Unplanned Work During a Sprint

by Sheila Eckert

We’ve all been there. “Hey, can you help me with this issue I am having?” “Can you run a quick report?” A critical production bug needs to be addressed. You are asked to attend one or more unplanned meetings.

You need to do it.

Often the practice is to deal with it and not make any changes to the sprint backlog.

THIS IS A MISTAKE.

You need to create a new sprint backlog item. It needs to be estimated and added to the sprint.

Not doing so will throw off metrics.

Metrics matter. Productivity metrics, project metrics, quality metrics, Agile health metrics. Metrics are used for the team’s own measurement and improvements. They are used to measure the effectiveness of the Agile process as well as the teams. They are used for reporting to stakeholders. They are needed.

If you have work unaccounted for during the sprint, you have thrown this out whack. That’s the technical term for your data is invalid 😊.

If you are using invalid data, you are creating invalid, useless metric reports.

Unplanned work needs accounting.

The One Where I Accidentally Presented At a Conference

By Zoë Kaler

Last September, I attended my first work conference: Agile Midwest 2019. Day one was called “Women in Agile.”  

The keynote speaker was an upbeat, knowledge-filled woman named Jenny Tarwater. Her interactive keynote included a worksheet to help us create an action plan for “Amplifying Our Voices.” There was a section on the worksheet called “I Will…” where we listed the things we, as women in agile, will do to amplify our voices. The first thing I wrote was “embrace the uncomfortable.” Little did I know how soon I would practice this pledge. 

Day two of Agile Midwest 2019 was called “Open Space.” Again, first work conference, so I had NO idea what that meant; I came to find out it essentially means crowdsourcing the day’s topics. All 350ish of us sat facing the middle of the room where the microphone and “stickies” were. If you had a topic you’d like discussed, you came to the middle, wrote it on a sticky and announced it to the room. Then you put the stickie on panels called the “Marketplace,” which indicated the time and room number for that topic. 

In the morning session, I sat back and watched. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to this group of seasoned conference-goes. However, when we reconvened for the afternoon, I knew I wanted to contribute. I saw a gap in the morning sessions. There was so much talk about how to do Agile, how to implement Agile, problems with Agile, but no talk about what happens after the product development parts of Agile. What do you do after you created this awesome product? How are you telling your users and stakeholders what you’ve accomplished? Are you even doing this at all?

I’ve found stories to be an effective way to talk about these product outcomes, so I added, “Storytelling in Agile” to the Marketplace. I chose the first time slot for the afternoon session, so after the Marketplace was full, the conference-goers disassembled to their selected topics and I headed to mine.   

1pm arrived. It was time to get started. Trying to start a conversation, I asked the room if they wanted to share how they practice storytelling in Agile. No one raised their hands. Someone piped up and said, “Aren’t YOU going to tell US??” My throat lumped up and I realized that these people were not here to have an open conversation. They were here to learn about something they knew nothing about, and they expect ME to teach THEM!  

I brought this topic to the Marketplace because it’s something I believe in. I studied storytelling in undergrad as a journalism major and in grad school as an information science student. I’ve gone on to practice it in my career. I know a thing or two about it, but, needless to say, I was not prepared to teach these people anything. I began to recall all I could from the IS 590: Storytelling course I took in the Fall 2018 semester. So, there I was, rambling about the story structure of “The Three Little Pigs”. I asked questions and got no hands, asked more questions and got blank stares. I felt the lump in my throat grow, my neck and face get hot, and my chest tighten. What the heck was I doing?!

Luckily, I had just been to a session called, “Everything Icebreakers,” so I decided to break the ice with a game called “Link Up.” The object of the game is to learn something about everyone in the room while forming a human “link.” The first person yells out something unique about them, such as “I have a cat!” and if you have a cat, you yell, “link up” and run up the that person and link arms. This goes on until everyone is “linked.” I saw this as an opportunity to not just breaking ice, but for me to prepare for the next 50 minutes. 

With the broken ice and then next 50 minutes roughly planned, I dove in, embracing the uncomfortable…

I told a story about the jacket I was wearing, how I’m trying to pay off my student loans at an accelerated pace, and how the trip to Ann Taylor LOFT to pick up said jacket set me back a little more than intended. That got a few laughs and boosted my confidence. I told them about the three main elements of a story: tale, teller, and audience. I asked them to tell their neighbor a story; then we talked about how they felt telling and listening. We talked about empathy and how we’re humans who remember narratives better than facts. Then we talked about “Three Little Pigs” (again) and “Little Red Riding Hood” and how those story structures can apply to the corporate world.  

This 60 minutes in conference room 103 at Agile Midwest Open Space was the scariest thing; standing up there, responsible for filling the heads of theses 20 or so individuals with knowledge. But it ended up being a huge growth opportunity. 

As I was looking over my notes from Agile Midwest 2019, that note I wrote under the “I Will…” section caught my eye. In fact, a ton on the notes I took at “Women in Agile” caught my eye. I’ve even signed up for their “Launching New Voices” program to improve my public speaking skills.  

I could’ve left the room, I could’ve ignored my urge to add to the Marketplace in the first place, but I felt a little fire that day that told me to keep going and stand in that uncomfortable place.

Women in Agile – European Edition

By Beth Hatter

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Women in Agile – Europe conference held 7 November 2019 in the lovely city of Amsterdam. The organizers did an amazing job creating an environment of learning, exploring, and inclusion for all attendees – who represented over 30 countries!

The day kicked off the first of three great keynotes from Jutta Eckstein who took us through exploring the world as our customer and how different types of interactions and relationships impact all the work we do and products we build – not just with the customer but also what is good for society and the planet.

The day continued with many amazing workshops and small group sessions – there were so many great topics on offer it was hard to choose! I was lucky to attend a session on eduScrum by Alisa Stolze – which explored bringing scrum into the education system and how this benefits students as well as teachers. This was a fascinating look into a very different approach to education than I’d seen before

As the second keynote, Carla Clarissa Van Stralen presented her journey through the corporate and how she came to coach females exclusively. She inspired us to develop our inner energies and authority as we explore the will to lead in new ways. 

The afternoon continued with great sessions and networking time, and some wonderful lightning talks (ok, a little bias there since I presented one!), and then Lyssa Adkins wrapped up the amazing day with her keynote on combining masculine and feminine energies for a better world.  With her inspiration and the energy of an amazing day of speakers, we all joined together for one last amazing dinner and departed ready to make our mark on the next step forward for each of us.

Alignment Across Product Teams

This introductory post kicks off a new series on how to improve alignment among teams within an organization, and is linked here by permission of the author. Read Alignment Across Product Teams on Learning to Be!

About the author: Dev Gupta, MBA, PMP, CSM, ACC — After spending a few years implementing enterprise software with SAP, Dev Gupta realized that software automation and process redesign reach full benefits when executed by people who are performing at their peak capabilities. Programs that seek efficiency, innovation, cost savings and improved quality are dependent on a foundation of team members who are open to change, cultures, communication styles and personalities. 

Through her work at global corporations, Dev has collaborated with colleagues and clients in Germany, UK, India, Japan, Romania, Australia, China, and Canada.  She appreciates learning about different cultures and finding the common thread in people.  This lead Dev to complete her coaching certification and draw upon change management methods.  Her experience centers on process work, project management, software implementation for a variety of industries, like high-tech, medical devices, pharma, and consumer products.   

Dev has a BS in Computer Science from Rivier College and an MBA from Babson, where she focused on entrepreneurship and marketing.  She achieved her Project Management Professional certification (PMP) in 2012, completed her International Coach Federation (ICF) training in 2018 and became a certified Scrum Master (CSM) in 2019.  

Welcome Travelers

A few months ago I was driving home after work, and the Indigo Girls song “Closer to Fine” came on the radio. Being of an age to have been the audience when that song came out, I cranked it up and sang along.

There’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine

(It’s just not the same if you don’t write it out fi-hi-i-i-ine, is it.)

“It’s a journey, not a destination” is a common description of agility practices as well as of life itself. There is no spot on the board marked “Winner”, no point at which we have learned all there is to learn about even a single methodology. Our paths are necessarily crooked — we try things, learn things, change course, meet other people and bounce off them or travel alongside for a while. Often, the more open we are to the unexpected, the more we find ourselves learning.

This Community Space area on the site is an experiment. It will (I hope) be a place where many of us can share the questions we encounter as humans who also happen to be agile practitioners, as fellows in a journey. A way for us to find support and learn from one another, to make connections. No definitives, but a breadth of personal experience to engage with as we navigate our own paths.

Like many others I have met in the agile sphere, I found my way to it late and through an indirect path. An academic background in medieval literature and history turned into a decades-long career in technical writing for software before I indulged my growing curiosity about this “Scrum” I kept hearing about. Three years later, I am regularly delighted and humbled by how much there is to learn. I’ve met dozens of people who inspire me daily with their creativity and dedication.

I look forward to sharing and learning with you.

Women In Agile, Open Space, and Boats Oh My!

By April Jefferson

Magic and joyful exhaustion linger in the air as I am finally able to put sharpie to sticky note on my thoughts on the inaugural unconference, Women In Agile Open.

Authentically, I believed that the answer to the invitation would bring the right people. So much so, that as each ticket was sold we celebrated their pending arrival. Then I arrived on the boat expecting the unexpected.

The opening circle is where we affirmed whoever was there are the right people. They united and began stitching their stories together. Stories made of vulnerability, courage and curiosity, that anchored on inclusion from the seen and unseen forms of diversity in the space.

The theme of “Unlocking Potential Together” spoke to newbies and veterans and we moved beyond agendaless quickly. The space began to overflow with offerings. Many paired and merged their offerings together. The sessions around them were organic and void of ego, as each naturally nourished connection, often while in a circle.

Throughout the experience holding space felt organic as I adapted to the energy, experimented within constraints and nourished safety. Observing the openness, collaborations, and formation of connections felt amazing.

This open space was different than all the rest. Why we gathered became our anthem. All seemed to naturally embrace the principles and rule of open space as apart of their mindset. The energy felt authentic and deep, each person resolving to take their own path in their experience.

A natural crescendo occurred, when it was over it was over. And yet I was changed. I beamed and my soul shouted from the exuberation of our guests, from the touches put in place and experiences they had. Women shared the impact of the experience, the connections, gratitude for one another, and their future intentions.

Women In Agile Open came to be from my desire to create a space where women could empower other women, bring to the surface talents within, share learnings with one another, discover collaborators, inspire future speakers, foster allies, and build community.

My vision and intentions manifested. I am honored to be apart of the journey that so many said would forever cement in their life story.

April Jefferson, Women In Agile Open Chairwoman

Women in Agile and Open Space: A match made in … Cleveland?

By Nicole Derr

Photo Credit: April Jefferson

It was an unseasonably sunny and warm Saturday morning in October when a diverse collection of 40 women and allies met for the first ever Women In Agile Open on the banks of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. We arrived from locations as far afield as Seattle, Washington D.C., and Florida, and as near as across town. We all turned up to discuss issues related to the theme “Unlocking Potential Together”.

The Open Space format turned out to be a perfect match for the organic, collaborative, and   supportive nature of the women in attendance. Each attendee had the opportunity to lead sessions, which provided a rich and varied collection of topics and conversations.

We contemplated a wide range of topics, including “Retrospective Sharing”, “How to Define a High Performing Team”, “Something Other than Sorry”, “Language Matters”, “Unmasking Imposter Syndrome”, “Rapport Mapping”, “Agile Meets Primary Education”, and “My Culture is Messing with my Agile Success”. We also played two collaboration games, and made plans to revamp a quiet Women in Agile chapter in Atlanta and begin a new chapter in Cleveland. Not bad for two days’ effort!

The venue couldn’t have been more inspiring. Who wouldn’t be in their best frame of mind on a literal boat? Modern, bright, and open meeting spaces, both inside and outside, provided a waterfront backdrop that definitely aided the relaxed and friendly feel of the event. If you sat quietly for a moment (which attendees were often invited to do), you could even feel the waves gently lapping at the boat. It was like a vacation … with 40 of your best girlfriends. Of course, the food, including brunch and high tea, and social events, including a happy hour, karaoke at a nightclub, and wine, dinner, and dancing on a sunset cruise, might have also contributed to the vacation effect.

In the closing ceremony, attendees were asked to reflect on the past two days and share their thoughts. Overwhelmingly, attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn from, and be supported by, others who “look like them”. Old connections were rekindled and new connections were formed. It was unanimous that Women in Agile Open should become an annual event. We’re already looking forward to next year!

Photo Credit: Gagan Marwaha

Have An Espresso and A Smile–A recap of the ATX WiA Lean Espresso Session at Keep Austin Agile 2019

By Sydney Markle

“I haven’t seen you in years!” the woman yelled out as she embraced her friend. They beamed at each other as we started our round table discussion on how Agile can be used anywhere. 

Moments like this are what make the Austin Chapter of Women in Agile standout. At the recent Keep Austin Agile 2019 conference, Kate Kolchier, Taylor Frank, Erin Randall, Mindy Honcoop and Syd Markle hosted a hands-on open discussion called Lean Espresso.  

Much like a Lean Coffee, where participants determine the agenda, we ran 5 concurrent conversations:

  • Professions
  • Games
  • Soft Skills that Pay the Bills
  • Agile Anywhere
  • Tips and Tools

Participants spent two minutes brainstorming what they wanted to discuss each topic, and a lively discussion followed for 8-10 minutes. Then we invited participants to switch tables if they like. Sort of like speed-dating meets Lean Coffee. 

The goal of this session was to invite people to get a taste of our meetup. It was fun to run, and participants were smiling and connecting, which was the outcome we sought. 

For the past year, every month, we gather to share and support women who are building their understanding and reputation in the Agile community.

Our community provides opportunities for aspiring voices to test out their topics in front of a group, as well as peer coaching for improving the material. One past speaker had her presentation accepted by a conference and furthered her dream to write a book. Others have attended after losing a job and found confidence in our community to find another job. 

It’s a crazy special kind of community that people keep coming back to… even yoga instructors! 

We are so excited for another year for the Austin Chapter of Women in Agile and the magic moments that occur by just bringing people together and giving them a place to see themselves and be themselves.

Call to Action:

  • In Austin? Join us at our monthly ATX WiA Meetup!
  • Somewhere else in the world? So are Women in Agile! We’re now on 6 continents! Find your local community
  • Don’t see a local Women in Agile community in your area? Start one!
  • Already part of a community, please share stories about the magic moments you are finding in your group in the comments.

SAFe SuMMit WiA EVENT Recap

by Beth Hatter

Another great Women in Agile event at the annual global SAFe summit! Although it was an early start on a gorgeous morning in San Diego, the room quickly filled to the point they had to bring in extra tables and chairs to match the crowd. It’s always exciting to see so many allies at the events!

We kicked the day off hearing about Women in Agile from our hosts, Angel Chavez and Deema Dajani from Scaled Agile. They gave a quick overview of the programs Women in Agile has in place to support all of us and then moved on to our wonderful speakers.

Em Campbell-Pretty started off describing her journey and how she took risks that led to some great adventures. Even though failure seemed likely, taking the step forward into the unknown was an inspirational theme woven through her funny talk. By the end she had us all up dancing – literally!

We next heard from Riddhi Gupta and her wonderful story of starting the Women in Agile Charlotte chapter. Her story inspired us that great things can start from small groups, and we should all be bold enough to take that first step to see what awaits.

The morning was a great start to the day with connections being made, laughter shared, and new friendships forming. I always appreciate the supportive, welcoming, inclusive environment at Women in Agile events, and I look forward to the next one.