2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Agile At The Top: How Executives Walk The Talk

I am pleased to introduce Diana Weber for a special guest blog post on “Agile At The Top:  How Executives Walk The Talk”.  Diana is a passionate writer, an avid agilist, and an Agile Project Leader on my team here at Valpak.

IMG_1152As trailblazers in scaling agile across the corporate enterprise, Valpak executives walk the talk and support agile practices from the top-down. As a result, the Executive Portfolio Kanban was born. Though merely a board, it represents what the traditional PMO Office used to be, streamlining the process of traditional project prioritization which governs the strategy and execution of large business initiatives. By converting this process to a Kanban, executives and stakeholders are able to have full transparency and visibility to the top priorities of the company for a given quarter. This creates a trickle-down effect as Product Owners are kept aware of changing corporate priorities so that they can adjust and build upon their backlogs of user stories that will support the successful completion of these epics for their executive sponsors. Competing impacted resources and teams are identified so that the more important initiatives take priority as the execution of this work is planned within team sprints. Oh, and we didn’t get here overnight! The Executive Portfolio Kanban was launched about a year into our agile journey and has been tweaked over the course to what it is today, and now serves as the top layer in our adaptation of the Scaled Agile Framework.

Main points of interest:

  • Swimlanes include: Funnel/Vet/Design/Build-Execute/Rollout/Done and each lane has its own defined set of Exit Criteria that should be met before a card is moved into the next swimlane.
  • Cards are at the epic level (this is important because the priority of these cards are queues for the Product Owners on how to prioritize user stories that support each epic.) Each card falls in one of these categories: Increases Revenue (up arrow), Customer Satisfaction (smiley face), Cost Saving (down arrow) or Infrastructure related (donut shape).
  • Each color coded card is “owned” by an assigned executive that represents a particular business area. Marketing is pink, finance is green, etc. Each card contains the executive sponsor for the epic, the teams impacted (who will do the work to make the epic happen), Investment Theme, and Value Statement (what is the ROI or benefit of doing it).
  • Executives meet at the Kanban board 1x per week (Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m.) and each speak to their cards and move them appropriately.
  • This Portfolio Kanban board is reset every quarter. Our Senior Director of Enterprise Agility & Digital Product Leadership, Stephanie Davis, facilitates this process by meeting with each executive individually to help them review their current epic cards, write up new cards and remove cards as needed. The executives meet as a group to discuss priorities and determine which are the Top X projects and update the board as necessary. Note that some epics stay in the funnel a long time and some move quickly all based on business needs.
  • Cards that include a Top Hat image X mean they have been prioritized as one of the Top X Projects that are highest priority of all the epics.
  • Out of the quarterly epic reset meeting, a Quarterly Plan of Epics is created and sent out for review.
  • There is also an burndown chart to measure the burndown rate for epics for the current quarter.

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 Salesforce.com 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 Salesforce.om 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?

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.


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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