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Release Planning during Agile Project Management

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Agile Project Management | 0 comments

Joe’s Approach to Release Planning

(A repost from Joe Little, Agile Coach and Certified Scrum Practitioner)

Here’s what I think Release Planning should comprise.  For a 3-6 month release, most teams could do this in about 1-3 days.  With good enough quality to then start sprinting the next day.I want to say quickly that we don’t just do the initial Release Plan.  We also do Release Plan Refactoring every Sprint. (And possibly some Sprints there are no changes.) The adaptiveness of agile release planning is perhaps its most essential aspect.

I will explain release planning more in later posts.

I do NOT guarantee that release planning is needed in all situations, nor that the approach will work in all situations.  Still, I have done this now with many many teams, and it seems to have worked with all of them.  My experience is that everyone I have done this with has liked it after they did it.  And thought it was worthwhile.  And actually did almost all of it (and almost all that it implies to me, but is not stated here).

  1. Vision
  2. Product Backlog
    • Roles
    • User Story Workshop
  3. Business Value
    • What is BV for this project?
    • Priority Poker –> BV points
  4. Effort
    • DOD
    • Planning Pokers –> Story points
  5. Risks, Dependencies, Learning, MMFS, Other
  6. ORDER THE WORK
  7. Make scope-date trade-off
  8. Calculate the budget for the release (usually a simple calculation)

(Note: MMFS stands for Minimum Marketable Feature Set. See Software by Numbers by Denne and Cleland-Huang.)

Then we have to talk about some other things, and see where we go.  For example, sometimes we find that the skill sets needed are different (now that we see the product or project more clearly).

Then we have to do Release Plan Refactoring every sprint, until the plan is more solid (sometimes it is always being improved).

As I have said elsewhere, the real value in doing this is NOT the ‘crappy’ estimates that the team arrives at after the initial release planning.  It is that everyone is now ‘on the same page’ about what the elephant is.  At least a whole lot more than we ever had before.  And I and most others find that tremendously valuable.

Note: If they do really bad or no release planning, I think it increases the chances a lot that the stories are not small enough.  This means that lots of stories just can’t get to done, done in the sprint.  So, in that and other ways, good release planning is linked to having good sprints!  Now, this problem (stories too big) can be fixed later, but god, all hell is breaking loose then. Do Scrum professionally from the beginning.

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Is it the Fish, or is it the Water?

Posted by on Jun 10, 2012 in Sales Managment | 0 comments

I have been told that most good pet stores will not sell you fish at the same time you buy a new fish tank.  However, you can buy the tank at one place and then go somewhere else to buy the fish.  If you take both the fish and the tank home, fill the tank, put the fish in the water immediately, it will be a good chance that the fish will be floating at the top of water the next day.  So the question is, was it the fish, or was it the water to blame for the death of the fish?

What does this story have to do with sales and sales management?

In this analogy the water in the tank represents sales management and the environment created by them, and the fish represent the individual sales representatives.  The reason fish were floating at the top of the water the day after they were put in was because the water/environment was not properly prepared.  It wasn’t because the fish were unhealthy. It takes some time to prepare the environment/water which is why the good pet stores do not want to sell the fish at the same time as the tank.

In my many years of experience I have seen, and continue to see so many companies with extremely high turnover of sales professionals. So the question becomes who is to blame? Is it sales management, or the individual sales representatives?

In situations where we see sales managers with 100% or 200% turnover I am inclined to believe that the people whom left were not the problem.  In those types of situations the common denominator is the sales manager and the environment that he or she has created.  It can’t always be everybody else’s fault.

In one situation I have seen a VP of Sales hire 14 people to fill and refill 5 direct report positions in less than few short years.  So was the problem the fish (14 people), or the water (the sales VP)?  I think the answer is simple, but I am a little confused as to why companies struggle with the question.

Chances are most (not all) sales professionals will be successful if the company provides them with established sales territories, sales leads, decent sales collateral, along with great sales leadership.  If those things don’t exist, is it really their fault that they are not successful?  So is it the fish or the water?