Thursday, September 09, 2010

The agile bird !

Its always a great experience to share knowledge with others. Today we had a mini workshop for some of the colleagues of Informatics and few of our new Exilesoft colleagues together to learn agile.

Total time box – 2 hours for the training. (4PM to 6 PM) In that, I had to spend first one hour to take them though the agile concepts and introduction to Scrum. I tried to cover up some of the practical issues too such as planning a huge backlog, vertical designing or so which they are already into.

So we were left with 1 more hour, which I wanted them to go through an exercise to learn and feel agile concepts better by themselves.

So, yesterday night I prepared this small backlog for them…

As a

I need

So that



Marketing Manager

a bird with 2 wings

I can sell the toy to kids

VP Marketing

The bird to carry the logo

We can brand it as our own toy

Sales person

The bird to have red color feathers

It will be more appealing to young girls

Marketing manager

The bird to have blue eyes

The bird will be more appealing to the kids

Production manager

The documentation on how to make the bird

I can train more people to produce birds like this

Marketing manager

The bird to have 2 legs

The bird will be able to stand

Marketing manager

The bird to be bundled with a cage

We can add more value in the market

Brand manager

A catchy name to the bird

The bird will be popular among the kids

Angry kid

Soak the bird in water

The bird will be destroyed easily

The product vision
: to produce a toy bird to the market, this can compete with other toy birds in the market.

Product backlog

You may notice few points in the product backlog user stories. There are some functional requirements which is a must to deliver and some nice to have features too. With the angry child user story, I wanted them to get the idea of having user stories from hacker’s perspective to come up with security related user stories too to the product backlog. Documentation user story was brought in to the picture, so that team will understand if the documentation is needed by stakeholders to treat it as a user story and deliver it.

We had 8 members, so we split the team to two. My colleagues Shamira Dias and Manujaya Kuruppu volunteered to play the product owner role for the 2 teams. Thanks to them they did a great job of taking teams through the product backlog and helping them to learn estimation techniques.

Shamira and Manujaya prioritized the stories to their teams after having a discussion with them. They prioritized the highest market value items first. Both the teams played planning poker to estimate the user stories with their product owners which helped them to get the real idea about relative estimation using story points.

After that.. They decided 2 releases for the backlog. First release within 15 min and other release within 20 min. which is the final release of the bird. Product owners mentioned to their teams what they need for the release one.

Here they are busy making this bird… Team A

Team B - Making the bird

When they did the final release, Navin came as the customer and he had to make a hard decision about buying one bird. He bought Duckybird J because it could fly perfectly and he was fascinated about his flying skills.

Here is the Mountain bird by team B at the final release :-)

Here is the Ducky bird by team A at the final release :-)

After that we did a retrospective with the teams...( we had no time to do a retro after the release 1 which could have been the perfect scenario.)

The findings

  • 1. In release 1, team A failed to do the product release on time even with minimal required features. So they saw how their competition came to the market.
  • 2. Team B prioritized the red feather story for the release 1 , so they had no time to deliver a stable product which is a bird who could stand.
  • 3. Team B delivered extra (Gold plating??)_ nice decoration on bird which was not included as a user story in the backlog and they totally forgot about the flying feature of the bird which made them to loose their opportunity in the market against the competition
  • 4. Team B – the whole team spent time on doing documentation and didn’t deliver the cage and the fence. – there scrum master was too involved in building and forgot to get his team guided towards signing in to various tasks to improve the utilization of time. which can happen in real development projects.
  • 5. Testers of both teams didn’t add much value to the team from testing perspective.
  • 6. They learn the difference of a scrum master from the Project Manager
  • 7. They learned how the team culture works in agile organizations.


After that , I rewarded the scrum master of team A as his product owner managed to make a sale based on what his team produced.. The team accepted that they didn’t feel very happy about it as they felt he was rewarded at their cost and instead the management could have rewarded the whole team because the whole team worked hard to release a nice toy bird to the market.

Thanks to all who participated the training.. it was a great experience to share knowledge with a team from another company. I'm sure my colleagues also enjoyed it a lot.

Update: you can see the PB user story about flying is missing.. This is how the PB was at the initial stage.. which I wanted the teams to learn that PB is not perfect at once.. there are so many hidden things which will come out when PO refines it again and when the team ask the question. Team knows that many birds fly and this is a question I expected them to ask with their domain knowledge. Thank you @michelesliger for notifying this to me. This is an addition I did when posting it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Agile2010 - Part 4 - Why you suck at offshoring even with agile


Needless to say that this is the biggest challenge I faced so far in my career life.. To speak at agile 2010 conference for the 1st time.

Everything sounded challenging form the day 1, first to be one of the few selected speakers out of closer to 1000 proposals, 2nd it was in US, 3rd, it was a pair presentation which I have never used to do before, 4th I knew and heard that Agile conference is really a challenging place to be in as people who come there coming for a real purpose, they are tough, in thrust of knowledge and very interactive in sessions… It all proved true to me from the day 1 at the conference.

So with all these.. Dave and myself prepared the presentation ( all virtual ;-) ).., Which was an interesting story.. We will discuss this on Monday (6th Sep) during the retrospective we are going to do.

On Thursday 2nd morning session under “Distributed and large scale agile stage” was ours.. It was again challenging to decide how to dress for the presentation.. (Sounds more feminine? )
The challenge was that in agile conference most the presenters wore T shirts , shorts and Jeans..They looked very causal.. .. I knew Dave would do the same.. But still I’m not used to this. So I thought of wearing my usual pair of Grey jeans and a Black office shirt.. (Sigh.. I wish if I had some pictures or recording of the presentation… After the presentation only we realized that we couldn’t request for a single picture.. which was terrible.. and I’m sorry for that…)

Few good signs : Room was getting full.. which was cool.. I would not make up myself to present in an empty room..

Bad things.. this huge projector stand covered some of the audience..and top of that Dave had to use one fixed mike while I was using the wireless mike. So he had to stand still while I was all over. One attendee mentioned that my voice was low for few times … I think the way I fixed the mike to my shirt.... it was moving a bit…

Not too sure good or bad thing :) Dave started his tweeting via iphone.. Which made me creepy :-) Uh.. Commooonnn You are tweeting while we are in the presentation.. Give me a break.. But he was so cool... He just wanted to tweet..

Getting ready to present "Why You Suck At Offshoring- Even with Agile" with @Thush at #Agile2010 would be a good reminder to other attendees

After disappointing you all about recording and pictures I have one good news to you... We are doing a video conference on retro as Dave is in US and Im in Sri Lanka., So possibly we will record it for you. Stay tuned for that ;-)

Here for you .. Some of the interesting slides which helped us to get the audience interactions effortlessly..

We discussed the important points anyone should consider in an agile offshore project initiation, and the areas where you can go wrong easily... loads of examples here...

Dave brought up some real cool examples of working with Asian team while he is working in USA.. the point here was.. "We both have layers" as Shrek said to Donkey..

This was an interesting debate.. how you should position your contracts in offshore market without killing the idea of being agile.. what will do and not do..

The important one ;-)

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