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Nomad8 highlights of 2012

It is the time of year for winding down and reflecting on things before heading off to the beach for some BBQ-ing, drinking of things and general relaxing. So we wanted to thank you for your custom and support for 2012, wish you all the best for 2013 and share some of our reflections (we can share drinks and BBQs too, but that comes later).

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Splitting a User Story along Acceptance Criteria

When breaking down a large user story to ensure it is sized appropriately, the default is to use Richard Lawrence’s excellent 9 Patterns for splitting a user story.

I also use an additional approach; in the first instance I look to see whether it can be split along its acceptance criteria. Every good user story should have acceptance criteria, and this approach ensures that not only do they exist, but they are also reviewed before we look to split.

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Evolving the Story map

I can’t say enough about how useful story maps are and how essential they are on any Agile project. Jeff Pattonis the undisputed (certainly in my mind) master of the story map and it’s well worth looking at the materials on his site. Jeff summarises a story map as, “A prioritized user story backlog helps to understand what to do next, but is a difficult tool for understanding what your whole system is intended to do.

 

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Agile Project Inception with a Press Release

I really like Jonathan Rasmussen’s project inception deck as a simple, quick and cut-to-the-chase way of kicking off projects. Overall, I pretty much stick to Jonathan’s content and flow, but sometimes, I use a press release exercise instead of a product box. The idea of refining a product vision through writing a press release has originally been used by Amazon.com as a mechanism to determine whether a product or service should be built.

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Passion as a Priority

 

The driving force behind why people start startups is likely to vary wildly across different industries and types of business. For many it’s the promise of lucrative return – from sales of product or selling their eventual company. For some it’s the burning desire to fill a perceived gap in the market – ‘if I want this, surely 3 million other people will want one too’. Perhaps for others it’s curiosity, or a need to be in charge of their own destiny, or all of the above.

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Interview with a newly-minted Scrum Master

Six months ago SilverStripe, an open-source Content Management System provider and Wellington web agency approached me to help them improve the way in which they deliver client and open source projects, increase employee happiness and, in general, just do the best possible job. To achieve this, we decided to move away from the existing Agile-like (fixed scope/fixed price) approach and introduce Scrum with its focus on client-driven iterations, early feedback and continuous improvement.

Silverstripe have asked me to interview some of their staff about the transition to Agile. The original posts can be found on Silverstripe’s blog (Sam MinnéeAleksandra Brewer), below are selected highlights from the interviews. 

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What’s in a name?

The first big task of getting started is updating all the various bits of online information that describe who I am and what I do. So far I’ve kept my Facebook and Twitter presence to be fairly personal, so it’s not relevant there. But Linked In is a very important business marketing tool – not just for any relevant contacts to my new business, but also to maintain local and international networks and connections relevant to my recent or future work. Then there are business cards to be printed, blogs to update and an identity to create.

Choked at the first hurdle.

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Exploring servant leadership

A few weeks ago I was sitting next to a log fire, sharing a glass of wine with a few like minded individuals chatting about all things Agile, one of the things we discussed was a time when one of the party was a Scrum Master and that they had a team admin who used to collect all the story data and do the typing up for each sprint. My immediate reaction was that of outrage, “how as a servant leader could you, farm off ‘menial’ tasks to someone else, that’s an integral part of the role”.

It got me thinking, am I the odd one out here?

Most of the Agile literature I have read over the years mentions servant leadership, but never really goes in to too much detail. A quick hike to the lazy man’s oracle, (Wikipedia) and as the saying goes “the more you know, the less you know you know”. To help me learn and understand servant leadership a little more, I decided to dissect the Wikipedia commentary and see what emerged for me.

Robert K. Greenleaf never specifically defined servant leadership but, based on the writings of Greenleaf and others, it can still be defined as a management philosophy which implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit.”