Module 1: Week 10: Agility

When I think about Agile the key things that spring to mind are iterative delivery, focus on value, ability to adapt, and change direction and collaborative working.

The thing that I found most interesting about the course content this week was when Belinda Waldron on the Agile Movement and Practice. “You can apply agile in so many different ways, Agile by name agile by nature, you don’t adopt agile you adapt it” (Waldron n.d.). During my career in Project Management, I have had experience delivering change using Kanban, Scrum, SAFE, and Lean. I have found that there are barriers to being agile purest in an already established company or function. In my practice, I have also found that it is difficult to fully adopt Agile as a solo practitioner.

This week the 2 elements of Agile Practice that I am focusing on are estimation and user stories.

Agile Estimation

Is based on how many story points can be delivered in a fixed time period. To effectively estimate you need to understand the team’s velocity which their capacity is to deliver the story points. Velocity and estimation improve overtime as the more iterations are delivered the velocity can be validated

Story Points

Story Points are the relative effort required to deliver a story, “Story points are not about the complexity of developing a feature; they are about the effort required to develop a feature”. (Cohen,n.d.)

Relative size is often used to estimate the size of a story, where you place stories side by side and deciding which is larger. (S. RC, 2020)

Planning Poker

When I completed Certified Scrum Master Training in 2016 the estimation technique that was taught was planning poker. Planning poker uses a combination of relative sizing and the Fibonacci sequence. It can be done using a pack of cards or with mobile applications. Each developer is asked to provide an estimate based on the sequence detailed below:

  • 0 (Done), ½ (xxs), 1 (xs), 2 (s), 3 (sm), 5 (m), 8(ml), 13 (l), 20, 40 (XL), 100 (XXL), <infinity>

T-shirt size

This is simpler technique is useful to employ with large backlogs. It is a two-step process for the delivery team. Firstly, a general discussion about the size of a user story, secondly each participant would provide a t-shirt size ranging from extra small (XS) to extra extra-large (XXL). The larger the size the longer it will take to deliver. (S. RC, 2020)

In my experience with estimating in industry in both planning poker and T-shirt sizing, if there is a discrepancy with estimates, a further discussion takes place until there is a consensus.

Dot Voting

Dot Voting is applied to support prioritisation. It is a group activity where participants are given an equal number of dots stickers. They are presented with options and asked to place stickers on the option that appeals most, the item with the most stickers is prioritised first, then it becomes a sliding scale. (S. RC, 2020)

I have found dot voting to be a great technique that can be used outside of estimation, for example in my work experience in project management I have used it with teams to gain a better understanding of risk. It is a good way to prompt a discussion, regarding why importance is placed on certain items and not others.

The Bucket System

“The bucket system is an estimation technique used for a large number of backlog items that starts from a small to medium-sized with a large group of participants” (Anooja & Rajawat, 2018). Create buckets based on the Fibonacci series, place the backlog item in the bucket that fits with the effort required to deliver the story. Once all items have been placed in their relative buckets the story points for each item are estimated and applied. ( Tech Agilest, 2021)

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that there is merit in all the techniques however they rely on collaboration. I have considered how these techniques could be adapted for an autonomous practitioner.

I read a case study called Agile Solo which cantered on a solo developer with a customer and manager. The approach to Agile Solo was 1-week sprints and demos. Prioritising what is most important to the customer to be finished first. Breaking down tasks and include estimated time to completion and record actual time to completion and then reconciling it. Application of the Pomodoro technique was recommended to fill the void of not being able to do paired programming. (NYSTRÖM, A., 2011)

A student called Francesco Cirillo invented the Pomodoro technique in the 1980s. It is employed to assist with individual time management at a granular level. The benefits of utilizing this technique are improved concentration and reduce distractions and interruptions. You make a detailed list of tasks and prioritise them. You set a timer for 25 minutes which is the length of a Pomodoro, between each Pomodoro you take a short break after the fourth Pomodoro take a longer break. (NYSTRÖM, A., 2011)

In my future endeavours, I plan to apply T-shirt sizing and story points along with the Pomodoro technique. I will use a Kanban tool to track progress throughout the sprint and will record the time taken. I will use this data to calculate my velocity. Hopefully applying this rigour will improve my time management and estimation.

Challenge Brief

“Choose one of the artefacts you have worked on in the previous two rapid ideation sessions, and create a single persona that might identify with your chosen artefact.”

For this brief I am using my Eco Conscious App prototype that I developed during the second rapid ideation. I had already created a user persona; this exercise is an opportunity to develop that further. In the Design Thinking Playbook, the authors stress the importance of imaging the user persona as a real person. “People have experiences, a life, a career, preferences, and private and professional interests. The primary goal is to find out what their true needs are” (Lewrick, Link, Leifer and Langensand, 2018). The aim of the user persona is to understand the users needs in greater detail, if this is overlooked although the demographic information may be the same the users could be exceptionally different.

After creating a persona, the next step is to verify that the user exists. To this end I contacted a friend who I felt represented my end user, I described the application and asked her about her views.

Details required for your persona:

  • Name: Fern
  • Role: Art Therapist
  • Brief description: She is a creative free sprit who loves travel. She lives in a very rural location and feels connected to nature and enjoys walking her sheep dog Robin.  She is really into vintage clothing and charity shops.
  • Key quote: “To be honest I have no idea what my carbon footprint actually is and I would love to educate myself more on this subject. I have noticed a few brands placing CO2 emissions on their packaging and I really love that. Learning how I can manage my environmental impact is important to me.
  • Demographic information
  1. Age: 30 -35 years old
  2. Marital Status: Married
  3. Hobbies: Art, travel, socialising, craft
  • Users Goals:
  • Understand her current carbon footprint
  • Learn about what is contributing to her carbon footprint
  • Reduce her environmental impact with adapting her lifestyle and carbon off-setting

Sources

Lewrick, M, Link, P, & Leifer, L 2018, The Design Thinking Playbook : Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses and Ecosystems, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, Newark. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [29 April 2021].

Measey, P 2015, Agile Foundations : Principles, practices and frameworks, BCS Learning & Development Limited, Swindon. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [29 April 2021].

S. RC, (2020) ‘Estimation Techniques in Agile Software Development’, Thesis Submitted Fulfilment of the Requirement for the Master Degree in Applied Computer Science, Available at: https://hiof.brage.unit.no/hiof-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2671103/Sandeep%20RC.pdf?sequence=1 (Accessed 29 April 2021).

Tech Agilest, 2021. Bucket System – Agile Estimation Method. Available at: <https://www.techagilist.com/agile/scrum/bucket-system-agile-estimation-method/&gt; [Accessed 29 April 2021].

NYSTRÖM, A., 2011. Agile Solo Defining and Evaluating an Agile Software Development Process for a Single Software Developer. Masters. University of Gothenburg. Available at: https://publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/147143.pdf (Accessed 29 April 2021).

WALDOCK, B. ca. 2021. ‘Week 10: Belinda Waldock on the Agile Movement and Practice’. [GD710 module content]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/911/pages/week-10-belinda-waldock-on-the-agile-movement-and-practice?module_item_id=49212 [accessed 29/04/2021].

2021. [image] Available at: <https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-black-sports-bra-and-black-leggings-doing-yoga-4324052/&gt; [Accessed 29 April 2021].

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