Scrum and XP from the trenches

Sprinting the stories

Scrum and XP from the trench describes how Scrum has been used to apply some Agile project team management methods on real life projects. Henrik Kniberg modestly describes this as a paper while it actually happens to be, well, an excellent practical guide.

Scrum and XP from the trenches The specific jargon may make it a bit slightly difficult to dive into, though. Sprint, scrum master, stories, when iteration, project leader or use cases could have done the trick. This could result in having the author sounding like some kind of sectarian, at least for the first 10 or 20 pages.

However, regardless of the actual Scrum radical approach, the project and people management tips in this book make it a definite must read to whoever is interested in these area of professional software development .

10 lessons in Project Management

The first half of the book mostly describes a Sprint (iteration). 10 brilliant project management tips bubble up from this description :

  1. Complete transparency on the projet. All people in the team have clear tasks assigned to them, and everybody knows who is doing what, what are the objectives and dependencies.
  2. Cost estimates are carried out by developers. I’m sure you fellow developers know how terrible that is to meet estimates and deadlines a manager (a technical one if you’re lucky) commited to. Having developers estimating their work (as long as you can challenge them) makes everybody comfortable.
  3. Never ever compromise on quality to add more stories in a sprint. Rather have less stories.
  4. Seat the whole team together
  5. 15 mins daily status meeting. Hard time for procrastinators ahead …
  6. Always end up the Sprint with a demo. So many reasons : it motivates the team, you can communicate more easily on what you’ve been doing, and hey ! you have to have something working !
  7. My favorite one : the large taskboard to track the Sprint progress. No fancy colorful excel sheet that no one bar the managers can understand or even bother go through : just a board with colorful stickers for tasks and the Burndown graph. Instant view of the progress, daily updated, always accessible.
  8. Keep the managers at bay
  9. Post Sprint retrospective. This helps finding out what could have be done better, validate the initial estimates, the velocity, have the team to talk to provide feedback, etc …
  10. All meetings are time boxed.

Applying XP with relunctant people

An interesting section of the paper talks more about how Scrum (team organisation) fits nicely with XP (programming methodology), going with the following main eXtreme Programming features.

These are : Pair programming, Test Driven Development, Incremental design (no need to over design at the early stages of the project), Continuous integration, collective code ownership, fighting overtime which eventually happens to be counterproductive, etc …

This is another story to apply these. In particular Pair Programming.

Here comes the other main quality of this book : suggesting different ways of dealing with people to put in place such controversial practices, especially when the most relunctanct people are the ones that never actually experienced those practices.

Each time Henrik describes different situations with different type of oppositions from the developers and suggest an appropriate way of dealing with it. This smooth, clever, thoughtful and yet assertive approach definitely are (from my experience) the most efficient and the less frustrating ones, from both perspectives.

It’s free

And that’s not the only reason why it’s worth having : this is an excellent book, fun and easy to read : strongly recommended if you’re interested in project management methodologies, even if you dont plan to apply such radical technique as Scrum.

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