Beware the hidden dimension of the product backlog

Over the years I’ve seen my share of product backlogs and while they are telling in themselves the product backlog naturally is not the only source of insight. The vibe amongst the team is yet another important one. Growth time is another. For this post I’ll paint the picture of 2 teams for you to illustrate the premise.

Let’s say team Nautilus have done everything right in the team chartering stage and are off to a great start. Everyone knows the team’s purpose and is bought into it. Things are running like clockwork. Nautilus are pushing themselves. Most of the time they hit their iteration targets. A few times they fall short. Retros have become honest, open, constructive, and real. The team is firmly in the performing stage of team development. After a brief period however the team members start to complain about being overworked. There is an impressive amount of productivity, which is coupled with an increasingly bad vibe.
Team Condor is in a similar position. The main difference is that the vibe remains positive and full of excitement; the team keeps getting better. Overall they deliver almost as much as team Nautilus, say 90%. Continue reading

Team size dynamics – where is the science on this?

The magical maximum team size was heralded at 7±2. Some now say it is 5±2. The military has it as 4.

Regardless of the actual figure what is the science behind it?

Many managers and leaders fall into the common productivity trap that more people mean more progress. But bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to the organisation of teams at work, in fact it’s quite the contrary.

Individuals who form a part of a smaller team have been scientifically proven to be more personally productive than those on larger teams. While each additional person increases the total productivity of the team as a whole, research has shown that they do so at a decreasing rate; the 5th member to join a team for example, makes a bigger impact on its productivity than the fifteenth. Let’s look at some theories as to why this happens. Continue reading

Agile Coaching: A detective game

Over recent months, I’ve come to hear tales and woes of some Agile Coaches seemingly ‘breaking and entering’ an organisation and instantly eliminating whatever the existing Agile practice in favour of their own methodology. Supposedly, some contexts do demand this approach, perhaps based on previous learning this is even the client’s intention or the coach’s recommendation. By and large however, it seems to me that this robs the Agile Coach of valuable learning; losing knowledge of the underlying causes of success and dysfunction that would inevitably prove useful when working with the people and the organisation going forward. Continue reading