A personal story about validation

February 13, 2007

For the last few months I’ve been remodeling my bathroom, a little bit at a time. One of the easier (though crucial) tasks was to paint the bathroom. In agile terms, this was an epic, as it would take a number of stories to take advantage of my free time. So, the first story was “Buy Paint”. Grace (my wife) and I went to Lowe’s, picked a paint chip, bought the paint, and took it home. Story complete, right?

Well, that weekend, while Grace was away, I painted the bathroom to surprise her. Great job, too, no drips, no spills, no errors… then she comes home. “Too purply,” she says, “do it again.” So I did, and I had her check the color after the first chunk of wall… I learn from my mistakes.

“So, Dan, what’s the point,” you ask. Good question, and here’s the answer. My story “Buy Paint” was not actually complete, as the result was not ‘fit for use’ in the next story, “Apply the Paint.” This lesson came in real handy when it came time to buy the grout for the shower, let me tell you.

We went and selected the grout and I spent an hour applying it to some scrap tiles on a piece of plywood. The next day we took it around and looked at it under various lights, and determined it was too light in color. So we did it again and selected the right color. This was a GOOD THING, as redoing grout is a royal pain, so we would probably had to live it.

“Ok, ok, is there a lesson here?” You betcha! Think hard about your “doneness” criteria for a story or PBI. Make sure that these criteria focus on fitness for use, not just on being finished… this will keep you out of trouble.

Dan 😉

Dan Rawsthorne


For Better or Worse…

February 13, 2007

In mid-December, I found myself complaining to a colleague about my relationship with my husband. Specifically, I was upset that writing a mass holiday letter and sending cards had become my job even though it was initially my husband’s idea. Couldn’t he at least chip in since he’s the one that wanted it to happen?! My colleague put me in my place by pointing out the Scrum mentality in my relationship. My husband wrote the backlog item, we both agreed that it should go into the pre-holiday sprint, and (somewhere along the way) I took the task as my own by stating that I would start writing the letter. As my colleague says, once you take the task, it’s yours forever. Funny thing… That same colleague is having flowers sent to his wife’s work for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. I guess he’ll be doing that every year from here on out! We ought to have thought about the commitments before we took the tasks!!

– Tommi

The Simplest Resume That Could Possibly Work

February 11, 2007

Usually when I see words like “methodology” I get the impression the writer is more concerned with sounding smart than with communicating. Look at me! I know a five-syllable word! This doesn’t bode well for how a person will do on a team.

I just saw a resume that said “I utilized the Scrum methodology.” Oh please! Can I trust a methodology utilizer to do the simplest thing that could possibly work? I’m more interested in people who have practiced Scrum, or at least WANT to practice Scrum.

By the way, we’re hiring ScrumMasters and C#/.NET developers, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Get your simple, clear resume to me or Crystal.


Michael James
Danube Technologies, Inc.

CSM in the EU – breaking my mental barrier

February 9, 2007

I’ve been trying to plan this European Scrum tour and I just keep hitting these self-imposed roadblocks! All of our modern technology and the internet have narrowed the once-gaping distance across oceans, but somehow that just makes everything seem more intimidating… I’m not really sure where to start on getting the word out. I’ve been meaning to join some groups (maybe on meetup.com or something) but I don’t want to be invasive. Yes, I’m selling something, but I’m really not doing it because of the selling. It’s because I believe in what we have to offer and I think that everyone should embrace Scrum (it’s very evangelistic, I know). I usually use a lot of CraigsList (which is one of my all-time favorite personal and business reference tools) doesn’t appear to be as widely used in the European cities that I’ve searched. I’m a little confused by international phone numbers (and I think that our database is too), so a lot of our current customers can’t be filtered by area code the way that our domestic customers can be. I’m sure that it’ll all come along fine, but I’m frustrated by my own lack of knowledge and direction… Ack!


Hey you, stop asking questions!

February 8, 2007

I survived a painful phone interview with a candidate today. I can only describe it in the following manor: imagine Batman saying to Robin, hey sidekick, take your own car and don’t crash here either. Or, a football coach saying, it’s not about the team, rather individual performance!

This applicant had prestigious employment addresses such as highly rated research centers, recognizable global service providers, a PhD from a top rated university, with titles along the lines of Sr. Systems Architect and Scientific Programmer, with 15 years experience. Pretty impressive so far.

I was really looking forward to talking with this person. After all, in general, I hold the endeavors of most institutions of advanced research and learning in high regard.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries and introductions within the IT industry, I asked him about his experiences with Agile practices, admittedly, he said:

“I do not know what this is, what is the meaning of this? Agile? What is this? Not something for me to care about, who cares about this?”

I tell him it is a methodology, a way of developing software, it is not technology specific. Agile exists to address the high
percentage of software projects that fail in various ways for different reasons.

“The industry leaders, the international companies, they are not practicing this, this is something new, they did not get where they are using Agile, it is not widely accepted in the market, so, it does not matter to me. Why do you keep asking these questions about methodology?”

At this point I mention I am a bit surprised at his responses. His voice raises, he starts talking wildly about things like global politics mentioning world leaders and established industry standards.

I was able to end the conversation relatively gracefully by saying I’d send him some reference material.

I do respect insights based on higher learning. However, I do not appreciate uninformed resistance to new ideas. This quickly seems ridiculous. Never, ever, stop asking questions. Never, ever stop increasing your knowledge.

Crystal Richardson

Deep Freezer Resumes

January 31, 2007

In my opinion, it is the goal of all inanimate objects to seek out and overcome mankind. One such illustration of this condition is that of the otherwise very savvy technical individual in the pursuit of IT employment. As if a database or spider will treat him/her any differently than someone, well, not so technical, but nonetheless looking for employment and who happens to follow an antiquated (or not) notion of putting a location reference (notice I said reference not preference) in their contact information, an employment GPS if you will.

Here is the trend as I see it: contractors, consultants and those seeking full time employment in any geographical area decide it is best to omit where they are currently residing with the intent to indicate location is not important, they will go wherever there is a good employment opportunity. Okay, so you are trying to tell me something by not telling me something. I am experiencing this as: true and true equal false. That’s not what you want, is it?

Most human and non human search efforts do one thing in common when trying to fill a position –they look to the local populace in the area of the opportunity, first, always. That means if you live in Boring, OR and I search for people living in Boring, OR with Agile and x, y, z skills and you do not have any GPS info on your resume (minimum city and state), you will not show up on my return results, even if you live next door to the employer and have every key technical search word on your resume I ever dreamed of. Your resume will not be detected in any form for me nor produce any results for you. End of story. You may show up in a subsequent search after I have evaluated candidates in the first search, if I decide to release the geographic parameters, but that’s a lot of “when and ifs” and may not be until the next day or later or never…
Therefore, for a majority of IT professionals who think the lack of geographic location information is opening more windows (sorry for using the term) of opportunity for employment, you are sadly mistaken.
In reality, you are losing time and opportunities.

A search engine or human powered effort over the internet does what it logically should do: find the words or phrases desired. If you live in Kissimmee, FL and Boring, OR is an acceptable location, you must find a way to tell me other than not telling me where you are located. Select as many multiple location options as possible over omitting location when applying to a position online. Include verbiage that mentions Southern California as a potential desired location if that is what you desire. Or Southern California and Oregon locations would be considered. My point is: include the words and proper desired location options carefully and give more rather than less information in the effort to secure the best possible opportunity.
Think about it. You know what happens when a search command criteria isn’t met – deep freeze. I don’t want inanimate objects to win. I want “us” to win.

Crystal Richardson
Agile Talent Specialist

I am looking for Agile Mentors…

January 26, 2007

I am looking for mentors who are hands on developers who want to work with teams to get a smooth oiled Scrum team in place, what I call Agile Advocates. Usually these folks are all the same ‘archetype’–very strong with XP (TDD, Pairing), usually working on open source projects and have been on a Scrum team for 6+ months. Usually someone who prefers not to have a title. Our clients are starting to prefer direct-hire candidates because they have stronger willingness for knowledge transfer, the ones who understand what they are getting themselves into understand that these transitions take years. I am constantly looking for this type of person.
Please feel free to send your resume and/or share your thoughts with me. Thank you!

You can find me at crichardson@danube.com or http://www.linkedin.com/in/1agilerecruiter


My personal (and non-technical) introduction to Scrum

January 25, 2007

I’m not a technical person. I don’t own an iPod or a laptop. I could care less about BlueTooth technology. My car does not have an onboard navigation system. Heck, I can’t even switch the remote control from TV to DVD without my husband’s help! I keep up with technology at a rate that allows me to do the things that I enjoy doing … which means that I’m continually slipping behind at a rapidly accelerating speed. Needless to say, up until recently, Scrum did not exist in my vocabulary.

Despite my deficit of technical knowledge, my business is now Scrum. Looking back, it seems like a natural progression. I know a lot about managing people. I know a lot about the difference between individual workers and a cohesive team. I’ve personally witnessed the transition from the former to the latter (I have also, sadly, witnessed the transition back). It makes sense that I would find myself in the business of increasing workflow and productivity through positive management techniques.

Anyhow, I dipped my toe into this Scrum pool to test the waters and am probably up to my knees these days (which still makes me a newbie, I know). My thought process from toes to knees is pretty garbled, but went something like this:

“ScrumMaster?! How corny is this?!” … “Isn’t this supposed to be a software thing?” … “Well, it’s got some good points.” … “Will somebody just tell me what to do already?!!” … “You people need some structure!” … “Team self organization RULES!”

I know that it’s not always gonna be good. It’s tough to be motivated all the time. It’s tough to manage coworkers when there’s no hierarchy to fall back on. And it’s easy to resist my coworkers’ management of myself. Regardless, I find myself becoming more and more passionate about Scrum. I want to jump all the way into the pool! But it’s a slow progression and that’s okay. Sometimes I’m frustrated and that’s okay too.

I have figured out that the benefits of Scrum are not exclusively for technical people. It’s a way of thinking and a way of coordinating those thoughts with others. I don’t need to know how to work my remote control to appreciate these things.


0-60 in Sprint #1 — a recipe for frustration

January 24, 2007

Someone wrote to me about her team’s frustration over “failing” their first Sprint. Her team got the impression they have to do all the Agile engineering practices (Test-Driven Development, continuous integration, refactoring, etc.) right off the bat, and couldn’t complete the one PBI they took on.

Scrum trainers like to remind people:
1) It’s common for a team to botch their first couple Sprints.

2) Improving engineering practices is an incremental process, just like building products is. Going from traditional practices to full-blown TDD in one Sprint is like trying to get your car moving in fifth gear. Somewhere I read it takes 9 months to get a team competent at XP. I think that’s an exaggeration, but two weeks clearly isn’t enough time, even with someone on the team who has done this before.

Point #2 is where YOU come in. If you are good at Agile engineering practices and love mentoring people, you belong with us at Danube. It also helps if you can share your sense of perspective and humor on what we label “failure” with teams that are struggling to be their best. Drop me a line!


humorous video about Scrum from one of our clients

January 22, 2007

These guys were doing Scrum long before we got involved with them.

Scrum is about replacing micromanagement with self-organizing teams held responsible for monthly commitments in close communication with actual users. The Scrum teams build real product increments starting with month 1 — analysis and design are done continuously through an inspect and adapt feedback loop, not all up front (in a vacuum) as we used to think best. Schedule and scope commitments are made based on empirically-observed velocity instead of shooting in the dark and beating people up.

Team self organization is fun. It leads to informal conversations instead of formal memos about TPS reports. Uptight people and control freaks may have a hard time grasping why a hyperproductive team needs to be having as much fun as these guys on the video at High Moon Studios. What should we tell these people?

The sun is setting on micromanagement and boring mediocrity it leads to. Welcome to the era of the knowledge worker, the artist who is in all of us. Ask yourself, are you one of the people contributing to an atmosphere of fun and creativity? Or are you a conformity enforcer?