July 22, 2014

Agile Coaching Blog

Agile Coach’s Corner: April Transcript

Each month, we’ll broadcast a twitter chat with one of our agile coaches. Today, we spoke to Tiffany Willis, a Boston-area coach with BigVisible. For those who missed it, we have a transcript of today’s Q&A session. Look for our tweets or submit questions with the hashtag #bvcoach.

BigVisible: Hello to @1TiffanyWillis and our BigVisible audience. Our first coach’s corner is underway. Tweet questions with hashtag #bvcoach.

Here’s our first question: My team can’t complete stories within a sprint, what should we do?

Tiffany Willis: This happens more often than people may think. It’s usually symptomatic of the way the story is written (or the way it’s groomed). Sometimes the team isn’t working to the same defintion of done or coming together as a team to approach the story.

BigVisible: And a follow-up: So where do we start if we’re having the problem of incomplete sprints?

Tiffany Willis: I would ask some questions. How long are the sprints? Does the team feel they can complete the stories in the given time? If the team feels it can’t complete a story, it needs to meet with the PO and discuss ways to resize the stories–To break the stories into smaller chunks that still deliver pieces of working functionality.

BigVisible: Here’s another one for you, Tiffany: We’re confused about testing and agile. Do developers do testing on agile teams?

Tiffany Willis: Yes! Teams are focused on how best to deliver stories not on individuals and completed tasks. So, yes, sometimes developers test. By the same token, though, with one team a QA person did UI development because he had the skills and the team had the need. It was great!

BigVisible: Another team-related question: What about distributed teams? Does agile work for them?

Tiffany Willis: Yes. Agile values communication and collaboration. Distributed teams have to find ways to adapt: video, chat, phones, etc. Co-location shortens feedback loops. So if you are distributed keep the focus on collaboration.

BigVisible: Next question: What do we do about bugs when using Scrum?

Tiffany Willis: There are two types of bugs. The first kind are ones you create during a sprint. You should definitely make time during the sprint to fix the ones you create. The other bugs, ones that are reported, you want to add to the backlog and prioritize, assuming they aren’t mission critical. You want to plan the work to the extent possible, even the bugs. The stakeholders need to know what to expect each sprint.

BigVisible: Last question: Does agile work in a highly regulatory environment?

Tiffany Willis: Yes, why not? It’s about transparency. Let’s understand the environment in which we have to work. Whatever we have to report on (whether that’s the FEC, FCC, FDA…whatever) it needs to be known and included as part of our deliverable. We’re now working successfully with large financial services and life science companies–two of the most regulated industries. So absolutely, it can be done. And done well.

BigVisible: Thank you so much for giving us a coach’s perspective today. Any last thoughts?

Tiffany Willis: Remember to keep trying to do better. Focus on transparency and collaboration. Keep calm and agile on!

BigVisible: This concludes our inaugural coach’s corner. If you have further questions or comments, leave them here and we’ll respond. Join us next month when we host another BV coach.

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