Friday, October 17, 2008

The big question...

What is Agile?

What is Scrum?

What is the difference?

Ok, I know Scrum is a method, a "style" even, of Agile. But are there other methods and styles?

Yes, I've read the Agile Manifesto. I've even checked out Wikipedia. I think I want more concrete day-to-day examples. When you do daily stand-ups, is that Scrum? Agile? How would it still be Agile if you didn't do Scrum?

The picture has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to set the mood. Happy fall!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Post-It Storm

It's so easy to form rash opinions on subjects I know so little about.

Retrospectives: love them.

Planning: not as much.

Here's why: I attended a "retrospective" on an event I did not attend, but had helped to publicize. (I work in marketing and communications -- has anyone ever run an Agile Marcomm department? More on that some other time...) Everyone was there -- planners, attenders, speakers, vendors (at least from our company). Ideas were shouted out and listed in a couple of categories (what worked/didn't work/do better next time). All ideas were valid and noted, and after an hour I was energized and inspired about doing the same event the next time it rolled around -- bigger and better, of course.

But when it comes to planning, the same approach doesn't work as well (read: work as well for me). In planning sessions, again, all ideas are noted, and then prioritized and assigened to people and into iterations (read: Sprints). But: ALL ideas? There consistently seem to be too many, and we never finish our pile before the next planning brainstorm meeting. To me, all those clever plans and tasks that might be nice but are not important are just noise. They leave me with a sense of incompletion and overwhelm whenever I confront my to-do list (read: Sprint plan).

Is that the idea? What's wrong with tossing things off the list? Surely there must be a way a planning meeting can leave me as excited and raring to go as that retrospective did...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


After a few weeks at my new job I figure out that "agile" doesn't mean I'm going to get fired on a whim. But I do notice there are some other different patterns and behaviors here. People stand in large groups in front of a white board that covers an entire wall, and then they go to sit in pairs at mobile work stations.

It's already happened more than once that I went to find someone only to discover they and their desk had completely disappeared. They moved, without a visible forwarding address. (Yes, I did wonder if my original understanding of "agile" was correct after all...)

So now I rely heavily on instant messenger.

Anyway, I'm about to try a "pairing" project. Never mind that this sounds just plain wrong... I'm worried because generally I'd rather work by myself. I'm picky and impatient and would rather just get the thing done rather than watch someone else mess it up. (Makes you want to meet me, doesn't it?) But supposedly it's very effective. One person thinks and the other one types. And then they switch off. (Or fight about it, more likely...) I'll give it a try and see if I can stand it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's Agile?

I first heard the word "agile" in a business context at my job interview. My future boss was describing the company, and he said, "We're agile." I thought it meant that, well, they were very flexible in acquiring and letting go of staff. Kind of like "hire and fire on a dime."

Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case. I'm still grappling with the new definition of "Agile" (with a capital A), but it has something to do with being flexible in the face of changing conditions and requirements. Maybe more of what my college econ prof described as being "elastic," which was apparently a very good thing. If your demand is elastic, you have much more influence over price. Demand for gasoline: not very elastic, so the price goes up. Demand for designer skull caps: not so high, so I can get them cheap. But anyway...