Signaling the End of a Standup

Funny story when I got back from vacation. In my stead the tech lead was holding the standup meetings. He went around the room one of the days and finished up with everyone reporting in under fifteen minutes. At that point there was just silence in the room for about two solid minutes. Turns out everyone was waiting for my apparent catch phrase of, “Well, enjoy your lunch everyone.” Finally someone got the nerve to ask if the meeting was over, and everyone got a good laugh realizing the meeting had ended two minutes earlier. So you can establish a rhythm on the project with the smallest of items, even a throwaway line to signify the end of standup.

Talking Strategy With the Business

Just before going on vacation last week I managed to meet with a few middle managers on the business side that I should have met with formally years ago. Building my team and their capabilities always trumped meeting with the business to discuss higher level strategy. I’m just as guilty as the next IT manager about talking about working with the business and then living within the walls of IT. Oh, sure I met with the business side many times in the course of projects I delivered for them, but rarely did we ever discuss strategy.

Scrum and other agile methodologies assume that you have close contact with the actual customers. It also brings organizational problems to the surface quickly. In our organization there’s not a lot of strategy discussion between the business and IT. Without much discussion IT often assumes that the business doesn’t have a direction and makes assumptions that they should drive the process. The business often assumes that IT doesn’t have capabilities to deliver solutions and searches for silver bullets in package solutions.

Exploring potential strategies by just sitting down and talking to the business appears to be a reasonable first step.

Sprint Theme in a Sprint Goal

A recent Sprint goal on an intranet project went something like this:

To migrate most of the intranet content and train at least one content author from each division.

On this Sprint there were probably 8 or 9 actual product backlog items, but the main theme was apparent–moving content. The word most was used because given that we didn’t know the entire scope of the content we thought 50% plus was probably reasonable. As it turned out we were able to migrate 80% of the content within the Sprint. Still the idea is to set a goal and then leave yourself a bit of wiggle room. You really can’t predict how the next 30 days will go at the start of a Sprint.

Many product backlog items we signed up for were left out of the Sprint goal, but the theme that we had to move the content was clear. If you try to cram in too many backlog items into a goal statement you just end up with a long paragraph that no one can remember. It’s much easier to get behind a simple theme for the Sprint.

The theme idea also applies well to parties. Our oldest has had a theme birthday party each year from rubber ducks to a Hawaiian hula party. A Sprint that runs like a theme party complete with a pithy goal statement is off to a good start.

Kids and Apple Photobooth

On vacation in San Diego I ended up at one of my favorite locations, an Apple Store. Turns out with two 5 and a half year olds the Apple store is a mini entertainment center.

Apple’s Photobooth, one of the free little applications you get with all the new Macs, proved a bigger hit than I anticipated. My daughter and her cousin took turns trying out all the possible effects from a Fisheye lens effect to the ‘Light Tunnel’. I had to pull them away to cries of:

“No, Squidy needs to be in the next picture.”

“Please, just one more picture.”

It’s a cute little app that even fakes a flash effect by flashing an all white screen before taking the picture. You wouldn’t expect Photobooth to convince someone to buy a Mac, but subtly it adds to the whole experience you have in the store:

  • It entertains two wired 5 year olds for 30 minutes easy.
  • It’s so simple there’s no confusion on how the interface works.
  • You’re having fun which isn’t often isn’t the case with your typical Dell box at work.
  • It gives the shopper a reason to stay with a display machine in the store and walk away remembering how much they enjoyed the cute little photo program on those Macs.

So even if you never use Photobooth at home this little app has helped improve your whole Apple store experience. Clever.

Trading a Desk for a Circular Table

I had quite a few one-on-ones with developers today and almost all of them started with:

“Wow, I didn’t realize you took out the desk.”

Last Thursday my desk partition was removed and replaced with a smallish circular table for meetings and to have more of a team room atmosphere. My normal office these days is a cubicle out on the floor with everyone else. It’s a bigger layout, but I think I still surprised some of my team. In an effort to seek improvements however small, I’m constantly adjusting things.

This time it was an office desk versus a table, tomorrow it may be adjusting our code review process or adding an impediment chart to a Scrum project. I think it’s the scientist in me that loves the experimentation and testing of a hypothesis. If you try out a lot of ideas some of them turn out to be really useful, and who wants to do the same thing all the time.