May 2015


How to be Agile With a Fixed Scope Business Case

One of the challenges I find organisations face when starting out with agile is navigating their existing in flight projects and programs with traditional fixed time, cost and scope business cases. In my latest 2-part blog series I explore how the lean principle of small batches and a focus on business value can help find your way through this maze. 

Part 1: Small Batch Funds Release

Part2: Business Benefits over Business Requirements


Apr 2015


Taking the Status out of Standups

Today was a busy coaching day on a large release train with lots of good coaching conversations.  When I got to the "warm and fuzzy moments" part of my coaching journal at the end of the day, memories of the scrum of scrums in the morning put a such a huge smile on my face that I had to come home and blog.

One of the first things I will do walking in the door as a coach is to go and 'chicken' at stand-ups. 99 times out of a hundred, they'll sound like a status report.  How can it be a self-organising team if they have a daily status report?  It's meant to be the timeout where the team gets together for a moment to work out how best to work together that day on moving towards their goal.  Often, I find the real standup happens just after the formal one.  The scrum-master walks off, and all of a sudden the team lights up and has a great conversation.

Fixing a standup is a great place to start as a coach.  Changing that one conversation the team is guaranteed to have every day will lay a strong foundation for much of the deeper work to build on.  And I've built up quite a library of tips and tricks from conferences, blogs, colleagues and blind experiments.  The best ones always vary according to the team - I just offer a smorgasboard and encourage the team to pick one or two and try them out.

Continue reading...



Mar 2015


Leaning into SAFe with Feature Flow

Last year I wrote about the communication cadence and in particular the daily feature wall stand up that was the heartbeat of the EDW Agile Release Train.  Recently I received an email from someone who had read this post and wanted to know more. As he quite rightly pointed out the "post lacked the details to effectively implement a similar event but it sounded really worthwhile."

When I sat down to reply to this e-mail, I found myself thinking about the power of the visualisations more than the event.  The inwards facing Release Train Engineer+Wayne Palmer, had been determined since the birth of the EDW Release Train to create a physical dashboard that represented the performance of the system.

The first incarnation of this was captured in my colleague +Mark Richards's blog back in 2013. This version of the "feature wall" provided a 10 iteration view of what each feature team planned to work on. At first it was +Wayne's hope that the ScrumMasters would self organise a consistent approach to visualising the work, but it was not long before his OCD kicked and he prescribed a legend. Large white cards for features in play, large green cards for features in discovery, small pink cards for defects and small blue cards for innovation work. Teams would visualise their plan for each feature by placing cards and an effort estimate in the relevant iterations. Each team showed the capacity they had available (based on historical velocity and planned leave) and the amount of work they planned to complete each sprint. This 10 iteration view also helped us plan our involvement in the enterprise release integration testing for those occasions when we could not decouple our deployments from an enterprise release.

+Mark always says you can tell a good wall by the conversations that are had at it and there was always plenty of conversation at this wall, mainly about capacity and forward planning.  After a while +Wayne reached the conclusion that while these discussions might be interesting to theProject Management / Pipeline folk, they were not the right conversations. The conversations taking place were predominantly how to get more work onto the train. It was a view of capacity management which didn't truly take into account what people were actually doing and how full the train was.

Continue Reading...


Feb 2015


Context Matters in the Cutter IT Journal

Context Matters Partner Em Campbell-Pretty was one of a handful of noted authors chosen to share their strategies for Improving Trust and Partnership Between Business and IT in the January 2015 edition of the Cutter IT Journal. In her article, Bridging the Great Divide Between the Business and IT: A Business Perspective, Em explores how agile helps change the dynamic between the business and IT.

You can download a complimentary copy of this article from http://www.cutter.com/offers/bridgingbusit.html

Dec 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.22.35 pm

New Scaled Agile Framework Case Study

Context Matters Partner, Em Campbell-Pretty has been supporting the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (aka RMIT University) with applying SAFe to a large COTS implementation. Last Month, Catherine Haugh (Release Train Engineer) and some of her team presented their success story at the ANZ Oracle Higher Education User Group conference. The presentation at HEUG outlined the journey of a new Agile Release Train (ART) at RMIT, Australia’s largest University, and the ways the ART supports the Student Administration value stream. Knowing how everyone likes a good case study, Dean Leffingwell, creator of the Scaled Agile Framework decided to add it to the collection of SAFe case studies. You can read all about it here.

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