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Re: [scrumdevelopment] Keeping cross-cutting tasks visible (without technical stories)

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  • Malcolm Anderson
    Ron This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always bothered me. I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your
    Message 1 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
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      Ron

      This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always bothered me.

      I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your ability to make the unclear, clear. 
      Until you got to the point where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.

      >At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
      >can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

      This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do twelve")
      This goes against the value of transparency. 
      It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical debt in order to make a particular deadline.


      One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health their product while they provide value to their customer.

      I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to their product.

      I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No and No"

      1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with other product owners how to be a better product owner?

      2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?

      3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the health of their products?


      Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
      Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
      Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.


      Thanks

      Malcolm Anderson
      Scrum Coach & Agile Engineer




      On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
       

      Hello, Roy. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 3:29:27 AM, you
      wrote:



      > I think this notion of only ever doing things that have value to
      > the customer has been somewhat misunderstood, or misapplied. There
      > are most certainly things that need to be done that do not have an
      > immediate, direct, or even obvious value to a customer ... but
      > they still must be done. So what if user stories are not written
      > for them, and so what if they really don't fit the notion of user
      > stories (however defined). Being afraid to get it done because
      > Scrum doesn't seem to cover that situation just leads to
      > development paralysis.

      If one is to do Scrum well, one needs to understand Scrum well.
      Deviating from it every time something "seems" odd will not help a
      team to prosper. It troubles me that so much of your advice, Roy,
      deviates substantially from what Scrum and Agile teach, even when
      there are perfectly good Scrum / Agile answers.

      So here's so what.

      The fundamental point of Scrum is for the PO to prioritize work
      for the team, so that the best possible product can be delivered
      within the desired time and budget. The PO will get the best
      product if work is chosen that is of high "business value". (Low
      development cost is also a concern in choosing the work, but may
      will be substantially less important than value.)

      Clearly, the PO is capable of driving out more value when a larger
      percentage of the team's time comes under her control, since
      otherwise, she is directing a smaller flow of work, which will
      inherently reduce total value. Therefore it is undesirable to
      slice away a strip of the team's development time and make it
      unavailable for stories.

      However, so-called "technical stories" have a value proposition
      which is almost completely different from an ordinary story. A
      technical refactoring story may promise faster velocity sometime
      in the future, while an ordinary story is something that real
      users actually want. It is therefore very difficult, perhaps
      impossible, to compare an ordinary story and a technical story for
      value. Therefore it is undesirable to present technical stories at
      all, since they are so difficult to prioritize.

      This seems, if one doesn't think about it very hard, to be a
      dilemma. We can't take away the PO's time, we can't prioritize the
      technical stories. We can't have them at all. We are doomed.

      Like most dilemmas, this one is solved by using a third
      alternative. It turns out that [almost?] every bit of technical
      work, if it should be done at all, is done in support of one or
      more stories. IN PARTICULAR, the kind of work the OP is talking
      about, creation of tests and creation of clean code, is inherently
      part of creating stories.

      Why inherently, one might ask. Because for code to be DONE, it
      must work, and to know whether it works, we must test it. Because
      we are working incrementally, we will revisit much of the code
      many times and we might break it, so it is wise that the tests be
      recorded for reuse, i.e. automated.

      Further, since we are building the system incrementally, we are
      building the design incrementally. We do not have the time (nor,
      likely, the ability) to define the design correctly up front. We
      do not have the time to build it up front even if we did have the
      ability to define it. We must, perforce, evolve the design.
      Therefore, for each feature to be DONE, its design must be fit for
      the current purpose.

      Therefore, testing, and design improvement, are /inherently/ part
      of the work of doing stories.

      How does this help us with our dilemma? We have, through our human
      failings, fallen behind on the testing and design. What are we to
      do? We do not want to slice time away from the Product Owner. The
      Product Owner cannot correctly prioritize these strange technical
      stories. We are doomed.

      No. All we need to do is to bear down a bit on improving the code
      we work on, doing all it takes to bring it back up to the proper
      definition of DONE, namely "well-tested and well-factored". We
      make the code a bit better every time we pass through it.

      At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
      a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
      can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
      they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

      Better yet, soon, surprisingly soon, it doesn't take longer after
      all. Since we are improving the code and tests in the areas we
      work in, velocity picks up quite quickly in the areas we work in.
      We wind up going faster than before, because we are going better.

      Our Product Owner retains her ability to prioritize the whole of
      our work, and our code improves. No confusion, no political
      discussion, no need to make promises about the future that we may
      not be able to keep.

      We don't need technical stories or tricky negotiations. We just do
      the job we were always supposed to do, namely make each story
      DONE, fully tested, with a good design in place.


      Ron Jeffries
      www.XProgramming.com
      Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire.
      He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to
      light - Howard Roark (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)


    • Ron Jeffries
      Hello, Malcolm. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 10:21:40 AM, ... Well, since clearly I would NOT encourage a lack of transparency, let s look a bit more
      Message 2 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
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        Hello, Malcolm. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 10:21:40 AM,
        you wrote:

        > This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always
        > bothered me.

        > I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your
        > ability to make the unclear, clear. Until you got to the point
        > where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.

        Well, since clearly I would NOT encourage a lack of transparency,
        let's look a bit more deeply at what's going on.

        >> At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
        >> a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
        >> can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
        >> they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

        > This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product
        > owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do
        > twelve") This goes against the value of transparency.

        Actually, the transparency violation has already occurred. The team
        told (and gave evidence) that they can do twelve, and screwed up the
        code base to do it. The team has produced software which everyone
        thought was DONE, but it was not DONE.

        The PO /thought/ they could do twelve. The PO was wrong. The team
        may have thought they could do twelve, and somehow accidentally
        wrote crappy code and too few tests in order to do it. More likely,
        the team knew quite well, long before this crisis arose, that they
        were doing crappy work.

        That is where the transparency violation occurs.

        The team demonstrably cannot do twelve stories up to the standard of
        DONE. They need to start doing as many as they can do.

        > It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical
        > debt in order to make a particular deadline.

        The PO does not have that right.

        The team agrees on the definition of DONE. If that definition does
        not include "well tested", then the software is not known to work.
        Software not known to work is not "potentially shippable". The team
        must, by the definition of Scrum, produce increments of work that
        are potentially shippable. Therefore, work must be well tested. This
        is not optional.

        The dev team decides how to do the work. The PO has absolutely no
        authority about how the work is to be done: the PO's authority is to
        prioritize the stories. The dev team decides how much can be done
        and how to do it.

        Furthermore, the PO does not have the ability to decide whether
        taking on technical debt will improve the chances of making a
        particular deadline, BECAUSE NO ONE HAS THAT ABILITY. There is no
        evidence that taking on technical debt for more than a few hours
        makes anything happen faster, since code containing technical debut
        is not known to work correctly and is known to work poorly.
        Maintaining poor code always takes longer than maintaining
        well-designed code.

        It is common to think, or hope, that writing crappy poorly tested
        code will somehow turn out to be better than writing good well
        tested code. This happens rarely, if at all, and we never have the
        ability to decide correctly whether this is our situation or not.

        > One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident
        > that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health
        > their product while they provide value to their customer.

        > I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making
        > it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to
        > their product.

        Yes but I don't see your point regarding how the product is built.
        That is simply not part of the PO's job in Scrum. I can think of few
        situations where it would be, since in most situations the PO is not
        technically qualified.

        > I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No
        > and No"

        > 1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with
        > other product owners how to be a better product owner?

        > 2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?

        > 3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the
        > health of their products?

        As far as I know the answers are no. And, the PO job is already
        incredibly difficult. Making them responsible as well for the
        "health" of the product -- assuming that by that you mean the
        technical quality -- will add the burden of being expert in software
        development to an already very difficult job.

        If done, this would also be a different thing from Scrum. Scrum's
        design has a strict line between what, the domain of the Product
        Owner, and how, the domain of the Development Team. Perhaps a
        framework could be defined that would be better than Scrum that did
        not have this line, but it would not be Scrum, it would be some new
        thing.

        > Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is
        > going to be an issue with Scrum.
        > Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is
        > going to be an issue with Scrum.
        > Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this
        > is going to be an issue with Scrum.

        Actually, I disagree that this is the key issue around technical
        quality.

        Technical quality should be in the hands of the people most
        qualified to provide it, just as the choice of what features to do
        and which to leave out is in the hands of the people most qualified
        to do it.

        There are many things one could object to about Scrum. The existence
        of the ScrumMaster role, for example. But one thing that Scrum has
        pretty darn right is the notion of creating teams with the business
        people deciding what, and technical people deciding how.

        Ron Jeffries
        www.XProgramming.com
        Yesterday's code should be as good as we could make it yesterday.
        The fact that we know more today, and are more capable today,
        is good news about today, not bad news about yesterday.
      • Alan Dayley
        Interesting point of view, Malcolm. You may be pointing out a lack in emphasis on the Product Owner role in many training and use situations. I don t think
        Message 3 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
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          Interesting point of view, Malcolm.  You may be pointing out a lack in emphasis on the Product Owner role in many training and use situations.  I don't think it is a fault of the Scrum framework, however.

          Phrases seen in Scrum writings with regard to the Product Owner role:  "...owns the ROI of the product..."  "..represents the customer..."  "...owns the Product Backlog..." and the odious "...single wringable neck..."  And even the title of the role means *owner* of the product.

          What part of these terms does not mean stewardship?  You are pointing out that Product Owners are not getting the message, *despite* what the Scrum training and literature states.  Maybe an oath would help but I don't think the message of product stewardship is lacking in Scrum.

          I had some other ideas to write but Ron was faster with his elaborations, which I don't think I can say any better.

          Nice discussions!

          Alan

          On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 8:21 AM, Malcolm Anderson <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
           

          Ron

          This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always bothered me.

          I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your ability to make the unclear, clear. 
          Until you got to the point where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.



          >At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
          >can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

          This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do twelve")
          This goes against the value of transparency. 
          It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical debt in order to make a particular deadline.


          One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health their product while they provide value to their customer.

          I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to their product.

          I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No and No"

          1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with other product owners how to be a better product owner?

          2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?

          3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the health of their products?


          Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
          Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
          Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.


          Thanks

          Malcolm Anderson
          Scrum Coach & Agile Engineer





          On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
           

          Hello, Roy. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 3:29:27 AM, you
          wrote:



          > I think this notion of only ever doing things that have value to
          > the customer has been somewhat misunderstood, or misapplied. There
          > are most certainly things that need to be done that do not have an
          > immediate, direct, or even obvious value to a customer ... but
          > they still must be done. So what if user stories are not written
          > for them, and so what if they really don't fit the notion of user
          > stories (however defined). Being afraid to get it done because
          > Scrum doesn't seem to cover that situation just leads to
          > development paralysis.

          If one is to do Scrum well, one needs to understand Scrum well.
          Deviating from it every time something "seems" odd will not help a
          team to prosper. It troubles me that so much of your advice, Roy,
          deviates substantially from what Scrum and Agile teach, even when
          there are perfectly good Scrum / Agile answers.

          So here's so what.

          The fundamental point of Scrum is for the PO to prioritize work
          for the team, so that the best possible product can be delivered
          within the desired time and budget. The PO will get the best
          product if work is chosen that is of high "business value". (Low
          development cost is also a concern in choosing the work, but may
          will be substantially less important than value.)

          Clearly, the PO is capable of driving out more value when a larger
          percentage of the team's time comes under her control, since
          otherwise, she is directing a smaller flow of work, which will
          inherently reduce total value. Therefore it is undesirable to
          slice away a strip of the team's development time and make it
          unavailable for stories.

          However, so-called "technical stories" have a value proposition
          which is almost completely different from an ordinary story. A
          technical refactoring story may promise faster velocity sometime
          in the future, while an ordinary story is something that real
          users actually want. It is therefore very difficult, perhaps
          impossible, to compare an ordinary story and a technical story for
          value. Therefore it is undesirable to present technical stories at
          all, since they are so difficult to prioritize.

          This seems, if one doesn't think about it very hard, to be a
          dilemma. We can't take away the PO's time, we can't prioritize the
          technical stories. We can't have them at all. We are doomed.

          Like most dilemmas, this one is solved by using a third
          alternative. It turns out that [almost?] every bit of technical
          work, if it should be done at all, is done in support of one or
          more stories. IN PARTICULAR, the kind of work the OP is talking
          about, creation of tests and creation of clean code, is inherently
          part of creating stories.

          Why inherently, one might ask. Because for code to be DONE, it
          must work, and to know whether it works, we must test it. Because
          we are working incrementally, we will revisit much of the code
          many times and we might break it, so it is wise that the tests be
          recorded for reuse, i.e. automated.

          Further, since we are building the system incrementally, we are
          building the design incrementally. We do not have the time (nor,
          likely, the ability) to define the design correctly up front. We
          do not have the time to build it up front even if we did have the
          ability to define it. We must, perforce, evolve the design.
          Therefore, for each feature to be DONE, its design must be fit for
          the current purpose.

          Therefore, testing, and design improvement, are /inherently/ part
          of the work of doing stories.

          How does this help us with our dilemma? We have, through our human
          failings, fallen behind on the testing and design. What are we to
          do? We do not want to slice time away from the Product Owner. The
          Product Owner cannot correctly prioritize these strange technical
          stories. We are doomed.

          No. All we need to do is to bear down a bit on improving the code
          we work on, doing all it takes to bring it back up to the proper
          definition of DONE, namely "well-tested and well-factored". We
          make the code a bit better every time we pass through it.

          At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
          a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
          can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
          they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

          Better yet, soon, surprisingly soon, it doesn't take longer after
          all. Since we are improving the code and tests in the areas we
          work in, velocity picks up quite quickly in the areas we work in.
          We wind up going faster than before, because we are going better.

          Our Product Owner retains her ability to prioritize the whole of
          our work, and our code improves. No confusion, no political
          discussion, no need to make promises about the future that we may
          not be able to keep.

          We don't need technical stories or tricky negotiations. We just do
          the job we were always supposed to do, namely make each story
          DONE, fully tested, with a good design in place.


          Ron Jeffries
          www.XProgramming.com
          Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire.
          He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to
          light - Howard Roark (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)



        • Malcolm Anderson
          Hi Ron I appreciate your focused attention on this. This got long, and is looking like it s to be a conversation held over beer. Responses inline Malcolm ...
          Message 4 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
          • 0 Attachment
            Hi Ron

            I appreciate your focused attention on this. This got long, and is
            looking like it's to be a conversation held over beer.

            Responses inline

            Malcolm



            On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 10:40 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
            > Hello, Malcolm.  On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 10:21:40 AM,
            > you wrote:
            >
            >> This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always
            >> bothered me.
            >
            >> I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your
            >> ability to make the unclear, clear. Until you got to the point
            >> where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.
            >
            > Well, since clearly I would NOT encourage a lack of transparency,
            > let's look a bit more deeply at what's going on.

            I didn't figure that you would be. :)

            >>> At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
            >>> a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
            >>> can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
            >>> they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.
            >
            >> This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product
            >> owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do
            >> twelve") This goes against the value of transparency.
            >
            > Actually, the transparency violation has already occurred. The team
            > told (and gave evidence) that they can do twelve, and screwed up the
            > code base to do it. The team has produced software which everyone
            > thought was DONE, but it was not DONE.

            Here is an issue that seems to be at the base line. I'm working with
            experienced teams that know nothing of the agile engineering
            practices. They do NOT have an agreed upon definition of DONE. Here,
            on this list, (in what I say is the "Scrum Community"), we expect that
            Test First TDD will be part of the done criteria. We expect that the
            team will be working with some kind of continuous integration. We
            might even expect that they are doing Paired Programming, or at least
            code reviews. We expect that people are using design patterns and
            doing object oriented programming.

            I can tell you that as Scrum becomes more popular, we as coaches and
            trainers are going to start running into more and more large
            established companies for whom "Agile Engineering" is more of a
            punchline than it is, a self evident body of proven practices.

            So here is a foundational disagreement. I do not believe that there
            is any consensus out there about "what constitutes DONE." It sounds
            to me, like you do believe there is some consensus around the matter.



            >
            >> It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical
            >> debt in order to make a particular deadline.
            >
            > The PO does not have that right.

            I disagree. There are a lot of reasons for taking on short term
            technical debt. I use the analogy of the credit card with a 36%
            interest rate. You do not want to use that card. But there are times
            when it makes great business sense to use that card in a short term
            situation.



            > The team agrees on the definition of DONE. If that definition does
            > not include "well tested", then the software is not known to work.
            > Software not known to work is not "potentially shippable". The team
            > must, by the definition of Scrum, produce increments of work that
            > are potentially shippable. Therefore, work must be well tested. This
            > is not optional.

            Again, I agree with you. Your definition of DONE is self evident to
            me. I disagree with you that it is self evident to the majority of
            the developers out in the world. I disagree with you that it is self
            evident to more than 3% of project managers. And even if it is self
            evident to them, they will tell you, "there's no way that that will
            ever work here; too many cowboys, and our code is too fragile" (which
            just seems self inflicted)

            > The dev team decides how to do the work. The PO has absolutely no
            > authority about how the work is to be done: the PO's authority is to
            > prioritize the stories. The dev team decides how much can be done
            > and how to do it.

            Agreed

            > Furthermore, the PO does not have the ability to decide whether
            > taking on technical debt will improve the chances of making a
            > particular deadline, BECAUSE NO ONE HAS THAT ABILITY. There is no
            > evidence that taking on technical debt for more than a few hours
            > makes anything happen faster, since code containing technical debut
            > is not known to work correctly and is known to work poorly.
            > Maintaining poor code always takes longer than maintaining
            > well-designed code.

            Agreed in spirit. Still think there are times when it makes sense to
            "be stupid on purpose."

            > It is common to think, or hope, that writing crappy poorly tested
            > code will somehow turn out to be better than writing good well
            > tested code. This happens rarely, if at all, and we never have the
            > ability to decide correctly whether this is our situation or not.

            Agreed. Self evident even. To me and you.

            >> One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident
            >> that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health
            >> their product while they provide value to their customer.
            >
            >> I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making
            >> it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to
            >> their product.
            >
            > Yes but I don't see your point regarding how the product is built.
            > That is simply not part of the PO's job in Scrum. I can think of few
            > situations where it would be, since in most situations the PO is not
            > technically qualified.

            I disagree strongly with you here. The PO doesn't have to be
            technical to take responsibility for the health of his or her project.

            The PO does need to believe that the agile engineering practices can
            make a dramatic difference in the quality and responsiveness of their
            code base. Again, its self evident to me, and obviously to you.

            A non technical PO that takes on the responsibility of maintaining and
            improving the health of their products code will end up with better
            code than a technical PO that doesn't believe that there is value in
            improving the health of your code.

            Case in point, recently I worked with a very bright, very technical
            product owner who believed that code quality could only come from more
            complete up front analysis before coding ever starts. ("recently" in
            this sentence means 2010)


            >> I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No
            >> and No"
            >
            >> 1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with
            >> other product owners how to be a better product owner?
            >
            >> 2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?
            >
            >> 3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the
            >> health of their products?
            >
            > As far as I know the answers are no. And, the PO job is already
            > incredibly difficult. Making them responsible as well for the
            > "health" of the product -- assuming that by that you mean the
            > technical quality -- will add the burden of being expert in software
            > development to an already very difficult job.

            I hoped that you were going to surprise me and tell me about the
            thriving ScrumProductOwnersRock yahoo group

            Again, we disagree here. I believe that non-technical POs can do a
            great job in promoting improved health of their code base.



            >
            > If done, this would also be a different thing from Scrum. Scrum's
            > design has a strict line between what, the domain of the Product
            > Owner, and how, the domain of the Development Team. Perhaps a
            > framework could be defined that would be better than Scrum that did
            > not have this line, but it would not be Scrum, it would be some new
            > thing.

            I disagree with you. I do not think that having the Product Owner
            have some care about the codes health contradicts anything in Scrum.


            >> Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is
            >> going to be an issue with Scrum.
            >> Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is
            >> going to be an issue with Scrum.
            >> Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this
            >> is going to be an issue with Scrum.
            >
            > Actually, I disagree that this is the key issue around technical
            > quality.
            >
            > Technical quality should be in the hands of the people most
            > qualified to provide it, just as the choice of what features to do
            > and which to leave out is in the hands of the people most qualified
            > to do it.

            I'm an agile engineer, I expect that teams will see value by taking on
            some simple disciplines. I've dealt with Product Owners who don't see
            it that way. They see a cost today, that they do not believe will
            bring them rewards tomorrow. The data on Paired Programming is
            overwhelming, I don't believe it's possible to do research on it and
            come away not wanting to try it. But it's counter intuitive, "You
            want me to put two people on a task that one should be able to handle?
            I can't afford that kind of luxury." Some times that quote comes
            from technical people.


            >
            > There are many things one could object to about Scrum. The existence
            > of the ScrumMaster role, for example. But one thing that Scrum has
            > pretty darn right is the notion of creating teams with the business
            > people deciding what, and technical people deciding how.

            I guess it comes down to this Ron. I believe that a commitment to
            product stewardship is a "what" and falls on the PO to support their
            team in taking the time to decide the how of improving their products
            code and design.
          • Malcolm Anderson
            Thanks Alan I agree, if you read between the lines, stewardship is already demanded. But if PO s are not getting the message then we need inspect and adapt
            Message 5 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
            • 0 Attachment
              Thanks Alan

              I agree, if you read between the lines, stewardship is already demanded.  But if PO's are not getting the message then we need inspect and adapt *how* we are sending that message.

              This is made more difficult because more and more POs are being drafted from the PM ranks. 
              I'm still seeing PMs drafted as Scrum Masters (because everyone knows that "Scrum Master" is Agile for "Project Manager".)  Thankfully for them, no one knows what a Scrum Master is, or does, so they HAVE to do research on it.

              (I just saw a job requirement yesterday that was looking for a PMP certified project manager "with strong agile and scrum experience."  There was no requirement for Certified Scrum Master, and certainly no requirement for Certified Product Owner.  This horrified me, but it's a sign of our times)

              As Scrum becomes more popular, we will have to re-educate more and more people. 
              The word "stewardship" clearly emphasize something that the scrum body takes for granted.

              I was kind of joking when I wrote the phrase "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship" but maybe it's not a bad idea. 

              Malcolm


              On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Alan Dayley <alandd@...> wrote:
               

              Interesting point of view, Malcolm.  You may be pointing out a lack in emphasis on the Product Owner role in many training and use situations.  I don't think it is a fault of the Scrum framework, however.


              Phrases seen in Scrum writings with regard to the Product Owner role:  "...owns the ROI of the product..."  "..represents the customer..."  "...owns the Product Backlog..." and the odious "...single wringable neck..."  And even the title of the role means *owner* of the product.

              What part of these terms does not mean stewardship?  You are pointing out that Product Owners are not getting the message, *despite* what the Scrum training and literature states.  Maybe an oath would help but I don't think the message of product stewardship is lacking in Scrum.

              I had some other ideas to write but Ron was faster with his elaborations, which I don't think I can say any better.

              Nice discussions!

              Alan



            • Malcolm Anderson
              Ron, Alan I probably should not blog at midnight. http://geekswithblogs.net/geekusconlivus/archive/2010/12/01/scrum-product-owners-oath-of-stewardship.aspx
              Message 6 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
              • 0 Attachment
                Ron, Alan

                I probably should not blog at midnight.

                http://geekswithblogs.net/geekusconlivus/archive/2010/12/01/scrum-product-owners-oath-of-stewardship.aspx

                Ron, you'll get a track back too, I promise.

                Malcolm



                On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Alan Dayley <alandd@...> wrote:
                 

                Interesting point of view, Malcolm.  You may be pointing out a lack in emphasis on the Product Owner role in many training and use situations.  I don't think it is a fault of the Scrum framework, however.


                Phrases seen in Scrum writings with regard to the Product Owner role:  "...owns the ROI of the product..."  "..represents the customer..."  "...owns the Product Backlog..." and the odious "...single wringable neck..."  And even the title of the role means *owner* of the product.

                What part of these terms does not mean stewardship?  You are pointing out that Product Owners are not getting the message, *despite* what the Scrum training and literature states.  Maybe an oath would help but I don't think the message of product stewardship is lacking in Scrum.

                I had some other ideas to write but Ron was faster with his elaborations, which I don't think I can say any better.

                Nice discussions!

                Alan

                On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 8:21 AM, Malcolm Anderson <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
                 

                Ron

                This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always bothered me.

                I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your ability to make the unclear, clear. 
                Until you got to the point where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.



                >At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                >can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

                This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do twelve")
                This goes against the value of transparency. 
                It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical debt in order to make a particular deadline.


                One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health their product while they provide value to their customer.

                I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to their product.

                I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No and No"

                1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with other product owners how to be a better product owner?

                2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?

                3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the health of their products?


                Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
                Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
                Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.


                Thanks

                Malcolm Anderson
                Scrum Coach & Agile Engineer





                On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                 

                Hello, Roy. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 3:29:27 AM, you
                wrote:



                > I think this notion of only ever doing things that have value to
                > the customer has been somewhat misunderstood, or misapplied. There
                > are most certainly things that need to be done that do not have an
                > immediate, direct, or even obvious value to a customer ... but
                > they still must be done. So what if user stories are not written
                > for them, and so what if they really don't fit the notion of user
                > stories (however defined). Being afraid to get it done because
                > Scrum doesn't seem to cover that situation just leads to
                > development paralysis.

                If one is to do Scrum well, one needs to understand Scrum well.
                Deviating from it every time something "seems" odd will not help a
                team to prosper. It troubles me that so much of your advice, Roy,
                deviates substantially from what Scrum and Agile teach, even when
                there are perfectly good Scrum / Agile answers.

                So here's so what.

                The fundamental point of Scrum is for the PO to prioritize work
                for the team, so that the best possible product can be delivered
                within the desired time and budget. The PO will get the best
                product if work is chosen that is of high "business value". (Low
                development cost is also a concern in choosing the work, but may
                will be substantially less important than value.)

                Clearly, the PO is capable of driving out more value when a larger
                percentage of the team's time comes under her control, since
                otherwise, she is directing a smaller flow of work, which will
                inherently reduce total value. Therefore it is undesirable to
                slice away a strip of the team's development time and make it
                unavailable for stories.

                However, so-called "technical stories" have a value proposition
                which is almost completely different from an ordinary story. A
                technical refactoring story may promise faster velocity sometime
                in the future, while an ordinary story is something that real
                users actually want. It is therefore very difficult, perhaps
                impossible, to compare an ordinary story and a technical story for
                value. Therefore it is undesirable to present technical stories at
                all, since they are so difficult to prioritize.

                This seems, if one doesn't think about it very hard, to be a
                dilemma. We can't take away the PO's time, we can't prioritize the
                technical stories. We can't have them at all. We are doomed.

                Like most dilemmas, this one is solved by using a third
                alternative. It turns out that [almost?] every bit of technical
                work, if it should be done at all, is done in support of one or
                more stories. IN PARTICULAR, the kind of work the OP is talking
                about, creation of tests and creation of clean code, is inherently
                part of creating stories.

                Why inherently, one might ask. Because for code to be DONE, it
                must work, and to know whether it works, we must test it. Because
                we are working incrementally, we will revisit much of the code
                many times and we might break it, so it is wise that the tests be
                recorded for reuse, i.e. automated.

                Further, since we are building the system incrementally, we are
                building the design incrementally. We do not have the time (nor,
                likely, the ability) to define the design correctly up front. We
                do not have the time to build it up front even if we did have the
                ability to define it. We must, perforce, evolve the design.
                Therefore, for each feature to be DONE, its design must be fit for
                the current purpose.

                Therefore, testing, and design improvement, are /inherently/ part
                of the work of doing stories.

                How does this help us with our dilemma? We have, through our human
                failings, fallen behind on the testing and design. What are we to
                do? We do not want to slice time away from the Product Owner. The
                Product Owner cannot correctly prioritize these strange technical
                stories. We are doomed.

                No. All we need to do is to bear down a bit on improving the code
                we work on, doing all it takes to bring it back up to the proper
                definition of DONE, namely "well-tested and well-factored". We
                make the code a bit better every time we pass through it.

                At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
                a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
                they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

                Better yet, soon, surprisingly soon, it doesn't take longer after
                all. Since we are improving the code and tests in the areas we
                work in, velocity picks up quite quickly in the areas we work in.
                We wind up going faster than before, because we are going better.

                Our Product Owner retains her ability to prioritize the whole of
                our work, and our code improves. No confusion, no political
                discussion, no need to make promises about the future that we may
                not be able to keep.

                We don't need technical stories or tricky negotiations. We just do
                the job we were always supposed to do, namely make each story
                DONE, fully tested, with a good design in place.


                Ron Jeffries
                www.XProgramming.com
                Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire.
                He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to
                light - Howard Roark (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)




              • peterskeide
                I think you have some good points here. Like you, I feel that sometimes baking in some technical work in a User Story is like hiding information, especially
                Message 7 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
                • 0 Attachment
                  I think you have some good points here. Like you, I feel that sometimes "baking in" some technical work in a User Story is like hiding information, especially if the technical issues and the User Story are unrelated.

                  It is important to remember that developers are stakeholders too. That's why I don't see a problem with the product backlog sometimes reflecting the needs of the developers.

                  In a perfect world everybody get to work on exciting new products, know exactly what to do and how to do it well. Unfortunately, that just isn't so for most of us. Sometimes we must work on legacy systems where there never was a clear definition of done. Sometimes we must help organizations/projects that are transitioning to agile and just learning practices that we as a community take for granted. In such situations it can be very important to highlight issues related to technical debt or developer supporting infrastructure. I think the Product Backlog is one way to make such issues visible.

                  Also, don't forget that Scrum does not mandate User Stories. For some, technical requirements may be just the thing. Others prefer Use Cases, or perhaps measurable stakeholder goals (as promoted by Gilb). Hopefully, everyone takes their own context into consideration and then *choose the format best suited to their current needs*.

                  --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Malcolm Anderson <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Ron
                  >
                  > This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always
                  > bothered me.
                  >
                  > I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your ability to
                  > make the unclear, clear.
                  > Until you got to the point where you seem to encourage a lack of
                  > transparency.
                  >
                  > >At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not a real
                  > concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                  > >can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what they can
                  > do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.
                  >
                  > This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product owners that
                  > I've worked with, do know that "the team can do twelve")
                  > This goes against the value of transparency.
                  > It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical debt in
                  > order to make a particular deadline.
                  >
                  >
                  > One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident that
                  > product owners are responsible for maintaining the health their product
                  > while they provide value to their customer.
                  >
                  > I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making it clear
                  > to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to their product.
                  >
                  > I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No
                  > and No"
                  >
                  > 1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with other
                  > product owners how to be a better product owner?
                  >
                  > 2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?
                  >
                  > 3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the
                  > health of their products?
                  >
                  >
                  > Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is
                  > going to be an issue with Scrum.
                  > Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is
                  > going to be an issue with Scrum.
                  > Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this
                  > is going to be an issue with Scrum.
                  >
                  >
                  > Thanks
                  >
                  > Malcolm Anderson
                  > Scrum Coach & Agile Engineer
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > Hello, Roy. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 3:29:27 AM, you
                  > > wrote:
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > > I think this notion of only ever doing things that have value to
                  > > > the customer has been somewhat misunderstood, or misapplied. There
                  > > > are most certainly things that need to be done that do not have an
                  > > > immediate, direct, or even obvious value to a customer ... but
                  > > > they still must be done. So what if user stories are not written
                  > > > for them, and so what if they really don't fit the notion of user
                  > > > stories (however defined). Being afraid to get it done because
                  > > > Scrum doesn't seem to cover that situation just leads to
                  > > > development paralysis.
                  > >
                  > > If one is to do Scrum well, one needs to understand Scrum well.
                  > > Deviating from it every time something "seems" odd will not help a
                  > > team to prosper. It troubles me that so much of your advice, Roy,
                  > > deviates substantially from what Scrum and Agile teach, even when
                  > > there are perfectly good Scrum / Agile answers.
                  > >
                  > > So here's so what.
                  > >
                  > > The fundamental point of Scrum is for the PO to prioritize work
                  > > for the team, so that the best possible product can be delivered
                  > > within the desired time and budget. The PO will get the best
                  > > product if work is chosen that is of high "business value". (Low
                  > > development cost is also a concern in choosing the work, but may
                  > > will be substantially less important than value.)
                  > >
                  > > Clearly, the PO is capable of driving out more value when a larger
                  > > percentage of the team's time comes under her control, since
                  > > otherwise, she is directing a smaller flow of work, which will
                  > > inherently reduce total value. Therefore it is undesirable to
                  > > slice away a strip of the team's development time and make it
                  > > unavailable for stories.
                  > >
                  > > However, so-called "technical stories" have a value proposition
                  > > which is almost completely different from an ordinary story. A
                  > > technical refactoring story may promise faster velocity sometime
                  > > in the future, while an ordinary story is something that real
                  > > users actually want. It is therefore very difficult, perhaps
                  > > impossible, to compare an ordinary story and a technical story for
                  > > value. Therefore it is undesirable to present technical stories at
                  > > all, since they are so difficult to prioritize.
                  > >
                  > > This seems, if one doesn't think about it very hard, to be a
                  > > dilemma. We can't take away the PO's time, we can't prioritize the
                  > > technical stories. We can't have them at all. We are doomed.
                  > >
                  > > Like most dilemmas, this one is solved by using a third
                  > > alternative. It turns out that [almost?] every bit of technical
                  > > work, if it should be done at all, is done in support of one or
                  > > more stories. IN PARTICULAR, the kind of work the OP is talking
                  > > about, creation of tests and creation of clean code, is inherently
                  > > part of creating stories.
                  > >
                  > > Why inherently, one might ask. Because for code to be DONE, it
                  > > must work, and to know whether it works, we must test it. Because
                  > > we are working incrementally, we will revisit much of the code
                  > > many times and we might break it, so it is wise that the tests be
                  > > recorded for reuse, i.e. automated.
                  > >
                  > > Further, since we are building the system incrementally, we are
                  > > building the design incrementally. We do not have the time (nor,
                  > > likely, the ability) to define the design correctly up front. We
                  > > do not have the time to build it up front even if we did have the
                  > > ability to define it. We must, perforce, evolve the design.
                  > > Therefore, for each feature to be DONE, its design must be fit for
                  > > the current purpose.
                  > >
                  > > Therefore, testing, and design improvement, are /inherently/ part
                  > > of the work of doing stories.
                  > >
                  > > How does this help us with our dilemma? We have, through our human
                  > > failings, fallen behind on the testing and design. What are we to
                  > > do? We do not want to slice time away from the Product Owner. The
                  > > Product Owner cannot correctly prioritize these strange technical
                  > > stories. We are doomed.
                  > >
                  > > No. All we need to do is to bear down a bit on improving the code
                  > > we work on, doing all it takes to bring it back up to the proper
                  > > definition of DONE, namely "well-tested and well-factored". We
                  > > make the code a bit better every time we pass through it.
                  > >
                  > > At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
                  > > a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                  > > can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
                  > > they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.
                  > >
                  > > Better yet, soon, surprisingly soon, it doesn't take longer after
                  > > all. Since we are improving the code and tests in the areas we
                  > > work in, velocity picks up quite quickly in the areas we work in.
                  > > We wind up going faster than before, because we are going better.
                  > >
                  > > Our Product Owner retains her ability to prioritize the whole of
                  > > our work, and our code improves. No confusion, no political
                  > > discussion, no need to make promises about the future that we may
                  > > not be able to keep.
                  > >
                  > > We don't need technical stories or tricky negotiations. We just do
                  > > the job we were always supposed to do, namely make each story
                  > > DONE, fully tested, with a good design in place.
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > Ron Jeffries
                  > > www.XProgramming.com
                  > > Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire.
                  > > He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to
                  > > light - Howard Roark (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                • Ron Jeffries
                  Hello, peterskeide. On Thursday, December 2, 2010, at 6:25:41 AM, ... I would not recommend that. I don t know anyone who would. Ron Jeffries
                  Message 8 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Hello, peterskeide. On Thursday, December 2, 2010, at 6:25:41 AM,
                    you wrote:

                    > I think you have some good points here. Like you, I feel that
                    > sometimes "baking in" some technical work in a User Story is like
                    > hiding information, especially if the technical issues and the
                    > User Story are unrelated.

                    I would not recommend that. I don't know anyone who would.

                    Ron Jeffries
                    www.XProgramming.com
                    If you don't push something beyond its boundary of usefulness
                    how do you find where that boundary is? -- Martin Fowler
                  • Alan Dayley
                    Nice discussion of the thoughts, Malcolm. I m flattered. An Oath of Stewardship can be a useful framework for discussion of interaction between the Product
                    Message 9 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
                    • 0 Attachment
                      Nice discussion of the thoughts, Malcolm.  I'm flattered.

                      An Oath of Stewardship can be a useful framework for discussion of interaction between the Product Owner and the developers on the team.  And I may use it as such.  I'd not ever support such a thing be promulgated as mandatory.

                      Alan

                      On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 11:00 PM, Malcolm Anderson <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
                       

                      Ron, Alan

                      I probably should not blog at midnight.

                      http://geekswithblogs.net/geekusconlivus/archive/2010/12/01/scrum-product-owners-oath-of-stewardship.aspx

                      Ron, you'll get a track back too, I promise.

                      Malcolm



                      On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Alan Dayley <alandd@...> wrote:
                       

                      Interesting point of view, Malcolm.  You may be pointing out a lack in emphasis on the Product Owner role in many training and use situations.  I don't think it is a fault of the Scrum framework, however.


                      Phrases seen in Scrum writings with regard to the Product Owner role:  "...owns the ROI of the product..."  "..represents the customer..."  "...owns the Product Backlog..." and the odious "...single wringable neck..."  And even the title of the role means *owner* of the product.

                      What part of these terms does not mean stewardship?  You are pointing out that Product Owners are not getting the message, *despite* what the Scrum training and literature states.  Maybe an oath would help but I don't think the message of product stewardship is lacking in Scrum.

                      I had some other ideas to write but Ron was faster with his elaborations, which I don't think I can say any better.

                      Nice discussions!

                      Alan

                      On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 8:21 AM, Malcolm Anderson <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
                       

                      Ron

                      This issue in Scrum of how to keep up the technical maintenance has always bothered me.

                      I was cruising along with your answer, singing praises to your ability to make the unclear, clear. 
                      Until you got to the point where you seem to encourage a lack of transparency.



                      >At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                      >can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

                      This sounds like "lying to your product owner" (and the product owners that I've worked with, do know that "the team can do twelve")
                      This goes against the value of transparency. 
                      It also takes away the PO's right to incur short term technical debt in order to make a particular deadline.


                      One of the weaknesses of Scrum is that we think, it's self evident that product owners are responsible for maintaining the health their product while they provide value to their customer.

                      I believe that this all comes down to Stewardship, and not making it clear to the product owner that they need to be Stewards to their product.

                      I've got 3 questions, the answers to which I believe are currently "No, No and No"

                      1) Is there a Product Owner body where Product Owners discuss with other product owners how to be a better product owner?

                      2) Is the concept of Stewardship a part of the PO training?

                      3) Has the PO body taking on a commitment to maintaining and improving the health of their products?


                      Until the answer to the above 3 questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
                      Until we have some kind of "Product Owner Oath of Stewardship," this is going to be an issue with Scrum.
                      Until stewardship is self evident to people other than Scrum Masters, this is going to be an issue with Scrum.


                      Thanks

                      Malcolm Anderson
                      Scrum Coach & Agile Engineer





                      On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:16 AM, Ron Jeffries <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                       

                      Hello, Roy. On Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 3:29:27 AM, you
                      wrote:



                      > I think this notion of only ever doing things that have value to
                      > the customer has been somewhat misunderstood, or misapplied. There
                      > are most certainly things that need to be done that do not have an
                      > immediate, direct, or even obvious value to a customer ... but
                      > they still must be done. So what if user stories are not written
                      > for them, and so what if they really don't fit the notion of user
                      > stories (however defined). Being afraid to get it done because
                      > Scrum doesn't seem to cover that situation just leads to
                      > development paralysis.

                      If one is to do Scrum well, one needs to understand Scrum well.
                      Deviating from it every time something "seems" odd will not help a
                      team to prosper. It troubles me that so much of your advice, Roy,
                      deviates substantially from what Scrum and Agile teach, even when
                      there are perfectly good Scrum / Agile answers.

                      So here's so what.

                      The fundamental point of Scrum is for the PO to prioritize work
                      for the team, so that the best possible product can be delivered
                      within the desired time and budget. The PO will get the best
                      product if work is chosen that is of high "business value". (Low
                      development cost is also a concern in choosing the work, but may
                      will be substantially less important than value.)

                      Clearly, the PO is capable of driving out more value when a larger
                      percentage of the team's time comes under her control, since
                      otherwise, she is directing a smaller flow of work, which will
                      inherently reduce total value. Therefore it is undesirable to
                      slice away a strip of the team's development time and make it
                      unavailable for stories.

                      However, so-called "technical stories" have a value proposition
                      which is almost completely different from an ordinary story. A
                      technical refactoring story may promise faster velocity sometime
                      in the future, while an ordinary story is something that real
                      users actually want. It is therefore very difficult, perhaps
                      impossible, to compare an ordinary story and a technical story for
                      value. Therefore it is undesirable to present technical stories at
                      all, since they are so difficult to prioritize.

                      This seems, if one doesn't think about it very hard, to be a
                      dilemma. We can't take away the PO's time, we can't prioritize the
                      technical stories. We can't have them at all. We are doomed.

                      Like most dilemmas, this one is solved by using a third
                      alternative. It turns out that [almost?] every bit of technical
                      work, if it should be done at all, is done in support of one or
                      more stories. IN PARTICULAR, the kind of work the OP is talking
                      about, creation of tests and creation of clean code, is inherently
                      part of creating stories.

                      Why inherently, one might ask. Because for code to be DONE, it
                      must work, and to know whether it works, we must test it. Because
                      we are working incrementally, we will revisit much of the code
                      many times and we might break it, so it is wise that the tests be
                      recorded for reuse, i.e. automated.

                      Further, since we are building the system incrementally, we are
                      building the design incrementally. We do not have the time (nor,
                      likely, the ability) to define the design correctly up front. We
                      do not have the time to build it up front even if we did have the
                      ability to define it. We must, perforce, evolve the design.
                      Therefore, for each feature to be DONE, its design must be fit for
                      the current purpose.

                      Therefore, testing, and design improvement, are /inherently/ part
                      of the work of doing stories.

                      How does this help us with our dilemma? We have, through our human
                      failings, fallen behind on the testing and design. What are we to
                      do? We do not want to slice time away from the Product Owner. The
                      Product Owner cannot correctly prioritize these strange technical
                      stories. We are doomed.

                      No. All we need to do is to bear down a bit on improving the code
                      we work on, doing all it takes to bring it back up to the proper
                      definition of DONE, namely "well-tested and well-factored". We
                      make the code a bit better every time we pass through it.

                      At first, maybe this takes a little longer per story. This is not
                      a real concern, as no one but the team really knows if the team
                      can do twelve this Sprint or only ten. The team commits to what
                      they can do. They do it, and the world becomes a better place.

                      Better yet, soon, surprisingly soon, it doesn't take longer after
                      all. Since we are improving the code and tests in the areas we
                      work in, velocity picks up quite quickly in the areas we work in.
                      We wind up going faster than before, because we are going better.

                      Our Product Owner retains her ability to prioritize the whole of
                      our work, and our code improves. No confusion, no political
                      discussion, no need to make promises about the future that we may
                      not be able to keep.

                      We don't need technical stories or tricky negotiations. We just do
                      the job we were always supposed to do, namely make each story
                      DONE, fully tested, with a good design in place.


                      Ron Jeffries
                      www.XProgramming.com
                      Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire.
                      He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to
                      light - Howard Roark (The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand)





                    • banshee858
                      ... Have you tried something like this? List all the technical debt stuff on little post-it notes adjacent to the Task Board. When a Product Backlog item
                      Message 10 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
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                        --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, Paul Tevis <ptevis@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > The team I'm on right now is about four months into a Scrum
                        > transition, and we're finally starting to deal with technical debt
                        > reduction and technical practice improvement. One thing that I'm
                        > struggling with is how to make the work that we're doing on these
                        > visible to the team, while at the same time keeping our focus on
                        > delivering customer value (i.e. doing real stories).
                        >
                        > My concerns are (1) as soon as we start tracking non-story tasks we'll
                        > lose focus on delivering customer value, and (2) if we don't make
                        > these sorts of tasks visible, we won't make progress on them at the
                        > rate we need to. What are good patterns you've seen for dealing with
                        > technical tasks that aren't directly attached to a story (or that cut
                        > across multiple stories)?
                        >
                        Have you tried something like this?

                        List all the technical debt stuff on little post-it notes adjacent to the Task Board. When a Product Backlog item (PBI) is selected for a Sprint, look at the technical debt pieces and find the pieces that make sense to finish while working on the PBI. Add those to the scope of work for the PBI and estimate how long it will take to complete the feature and the technical debt pieces.

                        That way you make the technical debt work visible, you can prioritize it and link it to real value.

                        Carlton
                      • Ron Jeffries
                        Hello, banshee858. On Thursday, December 2, 2010, at 2:20:45 PM, ... Very nice! Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com We accomplish what we understand. If we are
                        Message 11 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
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                          Hello, banshee858. On Thursday, December 2, 2010, at 2:20:45 PM,
                          you wrote:

                          > Have you tried something like this?

                          > List all the technical debt stuff on little post-it notes
                          > adjacent to the Task Board. When a Product Backlog item (PBI) is
                          > selected for a Sprint, look at the technical debt pieces and find
                          > the pieces that make sense to finish while working on the PBI.
                          > Add those to the scope of work for the PBI and estimate how long
                          > it will take to complete the feature and the technical debt pieces.

                          > That way you make the technical debt work visible, you can
                          > prioritize it and link it to real value.

                          Very nice!

                          Ron Jeffries
                          www.XProgramming.com
                          We accomplish what we understand. If we are to accomplish something
                          together, we need to understand it together.
                        • Adam Sroka
                          On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:39 PM, Malcolm Anderson ... If you were going to make that business decision you would at least want to know: 1) How much am I
                          Message 12 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
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                            On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:39 PM, Malcolm Anderson
                            <malcolm.b.anderson@...> wrote:
                            >
                            >
                            > There are a lot of reasons for taking on short term
                            > technical debt. I use the analogy of the credit card with a 36%
                            > interest rate. You do not want to use that card. But there are times
                            > when it makes great business sense to use that card in a short term
                            > situation.
                            >

                            If you were going to make that business decision you would at least
                            want to know:

                            1) How much am I spending?

                            2) How much interest will I incur? Over what period of time?

                            3) Will I have enough revenue to pay it back?

                            When teams voluntarily take on technical debt they rarely (if ever)
                            know the answer to even one of these questions.

                            The interest we are talking about is much higher than you think. It is
                            more analogous to a loan shark than a credit card. I have seen teams
                            create enough of a mess in a single two-week Sprint that they were
                            never able to fix it. I myself am only able to fix the messes I make
                            with a reasonable amount of effort if I do it within a few days. After
                            a few weeks the effort is an order of magnitude higher than the
                            initial investment.

                            < beating a dead horse >
                            This is not what the technical debt metaphor was ever intended to
                            address. Even when we do the best job possible our understanding of
                            the problem evolves over time. We have to go back periodically and
                            refactor the code to represent our *current* understanding of the
                            problem. If we don't then our understanding and the code will continue
                            to diverge until the code becomes very hard to maintain. *That* is
                            what technical debt means. Neither Ward Cunningham (the originator of
                            the metaphor) nor anyone who understood him ever said that writing
                            crappy, untested code is sometimes a good business decision.
                            < / beating dead horse >
                          • Alan Dayley
                            +10 Alan
                            Message 13 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
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                              +10

                              Alan

                              On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 1:56 PM, Adam Sroka <adam.sroka@...> wrote:
                               

                              On Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 6:39 PM, Malcolm Anderson

                              > There are a lot of reasons for taking on short term
                              > technical debt. I use the analogy of the credit card with a 36%
                              > interest rate. You do not want to use that card. But there are times
                              > when it makes great business sense to use that card in a short term
                              > situation.
                              >

                              If you were going to make that business decision you would at least
                              want to know:

                              1) How much am I spending?

                              2) How much interest will I incur? Over what period of time?

                              3) Will I have enough revenue to pay it back?

                              When teams voluntarily take on technical debt they rarely (if ever)
                              know the answer to even one of these questions.

                              The interest we are talking about is much higher than you think. It is
                              more analogous to a loan shark than a credit card. I have seen teams
                              create enough of a mess in a single two-week Sprint that they were
                              never able to fix it. I myself am only able to fix the messes I make
                              with a reasonable amount of effort if I do it within a few days. After
                              a few weeks the effort is an order of magnitude higher than the
                              initial investment.

                              < beating a dead horse >
                              This is not what the technical debt metaphor was ever intended to
                              address. Even when we do the best job possible our understanding of
                              the problem evolves over time. We have to go back periodically and
                              refactor the code to represent our *current* understanding of the
                              problem. If we don't then our understanding and the code will continue
                              to diverge until the code becomes very hard to maintain. *That* is
                              what technical debt means. Neither Ward Cunningham (the originator of
                              the metaphor) nor anyone who understood him ever said that writing
                              crappy, untested code is sometimes a good business decision.
                              < / beating dead horse >


                            • banshee858
                              ... Not my idea - it came from Tobias Mayer. Carlton
                              Message 14 of 28 , Dec 3, 2010
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                                >
                                > > List all the technical debt stuff on little post-it notes
                                > > adjacent to the Task Board. When a Product Backlog item (PBI) is
                                > > selected for a Sprint, look at the technical debt pieces and find
                                > > the pieces that make sense to finish while working on the PBI.
                                > > Add those to the scope of work for the PBI and estimate how long
                                > > it will take to complete the feature and the technical debt pieces.
                                >
                                > > That way you make the technical debt work visible, you can
                                > > prioritize it and link it to real value.
                                >
                                > Very nice!
                                >
                                Not my idea - it came from Tobias Mayer.

                                Carlton
                              • tobias.mayer
                                I can t take credit for it either. I first witnessed this with a team I worked with at Business Week in NYC. It emerged from the collective consciousness of
                                Message 15 of 28 , Dec 6, 2010
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                                  I can't take credit for it either. I first witnessed this with a team I worked with at Business Week in NYC. It emerged from the collective consciousness of the team. As I recall this is what they did (just expanding on Carlton's description):

                                  Whenever they found technical debt, or any kind of code problem that needed fixing, they didn't fix it unless it was essential to complete the story they were working on (this took some discipline). Otherwise they wrote a sticky note (a task) and added it to a special box on the visual management wall labeled Technical Debt. This served two purposes: a reminder to the team, and a visual representation to the business of the state of the codebase.

                                  At any subsequent planning meeting, when the USER-FACING stories were discussed (I don't buy into the concept of "technical stories") someone may remind the team that if such-and-such a story was attempted then certain code debt items called out on the wall would need to be fixed as part of that story. The rule was "no workarounds". This clean up work was then considered as part of the essential work of the story, and the story was estimated accordingly.

                                  These tasks were NOT part of the backlog, they didn't get prioritized and were never fixed in isolation. Instead, when the story was estimated and committed to, these tasks simply became extra tasks towards the completion of the story. It was very elegant, very simple and it worked well for that team. Code debt got cleaned up when doing so resulted in value to the user.

                                  And visually everyone could see the results of that clean up: An fast-emptying space on the wall.

                                  Tobias


                                  --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, "banshee858" <cnett858@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > >
                                  > > > List all the technical debt stuff on little post-it notes
                                  > > > adjacent to the Task Board. When a Product Backlog item (PBI) is
                                  > > > selected for a Sprint, look at the technical debt pieces and find
                                  > > > the pieces that make sense to finish while working on the PBI.
                                  > > > Add those to the scope of work for the PBI and estimate how long
                                  > > > it will take to complete the feature and the technical debt pieces.
                                  > >
                                  > > > That way you make the technical debt work visible, you can
                                  > > > prioritize it and link it to real value.
                                  > >
                                  > > Very nice!
                                  > >
                                  > Not my idea - it came from Tobias Mayer.
                                  >
                                  > Carlton
                                  >
                                • Ron Jeffries
                                  Hello, Tobias, Excellent! Just what I like to see! R On Monday, December 6, 2010, at 1:51:46 PM, ... Ron Jeffries www.XProgramming.com In times of stress, I
                                  Message 16 of 28 , Dec 6, 2010
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                                    Hello, Tobias,

                                    Excellent! Just what I like to see!

                                    R

                                    On Monday, December 6, 2010, at 1:51:46 PM,
                                    you wrote:

                                    > I can't take credit for it either. I first witnessed this with a
                                    > team I worked with at Business Week in NYC. It emerged from the
                                    > collective consciousness of the team. As I recall this is what
                                    > they did (just expanding on Carlton's description):

                                    > Whenever they found technical debt, or any kind of code problem
                                    > that needed fixing, they didn't fix it unless it was essential to
                                    > complete the story they were working on (this took some
                                    > discipline). Otherwise they wrote a sticky note (a task) and added
                                    > it to a special box on the visual management wall labeled
                                    > Technical Debt. This served two purposes: a reminder to the team,
                                    > and a visual representation to the business of the state of the codebase.

                                    > At any subsequent planning meeting, when the USER-FACING stories
                                    > were discussed (I don't buy into the concept of "technical
                                    > stories") someone may remind the team that if such-and-such a
                                    > story was attempted then certain code debt items called out on the
                                    > wall would need to be fixed as part of that story. The rule was
                                    > "no workarounds". This clean up work was then considered as part
                                    > of the essential work of the story, and the story was estimated accordingly.

                                    > These tasks were NOT part of the backlog, they didn't get
                                    > prioritized and were never fixed in isolation. Instead, when the
                                    > story was estimated and committed to, these tasks simply became
                                    > extra tasks towards the completion of the story. It was very
                                    > elegant, very simple and it worked well for that team. Code debt
                                    > got cleaned up when doing so resulted in value to the user.

                                    > And visually everyone could see the results of that clean up: An fast-emptying space on the wall.



                                    Ron Jeffries
                                    www.XProgramming.com
                                    In times of stress, I like to turn to the wisdom of my Portuguese waitress,
                                    who said: "Olá, meu nome é Marisol e eu serei sua garçonete."
                                    -- after Mark Vaughn, Autoweek.
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