Monday, February 20, 2012

Process meltdown.

After our process meltdown. We've decided to dust ourselves down and try again. What I think we've done is retrospect ourselves into a corner. We used retrospectives to remove the barriers to our productivity but by reducing some of the ceremony somehow we have removed all structure. This combined with a change in personnel and the disruption of the Christmas period has resulted in a development process that is best described as sluggish anarchy.

Rushing Shu, Ha, Ri

We've decided to re-adopt scrum again. Why? I feel we started to run before we could walk. There is a phrase that has been picked up by the agile community, Shu, Ha, Ri. This phrase borrowed from Akido shows different stages of learning.
In the phase of Shu, the person tries to abide by the rules. She tries to learn all the principles and informations by heart. But she can't abide by all the rules while she is doing the practice. Her body(including her brain) starts to remember them bit by bit through repetitious practices. When the time comes she can internalize and abide by all the rules -- when Shu is achieved, Shu phase is finished and she enters into Ha phase.
In the phase of Ha, she tries to break the (old) rules. She tries to self-reflect on herself and her knowledge, and come up with anti-theses such as exceptions of the rules in the real world. But she can't break all the old rules while she is doing the practice. Her rules start to get more complete(or becomes more like "case-by-case") as the rules encompass exceptions bit by bit. When the time comes she can break all the rules and see the both sides of every rule (maybe substituting with a set of her own rules) -- when Ha is achieved, Ha phase is finished and she enters into Ri phase.
In the phase of Ri, she tries to leave the rules. She tries to get free from all the rules, and get into the state of no distinction, or into a new dimension. But she can't leave all the rules while she is doing the practice. Her body starts to forget them bit by bit through following natural laws and flows (or Tao). When the time comes she can leave all the rules -- when Ri is achieved, Ri phase is finished and she enters into a new dimension of Shu.
We feel that we tried to enter the Ha stage before mastering the Shu.

Learning to fail habitually

The one thing I don't like about scrum is it is a framework for exposing failure. This can be used as a positive but after a number of failed sprints your team can become demotivated. We kept on over committing on story points per iteration and rather than reduce we tried to combat low velocity by removing impediments. This became habitual. We were learning to accept loss as a norm.

Process rebirth

So today we've started the sprint with a much smaller number of points. The idea behind this is that we can achieve the goal. Hopefully this will make us feel better about the process and motivated to continue.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


We've been revisiting the Agile in a Flash cards at the daily stand-up. As a team that purports to follow agile priniciples I don't mind saying that we've lost our way a little bit. By removing the percieved hurdles that were preventing from producing faster we seem to have gone too far. The process is lacking any structure at the minute but with new members of the team comes fresh energy. It's time to pull our socks up. What the cards do is provide us a discussion point to focus on and retrospect over where we've come from and where we want to get too. Admitting this is the first stage. Doing something about it is the second stage.