#Spelunking your #Backlog

it all seems so simple on first blush. Process the items in your backlog in priority sequence, rinse, and repeat. What could possibly go wrong?

Simply put if you process your backlog only by one measure of client priority, you are probably missing a lot.

The key comes when your backlog isn’t a simple list owned by one person. Like most issues in Agile, the trick always comes when you need to apply the Agile trappings to an enterprise scenario. When I have a backlog for one project with one owner and one solution, one rating system probably is sufficient. But when we move to an enterprise when we have a ticketing system for 50-60 applications, one rating system probably doesn’t suffice. In that enterprise situation, only going by one rating system probably means that entire applications or departments would be ignored and the systems would stagnate. Departments would become frustrated, write their own Excel and Access applications and create FileMaker Pro applications on the non-standard Macs they purchased.

So what to do?

Go spelunking

Mine the Data. Look for trends. Take a look at the data and see about the work required by:

  • Priority
  • Size
  • Age
  • Department
  • Technology
  • Effort
  • Strategy
  • etc…

Essentially understand your problems as much as you understand your solutions. ensure that you are not neglecting an area of the backlog. If you totally ignore an area of the backlog, the clients will create coping behaviors to address.

Although they don’t seem important, those small reporting tickets can results in a Data Warehouse being fully replicated if they never get attention. Clients will just copy data off and do the work themselves. Clients are also very reasonable when provided with the rationale between choosing between two competing priorities, but you need to give them some hope. Without that hope they will bypass IT and just do it themselves. And this will cause more work for IT in the long-term.

Recommendation

I recommend you take 80% of your budget and process the highest priority items. But then take the other 20% and ensure that IT is not ignoring departments or strategies entirely. Ensure that some tickets aren’t being left around for years and years. It is certainly proper to process less of these lower priority items, but it is fair to verify that we process some of them.

A Crisis in #Courage

mercury7

Mercury Seven

Kudos if you know the picture above is of the group of astronauts known as the Mercury Seven. Aptly described in an article in Life, the Mercury Seven were introduced to the American people as:

““Some fine early morning before another summer has come, one man chosen from the calmly intent seven . . . will embark on the greatest adventure man has ever dared to take. Dressed in an all-covering suit to protect him from explosive changes in pressure, strapped into a form-fitting couch to cushion him against the crushing forces of acceleration, surrounded in his tiny chamber by all manner of instruments designed to bring him safely home, he will catapult upward at the head of a rocket for more than 100 miles and then plunge down into the Atlantic Ocean. If he survives, he will be come the heroic symbol of a historic triumph; he will be the first American, perhaps the first man, to be rocketed into the dark stillness of space. If he does not survive, one of his six remaining comrades will go next.”

That is courage and bravery exemplified. Would we ever find the same qualities in 2017?

United States

There have been many comments and critiques of the United States Government recently and they have been discussed thoroughly in the mainstream media. I would like to provide a different perspective to those discussions though. Of all the differences in the United States recently, I miss the courage and bravery. To this Canadian, the United States were always the brave soldier and Astronaut that in spite of undeniable odds would place themselves at risk for the greater good. Of course it was more safe to stay on the ground, but I’m going to sit on top of a rocket of liquid hydrogen because that is who we are as a people. The United States need to explore, advance, and progress. I loved the space program as a boy and I loved the United States.

I’m disappointed in the recent movement in the United States to close the borders because of fear. Take away all the 100% valid arguments about inclusiveness and racial and religious equality and I feel it still leaves one thing not discussed. I feel borders should be open for the same reason John Glenn got on the Mercury rocket – because it will benefit the world and the United States in the long run. Any protectionist ideology is a short-term tactic that damages the long-term health of the country or industry. I believe it is being done out of an irrational fear of a few people and what they might do. It is sacrificing the future gains of an inclusive society for a perceived short-term gain.

Winnipeg

Unfortunately the same fear is also visible in my hometown of Winnipeg. Vincent Li committed a horrific crime when he was mentally ill. After many years of treatment and being evaluated as fully recovered, he was recently released and many were calling for him to not receive a full release and to continue to be monitored or have restrictions. In short, we are fearful of what he may do again. Yes, in the short-term we limit what Vince Li can do and it gives us the perception of being safer. So whom else do we limit freedoms to? And if we limit freedoms, maybe they should just stay in jail? And how would that limit our society in the future? Do we not discover a medical cure because the person was never part of society again? Do the lack of positive role models cause even greater issues with people suffering from mental health so that they are scared to seek help?

As Winston Churchill said “fear is a reaction, courage is a decision”

Summary

It is perfectly valid to experience fear in situations like these. But, we need to remember not to trade our future for our fears

More importantly we also need to remember that we as Canadians need to support others in their hour of need. Whether they be refugees or recovering from a major life event.

Because it is the right thing to do.

The #1 characteristic of a great teammate #WinnipegJets #Pavelec

ondrej-pavelec-by-clint-trahan

I was watching a recent Winnipeg Jets game when I was reminded about the #1 characteristic of a great teammate.

Connor Hellebuyck was anointed as the starting goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets this year. He had a great season in the AHL last year. He had all of the great reviews as he moved through the various levels of hockey. The Winnipeg Jets had grown tired of Andrej Pavelec and his inconsistent play over the last few years. With Pavelec’s contract expiring at the end of this year, the writing was on the wall that a switch was going to be made sooner or later.

Resiliency

But we saw play from Hellebuyck that was very similar to Pavelec. Inconsistent, with a bad goal given up almost every night. Both goalies also had pure gems of games that could get you hoping of what the future could hold. But when Hellebuyck got pulled in three straight games in January, you saw a difference between the two goalies. And then when Pavelec came up to the big club and started three straight games and won you again saw the difference.

Various radio shows called it something different – ‘timely saves’ was the term most commonly used. Whatever the term, Pavelec may give up the bad goal, but then didn’t give up the next goal. He fought through the shots and kept his team in the game. And his team knew that Pavelec would fight to prevent the next goal and keep them in the game. We was a fighter and it was hard to get the ‘next’ goal on him.

Ondrej Pavelec has Resiliency that Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have yet. The Winnipeg Jets players know that and due to that, they play better in front of Pavelec because it gives them confidence to play their game. They don’t need to worry about making a bad play, because Pavelec will overcome it if it happens. It is a larger worry making a mistake in front of a goalie where it may open the floodgates. Because of that you hold your stick a bit tighter and ironically make more mistakes.

Summary

Resiliency is the #1 characteristic of a great teammate. That trait in a teammate that they are resolute, plucky, committed, able to rebound and recover. We all make mistakes, but those people who take a shot, dust themselves off and stand tall are the special teammates we all want on our team. Give me a resilient craftsman over a fragile artisan every day.

Another example of Pavelec’s Resiliency is how he took his demotion with class and professionalism. Resilient teammates accept decisions made for the good of the team, confident in their abilities and committed to rebounding and proving themselves when the opportunity arises.

I hope Connor Hellebuyck can build these characteristics. But until then, I’d start Pavelec.