Worth reading: Ryan Latta’s blog on teams, testing, and Agile. I find a gold nugget of wisdom in every post: Articles | Ryan Latta

When will this be done?

Are you terrified when someone asks “When will this be done?”

Whether you’re being asked about a project or a task, it’s often hard to answer this question.

Here’s what I know.

🏁 The best way to figure out how long a task will take is to do the work

It’s often better not to estimate. It’s time that would be better spent working. Do the work, show your results, get feedback, and keep going.

👀 Consider why people are asking for the estimate: what information are they really looking for?

When you understand their needs, you may be able to answer their question without having to give them a date.

💯 A range is better than a single number.

The likelihood that your task or project will be completed at a specific, predicted moment is near zero. When you and your team can provide a range that feels accurate, you’re sharing useful and actionable information.

It’s FAR better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

Are you a Planner or a Pantser? And thoughts on project management

Are you a Planner or a Pantser? And what does this mean about your options for doing projects in your organization?

Planner vs. Pantser is a distinction made when folks talk about National Novel Writing Month — taking place now in November.

📖 Planners plot out their novels in advance and write within their outline.

🦄 Pantsers have a vision about where they want to go but do their writing every day “by the seat of their pants,” letting the plot emerge.

This reminds me of the distinction between very planning-focused Waterfall project management and the more flexible Agile approach.

But with projects, it’s more than just your personality that determines your method!

💥 We must recognize that many projects CANNOT BE PLANNED.

These projects have such inherent uncertainty that the most efficient and effective approach looks more like Pantser. Examples: 🎁 New Product Development 🎰 New Business ⏳Process Improvement

We must be successful with these projects, but we can’t plan them out in advance. I recommend an Agile approach for these projects. Using robust processes, we make great decisions all along the way and complete these projects quickly and with incredible quality.

Explain Agile Like I'm 5

Hey, are your projects going the way you want? Have you heard the words “Agile” and “Scrum” and wondered what they mean and whether this project management style can help you and your teams?

🚀 I’m going to do that thing where we say “Explain it like I’m 5 years old.”

🎈 Imagine your mom wants you to clean your room. You could just move everything on the floor to under your bed. But your mom might not be too happy about that. ☹️

Instead, if we were using Agile and Scrum to manage this room cleaning project, you’d start by cleaning your room for a few minutes. Then you’d ask Mom to come back and take a look at what you’ve done. If you started out by putting stuff under your bed 🛏️, Mom now has a chance to say “No, honey, under your bed isn’t what I wanted. Try putting the toys in your toy box instead.”

You work a few more minutes and ask Mom to come in again. This time, she says “Yes, honey, that’s great that you put your toys into the toy box, but you’ve put some of your dirty clothes in there, too👖. Clothes should go in the hamper in the hallway.”

😄 By doing these short cycles of work and review, our 5-year-old can only go a short way down the path of doing the wrong thing. And Mom has the opportunity to provide quick feedback before a lot of time has been spent going in the wrong direction.

How about you? Do you have the experience of getting started on a project and after you’ve done a bunch of work, your stakeholders say “That’s not what I wanted?” Agile and Scrum help us to move in the right direction, building what our stakeholders want … and need to solve their problems.

I’m @agilelisa, please reach out to me if you’d like to chat further.

Agile is like Little Science

I’m enjoying these posts by Adam Mastroianni. He’s a scientist arguing with academia. In this essay, he talks about Big Science and Little Science. I see parallels between Little Science and Agile project management. We run short, little experiments. Not every experiment is successful but we always learn something.

Let’s build a fleet and change the world

After all, I didn’t come aboard to administer the ship but to explore the ocean. And the best way to explore is to have many ships going in all different directions, not one ship that can only go in one direction. Some of those ships will end up going in circles or crashing into reefs or getting blown over in storms. People on one ship will often think the people on the other ships are wasting their time: “You’re heading to the Gulf of Aden? You fools, there’s nothing to learn there!” But if one ship discovers something—a new island, a new kind of fish, a new passage between continents—and sends out a signal, now everybody knows about it.

7 business books that have influenced me


  • The Epic Guide to Agile by Dave Todaro

Unlike most books about Agile and Scrum, this one gets into the technical details of how great Agile software development teams get their work done.

  • eXtreme Project Management by Doug DeCarlo

Written in 2004, this book blew my mind when I read it as a young PMP struggling with Gantt charts and project management paperwork. It put me on the path to understanding the ways in which high-uncertainty projects are different and therefore need something other than strict Waterfall methods.

  • Agile Retrospectives by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen

This book was so useful as I embarked on my Agile journey 15 years ago. Their hands-on, practical advice about specific retrospective activities and when to use them was a game changer for me.

  • Manage Your Project Portfolio by Johanna Rothman

It was hard for me to limit Johanna Rothman to only one book on this list, I so value all of her writing. I have used this book in my teaching of Agile for the past 8 years because I find that most students do not understand the importance of limiting the organization’s project portfolio to the few, most important projects. Do less to do more.

  • Thiagi’s 100 Favorite Games by Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan

I was lucky enough to meet Thiagi about twenty years ago as I began teaching project management at the graduate level. His concepts about games that enhance learning are so powerful. If you do any type of teaching or training, you need this book.

  • Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making by Sam Kaner

Back when I worked at Hewlett-Packard, I took a Meeting Facilitation class from Sam Kaner. From him, I learned that meetings can be a good use of time! But that only happens when the facilitator puts effort into structuring a great meeting. This book has so much practical advice about how to help teams actually make decisions, instead of just talking around the decision endlessly.

Remember, knowledge is power, and the wisdom found within these pages can be the catalyst for your future success. Happy reading!

Had a good time doing a Racket with @cm on the topic of “Facilitation Do’s.” We were going to talk about “Do’s and Don’ts” but ran out of time which is part of the beauty of Racket – only nine minutes!

Listen here:


Today I became an Advanced Certified Scrum Master, woo hoo!

Agile in Writing

I came across this today in the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

I cannot possibly overemphasize the fact that I am neither unusually gifted nor very industrious nor really disciplined. I finished all of that writing with a deceptively simple system of doing just a little bit of work, mostly every day, and trusting that the “brilliance” (or acceptability) of the whole would come together through the drudgery of many, many, many (many) smaller, less-brilliant parts.

A New Series on Scholarly Productivity: ‘Are You Writing?’

The author is summing up the Agile project management process in a way that I haven’t seen before, but which resonates for me.