Tag: Training

Happy team, satisfied customers

If you are going to the Plone Symposium East, or considering going, this post is for you.

I’m offering a one day course on the fundamentals of Scrum, the most popular Agile software development framework. It’ll be a fun, hands-on experience, using games instead of Powerpoint slides to teach.

The catch is I need 10 people to sign up to make the trip and effort to prepare cost-justifiable. You see, I would be going mainly to the Symposium offer this course. Agile is technology agnostic, so while I am an active supporter of Plone, I don’t need to brush up on my buildout skills or learn the ins and outs of deploying Plone at a university (though I’m sure Calvin and Michael will give insightful and entertaining talks). I want to offer something back to the Plone community, and Agile is what I know best. Reconnecting with Plone peeps over beers comes a close second. ūüôā

My passions lie in helping others, and I get my satisfaction in helping individuals enjoy their work more, teams becoming more productive and clients pleased with the result. I get to support teams as they embrace more fully Scrum’s five core values: commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage.

Is it Worth the Cost?

At US $250, this is the most expensive training option on the menu, but compared to other Agile training offerings, this is a bargain rate. No, you won’t be a super high performing team after one day of training, but you’ll leave understanding a flexible framework you can use to:

  • Know at each step how the project is progressing (amazing, but true) and use simple charts to communicate progress to the team and client
  • Get far better at estimates
  • Adjust the plan with minimal effort, even late in the project when your client wants to make 50 “minor” changes before launch
  • Lower the overhead of managing projects
  • Keep developers happy by coding more, sitting in killer meetings less
  • Lessen the impact of context thrashing, that is doing too many projects / tasks at the same time
  • Get an agreed upon definition of done to avoid subjective back-and-forth wrangling
  • and the list goes on…

Plus don’t forget you get to play with Legos for half the day. What could be better?

Web Collective shows off their Lego creations during sprint demo
Web Collective shows off their Lego creations during sprint demo

Group Discount

Scrum is for teams, so to make it easier for companies to send more than one person, I’m offering a 10% discount for each sign up, including the first one. That’s a $25 savings per person. I haven’t figured out how to do that within the event registration system, but I’ll get it to you one way or another. To qualify, you do have to work for the same organization.

Decide By April 30 and Get a Bonus

I need a few more sign ups by the end of this month before committing to buying plane tickets. Will you join me the Symposium? Anyone who signs up by the end of the month can join me for dinner after wards where we’ll dive more in depth on the issues / topics that matter to you.

Special Offer: One-on-One

Want even more help? You can either try and corner me at a pub for free (though quality of responses may be diminished) or join me for a one on one hour session to answer any questions you might have, talk through whatever issues/challenges you are facing. Make your list and get your own personal Agile coach. Email me if interested.

Register for course

Twitter Essentials: Examples and Steps to get Started

Too engaged in Twitter to look up and smile.
Having too much fun with Twitter to look at the camera.

Twitter is an amazing networking tool, but for many people, it’s hard to “get” Twitter at the start. My experience is people (including me) struggle with the benefits of Twitter and the value in using the tool for 3-6 months, sometimes more. Many just give up before reaching the “a-ha” moment. Last night I had a great time introducing Twitter to 8 eager students in my first ever public class. The goal of the course is to reduce the time to get value from Twitter, and to get productive right away by bootstrapping people with tools and know-how.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the experiment. We covered everything I had hoped to in the allotted two hours. People had lots of great questions. By the end, everyone was active on Twitter and had learned the basics of posting links, replies, re-tweets and direct messages. We used PeopleBrowsr so everything they did in class would be available to them at home or work.

A few lessons learned:

  • Double-check that you’ve packed the power chord (battery expired with few min left).
  • Class of 8 worked well for assisting people. Beyond 12 or so, have an assistant.
  • Use high contrast colours on slides when you can’t turn off all the lights.

The slides from the course are at the bottom of the post. I’ve posted references to items mentioned during the course:

Twitter examples mentioned:

Tools for building your Twitter community:

  • Twittgroups has all kinds of groups by topic or location. I set up a Sault Ste. Marie group a few months ago. Find new people to follow and add your own Twitter profile to the page so others can follow you.
  • Use Twitter advanced search to do specific searches by location, keyword, person, time line. I find people in the Sault area on a regular basis
  • Mr. Tweet looks at who you follow, what you tweet about to come up with a relevant list of new people to follow.
  • We Follow is a user-generated Twitter directory. Find people to follow by topic. Add yourself to the directory under three topics using hashtags. You can find me under Agile, Sault, coach.
  • Twubble is a simpler version of Mr. Tweet that looks at who your followers are following and recommends people.

Tools for improving your Twitter profile:

Gerry recommends PeopleBrowsr Twitter app for managing your tweets. To get the most out of PeopleBrowsr, click on the Tutorial link at the bottom of the screen after you log in.

Come meet other Saultbies on Twitter at the next Sault Tweetup event, May 19 @ Cafe Natura.

View more presentations from gerrykirk.

The Road to Scrum is Paved with Lego (updated)

Games are a fun, interactive, effective way to teach. A dose of competition mixed with social interaction keeps people engaged. You learn by doing and reflecting on the experience. Powerpoint, your time is over.

Until recently, I hadn’t had the opportunity to use learning games, since most of my work as an Agile coach is done remotely. In February I tried out the Resort Brochure with The Blog Studio and Thmvmnt with positive results, and then in early March I spent a few days with the Web Collective, all small purpose-driven organizations looking to become more Agile.

To introduce everyone to Scrum, I used Alexey Krivitsky‘s excellent Lego For Extended Scrum Simulation. Alexey’s game has improvements over other Scrum simulations I’ve read online:

  1. Build the backlog. Teams estimate the size of items, and the product owner may re-prioritize based on those estimates, just like in a real project. Some games have pre-determined backlogs, with all items sized and prioritized for you. Seems a little too command-and-control to me, which Scrum isn’t supposed to be.
  2. Multi-team collaboration. Teams work together, not against each other to reach their goal.
  3. Metrics applied to planning process. If you are going to bother estimating, make it useful. Teams estimate the size of their work, compare planned vs. observed velocity (how much they get done each sprint) and see the effect of observed velocity on their release plan.
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Leading retrospective at end of game

How it works

This was my first time trying the Lego exercise. The product owner (me) explains to the team the vision for the project, to get everyone inspired and focused. In this case, the team has been hired to build a new city.

The team then estimates the items in the backlog, which includes things like one story buildings, a church, a tow truck and a crane. We used Steve Bochman’s team estimation technique to quickly size up stories. Team estimation turned out to be quicker than planning poker, which is what I had always used in projects. Team estimation and planning poker focus on comparing the relative size of features / stories, which is far easier to do and more accurate than trying to guess the absolute time to build each item. The next day the Air Charity team at Web Collective estimated over 50 stories, averaging between 2-3 minutes per story! Amazing speed given this was their first Agile project.

Task board showing 3 sprints of stories and a velocity chart
Task board showing 4 sprints of stories and a velocity chart

Once the items are estimated, the teams have guess how much they can get done in one 5 minute sprint, and that is used to determine their initial velocity. We’ll then count up the number of points at the end of each sprint to adjust that number. In the diagram above, the team estimated 18 points per sprint before starting the work. Each section of stories is a sprint.

Watch the passion, focus and determination for yourselves.

What went well

  • Teams learned the importance of getting enough information from the Product Owner (client) to deliver what the client wanted. Some Lego creations were rejected because they didn’t pass expected scenarios, like being able to open the door on a building without the wall coming apart. The quick feedback cycles of sprints enabled them to fail fast and get back on track.
  • Everyone had fun learning about Scrum. They went through most of the Scrum process, from release planning to working in 4 sprints, including a demo / review at the end of each one.

What could have been better

  • Forgot to update burn down chart at the end of each sprint, and with that, the review of the teams’ overall progress in comparison to the release plan.
  • Need more Lego. One tow truck hobbled on 3 wheels.
  • With 8 people, team estimation stalled at times. Need to learn more techniques to keep flow moving. Hank Roark (@hroark on Twitter) pointed me to James Grenning’s Companion games for planning poker.

What I will do differently next time

  • Use a timer that everyone can see
  • Tweak the estimation process to make it go faster
  • Keep a check list of items to do during every sprint
  • Expand Lego set to add some variation

ITSSM Software Development Workshop: Introducing Agile

Agile, Python, QA, Rational Unified Process and Ruby on Rails. IT folk in Sault Ste. Marie got a smorgasborg of technology, tools and processes at the Innovation Centre’s Software Development Best Practices Workshop. I was the warm-up act, introducing Agile and I chose to do that through a learning game. 5 teams worked on a release plan for building a brochure for a tourist resort. Normally I do this over a morning with one team, so scaling to 5 over 1.5 hours was a bit of controlled chaos.

Below are the slides from the presentation

My first ever public training class: Twitter Essentials

Update: course date is April 21. Only first 20 registrants accepted.

Twitter logo

“Facebook is for people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know.” – Tim O’Reilly
“Twitter is the water cooler for connected free agents.” – Mark K
I like Twitter – a lot, and feel Twitter can benefit businesses, organizations and individuals here in the Sault. That’s why I am putting together a course on Twitter. Read on for more details.
I had signed up to Twitter long ago, but didn’t “get it” until I used Twitter during the last federal election while promoting the vote swap / vote reform campaign (more info and video of presentation). Since then, I’ve been using Twitter extensively, building a network that is generating work opportunities, helping him find quick answers, get support on products, make new friendships and take part in exciting initiatives. Some examples of Twitter goodness:
  • Coaching & training a web development team based in TO in Agile
  • Volunteering for Changecamp.ca and Thmvmnt.info, both which may turn into longer term paid gigs. Attended inaugural ChangeCamp in TO, got involved in organizing, expanded network of TO contacts
  • Recruited a passionate volunteer for Pairvote.ca, who wrote on his blog, gave media interviews and poured in countless hours in final week of campaign
  • Many useful links and tips on Agile, helped many others with Agile questions
  • Organized all-star panel for Agile 2009 conference from people who responded on Twitter.
  • Made many new friends, both locally and around the world.
  • Learned about the Hudson plane crash moments after it happened. Saw first photo of plane crash on Twitter before reaching mainstream media.

Twitter, at first glance is a simple tool to master, but without guidance it can take months to start getting real value for time invested. The purpose of this course is to avoid the time suck to ramp up on how best to use your time on Twitter. Participants will learn by doing:

  • How Twitter differs from other social networking tools
  • How Twitter is being used by citizens, business people, government officials, media and others
  • How to create a suitable presence on Twitter
  • How to use a Twitter client to better manage conversations and relationships
  • How to find people they want to converse with
  • Proper Twitter etiquette
  • Examples of Twitter postings
  • Discover 3rd party tools to enhance their Twitter experience

When: April 21, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Where: Course will take place at Algoma University, using a computer lab where everyone will have their own workstation.

Size limited to 20 participants. Course fee is $50. Register and pay online.


Course Outline

2 hrs total, though may stretch to as much as 2.5 hours

15 min    Intro: What is Twitter?

15 min    Examples of Twitter usage
15 min    Setting up your account
15 min    How to find followers / people to follow, conversations of interest

10 min    Break

20 min    Twitter client tools show and tell, with focus on PeopleBrowsr
10 min    Apps that use Twitter, apps to help you benefit more from Twitter
10 min    Questions, concerns
10 min    Conclusion, wrap-up

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