Should I start thinking about switching from Scrum to Kanban?
 

I want to release anytime, I don’t want iterations, I want to skip estimation, I have challenges with self-organizing teams, I want to change my priorities,

I need better visualization, I want to process that is more adaptable, Scope creep is my major concern, I am want to handle support tickets,  I am afraid of sprint failure and end of picking less work, I can’t break down stories enough to complete within the sprint.

Before I get into details, review below carefully, this would suffice the need for moving to Kanban over Scrum or XP.

  1. There are teams that have a more responsive nature of work like maintenance, fixing customer bugs, run time day to day requests, etc.
  2. It may not be a good idea for these teams to plan the sprint or iteration since a lot of activities will become overhead. In addition to that, we need to break the Agile principles for instance constantly adding items to sprint during execution, not doing refinement in advance, accepting back-to-back sprint failure, and more.
  3. Not doing Scrum does not mean they would not publish the work. They are still expected to commit approx work (Preferably in terms of story points) in a given time period.
  4. They commit to goals and SLA based on the past data

Scrum is great while the world is not a perfect place. You can always overcome challenges associated with it but if you have another Agile method is even more flexible there is no harm in leveraging that. I see many organizations are switching to Kanban and getting wonderful results. I don’t have the intention to move you from what you have been doing while I am just trying to initiate a thought process and philosophy around Kanban.

Let’s understand the above in more detail with real-time scenarios. A group of project managers gathered to discuss the challenges they have with the existing process with senior management.  Let’s look at some of the interesting areas what they have put forward on the table (I am sure you can relate one or more areas if you have managed agile teams)

 

Project Manager 1: (Team is afraid of Sprint failure) My team has very fewer items in sprint compare to what they can accomplish as they are scared of sprint failure.  Despite that, I don’t have successful sprints as one or items roll most times as we get blocked. I can’t allow my team to pick more middle of a sprint

Project Manager 2: (Prod issues; Lot of support to other teams) My team builds new features while I am expected to support some of the other teams for whom we provide back-end services. The requests coming from them is our top priority whenever it’s related to prod for them.  The amount of work that comes from different teams vary and we cannot assign fixed bandwidth to deal with those issues. Most of our Sprint we have one of these two situations

  • The sprint fails because we need to focus on supporting other teams.
  • We are done much before the sprint ends.  Pulling new work is not allowed mid-sprint hence we use that time for learning while this is not a great idea all the time.

Project Manager 3: (Support work; Tickets) I have all the support work. The estimation has been a challenge most times. A bug takes a day or a week, it all depends on the product I work for is huge and we have most of the newer members.  How can I make sure my sprints are successful and at the same time, we as a team don’t under commit?

Project Manager 4:  (Adaptive to more adaptive) My team hates too many ceremonies and processes. They think of having a lightweight process which is more adaptive over-prescriptive,  is much better. All of them are experienced/committed and understand their roles and responsibilities.

Project Manager 5: (Time and material; Longer stories; Unpredictable work) We built adapters and I don’t see the benefit of breaking down and doing that in parts. We have a deadline for every adapter and we kept getting blocked. We are fine to wait as we are on the “time and material” contract. Getting blocked from the customer end doesn’t harm as billing doesn’t stop.  How do I fit in a work which takes a few weeks to a couple of months?

Project Manager 6: (Frequent priority shiftOur priorities changes very frequently.  Many times we literally have to stop what we are working on and start something else. Getting new work done in the next sprint doesn’t help as the work we are doing becomes useless even if that’s completed due to change in priority.

Project Manager 7:  (Customer or Sprint successOur company’s top priority is to manage customers and their expectations while we always focus on velocity and sprint success. This becomes challenging as in order to manage customer priorities, we compromise Scrum priorities or vice versa. Both are not good ideas. In the first option, you are disregarding a process resulting in low team morale and an unpredictable outcome.  The later is not acceptable anyway 🙂

Project Manager 8: (The product owner struggles) The PO struggles to lock down the requirements for a week. He keeps adding work to sprint throughout the week, changing existing requirements, and even providing/updating acceptance criteria during the sprint.

Projects Manager 9: (Team experience or complex work) My team has challenges with breaking the requirements or estimating the work.  The sprint success matters most to me (Why-Sprint-Success-is-Important). I end up being unhappy most times.

Kanban could be one of the solutions for most of the problems listed above. The comparison of Kanban with Scrum/XP and some of the core frameworks is available here

Sprint success is really important when you talk about Scrum. The Sprint fails due to a variety of reasons like team experience, The challenges with breaking down stories, unpredictable work, Customer focus precedes team priorities, support work, and many other challenges as listed above. Many times either we run too much to having a successful sprint (By means of slogging or patch up work) or do not think of a successful sprint at all. Both are not good options.

In my upcoming blogs, I would be talking in detail about how to use Kanban, best practices, myths, and an easy shift from the existing process to Kanban. Please provide your comments below. This would help me to cover all aspects of my next set of blogs on Kanban.

 

 

 

Why do people say SAFe is a top-down command and control approach
 

 

SAFe Agile is extremely prescriptive, works only with command and control from the top management – Is this a Myth?  – Let’s explore to know the answer

is SAfe safe

Before I share my thoughts, let me add a disclaimer

  • I have a strong faith in SAFe
  • I am very much inclined to SAFe values, principles, and practices

“If you are on agile, scaling agile becomes relatively easy”

Let’s say your company is running on broken agile processes or is on a waterfall methodology, you can still be successful with SAFe but the chances are reduced significantly.   The SAFe suggests significant benefits in 3-5 years while you will hear from people that the magical outcome in productivity, quality, employee morale, etc would come in 3-6 months.  Let’s explore slightly deeper:-

I think you would agree that most of the transformations begin with top-down command and control for the simple reason that change is not easy and it needs a real push if it’s not small.  This would shift unorganized functions to be more organized, pushes people hard for delivery, teams start running on cadence and synchronization if it’s SAFe resulting in higher productivity, quality and so is the outcome.  The KPIs, Metrics, and rigid processes make people do more. There is a forced innovation in the beginning as well. But remember that this would not go long run. The management started believing that we have showcased better outcomes hence let’s not stop. They go with 100 percent utilization which is a disaster (SAFe says so, and I completely agree).  The fall begins within 1 or 2 years and it becomes very tough to manage it.  The command and control is fine at the start but it should be strictly looked into in six months to a year. The management needs to focus on generative culture, autonomy, and decentralized decision making.

We need to have a relentless improvement in not just the outcome but employee well-being, morale, and learning. We should ensure that we stick to SAFe values and principles.  One of the main reasons I have seen for SAFe failure is organizations do not invest much after little success or Org is not ready to move to SAFe but they want to be part of the rat race.

People talk about only success stories while there is a good number of failure stories as well which probably is not taught anywhere. I met many people who ask the interviewer whether the company they are giving an interview is on SAFe or planning to adopt in near future. If the answer is yes to any of these two questions, they don’t want to join the company. There is a myth and perception created while that doesn’t seem to be true. The management truly has to involved at ground level in order to break the myth and move their towards the real benefits of SAFe.

We should all remember that identification of value streams and ARTs, Identification of EPICs are core challenges while implementing SAFe while organization alignment still remains the priority.

The ONE Invisible Code – Think beyond mediocrity & rise to the Next Level – Book Review
 
I just read an interesting book The ONE Invisible Code – I loved every bit of it. Sharat has done complete justice to convey the message to rise beyond mediocrity.  
In this post, I am sharing with you what I found to be interesting in the book. Firstly, this is one of the finest books I read in the recent past. The book is very practical and filled with exercises. This helps you apply the concepts you learn immediately.
 
The book starts with Joy and his struggles. A failed entrepreneur and an employee. He meets his Mentor in unusual circumstances. The book then picks momentum and is an interesting conversation between Joy and his Mentor. During the conversation, Joy’s mentor helps him get unstuck and makes him realize his full potential.  
 
The book is divided into 4 sections:
 

Section 1: Orbit of Mastery Vs Orbit Of Mediocrity – Where are you?

Here is where the foundation of every great success is presented in an interesting way. The concept of Orbit Of Mastery and Orbit Of Mediocrity. When we give too much emphasis on safety overgrowth, comfort over the challenge, and short-term pleasure over long-term purpose, we get stuck in the orbit of mediocrity. Mastery begins with self-awareness is something that I really enjoyed.

Section 2: The 4 Mindsets
Knowing and mastering our mindset is the key to achieving all the success and fulfillment. The top priority of every successful individual, entrepreneur, or a corporate leader has been the power of mastering their mindset. When you know your mindset, you can consciously choose to change and sail through any adversity that life throws at you. Learn 4 mindsets and discover your inner potential.
 

Section 3. Owning The Truth

All high achievers own certain truths which help them create exemplary results. Many of these unconventional truths make you think beyond what you have learned. It’s time to challenge the conventional wisdom and learn to own these truths

 

Section 4: The ‘ONE’ Invisible Code
All high achievers practice a pattern or a series of steps to achieve massive success. Do you want to know what are these steps? Do you want to decode these patterns and find that invisible code? You can discover these steps to breakthrough mediocrity and reach the next level of success in the book.

 
Here is a 90sec introduction video of the book https://youtu.be/JXnf-ASjAYg
 
You can grab a copy of the book using this link 

The ‘One’ Invisible Code: An Uncommon Formula To Breakthrough Mediocrity & Rise to the Next Level

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Introduction – The ‘ONE’ Invisible Code