From The Archive: The art, and science of making prediction with #NoEstimates. With Dan Vacanti and Marcus Hammarberg – NoEstimates Unplugged Week

We explore a real-life project that Marcus was part of, and how the #NoEstimates methods he used helped him make predictions, even if did not estimate the work to be done.

This conversation started from an article that Marcus had posted earlier on social media. In that article Marcus explained how he had used data, as opposed to estimates to make a prediction of when the project would be finished. This approach still creates a lot of controversy on twitter, even if it has been (at the time of recording) 10+ years since the original discussion around estimates started by Woody Zuill and Vasco Duarte on twitter under the tags of #NoEstimates and #Estwaste respectively.

As Marcus quickly found out in this project, the rate of progress could not have been predicted easily at the start (if at all). When he first started the project, the progress was swift, but at one point he faced a problem he could not solve for several days. This phenomenon is not new for any programmers in the audience, and is quite common. Also, one of the reasons why using methods like #NoEstimates (as explained in the #NoEstimates book, and in Marcus’ blog post), can help uncover information that estimation would not.

Dealing with surprises: the information you need to share with stakeholders

Continue reading From The Archive: The art, and science of making prediction with #NoEstimates. With Dan Vacanti and Marcus Hammarberg – NoEstimates Unplugged Week

Guest blog: 12 Practical Ideas on How To Improve Cycle Time For Agile Teams, by Tayyaba Sharif

Cycle Time is a key metric for many Agile teams. Tayyaba Sharif offers some practical advice on how to improve cycle time in practice with our teams in this guest blog post. Tayyaba collected these ideas by asking our Scrum Master Community. Consider subscribing to our Scrum Master Community and take part in this and many other discussions with your peers.

For Kanban teams, cycle time is an important flow metric which measures the flow of work. In this blog post, I collect 12 practical ways to try and improve cycle time for your Agile team:

    1. Introduce WIP limits. Cycle time is reduced when we reduce the number of work items in progress. Experiment with the team to find the right WIP limits in your context.
    2. Establish service level expectation by looking at using historical performance data. For example, if a team completes 50% of the stories in 7 days and 85% of the stories in 10 days, review any task exceeding 7 days in standups or retrospectives. Discuss the “outliers” in the retrospective meeting or standup to see where the time was spent, identify impediments and decide on any process changes or other actions to avoid similar situations. Consider using a value stream map to visualize the problem, and develop a discipline of continuous improvement based on this data and retrospective discussions.
    3. Look at how refinement meetings work, and if they provide what you need to clarify stories and other work items. If a team ends up spending a lot of time discussing a story during the Sprint, that may be a sign that the refinement meeting process needs to be improved. Work with the team to identify the frequent causes of delay/confusion, and establish a way to ensure those are addressed in your refinement meeting. For example: create a checklist for refinement meeting with the list of topics to discuss (when applicable) for each story, for example is test data available? Do we need to engage other teams to verify the change? And so on…
    4. Encourage the team to address technical debt and make space for that work. Often, teams need to refactor some code before making any further changes, or implementing any new stories in that area of the code. Take into account that identifying the need for refactoring during story refinement isn’t always possible. It may help to create technical debt stories when potential refactoring benefits are spotted. This approach ensures that future work focuses solely on implementing stories, avoiding unforeseen delays caused by the unexpected need to do some code refactoring.
    5. Keep track of any delays and bottlenecks, in a spreadsheet. If you spot a trend in specific areas, consider redesigning the process to address these bottlenecks.
    6. Set strict limits on work in progress and discourage teams from taking on new tasks before finishing existing ones. Also, encourage team members to help each other in completing their stories before starting new ones.
    7. Closely monitor the work item age. Here are some strategies to help you visualize the work item age:
      • In Jira, a custom field can be added for work item age and write an automation rule to update it daily. Make that field value visible on the card in the kanban board, so that discussion can take place in the daily standup, to identify possible causes of delay. [Editor Note: Remember that Stories should never take many days to deliver, our usual suggestion is 1 person / 1 day for each story]
      • Use card coloring in Jira to change the color of the card if the work item age goes beyond an acceptable level. For example, you can use JIRA’s JQL: “status changed to “ready for testing” after/on/before -10″
      • You can also move the story in a separate swimlane based on the work item age to steer the attention of the team toward the aging cards on the board.
      • You can use data to assess ‘outliers’: use the average time a card takes in a certain column and use it to determine if a specific card is taking more time in the column than the average. Be relentless in tracking the staleness of a card in progress compared to the average time a card takes to move to another column, and to completion.
    8. Work with the team to come up with a Definition of Ready (DoR) for refinement and a DoR for development. For example, a story might be considered ready for refinement if it includes wire-frames, or ready for development if it’s not blocked by anything, and the necessary information is available. Review each story for readiness, before picking it up for refinement or development. Iteratively improve the DoR’s for refinement and development.
    9. Create a chart to visualize the WIP limit and cycle time, so the team can see how the increased WIP limit is impacting the cycle time.
    10. Adjust the size of backlog items considering testing efforts, test data availability, work complexity, and dependencies on other teams. This ensures smooth flow through the Kanban board once work begins. Also, address all dependencies as early as possible. Remove where possible, and establish backup plans where dependencies are not avoidable.
    11. If specific types of stories consistently exceed the average cycle time, organize targeted retrospectives to explore improvements in story writing or the refinement process. This will help the team deliver more consistently and be more predictable in their delivery. [Editor’s note: consider improving the approach you have to adjusting the size of the backlog items, including adding some Slicing Heuristics to the the refinement process.]
    12. Analyze wait times using a control chart to identify patterns. For instance, if many stories spend a long time waiting for testing, brainstorm ideas with the team to determine what action steps should be taken to reduce the wait time.

Thanks, Vasco and the members of his Scrum Master Community Slack group chat for some of the ideas. If any one has any other ideas please share.

Tayyaba collected these ideas by asking our Scrum Master Community. Consider subscribing to our Scrum Master Community and take part in this and many other discussions with your peers.

About Tayyaba Sharif

Tayyaba embarked on her career as an application developer at IBM, transitioning into an API designer before embracing the role of Scrum Master/Agile Delivery Lead in 2018 within the financial sector. Passionate about maximizing team potential, she empowers them to boost efficiency through continuous improvement. With a fervent dedication to data-driven insights, she meticulously analyzes data to unveil opportunities for process improvements.

You can link with Tayyaba Sharif on LinkedIn.

Aria Omidvar: The Many Layers to Scrum Master Success

Aria explores the layers of success for Scrum Masters, highlighting the transformation of team culture. He assesses success through the lens of team self-reliance, self-organization, and ownership of work. Aria’s metric for success involves equipping teams with tools and practices that enable them to effectively carry out their responsibilities. This episode offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of success in the role of a Scrum Master.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Making Retrospectives Clearly Different From Other Meetings and Work

Aria shares his preferred retrospective format, emphasizing the importance of a distinct mindset for this higher-order team work. He advocates for creativity and mindfulness, aiming to set retrospectives apart from regular team activities with a specific format he shares in this episode. Aria offers practical tips such as note-taking, root cause analysis, and solution brainstorming during discussions. He underscores the value of critical thinking, focusing on root causes, and showing the path to solutions. Aria’s approach promotes effective retrospectives as a catalyst for meaningful team improvement.

How can I, as a Scrum Master, supercharge my facilitation?

Retrospectives, planning sessions, vision workshops, we are continuously helping teams learn about how to collaborate in practice! In this Actionable Agile Tools book, Jeff Campbell shares some of the tools he’s learned over a decade of coaching Agile Teams. The pragmatic coaching book you need, right now! Buy Actionable Agile Tools on Amazon, or directly from the author, and supercharge your facilitation toolbox!

About Aria Omidvar

Aria has 4+ years of experience serving as Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Agile Coach (CSM, A-CSM, CSPO) from single teams to multiple teams and the whole software organization. He’s a Software Engineer turned Software Developer turned Peopleware Developer and Agilist.

You can link with Aria Omidvar on LinkedIn and connect with Aria Omidvar on Twitter.

Simon Flossmann: The Proxy PO that worked for a team of Product Owners

In this episode, we talk about collaboration with customers, and how that can help the team and PO to work well together. And we discuss what happens when the PO is only a proxy to multiple other PO’s.

The Great Product Owner: The Great Collaborator 

Great Product Owners are able to collaborate closely with the stakeholders and customers. In this segment, we talk about the PO that was able to communicate with the customers in a way that helped him bring insights and knowl3edgte to the team so that the team could understand better the problems the customers were facing, and come up with innovative solutions.

The Bad Product Owner: The Proxy PO that worked for a team of Product Owners

When the PO is nothing but a proxy for another decision-maker, the team will suffer. In this segment, we talk about a PO proxy that had several big obstacles in their way: there were multiple PO’s to work with (a team of PO’s), and on top of that a “chief PO”. How can a PO succeed when they are unable to make decisions? How can the Scrum Master help that PO? Listen in to learn about Simon’s approach in that situation.

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Simon Flossmann

Simon helps teams effectively use Scrum and an agile mindset to deliver products and services that matter! As a Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Trainer, licensed by Scrum.org, he supports teams and organizations of varying sizes in a wide range of business domains, like automotive, home appliance, energy sector, federal government agency, and insurance.

You can link with Simon Flossmann on LinkedIn and connect with Simon Flossmann on Twitter.

You can follow Simon Flossmann’s writings on this home page.

Carolina Gorosito shares her own map to navigate complex systems

Mapping is a tool we don’t talk about enough. Mapping includes visualization, affinity grouping, analysis and synthesis all in one tool. We don’t talk about enough this tool that can literally help you map your way to success. In this episode we talk about different types of mapping approaches that can (literally) help us navigate the system we work within.

About Carolina Gorosito

Carolina is a natural connector and team enabler, great at finding people’s strengths and helping them combine their skills to become hi performers in the organisations and obtain better results every day.

You can connect with her via her personal blog: carolinagorosito.com.

You can link with Carolina Gorosito on LinkedIn and connect with Carolina Gorosito on Twitter.

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