Back to Basics – Overview

About a year ago, Atlassian took to Twitter with their #RetroOnAgile campaign and asked followers to tweet something they liked and something they wished about agile. Under my @MomofXandM handle, I tweeted the following responses: “#ILike the Agile principles and values. #RetroOnAgile” and “#IWish more folks followed the Agile principles and values rather than trying to hammer away on process and methodology. #RetroOnAgile

I still like the agile principles and values, and I still wish more folks would stick to the basics outlined in them. Instead, command-and-control runs rampant in Corporate America, and now more than ever we all seem beholden to process and methodology.

What should we do about this? As ScrumMasters it’s our job to coach our team to better practices, so I think a return to the basics might be well-warranted. I am therefore setting out to do a series of posts focusing on agile principles and values, so that I can re-center myself and my teams on the simplicity that matters. Let’s start with an overview.

Many know the story behind the Agile Manifesto. 17 developers met at a ski lodge in Utah to discuss the way software development seemed to be going at that time. They weren’t happy with the hyper focus on processes, tools, reems of documentation, and constant contract negotiation, so they penned the manifesto.

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.  Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

There were 12 principles behind the manifesto. These coupled with the manifesto birthed the Agile movement. There were plenty of forerunners, but these are the principles the Agile community points back to regularly. Some even treat these words like gospel.

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

In the coming weeks, I’ll explore each principle and value in more depth. I welcome feedback and conversation, and it’s my hope that you take these discussions back to your teams.


Scrum Bubbles Recommendation of the Week

Have you checked out the Agile Uprising Coalition yet? If you haven’t, you should. According to their website, they are a “purpose-built network that focuses on the advancement of the agile mindset and global professional networking between and among practicing agilists.”

I check out Agile Uprising regularly to see what my fellow agilists say about things like Mike Cohn’s new Better User Stories course, to see how everyone is measuring flow efficiency in Kanban, or to listen to podcasts (They interview great minds in the industry).

There are plenty of other forums out there (I belong to several), but this one seems to be an open and effective way of sharing thoughts in the agile space.


“Size doesn’t matter…”

Anyone who tells you size doesn’t matter hasn’t tried to complete a huge mobile app with just two people… in two months. So yes. Size DOES matter.

But how big is too big? How small is too small? What is just right?

I set out to get some ideas not only from folks I work with, but from industry experts. First, let’s reacquaint ourselves with what a scrum team actually is, as stated in the 2017 Scrum Guide 

The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. Scrum Teams are self-organizing and cross-functional. Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team. The team model in Scrum is designed to optimize flexibility, creativity, and productivity. The Scrum Team has proven itself to be increasingly effective for all the earlier stated uses, and any complex work.

Jeff Sutherland himself (co-author of the Scrum Guide) has been quoted as saying 7 teammates (+ or – 2) is the sweet spot. I did hear Mr. Sutherland say at the 2017 Global Scrum Gathering that he is rather fond of the number five; he admitted he loves fractals. Bob Galen, someone from whom I’ve taken some valuable guidance, wrote a quick blog post describing the “Goldilocks” team as being 6 or 7 people, excluding the Product Owner and Scrum master.

I tend to agree with Jeff and Bob. 5 to 7 people seems to be a manageable number. In my experience, anything larger could become unwieldy during scrum ceremonies such as daily stand-ups or the retrospectives.

What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

Hackathon How-To

Recently, my company did its second-ever hackathon. It was somewhat thrown together, but I think the results were amazing. It provided all the scrum teams with a much-needed break from the everyday grind, but more importantly, it gave them the opportunity  to work on something they felt passionately about.

My company wants to give these teams more opportunities to innovate, so we’re doing two more this year; one is slated for August and the other for December.  As I reflect back on all the things that happened last week, I’ve realized we can do a lot better. So I wondered about what really makes up a good hackathon. Below are some ideas, but first what IS a hackathon, anyway? Continue reading


I’m back at it with a better blog here on WordPress. I also went out on a limb and purchased to make sure all this stuff belongs to me! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be transporting my old Blogger content here, but be on the lookout for new agile thought bubbles! They’re coming!