Episode 25 - Innovation

In this episode, Bob and Josh discuss various ways to drive innovation within your teams. Ideas include 20% time, FedEx/Innovation days, and a couple of others. Insight is also given into how to battle some of the normal push-back/challenges when these ideas are introduced into your organization.

Episode 24 - Reflections

In this episode Bob and Josh review lessons learned over the past year and discuss some of the improvements currently at the top of their personal backlog.

Episode 23 - Fireside Chats (A.K.A. “The Un-Topic”)

In this Meta-Cast Bob and Josh go topic-less and chat about challenges facing each of their current teams. Topics range from oscillating between Scrum and Kanban to getting that mystical, magical agile "switch" to flip in people.

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Failure - Expect, Embrace, Evolve

This was originally posted as an article on Teradata's Developer Exchange almost 2 years ago.  However, I thought it would be good to re-post it here since the "Embrace" section ties in very well with part of our discussion in Episode 22
"It will not do to leave a live dragon out of your plans if you live near one." ~ The Hobbit
No matter what you do, no matter how long you prepare, your plan will begin to slowly, or not so slowly, unravel before your eyes.  Plans fail, that is the one constant you can actually plan for.  
If you know things will go wrong, should you just throw caution to the wind and forget proper due diligence in planning your project?  Never, in fact, never ever!  A plan that is even a horrible 10% right is better than no plan at all.  Review previous plans to build expected-to-actual comparisons, evaluate your team's capacity/velocity, come up with real-world fix/find rates for bugs, or whatever you usually do.  Just know that you don't know everything that will happen to your precious project (yes Bilbo, I wrote precious on purpose).
Great, so how do we combat that fact that we know "stuff" happens.  I've long been a fan of a 25% unknown factor.  Take whatever you come up with as your planned completion date and increase it by 25%.  I don't care if it's only a week long plan or a whopping twenty-four months (may the wondrous software gods help you in that instance!).  The world is full of evil project disruptors just waiting to throw your plans into a tailspin.  You don't know them all, but you can know that some will surely visit your shire (yeah, I did that on purpose too).
Alfred Pennyworth: "Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up." ~ Batman Begins (2005)
Embrace failure by failing fast.  I'm a fan of Agile, so I usually promote Scrum as a way to offset the risk of failure.  If a sprint fails, you only "lose" two weeks worth of progress as opposed to multiple months.  It's a lot easier to get back on course when you are two weeks off plan as opposed to finding out halfway through your project that your estimates were off by 50%.  
Another tactic is to enable your teams to aim high with their goals and strive to excel.  Sure, when you aim high, you won't hit the mark every time, but I am willing to bet that you will be more impressed with a team that just misses a high target than a team that continually meets conservative goals.  Challenge your teams to continually increase their velocity.  Every once in a while, they will over-achieve and hit that high mark.  When that happens, smile and get out of the way.  An over-achieving team is hard to slow down once they figured out how powerful they can truly be.
A final change-embracer is the concept of an evolving design.  Massive up-front designs age quickly.  Do you really know everything you need to know to properly design a feature that won't be worked on for seven months?  Business priorities change, architectural decisions get tweaked, and new brains join teams with fresh ideas on how to do things better/faster/stronger.  Just like with plans, design small.  Design what you know at that moment. 
Mickey: "Your nose is broken."
Rocky: "How does it look?"
Mickey: "Ah, it's an improvement." ~ Rocky (1976)
My favorite part of Agile/Scrum is the retrospective.  Encourage your team to come up with creative ideas that may help the team work better.  Again, welcome failure in this process.  Worst case, you try something new, it fails inside of two weeks, and the team decides to try something else in the next sprint.  Get people talking and throwing out ideas to try.  I've found that emphasizing that these are things we would try for at least one sprint really helps people loosen up their idea-generating brain cells.  
Constant improvement is the only way to stay ahead of your competition.  Think of it this way.  Every day, you either get better, or you get worse.  There is no maintaining your current position because you must assume that your competition is out there doing every thing they can do one-up you.  So if you are not improving on a daily basis, you can bet whoever is chasing you is.  That is how you actually get worse by doing what you've always done.  Get better every day and every sprint!

Episode 22 - Patterns of Mature Agile Teams

In this episode, Bob and Josh discuss some common patterns displayed by truly mature agile teams. We cover a wide range of patters including teamwork, test infection, and automation.

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Episode 21 - EXTREME Agile!!!!

In this episode, Josh creates a crazy scenario in which we have only 24 hours to get an Agile team up and running. Based on that, Bob and Josh discuss what parts of Agile they would, and would not, implement in such a short time period. Aside from the extreme time constraints, the impending threat of attacks from aliens, zombies, and vampires leads to an interesting discussion of standing firm on Agile's principles regardless of the chaos that is happening around you and your project. What would you do?

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iContact Open House

Bob works at a local company called iContact. We're a Scrum + XP shop and relatively mature. I'm quite proud of our agile chops.

On July 14, we're opening our doors for an Open House. More information here

Come to check-out our agile chops OR simply come for the beer...


A few videos for Bob's presentations & interviews

Bob has been video taped at several speaking events. Here are a few links:

Episode 20 - Starting Agile Projects

Bob and Josh discuss tips and tricks you can use when starting an agile project. We cover the concept of a Sprint 0, rolling wave planning, and the varying levels of planning needed for small and large projects.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

A Webinar on "Starting" Agile Projects

We know, a bunch of Bob related topics in the last few days. Don't worry. Josh is busy too and you'll be hearing more from him soon.

But back to Bob ;-), I have a webinar coming up on Tuesday, May 31 titled Agile Projects: Beginning with the End in Mind. It's free, so join us if you can...

An Interview with Bob on Scaling Agility

Bob did an interview a few weeks ago for the folks at SearchSoftwareQuality.com on various points surrounding the challenges of agile at-scale. More info here...


Bob Keynoting at Agile Development Practices 2011 in June

Our own Bob Galen has been invited to deliver a keynote and several workshops and a track talk. Bob's keynote is focused on the role of Product Owner, which if you've followed us in the Meta-Cast, this is a particular area of passion and interest for me. Here's more information:

The Essential Product Owner: Partnering with the Team
Bob Galen, iContact

While the product owner (PO) role is arguably the most crucial role within agile teams, we often hear horror stories about POs who aren’t available to their teams, change their minds incessantly on business priorities, or ignore quality requirements and technical debt. Even the best POs struggle to meet the demands of their “regular business-focused job” while providing sufficient team guidance. Bob Galen shares real-world situations where he’s observed product owners who deliver truly balanced value for their business stakeholders. Find out how story mapping and release planning set the stage for effective team workflow by establishing a big picture product view for everyone to see. Explore ways to develop shared goals—at both the iteration and release levels—to cement the partnership between the product owner and the rest of the team. Learn from Bob how to set up a tempo of regular, focused backlog grooming sessions to enable the team and the PO to prioritize well-nuanced and high-value backlogs. Leave with ideas for establishing an ecosystem where the PO and the entire team strive to continuously improve their performance. 

There are several other talks I'll be sharing at the conference...

Bob Galen Bob Galen is the director of R&D at iContact and president of RGCG, LLC., a North Carolina-based firm specializing in strategy development, coaching, and training teams making the shift to Scrum and other agile practices. Bob regularly speaks at international conferences and professional groups on topics related to software development, project management, software testing, and team leadership. He is a Certified ScrumMaster Practicing (CSP), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), and an active member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. In 2009, Bob published Scrum Product Ownership—Balancing Value from the Inside Out. You can reach Bob at bob@rgalen.com or rgalen.com

                                                                                                                                   Keynote: The Essential Product Owner: Partnering with the Team   Thursday, June 9, 2011, 10:15 a.m.
Half-day Tutorial: Releasing Large-scale Agile Projects   Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 8:30 a.m.
Half-day Tutorial: Essential Patterns of Mature Agile Teams   Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 1:00 p.m.
Concurrent Session: Agile Testing: Challenges Beyond the Easy Contexts   Thursday, June 9, 2011, 12:45 p.m.

I'll be at the conference from Tuesday June 7 through Thursday, June 9. I'll be 'around' at the conference. I'll also be spending some time with my friends at Zenergy in their booth. If you want to chat about agile topics or virtually anything related to the Meta-Cast, please stop and say hello. I'd enjoy meeting you!

Episode 19 - Methodology Mixology

Bob and Josh discuss the various methodologies in use across the agile community and how mixing them together can benefit your teams. We cover numerous use cases in which applying techniques from Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban can help improve your team's performance.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Episode 18 - Conferences

Bob and Josh discuss technology conferences. With a goal of helping you get the most out of any technology conference you may attend, our topics of discussion include attendee etiquette, how to plan for attending a conference, different conference types, and various speaker styles. Having attended many conferences and spoken at quite a few, we attempt to tackle each subject from both angles (attendee and speaker) in hopes of providing increased insight into each topic.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Episode 17 - Failed Sprints

Bob and Josh discuss common causes of failed sprints. We not only tackle the causes, but we also provide options for preventing future failures and identify a few early warning signals.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Episode 16 - Manager Anti-Patterns

Bob and Josh discuss some of the more common anti-patterns managers have been known to display (topics range from lack of trust all the way to disengagement). Hopefully, you've never been exposed to any of these anti-patterns, but if you have, this meta-cast offers a few tips on how to handle them.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Episode 15 - Retrospectives

Bob and Josh tackle another listener-submitted question. This one centers around retrospectives. Topics in the discussion range from patterns and anti-patterns we've seen out in the wild to tips and tricks you can use to help revive your stale retrospectives.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Episode 14 - Agile Adoption

Bob and Josh tackle their first listener-submitted question, which centers around agile adoption. How do you start an agile adoption? What are some of the pre-reqs for a successful adoption (tools, talent, knowledge, etc.)? How can you scale these successes throughout your enterprise? These items and more are covered in episode 14. Enjoy!!!

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.

Free Agile Adoption Meta-Workshop

Yeah, that's right, Bob and Josh are co-hosting a free Agile Adoption meta-workshop (since it's us, we kind of have to call it a meta-workshop)!

MATRIX is hosting the event at their RTP office on Thursday, February 24 from 1:00pm - 4:45pm. If you are in the area and would like to attend, you can click here to register.

Over the past 5 or so years, the terms Agile and Extreme have proliferated much of the thinking behind how we best build software products. This has been driven from the Agile Methodology community and its techniques and methods have certainly been gaining momentum.

* Are you seriously considering trying agile? Read a few books, but are still confused about where to begin?

* Are you being told to adopt Agile and don’t know exactly what that means?

* Are you in the middle of an Agile adoption and struggling with it?

* Are you an experienced Agile leader or practitioner and still feel that your not getting the investment returns you expected?

In this interactive workshop there will be no canned presentation materials. Instead, the class will work together to define a set of questions / challenges that as a group we’ll tackle—discussing possible approaches & solutions.Here’s a workshop session where you can get your “Agile Adoption” questions on the table and have experienced agile coach and practitioners Bob Galen and Josh Anderson help guide your efforts. Consider it 3 hours of “free consulting” focused on Agile adoption.

Episode 13 - Agile Testing, Part 2

Bob and Josh wrap up their two-part discussion of testing in an agile team. This second session covers various agile testing subjects, from continuous integration to automated test development.

If you are viewing this from our web page, please click on the post title above, or here, to download the podcast.