Thursday, August 09, 2018

Agile 2018 wrap up

I'm on my way home after spending the week at Agile2018. It's been a great conference. I reconnected with old friends, met some new ones, and attended some great presentations.

Monday's keynote was Dom Price (@domprice) from Atlassian. He shared how Atlassian tracked team health via their playbook. One interesting statistic he shared was that 78% of people don't trust their team mates. He also hit a theme that was repeated by many of the speaker; focus on outcomes, not outputs.
Focus on outcomes, not outputs
Wednesday's keynote was a focus on metrics by Troy Magennis. At first I considered not attending, but I'm glad I did. Troy talked about data as a people problem. He said a good way to get "crappy" data is to embarrass people. The data isn't enough, we have to be able to tell a story with it.

There were a number of other sessions that I took something away from;

  • Scott Ambler talked about architecture. A key message was that there are no "best practices" and the approach you apply depends on the context.
  • Tricia Broderick gave a session on facilitation. A point that stuck with me was that if we need to select mentoring or training or coaching based on the situation we're in and our desired outcome.
  • David Bland gave a session on experiments as they relate to new products. He turned the cycle in Lean Startup around and said we should start with Learn. From there, we decide what we want to measure, and based on that we decide what to build. 
This is just a snapshot of the fours days I attended. I have other notes and ideas of things I'm going to use when I get back to my "day job" of coaching. I recommend anyone looking for an infusion of new ideas to consider attending next year. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

Regression to the Mean or High Performing

I had an interesting conversation with one of my Product Owners this week. She thought that over time, planning poker values feel prey to Regression toward the Mean because human nature was such that people didn’t want to stand out and therefore tried to give estimates in line with what they thought others would.

I countered by saying if people were afraid to state what they truely thought the value should be, there is probably a psychological safety issue going on. The purpose of using poker cards during the activity is to avoid anchoring; having everyone influenced by one person stating aloud their estimate. 
After the conversation, another idea crept into my head. I tell teams that small stories are better. I am even a proponent of #noestimates in the right situation. So from this perspective, as a team moves towards high performance, they will get good at vertical slicing and that will lead to smaller stories, and therefore smaller estimate values.

So in response to the original statement, I don't think on a well-functioning team, the estimates are prone to regression toward the mean. However, I can see it happening on a team that is dealing with psychological safety issues. The real test is to watch the velocity over time. If regression toward the mean were happening, the velocity would be dropping over time. If the team is healthy, they will have a steady, or even increasing velocity.