Sunday, November 15, 2015

Comparing agile teams maturity using "Aikido Shu Ha Ri model"

As per wikipedia "Shu Ha Riis a Japanese martial art (particularly Aikido) concept, and describes the stages of learning to mastery. It emphasizes on first learn, then detach, finally transcend.
  • shu means "protect", "obey", "following" — traditional wisdom — Novice or beginner; narrowly following given practices
  • ha means "detach", "digress" — breaking with tradition — Journeyman; following, but extending, perfecting, occasionally breaking the rules, 
  • ri  means "leave", "separate", "fluent" — transcendence — Expert; perfecting to creating your own practice, coaching or mentoring
Our teams also differ in their maturity level and its important for any agile coach to asses that.In my opinion if your team is struggling to answer any of these WHY questions they belong to Shu level: 
  • Do you understand why we are doing agile?
  • Do you know the purpose of standup?
  • What is the goal of retrospective?
  • Why switching focus is bad? 
  • Do you know the values of Scrum/Kanban/DAD/LeSS/...?
  • What is the fundamental concept behind any agile methodology?
  • Are they reluctant to adapt new challenges?
  • and any other questions in similar path...
As per the technique, teams at Shu level are following and not questioning the practice. Where-as in our world we should always be questioning and tweaking the practices to our need. This is a big difference so while using the terminology for teams in agile space, please use with caution.

A team is at Ha level if they understand the WHYs and have tweaked the process as per their need. They should have clarity and should be able to define the intent. Here are few questions along those lines:
  • Have we found anything, which does not work very well for our project or organization?
  • Have we found anything, which we believe is better and would give us more milage than following what has been asked us to do?
  • Have you ever failed in trying a change? 
  • Do you do change or experiment a change?
  • Do you do any fun as a team?
  • i am confident, we can find many more questions...
Once the team has good grasps on WHY, WHAT, HOW and has tweaked a process as per their need. In my perspective they are transitioning themselves into Ri level. They should be able to take goodness from all the existing agile patterns and create their own pattern, which will be tailored specific to their organizational or business or project need. They will take the foundation and would build their own structure. I am confident such a team is very easy to spot. Never the less these questions might help:
  • How different their current process is and what benefit are they getting?
  • Observing how they get pass a team problem without involving anybody from outside. Do they only discuss about problem or try to solve the issue by fixing the root cause. 
  • Noticing how they handle new challenges. Do they come up with something creative to tackle the problem?
  • See what they care more about, process or getting value. How often do they complain vs. suggest a change. They are not process slaves they amend the it to rule. 
  • Do they focus in past or future? It should be 80:20, keep an eye on future while observing  the past.
  • ..... 
Knowing a team's level helps me a lot:
  • I can come up with right frequency to introduce an experiments based on their maturity level vs. making them mentally excused. 
  • I can focus on having a long DoD(Definition of Done) for SHU team vs. a shorter one for HA. 
  • I am usually more disciplined with SHU teams vs. HA. 
  • I try to coach SHU team on value and understanding every practice more vs. HA team I tend to focus more on experimenting and decision making techniques. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

are we Afraid of estimation or commitment?

"We don't do estimation because we follow Kanban".

I am sure every coach must have heard this statement countless times.  Many teams moving from agile methodology to Kanban to simply escape from estimation. As per them, Estimation is:
  • Waste of time 
  • Useless 
  • Can be stressful
  • Considered harmful 
First of all, nowhere in Kanban it says, "no to estimate". It is up to the team. I am all for challenging the status quo and questioning everything. But is estimation really a waste? I believe estimation helps teams to stay focused. High level gut feeling always helps in decision making and prioritization. So why some teams are reluctant to do estimation? In most of the cases estimation gets abused or treated as commitment. This is completely wrong. The main goal behind estimation is to size your work queue and not hold team responsible. Mike Cohn has very nice article on it.

Teams might also be unwilling to estimate when they don't understand what they are estimating. So as coach we should be able to answer "why we are estimating?" I found few technique very useful while estimation discussion. Each of these tips can be used standalone and are very detailed topics on it's own: 
  • Story vs. Story Maps: Story at time does not tell the entire conversation. I found Story Maps to be more useful. Map only what you need to support your conversation. . Make sure team has discussed ways to tackle the problem at high level. ( Story Map technique). 
  • Brainstorm the problem enough to consider the solution. Making sure that there is nothing better out there (always within the scope and time boxed for sure). 
  • Focus on making Functional walking skeleton first. This is very important step. 
  • Have a high level plan to manage your budget. Budget should lead the timeline and strategy for development. Also will help team keeping focus
  • Create a Story Board and have in the room. 
I would suggest to keep the mind open to make sure estimation is being used in the way it is useful and meaningful.