Wednesday 10 March 2010

Notes and reflections about the second annual scrum meeting in Portugal

A month ago I attended the second annual Scrum Meeting in Portugal, and ended up taking some notes about two of the presentations.

Here they are, both for the team at weListen, and for the world at large.

Notes on "A Practical Roadmap to Great Scrum:A Systematic Guide to Hyperproductivity" presented by Jeff Sutherland

This was the presentation that changed the way I perceive scrum. Where before I saw scrum as an agile software development methodology like xp, now I see it as a management and process template. This means a team should use scrum and complement it with technical practices. Apart from that, the largest focus to me was on 3 velocity multipliers for teams and 2 required practices for hyper-productive teams.

The 3 velocity multipliers are ready, done and self-organization. Ready and done shield an iteration from churn. A story only enters development when it is ready, and by the end of the sprint it should be done. Ready means that the story is understood and sized by the team with input from the client, and done means the same story is tested and approved to be deployed. Self-organization ties nicely into the two required practices mentioned: talk about problems and fix the same problems.

Two classes of problems mentioned: bugs that take more than 8 hours to fix, and stories that take more than twice the calendar time than estimated ideal time. For each bug or story in this situation, do a root cause analysis to figure out the underlying problem. This can be multitasking (a dev assigned to several projects), final inspection or testing done too late or interruptions and form the basis of an impediment list for the team together with the product owner and scrum-master to solve.

There were several interesting data points mentioned. In a given company, the peak of productivity was measured on 60 hour work weeks in waterfall projects, and on 30 hour work weeks with double story points delivered. This means an productivity increase of about 3 to 4 times. Part of the presentation used Systematic, a dutch software company as the source for several data points for scrum teams. They noticed a linear scale in developer productivity for project sizes, going against Brook's Law, although I think the Law mentioned adding people to an already late project, and didn't mention scale. They apparently implemented scrum using Mary Poppendieck's lean tools as described in her book.

Some "required truths" about hyper-productive teams were discussed, and I found them interesting insights. The ones that stuck to my mind the most were:

  • Everyone must be trained in scrum. This is so that all the players follow the same playbook and the concepts and practices are well understood.
  • Backlog must be ready to implement before the sprint, and done by the end (tying into the concepts of ready and done mentioned earlier) .
  • Pair immediately on a task if there's only one person capable of handling it, to avoid bottlenecks in the throughput.
  • Short sprints (often just one week)
  • Servant leadership, where the product owner and scrum-master are a resource of the team, instead of using the team as a resource.
  • No multitasking. This one I'm a bit curious as to how realistic it is, considering maintenance work, and teams with many past projects.

Overall it was a very interesting presentation. There are several videos on youtube with Jeff Sutherland about scrum. This one is very similar to the one I saw.

Notes on "Scrum and TFS 2010" by Mitch Lacey

This was mostly a storytelling and demo about new features in TFS. I did end up asking Mitch about the importance of accounting for time originally estimated, time in task and time remaining for small and recent to scrum teams, as to me it seemed a bit too much bureaucracy for a small team. The answer was enlightening, since those numbers are particularly important for those teams as a way to surface problems (either with estimation, delays, interruptions or other causes). This means I might start looking into accounting for such numbers. "You can't manage what you don't measure". When a team gels and is proficient, the numbers may not matter as the team starts getting into the groove and noticing impediments becomes intuitive.

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