Agile In Atlanta – PMBOK to LWOK
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Calgary APLN Planning Session

Aplnlogo Last week we had the planning session for the 2007/2008 Calgary APLN Chapter. The goal was to create a prioritized list of topics to explore this season and demonstrate some of the values and practices of agile project leadership along the way.

We started by using the Speedboat game in small groups to identify impediments and propellers towards our goal of “Connecting, developing, and supporting great project leaders”. Speedboat is a group exercise for “Issue” and “Enabler” brainstorming that can be used with any group. It helps people to clarify goals, air their concerns, and suggest options for avoiding risks and moving forward. My colleague and co-host for the session, Janice Aston, wrote up these useful notes on using Speedboat and the outputs from the group.

Download Speed_Boat_Instructions.doc

Download Session_Results_10-17-07.doc

I previously wrote an account on Speedboat and other Innovation Games in an earlier post.

Following the Speedboat exercise we brainstormed presentation topics for the upcoming year. The thought process was: “Given the issues and enablers you just identified with agile leadership, what are the topics you would most like to see presented and discussed this year?”

Each group wrote ideas on sticky notes and we then posted them on the wall. Went through an affinity grouping exercise that sorted them into themed groups and removed duplicate suggestions. We all then went through a dot voting exercise where we assigned three votes among the topic suggestions. The topics and votes counts (shown in brackets) are shown below:

Using Agile on distributed teams (7)
Team commitment / motivation / accountability (6)
How to decompose large programs into agile projects (6)
Mapping PMI Framework to Agile best practices (5)
Fitting agile into the constraints imposed by the business model (funding, timelines, resources) (5)
How do we get the business to adopt agile projects as a priority (5)
Managing Expectations of project team and customer (5)
What is Agile (4)
How to build a business case to sell agile to traditional management (4)
How QA/BA roles fit in agile projects (4)
New tools, techniques, books (4)
Agile earned value (4)
Estimating tools and techniques (points, other methods) (4)
Cultural change from waterfall to agile (Problems and solutions) (2)
Highlighting how our agile methods promote early business value and risk reduction (2)
Empirical metrics and knowledge which highlight benefits of agile techniques (2)
Fixed Price contracts (2)
Collaboration tools (what's out there, how to use them) (2)
Team dynamics and team building (2)
Agile tools and techniques from a project owner/customer perspective (2)
Building faith in the process (1)
Business Analysis and Requirements Analysis (1)
How do you dovetail agile into other PM methodologies (1)
Agile and small projects (1)
Measurement of success (1)
Best fit differences between a scrum master and a project manager (1)
TDD case histories (1)

The highest ranked suggestions that received 4 or more votes will form the basis for this year’s presentation topics. It is interesting to note what is peaking people’s interest and requirements for advice.

With Calgary’s near zero unemployment, high living costs, and skilled labour shortage, it is no surprise that more companies are using distributed teams and wanting advice on how to use agile in this context. Fortunately we have some good ThoughtWorks people in town and they have offered to share their experiences on the topic.

The other high ranked topics split nicely into technical topics (splitting large programs, PMI to agile mapping, etc) and people based topics (Team motivation, business buy-in, managing expectations, etc). This should provide plenty of variety for the presentations and allow good discussion on both the mechanics and humanistic elements of leading projects.

Agile Principles
We had about 40 people take part in the planning meeting. Some are very experienced in agile methods others were new to the field. We hoped to demonstrate the agile concepts of:

  • Working from a prioritized requirements list (our list of topics)
  • User participation and giving them control over topic prioritization (via their elicitation and dot voting)
  • Devolution of planning and risk management (user involvement in topic selection and Speedboat exercise)
  • Timeboxed development (the Speedboat and topic brain storming were timeboxed)

We did the same last year and it worked well for the group. One enhancement I would like to introduce this year is a periodic reprioritization of the topic list. The attendees that help define the topics might not represent the bulk of the audience that attend the sessions. In which case we will be delivering user set A’s requirements to user set B who may not be that interested in these topics.  Either at the meetings or on the CalgaryAPLN site we will have to determine some voting structure.

Thanks to everyone who attended the event, your interaction with other attendees and contributions are really appreciated. I am looking forward to a year of exciting and engaging presentations.


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