Category Archives: Experience Reports

Building a Scrum Wall in 8 Story Cards


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A recent meetup for Agile Ottawa focused on short presentations in the form of lightning talks. We had a number of excellent talks including: five reasons to do agile projects, lining up your units to help you be successful, applying code refactoring to improve your life, the importance of craftsmanship, and how different testing looks in the hardware and software worlds. I am a big proponent of big visible walls, so my lightning talk was a demonstration of how to build your wallboard using a roll of painter’s tape, a few stickies, and eight story cards.

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Mea Culpa: Why I Moved On

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My time at Embotics has sadly come to an end. It was a decision that I wrestled with for a number of months before I could finally arrive at a decision that I was comfortable with. It was a classic example of a wicked problem: no experiments that can be run to help make the decision, no way to know afterwards that the decision is correct, no way to go back for a do-over.

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Shortening Our Iteration Length: Results

The Scrum project management method. Part of t...

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For release 4.0 of V-Commander, the team voted to change our iteration length from 3 weeks to 2 weeks.  There were a number of reasons for running this experiment, including:

  • addressing the slight lull that we experience in week 2
  • reducing the length of planning sessions and having the ability to plan in shorter time frames
  • introducing a change to shake out any issues that are hidden by 3-week iterations

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Shortening Our Iteration Length

The Scrum project management method. Part of t...

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Since I started working at Embotics in 2007, we have always used an iteration length of 3 weeks.  I don’t know why three weeks was chosen, though I suspect it provided a convenient trade-off between the amount of planning required to track the project and the amount of knowledge about where the project was going.  As we increased our level of agility, we continued to use 3 weeks since it worked for us.

I’ve been talking with a number of others in our community and doing a lot of reading and it seems like we are an outlier here.  Almost everyone else appears to be operating on 1 and 2 week iterations.  The The Wisdom of Crowds indicates that we may be missing out on something here.

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Our Big Information Radiator


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Atlassian recently ran the Ultimate Wallboard competition where individuals and companies were invited to send in pictures or videos and descriptions of wallboards that they use to make their lives and jobs easier.  Embotics submitted our Scrum wall to this contest and came away with an honourable mention in the Old School category.

The timing of the contest was a little unfortunate for us as we were nearing the end of a release and simultaneously preparing for a release.  As a result, I was only able to provide a little colour to our entry but now have the opportunity to elaborate on what our big visible board contains and how it evolved to its current shape.

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Preparing for a FedEx Day

The idea of introducing free time to explore ideas and foster innovation at work has a lot of appeal to me.  Evidence from 3M, Google, Atlassian, and others suggests that many new product features and workplace improvements can be discovered if people are given some slack time to explore.

Coming off a difficult and demanding release, Embotics will be spending some time next week on our first FedEx day.  The timing is great: the release is out the door, we are moving into our new office space, and everyone has a to-do list of things they thought about during the release but didn’t have time to investigate.

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