World Premiere Video: “A Day in the Life of Agile at Valpak”

Are you ready for the world premiere of our brand new Agile video?

It’s been three years since we released the original video on Valpak‘s Agile transformation and a lot has changed since then. To capture these changes and to demonstrate where we are on our Agile journey, we’ve released this new video.

Directed and co-written by Toby Morris, produced and co-written by yours truly and edited by Matthew Rivlin, the video uses an entertaining GoPro technique to capture a day in the life of each role on an Agile team at Valpak.

The video also boasts an impressive cast, listed in order of appearance:

Mike Hayes………………….The Insatiable Stakeholder
Kip Marler……………………Extra #1
John Dodd…………………..The Cool Product Owner
Terry Winslow……………The Steadfast ScrumMaster
Jennifer Zajac…………….The Tenacious Business Analyst
Toby Morris…………………The Amazing Developer
Ledel Lewis………………….The Meticulous Software Tester
Chris Cate…………………….The Active Executive

The video is our way of giving back to the community and showcasing our new workspaces and Agile culture. We also wanted to capture the essence of our Agile tour in a fun and entertaining way.

The Rise of Agile Across Tampa Bay

chartAlmost four years ago, I attended, what was called at the time, a meetup of the “Tampa Agile Software Developers”.  Organized by leaders and hosted at their offices near International Plaza, the group was barely 100 members.  I distinctly remember my first meetup.  It was a small group of less than 10 people in a small conference room just off their lobby.  Two pizzas were more than enough that evening.  Cory Foy did an energized talk on Kanban and I contributed what I could to the conversation, Valpak having been just a few months into an Agile transformation. I was looking for like minded individuals to network and share experiences and that is exactly what I found.  But, I wasn’t done yet.

I quickly convinced the organizers to broaden their scope to include more than just developers (all the roles of Agile) and to consider that Tampa Bay is not just Tampa proper.  They kindly obliged (or maybe just humored me) by renaming the group “Tampa Bay Agile”.  By the same time the next year, I had become organizer for the group along with partner-in-crime Ryan Dorrell.  Our initial aim was to have at least one featured speaker a month and we would turn over every rock and stone until we found them.

Fast forward to today.  Tampa Bay Agile has grown to over 1,000 members.  We have a steady supply of featured monthly speakers (most of which find us before we find them), three Lean Coffees each month at varied locations across the bay, the Tampa Bay ScrumMasters Guild, and an awesome holiday party (for which we are currently seeking a sponsor, by the way).  We are one of the largest tech meetups in the area.  In fact, so big that the Tampa Bay Technology Forum now includes our events on their community calendar.

But, it’s not just about the meetup group.  Tampa Bay has been the host city to Agile Open Florida for the past two years now and was the command center for the OnAgile 2015 virtual conference in May.  Plus, the list of companies gone or going Agile across the Tampa Bay is rapidly growing.  Just off the top of my head and in no particular order, we’ve got …

  • Healthesystems
  • Bisk Education
  • Grow Financial
  • MyMatrixx
  • New York Life
  • Catalina Marketing
  • Tribridge
  • PSCU
  • Kobie Marketing
  • PWC

And, these are just the ones I personally know of, having given them an Agile tour of Valpak.

All of this is just more testimony to the rise of Agile across Tampa Bay.  Ryan Dorrell, CTO of AgileThought, had this to say about the growth of Agile in the Tampa Bay community:

“As the software development industry shifts to keep up with the demands of faster time to market and more collaboration from customers, more and more organizations from startups to multi-billion dollar enterprises are finding that they need to shift their thinking and delivery to an agile model.  Ten years ago, when we would talk to companies about agile, it was viewed as something of a curiosity.  Today we are seriously engaged with the C-suite talking about how agile can move their business and software delivery capability forward.  We’ve all come a long way together in a decade, and the rapid growth of Tampa Bay Agile is leading indicator of where the industry trend is going.”

Congratulations Tampa Bay!  I’m proud to be a part of it all.  Go Agile!

Picture This! Valpak’s Agile Work Spaces

This might be my favorite post yet because it’s all pictures and few words.  In helping my boss to prepare for his talk at the Agile Executive Forum in Washington DC next week, I took some pretty good pictures of our (Valpak’s) Agile work spaces to share with you all.  Enjoy!


“The Park” is home to most of our IT Scrum and Kanban boards. This is where they have their daily standups. Whiteboard artwork by Ken Pace, one of our UI guys.


Another view inside “The Park”.


One perspective of The Agile Manifesto art wall in IT.


Another perspective of The Agile Manifesto art wall in IT.


And, yet another perspective of The Agile Manifesto art wall in IT.


Even the outside of “The Park” is used for board space.


A view from where the BI Scrum team sits looking towards The Agile Manifesto art wall.


The view from the aisle looking towards The Agile Manifesto art wall.


The view from the main walkway through IT looking towards The Agile Manifesto art wall.


IT is located right next to the BI and Finance teams. They’ve got the super cool Big Data art wall.


Our executives are located in an area called “Downtown”. This is a view of the Portfolio Kanban located in the Downtown Kitchen. The executives have a weekly standup at this board.


The art wall in our Digital area has a rocket ship.


Some whiteboard fun from our Digital teams plus their Scrum board.


A panoramic view of “The Park”, 360 degrees of Scrum and Kanban boards for our IT teams. Notice Dudley the Doughbot hanging out.


Another panoramic view of “The Park”, 360 degrees of Scrum and Kanban boards for our IT teams.


And, yet another panoramic view of “The Park”, 360 degrees of Scrum and Kanban boards for our IT teams.

Random Things … But Totally Agile

I’ll be at Agile2015 in Washington DC the first week in August.  Are you going?  Look for me in the Agile Alliance lounge when I’m not in a session.  I’ve also got a talk scheduled for Tuesday morning with Mark Kilby“User Group Dying? Time to Start a State-Wide Learning Network”.  And, my boss, Chris Cate (EVP & CIO of Cox Target Media) will be speaking at the nearby Agile Executive Forum.

For those of you that go to you conferences looking for some cool new gear, I’ve got great news for you!  This year at Agile2015, a limited number of cool t-shirts will be available for purchase in the book store.  Only 50 of each of these designs are available.  Get ’em while they last!


Did you attend OnAgile 2015 on May 14th on “Navigating the Future: Emerging Technical Trends and Practices”?  If not, no worries!   The virtual conference is still available on-demand until August 14th.  Register here and experience the first ever virtual conference of the Agile Alliance at your leisure.

Tampa Bay Agile recently welcomed its 900th member.  Congratulations Tampa Bay Agile!  We have grown by over 900% in about 3 years.  This speaks volumes to the state of Agile across the Tampa Bay community.  Do you want to speak at an upcoming Tampa Bay Agile meetup?  Ping me.

We just wrapped up our 2nd annual Agile Open Florida!  We had close to 200 attendees from all over the state of Florida.  A recap with notes, photos, and a quick video can be found here.  It was incredible how relevant the “No One Size Fits All” theme was.


Well, I made the finals in the Technology category for the Tampa Bay Business Journal BusinessWoman of the Year.  I must say that use of the words “dominant” and “fixture” is quite strong, but I’ll take it.  I’m honored to be up against friend and fellow BusinessWoman, Joy Randels, (again) too.

Last but not least, I’ve got something very special coming your way in August.  Some of you may recall the Valpak Agile Transformation video from 2012.  Well, it’s so 3 years ago.  For the past few months, The Amazing Toby and I have been working on a new video for Valpak with some super challenging but seriously cool use of GoPros.  The goal of this new video is to:

  • Follow-up (update) to the original video that was done in 2012. Many of the people that appeared in that video are no longer with the company and we are further along in our Agile journey now.
  • Showcase our new workspaces and our Agile culture
  • Demonstrate where we are at in our Agile journey
  • Capture the essence of an Agile tour without actually filming a tour

Beginning an Agile Transformation at Your Organization: Shu-Ha-Ri?

Stephanie Davis:

Yes! Just like in The Karate Kid … “Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off.” Also, this is discussed in great detail in Chapter 4 of Lyssa Adkins book “Coaching Agile Teams” which I highly recommend.

Originally posted on agilefellow:

I just attended the Agile Open Florida event in St. Petersburg Florida this past Friday and the attendees’ organizations there seemed to be split into three camps:

  • Some teams within an organization practicing Agile and the other teams practicing Waterfall.
  • Organization just announced or beginning transformation to Agile (2-6 months into it).
  • Organizations been practicing Agile for a year or more (at different levels of maturity).

My perception was that the majority of the attendees’ organizations fell into Group 2 and I would like to expose them and others interested to the teachings of Shu-Ha-Ri and the question of its adoption.

Shu-Ha-Ri is a Japanese martial art concept where the term translates roughly to “first learn, then detach and finally transcend”.  The definition pulled from Wikipedia follows:

It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These…

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The Base Model Theory

In follow up to his post in April on Minimally Viable Product (MVP), our special guest blogger, Toby Morris, is back with “The Base Model Theory”.  Oh, and a big congratulations to The Amazing Toby for his recent promotion to Software Developer II at Valpak.

There seems to be some confusion as to what constitutes a Minimum Viable Product. The MVP is the least amount of features that meet your customer’s needs for the product under development. That doesn’t mean it’s the least possible work you can get away with. It doesn’t mean you are allowed to skimp on quality. An MVP should have every bit as high quality as any product you’d put your name on. Those bare minimum features are still produced with your normal level of quality and craftsmanship.

Here’s a different way of looking at it.

When you go to buy a car, what would you expect if you bought the lowest price car? What would the Minimum Viable Product be? Would it be an engine on a wood frame, with maybe, if you’re lucky, four wheels? Would it have an engine? Of course it would have an engine. It would have everything you’d expect to find in a modern car. A steering wheel, seats, a radio and air conditioning would all be included. Leather, heated seats and satellite radio probably wouldn’t be included. Those are luxury features. Those would be found on upgraded models. Not on the base model. And that’s what a Minimum Viable Product is. A base model.

What goes into a base model? Well, that depends on your audience. You wouldn’t find leather seats in a base model Ford. The audience doesn’t expect it. A BMW probably should have leather seats. And heated mirrors. The BMW audience would consider those features necessary, not luxuries, or “nice-to-haves”. Knowing your audience is invaluable in knowing what your MVP would be.

Here’s a software example. Let’s say you want to build a notepad app. You want it to be the best notepad app, eventually, but right now, being agile, you want to build the minimum viable notepad app you can build. You don’t want to waste time adding features that your future users won’t use. That increases the amount of time you must spend developing the app before you can ship. And delaying shipping for unneeded features costs you money. Both in the time and resources spent developing this waste, and the loss of revenue from missed sales.

So let’s decide the minimum feature set. You’d need a functioning app that launches, shows your user a place to enter data, and a way to enter data. That’s the bare minimum to consider this a notepad. But is that the base model? Can you save files? Or load existing files for editing? If not, this isn’t a base model. You’ve not only left out non-essential features, you’ve also left out features your audience would consider essential.

To reach the base model standard, you add basic file operations. Once you get that running, you think to yourself that it might be nice if the users of your app could click a button and have the text they’ve entered be set to music automatically. Sure, that would be awesome, but it’s not a base model feature. That’s most definitely an option.

The next time you’re designing a product, and trying to cut out unneeded features without taking away too much, think about the base model. Would the feature in question be in the base model? Would your audience expect it?

Preparing for Agile Open Florida 2015 – No One Size Fits All

Stephanie Davis:

Mark does a fine job in preparing you for Agile Open Florida on June 26th. This year’s theme is so relevant right now in our community: “No One Size Fits All”

Originally posted on A servant leader's lessons:

cropped-aoflogo-wideLater this month, I have the privilege of facilitating the Agile Open Florida 2015 conference.  Final preparations are well under way and we have sold out six weeks before the conference.  There is some personal preparation that would benefit everyone as well.  I’ll use the rest of this blog post to explain.

This year’s theme for Agile Open Florida is: No One Size Fits All

Who should come? And why? Anyone who has wrestled with the challenges of taking a team, a department, or an entire organization on an agile journey should attend.  This challenge is bigger than you.  You feel it is critical for you, your business, and your customers to “get this right”.  And there are so many things to get right.  So many questions to be answered.

But there is a catch.  There are many approaches to agile.  For teams, there are many choices such as Scrum

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