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Re: [agile-usability] I smell a rat! Or is it just stinky cheese?

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  • William Pietri
    ... I m sure there are a lot of approaches to this, but here are the ones that occur to me. I m sure there will be plenty of answers here, but I can think of
    Message 1 of 10 , Oct 6, 2008
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      faithbolliger.sanfran wrote:
      > [...] do you have advice on illuminating or correcting teams that have a
      > tendency to low-ball their overall expected velocity [...]



      I'm sure there are a lot of approaches to this, but here are the ones
      that occur to me. I'm sure there will be plenty of answers here, but I
      can think of six actions to take:


      The first thing I'd look at is the physical arrangement of the people.
      Put the product manager(s) and the developers (at least the local ones)
      all in the same physical space. Everybody should be able to see
      everybody else, and be able to get attention with little more than a
      wave or a slightly raised voice.

      Then I'd consider shifting to using relative estimates and Yesterday's
      Weather as a technique for deciding how much work to take on. Keep an
      estimated backlog of at least two iterations worth of work, and feel
      free to ask for more estimates as needed to have a clear plan.

      Third, I'd use short iterations. With a six-week release cycle, I'd go
      with one- or two-week iterations. Preferably one.

      Fourth, I'd look at why they might be sandbagging. That can be an
      adaptive behavior in many circumstances. If they are in one of them, you
      have to fix that first. And if they just picked the habit up elsewhere,
      they may need support in unlearning that.

      Fifth, consider whether business-side expectations for the team's
      productivity are too high. Maybe 80% of the teams I evaluate have a
      business-side fear that developers aren't productive enough, and the
      number one response to that is to get people to work more hours. This is
      rarely effective, and usually counterproductive, sometimes drastically so.

      And lastly, find ways to get developers to share your motivations. If
      they're doing work just because somebody tells them to, they won't be
      fully engaged. Instead, get them interested in solving the problems you
      want to solve. Help them to care about the things you care about. Then
      they'll be looking for ways to be more productive on their own, without
      external prodding.


      Feel free to ask if you'd like more detail on any of these.


      William
    • aacockburn
      Fabulous answers, William --- much better than I could have come up with! - cheers - Alistair
      Message 2 of 10 , Oct 6, 2008
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        Fabulous answers, William --- much better than I could have
        come up with!
        - cheers -
        Alistair
      • Dave Rooney
        William Pietri wrote: [snip] ... At one client, the effect of having the business people co-located with the developers resulted in a business analyst
        Message 3 of 10 , Oct 7, 2008
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          William Pietri wrote:

          [snip]

          > Fifth, consider whether business-side expectations for the team's
          > productivity are too high. Maybe 80% of the teams I evaluate have a
          > business-side fear that developers aren't productive enough, and the
          > number one response to that is to get people to work more hours. This is
          > rarely effective, and usually counterproductive, sometimes drastically so.
          >

          At one client, the effect of having the business people co-located with
          the developers resulted in a business analyst commenting on just how
          much work went into implementing a single story. She knew there was
          work, but when the developers enumerated the tasks required she was
          quite surprised at just how much.

          Yet another reason to co-locate - TRUST! :)

          Dave Rooney
          Mayford Technologies
          "Helping you become AGILE... to SURVIVE and THRIVE!"
          http://www.mayford.ca
          http://practicalagility.blogspot.com
        • faithbolliger.sanfran
          Hi William Thanks for your thoughtfulness. ... We do use planning poker, although the team does not like Fibonacci count and have settled on a system of .5, 1,
          Message 4 of 10 , Oct 8, 2008
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            Hi William
            Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

            You said:
            > I think the bad estimates should be pretty easy to fix. There I'd use
            > one of the Delphi method variants:
            >
            > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method
            >
            > The one I normally use is Planning Poker:
            >
            > http://www.planningpoker.com/detail.html
            >
            > In particular, I'd require that the team come to consensus on an
            > estimate. If after a few rounds they can't, then have them explicitly
            > identify the core of the disagreement, and give them explicit research
            > time to resolve the difference. If everybody has to agree, they'll
            > challenge one another's estimates, and I'm sure you won't be the only
            > one to catch onto this pattern.

            We do use planning poker, although the team does not like Fibonacci count and have
            settled on a system of .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

            On a side note: I continuously struggle to understand this in terms of real time, it's total
            felt experience for me. Particularly towards the end of the release when there are scraps
            of work to be done I feel as if our units of measurement are unhelpful. My lead tech will
            talk about the need to give each individual story a measurement even if it doesn't seem
            worthy of say .5 because the sponsor needs to know there is a "cost".

            This perspective of everything having a cost, feels more like stick than carrot (value).

            Back to issue at hand: So the dev team collectively throws estimates in our planning
            sessions, but as a rule of thumb we take the highest estimate. I do see devs challenge
            each other occasionally but not often. In cases of one specific tech lead, if this person
            doesn't like a story he will continue to throw high numbers. I have noticed a pattern that
            kills further discussion, the dev will say "well it still think there is complexity we aren't
            seeing and therefore I am not comfortable with anything lower than X pts".

            I would like to change this rule of thumb that we go with the highest estimate. Do others
            have this policy?

            fb
          • faithbolliger.sanfran
            William - More great feedback on co-location, sprint cycle, hours, business expectations and shared team goals/motivation. Unfortunately our teams are not
            Message 5 of 10 , Oct 8, 2008
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              William - More great feedback on co-location, sprint cycle, hours, business expectations
              and shared team goals/motivation.

              Unfortunately our teams are not co-located, we are in 4 different locations. And there is
              no actual daily overlap between 2 of those locations, except for sprint planning.

              We are on a 2 week sprint cycle, we used to do 1 week sprints which I liked but the devs
              felt it required too much work to get build stable, too much time required to prep for the
              demo and hence we had loads of hangover. To some degree we have less hangover. And
              we have worked hard to get the team to understand the demos need not be so formal, etc.

              The devs are working 40 hours if not less. We are a team of outsourced and offshore
              partners plus some onshore distributed contractors. I know the contractors have other
              clients and am confident this is some of the drain on velocity at times. I have traveled to
              work at our offshore partners location and know they keep 40 hours plus time during the
              day is playful. I don't think we are overworking them.

              Business expectations are probably misaligned. Although after 9 months now with this
              team, expectations have been significantly lowered. In my opinion, to the detriment of the
              team.

              How do others get outsourced, offshore, distributed teams to motivate? I could get better
              at motivating!

              What is the success rate for a distributed, outsourced team models?

              fb
            • marjoriepries
              ... terms of real time, it s total ... release when there are scraps ... unhelpful. My lead tech will ... even if it doesn t seem ... a cost . ... Everything
              Message 6 of 10 , Oct 8, 2008
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                --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "faithbolliger.sanfran"
                <faith.bolliger.ny@...> wrote:
                >
                >

                > On a side note: I continuously struggle to understand this in
                terms of real time, it's total
                > felt experience for me. Particularly towards the end of the
                release when there are scraps
                > of work to be done I feel as if our units of measurement are
                unhelpful. My lead tech will
                > talk about the need to give each individual story a measurement
                even if it doesn't seem
                > worthy of say .5 because the sponsor needs to know there is
                a "cost".
                >

                Everything that takes time to do, does have a cost. I'm guessing
                these things you call "scraps of work" are tasks necessary to
                get "release-ready" but maybe task lines are being drawn too finely
                in order to have something that looks like a "story." If so, then
                perhaps certain things could be grouped together under traditional
                PMO-sounding tags so that they have more weight and visibility.
                Without hard examples of these things you call "scraps" I'm not sure.
                Maybe even some old-fasioned bug logging and tracking would resolve
                it.


                > This perspective of everything having a cost, feels more like stick
                than carrot (value).
                >
                > Back to issue at hand: So the dev team collectively throws
                estimates in our planning
                > sessions, but as a rule of thumb we take the highest estimate. I
                do see devs challenge
                > each other occasionally but not often. In cases of one specific
                tech lead, if this person
                > doesn't like a story he will continue to throw high numbers. I
                have noticed a pattern that
                > kills further discussion, the dev will say "well it still think
                there is complexity we aren't
                > seeing and therefore I am not comfortable with anything lower than
                X pts".
                >
                > I would like to change this rule of thumb that we go with the
                highest estimate. Do others have this policy?
                >
                > fb
                >

                We don't go with the highest estimate. We go with the consensus or
                most frequent estimate. That means we have a discussion about the
                extremes. Can your tech lead get more specific, in a general way,
                about his/her concerns? That is, can they enumerate aspects of the
                card and relate them to previous examples or projects where surprises
                happened? Perhps a trained facilitator could help with that.

                And is it important that they get more specific? What I mean is, if
                the track record for every card where they've voted high has
                generally proven to have hidden complexity, then as a member of the
                team, I am going to stop niggling over every card where this happens
                and vote with the expert knowing that in time I'll experience what
                he/she suspected and be better able to smell the smells and
                articulate the concerns myself.

                A lot of times, teams that have been together long function this way
                because it's just more efficient to stop talking and start working.
              • William Pietri
                Hi, Faith. Great questions. Do you have any data handy? For example, I d love to see the velocities in each of the iterations for the last release. And maybe
                Message 7 of 10 , Oct 8, 2008
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                  Hi, Faith. Great questions.

                  Do you have any data handy? For example, I'd love to see the velocities in each of the iterations for the last release. And maybe the individual story estimates from a typical iteration and one you think was off, like that bit right before release?

                  Thanks,

                  William

                  faithbolliger.sanfran wrote:
                  Hi William 
                  Thanks for your thoughtfulness.  
                  
                  You said:
                    
                  I think the bad estimates should be pretty easy to fix. There I'd use 
                  one of the Delphi method variants:
                  
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method
                  
                  The one I normally use is Planning Poker:
                  
                      http://www.planningpoker.com/detail.html
                  
                  In particular, I'd require that the team come to consensus on an 
                  estimate. If after a few rounds they can't, then have them explicitly 
                  identify the core of the disagreement, and give them explicit research 
                  time to resolve the difference. If everybody has to agree, they'll 
                  challenge one another's estimates, and I'm sure you won't be the only 
                  one to catch onto this pattern.
                      
                  We do use planning poker, although the team does not like Fibonacci count and have 
                  settled on a system of .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
                  
                  On a side note:  I continuously struggle to understand this in terms of real time, it's total 
                  felt experience for me.   Particularly towards the end of the release when there are scraps 
                  of work to be done I feel as if our units of measurement are unhelpful.  My lead tech will 
                  talk about the need to give each individual story a measurement even if it doesn't seem 
                  worthy of say .5 because the sponsor needs to know there is a "cost".  
                  
                  This perspective of everything having a cost, feels more like stick than carrot (value).
                  
                  Back to issue at hand:  So the dev team collectively throws estimates in our planning 
                  sessions, but as a rule of thumb we take the highest estimate.  I do see devs challenge 
                  each other occasionally but not often.  In cases of one specific tech lead, if this person 
                  doesn't like a story he will continue to throw high numbers.  I have noticed a pattern that 
                  kills further discussion, the dev will say "well it still think there is complexity we aren't 
                  seeing and therefore I am not comfortable with anything lower than X pts". 
                  
                  I would like to change this rule of thumb that we go with the highest estimate.  Do others 
                  have this policy?
                  
                  fb
                  
                  
                  
                  
                  
                  ------------------------------------
                  
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