Thursday, September 16, 2010

October - Author Lyssa Adkins on Deprogramming Project Managers

Join us Wednesday, October 6th at 6 P.M. in Irvine for "Essential Deprogramming for Project Managers" with respected author, speaker and trainer Lyssa Adkins.

Lyssa Adkins is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), Project Management Professional (PMP), and Six Sigma Green Belt (SSGB). She is also a professionally trained Co-Active Coach. Adkins has over fifteen years’ project experience, and has been a large-scale program manager and director of Project Management Offices. For the last four years, she has been coaching teams in the financial services industry and coaching coaches who hail from across the Agile spectrum, from small consulting firms to large enterprises. Lyssa was a keynote speaker at the 2010 Scrum Gathering conference in Orlando, given a full-day for her deep-dive workshop on coaching. She was also a panelists on the PMO Roundtable facilitated by Jesse Fewell, founder of the PMI Agile Community of Practice. Later this year, she will be giving a full day tutorial at Agile Development Practices East Conference.

Adkins’ book, Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition was published earlier this year. It has a perfect 5 Star rating on Amazon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

September 2010 meeting

The September 2010 meeting of the APLN-OC chapter will focus on the continued utility of physical taskboards to track and communicate development project details.

We will meet Thursday, September 9 at the Automobile Club of Southern California, 3333 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa 92626. The meeting is in the Rancho Cucamonga training room, which is a new location for us. When you see the signs for “Credit Union” and “Purchasing” on the ACSC campus, you have found the place. You may find the site map below helpful. “North” on this map is to the right, if you are as confused as I have been by this graphic. The meeting will start at 6:00 PM, doors open for refreshments at 5:30. We should wrap up by 8:30 PM or earlier.

With virtual tools proliferating, Bachan Anand will lead a discussion on physical taskboards. Why do physical taskboards remain important? How can they be used most effectively? In what other settings are physical taskboards also effective?

Taskboards help to get the team engaged, increase process transparency and foster collaboration. How can taskboards be structured to provide maximum benefit to the team? How can taskboards provide more value for other stakeholders and roles, the ScrumMaster, Product Owner and organizational management?

This session will benefit existing Agile professionals as well as current and prospective Agile team members. By setting a stake in the ground on physical taskboards, we will attempt to organize a future meeting to present and discuss how virtual taskboard equivalents and project management tools fit into the complete picture.

As an added bonus, we will be raffling off a copy of Lyssa Adkin's new book, Coaching Agile Teams to attendees In addition, a 50% discount off the normal fee for Lyssa's upcoming CSM class October 7-8 in Santa Ana will be presented to a fortunate attendee.

Monday, July 5, 2010

APLN Mtg - July 15th - Innovation Games

Next APLN meeting is on Innovation Games! On Thursday, July 15th, bring your Product Owners and Product Managers to see an exciting new way to determine the road map and features for your product. ScrumMasters and team members can get more connected to the vision and empowering their development work.

From Innovation Games site: "Innovation Games® Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play will be indispensable for anyone who wants to drive more successful, customer-focused product development: product and R&D managers, CTOs and development leaders, marketers, and senior business executives alike."

David Sheriff, Innovation Games Trained Facilitator and Certified Scrum Product Owner, will be leading the session.

More details to come!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Work'em Hard, Burn'em Out

Agile was fashioned to make developer's lives better, thus making them enormously more productive. It is frequently observed that development teams get so fast they can run product marketing and product management folks right out of ideas. I overheard someone at 2010 Scrum Gathering opine that product management has difficulty with Agile because it makes them work for a change. Incendiary stuff.

Scrum specifically defines a single product owner for each development team. This person has a lot to do. They define releases. They represent enterprise business value. They help the team envision the big picture so the team knows where it's headed. They write user stories to encapsulate functionality. They prioritize the stories so the team works on the most important things all the time. They use ROI to rank user stories. They groom the backlog of stories to reflect new information. They are constantly available to help when the team needs more detail or finds a hole in the stories being worked. They accept or reject the team's output on behalf of the enterprise. They help buffer the team from bright new ideas so the team is not distracted during a sprint. And then there's all the stuff I left out.

Scrum wisely permits only one product owner per team. A "single throat to choke" is one of the less pleasant ways to explain this. All competing ideas and priorities funnel through one individual. Presumably an individual will not hold mutually contradictory ideas. Presumably the product owner operates from hard data on what the market values right now. Hard data, not personal opinion, accurately reflects reality. If a judgement call is required, presumably the product owner is most likely to be right. Finally, presumably one person can smoothly juggle all of the above.

Pragmatic Marketing's Barbara Nelson questioned that assumption at the APLN OC April 6 meeting. She mentioned an executive who valued razor sharp product management people. When the razors got dull, as they inevitably did in his organization, this executive went looking for new razors. Oops, we have a sour note. Scrum is designed so developers can work 40 hour weeks. No more death marches. If we are now burning through good product owners, we have just shifted the constraint.

Scrum does not detail the product owner's relationship with the world outside the team. If one person cannot stay on top of all the details, presumably that individual is part of a marketing organization that can. Like all good developers, Scrum only defines the product owner / team interface. What happens on the enterprise side of that interface is someone else's problem.

Maybe that's what comes after Scrum. Something else with a crazy name that organizes all the product owner stuff into a cross-functional team. Something that splits up the load, does all the research, analysis and strategy while focusing into development like one person. Just think, product owners could work 40 hour weeks. In my lifetime, you think. Well, wait. We now see developers as creative artists and development as a team activity. "Creative" isn't found in every product owner's job description?

Friday, March 19, 2010

April 6 Meet: Barbara Nelson, Pragmatic Marketing

Barbara Nelson's talk is entitled "The Role of Product Management When Development Goes Agile." With more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, Barbara Nelson is an evangelist for market-driven products and has been an instructor for Pragmatic Marketing since 2000.

Prior to joining Pragmatic Marketing, Barbara served in product management and marketing positions for an enterprise accounting and finance software company, launching several products following the Pragmatic Marketing Framework. As vice president of product marketing, she worked closely with product managers, marketers and developers, showing the value of using market facts over opinions. She attributes her success to actively listening to the market, building products people want to buy.

Pragmatic Marketing's "Framework" is claimed to be the worldwide standard for successful product management. It defines the roles and responsibilities for 60,000 product management and marketing professionals at 5,000 companies in 23 countries.

If you are unfamiliar with the training and certification Pragmatic Marketing offers, this is an excellent opportunity to gain information.

The meeting is Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 6:00 PM

Kelley Blue Book
Aston Martin Conference Room
217 Technology
Irvine, CA 92618

Food will again be provided starting at 5:30 courtesy of Technisource.

The meeting will be posted as a LinkedIn event. Please RSVP there so we have a headcount for meeting preparation.

You can download this single sheet flyer. Print and hand out to invite others or post locally.

You can connect with Barbara:


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Product Camp SoCal 2/28, My Notes

LFP*: Just my personal takeaways, no institutional ownership implied or intended.

On resume: It's not really about you. Lead with benefits for prospective employer. Research / Interviewing: ask "why is this requirement critical NOW?" The first answers you hear may not be the root cause of the opportunity. Present yourself as the solution to the root cause.

On sticking your foot in the door: To find a company email format, ie "", search * To find a title at a company, search "title" + companyname.

On creating your personal value proposition: are you a Vitamin or Painkiller? People buy vitamins with discretionary funds and buy painkillers in good times and bad. Catchy. "Better" is nice, "Significantly better" is differentiating. How do you do that vitamin to painkiller transform again?

On wireframes: Visio is fast and painless compared to other graphics-ware. Avoid re-invention: Search web for custom Visio stencils which may apply to your situation. (Personally, Visio has been my first graphics choice since the mid 90's. Still using 5.0. Suppose I should upgrade to the MS version?

On your career as a product: Everyone should roadmap their career. Nice thought. However, do you know anyone who's career followed a roadmap? My take: opportunity presents out of nowhere and not all that often. Recognize opportunity and be more ready to jump than not. Sometimes things will go badly. Pick yourself up. . . .

On voting with stickydots: I suspect this makes attendees "pile on" to ensure first tier offerings go early and they can get home. No objective research behind this conclusion whatever. On the "meetup:" well worth my time. Advise you plan to attend next time. "Un-conference:" right. This reveals organization by marketing types (am one so I can recognize)

On anthropology and marketing: a complete mind-blower. The title may not have been voter friendly. By all means keep offering this session until I get some ideas I can apply without professional assistance.

On Pragmatic Marketing and Agile: Be certain your proposed software addresses problems the customer is looking to solve. What you (your CEO, whatever) think is (final-successwise) beside the point. Poorly thought-through user stories will crash on an Agile team. Agile teams move fast; they will run you out of ideas if you haven't done your homework and do not have real customers from which to solicit further detail. "Thought Leadership" is the best two-word complex process description I've seen in a long time. Pragmatic owns product marketing and sells it one seminar at a time. Best business model ISIALT.

On social media: Sprinkles. Quantcast. Filterbox. Radian6. Actually, she said Radian7, but the fact check department couldn't find it. Wow, Virginia, you can quantify the impact of social media.

happy to be here, thanks

David Sheriff

*legal fine print

Monday, March 1, 2010

Update on Thursday's Meeting

There will be food provided at 5:30, thanks to Technisource, who is sponsoring sandwiches and drinks for our group. Technisource provides job seekers with multiple employment options, while delivering a wide range of IT staffing and technology solutions to help clients maximize their technology investments.

Correction on the parking - please note that there are some spaces that are “Reserved” and that reserved spaces are enforced 24x7 (as opposed to the reserved parking section which is only in force until 5:00 pm). Also, the entrance is off South Coast Drive, not off Fairview Road, as mentioned.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

March Meeting at AAA

The March APLN meeting will be on Thursday, March 4th, 6 P.M. at 3333 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA (Automobile Club of Southern California). The conference room for the meeting is in the “C” building (see image). The entrance is between the “A” and “C” buildings. You may park in the “Reserved” or “Carpool” sections of the lot, which are the closest to the building, because the restrictions on parking are only enforced until 5:00 P.M.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February APLN Mtg Notes

Due to a Kaiser policy, there was no presentation, but good conversation around several topics ensued around large agile adoption.

One recommendation was to use coaches and train all team members, as noted in a post on Yahoo's Scrum adoption. See Lessons from Yahoo Scrum Adoption for more.

Also, some talked about on large, complex projects, that getting good, thin slices of end-to-end feature/functionality is crtical, and difficult. See Elephant Carpaccio and Walking Skeleton.

Another topic brought up was what a snarky Scrum, where the ScrumMaster and team are prideful and arrogant in their interaction with the rest of the organization because the Scrum team are the elightened ones doing what's right, and everyone else is not smart enough to understand.

Others also described, and warned those looking to adopt Scrum, of the problems with ScrumBut.

Also, for environments of continuous changes, such as product support or operations, Kanban might be a good approach.

A question, and spirited debate, occurred around what is pair programming, what is the value and how do you sell it to management?

We also discussed the improvement (60–90% drop in defect density for some teams) from using Test Driven Development (TDD) documented in a Microsoft paper.

Agile project management tools were touched on, including Rally, Mingle, ScrumWorks, VersionOne, SeeNowDo and Microsoft TFS.

Also, the Scrum Gathering in Orlando is coming up - March 8-10.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

February Meeting Details

The next APLN meeting will be on Thursday, February 4th at 6 PM, hosted by Neudesic at 8105 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.

February's topic will be an experience report from Kaiser Permanente's multi-team, dual shore mega-project to replace its pharmacy system. The project included:
  • introducing Scrum
  • running under a formal PMO structure
  • ramping up eight teams
  • several vendors
  • training offshore teams in Chennai, India
  • using embedded coaches
  • implementing an enterprise agile project management tool

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lyssa Adkins on Coaching

Lyssa Adkins' presentation "What is an Agile Coach" at the Orange County APLN was great. Lyssa is the author of the upcoming book "A Companion for Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and Project Managers in Transition" from the Mike Cohn Signature Series.

She started off the session with a great exercise of having all the attendees go around and tell other people one thing they loved about agile, one thing they hated. She said this helped with modes of communication and encouraged everyone to get up at work, even in small groups.

Some of the items she brought up were that an agile coach has to learn to be detached from outcomes, take issues to the team, be a mirror, master your face, allow and be okay with silence, model being outrageous (what holds teams back, so be wild to get around what they can accept) and be freed from assumptions.

She also said to be willing to let the team fail. Don't save them from themselves. Some of our best learning comes from failures, and sometimes only from failures.

Be their biggest fan, but don't complement them on the good job they did. The work ebbs and flows. That's far less important than how they are doing on being a good team.

We want those we coach to be unleashed as a human being.

We also want developers to be solid developers. A great slide of hers read "Craftsmanship matters. Period." Software developers' career path can go to Tech Lead (XP is the way) and then to XP Coach, and the people stuff matters.

She also described the roles of Bulldozer, Shepherd, and Servant Leader, noting that "You'll make sure that people leave you better than they arrived", and Guardian of quality and performance.

There are changes to go through, such as switching from:
  • coordinating individual contributions towards coaching the whole team for collaboration
  • being a subject matter experts to a facilitator
  • invested in outcomes to invested in performance
  • knowing answer to asking team for answer
  • directing to letting them find their way
  • stop driving, to start guiding

There are aspects to the coach of being facilitator, teacher, coach-mentor, conflict navigator, collaboration conductor, and problem solver.

Personal retrospectives were noted as being a helpful tool. On that not, she asked the group to reflect personally if in each of several areas they "promoted" or "inhibited":
  • self-organization
  • being consensus driven
  • team success
  • trust
  • owns decisions and commitments
  • team believes they can solve any problem
  • empowerment
  • constructive disagreement
Click to view or download Lyssa Adkins' presentation on agile coaching. Also, more information can be found on her site for 1-on-1 coaching, Scrum training, upcoming speaking events, as well as her blog.

Monday, January 18, 2010

APLN Coordination Mtg - 1/21

We're moving the start time back to 6:30 P.M., this Thursday, January 21st. Get involved and help shape the Orange County APLN. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1/21 Coordinating Commitee Mtg

On January 21st some of us will be getting together to talk about how best to foster the APLN OC community, how to keep it active and vibrant, relevant and useful. Together we decide on the next couple of events, and on this occasion we will also be talking about new ways to support your agile endeavors and help you achieve your goals.

You are welcome to join in the fun of building a community. Bring your ideas and figure out with the group how to make them happen. This is an opportunity to be a "part of" and help shape and influence the local agile community.

We are meeting at the Starbucks in the new community across from The Spectrum - 38 Prism Place, Irvine, CA. We will start at 6 P.M. and try to finish at a reasonable hour.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More on APLN OC - January 7th

The January APLN OC meeting will be Thursday, January 7th. The speaker, Lyssa Adkins, is a Certified Scrum Trainer and an Agile Coach, PMP and Six Sigma Green Belt. She is also a professionally trained Co-Active Coach which gives the skills to coach people one-on-one. She has over 15 years’ project management expertise, including time as a former large-scale program manager and director of Project Management Offices

For the last four years, she has been coaching teams in the financial services industry and coaching coaches who represent the gamut of Agile implementations, from small consulting firms to the giants of industry.

She is passionate about deepening the roles in Agile – specifically Agile Coach and Agile Manager – to help Agile move into its fullest expression.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Meeting Address

The meeting address is at Kelley Blue Book, 217 Technology Drive, Irvine. The meeting will begin at 6 P.M.