From 1993 until April 1995 Centric detached me as a Solution Designer, Analyst, Projectmanager to the Volvo Truck Corporation. In that role I was responsible for the redesign of the Volvo Dealer Systems platform.
Author: Lion van Koppenhagen
Merge treasury desks
In 1993 I Centric detached me to ABN-AMRO as a project-manager analyst to finalize the merger of the treasury desks of the two banks.
Scrum master – Flow master
Working in the development industry and experiencing changes in the way of working first hand, led me to writing this article. Regardless of paradigms, the goal is to develop working solutions for internal/external customers in a timely cost efficient manner. This perspective is especially important for scrum masters to understand their role.
In many teachings the focus of the role of a scrum master is primarily defined as guiding the team(s) through the rituals of the chosen framework in a rigid process focused manner. This narrow focus is more often than not becoming its own impediment.
Being adaptive and agile means being able to change decisions all through the pipeline by iterating back and forth between the people who have responsibility for delivery and those who are responsible for understanding the marketplace. If we want business agility we need innovations of every size to flow through the organisation’s delivery pipeline without being blocked by gates, bad interaction or poor project management techniques. The paradigms and frameworks are there to serve organisations achieving the mindset and having a blueprint to deliver value.
From this we can derive the real role of the scrum master. The scrum master is the facilitator, responsible for managing the flow. The scrum master should focus on culture and interaction as well as a few guidelines. The scrum master uses the framework and tools to power an intense level of social interaction and a decisions flow from good interaction at work.
The scrum master is the flow master. The scrum master evaluates where he can be of service to make sure we have a predictable continuous flow in the delivery of working solutions. This adheres completely to the principles of original agile manifesto:
- Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
- Working Software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to Change over following a plan
Organisations need to recognise this in order for any agile transformation to succeed.
If you would like to know more about flow or need help in exercises to improve flow, feel free to reach out.
The role of the architect in an Agile environment
After successfully completing the course at Digital Delta, I can conclude it is almost the same as the role of the scrum master. The only difference is the domain specific knowledge the architect shares (not dictates) with the teams but:
Ideally, Agile Development Teams are supposed to have the mandate to decide how and what to improve on the architecture. As features develop by order of highest demand, so each team should grow the architecture needed to support them. This is paraphrased under the concept of ‘emergent design’, and it follows from Agile principle number 11.
Complexity brings risk
That is fine for the low complexity of a start-up. In a scaled environment however, with many teams developing products at the same time, whose products are getting more and more complex, with several layers of communication within and externally, extracting data from many different sources… emergent design is a recipe for instability at the structural level. It isn’t enough to just ‘KISS’, because
“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong” Henry Mencken
So how do we define architecture in a complex context? To simplify isn’t even always a possibility, the same way as downscaling isn’t always the right thing to do. Instead, we have to work with complexity and try to organize as much as possible. One possible answer for that is the Intentional Architecture as designed and executed by the architects at the System, Solution and Enterprise levels.
An intentional frame for emergent details
Whether you’re a System, a Solution or an Enterprise Architect in a Lean-Agile enterprise, you are in charge of providing a strategy and vision to improve the architecture incrementally, leaving enough room for a coordinated emergent design effort brought on by the development teams. You provide the powerful and coordinated base for Agile teams to keep focusing on delivering value to end customers. It’s up to you to build the right amount of architecture that will enable this value to be implemented and potentially delivered.
You have a responsibility to help teams coordinate, define and share information at the appropriate levels; to understand the underlying purpose and also to be influential enough to direct the fitting amount of funding to the technical aspects and evolutions, to ensure it will get done.
The key is in the balancing act
Balancing sensibly between intentional architecture and emergent design, supported by techniques such as Model-Based Systems Engineering and Set-Based design.
If you would like to know more or need help, feel free to reach out.
Why Email is ineffective for Agile communication
One of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto is using an efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team (the best way being a face-to-face conversation). The following points reveal why email is ineffective for productivity as well as a big source of frustration.
The average worker will receive 122 of those emails each day, of which less than half will contain relevant information. When people are bombarded with all of this superfluous information, they simply bulk delete or skim through, missing important information that is buried. The sheer number of messages we receive leads to the most important ones getting lost, deleted, or forgotten. In addition, people are easily frustrated when their workload becomes overwhelming. Just one email can prove highly distracting. Just consider all of the newsletters and blogs to which you’ve subscribed. Reading through a single one can consume an inordinate amount of time, distracting you from the task at hand. In fact, studies show that after reading an email it can take up to twenty-five minutes to refocus on the work you were originally doing.
The McKinsey Global Institute found that the average employee spends 13 hours a week checking, reading and responding to emails— eating up 28% of the work week. With less than half of emails deserving attention and many going unread, this is a lot of wasted time. On top of this, simply getting back to work after answering an email takes an average of 64 seconds. This enormously decreases productivity.
Not Made for Collaboration
Email was not designed to be a collaboration tool. From managing projects to troubleshooting a problem, neverending email threads become inefficient, confusing, and bad for productivity. With many collaboration and project management products available, email should never be the place you turn in order to stay on top of tasks and projects.
With email, there is little accountability. There no way of knowing if people have read an important update and anything can be chalked up to, “Oh, I didn’t get that email.”
Emails don’t support engagement
Email lacks the easy user experience of social commenting and as soon as more people join a conversation it becomes confusing (Email hardly ever stays on topic).
Email does not facilitate continuous feedback
People need feedback. Consistently. Top-down (as well as peer-to-peer) communication is essential for keeping this loop running effectively. But giving regular feedback via email takes a lot of work.
In comparison, modern communication channels like document solutions with embedded commenting systems encourage interactive conversations between peers, while push messages allow to give better feedback in less time. Plus it can be targeted and sent “on the go.”
Ineffective Content Repository
We’ve established why email is ineffective for collaboration but it is also a poor repository for company knowledge. Searching your inbox is always a headache. You rack your brain for a keyword or who sent the email or worse what date it was received. There is simply no way to remember all of that detail when your inbox is clogged up with hundreds of emails.
Secondly Email content is scattered and has no guardian. When people leave or get assigned into another position parts of the truth get lost.
Based on the above Email is ineffective for Agile communication. For an agile drive to succeed, it’s crucial to take a strategic approach using a solution that effectively connects teams in real time so they can collaborate, get answers and share information in an efficient and effective manner. Even more, we must ensure communication is unlocked to all levels of the organisation.
Personally I favour the Atlassian suite to structure project communication but you can use any collaboration platform that meets your needs.
Design challenge 1 – Remove Bitnami Banner
I installed WordPress using the Bitnami pre-configured WordPress application and now I have the Bitnami banner in the lower right corner of the page on that WordPress site. How can I remove it?
On your AWS Lightsail dashboard you find your instance
Clicking on the larger than icon will start a console session.
Type the following command in the console:
sudo /opt/bitnami/apache2/bnconfig –disable_banner 1
And gone it is.
Design challenge 2 – Teaser
I have a strong preference for the use of teaser text. When I create a post I would like to show the title and a teaser on the frontpage. The teaser should be automatically pulled from the beginning portion of the item content. I really dislike the broken sentences solutions. I would much rather see the full first paragraph or an excerpt if that is available. How do I get WordPress to make this happen?
I decided to buy a nice theme from RocketTheme, the next challenge is figuring out how to work with it.
25+ years Agile and Scrum, how is this true?
Agile and scrum are crystallisations of a mindset and a way of working. You can have that mindset and work a certain way before it is given a new shiny moniker.
Coming from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences in the same year as Arie van Bennekum, co-author of the Agile Manifesto, his role in the Manifesto is no surprise to me. We were educated to focus on delivering solutions with the freedom to use whatever platform we found appropriate in order to provide working prototypes. The mantra was to write self-documenting coding to allow for as little documentation as possible. We learned to embrace change (in technical possibilities and in stakeholder wishes) as a natural state.
It is not that difficult to find the 4 Agile values there and to derive the Agile principles.
Very early on we learned to design small functional bits of software with a teacher that hammered the following quote in our heads:
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
We learned to put all the stuff that we wanted to design and develop in a Javelin sheet (a very old spreadsheet solution), discuss the amount of work it would be with the team and then prioritise and distribute the work. Every day we would align on progress and every week we would evaluate if what was in the pipeline was still valid. Looks rather a lot like Scrum/Kanban don’t you think?
My biggest disappointment came when I joined the SVB and was pushed back into SDM and other painful ways of the old. That’s when I decided to do a KeyNote at a Clipper developer congress about customer oriented software development and shortly thereafter I was hired by the founders of Centric, Cock Mudde and Albert Oegema to start working that way at the Volvo Truck Corporation.
From then on I have been able to take those practices and work with an Agile mindset in a Scrum manner.
And so to conclude, this is how you can be Agile and work in a Scrum way for 25+ years.
In this new era forced upon us by COVID-19 the only certainty is that things will change. Embrace it.
Working from the home office saves immensely on traveltime. Time to spend playing around with WordPress on AWS Lightsail. All my older content will be available here in time.
This site will change a lot, first on my list is the style. Not sure if I’ll buy something nice or tweak this default template.