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30 March 2017

Meetup notes: An introduction to Scrum

Last night I ran a meetup introducing people to Scrum. Lectures are boring so I made it a game. At a rooftop bar.

Meetups in bars are best. Lucky it wasn't raining.

Agenda on the night

Tools I provided;
  • A printed copy of the Scrum Guide for each table.
  • A copy of my run sheet for the night
  • The picture from Wikipedia of Scrum
I organised people into teams of 3-4. People made this teams of 3-6. People were drifing in for up to an hour from the start time and we joining teams in progress.

The agenda on the night was as follows

1. Form teams, introduce yourselves to each other. Small teams work best. Take a photo of your team and publish it on the meetup site.

2. Focus you conversation tonight by coming up with specific questions your team wants answered.  You must write them down. Post a pic of your questions to celebrate the completion of this milestone.

3. Now, as a team, with the help of the scrum guide, the internet and the people in the teams around you, go answer your questions. When you are done, take a picture of  your answers/and your team celebrating success.

Why this format?

Learning works best when you pull (not push) information. Generating questions and hunting down answers mean the knowledge gained will be more personal, be better retained and be more useful.

Agile teams work best with clear goals and small teams. You practiced working this way.

Ideally you have all the skills you need on your team, but usually you don't. The activity provided this very problem and now you have experience solving it.

Meetups are about fostering a community of people who share with each other. Far better than having an expert stand out front while everyone sits quietly and listens.

It was fun.

What I observed

Most people didn't open the Scrum guide unless prompted. Even though a printed copy was on each table. This reinforces my views on oral traditions being the only ones that matter.

The activity surprised me by being a study on scaling work across multiple teams. Good will and respect for other people's time are all you need to scale. Anyone tells you anything else is selling something.

While most people professed to be absolute novices at the end of the night everyone pretty much said they had their questions answered and their goals for the night satisfied. I think I helped out with two answers and pointing two teams at the Scrum Guide.

So I think it was a successful meetup.

26 March 2017

An NPS Score for business analysts

I ran a second NPS survey on the business analyst community over this last summer. I didn't get nearly as many responses as the last time. (Here is the results of the last survey.)  Below is the analysis from this survey.

Why do a survey on the BA profession?

For me it's a hangover from earlier work with Business Analysts, as well as a general interest in whether the 'BA profession' is changing now that the IIBA is operating to bring people together under a bunch of standards.

So my questions are;

  • Is the BA profession getting more valuable with it's certifications, training and industry standards?
  • Does the introduction of an industry body and standards make a difference to the quality of work people do?

The Survey form

Apart from Demographic question the survey was very straightforward.
  • On a scale of 1-10 how valuable is the contribution of the BA you work with?
  • Why did you give this score?
  • What is your role and industry
  • Who are you customers
The survey doesn't target business analysts as the respondents. It targets the people that work with business analysts.

The survey went out to people via Linkedin and Twitter and ran from December 16 to Feb 17. There are some natural biases in the participant self selection process, but I won't dwell on them here.

The responses

I got 21 responses (last time I got over 100) which I think is partly the result of
  • My diminishing social media presence
  • When I ran the survey
  • The shift in people on agile teams from BA to Scrum master or Product Owner 
  • less people I am connected with on social media are working with business analysts (for example, I no longer work with any)
21 is still a response though and gives some insight.

Almost all the results this time came in from Oceania (Mostly Australia) with just a handful from North America, two from Europe and one from Asia. The American, Europe and Asian results all called out their experience with business analysis as highly positive with advocate level scores.

The NPS scores are represented in the chart above. You can see only one response giving a score of 4 and 5. The majority of scores are between 6-10. In NPS parlance however 6-8 is not good scores. Up to 6 is a negative score. 7-8 are neutral. After all the instrument is measuring how likely people will advocate for your service, not just whether they are satisfied.

Key themes that came though in the comments include the following;

The business analysts people valued did the following
  • Focus the team
  • Ensure goals were clear
  • Partnered with product and software people to prepare and organise the work
  • Organisers of people and knowledge
  • Measure both he product's and their own performance 
Business analysts that were not valued did the following
  • Put process and methods ahead of the work
  • Focused on tasks and transactions rather than value
  • Focus on features rather than the whole solution (eg performance, reliability, security etc)
  • Don't have confidence in their own contribution to the team
  • Don't have real domain knowledge
  • Don;t have real decision making authority

The insights and hypotheses

Your NPS is Three
The first result to note from the results is that the NPS was three. This is up from -six last time I ran it. Don't get excited though the difference in scores could just be the different people that responded. 

If we filter out the non-Australian results we see that the Australian industry generally finds Business Analysts more trouble than they are worth, potentially contributing only administrative and commodity level contributions.

There might be something there though. Things might be getting better. When you read the scores there is less frustration with an overly dogmatic pursuit of process standards and templates. See more below.

Agile teams and business analysts
Additionally there wasn't much chatter about process over content. It looks like that part of the discussion is outside my network or else a mostly solved problem. 

There was a clear sense that 'agile' teams are happier with the contribution of business analysts than non-agile teams. 

It also looks to me that people are doing other roles (eg agile coaching and scrum mastering) on top of the BA work and that the work that lives in those job descriptions is what is being valued.

Perhaps what the BA is doing is leveraging their process knowledge and facilitation skills and aiming them at the delivery team rather than the customer/client. Where I saw the BA being valued there was also often mention of a Product Owner" being on the team also.

Being there
There are obviously issues with the set of respondents. There are biases based upon my network, my geography and the way people select themselves into this survey. There are trends in this response set that probably aren't global, but they probably do represent an industry trend.

What did I learn?

The BA as team coach model is one I have always though wrong based on my notion of what a BA is and should be doing. Maybe that doesn't matter. If talented people can bring skills to bear in a useful way, maybe that's the important thing and job titles are irrelevant.

Further questions

  • What happens of we make this survey really global
  • What happens if we solve the agile bias in my network?

Call to action
Would you like to help me run this survey again next time? Put your name below or message me. I'll be in touch when the time comes.

21 March 2017

How do you as a coach continually improve?

Once upon a time few Agile Coaches got together on Slack channel and were determined to answer how coach can continually improve. Here's a list we came up with:

1. Deliberate practice
2. Experiment
3. Reflection: individual & shared
4. Read
5. From the mistakes (and successes :wink: ) or others
6. Seek coaching
7. Observe other coaches
8. Learn from kids
9. Paired coaching
10. Ask questions
11. Learn from other disciplines or fields
12. Learn from masters
13. Remember to remain humble and curious
14. Experience discomfort
15. Say no
16. Serve others
17. Meditate