Friday, October 24, 2014

Challenge best practice?

Idea of best practices is a seductive but dangerous trap. … The great danger in “best practices” is that the practice can get disconnected from its intent and its context and may acquire a ritual significance that is unrelated to its original purpose.

They also inhibit a “challenge everything” culture and continuous improvement—a pillar of lean thinking. Why would people challenge ‘best’? 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Agile: Common sense or misconception?

In our many discussions  we hear the advice that we should use our common sense to tackle the problems, But how good is our common sense? Are we willing to change? Recently i had a discussion with a colleague on an agile practice. This person was not so willing to change because  the common sense dictate  otherwise.  In this fast moving world and always change constraints change is inevitable, most of time we will have to challenge and change the age old common sense to bring the continuous change/improvement.


Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, said, “[...] misconceptions easily turn into common sense. When that happens, the debate can become endless. Or, each side tried to be more outspoken than the other and things do not move ahead at all. That is why there was a time when I was constantly telling people to take a step outside of common sense and think by ‘going beyond common sense.’ Within common sense, there are things that we think are correct because of our misconceptions. Also, perhaps a big reason we do some of the general common sense things we do is that based on long years of experience, we see there are no big advantages to doing things a certain way but neither are there many disadvantages to it. ... we are all human so we’re like walking misconceptions believing that the way we do things now is the best way. Or perhaps you do not think it is the best way, but you are working within the common sense that ‘We can’t help it, this is how things are’”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do we need definition of start (begin)? How is it different from Definition of Done?


We all know about definition of done. It defines a set of conditions which should be satisfied by the feature team during the sprint execution for each Product Backlog Item worked by them. Unless all the conditions are met, the PBI’s won’t be marked as done. This can be called as the exit criteria for each PBI or user story.

Usually apart from the team & PO, the organization and other stakeholders also play a big part in creating them. A well-defined Definition of Done ensures that all the PBI delivered meets the standards and if required can be deployed. As team maturity improves this definition also evolves.

For every exit criteria there should be an entry criteria. I have seen many lazy Product Owners (& scrum Teams) who don’t do a proper job of backlog grooming.  Because of this there will be lot of ambiguity about the upcoming PBI’s. There will be constant churn producing a lot of waste.  Sprint planning will end up in failure because team won’t know how to create tasks for the PBI. A poorly planned PBI will force the team do all the investigation before they can do the actual work, thus wasting their precious time. Sometimes the PO waits till the demo to provide a comment that his intention was something else!!! In this situation team will be forced to redo the PBI in the next sprint.







  • By having a well-defined definition of Begin a lot of confusion can be avoided.
  • Team will know that the PBIs meeting the Definition of Begin will contain all the necessary information. 
  • ScrumMasters job will be easy. They will have a benchmark and can ensure that the team and PO works together to define the PBI.  
  • Team can point this definition to their PO if they don’t do their job.  
  • It will help a new Product Owner to get familiar with the exiting culture and backlog grooming familiar with the team. 
  • This definition helps the organization a lot when they start scaling up 

Each team and company will have to define their own Definition of Begin. Like definition of done this should also evolve.  But ensure that this doesn’t become an inflexible document which could be used for auditing. The primary objective should be to eliminate waste & promote discussion between feature team and Product Owner.

For my backlog I will like to have 

  • A well defined User Story
  • Well defined Conditions of Acceptance (usually in GHERKIN format)
  • if required , UI screen
  • If required, any high level Architecture Diagram (from feature team)
  • Any system constraints  
  • Story Points from the team