Will Agile be trashed?

treeAgile is hot. Almost every Fortune 500 company is “Doing the Agile Thing”. But with the success also the critics are growing rapidly. The post “Agile is Dead” from Matthew Kern was extremely popular. Many of his arguments are dead right. For example, Agile has become a brand name and a hype and the original Agile Manifesto has lost most of his power and purpose by bad interpretations of it.  But there is a lot more to add to this discussion which is often based on misinterpretations what Agile actually means.

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The Customer Pain Map

Customer Pain

Customer Pain

“Ouch, that really hurt.” “What was it?” my sparring partner replied. “The choke or the overstretching of the elbow joint?” “The quick throw, I had no time for proper fall breaking.” I replied.

It happens in our sport, we try and experiment and try to find the best way to perform a technique. The goal is not to inflict pain but to figure out what works and what not. Knowing where the pain is and whether it affects the recipient is important beyond jujutsu and in fact is the core of Product Management.

Let’s look at a handy visualization of customer pain to help Product Owners and Product Managers to prioritize.

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Better guesswork for Product Owners

Estimation, if there is one concept hard to grasp in product development it will be when things are done. With done I don’t mean the releasable increment from the iteration, but rather what will be in it? or in Product Management speak: “what problem does it solve for our customer?”.

I increasingly am practicing randori (sparring matches in judo) and find it has increased my agile fu. It’s a constant adjustment of balance, creating opportunities rather than waiting for them to unfold, follow through fast or the opportunity we created is gone. It’s hard work, time boxed and most of the time I loose learn.

The key thing in both situations is that we don’t have a lot of time to estimate what will work or not. We can’t plan very far ahead and we have almost no data to make assumptions on, we do know however the extreme boundaries of the assumptions and iterate from there.

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OMG They made me Product Owner!!

The face of guy in the hallway expressed a mixture of euphoria and terror when I passed him in the hallway. We had met at the coffee machine before and we discussed how the company was moving to a more Scrum based way of developing their products.

Between euphoria and terror

Between euphoria and terror

“You sort of know how this PO thing works right?” was his first question. When I nodded he confined in me that they had made him Product Owner of a new team, without prior training. In general, not the best start, but I can see why the guys were anxious to start: their Product would address a pain experienced by many of their clients, promising start!

Over coffee and a whiteboard we came up with four steps you can take to kickstart a team that is new to Scrum and the Product Owner role.

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Robots bring business and IT together

Maybe you’ve already read the diary of one of our mBots, if not I encourage you to do so first! So, what was this day all about? How did we come to organise this and what did the participants learn?

Changing teams

As companies decide to adopt a more agile way of working, they also start to form multidisciplinary scrum teams. However, there still is a big challenge. When you work with several disciplines in your scrum team, you are exposed to the risk that you still create mini-handovers. First the business analyst will make the design, the developer(s) will build it, the testers will test it and if you’re lucky the business is happy in the end. Team members tend to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Nothing really changed! Of course, we cannot realistically expect that the business suddenly starts programming, but it would be great if they know the difficulties that developers cope with. It works the same the other way around. We need to learn from each other and bring our work closer together.Read more →

Guest blog: in response to "The Five Belts of the Product Owner

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This is a response to Chris Lukassen's excellent post titled, "The Five Belts of the Product Owner." If you haven't read it, my post won't make much sense, so go read it before you delve further into my post.

Chris's post brought up many thoughts and feelings because it hit the intersection of two of the things that are taking up much of my focus as of late, Judo and Product Management.
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Being An Agile Security Officer

Whenever I give a presentation, training, or just talk to security teams, it becomes clear that over the years a gap has been created between application security and development. A gap we created consciously and with intent and that became painfully visible with the introduction of Agile and DevOps. Suddenly exhaustive information security policies with checklists and penetration tests became serious impediments. The challenge we are facing now is how to bridge this gap again.

Fortunately this challenge is easier to solve as it appears to be. The key to success is to split the security officer function more Agile minded roles with different responsibilities and duties. In the coming blogs I will dive deeper into the different aspects of these roles and the differences in the responsibilities and duties. But first we need to take a little trip down to memory lane to understand how we ended up in this situation.

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Improve Team Collaboration by Co-creating a Team Poster

Do you have a scrum team consisting of individual players? Does your team know why it exists in the first place? Do the team members know eachother's personal preferences for doing the things they do? Are they aware of what they find important as a team? A Team Poster crafted by the team itself will improve collaboration and contributes to a performance increase.

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The Five Belts Of The Product Owner

What is your level?

What is your level?

One of the cool things that Europeans added to Judo is the belt system. Japanese are patient by nature, they either do or don't. In fact they distinguish only the black belt, you either have it or are progressing towards it.

We need a bit more guidance to know we are on the right way, hence we have the different belts (which actually originate from the game of pool.) So what are five distinct levels of Product Ownership that we can observe and what must change before we move on to the next level?

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