Sunday, December 2, 2012

A christmas retrospective

This is a quite nice end-of-the-year-retrospective method I read about first last year on Boris Glogers blog. Since the original post is in german and doesn't tell you how to prepare, here is a detailed preparation instruction and the how-to itself, both in english. One warning ahead: Preparation for this one takes a lot of time. But it's totally worth it.

Time needed
Preparation: A few hours
Playing: 60 - 120 minutes, depending on your team size

First of all take a flipchart paper (or something of at least similar size - depending on your team size you might need a larger sheet of paper, you will understand why later on) and draw a large christmas tree. Draw it as large as you can and don't forget the star on the top, after all you want the tree to look nice:

Now draw some small candles and christmas baubles in 2 colors. Draw one candle and 2 baubles for every team member. If you're lazy you can draw one candle and one bauble in each color and then copy it a few times (that's what I did ;-)

Once you have your candles and baubles finished, draw a present and a christmas sock for every team member and write their names on it. In order to keep the presents and socks individual you might want to not copy them ;-)

Cut out the candles, baubles, presents and socks. After that create a matrix putting the socks on the left of the tree and the presents under the tree:

Last part of preparation is to buy some cookies for the retrospective itself :-)

How to play
Give everyone a candle. Set the timer to 5 minutes and ask "What does motivate me getting up and going to work?". Everyone should write some words about the question on the candle (answers could be: I love our team, the current project is awesome, etc.). When the time is up everyone in turn glues her/his candle on the tree where her/his name crosses itself and says a few words about it. A glue stick might come in handy ;-)

Give everyone 2 baubles for every other team member. Set the timer to 10 minutes and ask them to write something about every team member. On one bauble they should answer the question "What did I like most about working with you?" (answer could be something like "I really liked pair programming with you") on the other "What do I hope I'll be able to be doing together with you next year?" (answer could be something like "I know you're really good at test driven development, so I hope you could teach me how to do it, at best while pair programming").

When you're done filling out the baubles, everyone in turn gets their presents. Let's assume you are the first to get your presents. Everyone in the team tells you what they wrote about you on their baubles and glue them at the corresponding positions in the tree-matrix (there are 2 for every combination). Once you have received all your presents, say a few words about how you feel and continue with the next person in your team.

Once you're finished, your tree should look like this:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Definition of done traffic light

This is a quite nice retrospective method I learned from agile42. Prepare the definition of done of your team by writing each point on a single line and put three columns besides every point. Paint the columns in red, yellow and green. The now colored columns stand for "We did that well" (green), "We did that ok" (yellow), "We didn't to that very good" (red).

In the retrospective every team member puts a dot in the colored column expressing his view on how good the team applied this point of the DoD. The result looks like this:

Now you can pick the 3 points with the lowest overall rating, discuss them (20 min timebox each) and develop optimisations for them.

You can do the same for your working agreements.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Definition of done workshop

Recently one team I take care of as a Scrum Master needed a Definition of Done. Since I couldn't find anything on the internet about a corresponding workshop or a good method to create a definition, I created a workshop based on the "Challenge Cards" method from the book "Gamestorming" (page 158). Here's how you do it:

Time needed:
About 30 - 60 minutes

Prepare green and red colored post its and a blank flip chart (or similar).

How to play:
Divide the team into two groups. One group is the problem group, they get the red post its. The other group is the DoD group, they get the green post its. Now give both groups 10 minutes time.

Ask the problem group to think of common problems the team encounters regarding development, which could be fixed by a definition of done. Examples would be "a lot of bugs", "released version doesn't work" or "duplicate data appears". Important: Point out that it's not about problems the team can't be made responsible for (kernel panic on a server for instance), but that it's about problems that occur due to errors made during development.

Ask the DoD group to come up with possible items for a definition of done. This can be anything they can think of.

After the 10 minutes, ask the problem group to post their first problem on the left side of the flip chart. Now ask the DoD group to post one or more items that can solve this one problem on the right side of the flip chart. Let them draw an arrow going from the DoD item(s) to the problem post it. Notice that there can be more than one DoD items solving a problem and that one DoD item can solve multiple problems. It is ok and desirable to draw arrows from already posted DoD items to a new problem.
Continue until all the problems have been posted.

Now there are 3 possible outcomes:

You still have DoD items left.
Ask the DoD group to post them on the flip chart. After that, ask the whole team if they can think of more items they would like to include on the definition of done.

You still have problems that don't have a possible solution.
Ask the whole team if they can think of anything solving it. After that, ask the whole team if they can think of more items they would like to include on the definition of done.

Every problem has at least one possible solution.
Ask the whole team if they can think of more items they would like to include on the definition of done.

As a last step go over all the DoD items that have been posted on the flipchart during the workshop and ask the team if this item makes sense on a definition of done and if they agree, if this item lands on the definition of done.

Our result looked like this

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A different kind of retrospective: Story workshop

Yesterday I tried a different kind of retrospective: The story workshop. Instead of writing post-its answering "What was good?"/"What went wrong?" or Mad/Sad/Glad, you ask the team to do the following:

"Write a short story, a movie, a play or a comic about the last sprint"

The feedback from the attendees was very positive, the main statement being that you get a quite different look on the past sprint, when you try to draw it (everyone in the retrospective drew a comic).

One of the comics looked like this:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Here at CHIP Online we introduced a Skillboard a short while ago. We did this, because we realized that it's hard to keep track of who knows what the larger the company gets.
The skillboard itself is quite easy: You put the skills in the rows (like PHP5, NoSQL or Meeting Moderation) and each row has 3 columns: Basic, Advanced, Pro. These 3 columns represent the knowledge state. Now everyone has the opportunity to put his name at the proper position: Which skill do I have at what level. If you're pro at PHP5, simply put your name in the pro column of the PHP5 row.
The advantage of this skillboard is: If anyone needs help with any technology, he/she can take a look at the skillboard and see if someone in the company has knowledge of it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Different estimation methods compared

A while ago, I conducted a workshop about agile estimation. In this workshop, I showed the participants three (of many) different ways of estimation: Planning Poker, Magic Estimation and the Team Estimation Game.

Planning Poker [Interaction level: high]
Probably the classic estimation method. The product owner reads a user story, the team estimates using the planning poker cards. If there are any differences in the estimation, the team starts a short discussion about everyones different opinion of the story at hand. If after about 3 estimation rounds there is still no consensus, the story is obviously not clear enough and everyone tries to gather new information until the next estimation session. Planning Poker usually uses story points, although I've already seen cards with animals on it (quite a nice idea actually). The estimation session ends when either all the stories are estimated or when time is up.
At the workshop I let the participants estimate what it takes to clean a kitchen. During estimation the team realized, that story #1 and #4 are too large and split them up to 2 and 3 stories.

Magic Estimation [Interaction level: low - medium]
Probably the second classic estimation method. Prepare a flipchart (or similar) where you draw an arrow going up (symbolizing the increased complexity) and write your references beside the arrow, be it user stories, T-Shirt size or whatever you feel most comfortable with. The product owner reads a user story, writes it on a post-it and puts the post-it on the flipchart. This procedure is repeated for about 5 stories. The team then gets 2 minutes to stand in front of the flipchart and silently move the post-its to where it thinks they belong. If during the 2 minutes you realize, that a story is wandering around a lot, you might want to talk about some details after the 2 minutes. This whole procedure is repeated until there are no stories left or the time is up. 
At the workshop the result looked like this:

Team Estimation Game [Interaction level: low]
An estimation method I found a while ago here (page is in german) and have used at the workshop myself for the first time. This method is quite similar to magic estimation. As with magic estimation you need a flipchart prepared. The product owner brings all the stories on index cards to the estimation and lays them, heads down, on a table. Someone from the team (whoever wants to go first), takes the first story card, reads it out aloud and then puts it on the flipchart where ever he/she thinks it belongs. Now the second one in the team pulling a card can either put it besides, above or below the first story read. From the third story on, every team member has 3 possibilities for his move:

  • Read the next story card and put it on the flipchart
  • Reassign a story already on the flipchart, also explaining why he does that
  • Skip
When reassigning a story, you might also mark the story with a dot. The more dots a story gets, the more opinions about it differ and you should discuss it in detail. Like with the two other estimation methods, the team estimation game ends when there are no more stories left or when time is up.
At the workshop the result of the team estimation game looked similar to magic estimation:

In my time as a developer I only used planning poker (apart from any workshops or similar I attended). After having conducted this workshop, I still prefer planning poker over magic estimation and team estimation, since the interaction with planning poker is way higher than with the other two (which is also the conclusion of the workshop participants). That doesn't render magic estimation and team estimation totally useless, there are still valid use cases for them. They are actually quite useful when you need a lot stories estimated in a short time, e.g. at the beginning of a project. Other than that my favorite remains planning poker.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On conferences

You can catch me next week (June 4rd - June 6th) at the International PHP Conference 2012 Spring Edition. I will be speaking at the agile day about "The five dysfunctions of a team" and - if you do speak german - about "Stolpersteine agiler Methoden" together with Sebastian Bauer.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Histogram: Team communication

Based on the satisfaction histogram from "Agile Retrospectives - Making good teams great" (p. 64 - 67), I did a communication satisfaction histogram in our last retrospective.
To measure how the team thinks about the communication between each other they could choose between 5 states:

"The communication in our team is ..."
  • 5: ... outstanding
  • 4: ... mostly very good
  • 3: ... satisfactory, but needs to be improved
  • 2: ... bad and needs to be improved badly
  • 1: ... a disaster
Team members vote anonymously, for scoring you can use dots:

I also left some space for further comments (write them on Post-Its and put them on the flipchart).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Teams Board

In order to visualize who works in which team, we introduced a team board in our company:
On the left is the team name, right to it the people working in the team. The blue index cards are used for the product owners, the yellow cards for the UX designers, the green ones for the team. The Scrum Masters and Kanban Coaches are indicated by the white circle.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Keeping track of changes

Finding a bugs' origin can be really annoying at times and quite often bugs are introduced by recent releases. In order to easily keep track of what happened when (mostly releases), we introduced a "timeline":

As you can see this timeline is simply a large sheet of paper where we write down date, time and a short description of the change, be it a release or an activated feature. This way, when a bug comes up, we can easily look up, if the error started on the date of the change, raising the odds to find the bug quickly.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Teams working together

5 weeks ago, 2 teams in my company decided to work together for 6 weeks, since the one team needed urgent help. The team helping out was my team.

We decided not to create a new team for these 6 weeks (as this new team would have spent at least 3 weeks to adapt to each other) but to keep a team a team. 

In order to manage this constellation we set up a board that works like a feature board but which visualizes the work of the 2 teams:

The cards on the actual board are not empty, this picture is photoshopped.

We drew 3 rows, each row representing 2 weeks time. The first column was for Team A, the second column for Team B and in the third column was the done column.

In order to visualize which stories are in progress we used pins in the shape of a flag:

Each team has its own color (Team A has white flags, Team B yellow flags). If a task is in progress, it's "flagged". In order to keep track of who did what, the index card stays flagged once it's moved to the "Done" column (you can see the little flags in the Done column on the first photo).

After 5 of 6 weeks I can say I'm really glad we used this board to organize the work of the 2 teams as it made organizing really easy and transparent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Selective Attention

This test for selective attention is quite famous. If you haven't seen it yet, watch it in fullscreen:

I'll get back to this in a few days.

Who's doing what?

When using Scrum Sprintboards or Kanban Boards you usually also want to show who's currently doing what.
We started with pinboards, pins and index cards. In order to visualize who was doing what we printed out a photo of every team member and pinned the photo to the current index card that was in the "Work in progress" (Wip) column.

A while ago we changed this system: We bought a large whiteboard and started using magnets instead of pins. This gave us the chance to print magnets for each team member thus you simply have to put a magnet on the Wip index card to visualize that you're working on it:

As you can see, we didn't use actual photos but gave every team member the opportunity to choose a picture of their liking. I chose Dr. Zoidberg. If you choose to do so aswell, don't forget to include a legend on your whiteboard so that everyone can see which magnet belongs to whom.

Every team member has 10 magnets, which makes it really easy to still know who completed what since the last standup, as we keep the magnets on the index card until the next standup.

You can order the magnets here.

Availability with a traffic light

This week I started a test to signalize my availability with a traffic light. It's a small one I bought at Amazon which lets me change the color by pushing a button. Only disadvantage of this model is that the current color is always blinking (product description didn't say anything about blinking), but this should be enough for the test.

What the colors mean:

Red: I'm not available, please do not disturb!

Yellow: Only disturb me, if it's really, really important (like we're-all-gonna-die-important)!

Green: Say hello!

As soon as I have made some experiences, I will gladly share them here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hello and welcome

Welcome to!

This blog will cover mostly agile, visual management and psychological topics.

So far, I have been blogging about PHP Development on, but since I'm more into agile coaching now, that blog is on sustain.