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Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are Ready

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Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are Ready

"Never pull anything into a sprint that is not ready, and never let anything out of a sprint that is not done.”

Creating a comprehensive "Definition of Done (DoD)" is a widely accepted Agile practice that fosters a culture of accountability, minimizes rework, and reduces team conflict. However, when a team first establishes a DoD, things often get worse before they get better. Why? Because the team no longer gets credit for incomplete work. Committed stories are started but not finished, multiple stories are carried over to the next sprint, and the team's velocity decreases. So what can be done to overcome this common problem?

An important tool to ensuring that stories are completed is an unambiguous Definition of Ready (DoR). Many Scrum-team issues are rooted in misunderstood and poorly prepared stories. In fact, I believe that stories that are NOT ready, but have been COMMITTED to a Sprint, are the root of all Scrum evil. Stories that are "ready" need to be clear, concise, and actionable.

In this hands-on presentation and workshop, I will demonstrate the methods that I have used with multiple organizations to create stories that are truly ready for a Sprint, including:

Learn my three-touch refinement technique (speed refining, sprint refining, and sprint planning) that requires teams to "touch" a story three times before the sprint
Cultivate stories slowly and methodically to build shared vision
Use Story Mapping to visualize the backlog, find missing stories, and understand customer journeys
Write test cases before the sprint as a technique to decompose stories and uncover hidden questions
Establishing a team-level "Definition of Ready (DoR)"

"Never pull anything into a sprint that is not ready, and never let anything out of a sprint that is not done.”

Creating a comprehensive "Definition of Done (DoD)" is a widely accepted Agile practice that fosters a culture of accountability, minimizes rework, and reduces team conflict. However, when a team first establishes a DoD, things often get worse before they get better. Why? Because the team no longer gets credit for incomplete work. Committed stories are started but not finished, multiple stories are carried over to the next sprint, and the team's velocity decreases. So what can be done to overcome this common problem?

An important tool to ensuring that stories are completed is an unambiguous Definition of Ready (DoR). Many Scrum-team issues are rooted in misunderstood and poorly prepared stories. In fact, I believe that stories that are NOT ready, but have been COMMITTED to a Sprint, are the root of all Scrum evil. Stories that are "ready" need to be clear, concise, and actionable.

In this hands-on presentation and workshop, I will demonstrate the methods that I have used with multiple organizations to create stories that are truly ready for a Sprint, including:

Learn my three-touch refinement technique (speed refining, sprint refining, and sprint planning) that requires teams to "touch" a story three times before the sprint
Cultivate stories slowly and methodically to build shared vision
Use Story Mapping to visualize the backlog, find missing stories, and understand customer journeys
Write test cases before the sprint as a technique to decompose stories and uncover hidden questions
Establishing a team-level "Definition of Ready (DoR)"

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Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are Ready

  1. 1. Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are READY Steven Granese VP, Transform Practice Tampa, FL, USA @sgranese Steven.Granese@AgileThought.com
  2. 2. Why Scrum Fails? 1. Poor Structure 2. Wrong Mindset 3. Lack of Clarity about Work
  3. 3. What is Clarity? the entire team has a full understanding of the customer’s problem that needs to be solved
  4. 4. Clarity Takes Time Individuals don’t WRITE stories. Teams CULTIVATE Stories
  5. 5. VISIONING REFINING definition of ready shared understanding THINKING effectiveness mindset Today’s Agenda STRATEGIC TACTICAL PRINCIPLE #1 PRINCIPLE #2 PRINCIPLE #3
  6. 6. THE IMPORTANCE OF DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVENESS MINDSET thinking
  7. 7. Why Blockbuster Didn’t Have to Fail Massively Efficient Operations Forbes.com “The irony is that Blockbuster failed BECAUSE its leadership had built a well-oiled operational machine.”
  8. 8. Agile in the “Real World” Adapt & Iterate “You think you have a plan, but you need to be more AGILE because things are way more complex.” EFFICIENT, wired processes don’t work; Disorienting … Frameworks… Learn everyday http://www.cc.com/video-clips/alq7q1/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-stanley-mcchrystal
  9. 9. Adaptability is the Goal “Adaptability, not efficiency, must become our central competency.” –Team of Teams
  10. 10. Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools Working Software over comprehensive documentation Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to Change over following a plan We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value: That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. www.agilemanifesto.org New Value for the Agile Manifesto Effectiveness over efficiency
  11. 11. Principle #1 A team first needs to focus on becoming EFFECTIVE… …then can worry about being EFFICIENT.
  12. 12. APPLYING AN EFFECTIVENESS MINDSET TO CREATE A SHARED UNDERSTANDING visioning
  13. 13. Find Flights Modify Itinerary Search for Flights Select Flight Verify Correct Flight Update Account Purchase Ticket Confirm Purchase Change Flight Time Search by Airport Search by Date & Time Search by Price Search for Non-Stop Choose One Way Opt. View Assigned Seat Change Seat View Flight Details Enter Contact Info Change Email Pay with Visa Display Confirm. Number Find Nearby Flights Select New Flight Select Multi-City Opt. Upgrade Seat Share w/ Friend Add Frequent Flier No. Email Confirm. Number Display Flight Map Change Password Print Confirm. No. Purchase Tickets Choose Round Trip Opt. Select Seat Pay with AmEx Store Credit Card Receive Alert Cancel Flight Cancel Single Flight Cancel All Flights Business Families Vacations Discount Themes/Epics FeaturesUser s Story Mapping Example User Stories
  14. 14. Find Flights Modify Itinerary Search for Flights Select Flight Verify Correct Flight Update Account Purchase Ticket Confirm Purchase Change Flight Time Search by Airport Search by Date & Time Search by Price Search for Non-Stop Choose One Way Opt. View Assigned Seat Change Seat View Flight Details Enter Contact Info Change Email Pay with Visa Display Confirm. Number Find Nearby Flights Select New Flight Select Multi-City Opt. Upgrade Seat Share w/ Friend Add Frequent Flier No. Email Confirm. Number Display Flight Map Change Password Print Confirm. No. Purchase Tickets Choose Round Trip Opt. Select Seat Pay with AmEx Store Credit Card Receive Alert Cancel Flight Cancel Single Flight Cancel All Flights Business Families Vacations Discount User s RELEASE 1 Themes/Epics Features User Stories
  15. 15. Find Flights Modify Itinerary Search for Flights Select Flight Verify Correct Flight Update Account Purchase Ticket Confirm Purchase Change Flight Time Search by Airport Search by Date & Time Search by Price Search for Non-Stop Choose One Way Opt. View Assigned Seat Change Seat View Flight Details Enter Contact Info Change Email Pay with Visa Display Confirm. Number Find Nearby Flights Select New Flight Select Multi-City Opt. Upgrade Seat Share w/ Friend Add Frequent Flier No. Email Confirm. Number Display Flight Map Change Password Print Confirm. No. Purchase Tickets Choose Round Trip Opt. Select Seat Pay with AmEx Store Credit Card Receive Alert Cancel Flight Cancel Single Flight Cancel All Flights Business Families Vacations Discount User s RELEASE 1 Themes/Epics Features User Stories As a business flier, I want to pay with my American Express credit card so that I can purchase an airline ticket.
  16. 16. Product Backlog vs Story Map 1. Promotes Shared Understanding and Context 2. Great for finding Hidden Stories 3. Effective SEARCH BY AIRPORT CHOOSE ONE WAY OPT. VIEW ASSIGNE D SEAT 1. Promotes Priority Conversations and Focus 2. Great for Estimating Timelines and Dates 3. Efficient
  17. 17. Principle #2 …TO EFFECTIVELY BUILD A SHARED UNDERSTANDING. The team discusses and cultivates user stories TOGETHER...
  18. 18. FOLLOWING A METHODICAL PROCESS TO CLARIFY PROBLEMS THAT NEED TO BE SOLVED refining
  19. 19. Three-Touch Refining Process (Overview) SPEED REFINING SPRINT REFINING SPRINT PLANNING The team “touches” each story three times! (hint – not efficient!)
  20. 20. Three-Touch Refining Process (Details) SPEED REFINING SPRINT REFINING SPRINT PLANNING WHAT? WHY? WHEN? Clarify the Problem. Don’t Solution! Team provides quick forecast after discussing for 3-5 mins. “Regular” Sprint Planning Event Daily/Weekly, based on volume Help Product Owner to prioritize on the backlog Deep discussion of stories for next sprint Deepen teams understanding of customers’ problem At least one week before sprint planning Create Sprint Goal and make realistic commitments Immediately before the Sprint
  21. 21. Foundation for the Definition of Ready SPEED REFINING SPRINT REFINING SPRINT PLANNING • Initial Story Point Estimate • At least one acceptance criteria • Prioritized on the backlog • Full user story format • Completed “happy path” acceptance test • Identify at least one “negative” acceptance test • Story Size smaller than ”3” • Identify specific Subject Matter Expert / Customer • Review story details • Feedback from SME/Customer • Identify all tasks with hours (capacity planning) • Team commitment
  22. 22. Create Initial Definition of Ready Definition of Ready 1. Size less than 3 2. “As a user…” format 3. Completed Happy Path Acceptance Test Case 4. Title Identified for Negative Test Cases 5. Feedback from SME or Customer 6. Tasks with Hours 7. Team Commitment speed refining criteria sprint refining criteria sprint planning criteria = Definition of Ready + +
  23. 23. Visualize Your Process READY IN PROGRESS DONE Start with a Simple Kanban Board Add Columns on the LEFT
  24. 24. Visualize Your Process INBOX REFINE PLAN READY IN PROGRESS DONE SPEEDREFINING SPRINTREFINING SPRINTPLANNING Start EACH STORY in the Inbox SEARCH BY AIRPORT CHANGE SEATS Slowly CULTIVATE stories to “Ready” BACKLOG UPGRADE SEAT SELECT DIFFEREN T SEAT
  25. 25. Principle #3 The Sprint is for… SOLVING THE PROBLEM The purpose of “refining” before the sprint is to clarify the customer’s problem.
  26. 26. VISIONING REFINING definition of ready shared understanding THINKING effectiveness mindset Principles of Getting Ready PRINCIPLE #1 PRINCIPLE #2 PRINCIPLE #3 A team first needs to focus on becoming effective, then can worry about being efficient. A team discusses and cultivates user stories together to effectively build a shared understanding. The purpose of refining before the sprint is to clarify the customer’s problem. The Sprint is for solving the problem.
  27. 27. Ensure Sprint Success with Stories that are READY Steven Granese Director of Agile Consulting @sgranese Steven.Granese@AgileThought.com Q&A

Editor's Notes

  • Poor team structure
    Teams are too large
    Roles are not defined
    Ex: same person is PO, SM, and technical lead
    Have not adopted the agile mindset, outlined in the agile manifesto
    Waterfall mindset going through the agile motions
    Lack of clarity about the work that is needed to be accomplished
    User stories and product backlogs are popular ways of storing this future work
    Many companies do not spend time and effort to maintain a strong, healthy backlog

    Define what clarity isn’t :
    Doesn’t mean all of the “requirements” are known
    Doesn’t mean the solution has been figured out, the mockups are done, every single task has been recorded with an hourly estimate, etc
    Team doesn’t understand the problem and the customer


    Transition: So, what does clarity mean?

  • Clarity means that the entire team has a full understanding of the customer’s problem that needs to be solved.
    When a team has clarity, they are ready to sprint.

    Transition: So how do we help our teams get clarity? In other words, how do we help them get ready?


  • Add modern agile balance
    Agile is not about going faster. It’s about staying balanced so that teams can adapt quickly.
  • What started me thinking about this years ago: I kept seeing the same questions being asked:

    Should the whole team come to grooming or sprint review meetings? I can’t afford to have everyone not coding for four hours!
    Who writes the user stories? The BA or the Product Owner?

    I couldn’t put my finger on the harsh backlash to my answers to let the team decide.

    Then I realized – the leaders just acting in accordance with how they learned to lead a company- to drive efficiencies. And I always thought of myself as someone who valued efficiency and loved to improve processes. But this efficiency-first thinking was killing agility before it got started.
  • Who has a Blockbuster card?
    Review Forbes.com article.
    Discuss why efficiency was not Blockbuster’s problem.
    Discuss how Blockbuster failed to recognize they were in a complex marketplace.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/09/05/a-look-back-at-why-blockbuster-really-failed-and-why-it-didnt-have-to

    CEO of Blockbuster was considered a retail genius with a long history of operational excellence
    Failure was not operation, but the inability to understand the power of the “networks of unseen connections”
    Thousands of retail locations, millions of customers, massive marketing budgets and efficient operations, it dominated the competition.

    Large part of business model was charging late fees
    Netflix entered the market with the promise of eliminating late fees.
    Netflix was a disruptive innovator with the potential to upend Blockbuster’s well oiled machine

    Once CEO was convinced Netflix and Redbox were a threat, he moved to discontinue the late fees that annoyed customers and invest heavily into a digital platform to ensure the brand’s future.
    This lowered profitability, and he was eventually removed as the CEO. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy 5 years later.
    The irony is that Blockbuster failed because its leadership had built a well-oiled operational machine.  It was a very tight network that could execute with extreme efficiency, but poorly suited to let in new information.  Antioco’s fatal flaw wasn’t one of intelligence or capability, but a failure to understand the networks that would determine his fate.


    A Look Back At Why Blockbuster Really Failed And Why It Didn't Have To

    In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team.  The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores.  Hastings got laughed out of the room.
    We all know what happened next.  Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth.  Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too facile an explanation.
    Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive—many considered him a retail genius—with a long history of success.  Yet for all his operational acumen, he failed to see that networks of unseen connections would bring about his downfall.  Over the past 15 years, scientists have learned much about how these networks function and how his fate could have been avoided.


    A Social Epidemic
    When Hastings flew to Dallas and proposed his deal in 2000, Blockbuster sat atop the video rental industry.  With thousands of retail locations, millions of customers, massive marketing budgets and efficient operations, it dominated the competition.  So it’s not surprising that Antioco and his team balked at simply handing over the brand they had worked hard to build.

    Yet Blockbuster’s model had a weakness that wasn’t clear at the time.  It earned an enormous amount of money by charging its customers late fees, which had become an important part of Blockbuster’s revenue model.  The ugly truth—and the company’s achilles heel—was that the company’s profits were highly dependent on penalizing its patrons.
    At the same time, Netflix had certain advantages.  By eschewing retail locations, it lowered costs and could afford to offer its customers far greater variety.  Instead of charging to rent videos, it offered subscriptions, which made annoying late fees unnecessary.  Customers could watch a video for as long as they wanted or return it and get a new one.
    Netflix proved to be a very disruptive innovation, because Blockbuster would have to alter its business model— and damage its profitability—in order to compete with the startup.  Despite being a small, niche service at the time, it had the potential to upend Blockbuster’s well oiled machine.


    The Threshold Model
    While Netflix’s model clearly had some compelling aspects, it also had some obvious disadvantages.  Without retail locations, it was hard for people to find it.  Moreover, because its customers received their videos by mail, the service was somewhat slow and cumbersome.  People couldn’t just pick up a movie for the night on their way home.
    Still, customers loved the service and told their friends.  Some were reluctant at first, they actually liked being able to browse movies at the store and pick one up at a moments notice, but others jumped right in.  And as more of their friends raved about Netflix, the laggards tried it too, fell in love with it and convinced people they knew to give it a shot.
    Network scientists call this the threshold model of collective behavior.  For any given idea, there are going to be people with varying levels of resistance.  As those who are more willing begin to adopt the new concept, the more resistant ones become more likely to join in.  Under the right conditions, a viral cascade can ensue.
    The best way to understand thresholds is to look at the diffusion of ideas model formulated by Everett Rogers in the 1960’s.
    While ideas usually take hold in small niches of innovators, they can often spread to early adopters, who are only slightly more resistant to join in.  Once they’re on board, those in the early majority begin to feel comfortable giving it a try.  As each threshold is past, the next group becomes more likely to adopt the new idea.  That’s how disruption happens.
    Unfortunately, this effect is devilishly hard to quantify.  Duncan Watts, a pioneer in network theory, is quick to point out that social dynamics tend to be idiosyncratic and it’s not always clear exactly where thresholds exist.  Still, you can use conventional marketing analysis to evaluate whether an idea is spreading to new groups or just growing within a niche.

  • Taken from the Daily Show, June 1 2015
    http://www.cc.com/video-clips/alq7q1/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-stanley-mcchrystal

  • Discuss three themes of the book
    Shared Consciousness
    Empowered Teams
    Effectiveness vs Efficiency
  • Display original agile manifesto
    Add “Effectiveness over Efficiency”
  • Effectiveness: Build a working increment of software within a sprint that delivers value to a customer.

    Idea: put effective across the top then efficiency across the bottom. Then put the last quote in the middle. Drive the point home that first a team needs to get good at delivering value quickly. Then they can worry about efficiency.

    This slide could us a visual
  • Agile is about empowering the teams, allowing for self-organization.
    However, empowerment without context is dangerous.
    The entire team needs the full context.
    Scrum was designed to keep the whole team together.

    Danger of doing “hybrid”

    Our efficiency instincts wants to have each person specialize and do one thing.
    We have to fight this temptation to break the team apart.

    Don’t let this scare you off. I am not saying that you don’t need to be efficient.
    I am saying that you don’t want to focus on efficiency up front. You want to focus on effectiveness first.
    Over time, once your team starts to norm and perform, and your velocity increase, your team will start becoming efficient too.
    This is counter-intuitive and disorienting.

    This is the biggest thing you can do to become more effective. Involve everyone and stay together.

    Invest in effectiveness

    Why do we need visioning? Entire team needs to understand the big picture.’
    If you resist the idea of involving the entire team in this type of planning…
    You'd better be in the complicated quadrant
    Or you'd better change your mindset to effectiveness

    Mistake many orgs make: Only stakeholders and product owners perform the visioning.


  • What does a story map demonstrate?
    Provides framework for a rich conversation to build shared consciousness
    Think how user will navigate through system over time
    Identification of users and user journeys
    Helps to decompose stories into small pieces
    Clear release plan
    Status update
    Find hidden stories
    Visual representation of entire project
    Simple structure for uncovering formal user stories

    Idea: show a picture of a huge storymap on a wall
  • What does a story map demonstrate?
    Provides framework for a rich conversation to build shared consciousness
    Think how user will navigate through system over time
    Identification of users and user journeys
    Helps to decompose stories into small pieces
    Clear release plan
    Status update
    Find hidden stories
    Visual representation of entire project
    Simple structure for uncovering formal user stories

    Idea: show a picture of a huge storymap on a wall
  • What does a story map demonstrate?
    Provides framework for a rich conversation to build shared consciousness
    Think how user will navigate through system over time
    Identification of users and user journeys
    Helps to decompose stories into small pieces
    Clear release plan
    Status update
    Find hidden stories
    Visual representation of entire project
    Simple structure for uncovering formal user stories

    Idea: show a picture of a huge storymap on a wall
  • Always get the question... Who writes the stores? The PO? The BA? Should we involve a developer (especially for estimates?)? Do we type them right into our tool or create a requirements doc?

    Here's the answer:
    No one writes a story. The team records or documents the discussion.
    The team is responsible for creating stories.

    Why? It's the discussion that matters (HOLD/PAUSE ON THIS!!!!)

    This is where the misconception about documentation comes from. Documentation is fine, but everyone must understand the context.
  • Grooming is not a meeting. It’s a continual activity.
    Grooming is not for solving problems. It’s for clarifying the problems.
  • Add the three principles

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