Monday, November 29, 2010

Done-Related Story Estimation

In today's Backlog Grooming I tried a new method of estimating user stories. The estimations were based on and related to known done-stories of former sprints. The method is very simple and contains only five steps. 

Step 1: Get user stories from Product Owner

Your Product Owner should be prepared for Backlog Grooming and bring his top-priority stories for discussion and estimation.

Step 2: Select reference stories

Pick a few random stories from your already done stories. Make sure their story points differ enough so a typical mixture of story points is in the set. In today's experiment I chose stories with 3, 5, 8, and 20 points.
Then write a new reference story card for each of them in the following way: write the story on the front of the card and write its story points on the back of the card. Make sure to hide the story points from the team's eyes for now.

Step 3: Sort user stories

Let the team find the right order of old reference stories and new undone stories. You will notice much more comparative conversation on the stories than with playing Planning Poker.

Step 4: Show story points

Now the fun part begins. Turn the reference stories and surprise the team by showing the reference story points.

Step 5: Adjust stories and story points

Let the team discuss if any adjustments are necessary. There will be more conversations on single cards to gain more understanding. Some stories may change due to these conversations. Take care that stories with high points get split properly. In today's example the story at the bottom with 20 points could be discussed and split into two stories. The result was much deeper understanding of the real value for both the team and the Product Owner. 

I'm looking forward to the Sprint Planning meeting next Monday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book: Harrison Owen - Wave Rider

Everyone dealing with self-organizing teams should read this book!

Authors: Harrison Owen

Rating: highly recommended

Have you ever wondered why in a well-defined organization there are always a few "key" people who know how things really do work? Have you ever thought about how to plan and deliver the daily food supplies for several million people? Read this book to find out.

In the first part of this book Harrison Owen offers deep theoretical insights of High Performance Systems, Self-Organization, and Open Space Technology. According to his definition, the three major elements of High Performance are chaos, confusion, and conflict, which lead to wholeness, health, and harmony--be it in small teams or large organizations. He states the necessity of grief work at the end of anything, and that--although highly important--such grief work rarely happens. The reason of missing self-organization is the need of control coming from traditional habits and thinking.

The second part of the book is written for practitioners and shows "eight essential steps for the care and feeding of self-organizing systems":

  1. Do Your Homework Before You Start.
  2. Extend an Invitation.
  3. Come to the Circle.
  4. Welcome Passion, Responsibility, and Authentic Leadership.
  5. Remember the Four Principles.
  6. Observe the Law of Two Feet.
  7. Keep Grief Working.
  8. Formalize the System.
This may sound weird at the first look but it gives a very nice description how Open Space works and how to do it.

The book is an eye-opener and offers so many insights why and how self-organizing systems work. The level of understanding one may reach by reading this book is not restricted to Open Space but is applicable to any organizational structure.