Tag Archives: Scrum

The Hoodoo Gurus do Agile

Hoodoo-GurusA few days ago I happened upon the iconic album cover from the Hoodoo Gurus 1984 album Stoneage Romeos. Initially a cult inner-city act, their popularity expanded due to regular airplay on radio station Triple J and nationwide pop TV show Countdown.

I had organised a field trip for my team to the offices of accounting software company MYOB, to see Agile product development in action. There in the groovy breakout space was the cover image of the “Gurus” first album. Let me be perfectly clear here, back in the eighties when I followed the band around the pub circuit, I wasn’t imagining that thirty years later I’d relate their meteoric (in my mind only) rise to fame with Agile product development methodology!

It did get me thinking though, that just like Agile methodology, the Gurus were a bit out there. Agile emphasises business people and developers working together daily throughout a project. Likewise, it recognises that the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to, and within a development team, is face-to-face conversation.

On our field trip to MYOB, we saw these principles in action where about four standups were being conducted simultaneously, with Developers asking Product Owners questions about features, and confirming how they could drive forward their activities for the day. The sound in the large open space office area was that of people involved in face-to-face conversation.

As visitors to MYOB, the team unanimously commented on the passion shown by the Scrum Masters who hosted us on our tour. It turns out that it isn’t just a principle in the Agile manifesto to build projects around motivated individuals and give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done! We saw it in action.

True, the Hoodoo Gurus had a different sound to other eighties rock bands that had come before them, but championed by radio station Triple J, their non-mainstream sound took hold. In my organisation we are amongst the first teams adopting Agile. It means that we are doing things a bit differently to satisfy our stakeholders through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

When inducted into the 2007 ARIA Hall of Fame, the announcement stated that the Gurus were one of the most “inventive, lyrically smart and exciting” bands from Australia. “Inventive”, “Smart” and “Exciting” – sounds a bit like Agile to me.

Goldilocks, Agile & the Three Bears

BearMy web team are used to getting some crazy requests for resolution, but this one was weirder than the average digital project we work on.

Eager to take a collaborative and effective approach to managing digital content development, we are in the throes of introducing Agile methodology. We kicked this off with a workshop that saw us creating a comic book of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This fun exercise is based on Mark Levison’s Learning Scrum Through Games.

The exercise is a fabulous way for a team to experience Scrum ceremonies, practices and roles, from the ground up. I acted as Product Owner and provided the team with the following unprioritised backlog:

  1. As a parent I can be excited by the book cover, so that I will open the book and read it to my child.
  2. As a child I can see colourful pictures of the characters, so that I can understand the story without having to read it.
  3. As a child I can count the characters and items, so that I can develop my counting skills.
  4. As a sponsor I can showcase my advertisement for home security so that parents will contact me for my services.
  5. As a parent I can get appropriate content for my 4-6 year old child so that they are able to understand it.
  6. As a sponsor I can see my public service announcement about being kind to animals, so that the next generation will improve on our generation.

The team were given the following schedule for a two day sprint. They needed to complete the comic book in two sprints:

5 mins         Sprint Planning (decide how much to do)
10 mins       Sprint Day 1 – Standup (what did you do, what you will do, obstacles)
10 mins       Sprint Day 2 – Standup (what did you do, what you will do, obstacles)
5 mins         Sprint Review (show the work)
5 mins         Sprint Retrospective (what went well, what to improve, what’s still puzzling?)

After the team ran through the first sprint, as Product Owner, I explained that there was another story that I desperately needed to add to the backlog: As a child, I want to see a page in the book that shows what the bears were doing while they were out, so that I can once and for all know what they were up to when they left their house unattended and unlocked that morning!

The exercise was fantastic fun and the learning outcomes were similar to those that Mark Levison reported:

  • Utillise the Product Owner – The team forgot to ask the Product Owner questions, but after the first retro they corrected this. This lead to some great discussion of Acceptance Criteria and Walkthroughs.
  • Chaos reigned – We learnt that the forming stage of a team, can be pretty chaotic, but that it’s possible to still develop product
  • Working software is the only measure of progress – The team didn’t get through all stories in the backlog. Even when a late breaking story entered after sprint 1, they still didn’t ask what might have to come out of the backlog. What they did do really well though, was prioritise which items in the backlog would add value. This lead to a great discussion about Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • Roles within the team – The Scrum Master did a good job of checking in with the team if they had any obstacles. We also discussed how to best utilise a team with a variety of skills. I even saw some informal pairing happening!

Most importantly, the team learnt that Agile values satisfying the customer though early and continuous development.

I’d love to hear other Agilists experience at having a go at this exercise, or getting a team up and running. My team were really fired up from the activity, and the very next day we put it into action with our actual backlog.