Monday, December 19, 2011

Agile Micromanagement, the good and the bad

Jim Highsmith wrote an interesting post about micromanagement. He mentioned Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are good examples of successful product manager micromanagement. I totally agree with that.

He also talks about the Agile process micromanagement. Experiencing both worlds, waterfall and agile as a developer and a manager. I have a strong opinion about it. Agile is all about micromanaging!

Consider these:

  • You are coding and someone is talking about your code as you type it (Pair programming).
  • Every day you stand up and tell the whole group what you did yesterday and what you will be doing today (Daily Scrum meeting).
  • You retrospect about what you did well and what you can improve on (Retrospective)
  • You show everybody exactly which task you are working on and how it is progressing (Visible card wall)
  • You respect work in progress limits (Kanban WIP limit)
  • You make a code commit and let everyone know about it. (Continuous Integration)

The more I think about it, the clear it is to me: Agile is all about micromanagement. The good or bad depend on how people adopt its principles and practices. I have experienced many benefits that come from such micromanagement. In fact, when I look back at all projects I participated on, the projects I consider more successful (people enjoying working, delivered great products and improving the work process) are the ones with lots of micromanagement.

The Weight of the Christmas Cake

At my daughters school they organize a charity event every year. There are all kinds of different foods, games and lotteries were you can spent money for the good cause. Since it is a british school the mandatory guessing of the Christmas cake weight must not be forgotten. 

In Agile and Scrum we praise ourselves about our estimation skills. It is not that we claim to be infallible. No, we also claim that laws in mathematics help us to be precise. One in particular is of interest: The law of large numbers.
The cake weighing proved to be change to put this practice under test.

This year we had 45 guesses and the weight from all the guesses is 3'742 kg. The real weight was 3'520 kg. The guessed weight is 94.1% accurate. Pretty impressive!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A good lightweight recognition exercise for your next Retrospective: tokens of appreciation

Today I read a blog entry which reminded me about a good lightweight exercise I have used in Agile retrospectives very for recognizing and fostering team collaboration.

It is called the token of appreciation. Here is how it works:

  1. Bring a chocolate box to the retrospective
  2. Ask people to form a circle.
  3. You can start as a facilitator by saying: “I would like to give a chocolate for NAME as a recognition on that time when he/she helped me with…
  4. Then you give the chocolate box to that person and ask him to repeat the gesture.

I found this exercise especially useful for end of projects or end of release exercise. The participants usually enjoy it and talk in a positive way about the good things their teammates did and how they appreciate it.

This blog entry about IGN describes another implementation of the same idea: token of appreciation for for recognition. A big difference is that the tokens are not eatable and translate to money. I am interested to hear the drawbacks of this as a bonus policy and alternatives to it.