Articles and Posts Tagged “project-management”

Mike Cohn Speaking at Agile 2013 in Nashville, TN

I'm going to be speaking at Agile 2013 in Nashville this summer. My 75-minute session will be part of an Agile Boot Camp track that is targeted mostly at people new to agile to help them understand the basic concepts, terminology, methodologies, and practices of agile development. My session will be

Sprint Zero: A Good Idea or Not?

In my previous post, I wrote about alternatives to numbering sprints. In this post I want to deal with a very special number that some teams use in numbering their sprints--zero.

The concept of a "sprint zero" has become popular with some teams and so it is important to consider whether or not this is a good idea.

First, let's agree on the basic premise of "sprint…

Check In, Don’t Check Up

I've never been a micro-manager, especially not since using agile and Scrum. I could have turned into a micro-manager early in career, except I've always been too busy to spend my time checking up on people. But, while I've avoiding checking up on teams or people, I've never been reluctant to check in with them. I was recently reminded of this by reading an article about the…

Points Are About Relative Effort Not Ranking

I'm thinking of buying a new car. So I've put together a list of cars to consider. Here they are in priority order:

  • Bugatti Veyron Super Sports
  • Pagani Zonda Clinque Roadster
  • Lamborghini Reventon
  • McLaren F1
  • Koenigsegg CCX
  • Porsche Carrera GT
  • Aston Martin Vanquish
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Camry
  • Tata Nano

Unfortunately, though, I'm not…

Announcing an Online Agile Estimating and Planning Course

I'm very excited to let you know that we now have an online course on Agile Estimating and Planning. The course is a series of videos and interactive quizzes. Videos are a combination of screencast (slides) and live action of me. All videos are extremely professionally done--no handheld video camera or recordings of me talking into my iPhone. The entire course is now…

Recommendations, Not Rules

I seem to be encountering more and more people who want to codify agile into a set of rules. I've seen this lately in authors of books, blogs or PDFs about agile or Scrum that say "You must do this" or "If you don't do this or all of that then you're not doing it right." Over the last few months I also encountered this in conversations with a few Project Management Offices…

Simulating a Project by Resampling Velocity

I normally write about a new agile project management technique only after I’ve used it for a couple of years and found it successful in a couple of different contexts. In this post I want to share such a technique. It’s a statistical technique called “resampling” that I’ve become quite fond of for making predictions about future velocity, a method for measuring the rate at…

Time as a Competitive Advantage

An article I read in 1988 has always stuck with me. The article was “Time–The Next Source of Competitive Advantage” by George Stalk in the Harvard Business Review. The article came near the start of an era in which companies primarily sought competitive advantage through being faster than other companies.

This has, of course, coincided with the growth in popularity of the...

Scrum Alliance & PMI: A Day at the Museum

Because I'm a board member and a founder of the Scrum Alliance, I am often asked what I think about the new agile certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). A recent trip to New York City helped clarify my thinking on this.

I was in New York with my wife and daughters for spring break and doing the tourist thing. I'd live in NYC for a couple of years in the…

Reflections on the 10 Years Since the Agile Manifesto

Today is the tenth anniversary of the start of the meeting that resulted in the Agile Manifesto. Much has changed in the ten years since the Agile Manifesto, continous improvement being one of them. Back then, the processes encompassed by the Manifesto—Extreme Programming, Scrum, DSDM, Feature-Driven Development, and others—existed only on the fringes of the software…

Announcing Q1 Agile Software Development Training in the U.S. & Europe

Mike Cohn, author and scrum agile expert, will bring his Agile software development training classes, Certified ScrumMaster, Succeeding with Agile, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Agile User Stories and Agile Estimating and Planning training to parts of the United States and Europe.

Layfayette, CO November 29, 2010 --

ScrumMaster and agile expert Mike Cohn has announced…

5 Free Agile & Scrum Tools for Project Planning and Prioritizing

Mountain Goat Software and Mike Cohn, author and Agile Scrum expert, have announced the release of four free tools used in agile and scrum projects for planning and prioritizing.

Layfayette, CO November 6, 2010 -- Mountain Goat Software, an agile training and scrum certification company, has released five free agile and scrum tools ScrumMasters and Agile teams can use…

Avast Combining the ScrumMaster and Product Owner, Matey!

A common question is whether it's acceptable to combine the role of product and ScrumMaster and give both sets of responsibilities to a single person. In general, combining these roles is a very bad idea. To see why, let's look back in history and the job of the 17th-century pirate ship captain. In a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review (October 2010), Professor…

Estimating Work Shared Between Two Backlog Items

Product backlog items can be ideally written to be independent. It is the hallmark of a good team that its members can implement product backlog items in any order. However, it would be nearly impossible to remove all dependencies between product backlog items and so our goal becomes minimizing important dependencies rather than eliminating them altogether. But any…

It’s Effort, Not Complexity

A client asked me, "When will my team be done with this project?" This is probably the bazillionth time I've been asked that agile project management question in one way or another. I have never once been asked, "How hard will my team have to think to develop this project?" Clients, bosses, customers and stakeholders care about how long a project will take. They don't care…

What Does It Mean to Be Agile?

Laurie Williams, a professor at North Carolina State University, recently conducted a survey to find out which principles and practices are used by agile teams. If you read my monthly newsletter, you probably saw the announcement asking for people to participate. She had over 300 responses and released the results today. Among the findings were that these are the most…

Sliding Toward Success

You may have noticed we’ve been adding agile project management tools to the Mountain Goat Software website occasionally. We have a tool for calculating a confidence interval around your velocity data as well as various tools for prioritizing user stories or projects against one another. I’ve got a new tool to announce today—Project Success Sliders. Project Success Sliders…

Managing Risk on Agile Projects with the Risk Burndown Chart

Risk management is a central part of traditional project management and is included as one of the knowledge areas in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) body of knowledge. In many of my classes, participants ask how Scrum and agile address risk management. Some are concerned that agile or Scrum ignore risk management completely. Let’s see why this is the case. First, a…

New Tools for Prioritizing Backlogs Available

We've added two new agile project management tools for prioritizing a product backlog: Theme Scoring and Theme Screening. Each of these is a lightweight way of comparing product backlog items to one another.

Theme Scoring

You can use theme scoring to compare user stories or entire projects against one another. In this technique you identify a set of criteria that will…

Announcing the Tools Section of Our Website

A nice side effect of having the Succeeding with Agile book done and in print is that some of my time has freed up for other projects. One such project has been the creation of some free agile project management tools that we're making available on the Mountain Goat Software website. I've wanted to make some of these available for a long time so it's nice to finally be able…

Distributed Teams: Build Trust through Early Progress

Critical to creating a coherent team is building trust among team members. This is much more difficult on a distributed team. Unable to rely on repeated, frequent face-to-face communication, distributed teams need to take other measures to build trust. Traveling ambassadors, starting meetings with casual conversations, occasional in-person meetings of the full team, working…

Mountain Goat Software Becomes a PMI Registered Education Provider

We're proud to announce that Mountain Goat Software has become a Project Management Institute (PMI) Registered Education Provider (REP). Attendees at our courses have always been able to claim Professional Development Units (PDUs) for our courses, but becoming a Registered Education Provider through the PMI allows us to offer Category 3 PDUs. This makes PDU reporting and…

Removing Team Members

People often ask me whether teams should have the right to vote members off. To help answer that question, let me share a story with you. I was at a conference when I saw Derek walking toward me. I had first met him a year earlier when I taught a class at his company. I had been back a handful of times, and always enjoyed talking with him. We hadn’t talked in three months…

The Role of Leaders on a Self-Organizing Team

Self-organization is a fundamental concept in agile project management. The Agile Manifesto includes the principle, “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” Yet a common misconception about agile project management approaches is that because of this reliance on self-organizing teams, there is little or no role for leaders of…

Remove Finish-to-Start Activities on Agile Projects

When it comes to agile projects, one element of agile project management that is difficult for teams to master is how to overlap their work. If a team doesn’t learn effective ways to do this, team members may settle on a less desirable approach: activity-specific sprints. An activity-specific sprint is as bad a practice as it would be an acronym. In this approach, the team…

Mix the Sizes of the Product Backlog Items You Commit To

Teams used to a sequential development process have become accustomed to hand-offs between specialists. Analysts hand their work to designers who hand it to programmers who pass it on to testers. Each of these hand-offs includes some overhead in the form of meetings, documents to read and perhaps sign, and so on.

In part because of this overhead, the hand-offs tend to be…

Build Trust Between Teams with Ambassadors

Distributed teams are a fact of life for many agile projects and are a particularly difficult agile project management challenge. The reality is that even when teams cannot be collocated, individual team members need to meet each other face to face. If the whole team cannot get together, one or two members from each team, at least, should spend time visiting team members in…

Synchronize Rather Than Overlap Sprints

Today I want to discuss synchronized iterations and why they work best on multi-team projects. Managing dependencies among multiple teams is a difficult agile project management challenge. On my first Scrum project, we started with only one team. That project soon grew to three teams, with the typical dependencies between them. I quickly arrived at what I thought would be a…

The Benefits of Feature Teams

Moving away from component teams is a difficult but necessary step for those who want to adopt an agile project management approach. For example, when I first began to consult for a certain California-based game studio, its teams were organized around the specific elements and objects that would exist in the video game it was developing. There was a separate team for each…

Setting and Managing Expectations

In 1994 I managed a team that delivered a project that any outsider or any project team member would have considered a success. The product represented a great leap forward for the company. It included far more features than the product that was being replaced, was built using new state-of-the-art technologies with which the company had no prior experience, and included the…

Cultivate Communities of Practice

On a multi-team project, it is possible for individuals to become isolated, speaking mostly to others on their individual teams. Good ideas are slow to propagate across the organization. Similar functionality is implemented differently by different teams. We put scrum of scrums meetings in place to reduce the impact of some of these problems, but those only go so far. An…

How Do You Get from Here to Agile? Iterate.

Historically, when an organization needed to change, it undertook a “change program.” The change was designed, had an identifiable beginning and ending, and was imposed from above. This worked well in an era when change was necessary only once every few years. But in today’s fast-paced, ever changing environment, it makes more sense to create agile organizations, ready to…

Four Attributes of the Ideal Pilot Project

Selecting the right project as a pilot can be challenging. Jeff Honious, vice president in charge of innovation at Reed Elsevier, led his company’s transition to Scrum. He and colleague Jonathan Clark wrote of their struggle to select the right pilot.

Finding the right project was the most critical and challenging task. We needed a meaty project that people would not…

Using a One-Handed Clock to Convey Project Goals

The "iron triangle" is a long-accepted way of talking about the four parameters of project success. In the iron triangle, scope, schedule and budget each takes its place along a side of the triangle. Quality is placed in the middle under the premise that we don't mess with quality. We can, however, adjust the sides. Sometimes a product owner or key stakeholder is told, "Pick…

Bugs on the Product Backlog

A common agile project management question is whether bugs belong on the product backlog. Before I address that question, let me clarify that the question refers to bugs that are unrelated to functionality being coded during the sprint. If someone finds a bug during a sprint that is related to the features being worked on, the best thing to do is yell, "Hey, Mike, the boojum…

The Ideal Agile Workspace

As you may now, I am working on a new book, which will be called Succeeding with Agile. I recently finished writing a chapter for it on the impact of the human resources and facilities groups on an organization that is transitioning to an Agile project management approach. While writing that chapter, I put together a list of all the things that I think should be visible…

Why There Should Not Be a “Release Backlog”

I haven't heard the term "release backlog" in many months, but it's come up in three conversations over the past week. So, I want to share my thoughts on whether a team using an Agile project management approach should have a backlog known as a release in addition to the conventional Product and Sprint (or Iteration) Backlogs.

First, let's clarify what people mean when…

Is It a Good Idea to Establish a Common Baseline for Story Points?

In a previous post, I wrote about how to establish a common baseline for story points across relatively large teams (a few hundred developers). In this post I want to consider whether doing so is a good idea. The need for a common baseline to story points usually arises from the reasonable desire to know how big the entire project is. To know that, we must know the size of…

Visualizing a Large Product Backlog With a Treemap

In the early days we promoted agile project management only for small teams because that was where it originated. We had plenty of experience to say that agile worked well on seven- to 10-person teams. We were also quick to learn the techniques that allowed agile project management methodologies to scale up to around 20 to 40 people. These days, though, there are many truly…

Looking Forward to the Next Twelve Months

One of my favorite singers/songwriters is Jimmy Buffett. If the name isn’t familiar, you’ve almost certainly heard at least his song Margaritaville. There’s an even better song on that same album (yes, it was originally an album and I am old enough to have owned it on vinyl). The song is Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.

On this song, Jimmy sings,

I took off…

The Critical Path on Agile Projects

On traditional, sequential process an important part of the project manager's job is identifying the project's critical path. The critical path is the sequence of activities that will take the longest to complete and that, therefore, determines the overall length of the project. For example, suppose that my wife and I want to see a movie this afternoon. Before we can go to…

ScrumMaster

The selection of a new Scrum team’s ScrumMaster can impact the success or failure of the team's Scrum adoption. Choose the wrong person and the team could face the uphill struggle of trying to become self-organizing while under the thumb of a command-and-control style manager. Choose the right person—matching the skills of the new ScrumMaster with the initial needs of the team—and the team will have an incredible headstart in adopting Scrum.

Estimating With Use Case Points

Too much work goes into use cases to not employ them to their full potential. By assigning points to use cases you can reliably measure the size of an application and derive an estimated duration for a project. Read this article to find out more.

The Need for Agile Project Management

Ken Schwaber and I co-wrote this article to help counter the misperception that agile projects do not need project management. The article outlines some of the responsibilities of the agile project manager.