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

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  • 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 1 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
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      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 2 of 28 , Dec 1, 2010
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        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 3 of 28 , Dec 2, 2010
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          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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 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 10 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 11 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 12 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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