Archive for February, 2009

Sprint or Marathon?

Friday, February 13th, 2009

I have spoken to many candidates, clients and other ‘agile authorities’ and one point where I find inconsistency is the disparity between the duration of sprints within a project. These sprints seem to range from 1 week to 3 months, and in my opinion 3 months is more of a marathon than a sprint.  I am beginning to wonder if the Agile Manifesto itself needs refactoring.  The principles it laid out seem to have not been disregarded but refactored somewhat and quite rightly so, as one of the key principles is adaptiveness.  This disparity of the length of sprints is just one of many idiosyncrasies that perhaps could be clarified if the Manifesto itself was given a ‘make-over’ to reflect the current trends.  Perhaps this would result in an improved standard of ‘agility’ rather than an ever increasing volume of diluted principles. In my opinion there seems to be a whole host of individuals who could do with an Agile MOT of sorts.  Certification keeps rearing its head, but is that really the way forward?  (Even I, as a humble recruiter, have passed the DSDM Agile Certified Project Leader Exam.) There must be a way of validating projects as Agile, and therefore being able to provide some quantifiable means of assessing people’s real experience rather than their classroom or paper copy knowledge.

Kanban – Simplistic Agile?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Sitting quite a distance from the technical coal face, I hear many views and opinions aimed at many topics. For three years I’ve heard Kanban mentioned in discussion, blogs and conferences, with really little explanation or air time. So I took it upon myself to read 3 articles from well known Kanban authors and form an opinion. Instantly I thought this is just another refactoring of Agile, another play on the same thing, a buzz word in the making! I went back and read through this again and seemingly there are some positive differences to be mentioned and be impressed by. Interestingly enough there was a mention of time boxing, which automatically put’s me into DSDM mode. Maybe this is deliberate, maybe not, but it sure does keep it all conveniently linked to everything, but with a spin. Someone somewhere will one day have a radical new way! 

Is Kanban a revolutionary idea?

No, just a different take on a subject of which has no clear measures, i.e. Agile Fundamentally the differences or positives that I spotted are: 

  • Kanban is not just for the Agile experienced; it is for everyone at all levels (providing you understand the three levels of Kanban)
  • Kanban can be described as focussing on improving, rather than Scrum focussing on being Agile which may lead to improvement.
  • Too many people concentrate on being Agile (they don’t really understand Agile in most cases), where Kanban takes the hot air away and strips the process back to the bones.
  • Kanban allows for iterations to be delivered for what they are in terms of time, not just being put into a week because everyone works on a 1 week iteration.
  • Kanban planning works on a one piece flow, rather than the Agile grouped batches. ie WIP
  • Priority given to the importance of each card, thus the most important card gets delivered first.
  • Task estimates are taken away – they just get delivered.
  • Flexible build and release, again time constraintless.
  • There is commitment to deliver at an agreed output, ie. Rate of stories/release, rather than Velocity

Arguably Kanban makes Agile even more lightweight as a method, allows freedom to deliver alongside freedom to develop. So often new ideas come along that complicate or simplify process or delivering product.
Personally I think that if we lived in the ideal world, this would be a natural progression to the modern day Agile, but reality tells me that extreme Agile is still very unique and niche and the true worth of Kanban will only affect the small minority. It’s taken many years to get the world Agile, but with rife Waterfall greyness still dominating our world, Kanban will be a one hit wonder. 

I hope I’m wrong!