February 2013

Monthly newsletter prepared by Gojko Adzic and colleagues from Neuri Consulting

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Hello and welcome to the February edition of Impact! This time, I have many more discount offers for you than usual, for three conferences, a book and a workshop.

I'll also use this opportunity to invite you to try out MindMup, a zero-friction mind mapping tool that my colleagues and I are building. Our aim with MindMup is to create the most productive mind map canvas out there and remove all the distractions. You can try it out at (it's free, open, and no registration needed) or grab the source code from GitHub. I'd love to hear your feedback, especially ideas on how to make it more productive.

As usual, here are my top picks from the Web published last month:

Understanding Kanban

Mike Burrows published a fantastic introduction to Kanban by explaining the underlying value system, tying that in with core practices. The post sparked a nice discussion and Burrows also published a follow-up with some stronger conclusions. This is quite an opinionated piece, so might not be the typical Kanban by the book thing, but it is certainly an interesting read.

Running big Scrum retrospectives

Many "large" Scrum teams follow Scrum in the same sense that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is democratic. For those stuck in such an unfortunate environment, and anyone else who wants to learn how to scale Scrum, blog posts and articles coming out Spotify recently should be required reading. I included a few links to Henrik Kniberg's articles in the previous issues of this newsletter, and this month it's Joakim Sundén's turn. He published a long experience report on running big retrospectives in particularly focusing on an end-of-project retrospective.

As a system...

Mike Cohn wrote up some nice advice on how to define the user role on a story card. He deals with the typical problem of generic stories, written from a perspective of a mythical user, and provides useful tricks to define that aspect of a user story better.

There is no Spoon Bug

Tobias Mayer wrote another passionate argument, this time on software bugs. He advocates not being a slave to bugs, and suggests that arguing about the distinction between requirements, bugs, scope creep is futile. This topic is very close to my hart, as I've been arguing for a long time that software teams have to move away from the idea that bugs are a useful way to measure quality.

BDD is not Given-When-Then

Chris Parsons wrote a short article on how there is much more to BDD than just writing Given-When-Then. Chris makes some nice arguments, and though I expect that most of my readers would have come across this before, it's a nice link to have handy and send to colleagues.

Community discount offers

Save 200 GBP on the next Impact Mapping and Specification by Example workshop in London. Book online with the promo code febimpact before February 15th to get this discount.

Agile Testing and BDD Exchange is coming back to New York City on April 30th. I'm helping to put the programme together, and I promise it will be a great conference. This year, we'll try to do something different. We're doing away with the traditional presentation style sessions and instead organising meaningful conversations. Each session will be a facilitated discussion between two thought leaders, and we ask the audience to participate in the discussion and provide feedback throughout the sessions. Skills Matter are offering a special $25 discount off the Super Early Bird price, which is reduced by $100 (if my math is correct, this gives you a total $125 discount). To get it, book with promo code GOJKOSUPERSPECIALCOMMUNITY at the Skills Matter Web site. This promotion expires on the 9th of February!

I'm also speaking at QCon in London in March, and you can book your place at the conference with a discount of 100 GBP by using the promotional code ADZI100.

ScrumTrek and AgileRussia community are organising the 7th International Russian-language Conference on modern approaches to software development, AgileDays, in Moscow from 29-30 March 2013. Book your place with promo code AgileDaysGojko to get a 10% discount.

Manning Publications are offering a 50% discount on their new book Gradle in Action to my readers. If this is a topic of interest, grab the book using promo code gradlelaunchau at from their web site. You'll have to hurry, the code is only valid until midnight Feb 3.

A Practical Approach to Large-Scale Agile Development

This is a strange one. A Practical Approach to Large Scale Agile Development: How HP Transformed LaserJet FutureSmart Firmware is a 170 page case study of an agile transformation at a company that's not typically associated with modern development practices, with 400 firmware developers - not exactly the typical use case for agile either. The case study is presented from a high level management perspective, and covers topics such as continuous integration at scale, overcoming cultural and organisational barriers to implement iterative planning and estimation, but also stuff rarely covered in books with the word "agile" in the title, for example cultural issues for cross-continent development between India and US.

The case study is very interesting, and I'd recommend reading through the relevant chapters to anyone trying to push agile processes to a large organisation, as it describes two aspects that I see very rarely, but think are incredibly important:

  1. The process change was started with a clear business outcome in mind. Not because agile is cool, not because everyone else is doing Scrum, but because the company wanted to achieve a measurable, quantified reduction in development costs and reallocate funds to innovation. This story shows how having a clear goal and driving a process change with that can help to make the right decisions and adjust the process to a particular environment, at the same time aligning everyone in the organisation on why and how to change the process. The second chapter opens up with a great quote 'You should be agile not just to be agile, but to drive the business results' and advises that companies describe clearly what they want to achieve from an agile transformation before embarking on that journey.
  2. The change was driven by principles, and practices were evaluated and widely modified to achieve the set business goals. Unlike many teams out there who slavishly follow practices but discard principles and end up with no benefits, these guys actually invented their own process driven by agile principles. As a result, they claim to have reduced the development costs by 70%.

Before really changing the process, they restructured their software to support iterative delivery, which is another great lesson. Without a way to ship things out and get feedback iteratively, in reasonably short cycles, very little other stuff from the agile toolbox works. Another interesting aspect of their transformation is how they applied process metrics, which is a common problem with large organisations. Their approach is to use metrics as a conversation starter: 'The key is not to manage by metrics, but use the metrics to understand where to have conversations about what tis not getting done'

A negative side of this book for me is a very liberal use of terminology. Although there is a lot of guilt-by-association with Scrum concepts, and the authors say it is 'quite like Scrum', my understanding from the book is that they ended up with a process that is their unique take on the topic and any links to Scrum were really pushing it. I don't mean to argue that their process was wrong - it obviously works for them and provides a lot of value, which is the only thing important - but many Scrum references just felt out of place. I felt that Scrum got equated with just running iterations, and there is a lot more to a good Scrum process. For my taste, there is just too much management speak, including 10x productivity increases, quantum leaps, and of course sprinkles of SCRUM capitalised as if it were an acronym. This is why I'll give the book only 4 stars.

A Practical Approach to Large-Scale Agile Development
Authors: Gary Gruver, Mike Young, Pat Fulghum
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
ISBN: 978-0321821720
Pick it up from Amazon UK or Amazon.Com.

Important dates

By popular demand, I'm now running a full day practical Impact Mapping workshop:

For those that want to learn more about specification by example, try it out in practice, and discuss advanced ideas, I'm organising SBE workshops in many places all over Europe

In 2013, I plan to attend far fewer conferences than in the previous years. Here are a few speaking engagements I have confirmed so far:

That’s it for now. Until next time...
Gojko Adzic @gojkoadzic