World Retro Day

It’s been quite a while since my last post. Yeah I know. It was hard to find time and energy in the last year or so. But – at least I am writing now…

Yesterday (27/02/2019) was World Retro Day and we in CyberArk decided to host a retrospective on retrospectives.

I must admit, it was actually very nice to be part of a world event, even if there was hardly any real connection between the different events all around the world. For me it was enough to see that we are “on the map”:

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The (1) in the middle east is us!!!

So what did we do? We had a retrospective on doing retrospectives. We used the 5 steps of the retrospective structure, each step with a fixed time box (between 5 to 15 minutes) and we picked in advance the techniques to use in each step (e.g. one word, five whys and more). We also had pizza and bear of course 🙂

We had guests from outside the company as well as a few Scrum Masters from CyberArk, all looking to take away some new idea to make their retrospective a little better. Seems like we succeeded, looking at the list of takeaways we created:

  • Present motivation for games at “set the stage”
  • The retro structure is critical for getting good insights
  • The problems of the Scrum Master are common, so there is hope
  • Do “Set the stage”
  • Use the results of “Set the stage” in the rest of the retro
  • We can start with a period of basic retros (to maintain/to improve) and only afterwards add additional techniques
  • When you try a new/different thing in the team, explain why and the value you want to achieve
  • Define/Design “using games” as an experiment for several sprints

Finally, we took a picture:

world retro day.jpgI had a really good and interesting time, and I must admit I gained some new ideas and understanding on retrospectives. It was also a good practice to facilitate a retro with more prescribed and time boxed steps than usual. It works quite good.

Bored of your board?

Which is better, a physical board or a digital one?

 

Physical vs. Digital

As an Agile Coach in CyberArk, I am exposed to many groups and teams, each trying their own version of Scrumban and Agile. One of the most common practice is of course visibility, specifically, visibility of the work in progress, a.k.a the board. Most boards are digital by now, using either LeanKit, Jira or Trello, but from time to time you get to see and use actual physical boards. Obviously, these are usually used during sessions while creating the board (and later on it is digitized) but there are boards that stay there and are even updated daily or weekly.

Though there are a lot of benefits from digital boards (I remember the time I was an organizational Scrum Master in SQream, and we used whiteboards and sticky notes, but the sticky notes weren’t of the best kind and the board was right beneath the A/C – which resulted in a daily effort to pick up the notes from the floor and try to figure out where they belonged to :-)), I must admit that whenever I find a physical one, I get immediately interested and try to figure out what I can learn from it. In fact, that’s one of the ideas behind visibility (and transparency to be exact) – letting anyone see the status and engage in what the team is trying to do. You never know what kind of help you can get from someone that passes through…

The amazing thing about physical boards, is that they enable you to try out anything you would like, very few constraints, no need to ask a favor from your Jira admin, or get help from a friend on how to configure this or that in Trello or Leankit. You just do whatever you want, and re-adjust when needed. So easy… Just yesterday, my division (more about that in a future post) had a meeting where we sat and thought about challenges we would like to take on towards 2018. We didn’t know exactly what we are going to end up with, we just knew we wanted to start off with some brainstorming, and pick it up from there. So naturally we started with sticky notes, hand them on the wall and started to cluster, re-form, measure and vote on them. The “board” changed its configuration around 10 times during a 1.5 hour talk, each time answering the specific need we were trying to get.

So – what am I trying to say here?

Basically – whenever you can, try to use physical boards. They are much more attractive (at least can be, if you have at least one team member that has an eye for aesthetics), much more agile, much more effective (no need to search for them – they are there, literally) and much more visible and transparent. Even if it doesn’t make sense to use physical boards on your day to day work (and sadly there are many reasons why digital boards should be preferred), try to find the places and times where they can give you that extra presence, extra freedom and extra engagement.

Family Kanban

Last weekend was a very long weekend in Israel, having the new hebrew year’s eve on Sunday (“Rosh Hashana”). According to tradition, we had a holiday feast to enjoy, this year hosted by us (my family).

There was quite a lot of work to be done to prepare our flat, including tiding up, organizing the table, the dishes and everything towards hosting our guests.

We also had to make sure the children (ages 10, 7 and 3.5) have something to do and do not cause anymore mess than we already had.

We knew we need to get the kids on board and that’s when we had the idea – create a real board and have them on board literally.

So, I created a small Kanban board from a white board, added three columns (TODO/לעשות, In progress/עושים and Done/גמור) and wrote a few tasks on some sticky notes.

I then introduced the idea to the kids and my wife, and asked them to look at the tasks, take ownership on them (by coloring a spot on them, each with his/her own color) and move them to the correct column.

imag0666
Around 4PM, my 7 year old son already created the new ‘Also Done’ column…

 

What can I say – the kids loved it. Especially my 7 year old son, who after a short time started to create his own tasks/cards and even added a “Break/הפסקה” task so that he can take a break and watch some TV… He also changed the TODO column to Also Done/גם גמור since there was not enough place for the done cards in the original column.

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Towards 6PM, not a lot of tasks left…

We all worked as a team, figuring out which tasks to do first, asking each other to add tasks that we have forgotten and even did a short daily making sure we all know what we have left.

I always new about the idea of The agile family, but never had the chance to do it with mine. Now that we did, I can fully recommend it (smile)

Scaling Agile

It has been a long time since my last post. I know. What can I say – moving is difficult. Especially when you are moving to a new apartment that you just renovated. Even more difficult when you do it with children.

We had a Trello board for the renovation (see Renovating the apartment) but this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything would turn out as it should. There are always the unknowns, the unexpected, the things that are out of your reach, and there is always the contractor that doesn’t show up when he needs to.

Anyway, a lot has changed since my last post. Sadly :-(, I left the startup I worked in (SQream) and happily :-), I started recently working as an Agile Coach in CyberArk. The most evident meaning of this, is that it is time to scale up. If till now I dealt with 2-3 development teams, here in CyberArk there are that many in a single group, and there are several groups such as this.

Screen-Shot-2015-10-28-at-12.54.43

So how do you scale Agile? Well, there’s SAFe and there’s LeSS (is it by chance that both have a small ‘e’ amongst other capital letters?). SAFe has a very clear yet complex structure to it. Just look at the picture below. A lot of instructions on what to do, which roles to introduce and how to make it work. On the other hand, LeSS talks about less roles, trying to keep it simple and let you find out how to answer the difficult questions during the adoption.

safe
The SAFe framework. Very detailed and prescripted.

As I am new to both, I am still struggling to figure out which one makes more sense to me. LeSS sounds like my first Scrum coach, which had very few answers and usually answered my questions with more questions. Though this was frustrating at times, it made me think. SAFe sounds like my second Scrum coach, which was much more helpful with examples, best (good, for the LeSS readers) practices and answers to many of my questions. From him I learned by example. Maybe this means that the best approach is to learn, and maybe even try, both.

less
LeSS Framework – looks much simpler, yet leaves a lot unanswered

What do you think?

Renovating the apartment using Trello

Hi there,

It’s been a long time since I last posted in this blog. I reckon that’s because I was too busy at work and at my second work – my wife and I started a project of renovating our new apartment, which is taking quite a lot of percentage or our (used to be) spare time.

Tamar and I discovered that even when you take an interior decorator and a contractor to design and perform the actual work, as the owners of the apartment you have so much on your hands that it seems like the project owns us and not the other way round.

As an agile practitioner, I was disturbed with the chaos we initially had and tried to find a constructive way of following the work being done, the backlog and the impediments. Soon enough I found the perfect tool for this – Trello. I knew Trello of course from work, having boards on numerous projects and flows, but didn’t quite use it at home yet.

So I started filling in the lists and items and the current board looks like this (sorry it is in hebrew):

trello

This board reflects the status of the apartment (including the actual planned move) 4 weeks before D-Day.

In the beginning, that seemed to be enough, but lately, when the time started to be short, and every day matters, my wife and I started to have nightly sessions on the project, discussing the status and reflecting it on the board. We actually started to have “dailies” you could say, where each of us answer the three questions – what do we know was done since last time, what is planned to be done till next time, and what are the impediments. We also go through the backlog and prioritize it according to the new knowledge we have accumulated.

How will the project end? We will probably know that only in a few weeks time…

Oh, and May the 4th be with you, always (thanks Ben!)

Putting the internet to work for me

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my new Fitbit and the way its measurements affect the way I behave. One of its features is measuring my sleep time, which is very neat. Finally I can monitor how much I sleep, and how good I sleep (or sadly, how bad, see below… 😦 ). The thing is that I need to remember to open the Fitbit App and take a look. Well, thanks for my good old friend IFTTT, I now simply get an email if I sleep less than six hours at night, which gives me a bit of a push to try and meet my threshold.

Screenshot_2015-10-17-22-00-14

My actual sleep last week… What happened on Thursday? :-~

So what’s IFTTT? Simply put, If This Then That. If something happens, do something. Back in ClickSoftware, when we worked on a similar idea, we called it the Butler. The idea is that you want something to happen when some other thing happens, and if some software can do that for you, that’s much better then doing it yourself. For example, let’s say I want to let my brother know that I left some nice new video on our shared folder in Dropbox. I can email him whenever I do that, but isn’t it much cooler that it is done automatically by IFTTT? Another example – let’s say that each time I post a status update on Facebook, I want it to be twitted (or vice versa). IFTTT can do that for you.

FB-Page-Twitter

I have been using IFTTT for a few years now. Every month or so updating my recipes (that’s how they call each configuration you do, setting the trigger and the action), finding new channels and getting something to be done a bit more automatically. Last month, when I discovered they have a Fitbit channel, I was SO happy!

happy

IFTTT has also a few apps, one of the called “DO” which instead of having a predefined trigger, you simply launch it to DO something (for example, send yourself an email with the current location). The IF app, which is the equivalent to IFTTT as an app, can also let you know each time your recipe got triggered.

All in all, this is a very nice tool, which can really save you time, alert you on things otherwise would take time to notice, do some annoying paperwork for you and much more.

Kahoot!ing my way out of Click

Three weeks ago I went on a new journey, taking the role of an Organizational Scrum Master in SQream Technologies. But before that, first I had to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues in ClickSoftware. Since I worked there for almost 15 years, I had a lot of friends, a lot of co-workers and a lot of people I was in touch with. Two weeks before my last day, a friend of mine had his goodbye party in Click, also after a very long time (he bit me by 1 year!). His speech was very nice, witty and funny, and that started me thinking.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am not a huge fan of speeches, especially if I am the one that needs to give a speech. But I am a fan of games and of small competitions, so I knew right then how my goodbye party would be.

Kahoot-icon

I have been using Kahoot! for a long time before my farewell. It started when my wife told me about a nice game she participated in during a family event. It sounded so nice, I immediately went online to look for it, and I discovered how easy it is to create your own quiz. A week later, in my daughter’s second birthday, we launched our first Kahoot quiz and enjoyed it very much. After that, I used it at work, as a way to summarize a release we had in my group, we used it at several parties and occasions, and it is always a lot of fun.

So instead of writing a speech, and then having to read it out loud, I created a quiz about things that happened to me, or to ClickSoftware during my time there, added a lot of very old and funny photos, and that was it. I managed to say what I wanted within the questions,behind the scenes so to speak, so that those that want to hear what I felt, had the chance to read between the lines (or in this case, between the questions).

question

A lot of people had experienced this game for the first time during my farewell party, and thanked me for introducing it to them, as my last gift. Those that were part of my group, and already knew the game, also probably knew that this is what I was planning to do.

Anyway, I think Kahoot is a great tool for summarizing, introducing, getting info and even for saying goodbye. If you hadn’t experienced it yet – it’s about time to do so!