experiment early on

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An early morning photo opportunity in Yokohama while the streets ere still empty.

I actually wanted to catch the rising sun to the east. However the same cloud front that kept Mount Fuji from view blocked the sunrise too.

Next best thing was to shoot the main downtown through road while still traffic less and so “waiting for the Beatles” (original title) was created.

Building in experiments into the team’s activities is key to investigating new areas and determining new solutions.

Given agile operates in the complex system zone, it requires novel approaches to uncover new ways of thinking.

Sometimes this is only possible by allowing time for experimentation and using the results in an empirical fashion to move forward towards an end result.

These experiments, or in IT terms, spikes are just as important as regular backlog items when developing complex solutions.

customer delight

tea is served

Teatime has a very special meaning in Morocco and anytime is teatime.

Here a returning tea maid walks through the alleys in Marrakech, Morocco after serving a tray of mint teas.

Specially prepared in metal teapots and served with extra sugar, the tea takes time to get used to, but soon becomes part of the travellers daily refreshments.

Even the tea pouring is a customer event in itself. The pot is moved up and down above the cup to help cool the tea before drinking.

The agile manifesto, just like the tea ceremony, puts the customer in the centre.

This goes alongside product focussed teams, collaboration with stakeholders and a readiness for change.

The customer requirements are communicated via the product backlog in a sorting determined by the product owner.

The product owner is the single individual responsible for the backlog and must ensure all stakeholder requirements are considered and maintained in a prioritised manner.

This backlog is then estimated on a user story level in order to manage the number of backlog items that can be developed in a single iteration.

deadlines kill creativity

quiet time @ café clockTaking time out for tea @ Café Clock “www.cafeclock.com” in Fes, Morocco and snapshooting with the iPhone.

Café Clock was built up by an Englishman who had fallen for the Moroccan way of life.

After a first attempt to buy a property failed he was shortly before leaving Morocco when the Café Clock property became available.

Now it is a major social meeting place in Fes with excellent locally inspired cuisine with an independent flair.

Plan in some rest time.

It may well not remain as downtime in your planning iteration as things won’t always go to plan.

In order er to increase the chance of the plan holding true then don’t plan so far in advance.

If he team has chance to actually enjoy that break, then that is most likely the time that the creativity and innovative ideas will flourish.

So either way it is a win-win – use 70% of your plan for what you know now, and be positively surprised if you actually get to use the other 30% to be creative.

presenting your product

stripes and stones

A rare opportunity to take a camera into Antwerp’s main art gallery led to viewing the exhibition in a broader art and art lover context.

This made the visit even more inspiring by allowing me to practice my art in a place of artistry.

The product review, whether to a product owner, stakeholder or customer circle is one of the key events in any iteration.

It provides the opportunity for the team to align on vision and release targets before looking at the current iteration. This is then done by engaging the stakeholders in an interactive review with a focus on the finished product increment.

This increment is reviewed against an agreed definition of done, to ensure the appropriate quality expectations are reached. The product increment should have been reviewed prior to the review meeting so that an approval by the product owner during the meeting can be assured.

Features that have not been completed in the sprint should not be presented in the review, although a customer will expect some indication of the progress made at that point in time.

Market information is provided by the market facing members of the team to ensure validity of the remaining backlog items. In some cases this can lead to an adjustment and inclusion of some product backlog items or their actual ordering.

Output is an approved product increment which works with all previous product increment accumulations. The product owner can but does not have to release this increment if it does not make sense to do so.

up front and transparent

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Playing around with the exposure led to the ownerless straw hat (our coach), floating above the clear glass bottles (our team).

More from design town antwerp on Flickr

As agile coach, trainer or scrum master it’s important to bring the team into the foreground.

Whether with stakeholders, customers, or simply helping them recognise that it is the team that counts.

Help them to be transparent with one another, as only through that openness and honesty will they truly operate as a single unit.

You can achieve this by acting as an extra pair of eyes, an observer one step removed from the main group.

Provide the team the space they need and help them through the tougher discussions. Use your observational skills to highlight key incidences and provide objective feedback to help them improve.

Remember, you don’t always need to immediately have an answer, help the team to find the answer themselves by guiding them with open questions and bring them closer together as a single unit.

know your competition

mercedes daze

The Mercedes museum in Stuttgart takes you back in time and tells the story of the founders of modern day motoring.

An impressive collection of old timers from racing cars to school buses.

This all takes place under an impressive modern architecture of glass and steel.

More racing competition and turning back the clock can be found on Flickr

Including the potential of your competition is key in determining your future strategy.

Look for ways to go to market with a minimum viable product that gets you there faster than the competition.

An iterative development process focused on the most significant features sorted by business value is essential.

The best way to guide your own future is to invent it before your competition does.

Keep this focus and include a sanity check on your product backlog to make sure you are keeping your product competitive.

celebrate the successes

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Sunset in Essaouira was spectacular with hundreds of seagulls filling the golden sky.

This made the task of capturing the right shot easier as there was always a bird on high in the frame.

Nevertheless this shot is my favourite due to the silhouette of the bird’s wings as it soars away from the camera into the setting sun.

More Moroccan magic on Flickr

Every iteration is a chance to celebrate the team’s success.

Take the opportunity to share a good result and build the team spirit whenever possible.

The tough times will then become easier to manage the better the team knows each other.

These celebration moments will help the team to unwind and get to know each other even better.

just enough is good enough

Images that caught my attention were plenty on the trip to Japan.

Even the most simple things like these threads on a Yokohama market stall were picked up in the lens.

It was a delight to have the camera at hand at all times and built more than enough photo stock for my 365 day photo project.

More from the land of the rising sun on Flickr

Planning is just as important in an agile environment, only the attention to detail is different.

A plan is made of differing horizons – task, sprint, release levels.

Across these horizons the level of detail decreases from task to release meaning the right level of attention is paid at the right time.

Long term plans simply provide false security, while agile planning aims for the right level of detail at the right time.

Quite likely the total planning activity over the lifetime of a project is greater for an agile project, but the focus is on plan-develop-plan-develop rather than a single planning and single development phase.

gel the generations

Vacation time in Italy at Lago Di Como and a visit to Como town at the southern most end of the lake.

Taken while spinning around to keep up with the passing boarder, I love the combination of ancient architecture and modern street life with the skateboarder, trash and graffiti connecting the two.

More from lago di como on Flickr

Agility increases with diversity.

One way to diversify is to engage multiple generations in one team.

This enables a different view on a situation depending on the skill sets and experiences that each generation brings to the table.

The next years will be interesting as four generations will co-habit in the business world. From baby boomer, through Gen X, to Gen Y and Gen Z.

That brings a new dynamic and diversity to every team that can get the most out of this generation mix.