thoughts about the lecture;

- It was not tiring at all to listen to her for 3 hours - She took lots of real examples from many corporate which really helped to relate her theories in real world
- She stressed the point, for corporate to be more successful for getting the maximum productivity out of employees is by treating employees as volunteers. There she had many examples from Opensource community and how that works. We had a small exercise with each group members discussing about our own experience about an assignment where we worked as volunteers and led volunteers.. however there were some contradicting thoughts among the team members;
o – When people volunteer they have more personal agendas than when they work for a fee and its sometimes more painful to manage – Some examples were taken from some of the team members local PMI chapter work

o - This theory depends on the context and some of the asian cultures where the “Pay” and “title” define your social status will find it difficult to implement

o - Will the corporate management will act with the attitude of “Sharing the pain” with teams who are volunteering and working so hard while management act differently to them.

o - However all agreed that they have contributed to the best when they have volunteered to something in the past.

- She mentioned that there is nothing called a project is technically successful.. If project has no business success, its not a successful project at all. All geeks.. listen well.. This is very true !!!! –
- Further she mentioned the importance of teams making decisions.. she mentioned that there can be mistakes of teams when they make decisions.. but in long term those mistakes are better than the huge problems which can be created by the decisions made by management without knowing exact details as much as teams do.. she said it best !

Oh Boy.. Mid of the day.. I was sooo tired and never been so badly Jet-lagged before..
Lessons learned: if the event is in USA – reach there at least 3 days before.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sorry for the delay..

Im sure you all wonder why I didn’t write anything about Agile 2010 yet. Ok let me explain.. About Agile 2010..I don’t know where to start and where to end it .. Sometimes I can think of writing a post about each lecture I attended to. Or something only about our session there...But at the same time its going to be lots of writing.. So for now.. let me write something.., I got to write something this week.. Otherwise it will never happen as the next quarter is really getting hectic.
We have 2 “Agile in Offshore” events planned in Stavanger and Oslo in September.. .. then I may miss presenting at PMI SAARC conference.. That’s overlapping with my Oslo visit.. then I will do P2P 2010 Cairo most probably in December.. So that’s more than enough for this year I suppose.. Yeah all these top of our day to day work on business development and projects.. So no need to explain how hectic the life is .. But I enjoy every bit of work we do.

Monday, August 02, 2010

PMICC Magazine - request for articles.

PMI CC wishes to announce that four ‘quarterly magazine’ are to be published from the chapter each year. The first publication, Q3 2010, is expected to be launched during the PM SAARC Conference that is being held in Colombo during September this year.

The scope of the magazine will be the delivery of content rich articles and real-life stories about Project management in all disciplines from the PM community to the PM community in Sri Lanka. While the initial efforts are targeted purely at widening our user base to encompass other industries, the goal is also, to provide PMP’s with opportunities for PDU accumulation and critically evaluating the projects they run and sharing it, if it can be shared, with a wider audience.

PMI CC requests all recommended articles to be submitted to the

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