Monthly Archives: January 2013

Yes, we work with an Agile coach

The more popular this blog gets, the more calls I get from Agile consulting companies wanting to “help”.  That’s sweet and all, but we already work with an Agile coach here in Tampa Bay.  Since 2011, we’ve partnered with AgileThought.  They have “Agile” in their name so they must know what they’re doing!  But seriously, we’ve got their CTO, Ryan Dorrell, as our Agile coach.  He has the best bedside manner we could have hoped for and is always the voice of reason on all things Agile.  And, Ryan will forever be my Agile phone-a-friend.  Our arrangement consisted of customized training, coaching, and strategic guidance, among other things.  In fact, our relationship has been so successful that we are submitting for a local collaboration award as we speak.  Wish us luck!

Now that that is cleared up, I do want to take a moment to express the importance of having an external / independent Agile Coach to assist and guide your transformation.  Attempting to DIY (Do It Yourself) Agile can sometimes backfire.  In my experience, money spent on an Agile coach is definitely money well spent!  You need to spend the money to bring on an Agile coach for at least 6-months to train the teams and support the process. As human beings, we can laugh about the notion that we are more willing to take advice from a stranger than from a family member.  This is true in the business world as well (and that’s why consulting is big business).  Companies often tend to appreciate the advice of an independent expert more than a trusted member of the company’s own staff.  Also, an Agile coach can really have your back when it comes to resistance at any level.

Now, where I could use some help is if you are an Agile speaker and plan to be in the Tampa Bay area.  The Tampa Bay Agile Meetup group is always in need of speakers.  It might just be your way of reaching other companies that do indeed help with their Agile transformation.  Leave a comment if that opportunity interests you.

I’m Agile! Now what?

We here at Valpak are 1 year and 3 months into our Agile journey (not a destination, but a journey indeed).  We’ve transformed and scaled from 6 Scrum teams and 4 Kanban teams (October 2011 was Sprint 1) to 10 Scrum teams, 3 Kanban teams, and all the elements that comprise the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) including a release train, a Portfolio Kanban, and an Architecture Kanban. We’ve even got business, project, and personal Kanban boards popping up left and right.  And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve produced a video on our Agile Transformation and are just about to have a case study published in a book.  Plus, all along the way I’ve been blogging about our transformation.  So, that leads me to ask, “I’m Agile! Now what?”

In the 1+ year we’ve been doing Agile, we’ve managed to become very good at some of the basics … sprint planning, stand-ups, retrospectives, etc.  Teams go through the motions of Scrum in a lather-rinse-repeat fashion sprint after sprint after sprint.  We are doing Agile!  Now we need to be Agile!  To me, truly being Agile involves the conscious embrace of the Agile mindset such that it becomes deeply intertwined within our culture, values, and beliefs as a company and in everything we do each and every day; all the problem solving, creating, decision making, innovating, and direction setting that goes into running and growing the business.

So now that we are Agile, we keep on keepin’ on … that means we keep sprinting! It’s pretty clear that never ends.  While we continue to sprint merrily along, I continue to support and grow Agile across the organization as Director of Agile Leadership.  With that in mind,  I’ve outlined some 2013 goals for us that are specific to where we are at in our transformations and journey:

  1. My team of Agile Project Leaders, as well as some other interested folk, will pursue the PMI-ACP (Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Practitioner) this year.  This means there will be more than just me with a relevant certification in hand.  We can debate the value / need of certifications all you want, but it most certainly represents a commitment to Agile here at Valpak.
  2. We will further scale the process and teams to support the needs of the business.  This might mean starting teams, stopping teams, merging teams, or re-assigning team members.  Again, all based on the needs of the business throughout 2013.
  3. With 1+ years under their belts, all of the ScrumMasters (titled “Agile Project Leaders”) will truly step into the role of Agile coach, embodying the Agile mindset and, not just facilitating, but coaching teams too.
  4. By continually improving our estimating and planning, all teams will become more and more predictable over time by their velocity and story points will become second nature to our teams.
  5. We will become masters at (okay, maybe not masters, but at least really good at) writing user stories.  We will decompose stories just right and write meaningful (maybe even measurable) “so that” statements.
  6. Our backlogs will be so well groomed that each team will have 2 to 3 sprints worth of stories penciled in and priorities will be evident by the order of the stories in the backlog.
  7. We will send a handful of our best and brightest to the Agile 2013 conference to develop and network in hopes that they will return to further evangelize Agile across the organization.
  8. Teams will strive to become high performing teams by not just doing Agile but being Agile.
  9. We will give back to the Agile community by sharing our story with anyone willing to listen and encouraging others in their Agile transformation.

2012 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.