Scrum Ceremonies – Daily Stand Ups
 

The following Scrum ceremonies are to be understood well.

  1. Planning and grooming
  2. Daily Standups
  3. Demo/Review or Showcase
  4. Retrospectives

Let’s talk about Daily Standups in this article

The standup is nothing but a daily meeting among all scrum members. The agenda of this meeting should be:

1.  What did you accomplish since the last meeting

2. What are you planning to work on until the next meeting

3. What issues are blocking your progress (Impediments)

BEST Practices

  • This is not a status meeting or status to management.
  • The stand-ups should be strictly time-boxed between 10 minutes to max 15 minutes.
  • Hold the meeting “Without chairs” if possible. Everyone must stand and speak up.
  • Plan to do this in the morning. If you have a sprint team outside of your country and a common meeting held only in the evening then plan to meet whoever is available in the morning for 5 minutes for quick sync up with the same agenda. The evening standups are just status or post-mortem which doesn’t serve the purpose of stand-ups.
  • Everybody in the team reports to three agenda items listed above to the rest of the team.
  • Prefer to have this meeting at the same place and time every day. Meeting in the morning is very important as it helps set the context for upcoming work.
  • The quick questions and clarifications can be covered at a time while do remember that the meeting must have to end within 15 minutes. Please understand when I say quick, I am referring to closed-ended quick questions. The rest of everything should go offline or should be addressed with other meetings.
  • The meeting should not be canceled even some of the members are not present. As a team member, it is extremely important for you to attend the meeting if you are not on leave that day.
Agile Top 10 Interview Questions
 

agilechamps.com top 10 interview questions

Following are the TOP 10 agile interview questions. There is another list of critical questions while these are expected in most interviews. Moreover these are very basic, and every interviewee is expected to excel in his/her responses for these questions.

  • What is agile roadmap looks like? Explain agile process start to end? How do you start agile project? What is the difference between product roadmap and Release planning?

Refer Agile Roadmap

  • What is Test Driven Development? How does it differs from traditional method where tests were written before the actual code?
  • What is continuous integration? How do you achieve that?
  • What is scope creep and how do you manage that within sprint?
  • What are the core artifacts of sprint? Elaborate them?
  • What is the role of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Team Member? Or what are the typical roles in Scrum?

Refer Scrum Roles and Responsibilities

  • What is Velocity and Story Points? How do you relate story points to hours? Is it right?

Refer Story Points Vs Time

  • What type of metrics or reports you have in agile? Explain?
  • Explain Sprint Ceremonies? Planning & Grooming, Stand-up, Demo or Showcase and Retrospective.

Refer

Scrum Ceremonies – Daily Stand Ups

Scrum Ceremonies – Planning and Grooming

Scrum Ceremonies – Retrospectives

Scrum Ceremonies – Demo/Review or Showcase

  • Explain Agile in 2 minutes? When should you use Agile? Explain the instances when you prefer to go with Waterfall over Agile

Refer Agile in 2 minutes

I would be writing other important questions in addition to questions focused for Managers, Directors, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Team Members and Product Owners in my upcoming blogs.

 

Agile Appraisal – What to consider
 

If you are a manager and above in agile work environment and you need to go with appraisal, you might have encountered situations where what to expect from your team members compare to traditional model.  The focus is on collaboration, pairing, individual ownership for self and team. The “Working for team” culture over work for “self” make it more difficult.  One of the recommendation I have for all the managers or individuals responsible for doing appraisals for agile team is to have  a certain percentage allocated to team success in everyone’s goal,  and further how the team collaborates and how well they work together.  The percentage can differ with experience of an agile team member and expectations what you have from your team.

When it comes to individual performance (obviously there is a percentage attached to this as well which is typically little above than team success), I prefer to look at three factors which covers it all.

1. Competence – Demonstrates strong leadership in one or more areas (e.g., technical, project management, process, etc.). Consistently works to leverage skills for team and larger organization success.

  • Breadth and depth of knowledge and skills
  • Problem solving ability
  • Technical, communication, interpersonal, business skills
  • Leadership and innovation, applied to people, processes, and projects

2. Contribution – Someone who has a lot of initiative, is a leader across the organization, and has outstanding productivity.

  • Ability to meet commitments
  • Overall productivity and volume of output
  • Early communication of problems and contribution to workarounds that meets business goals
  • Versatility – willingness and ability to adapt to new tasks
  • Teamwork – willingness and ability to help others
  • Leadership skills such as architecture, project management, change management, communication, and mentoring
  • Ability to motivate others, manage self, and demonstrate initiative.

3. Value to business – This is very critical. What kind of value you are adding to business. There could be high competence and contribution to build a product while ROI (Return on investment) should never be ignored.

  • Knowledge and skills as mapped to needs of the business
  • Extra points here for unique skills we need

Every agile member should ask three questions to himself/herself frequently

  • Am I learning?
  • Am I contributing?
  • Am I making a difference?

The manager should ask the same questions to himself/herself and same for his team. If the answer is no then appropriate development goals must be planned and discussed.

The biggest goals for a manager should be in while managing agile project should be

  • Sprint success
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Constant Learning
  • Building Self Organizing Teams

 

Why sprint success is important
 

In Agile environment, some of the committed stories may not be completed at the end of the iteration. For example, in Scrum, the stories roll to the next sprint. There could be various reasons why some of the stories could not be achieved. Reasons include (not limited to) blockers, inefficiency, improper sync between team members, missing clarity, support from other teams, priority etc. A casual look on this can make someone think this is normal. But sprint success has a huge impact on the long term success of the team and the product.

Fig: Success

Following are the some of the reasons why sprint success is important.

  • Morale : The team members self esteem actually gets higher when they achieve their goal. This breads confidence and help them to get better a their game, which can lead to more success.

  • Habit: Success breads happiness and more success. At the same time, failure breads failure. Also success/failure on one aspect of life can cause ripple effect on the rest of the life. We should be focused on success on every aspect of life so that it can bread in to itself.

Fig: Habit Loop

  • Fine reputation: More than any thing else, team will be very proud when they are able to successfully achieve the sprint goals consistently. Their reputation and respect around the company can actually go up and they will have to live up to that standard.

  • High standards: Team starts to set higher standard for themselves when they have high reputation. This helps them to get better at questioning, coding, testing, deploying and showcasing etc and improves their living standards in a holistic way.

  • Team bonding: When the team have a standard to live up to, they come together and get the things done, keeping aside the petty things. The goal becomes  bigger than individuals and  deliver thing as a team. This leads to higher team bonding and it reinforces their standards, reputation, habit and morale.

These are some of the main reasons why sprint success is important. When we focus on success, more positive things happen to the team and to the product that they work on.

Agile in 2 minutes
 

 

Agile software development framework refers to the time-boxed, continuous iteration of development, and testing to build software where the solutions evolve throughout with incremental development via collaboration among self-organizing teams. Agile helps organizations to expertise and respond to continuous change resulting in continuous improvement.

As shown in the above diagram, the vision and feasibility are the most important factors to be considered before starting a project.  In this phase,

  • We identify whether we should consider doing a project or not
  • What is going to be ROI (Return of investments) for a project?
  • How do we get funding?
  • Is it worth taking risks? Staffing?
  • what is the value the project brings in?

You use this phase to break the idea into individual functionality items called features or user stories.  If this looks positive, the next step is to create a product roadmap document.

The product backlog is created by leveraging the product roadmap document. The release planning results in a release backlog. The individual sprints are defined to accomplish upcoming release goals. The Agile Roadmap blog defines the entire project in more detail.

The sprint ceremonies are listed as

The sprint roles are (The details are listed in Scrum Roles and Responsibilities blog)

  • Product Owner
  • Team member
  • Scrum Master

The core sprint artifacts are

  • Burndown and Burn-up chart
  • Sprint Backlog
  • Product Backlog
  • Increment
Sad Mad and Glad Retrospective – A powerful team retrospective tool
 


One of the powerful retrospective getting very popular lately is Sad/Mad and Glad. Many organizations don’t even conduct it as they are afraid to talk about employee challenges or too busy to do other things that they don’t have time to focus on employee morale. There are obviously pros and cons but making it work truly helps you to achieve more. In my personal opinion, the number of positives what you have with this retrospective is far higher than challenges hence it’s worth doing it.

Prerequisites :-

  • Your team and your presence
  • Sticky notes (Three colors)
  • Enough Pens
  • Open minded motivated teams

In this retrospective, you ask your team to get into a room.  Every colored sticky note represents Sad/Mad or Glad respectively.  You can take the printout of below and paste that in the room where you are going to conduct this meeting. This would provide clarity on the go!

You can take the printout of below and paste that in the room where you are going to conduct this meeting. This would provide clarity on the go!

You can start your meeting with a positive note. Ask individuals to participate freely and openly. Once the stage is all set, you can ask every individual to write up the areas what they are happy about it (Glad), don’t like it (Sad) or frustrated with it (Mad) on different color sticky notes. I always recommend individual team members to write their names on each sticky note else there are good chances that it would become a political battle. You should always give an option to do go with anonymous though.

I have seen instances where team members just write some crap either because they did not have good appraisal last time or not in line with others due to personal issues. If you find an item which has something written in sad or mad while an individual who wrote it is not willing to even talk about it then you can very much assume either that’s fake or written with the wrong intention hence discard it. There are some people very shy and not willing to open at all. They should go to their manager or who is driving sad mad/glad to discuss the area of concern.  Just to avoid the frustration as manager, anything written as an area of concern and individual is not willing to open up personally or with the team, you can safely scrap it.

Once everyone is done with writing, spend an hour or so reading every item and discuss that with the team. Remember the goal is to share as much as information about the issue and gaining more details around the problem while not fixing the problem there itself. This would be good input to take it forward as employee happiness and moral is very critical to agile success.

Things to remember while doing Sad/Mad & Glad:-

  • You should be reading every item loud or make it visible to every individual unless there is a derogatory remark which is not acceptable.
  • Team to think of the success of team and project rather considering this as revenge material.
  • Everyone must open up. If you don’t have guts to talk about your challenge then don’t even write it. You are just creating a FUSS which is either not true or you don’t know what is this the right forum to talk about it.
  • Refrain from making comments about an individual if you don’t have supporting material. The world is not perfect. The goal is to identify the improve system over making it worse
  • BE MATURE
  • Should not be anonymous.
  • Don’t abuse it. It is conducted to the best interest of an individual and improves as a team. It should never be used as a tool to fulfill your political battle.
  • Not every problem can be fixed eventually. Somebody writes that I don’t feel like working doesn’t mean you would allow him to sleep in the office.
  • Don’t try to fix the problems during this retrospective.
  • Constantly read the issues/concerns raised and strive to fix as much as you can.  Provide updates to the team around the issues you committed you would work on.

The benefits I see with this retrospective are:-

  • Gives lots of motivation to the team when going over “Glad” items.
  • Give an opportunity to an employee to express their challenges.
  • Bring in open culture
  • Reduce attrition as you really know challenges and definitely a lot of which you can work on.
  • It gives 360 views in terms of how the teams are progressing.
  • One of the biggest “Glad” item I would say is that your organization is conducting it.

The challenges I see are:-

  • It may become a political battle if your team is not mature and willing to go for an anonymous survey.
  • Excessive sad mad and glad would unearth issues which are not really problems while making other team members think it’s a major problem.
  • Sometimes very happy team morale goes down as well as when you have an opportunity to think about negatives, you feel like writing it and further “law of attraction” does its job.
  • What I was written must be addressed and fixed “Myth”. You may not like the tile color in the washroom but that cannot be really changed.
PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner
 

Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Practitioner

The Agile Certified Practitioner formally recognizes your knowledge of agile principles and your skill with agile techniques. This is one of the most valued certification when it comes to Agile.

You can get all the information around this certification at

http://www.pmi.org/certifications/types/agile-acp

You must earn 21 PDUs (Professional Development Units) to be able to appear for this exam. You are expected to earn at least 30 PDU every three years in order to main the status of this certification.

PDU – One PDU can be earned with one hour of activity (training). As per the PMI “The professional development units(PDUs) are the measuring unit used to quantify approved learning and professional service activities.”