Monthly Archives: October 2006

Pastoral Care versus Project Care

Tuesdays are the days that I have elected to carry out my 1-2-1s. I have about 12 to do and I run them staggered over 3 weeks every 3 weeks meaning that every week I will do 4 or 5. I carried them out last week during our first Sprint and they didn’t really interfere with the work that I had allocated to myself in relation to the project.

Today I had 4 to do, each of half an hour. I wondered how this would affect my ability to manage the delivery team. Well, it didn’t, I came in in the morning and we did the stand up meeting from which I took a number of actions and then off I went to the 1-2-1s, periodically checking throughout the day on how the team were doing.

On the note of the Stand Ups, the delivery team are starting to settle in to them, whether the benefit is clear to them or not at the moment is unclear, it is something that I will be asking about in our Retrospective at the end of the week. I personally think they work really well on 2 levels, primarily they give somebody in my capacity a very clear understanding of what obstacles people are experiencing and therefore, what I need to be doing. Secondly, and just as importantly, they ensure everyone on the delivery team knows what the other members are doing.

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Monday, Monday

Well, what a day. Our developer was here for an hour today before his hard drive decided to take some time out. Up until now I’ve been able to tackle most of the issues that the team have encountered, not this one, I got him a new machine from which to work on but he still needed to get his VM image off of the old machine. He eventually managed to do this but not without a lot of heartache. A lost day for us unfortunately, he would have spent the majority of the day reconfiguring his new machine anyway.

As mentioned in the first post, the actual proposition for this project is still unclear (hopefully it will be by the end of the week.) and this is starting to mean that the designer is struggling to find stuff to do. She has been working on a prototype up until now using a tool called Axure. Axure is a rapid prototyping tool and has proved very successful so far. Our developer has managed to design a framework that will allow the output to be used directly in the application by coupling the two with a data dictionary and a little utility that he has written.

The Product Owner has started meeting with the business and is expanding on the Product Backlog, I’m hopeful that we should clear the backlog of stuff that is still more of an Epic than a Story before the end of the week allowing the team to then estimate on the items in the list.

Sprint 1: Lessons learned

I thought that it would be an idea to keep a log of the lessons that I have learned whilst the Skunkworks project I am working on is running.

  • The Development Stream Needs to be Front Loaded with an Analysis Stream: I’m still unsure whether I believe this or not, I need to read up on it some more. I’ve always thought that there would be other tasks that the developer(s) could be doing while some of the necessary analysis is carried out, I also think that analysis is kept to a minimum when using an approach of this nature and that the feedback from the customer is used to do analysis going forward. (If anyone has any ideas on this I would like to hear them.)
  • Having a Proposition Up Front Will Aid the First Week of Planning: This is a little more clear, if everyone is able to understand the business objective they will be able to start asking the right questions from the outset.

Where do we find ourselves?

Working on a project codenamed Vicky in a Skunkworks style. What is it that we’re doing in the 8 weeks that we have, well, that would be telling.

What I can tell you though is that a delivery team has been assembled which includes myself, a senior developer, a senior designer and a member of the business. We’re supported by a steering group which is made up of other members of the business with various specialities.

We’re in to the second week now and I thought that I would use this first post to bring us up to date so far.

Last Monday the team met for the first time in a room that had been organised for us away from our normal offices. There were bean bags, nice desks and all of the necessary kit for everyone to get started doing a job for the project. The only agenda for the first week was a meeting on the Monday between 11 and 3 and another of the same on the Wednesday.

Monday’s meeting started with introductions, I sat and listended and it became clear to me that some thought had been put in to the make up of the team which was an encouraging start. We spent the majority of the meeting discussing what the proposition was, this was done at a very high level as whilst there was a vague idea of what we were intending to deliver, there was no clear understanding of to whom it would be targetted. This was, and at the time of writing (as it is still unclear) is still of concern. We ended the day by putting down some very high level scenarios or, as I have heard them called before, Epics (Part of the User Stories requirements gathering process). I’m glad though that we got this far as it served to focus the delivery team.

When the meeting was over the delivery team discussed the tasks that they would need to undertake the next day. Tuesday would be about prototyping and information gathering. I had initially been concerned that nothing had been planned, maintaining momentum is going to be incredibly important to this project. I needn’t have been concerned, the delivery team worked very hard towards the little they knew and at the end of Tuesaday we had case studies based on 6 of the biggest competitors as they were perceived, an idea of the language we would develop this in and also a high level architecture. All very encouraging.

On Tuesday I met with our business sponsor, one of the steering group members, to discuss the agenda for Wednesdays meeting. I was keen to see that the day was really focussed.

I’ve been reading a lot recently about Agile / Lean practices, in particular SCRUM and I was keen to give some of the suggested ways of working a go. On Wednesday I presented to the team the approach that I thought that we should start the project by using which was well received, I made it clear that it was not set in stone and that if something wasn’t working that we could change it. One of the main benefits that I was already realising about the delivery team was it’s size and therefore it’s ability to change.

I had elected to take on a Scrum Master role as having not done any development for a while I thought that I would be of more use in coaching the team in this way of working and attempting to remove the obstacles that they encountered and I asked the member of the business on the delivery team to take on the Product Owner role.

Once I had presented we started listing out all of the functionality that was required and also some of the ancillary tasks that would need to be undertaken. We didn’t get a complete list, this was fine though, I’ve always liked the idea that the Product Owner maintains the list and that it is something that is ever changing. During my time in development when I was exposed to more traditional development methods I don’t think I ever encountered a customer who was happy to sign off on a document stating that yes, that is exactly what I require.

Thursday and Friday the delivery team spent doing more Prototyping and Analysis whilst the Steering Group had been asked to come up with 3 propositions each which they presented during the teams Show and Tell on Friday afternoon. The delivery team spent an hour and a half on Friday looking at the Product Backlog that had been defined and starting estimating some of the tasks with a view to then committing to some for the forthcoming sprint.

All in all a fantastic week with some very encouraging progress. It has been quite something to be part of a team which, in one week has come up with a good number of requirements, performed sufficient analysis to begin work in earnest in the next sprint and has already started working efficiently together.