Courses – Kanban Training in Dublin, Cork, Limerick  (1 Day) 

This course will introduce the Kanban method.  It will explain the lean background to Kanban, how you should implement Kanban.

A simple way to look at Kanban is to “stop starting and start finishing”. In other words take on less but get it done quicker. Its about focusing on getting work complete and not to have loads of unfinished work. Unfinished work is waste – of no use to anyone and going out of date or at least requiring a refresh to even understand what we did.

Kanban provides a pragmatic, actionable, evidence-based guidance for successful evolutionary change. It starts with what you do now and pursues evolutionary change while respecting current roles, responsibilities and job titles, and encouraging leadership at all levels.

You will learn how to apply the Kanban principles, how to visualise and self-share the workload to create a constant flow of DONE. The Kanban workshop is for anyone trying to create a cultural framework for continuous improvement.

This is a fast paced workshop, where attended lean to apply KanBan to their real jobs and see how to visualise the bottlenecks. 

Topics Covered 

• Personal Kanban – Simplest implementation of Kanban
• The Agile Dilemma
• What is KanBan Goals Behind the Kanban Approach to Change
• Kaizen Culture
• Kanban’s Five Core Properties
• The Kanban Concepts, Principles, and Terminology
• Kanban Team/ Kanban Roles
• Card Walls/ Workflow and Cadences
• Limiting work in progress
• Visualisation of the Work
• Class of Service
• Service Level Agreements
• Tracking Work-in-Process/ Cumulative Flow Diagram

Who Should Attend?

This course is suitable for anyone who is involved in product development or knowledge work. This includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Team Manager running multiple projects simultaneously
  • Product/project managers
  • Product/software developers and testers
  • Business analysts
  • High-level management positions.

 


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Scrum Roles –  Agile Software Development

Who are you? The three Scrum Roles explained.

Introduction

scrum team has a slightly different composition than a traditional waterfall project, with three specific functions. To better understand the basics of Agile, it’s worth talking a little about roles and responsibilities within the Scrum team. I will also tell you a little about the problems that can happen in this structure.

The Scrum Team three roles include, The Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team, are sufficient to deliver high value-added software according to the framework. Let’s see, in common lines, how this works.

Product Owner, the owner of the backlog

The project begins with the Product Owner: he or she is the person who knows the business and the end user’s need. With this knowledge, the PO can prioritise the needs of the user and decide what else adds value to the company. That is, this is the person who orders the product.

The Product Owner can even decide the product developed is sufficient to meet the needs and finish the project. Incidentally, this is one of the hallmarks of Scrum. Since we opted for the essential features to the business first, it is not uncommon to finalise the project with fewer items than initially envisioned.

After all, some studies point out that most of the features are seldom or never used.

The Product Owner separates a wish list, called the Product Backlog, which contains everything he initially thinks he needs to serve the business and the end user. This list should be prioritised based on the value that each item can add to the business.

Once complete, it is up to the PO to write the user stories, which detail each item in the wish list a little more. It is also up to him to take care of the project budget, ensuring that the investment yields an expected return as soon as possible.

The Product Owner supports the Development Team by answering questions about business rules. It’s crucial to the success of the project. On the other hand, the Development Team has someone available and accessible to answer the product owners questions.

Scrum Master, the proactive coach

The next role to play is the Scrum Master. He or she acts as servant leader and coach, to both the Product Owner and the Development Team. When the organisation begins to adopt Scrum, it is common for either the Technical Leader or perhaps a Project Manager to assume this role.

Be cautious of old vices: the former technical leader will tend to give technical solutions to the development team, just as the former project manager will have a strong inclination to commit to deadlines that must be met at any cost and to direct the team members, telling who does what. A good Scrum Master is there to help the team practice self-organisation.

The Scrum Master knows the process; he can instruct the Product Owner concerning Scrum practices. It guides the PO throughout the project. In the same way, it should guide the Development Team to achieve that team sprint goal. It is up to the SM to eliminate any team of impediment that hinders the progress of the team, seeking to help the team to improve its productivity.

Mike Cohn once wrote about the six attributes of a good Scrum Master:

  • Responsible for the adoption of Scrum practices and not for the success of the project;
  • Humble to the point of putting the interests of the team above their own;
  • Collaborative because he or she helps to create a collaborative environment among team members;
  • Committed to the purpose of the project and to the resolution of impediments that prevent the team from reaching its objectives;
  • Influential, both inside and outside the team, to carry out their duties to build the team and to eliminate impediments;
  • Understand the knowledge necessary for the team to achieve its goals.
  • Knowledge in facilitation techniques and Team Growing are differential of any Scrum Master.

Development Team

The Development Team is composed of those who create the product increment. Scrum does not define titles, so all its members are mostly developers, regardless of their function within the framework. The concept of the multidisciplinary team: all members can perform any task that is necessary for the project. However, it is common to observe teams that have members with specific functions.

The size of the team varies according to the project. Some people defend the idea that a team has 5 to 9 members. In particular, I believe the team should be small enough to stay agile and big enough to deliver the expected value to the product. It is a somewhat subjective interpretation, but it gives more freedom to the organisation of the team.

Another exciting feature is that the team is self-organising, that is, who decides who does what, what the roles of each member are and what is not Sprint is the team! This is key to creating a collaborative environment within the team. Seeing sense and actively participating in decisions, team members become much more motivated to commit to the expected results.

To learn more about our Scrum Master Course view our in-class courses to help you develop your skills.

Facilitation Training in Dublin

No matter what type of facilitation training you do, preparation is the key.  How to prep for workshops, requirement refinement, meetings, retrospectives etc.

The best preparation is to come up with a vision for the workshop. I have a simple 5 step model for training, I call it AIDED. The model highlights preparation; it’s not about how to run the workshop. Good workshops run themselves, but a great seminar needs organisation.

The model ensures that as a facilitator you are prepared and have visualised the results. No big deal if it doesn’t work out as planned but you can get the ball rolling and keep it moving if things get stuck. It’s also about the journey to becoming a fantastic facilitator. There are many layers to AIDED that you need to build-on with experience.

So when you are dropped in it and asked to facilitate, we have the model to calm the nerves and get working on it.

A, Ask. The questions to ask

I, Interaction. The type of interaction you are looking for in the workshop.

D, Discussion. What kind of discussion format do you expect?

E, Evaluation. What type of evaluation are you expecting?

D,  Decision or outcome that you want to achieve.

INTRODUCTION TO AIDED

Ask

A list of question that you can ask at the workshop.  Later, I discuss how to formulate outstanding questions; there’s a bit of an art to this. Initially, you’ll probably need about 5 or six items to debate. Not sure where to start, ask the attendees or other stakeholders what topics they want to be explored or answered. Even if you know this already it’s a great idea to ask participants directly again. It involves them and perhaps gives them ownership in the workshop outcome.

Interaction

How do you want the interaction to go? There is a vast number of possible ways that you want the communication to go. You need to pick the way that works for the question, the audience and what you the facilitator can control. Brainstorm, go round, smaller groups, fish bowl, shout out, whiteboard, Pair Share. We have plenty more to explore and learn.

Discussion

or sometimes I say delivery. How do we create a forum to get to the bottom of the topic. You’re subsequently handing it over to the floor to work through it. Again the range of techniques here is vast.  You may need to try a few from the tried and trusted cause-effect diagrams, affinity or more sophisticated Liberating Structures.

Evaluation

The facilitator needs to ensure that the attended have worked through an evolution of the items discussed. What are the options, how do they compare, this can be contentious. However, as a facilitator, you’ve got them working through it.

Decision

We have wasted our time if we don’t get to a conclusion. As a facilitator, you should prepare for the decision and mobilise the authority to decide in the room. We are passionate about this learning outcome.

There are many layers to facilitation training; AIDED can help you build a roadmap to get it right. I’ll post a few more expansions of this in the coming weeks.

 Waterfall Vs Scrum – what is better?

Waterfall advocates that we do a significant amount of design upfront. But it’s not possible to do it all up upfront. That never happens in any traditional project.

Waterfall Vs Scrum - Althris Dublin Training for project management

Scrum Master Certification

Scrum advocated that we should not over design as the customers/user doesn’t know what they want. Therefore spending time investigating would be wasted. Let’s build it and as we develop, check with the customer to see if it’s what they want.

Importantly, Scrum is not a series of mini waterfalls where we design for a few days and then build then test the next few days. We should do the design, develop and test at the same time. Removing the upfront design effort and merging it with the build. Chances are, it will take the same amount of energy to design and build, but it will be what the customer wants – better quality. And we have maximised the amount of work not-done by not delivering what the customer did not need.

Project Management and Agile-Scrum

But what about the long-term planning, a lot of the longer term planning goes out the window. But Scrum does not account for the fact that there is still some longer-term planning required. For example, it may take the supplier three months to provide the interface design or organise the training days at least two months in advance. You are going to have to implement some traditional planning to get this right. Agilest might call this release planning; traditionalists might call it program management. I think they are more or less the same thing – both aim to link organisational strategy to tactics.

Both traditional project management and agile-scrum are trying to tackle the “getting it done” part of the business. A business needs to recognise the tactics for change. However, they approach it in a different way. Traditional Project Management suggests that we can deliver on the tactics by planning, setting the rules and measuring progress. The tactics for an agile-scrum help a team share the goals and empower them to get it done – now.

So what will work better, empowering the team or measuring the activity? You decide based on the complexity of the task and the engagement levels of staff.

Althris provide training in Scrum Master, Certified Product Owner, Agile and Iterative Project Management Methods.

Project Management Agile Training

Agile Training in Dublin – Starting the Agile Journey

Recently I have had the opportunity to present to students taking Project Management certificates and diploma courses with one of the University programs in Dublin. I was asked to do one day on agile out of the 10 or 12-day programme. These are all experienced employees spending considerable time and money on this course.

Each student has a copy of the thick brown PMP (Project Management Professional) manual which I now see has changed from white pages to grey – how apt. At the beginning of the class, I get the opportunity to ask them if they have enjoyed reading it. Was it interesting etc.?

It generally doesn’t take long for someone to say that it is impossible to read or does a project manager use this stuff? Scepticism of these methods kick-off my class nicely and it doesn’t take long for students to agree that’s it’s “a pile of …”.

Ok, I have to roll-back a little as they have spent thousands on this and I better not blow the other 90% of the course out the window yet. And I’m just making the point about the complexity of the approach suggested in the PMP.

Twelve Principles of Agile Software Development

After a short discussion on their agile knowledge, I head towards the agile manifesto and more importantly the Twelve Principles of Agile Software Development. Two areas cause particular concern.

  • Welcoming change even late in the day
  • Business people and users working together on a daily basis.

They were all concerned about changes going on forever and welcoming more changes then becoming a never-ending story. We had a good debate and on this topic, I was able to get them to agree that a dynamic business would welcome changes and a more conservative business might be better to resist them.  The question “which type of business would you rather work for ?” became redundant.

I had to take the idea of Business people distracting developers every day on the chin. I couldn’t win this one, but again we did agree that it was vital to have close co-operation especially in a dynamic environment.

The Stacey Matrix

Scrum Master Training Dublin Stacey’s matrix also causes a bit of stir. Interestingly one person was familiar with the “the challenge of complexity” and was keen to point out that Stacey has disowned his matrix as too many people miss-use it. Ouch – I figured that I could still hold my own on this but best to press on. In particular, it felt that good business analysis could be used get agreement on the requirements reducing some of the complicated work. Additionally, good risk management might tackle some of the technology uncertainty.

 

I didn’t come out of this unscathed, but the class got the point. Time for little light-hearted games at this stage. I used a “document the drawing” vs “describe the drawing” game and this went down well. We got near total agreement that old-fashioned BRD’s (Business requirements documents) are painful to write and often miss the mark.

 

Onto a winner now with personas and user stories. By now I’ve started to win them over, and it was time to introduce Kanban. After the session, they all agreed to implement a personal Kanban board for their exam practice. At this stage I figure I can do no wrong, we decide to break.

The afternoon we looked at Scrum and in particular the Scrum Principles. We hit on the role of the scrum master and servant leadership. We used games to outline “work in progress”, commitment and waste. The group started to explore how agile would fit into their working environment.

Some questions arose like

  • But what happens when we don’t have full-time teams
  • Most of our project are about the integration of suppliers and customers?
  • What about change management
  • How does agile fit with long-term planning

By days end we saw some super agile concepts, and there was no disagreement that we should concentrate on getting things done as opposed to over planning everything. Agile is very important for team productivity, but scaling was still going to create a management overhead. Some attendees felt that Agile training wasn’t entirely focussed on project management but instead team management.

Brush up on your knowledge with our expert PMP evening workshop session. PMP may still have a long life but let’s stretch ourselves and be more agile.

Scrum Training
PMO

Planning and Execution of Test Cases During Agile Development Iterations

During the software development process it is vital to establish a robust process of software quality assurance, even if you are developing using an Agile development methodology.

It is important to mention that Agile development should not be confused with development without a defined quality management software. It is strongly recommended that the tasks of creating test cases and performing automated tests be planned for each development iteration.

In addition, having a test-focused person is a key to the quality of software development during the Agile iterations.

Agile Planning and Quality Assurance Tasks

The Agile iteration planning process allocates at least one resource for testing activities, and does not involve this resource in development activities within the iteration. This process is important to avoid poor quality testing.

Within a development team of five people, having at least one person focused on these tests tasks will greatly help to ensure the quality of the software. In this case we are talking about functional tests (black-box testing) planned and written through test cases. However, we must not forget that the unit tests (white-box testing) are the responsibility of the development team, and the tasks of developing these unit tests must be estimated together with the backlog items.

The advantage of include planning and execution quality assurance tasks even in an Agile software development cycle is the concern of the development team in delivering quality software to those responsible for running the tests. It is amazing how the simple fact there is a person planning and thinking about software testing already increases the quality of the software.

Here are some tests tasks that can be executed during a development iteration:

  • Creating a test-planning;
  • Creating the detailed test cases for each user story or backlog item;
  • Preparing test environments required for system tests;
  • Preparing test data: getting real data from production or simulation.

In addition the tests can be automated, so the tasks below can be included:

  • Automating unit tests;
  • Automating functional tests;
  • Writing mocks, test drivers, data simulators, test frameworks.

Tools for planning and running tests

It is not the purpose of this article to present test tools. However, it is important for the agility of the software development process to look for tools to automate the execution of the tests as well as documenting the test plans and the test cases.

Remember that tests can be re-used in future development iterations, so it is very important to define a centralised method and tool to manage the test plans and test cases. An efficient test management tool will help you with the agility and quality of your software.

The following are some suggestions for test tools:

  • qTest
  • PractiTest
  • Test Collab
  • TestFLO for Jira
  • XQual
  • TestCaseLab
  • Microsoft Test Manager (Test planning and automation)
  • Microsoft Team Services (Test cases)
  • Selenium (Automation of functional tests for Web applications)
  • TestRail

Facing into an exam is never easy, particularly if your company is paying for it, or if you are doing it with a group of work colleagues; you don’t want to be seen as a failure.

At the moment of writing this, there are two well-known certificate centres. The first one is the scrum.org organisation, run by Ken Schwaber, which does a certification titled Professional Scrum Master (PSM). The second is the Scrum Alliance team, which makes you Certified Scum Master (CSM). In this article, I am writing about PSM certification, but those hints are also valid for CSM candidates.

To pass the PSM exam at the first level, you need to focus both on preparation for the exam, and on the exam itself. Below you can find seven tips that can definitely help you in reaching your goal.

1.   Attend a good Scrum Master training course.

It all begins with training. You can study on your own, but it is like learning the rules of physics from a book. It is possible, but without any practice and instant feedback from the trainer, you may understand things the wrong way. There is a lot to be learned from the classroom environment – feedback and questions from other student enhance the learning experience. There is also the opportunity for ongoing support from your classmates.

In everywhere there are Scrum courses of varying quality on offer, so the most efficient way to select one is probably by asking people. Word of mouth is very powerful, and you will get real information about the trainer.

The training programme must contain practice hours. This is when you verify your theoretical knowledge, and where you really absorb the material. Listening to lectures is boring, and you actually don’t learn that much; but practising it during the course helps you get a real understanding. On top of that, when you figure out how things work, you are more likely to remember it automatically.

Please check how many participants are to attend at a given date. The higher the number is, the lower chance of individual contact with the trainer and of having all your questions answered. On the other hand, being alone is not good either, as you need a team you can train on. In my opinion, eight to 12 people in the room is the right number, as the trainer can replicate two Scrum teams. 6 works but at 16 its getting hard to get the trainers attention.

Real Practice – learners design their own Scrum process.

2.   Do open assessment.

On the scrum.org page, you will find the “Open Assessments” tab where you can check your knowledge about the Scrum framework. This sample exam is a must-do thing before the exam, for three reasons.

The first reason is that it will allow you to check whether you are good enough to pass the final exam. It will save you stress and money, as this is free of charge, so you have nothing to lose.

The second reason is to see what the real exam looks like, and how fast you are able to read and answer the questions. It will help you get used to the pressure of time, and will give you a feel for the exam and how it looks.

The third reason, equally important as the first two, is that by answering those question, you are still learning. What is great is that you can do open assessment many times, and each time you will answer different questions. By doing this, you simply learn new things, and new ideas appear in your head. You can find answers to them later in books, and so your knowledge will grow. Remember that some of those questions are similar to, or the same as, the ones in the real exam – so don’t just pluck answers from the air.

Try the Althris Sample Exam here

3.   Explore the Scrum Guide.

The Scrum Guide is your primary source of knowledge. It is a short read, but every sentence matters. It’s dense with information, so read it a number of times and stop to think about the implications of each sentence. As it is for many experienced Scrum Masters, you will still need to look back at this document throughout your career, so get to know it.

The PSM I exam is sometimes tricky, and a small detail can decide whether your answer is correct or not. General knowledge is not enough, as it leads to quick but wrong answers in the exam. You need to know exactly how concepts are presented in the guide.

4.   Buddy up for a day.

If you are already working in an Agile company where there are Scrum Masters, you are lucky. Ask any of them if you can become his or her ghost for a couple of days. Buddying is a learning technique, where one employee does their daily tasks as usual, while the second person follows what is going on. The buddy accompanies the employee all day long.

You learn by observation, but you also get to ask anything about the Scrum Master’s work. The most important thing in this exercise is that you will encounter real-life situations, which will generate tons of questions in your head. You can get instant answers to those questions, as the expert is at your fingertips. I can guarantee that you will learn a lot, and it will be a kind of interesting experience for you both.

5.   Use discussion groups.

I am subscribed to several Scrum groups on LinkedIn and, from time to time, I am notified by email about some new threads. People ask loads of questions, from the basic level, like “We have teams of 10; is that OK with Scrum?” to more sophisticated ones such as “How do you manage dependencies between teams working on the same backlog?”

You should read first before contributing any questions. As you read loads of questions and answers, you will get to see different points of view, and then start to formulate your own.

The second thing is that discussion groups are another way to find replies to your topics. Don’t hesitate to post your doubts, even if you are a newbie. Experienced people really do like to respond – I think it makes them feel more like experts. And you get the benefit of their knowledge

6.   Choose the perfect time and place.

The good thing about the PSM exam is that you can take it at a place and time of your choosing. Most people are at their peak effectiveness in the morning, but there are exceptions to this rule, so choose what is best for you. The other important thing is choosing a place. Be sure you won’t be interrupted, and there won’t be any annoying background noise.

Having a space where you can read out the question also really helps concentration for some people, and certainly reduces stress.

7.   Read the exam carefully.

There are 80 questions, and 60 minutes to answer them. It means that you have one minute to read the question and give the answer, so don’t be in a rush. As I mentioned above, some of the questions are tricky, and one word can change the whole meaning of the sentence. Spend most of this minute on reading thoroughly before answering. When you get stuck, give the most probable answer, and continue. The system allows you to go back and change the answer if needed, but really a straight-through read is often the best way. It’s a short exam, and you may not have the time to revisit the questions as you go.

You can use this article as a starting point for your own checklist before the exam. Check what works for you and what doesn’t. And, after all, this is hard work – so don’t forget to celebrate the success. You will soon be a member of a small elite group of certified Scrum Masters.

I am also due to publish an ebook (just tidying it up at the moment) with further information and pointers, so subscribe to be the first to get an issue.

Good luck!

David is currently writing a more detailed guide on the PSM exam linkin to get further updates

Agile Development: Project Schedules on an Agile Methodology

If you come from a traditional project management background, or if you have a Project Management Office (PMO) that needs a project monitoring tool or status, then you’ll be used to Gantt charts; but in Agile we’ve got even better tools for the management and visualisation of progress.

Tracking the burndown graph that shows the evolution of the sprint is vital to the progress of the development cycle, as are Kanban boards that make it easier to see the task progression.

By using these two tools, we actually have significantly more control than with a complex Gantt chart. The tasks are the stories, which for the users have a clear outcome, as they can actually see the deliverable emerging.

The Kanban Board  is used to show progress of individual stories and their progression through the development cycle. There is no need to micro-manage the sub-tasks – just keep an eye on the story.

Kanban Board

 

 

 

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Burndown Chart

 

 

 

 

 

The burndown shows the throughput of work, and how much there is to go. The work left to be done could be seen as both effort and complexity – because they are the same thing.

Here are some tips that can help you create these progress charts for Agile software development projects:

  • Don’t overcomplicate the Kanban board; just make sure it works and is being used.
  • The most granular level in the Agile timeline is that of the stories, so it is not necessary to include sub-tasks for the stories.
  • It does not make sense to control the timing of each story, since we are talking about the timing of each iteration (sprint), and the set of stories that compose these iterations.