The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.


Scrum based funding model – 20 percent

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics

Sorry for the long pause between blog posts.  I’ve been traveling way too much lately.  This week I was excited to participate in the Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas (you can search through twitter utilizing this hashtag #sglas).

I saw many industry colleagues and re-connected with folks like Lyssa Adkins whom I hadn’t seen in a year or more.  I attended a number of sessions and I had two favorites.  One was on removing impediments with drawings, see: where I will do a write up on that session in a later blog post.
My other favorite will be the focus of this blog post.  It was the keynote session by Jeff Sutherland, PhD and co-Creator of the Scrum framework.  The topic was called Scrum: The Future of Work
The thing that caught my ear about his talk was his concept of moving to a 20% funding model for new product development teams (see slide number eight here:  That is to say, stop funding projects at the 100% level.  Instead, businesses can quintuple down their business bets by investing 20% of their money across five different projects. The portfolio managers, Uber POs, business stakeholders can stop incrementally at the 20% stage of the budget cycle to re-evaluate and re-organize teams by examining the business delivered between the five separately funded projects.
The POs of each individual project will be re-evaluated based on value delivery and predictability at only a 20% timeline. At the end of each release or budget cycle – the individual POs can re-request additional money based on the value delivered not on how ‘busy or efficient’ we are keeping individual team members – which in turn keeps prod dev teams continuously pushing hard because they only get 20% of their funding.  It also tests the long held 80/20 rule which states that you can deliver 80% of the value in 20% of the time.  Because the teams are developing vertically your sol’n are ready to get pushed into production at the end of the 20% budget cycle for immediate customer feedback.  If you have a predicable team doing the work you will know how much value you will deliver well ahead of the release and as a portfolio mgr you can make adjustments to your five bets based on that metric not on whether Bob or Sally seem busy today.
What are the pre-requisites to make this work? 
  • Stable cross functional teams with known velocities.  You won’t compare velocities of the team (that’s bad form), but you can compare their relative increases against one another as part of your funding decisions.  From there – you can compare relative velocity growth to the costs of your team to get a cost per feature metric which can then be evaluated against your Earned Value or Agile EV Metrics.   If you aren’t doing this – please do consider calling CollabNet so I can help get this set up for you and your teams.
  • A FOSS based software environment that compliments the elasticity of Cloud Deployment strategies.  A non FOSS environments means having enough commercial licensing in place to meet the demands of autonomous teams using elasticity to map to continuous deployment strategies.  This doesn’t work in most regulated industries so be careful if you have external compliance here.
  • Building in vertical slices so that we can push to deployment and leverage (b) above.
  •  Having the ability to measure ‘business value delivery’ vs. saying ‘efficiency of individuals’ – see the EVM stuff in (a) above.
  • Your accounting team / source of financing needs to be able to re-evaluate investments more often than a yearly budgeting cycle
If you don’t have these prerequisites in place work on getting those in place before trying the above.
Happy scrumming.
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The Next Big Idea

Posted by ewok_bbq under transformation, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago I came across a story by Steve Hartman of a man who rowed his boat from Alberta, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana.  Dominique Liboiron went from Medicine Hat, Alberta to New Orleans, Louisiana by canoe.  This eight month journey totaled over 3,300 miles.  Unbelievable right?

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Why would a rational man do this? It was his way of honoring his best uncle Mitch who had recently passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 42.  You see, Mitch loved New Orleans.  After only a single visit to the City in 1992 Mitch reshaped his life around the New Orleans culture.  Dominique wanted to honor the memory of Mitch and realized after his passing that he needed to seize the moment and make his ‘someday’ visit to New Orleans today.  So, he got into a boat and rowed 3,300+ miles to see for himself what New Orleans was all about and deliver some of Mitch’s ashes to the city.
Today, after reading this think about what you are doing to inspire others around you? Would others follow you on twitter or would they row a boat for eight months to get to a place where they thought you were happiest in life to share the moment again with your spirit?  When trouble comes in business will your network walk away from you or will they put you on their back and help you get through troubled times?

For more on this unbelievable story – click on the video from CBS below.

Interestingly enough many social commentators (e.g. Dan Pink, Tony Robbins) now believe that making progress against a goal that is bigger than you brings happiness.
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On Being Available

Posted by ewok_bbq under transformation, Uncategorized

One of the things I am thinking about and working on is the concept of being more available.

Over dinner, in Tokyo at the regional Scrum Gathering Cope,Julia, Kotaro and I had a great conversation. The premise was on the old saying, “you are either cheap or available.”   Basically, the concept is that if you or your services are cheap, then you are never available.  If however, you are available, then indeed you are expensive and valuable.
Emmanuel Lévinas[1] (French pronunciation: ​[emanɥɛl levinas];[2] 12 January 1906 – 25 December 1995) was a French philosopher and Talmudic commentator of Lithuanian Jewish origin.

Emmanuel Lévinas[1] (French pronunciation: ​[emanɥɛl levinas];[2] 12 January 1906 – 25 December 1995) was a French philosopher and Talmudic commentator of Lithuanian Jewish origin.

When I brought up to Cope that we need to be available he said that when he was with customers he was more than available.  Probably going back to some Emmanuel Lévinas theory of “the responsibility to the Other” Copewants to become one with his customers, to eliminate the a priori  instinct to separate the ‘us vs. them’ and to take on the being of his customers.  He can only do that when he assumes their organizational identity.  And once assumed he is totally emerged into being more than available.  I am sure his customers have benefited greatly from that.  More so then a conf. call from 5,000 miles away trying to spit advise into an unknown situation.
All to often over the past few years I haven’t prioritized my own work life around being available to those that matter most.  Looking back on it, I have, unfortunately, lived an interruption driven work life.  While running Danube, I was usually being interrupted by the crisis of the day or I was under the daily financial stresses.  It didn’t feel great.  Today – I probably take too many phone calls and am in too many conversations that don’t matter that much.  In addition, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking that I am adding value to meetings and conversation threads where my opinions are neither valued or innovative.   For an alternative, maybe I should try what Jurgen Apello does (could any one else get away with this?)
The side effect of being less available is that I can’t do what I want or need to do (e.g. being in a state of flow) or that I push off meaningful, yet less urgent conversations or thoughts, to tomorrow knowing that very well tomorrow may never come.
This year I think I am going to make a promise to myself to do less, but be more available to the customers, employees and friends that matter most. I will give more of myself to less things in an effort.
Is this just wishful thinking? What do you think? I would love to hear from you.
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Happiness Metrics

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile Principles

Happiness Metrics were all the rage (no pun intended) in 2012.  While it sounds really ‘squishy’ and non-empirical, I see this metric coming up again and again with customers I am visiting.

One of my favorite thinkers is Shawn Achor of Good Think.  Shawn spent over 10 years traveling the globe studying people and their behaviors.  Here’s what he found:

Success does not make you happy

  1. Achieving your goals can simply result in  moving the goal posts
  2. If happiness is on the  other side of that goal post – you are delaying your happiness indefinitely.
  3. The field research shows Happiness = Successful

You can re-wire your brain in about 21 Days – The Ripple effect will be amazing  (try it on your teams)

  1. Do Random Acts of Kindness
  2. Journal about positive business interactions
  3. Send  unsolicited positive emails to coworkers
  4. Do physical Exercise and Meditation



Watch him in his own words here at his TED Talk:


551608_10151315526287436_1070784083_nIf you are struggling to get started – pick three or four of the 12 listed to the left and start journaling about it.  After three weeks, come back and leave a comment for me on where you’re at.






















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Comfort Zone

Posted by ewok_bbq under transformation

What can this picture tell us about getting outside of our comfort zone?

This picture is of Todd Carmichael.  According to the source of all that is true in this world [] Todd is the first American to cross the Antarctic to the South Pole unassisted, unaided and solo and is now the world recorded holder in terms of speed by an America. The picture above was taken of him shortly after he finished.  #LikeaBoss his official finishing time is now grained in ink across his bicep.  According to his own video journal the distance was 700 miles.  Why would he do this?  According to the documentary that filmed him he did this to emulate his adventure seeking hero’s of yesteryear.
In reading about Todd, and watching his new TV program I  can only think that this man doesn’t live inside his comfort zone.  Its clear that he’s really pushing the envelope everyday and driving himself to be better.
So as you think about getting going in 2013, take time to think about something really really big.  What will you build? How can you transform yourself? How will you innovate a new solution to delight a customer? What will drive you to be the best you can be?
I love to follow folks like Todd.  Anytime I feel like slacking off or giving up, I just think – what would Todd do? :-)
Interested in learning more about Todd’s trip to the South Pole?  Check out the video previews below from Nat Geo.

Upwards and Onwards…. Go! Fight! Win!
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Transformation Strategies – Seth vs. Randy

Posted by ewok_bbq under Scrum Transitions, Uncategorized

It’s New Years Eve and personal and professional transformation seem to be top of mind for most everyone around this time a la (a) goal setting exercises and (b) the obligatory New Years resolutions.

I wanted to offer two different takes on transformation, one is a bottom up and one is top down.  In the bottom up interview the #1 blogger in the world talks about how to make incremental changes through experimentation when you don’t have the authority to change the entire system.  In the top-down interview we hear from a professional CIO how to transform a failing business to be more data driven and innovative.

The first take on transformation is from Seth Godin, the #1 blogger in the world. Here’s Seth Godin’s interview on transformation.  Have a watch. Do you agree or is this characterization oversimplified?



Seth Godin: How do you change the system when you don’t have the power?

Next – have a watrandy_mottch of Uber-CIO Randy Mott. Randy Mott was the CIO of Wal-Mart, Dell as well as HP and is now CIO of GM). In this interview with Information Week where he talks through his transformation playbook:
*Data Driven Decisions
*The Speed Merchant – bringing cycle times down
*Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
*How to move money around to be more around innovation and less around keeping the lights on

He will be in-housing over 8,000 IT jobs to innovation centers to hot tech markets like Austin, Texas or Silicon Valley.

Do you agree with Randy or Seth? What are your guiding goals in 2013? Looking forward to reading your comments.



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Discretionary Energy and Paul O’Neill

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile and Scrum

A few days ago I paul_o_picwatched a CNN special produced by Fareed Zakaria Editor-at-Large of TIME Magazine which featured an interview with the 72nd US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill.  For those who missed the program I wanted to offer a summary of the piece as well as some follow on analysis.  As usual, I encourage all of the readers to submit comments in the comments section below.


Before becoming the 72nd US Treasury Secretary Mr. O’Neill was the CEO of Alcoa.  When he came into the organization, by all accounts Alcoa was lagging behind in terms of both employee morale and revenues and not delighting users.  Instead of focusing on increasing revenues, Mr. O’Neill zeroed in on safety.   At first glance it seemed like a very curious choice and one that did get immediate negative feedback from his management team and some of the long time tenured employees at Alcoa.


So why would a new CEO spend most of his time on an initiative focused on safety?  Really, how would that lead to profit and revenue growth?  The answer is the concept of Discretionary Energy.


Discretionary energy is the amount of attention you are getting from your employees and it speaks to their willingness to be “checked-in” vs. their willingness to be “checked-out” during work hours.  What Mr. O’Neill recognized was that there was a correlation between his employees’ safety violations decreasing and discretionary energy increasing. Amazingly, even with his internal detractors, his theory played out.  What he saw was a huge decrease in safety violations and a huge increase in discretionary energy.


Once the employee base discretionary energy was at a heightened level, Mr. O’Neill could begin leveraging his successful experiment by rolling out additional top-down initiatives that would spur additional activities / yielding results that he wanted.  With employees already going the extra mile and sending additional energy around safety it wouldn’t be a stretch to ask them to do the same around other tasks.


When you go back to work after the first of the year, ask yourself –how much discretionary energy are you spending at work? How much is being asked of you (are you allowing yourself to be checked out)?  And if you are a manager ask yourself, what you can ask your team to focus on that would heighten their discretionary energy levels.



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Do People Matter?

Posted by ewok_bbq under Agile and Scrum, Agile Manifesto, Agile Principles

301770_555175034510479_1019421605_nHopefully the title of this blog post got your attention.  Culture seems to be at the core of what is important these days.  Many authors like Dan Pink, Steve Denning and Jurgen Appelo are making strong cases for the import of recruiting and retention programs as a means of building ground-up innovative companies.  Many of the arguments from these thought leaders have been built on shoulders of the top management thinkers of yesteryear.  Folks like Tom DeMarco who claimed that workers were different than say machines because of humans’ non-fungible characteristics.  If you haven’t read Slack yet, please do go out and buy it.  It’s well worth the money and time and would make a perfect stocking stuffer.

When you do recruiting for your team, what are the criteria’s you choose your candidates by? How highly ranked is culture versus say competence? See what Brad Feld of WSJ has to say here.  Do you agree?

While I was the President and Co-Founder of Danube, I did a lot of the recruiting.  But, really, I only looked at three things.  Here they are in order of priority:

  • Culture Fit.  Our office in Portland was tough.  There were a lot of very strong women working in a collaborative sales environment.  This was very intimidating to many of the salesmen I interviewed who were used to individual quotas and goals [incentive structures are a topic for another blog post I am sure].
  • Type-A personality or a Willingness to make decisions.  Was the person a slacker or a go getter? Really – I have nothing against slackers but I can’t work with them in the business world.  I am simply not interested.   Moreover, I hate it when employees don’t feel empowered to make decisions – big or small.  As I always told employees, I may be temporarily angry with you for a decision you’ve made that I didn’t agree with, but I’ll terminate your employment contract for not making a decision when a decision was called for. I can’t be everywhere always – so the groups I manage need to think for themselves given the nature of the information in front of them and act.
  • Intellectually curious.     I want people who have a thirst and desire to learn new things every moment of every day.  If you’re not having rigorous debates and learning through exploration –you wouldn’t have been a fit at Danube.

You will see that I simply didn’t evaluate based on keyword experiences.  Sure – it matters, but ultimately you can learn just about anything (Salesforce, QuickBooks, Ruby, Scrum, etc).  So – to me, culture is way more important than competence.  Do you agree or do you think that culture isn’t material when building a business? I would love to hear from the readership in the comments section below.




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