Thursday, September 30, 2010

Washington DC, the center of the Agile universe….

Well, maybe not the center of the Agile universe, but there sure is a lot going on this month in and around the DC area (with most of it occurring in the Northern VA area). Take a look:


September 30thAgile Alliance Board Reception

6:30PM to 9:30PM, The Westin Hotel @ Tyson's Corner 
October 6thPMI Fairview Park Luncheons: Agile Project Management - Truths and Misconceptions Exposed

Presented by me :)

11:30AM – 1PM, Falls Church, VA 
October 6thDC/NOVA Scrum User Group - Enterprise War Stories

6:30PM, Bungalow Billiards in Chantilly, VA
October 7thAPLN DC Chapter Meeting - The Art of Storytelling

Presented by Fadi Stephan

6:30PM – 9PM, Vienna, VA 
October 8thAgile Influencers DC

5:30PM, Argia's Resturant, Falls Church, VA
October 9th – 12thPMI Global Congress

All day events from 10/9 through 10/12

My session "Agile at the Office of Personnel Management: A True Story" 10/12 @ 2:15-3:15PM

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD
October 22ndAgile Tour DC

9AM – 5PM, near Tenleytown Metro, Washington, DC



Agile Alliance Board Reception

This is a great opportunity to meet the new Agile Alliance Board of Directors, now featuring local Agilist Linda Cook. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to Gale Niles at For more information, see

Agile Alliance Board Reception
September 30, 2010, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
The Westin Tysons Corner
7801 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22043


PMI Fairview Park Luncheons: Agile Project Management - Truths and Misconceptions Exposed

In this interactive presentation, I will be presenting a series of Agile Truth or Misconception questions to the audience and we will interactively explore this topic. This promises to be an interesting session for those just learning Agile as well as good for those deep in Agile.

There is no fee for this session, but it is a brown bag lunch session. There is a cafeteria in front of the auditorium in the Noblis building where one can purchase lunch and bring to the presentation. More information available at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
11:30 am: Networking
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Program
3150 Fairview ParkDrive South
Falls Church, VA 22042


DC/NOVA Scrum User Group - Enterprise War Stories

This DC/NOVA Scrum User Group is a relatively new user group formed by the Motley Fool's Max Keeler. The format is a round table discussion kicked off by a general topic. The fun thing is that we meet at a pub, so there are drinks involved. See Max's notes below for more details. More information available at and Unfortunately, I will be out of town for this event, but it promises to be a good session.

From Max:

  • Meet-up starts at 6:30 here:
  • The topic will be:  "Enterprise Scrum implementation war stories: What has worked, what has failed and everything in between."
  • Like last time, we'll chat informally until about 7:30 allowing people to filter in.
  • At 7:30ish we'll start discussing the topic, and break into groups if necessary. 
  • We seem to end at around 9.

    Wednesday, October 6th
    6:30PM to 9PM
    Bungalow Billiard & Brew Co
    13891 Metrotech Dr
    Chantilly, VA 20151
    (703) 502-3925
APLN DC Chapter Meeting - The Art of Storytelling

The Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) DC chapter meeting generally occurs on the second Thursday of every month and is in presentation format. I'm very excited about this month presentation and disappointed that I will miss it because I will be out of town. Fadi Stephan will be presenting "The Art of Storytelling". The summary reads as follows:

"Agilists use user stories as a way to capture user requirements and drive the planning process for iterative and incremental delivery of software. In this presentation we'll see the benefits of using user stories over other types of requirements gathering approaches. After mastering the basic concepts and attributes of user stories, we will progress quickly and discuss different techniques for user role modeling, methods for capturing requirements, criteria for splitting or merging stories, and ways to handle dependencies, constraints, assumptions, and non-functional requirements.  We'll wrap up with clear guidelines on writing effective user stories."

I have seen so many teams struggle with writing and using User Stories and I think this session will be great for helping attendees get a deeper understanding of User Stories. Since I work with Fadi and will not be in town for his presentation, I look forward to chatting with Fadi about his presentation. More information available at

Thursday, October 7th
6:30 to 9PM
AT & T Facility
1900 Gallows Rd.
Vienna, VA 22182

Agile Influencers DC

After the recent Agile Coach Camp in North Carolina, Paul Boos noted that there were quite a few attendees from the Northern Virginia Area. Thus he started the Agile Influencers of DC group. This group meets on the second Friday of every month. The meeting generally start with lightening round presentation/discussion around specific topics followed by group discussions. The fun thing is that the meeting occurs a Argia's Restaurant, which is a great Italian place in Falls Church. For more information, see


Friday, October 8th
Argia's Restaurant‎
124 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046-4514
Tel: (703) 534-1033
Google Map:


PMI Global Congress

Now this is interesting, at this year's PMI Global Congress, there are at least 14 separate talks on the subject of Agile. I'm not sure what the numbers were in the past, but I have to believe this is a record. As I was filling out my registration program (unlike the Agile conference, PMI makes you pre-select all your sessions) I realized that there was at least one Agile presentation during every time slot of this 4 day conference. That is amazing!

I, along with David Neumann, will be presenting on the topic of Agile at the Office of Personnel Management ( For more information, see

October 9th through 12th
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
201 Waterfront Street
National Harbor, MD 20745


Agile Tour DC

This one is also very exciting. The Agile Tour DC is a one day event in DC that will feature 3 tracks:

  • Agile Essentials – Get the skills you need to get started.
  • Enterprise and Government Agility – See how it works in the large and hear from a Panel of practitioners working in government.
  • Open Talks Track – Create the conference you want in this Open Space (like) track.  Don't see a talk on one of the other two tracks propose one or attend one of the 4 concurrent Open Talks.
Note that I will be running a panel session on Agile in the Government. This will be the third time I have participated in such as session. The first time was at an APLN event last year that was went very well. However, at the recent Agile 2010 session, I was a panelist for an Agile in the Federal Government session and it did not go well at all. There were quite a few Federal employees in the room and they hated me. I don't think they liked the fact that the panelists were all consultants and I don't think they cared much for me in general. However, I have quite a few lessons learned and I am excited (and nervous) about re-doing this session. This time I am bringing in the big guns by having Paul Boo (EPA) and Don Johnson (DOD) as panelists. Both are Federal employees with deep expertise in Agile. Additionally, I have a new re-factored introduction that I think will either win over the crowd quickly or they'll just hate me again. We'll see, looking forward to it!

For more information, see Use the code "AgileDC" for $10 off registration.

October 22nd
9AM – 5PM
Conference Center
4000 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How do I know if my resources are being fully utilized?

One question I hear from managers just starting an Agile process is how does the process ensure developers are hard at work and that there is not a lot of lull time.

This is the wrong way to think about the project. What I would have the managers look at, in prioritized order:

  1. The product backlog – ensuring there is a high level backlog.  This usually starts at the project initiation phases and continues throughout the lifecycle.
  2. The sprint backlog – ensuring there is a detailed backlog for the immediate and perhaps upcoming sprints
  3. High completion percentage – having the team be able to give their commitments and establish a pattern of high completion rate.  The completion rate is (the amount of work of work completed) / (the amount of work to which the team committed) for the sprint.
  4. Stable velocity – once you have a high completion rate, then look towards stabilizing the velocity.
  5. Evolve/Optimize – once the team understands its capabilities and capacity, it is ready to expand its abilities.
Steps 1 and 2 are extremely important in not only giving teams direction, but also ensuring that there is product/project vision is in place.  I am not advocating a waterfall/SDLC know-everything-up-front mentality, but I am suggesting that the program (product owners) provide a responsible level or direction for the project.  Often we see a focus on ensuring that the team is fully utilized while the understanding of what is being built is under-served. These initial steps should focus on identifying what is being built, understanding the acceptance criteria for being done, and ensuring the priority is in place.


Steps 3 and 4 go hand in hand.  When a team understands its ability (Step 3) and capacity (Step 4), the project has great advantages to success.  Project estimates can now be made with responsible levels of confidence and historical backing, which leads to enhanced capabilities on making strategic decisions.  This is where the bulk of the work is going to take place in maturing the process and team.  


Step 5 is where we get back to the original question.  Without Steps 3 and 4 in place, this is pointless. Once we understand ability and capacity, then we can look to improve. I would change the statement "hard at work without lull time", which measures no value.  What we can do is measure the value the team is delivering (usually in the way of business value points combined with story points) and identify how we can further improve those metrics.  Focus not on individuals being fully utilized, but rather on team delivery of value and increasing it.

Mouse hard at work