Agile So Far – September 2013

Last week we closed out our 15th iteration, when I last posted I was pondering the kinks and wondering if they were fixable. I haven’t had any epiphanies, yet, where that’s concerned but I have grown more comfortable with the bumps we have in the process. Not every problem needs a solution.

Estimating

When we started off in 2012, my main goal was to get to the point where I could say with some level of certainty when a project would be done. We started off with a split in deadlines; you either gave us a drop dead date, which we’d hit but not without long nights and buggy outcomes, or we’d give an estimate and watch it increase over time as new features or priorities were added. We only hit about 20% of our commitments on average, some by just a few days and others by months. This last iteration we were 84% accurate, completing 8 out of 11 stories on time and that was with two last-minute, emergency projects that came in during the first week. I’m beyond thrilled at this improvement.

Velocity

I’ve been tracking our velocity in two ways; the first by story points and the second by tasks with a separate tally for our unplanned bucket. We’ve been pretty consistently hitting a story point velocity of 105 (or 15 per/resource) per iteration but from a task perspective we range anywhere from 60-100. This makes me think that the story point estimation is leaning more towards a time estimate than a measure of complexity. Our unplanned task counts are regularly equal or above our story related tasks, +/- 10, I’m completely puzzled by this and need to do some digging into the types and durations of the tasks in this bucket.

Review Meetings

We have some rock star level product owners who have really embraced Agile, our demo meetings are lively and yield great feedback. We still have some kinks to work out there, we typically demo a couple of unrelated stories that involved different product owners, no one is complaining about watching another project demo that they aren’t involved in but I feel like we should sort out a way to respect everyone’s time better.

Our retrospectives have also become more engaging and productive, I’ve added in some brainstorming time to work through our process backlog to balance out the structure we have around the rest of the meeting. More often than not we now come with solutions and dwell less on problems.

Other Teams

I’ve now trained six teams in addition to my own, five of those teams are currently in some stage of implementation; two just slightly behind mine and two who’ve just started off. (The sixth is in an organizational limbo.) To keep us all communicating, we started having a weekly implementers meeting where all of the project/team managers get together to discuss challenges and share their experiences. I am really enjoying the different perspectives, adjustments and ideas that each team has brought to implementing Agile.

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