Agile in an Hour

hourclock

For some mysterious reason the Leads got ‘volunteered’ to run a Brown Bag session on Agile. This was to last no more than an hour and was advertised as:

This session will bring a dynamic IT trio together (G, J and P) to introduce the business to the Agile methodology and its applicability.

 As most of you are aware, Agile is the preferred method used by our Software Delivery Team to deliver software products. Agile is a time boxed, iterative approach to software delivery that builds software incrementally from the start of the project, instead of trying to deliver it all at once near the end. It works by breaking projects down into little bits of user functionality called user stories, prioritising them, and then continuously delivering them in short two week cycles called iterations.

 However, Agile approach can and has been used in our daily tasks as well and with some innovative twist, it can be applied to many different areas. G, J and P have prepared a little fun, interactive workshop for everyone interested, so bring your enthusiasm and creativity along!

(We also had N as we are in fact a dynamic IT quartet)

So we have a whole Hour to describe the Agile methodology and present it in a “Fun” and “Interactive” way…  Oh dear.

I Love it when a Plane comes Together

The team sat down and tried to work out how we could explain Agile in an Hour and throw some sort of interactive activity to hopefully illustrate some of the concepts in a “Fun” way.

We leapt on the Agile Airplane game (http://gistlabs.com/2011/06/agile-airplane-game/) as a potential candidate – but the running time for this was around two hours… Add in a bit of chat about where and what and how Agile works, a wrap up/questions bit and we estimated we had 30 minutes to actually run the activity.

How to make a paper plane

Plane Paper

So out with the metaphorical scissors and we trimmed the game down to a couple of Sprints which would (we hoped) illustrate some of the key concepts of an Agile method including:

  • Iterative Approach
  • Self-Organising Teams
  • Work Planning and Prioritisation
  • Retrospectives
  • Making Paper Aeroplanes

No Plane Survives Contact with the Enemy

So we had a plan – and when we saw the attendees list we were able to spot two  IT Team members were coming along (free food always attracts IT staff) and they were shanghaied into being guinea pigs (as in a rare moment of clarity we decided to test the modified game out first) and then Product Owners when we actually ran the Brown Bag activity.

Turns out it was a very good moment of clarity having a test run first. We discovered that there was no way we could produce the suggested 15 planes that would constitute a batch in the 4 minutes the work of each sprint was to take, and we needed to make sure that the teams would have enough time to demo and then discuss (retro) the next sprint.

The batch size was dropped to 4 Easy or 2 Hard to give Teams a fighting chance and we set out the Time Boxes like so:

Activity Time
Sprint 1 Questions and Planning 2 Minutes
Sprint 1 Work 4 Minutes
Sprint 1 Demonstration 8 Minutes
Sprint 2 Retrospection and Planning 2 Minutes
Sprint 2 Work 4 Minutes
Sprint 2 Demonstration 8 Minutes

giving us a little wiggle room…

In addition we were able review what the rules of the game to flesh out what the “Product Owners” would be able to offer in the way of advice and support to the teams.

Time to Kick the Tyres and Light the Fires

Take Off and Fly

G in Full Flight

G kicked off with a great (but rapid) introduction to Agile in general and Scrum in particular, setting out the principals and illustrating the various aspects of the  Scrum Framework.

We then launched into the activity – a short scene setting (we’re a startup looking to disrupt the paper plane building industry…) and the timer for for Sprint 1 was activated. The 4 teams (as we sort of expected) dived straight into paper plane production (we had kindly supplied 4 different designs – 2 easy and 2 hard) and before they knew it time was up (we had a $10 overtime fine for anyone caught working after the Sprint End). The Teams then demoed the flight characteristics of their planes to everyone before the individual Product Owners quality checked each team’s work.

Test Flight

Test Flight

And the results if the first Sprint were…

Team G produced no accepted batches, Team P didn’t submit any batches, Team M produced no accepted batches and Team S produced… no accepted batches. Suddenly there was a realisation that this may be trickier than it first appeared.

The Teams then had 2 minutes to consider the 1st Sprint (a sort of Retro) and plan for the second – this produced some fevered team discussion with much waving of hands and pieces of paper. And then we were off. Sprint 2 was counting down…

Work in Progress

So the pointy end goes at the front?

So after the Second Sprint the great news was all the Teams managed to produce at least 1 accepted batch of planes but we had a clear winner in Team P who where duly awarded shiny medals for their achievements.

Results

The Top Gun Results

G then wrapped up the session, giving some sources for additional reading, answering questions and taking the attendees to visit a real life Scrum Board in the IT area.

Bingo Fuel*

We certainly demonstrated the benefits of the Iterative approach with teams clearly seeing how the ability to get early feedback, reflect and adapt (demo and retro) produced real results. One aspect that is often overlooked but was well received was the Self Organising aspect of Agile. The concept of the team owning the work rather than being told what (and how) to do it is a tricky idea to describe and actually having to do this opened a few eyes. Finally everyone came away with a new idea for building paper planes.

We’ve had really good feedback from the session and  I really think that we managed to at least give people a flavour of Agile and the benefits.

Thanks also to M and S for accepting their shanghaiing!

* Bingo Fuel: “A pre-briefed amount of fuel for an aircraft that would allow a safe return to the base of intended landing”

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