Thursday, July 18, 2013

Active learning cycle

Many teams seem to struggle with keeping track of their improvements from the retrospective. One really useful tool for that is the active learning cycle.

Take a sheet of flipchart paper and divide it into 4 areas: Keep, Try, Breaks and Accelerators. The most common form looks like this but you can always use a different form if it suits you better:
Active Learning Cycle
At the end of the retrospective you put your actions/improvements you decided on in "Try". Those are things that you want to try out. Remember to put the active learning cycle afterwards in a place where everybody can see it, near the team board would be a good place.

Not later than in the next retrospective you use to active learning cycle to decide what you want to do with the actions that are on the cycle.

  • Did you like it and you want to continue doing it? Put it in "Keep" and keep on doing it
  • Did you think it rather impeded you and you want to stop doing it? Put it in "Breaks". This could be things like "Standup at 2pm", "Digital team board", etc. And, more important: Stop doing it ;-)
  • Was it something that helped you but which is nothing you can really keep on doing all the time? Put it in Accelerators. This could be things like "2-day team offsite" (It was an accelerator for the team, but you can't do a 2-day offsite every week).
You don't have to wait though, the active learning cycle is supposed to be a "living" artifact, so you can always move post-its around when you feel it's time to do so. Of course you can also move things from "Keep" to "Breaks" or "Accelerators" if at some point it isn't helping you anymore. Since your active learning cycle will be very full at some point you might have to remove post-its someday. The moment, when you remove something is totally up to you, but from my experience it's best to only remove them, when they've already become second nature to the team.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why is the 4 week sprint still the literary default?

I’ve been wondering for a long time why the 4 week sprint still seems to be the default in Scrum literature. Even the State of Scrum Report states there is a 38% majority using 2 week sprint while 29% use 3-4 week sprints (page 25). Given that 3 and 4 week sprints have been merged in the statistics implies that the actual percentage amount of teams using 4 week sprints is even lower than 29%. Yet in the same report insight #2 states that “a Sprint is one iteration of a month or less that is of consistent length throughout a development effort.” completely ignoring its own results (page 38). Also, why isn’t the book “Software in 30 days”, released in 2012, called “Software in 14 days”?

Part of Scrum and agile in general is to generate feedback as quickly and often as possible, using 30 day sprints you spend a whole lot of time between two feedback cycles. In addition 4 weeks of time is so much that it’s really hard to look back at them when sitting in a retrospective. Can Scrum literature please inspect & adapt and use the 2 week sprint as the new default?