Agile Ottawa – September Event – Announcement and Links

Thanks to Phil Green (twitter: @pg5150) for his engaging workshop on “User Story Mapping” this week.  Thank you also to all who came out and participated in the event… we had a packed house and a great time.

As promised, here are some useful links of upcoming events in the Agile community.  Agile Ottawa’s next session will be downtown… still looking for a location for this event.  If anyone can volunteer some space, please reach out to us… we look forward to seeing you at our next event!

Agile Pain Relief – kind sponsors of pizza – has a few upcoming courses taking place in Ottawa for Certified Product Owners and Certified ScrumMasters – for more details, please take a look here:

Gatineau Ottawa Agile Tour (GOAT) is still accepting proposals (deadline is September 15th) for speakers and rumours are the team is getting close to selecting keynote speakers. Mark your calendar for November 24th 2014. Tickets go on sale October 1st.

Scrum.Org is in town at the end of the Month, hosting a Professional Scrum Developer Train the Trainer Event.  For more details:

YouILabs – kind volunteers of space for the September AO event – have postings open for all kinds of Agile folks.  For more details:

Agile 101 – For a complete list of the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto, go to:


Calling all Agilistas! Another Year of Agile Ottawa is Ready to Go!

The volunteer organizers of Agile Ottawa have been busy bees over the summer as we prepare for another year of Agile Ottawa meetup events.  In addition, our group is taking on a greater leadership role in organizing the Gatineau Ottawa Agile Tour conference coming in November.  Call for speakers deadline is Sept. 15th, see details below.

If you can’t wait until November to get your dose of Agile, then we suggest coming out to our first event of the year. Graciously hosted by YouILabs and with pizza provided by Agile Pain Relief, Phil Green (twitter: @pg5150) will present a User Story Mapping Workshop on Tuesday, September 9th. For details and to register:

We look forward to bringing you Agile meetups every second Tuesday of the month again for another year… if you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to present at AO, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  Hope to see you soon!

GOAT 2014 Call for Speakers – Appel aux conférenciers

Gatineau Ottawa Agile Tour 2014 Call for Speakers

The Gatineau  Ottawa Agile Tour (#GOAT14) is a one day conference around the theme of Agility applied to software development, management, marketing, product management and other areas of today’s businesses. This year’s event will take place on Monday, November 24th 2014. We are looking for engaging and inspirational speakers for this year’s Gatineau / Ottawa Agile Tour. If you are interested in speaking, please submit a proposal by completing the online form at  Presentations may be offered in English or in French.

The organizing committee will select speakers based on the following criteria

  • Learning potential for and appeal to participants
  • Practicality and usefulness/applicability of content to the workplace
  • Overall program balance Speaker’s experience and reputation
  • Interactive elements (i.e. exercises, simulations, questions…)

All interested speakers must submit their proposal by Sunday September 15th at 23:59pm

La Tournée agile Gatineau – Ottawa 2014 Appel aux conférenciers

La Tournée agile Gatineau – Ottawa (#GOAT14) est une journée de présentations et d’ateliers sur le thème des méthodes agiles et de leur application dans tous les domaines d’affaire, incluant bien sûr le développement de logiciel, mais aussi la gestion et le marketing. L’événement se tiendra le lundi 24 novembre 2014.

Nous cherchons des conférenciers captivants avec un message inspirant pour l’édition 2014 de la Tournée Agile Gatineau / Ottawa. Si vous être intéressé à présenter, veuillez soumettre votre proposition à en remplissant le formulaire.  Les présentations peuvent être en français ou en anglais.

Le comité de sélection choisira les conférenciers sur la base des critères suivants:

  • Attrait pour les participants et potential d’apprentissage
  • Emphase sur les aspects pratiques, et utilité du contenu en milieu de travail
  • Équilibre du programme
  • Expérience et réputation du conférencier
  • Portions interactives (càd: exercices, simulations, questions…)

Toutes les propositions doivent être envoyées avant 23:59 le dimanche 14 septembre 2014

Software Methodologies Experiment – The Marshmallow Challenge

This is a summary of this meetup held on May 13, 2014 at YouILab

Ellen, Glenn and Caroline started the night with Agile 101s on different software methodologies.

Once Glenn pulled out his outstanding explanation of Waterfall, Ellen made a swift introduction to Scrum followed by Caroline who gently disclosed the secret behind Kanban.

Once the pizzas were distributed, bellies were filled and our minds were settled we were ready for action. It also occurred to me once again; YouILabs had an amazing lunch area. Well disposed, properly lighten up with comfortable chairs all around different types of tables. Some of them were round tables, encouraging a neutral collaboration whereas others where rectangular. A very Agile space…

The concept of the night was to experiment with using different software methodologies by solving the Marshmallow Challenge. You can read more about The Marshmallow Challenge here.

Our Setup:

  • 5 persons per team
  • 3 Kanban Teams
  • 2 Scrum Teams
  • 2 Waterfall Teams

Each team was given a simplified version of Kanban, Scrum and Waterfall to help them solve the Marshmallow Challenge…

The Kanban team was given two practices: “Visualize Work” and “Limit WIP” as well as three principles to help guide their effort: “Start with what you know”; “Evolutionary change”; “Leadership at all levels”.

The Scrum Team had to identify a Product Owner, a Scrummaster and a development team and had to complete the challenge in 2 Sprints, 6 minutes each.

The Waterfall team had to decide of the design first then implement the design. The designers were different than the developers and they couldn’t talk to each other. Interestingly, one team had 3 designers / 2 developers and the other team had the opposite. Their marshmallow tower had to be identical as the design document produced by the designers.

While the 18 minutes were flying by I could see some team struggling with designs, communication and some of them were quickly fighting gravity. 4 teams out of 7 successfully made a standing tower with the marshmallow on top. They were in between 20 to 22 inches tall.

Unfortunately, one Scrum team and none of the Waterfall teams were able to make it in 18 min. Although their designs were fantastic, there was no free standing tower by the end of the challenge. The Scrum team tried to make such large step as their last increment; once the marshmallow was placed on top: the tower simply couldn’t stand…

Challenge completed, the teams completed a quick survey to get a sense of how well they performed as a team, as individuals and how well their methodology helped them to solve the problem. This created some good discussion with the group and generated a few “a-ha” moments. For instance, as we were leaving, a participant pointed out how the Waterfall teams seemed to rate their performance as individuals higher than the team’s performance… whereas the Scrum and Kanban team members rated their team performance higher than their individual performances on the challenge.  Hum… sound familiar… ?

Thanks to everyone who came out to play and shared in the experience of building marshmallow towers… Agile Ottawa is lucky to have such a lively group  of experimenters!  Looking forward to seeing you all again at our next event!!!

I think the night wouldn’t have this immense success without the support of our sponsors:

While Agile Pain Relief provided this delicious pizza, YouILabs provided a great meetup space. Thanks to Mark Levison (Agile Pain Relief), Andrew Emmons and Phil Green (YouILabs) for their help.

A few words on the upcoming Agile events:

  1. Signup quickly to an Agile 110 course with Agile Pain Relief at the beginning of June. More details can be found here 
  2. You will also find Agile Pain Relief as a sponsor of the upcoming Agile Coach Camp that will be held June 6-8, 2014 at the University of Guelph, Ontario.
  3. YouILabs is looking for Agilists to fill many different positions.
  4. Glenn and Ellen will host a Back of the Room Training on June 5-6 in Guelph.

Secrets of Agile Success – Minutes From Our “Success Faire”

Once again, the Agile Ottawa community did not disappoint… The evening started with an engaging session on Core Protocols, facilitated by our own Ellen Grove.  Ellen covered the basics of Core Protocols and lead a very effective exercise where the group had the chance to try out the protocols on each other.

In the spirit of this, we moved on to exercising one of these protocols in more detail… the “Brag Protocol”.  Participants shared stories of Agile success, we promptly applauded and cheered on…  and we attempted to capture the source of these successful stories.

Without further ado… here are a few secrets for achieving Agile success captured from our meetup:

1. Allow the team to express their opinions in anonymity to help reveal the truth.

2. Bring a ball to standup. Rather than “follow order” throw the ball around to choose who speaks next… this can lead to interesting conversations and new interactions.

3. Need people to take the lead? As the team for volunteers, you’ll discover that (given the opportunity) people WILL step forward.

4. The antidote to despair on a project is empowerment. Start fixing problems.

5. If you keep sharing Agile stories and lessons with the team; over time, you will find that you are transforming people in great ways that you didn’t anticipate.

6. Formulating the project “requirements” as “problems”, allows creative ideas to come forth and empowers the team.

7. Mob programming is a great way to “gel” a new team together and build Agile skills. It’s also an effective way to solve problems.

8. Creating a safe place to work allows the team to make mistakes and grow.

9. Looking at a laundry list of a backlog? Turn that list sideways and narrow it down to the most important stories.  Creating a reasonable scope of work means more work gets done… and less time is spent talking about it.

10. Transforming a team’s physical space (e.g. take down those walls) creates opportunities for the team to share and work in new and more effective ways.

11. Create opportunities for teams to share their different experiences with each other… being able to visualize work is key to making this happen on a regular basis.

12. Confront those monsters! Often problems that appear impossible or extremely hard to fix can be resolved quickly by working openly and collaboratively.

Thank you to all who participated and shared their experiences with the group.

Next Meetup: Tuesday Feb 11th: Experience Reports – Our First “Success Faire”

We have a great event in the works for Tuesday, February 11th… fresh from the success of our first “Fail Faire” Agile Ottawa event in December, we are keen to continue this engagement with Ottawa Agile community by hosting our very first “Success Faire”.

1. What’s a “success faire”?

A gathering where like-minded individuals share via short talks their success stories and extract the source of that success.

2. How does this work?

Interested participants will be given the opportunity to give a short talk to share their Agile success tale…  tell us:

• What was the project or context of your idea?

• What were you hoping to do?

• When did you realize that your idea was working?

• What would you say was a the source of your success?

3. If I go, what do I need to prepare?

We will again be counting on the Agile Ottawa crowd to create a safe space for sharing.  Bring your own story of success – big or small, we want them all! Come brag with us about how Agile helped transform your company, your project, your team and you! Who knows, maybe after a beer you’ll find the courage to share it with the group?

During the event… no live streaming, picture taking, blogging or tweeting unless the presenter gives the ok to do so. No third party success stories either… presenters must have been personally involved in the project they are showcasing.

And while we encourage you to prepare you own story, please don’t let that stop you from attending… if you want to come out and listen, that’s great!

Agile 101 – Creating Effective Teams

In the spirit of the evening, Ellen Grove will present this month’s Agile 101 talk about creating effective teams. In particular, Ellen will present an intro to Core Protocols.

Note that this is a free event, but the food and drinks are on your own dime. We’ll be gathering at the Royal Oak in Kanata.

Doors open at 6 pm for networking. Agile 101 begins at 6:15 and the main event gets underway at 7pm. Once again, all are welcomed… those who want to share their stories as well as those who just want to listen and have a pint.  And remember, all Agile stories of success (big or small) are worth while sharing.

Please go to the Agile Ottawa Meet-Up Site to RSVP.


Also of interest to the Agile Ottawa crowd… check out the Software Craftsmanship Meetup :-D

Interested in Development Best Practices like SOLID principles, Intentional Programming, TDD, Pair Programming, DDD? Join Ottawa Software Craftsmanship meetup group for a code retreat on February 8th:

Lessons Learned From Our “Fail Faire”

“What an amazing evening!”, “The best Agile Ottawa event I’ve been to”, “This was great!”

These are only a few of the positive comments from the group that came together to share their failures. Anyone who wanted, which was almost everyone, got up in turn and told a story of mishap. These were not stories of greatness or accomplishment. There was no bragging or boasting. People told real stories about themselves where they did the wrong thing.

The wonderful part was what they learned from that experience. The sharing was part healing and part teaching. It would be impossible to try to recreate that evening (you really had to be there) but we have captured some lessons learned to share with the community.  I encourage anyone who was there to add their comments. 

Lessons Learned

1. Have facilitation techniques ready for talking about tough problems.
2. How you implement change is as important as the change itself. If
you mandate it – you must also be a part of it! Additional: Technical
practices are important (not optional).
3. If it isn’t Agile – call it!  Training is important for team alignment.
4. Pay attention to the parts of the system that are hard to change.
That’s where the volatility will be in your project.
5. The team must commit to at least 1 hour a day when the whole team can meet.
6. Beware of “sunk cost” – make sure your project still has value no
matter how far into it your are…
7. Don’t let process distract you away from people (e.g. creating
collaboration or a shared understanding).
8. Make sure you have a Product Owner.  An absent Product Owner is the
first sign of trouble. When in a large organization ensure that you
actually have executive buy-in as well.
9. When investing in change, ensure that you have change management in
place.  Again, ensure executive buy-in first… they also need to be
educated on change.
10. Be honest with yourself – personal retros are a very good thing.
Sometimes, you are the one who needs to change.
11. Your backlog isn’t a Christmas list. Sorry, Virginia, there is no
Santa Claus.
12. Prioritize your backlog in advance. Not all decisions need a
meeting (necessarily) – explore non-verbal prioritization.
13. Agile projects need self-organization… and not everyone
necessarily wants to self-organize.  You need buy-in from the team.
14. Don’t abandon an agreed upon practice unless you know why.
15. People need time to absorb change… they need to know the value
of the change and they need to have confidence in their own capability
for change.
16. Month long Sprints are risky.  Shorter Sprints are good for
feedback and learning and ensuring that the team is meeting
17. Again, know your Product Owner and make sure that they are
empowered to make decisions.
18. “Cracking the whip” is a poor motivational technique.
19.  Follow-up with your team after teaching them something new.
Teaching is the “beginning of a journey”.
20. Question: How to get devs to meet / read acceptance criteria?
Idea: To achieve acceptance / commitment to deliver, ensure that all
stakeholder are on board (not just PO, BAs…  but dev and testing
too) in creating the acceptance criteria.
21. Code review. Code review. Code review. No one person is
infallible. The more the merrier… “To go fast, go alone. To go far,
go together.”