marcusoft.net - sharing is learning


function share(knowledge){ return share(++knowledge) }

Flow and dependencies


I’m talking less and less about agile and even lean, these days. Instead, the poison I’m selling now is flow. In all honesty, it might be better to put it like this:

Opening peoples eyes for the benefits focus on flowing work smoother and faster, alleviates discussions about lean and agile later.

Flow is an eye-opener and shifts your perspective. Things that previously was paramount (ensuring people are not idle, for example) becomes irrelevant or uninteresting. New ways, practices, and innovation quickly spur.

But also new problems occur. One of the most common ones is the fact that flow is severely hurt by tasks that have many dependencies. I think I talk to teams about 4-6 times a week about this.

In this post, I will offer a few thoughts on how to handle this type of situations.

Read on ...

Values and living them


As a consultant, you get to see many, different organizations and look deeply into what makes them tick. This is a great benefit of my job, but at the same time quite hard to find from time to time. The reason for that is that most organizations have very lofty and worthy values but what is lived out is something else.

But I’ve found… who am I kidding … stolen a way that make values more tangible and important in our everyday life. It’s a simple trick that you can start using tomorrow.

Read on ...

Summarizing and filtering data with QUERY and a Google Sheet drop-down


I had another opportunity to learn a thing or two about Google Sheets and it’s internal functions. Again. On a similar topic as last time.

This time around I had to summarise the data from 4 different sheets and then let the user filter the data dynamically.

To do this, I had to look up a lot of things, learn a little bit about the QUERY-function and then jump through some hoops. I write this down here so that I don’t have to learn this again. You can read it if you want to.

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Some thoughts on backlogs


I was asked to join a team for a backlog grooming session. We went into the room and opened the backlog in JIRA. It was exactly 99 items long. Not too shabby, but still… 99!? Ninety-nine items of work we hadn’t done. Yet.

This of course triggered this jolly team to start singing and we soon where humming along:

In this post, I wanted to share how we cut the backlog in half in 45 minutes. And then share some thoughts on backlogs that I have running in my head.

Read on ...

Respecting slack time


As a consultant and coach, I find it very fascinating to see how the same topic has a tendency to arise in many different place and conversations I’m in. All of sudden everyone needs to chat about flow, or estimation or what-have-you.

I like telling stories, as a mean to teach and explain abstract concepts. Often when I’ve told a story once it has a way to surface back into conversations in the near future. I partly blame it on my limited imagination, but when it fits the conversation it’s interesting to notice how you tell the same thing several times a day.

The last couple of days people have been asking me about slack, and I’ve related a story about the pastor that married me and Elin. He was excellent in manage his own time and respected a good slack!

Read on ...

Create a dynamically updated chart in Google Sheets


When I started my blog, almost 12 years ago, I often wrote posts of things that I would need to look up again. Sure enough, I sometimes stumble into my own posts when searching for solutions to problems I have.

This post is one of those posts. I was asked to conduct a survey throughout our department and needed to do some slicing and dicing of the stats. I used Google Forms to collect the data and then did the analysis in Google Sheets.

It all came out pretty nice and allowed people throughout the department to drill down into the data in a quick and simple way.

Read on ...

Viral Change and some thoughts about tools


The other day a co-worker (Anders - awesome guy!) pointed me to a change management tool/methodology called Viral Change. I read about it and got quite hooked I have to say, but I’m not yet ready to make a report on how it works or it’s merited.

However, in one of the documents I read they made a little remark that I found very interesting as it brushes on many of the problems that I often have when trying to “do” agile or change into agile.

This post is about that but I have to give a little backstory and my current understanding of Viral Change.

Read on ...

Review of A seat at the table


I’ve just read a classic. Mark my words - we will mention, refer to and hear a lot about Mark Schwartz great book “A seat at the table”.

It’s an amazing book - you have to read it.

Read on ...

Limiting WIP and some rules of thumb


Writing a book (psst - there’s another one on its way) has changed many things for me and opens so many doors in my career. But my favorite thing is when I get to talk to people that have read my book, learned something and is applying kanban in their everyday life. Sometimes I get some really insightful and interesting questions.

Massimiliano Spolverini, for example, presented me with one of those questions just the other days:

I have been reading your book the second time and I have found it brill. Though, there is a doubt playing on my mind which I cannot sort out.

The 2nd rule of thumb to find a WIP limit (page 111) explains that when the WIP is set too high, then the team can see some work items not being worked by anybody, which no one is responsible for.

On the other side, at the bottom of page 117, when the “Drop down and give me 20” approach is presented, it is said that “…if too many work items are idle, you can go back up to the level you had before”. In other words, it says that if one sees idle work items, he’d better move back to higher WIP. Isn’t this last statement in contradiction with the 2nd rule of thumb?

Massimiliano kindly let me answer the question on this blog and in this post I wanted to share some of my thinking about this situation. I don’t claim to hold a one-and-only-answer but rather wanted to explain and expand a bit further.

Read on ...

Lean/flow simulation experiments


When I do workshops on kanban/lean I often always include a game, since I think that adds to the experience of the principles I try to teach. One of my favourite is the Number Counting game that I, one very boring day did an animation of in PowerPoint. You can flip through it here:

Numbers simulation - less is more! from Marcus Hammarberg

This game very clearly illustrates the benefits of limiting work in process as the lead time for all the projects goes way down, as well as the lead time for each individual project. While quality often improves.

However, every time I’ve done this exercise I have to resist the urge to throw in a couple of curve balls and changes. I resist it because I think it would be quite hard work and stressful. Now I’ve tested them on myself and I wanted to share the outcomes with you.

Read on ...

TDD for 9 year olds - an experiment in teaching my sons class


I had the opportunity to test my teaching skills to the max, as I got the question if I could come to my son Alberts class, to teach “some programming”. I have taught TDD to kids before, see this long video for the result. But those kids were 3-4 years old.

Adding to the challenge was that this was my own sons class and I felt that I had to make him proud as well as fight a bit for being heard.

I took on the challenge and it went well, but I thought I’d share some of my preparation and experiences. A few people have asked me privately and I realize that this is a request that many of us in the IT business might get. If you read this you can avoid my problems at least.

Read on ...

A post on the post on queue length


The good people at Kanbanize invited me to write a guest post on their blog. I accepted and wrote a post on tracking and learning from Queue Length, a topic I picked up from Donald Reinertsen excellent book Principles of Product Development Flow.

Go over there and read the post - I’m happy how it turned out.

The rest of this post will be very meta… because it will be about how I can write the post on short queue length fast, by having short queue length.

Read on ...

My first all-remote retrospective


I agreed to do something a little bit scary, a couple of weeks back. And then it got even more interesting as new information unfolded.

My task was to facilitate a retrospective with 5-6 managers across our organization. That was a bit scary - but then I realized that they all were going to be remote. I had never done a remote retrospective before so that made it more interesting.

I didn’t do anything particularly revolutionary, but I was happy with the outcome and the format. You might find this useful too - so I thought I’d share it here.

Read on ...

Don't skip hack days - that silly habit is what you are


I’ve worked in a few places that have had hack weeks or hack days; a simple little thing where the whole company stops for a while and get to spend some time making something that you’re really passionate about.

This was first made famous by Google and their Google Time that have produced amazing products like Google Earth and Gmail. (That linked article, by the way, is showing my point of this post with painful clarity)

At every place that has had this kind of opportunities and practices I’ve also seen people skipping those days, because:

  • We are too busy
  • Well, that’s cute - but this real work needs to happen now.
  • Not this week, but next.

That’s dangerous. Those silly habits are what is building your culture. Without that (where hack week is just an example) you are not you anymore.

Read on ...

No - waterfall is not sometimes correct. It is always wrong


Every other day I meet people and organisation that says something along the line of

We’re doing agile for some of our work, but other needs waterfall.

I’m getting increasingly annoyed with that statement. Waterfall (phases with big batches of work) is always wrong. You should get out of that thinking as fast as possible.

Any agile person reading this will not believe it. But believe it. Waterfall is very much alive and being hailed in most many organisations today, in my experience. Especially on the business side of things.

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Report writing - using impact maps, Stephen Covey and increments


I had one of the more intense writing sessions in my life the other day - getting about 17 pages and 6000 words out in 2,5 hours. But that’s not as important, although fun, compared to the quality and how we did it.

I’d been coaching and teaching at a company for 4 days straight, meeting ca 200 people from 12-15 teams to talk about their opportunities and challenges to apply agile and lean thinking within their current context and organization.

The obvious question on the last day was:

Could you just summarise your thoughts for us? Write some ideas for improvements and next step and stuff.

So we did. And I heard that the report was well received (hence I presume the quality was adequate), but in this post, I wanted to talk a little bit how we worked to get this down, and why that helped us (me) to write a better report/message.

Read on ...

The kanban blessing


This week have been a long list of firsts for me, as I have been in China (1st time) and done a full week of training and coaching at a remote client (1st) and also been away from my family for a pro-longed week (sadly not first but seldom).

I have also signed a lot of books (1st) and I started to come up with some small sentences of wishing good luck and success for the people I signed the book for. Putting them all together they became a nice blessing for people using kanban and lean thinking in their work life. Ah, well others too, of course but they would discover the value of my wishes through some pain.

Read on ...

When we used user story mapping to plan our move


User story mapping is a very powerful tool by Jeff Patton and I have used it many times in IT context. With a user story map you list the steps of a user journey in your system on top and then list out the details of each of these steps below (see the picture below because this explaination doesn’t really give the tool justice).

An example of a user story map, stolen with pride from Jeff Pattons site,http://jpattonassociates.com

This is awesome but one of the things that I always gets hanged up on when doing this is the incremental part of fleshing out the details.

I wanted to share one situaton when we created an user story map for a very non-IT situation and I learned a bit on what incremental means.

Read on ...

Two stories I often tell on WIP as a process improvement tool


Work in process (WIP) limits is a powerful, lightweight tool to not only improve your process flow but also to find further improvements in your process. I consider it widly underused but hugely impactful.

Often when WIP limits are introduced we miss the point of them being the driver for further process improvement, but rather focus on what our WIP limit should be, or how we are going visualize it on our board. So I often share a story on how that can work.

I realize that I’m turing into an old man… I have, for many years now, being telling and retelling the same story so many times that people around me don’t stop me anymore.

At the same time I sometimes forget some of those stories. So I thought I’d better write them down before I lose it altogher.

Read on ...

My obsession with teams


I love working in teams, when I get the chance. There are a few teams that I’ve been in that still lives vividly in my mind. The way you feel togetherness and trust in teams are awesome.

But lately a thought has slipped into my mind; are teams always the best grouping of people to complete a task? What if I’m in more than one team? What kind of team feeling will that give me and the others in the team? What is a number one team?

And; just writing this post feels like blasphemy after 12+ years of promoting teams as the optimal way to work together.

Just to be clear - I still think it’s awesome, but maybe not always best for the situation at hand. </storm of angry comments from agile people avoided>

Read on ...