Sunday, July 26, 2009

Agile Scrum / Project Boards

So, as some of you all may know I am a proponent of agile methodologies. I have posted about agile in the past: here and here and possibly here - what you'll notice about those posts is that they are not specifically about agile, but rather about practices that I find important to doing my job well. This post is specifically about an agile practice and in specific about scrum and the practice of keeping a 'scrum board'

Physicality is king

A scrum amounts to a time boxed iteration of work. In this time box we are fixing the time, the money available (in the form of people) and we are allowing to vacillate the total amount of work that this particular group of people can accomplish (the features they will develop). The team when they start understands how much work they can complete and they commit to doing that many features from a list of features supplied to them. Then the work can begin. This work is 'tracked' as to its done-ness in either electronic form or in physical form. This should come as no surprise to anyone - but I am a large proponent of the physical scrum board.

The scrum board is a physical board used during the iteration to track the work (as mentioned above). Each story/feature gets a card on the board and is placed in the "ready" column. The other columns may vary depending on the team, our team has a "ready", an "in progress", a "done", an "accepted" and an "impeded" column. The cards are placed in each of these states as the feature is being worked on, meets its doneness criteria and is eventually placed into the accepted column.

What is great about this is being able to see and touch the cards or stickies. Doing this provides each team member with a sense of accountability that is not there when you attempt to just talk about features and work you are doing in the 'theoretical' during your scrum stand-ups. Having a physical board provides something that doesn't seem to be there in software solutions either unless you happen to have LARGE touchscreens (think Version One, Rally Dev, etc.) that provide that tactile, walk over and move the 'card' from one column to another, feel.

For me there is also something internally satisfying about really seeing items move from ready, to in-progress to done - Right there on the board. Without it, despite peoples updates, I feel a little lost during the iteration.

Additional (unintentional) Benefits

An additional benefit to the physical board is that is can be a great information radiator - transparent to anyone who happens by... they can see what you are working on, what you plan to be working on and what is already complete just by looking at the board. If an individual needs clarification they can always ask, but the board being out on the floor for everyone to see provides an ave for communication (despite being passive) that didn't exist before. It may generate questions, comments, or just plain discussion. Think about this situation - you are working on a feature in your sprint that interacts with another persons feature set (i.e. more then one team developing at a time) they happen by your board and notice what your team is working on and ask about how its going to integrate with what they are working on. Possible disaster averted due to this simple upfront conversation. Simply AWESOME.

A team can also use the physical board to add additional sprint metrics (information radiation) increasing the transparency with which the team is operating.

I fought the creation of this physical board for our team for a good long time - seeing what it can do to help the team, I am sorry that I fought as long as I did. The physical board seems to be an invaluable tool for the team and the organization at large.

PS: This physical board can also play into a Kanban type pull scenario - but may not include the specific columns mentioned here.

Another Bob Update

Bob is now home from the hospital and is doing ok. Home care has been arranged for both Mona and Bob so that they have the needed support, at least in the short term for what is going on. There has been a hospital bed and an o2 machine delivered to the home and they are getting visits from the home care people on a regular basis to check up on Bob.

Bob is taking an appetite stimulant in an attempt to get him to eat more (it amounts to refined THC, the chemical in pot)... insert interesting munchies joke here. His intake of food and fluids however is still woefully slight. He is also been taken off the lasiks now that he has been released from the hospital. There is a good chance as well due to his insanely low blood pressure that they are going to remove the need to take his blood pressure medication as well. Which in all honesty is a good thing, one less pill to think about and one less chemical to float around in there. He remains on Plavix to help his circulation. His circulation is also poor and requires him to keep the house a little on the warm side (because he is consistently cold). Mo worked with him to help him layer clothing, etc. to help keep him warmer in his extremities.

This is prob. the last of the significant updates for now unless something bizarre happens or he worsens significantly.

Thank you ALL for your wonderful support, the checkins, the contact and well wishes. It was felt more by myself then it was for mo (as the calls generally came here to the house in NJ) but I will make sure to pass along all the well wishes to her.

People I would never have expected to send their care and good energies have done so in the past two weeks or so. It has been, enlightening and eye opening to me to see that. Thank you all for helping this family with support from yours.

Blessed Be,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Wifes Father - update for family.

Sorry about using my blog to do this, but this was the best way to get everyone I know informed as to the current state of affairs.

Mo's father has stage 4 lung cancer. His left lung has totally collapsed and due to the cancer in that lung (located in the pleura of the lung) the lung will not re-inflate. That lung's function (the left lung in Bob's case) is totally gone leaving the one good lung to do the work for him. The cancer Bob has is additionally in his liver. The cancer in the liver is essentially driving down Bob's desire to eat or drink enough fluids to keep himself 'right' while he is on lasiks to keep the one bad lung from filling with fluid.

On meeting with the oncologist this morning (7/22/09) - the oncologist did not recommend Chemo due to Bob's already diminished health and other pulmonary issues (PAD, etc) indicating that if Bob were more healthy to begin with then it might make sense because he would have some energy reserve to deal with the issues the chemo could bring on. He indicated that in cases such as this the bad side prognosis is 3 - 6 months. If chemo were an option, and Bob were prepared to fight he might get out to 10 months to a year or more but that would be the outside case.

In the end the picture is not rosy. We will be looking to organize in home care for him and Mona in the short term and further working on which long term plans and options are available to us all in order to make the best of a bad situation. The current state is mostly up to Bob - he has some control of his destiny here and can change his life style to make the most of what he has left. We are essentially in a 'wait and see' what he will choose to do. If this information significantly changes, please watch my facebook for further links and information.

Joe (On Behalf of the Campbell/Vercruysse Family)