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Christmas AGILE – this year we are agile! (part 1)

With only four weeks to go before Christmas, we have an insider reveal some secrets about Santa Clause´s Christmas organization. Every Friday until Christmas, you can follow this special Christmas tale and find out along with the story what it means to be agile. 

Wednesday, October 15th: Christmas 70 days off

Weihnachtsmann8:00 a.m.
I am going to go to Santa Claus as each year – I am an elf and must help him bringing the gifts to the children at Christmas. At Eastern, I do the same for Easter Bunny. And in the summer – let us keep silent about it …

Thus I fly to the North Pole (the scheduling of the public flying carpets becomes worse each year). I go to the office and start my computer. As each year, I am awaiting a flood of wishes, which need to be handled: Archive, categorize, structure … of the wishes of last year, preparing the wish categories of this year, sorting of the remaining wishes – called left overs.

My inbox was well filled in the last years. But this year – nothing, simply nothing. Was I wrongly logged in? Account: Jaraelf11, pass word: Christmas@Home… No, all things OK. There is simply nothing. I only have an invitation to a meeting at 10:00.

leerer Posteingang

10:00 a.m.
An unbelievable meeting – all elf managers are here, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy (I don’t know, what she want here) and even First Witch. Such a meeting we haven’t had three years ago, as the helping elves threatened to strike.

“So”, Santa Claus opens the meeting. That is not something unusual. He opens every meeting with “So!” But this time a break is after this “so” and no exclamation point. He doesn’t have that punitive glance… He views friendly in the round – as he wants to give us all a sugar lollipop. Simply unbelievable!

10:05 a.m.
Santa Claus explains us that this year everything will change – hee hee as every year.

He switches on the projector and we are seeing a PowerPoint presentation:

“This year we are becoming agile!!!” – with three exclamation marks.

Christmas AGILE

12:00 noon
Santa Claus explained us for two hours what he understands under agile. This old thick man jumped up and down as a rabbit in enthusiasm.

“It is not going to happen this year that 90% of all wishes are finished just 10 hours ahead of gift giving. This year, you won’t get plans from above. This year, each team is responsible for the fulfilling of wishes!”

We worked in the waterfall model in the last years. That we haven’t known. But when Santa Claus said it, it is somehow true 😉 . The archivists screened the wishes and taken over from the engineers after a complete screening. The engineers implemented the wishes and then gave them to the testers afterwards. The testers were always the last in the chain. They suffered always under Santa Claus, because they were too slow in his opinion.

But the engineers were so forced by the milestone taking over by testers that they didn’t work carefully enough under this pressure. Many wishes were not accepted by the testers. They had to be shifted to the leftovers. But since when we have teams? Shaking our heads we left the meeting. Now we are discussing about this something in the coffee kitchen – the teams were built through all elf specialists. Always the team contains a wish archivist – as me -, engineers, testers, and a gift wrapper too. Santa Claus explained us that we are now cross functional teams. Aha! The teams don’t have a team lead anymore. They only get a Christmas Master. We have the First Whitch as Christmas Master now. I am so lucky! *Sigh*

Tomorrow we should meet with our Christmas Master the first time. Then we will see further.

TeamThursday, October 16th: Christmas 69 days off

8:00 a.m.
I am again in the office. This time my inbox is fully filled – even more as in the last years. First Witch invited to a team meeting at 8:30 – that will be funny *grrr*.

8:30 a.m.
First Witch has a presentation as well. But as nice as Santa Claus – how should she.

“There are almost 10 weeks until Christmas.” As we wouldn’t know it. “We start with wish fulfilling starting Wednesday next week. Until then we will prepare our Christmas sprints.” Ah – Christmas sprints???

The explanation comes on the next slide. “Sprints are time boxes.” Naturally, that explains everything. I can’t say that I understand everything. But at the end of the day it leads to that Christmas could happen every two weeks. As if the date wouldn’t be defined. *Head shaking* One couldn’t celebrate Christmas at All Saints’ Day suddenly. We get feedback after each Christmas sprint. Hello? Should we ask the kids before Christmas, if they like their gifts? No, that is not true. The Gift Owner takes over the role of the kids, to put it right act as holder of the “Business Knowledge”. Hee hee, I am thinking to myself. The poor dog will be taken as responsible if something goes wrong. But there I was amused too early.

The next slide appears – and there my name is stated “Jara – Gift Owner”. Oh my God! That can’t be true. I should be the Gift Owner and should categorize, structure, archive … all wishes and left overs. How should I manage that all in one week? “No, no”, shouts First Witch, “Haven’t you understood it still? Only the most important wishes!” How should I know, which ones the most important are, if I don’t categorize, archive, and structure all of them? “I leave it to your experience. Finally, you’ve been long enough in the business. How long have you been doing this? 250 years …” “230” “That should be enough. In fact you are a young foal compared with me, but you will manage in every case.”

Great. First Witch with her 756 years could have a fine speech – I have to see how I can cope with.

01:00 p.m.
First Witch explained, that I have to create the sprint backlog for the next Christmas sprint. When I asked how I should do it, she explained that the sprint backlog is filled out of the wish backlog. The wishes are ordered after priority and then implemented after that order. And how do I get a wish backlog? “Total simple – archive, categorize, structure … Great! Really great! Na at least I know how to archive, structure, and yes categorize. But to screen all wishes and left overs out of the last year and sorting them in one week – that is simply impossible. desk

Friday, October 17th: Christmas 68 days off

05:00 p.m.
I’ve worked on the wish backlog and sprint backlog for one and a half days. Still I am not quite sure, how I should manage until Wednesday morning. But at least I try. First Witch explained me the day before that I should write Gift Stories based on the wishes incoming. One wish is related to a rainbow, because one finds his luck at the end of it. Such a wish I should put as: “As after my opinion unhappy human I wish me a rainbow so that I can find my luck at the end of it.” But that alone is not enough, I should write so called acceptance criteria. “The wish owner is not really unhappy. We will show him that his family loves him. He sees the rainbow and he feels himself as happy because he has seen before that he is happy without realizing it.”

05:30 p.m.
First Witch drops in again. She pats me on the shoulder and tries to encourage me.

“Try to concentrate on the most important wishes. Try to find out the difficult ones. You know after all that some wishes take longer than other ones.”

Yes that I know, but how should I know that I haven’t overseen one and that the order is correct. First Witch has a cheap talk. But now is weekend after all!

Tuesday, October 21st: Christmas 64 days off

8:00 a.m.
Tomorrow our first sprint shall start. Today we have the Wish Workshop. I should present the sprint backlog. I filled the wish backlog and brought the left overs of the last year at the beginning of the list. Well, I believe at least that they are more important than the wishes of this year – but now the child is one year older. If she really wishes still a teddy bear and not rather a … smart phone. I am super nervous. First Witch will moderate the meeting. Sure she will take over and dictate us how we have to create the gifts. As if we wouldn’t know it better.

10:00 a.m.
The meeting starts. First Witch explains us how we will proceed. I as the Gift Owner present wish by wish – so first those ones which are standing at the top of my list and those which are standing further down. Those with the highest priority first and then those with lower priority. After that we estimate how long we need for a wish – OK that we did in the last years as well. Tiramo the Chief Engineer definitely knows how one does that. There I am not worried.

So I start with the first wish – it is a leftover of the last year. “Hello Santa Claus, I wish me a new Grandma. My Grandma died last year and without her my Ma doesn’t manage the whole work. So she doesn’t have time for me.”

Of course I put it otherwise. “As a 11-years old child I wish me a Grandma so that my Ma has more time for me again.”

“Ah”, shouts Somersault the piece breaking elf of the testers, “That wish I know. Last year we couldn’t manage that wish. No one had an idea, how we could fulfill such a wish.”

“Exactly”, I answer, “Meanwhile, I thought about it. I think, we don’t need a really Grandma. We only need a friendly human who is with the child at Christmas. After that she helps the mother a little bit.” Surprisingly all nod in the round.

Tiramo looks thoughtfully and says: “We had a comparable case a couple of years ago. We found an elderly man, who visited the family regularly after Christmas. It cost us many days to find him and to make acquainted him with the correct family. Magic is sometimes quite exhausting.” He was right about it, no doubt.

“Well. Enough of discussion.” I forget First Witch completely. But she is good at to bring herself in memory. “We are estimating the wish now.” “I don’t know”, says Tiramo. “I would like to think about it again.” “Yes”, the smile of First Witch let me freezing, “Such we don’t do it anymore. We estimate the wishes in a Planning Poker.” “Hee hee”, Maromar the Wrapping Elf is well brave to laugh in presence of First Witch, “I don’t know that you play poker, First Witch.” “I don’t play poker.” First Witch looks at the poor Maromar, “I said Planning Poker. With that we estimate the wish.” All looks at each other helplessly. First Witch deals out cards to us.

The cards held the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 40, and 100. Maromar cannot let it be, hee hee. He throws his 100 in the middle and shouts “Strike!” I am expecting an outburst of fury of First Witch. But she only bounds her head against the wall. “I explain it to you once again! But that is the last time! When someone of you does that again, I curse him a thunderstorm cloud over his head!” That we don’t want though.

“Each of you estimates for himself, how complex the fulfilling of the wish is. Here he not only considers the construction of the wish. The quality control of the wish needs to be considered as well. When you are done, you lays the card on the table, which comes next to your estimation. But you don’t show your number to the others first. Only if all of you have laid their cards on the table, you flip them.”

“But how should we rate the complexity of a wish?” Tiramo looks at First Witch challenging. Obviously he get the point how the game is running in contradiction to myself. But First Witch is well prepared and knows an answer to each question. She asks us, if we all know a wish which has a middle complexity after our opinion. We think about it – and actually we can agree on a wish out of the last year. We assign it a complexity of 5. “Now you estimate how high the complexity of the wish to be estimated is in comparison to the wish you agreed on. If you think the complexity is round about half, then you select a 2 or a 3. If the complexity higher, you select 8 or 13. Those numbers are Gift Story Points. With them we estimate.”

Such we do it. We laid different cards on the table. Even Plix don’t have the same number as Maromar. But Plix couldn’t agree with Maromar with fully regards to the content because he didn’t see Maromar’s casrd. A fierce discuss breaks out. All blame the others to have estimated falsely. I look at First Witch, but she only smiles: “Just as it should be.” She drops in to the round in a surprising break. “You should see that everyone has a different opinion. You discuss the different views and then we estimate again. That we do as long as we all have the same opinion.” We look at each other indecisively.

But then Plix our cute tester elf gets the word surprisingly. He explains, where he sees the largest difficulties.

“We have to find a middle-aged woman. Not a really old woman – she would scary the child only. But how can we find such a woman …” We discuss different ideas – and estimate one time again. Hey! What’s that? We agree. What a surprise!

Well I present the selected wishes. And after three hours, we are through. All wishes are estimated. Weihnachtsmann

Because we know, how long we needed for the wish we agreed on at the beginning, we were able to estimate how many wishes would fit in our sprint. However, this principle seems to work overall. I don’t believe it really. But we will see.

Tomorrow our first sprint starts. I am looking forward to it, however…

Find out in part 2, how the “Christmas AGILE” tale continues.

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