Ship at sea״I know that I want to invest more in retrospectives and in learning. But I never have the time. Reality is too important to let secondary things like fluffy meetings to manage our precious time".

Sounds familiar?

The important takes second place to the urgent.

Why is that? Why is the urgent always attacking us at the worst time, crumbling all our plans to dust?

In most cases I encounter, explaining the reason is dead simple and extremely hard to do. It boils down to: we know we're not on the right path, but we also don't know what the right path is.

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Ever so often I encounter a question along the lines of: "We have two-week iterations, and we didn't finish our scope. Can we make this iteration three weeks instead of two?"

The answer is: you can, but you should not.

To understand this it's important to understand what an iteration is.

Let's start with what an iteration isn't:

An iteration is not a release. It could end with a releasable product, but the iteration in itself is not a release. A single iteration could include several releases of the product, or multiple iteration could form a single release of the product, or a single product increment could be release every iteration. All three options are game.

An iteration is not a version. A version is a specific increment of your product or portfolio, and there is no link between iterations to versions.

An iteration length is not variable. Well, at least not frequently. Iterations' length should be fixed.

An iteration is not a planning artifact. OK, this is more tricky. Iterations are very useful in planning, and very handy in forecasting releases. But they are not an artifact used in a plan like the X-axis of a Gantt chart is. 

So what is it then?

Iterations are instances of time in a predefined cadence. As such, iterations are instruments to measure the current pace of a development team (typically software), and, as such, are also instruments to plan ahead by forecasting the expected pace of the team.

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Poll JumpOne of the key elements of a successful Agile implementation is to be, or to become, a learning organization. This is the basis for being able to adapt.

This is why Scrum, for example, has numerous mechanisms to enhance learning.

However, it is important to understand what is learning, and what is not. 

First, it is important to understand the difference between Deliberate Practice and Deliberate Learning

In this article I first describe this difference. Thereafter I explain what makes Scrum's learning mechanisms work.

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Imagine a small group of people that have an idea for a product that they believe can “make a ding in the universe”. This is how many of the hi-tech companies we know were born.

In these early days of a company, it is very common that this group of people are working together in tight collaboration and a lot of enthusiasm but, with very little budget... 
And when people work on a very tight budget and want to succeed, they are forced to do a very good and effective job, otherwise they will probably be out business soon. 

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A Tale of two Companies“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...” [C. Dickens]

This is a tale of two companies: company X and company Y.

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