Chris Gagné

Delight customers. Create value. Do good.

Definition of Done

Here’s a video I shot for freeCodeCamp about the Definition of Done.

The Definition of Done is a documented team agreement. It defines the conditions that must be met for a potentially shippable product to be considered “done as in done.” It’s how we know that we “did the thing right”, meaning that we built in the correct level of quality into the product. These are different from the acceptance criteria which help us know that we did the “right thing.”

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Working Agreements

Here’s a video I shot for freeCodeCamp about Working Agreements.

Does your team show up late to meetings? Does Sprint Planning take forever because half the team isn’t paying attention to anything but social media? Find out how to identify and limit these and other big risks with a Working Agreement.

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Definition of Ready

Here’s a video I shot for freeCodeCamp about the Definition of Ready.

Have you ever started work on a user story that wasn’t ready to work on yet? Create a Definition of Ready to establish reasonable guidelines as to what conditions need to be met before you pull a user story into a sprint or begin work on it. Creating and following a Definition of Ready could double the speed of your team.

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Tradeoff Matrix

Here’s a video I shot for freeCodeCamp about the Tradeoff Matrix.

When we work on projects with fixed dates, scopes, and resources, we run the risk of burning out our teams and compromising quality. Use the tradeoff matrix to agree with your stakeholders as to what you’ll do when things—almost inevitably—don’t go exactly as planned.

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Building the Right Product

I shot an interview with Adolfo Foronda about building the right product as a product owner. Check it out! Click “Continue reading” below for my speaking notes, which are an approximate transcript.

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On Not Saying No

I shot an interview with Adolfo Foronda about saying “no” as a product owner. Check it out! Click “Continue reading” below for an approximate transcript.

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Healthy Team Backlogs

Originally published on the eBay Tech Blog.

What is a backlog?

Agile product owners use a backlog to organize and communicate the requirements for a team’s work. Product backlogs are deceptively simple, which can sometimes make them challenging to adopt for product owners who may be used to working with lengthy PRDs (“project requirement documents” or similar).

Scrum most commonly uses the term product backlog. However, many product owners who are new to Scrum are confused by this term. Reasonable questions arise: Does this suggest that a team working on multiple products would have multiple backlogs? If so, how do we prioritize between them? Where do bugs get recorded? What happens if work needs to be done, but it isn’t associated with a product; do we create a placeholder?

Therefore, we prefer the term team backlog. Our working definition of team backlog is “the maintained, ordered list of work that the team plans to do now or in the future.” This is a dense description, so let’s unpack it a little.

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A Free, 30-Minute Guided Metta (Loving Kindness) Meditation

Metta is a Pali word that means “loving kindness.” A metta meditation is a practice of directing loving kindness towards others and oneself. Here is a free, 30-minute guided metta meditation that I’ve recorded so that I can share it with you. Please feel free to share it with anyone else that you’d like.

This is based almost verbatim on the metta practice described in Upasaka Culadasa’s book, “The Mind Illuminated.” I have recorded this with his permission so that I may offer it freely to everyone.

I hope you find it of great benefit to you. This is my first time recording a guided meditation, so I hope you’ll share your feedback and ideas with me! I recorded it on a MacBook Pro using GarageBand and a Shure VP83 LensHopper microphone mounted to a table-top tripod several inches from my mouth. The ending bell and ambient forest background sounds are both public domain, courtesy of the fine folks at FreeSound.org.

I decided to use a bit of a very quiet nature track in the background to replicate what this might sound like if I had recorded it at a place like Cochise Stronghold Retreat rather than my apartment in San Francisco. Otherwise the absolute silence interspersed with my voice every minute or two might have been too jarring. Please comment and let me know if I should turn the background sound up, down, or eliminate it entirely.

MindTime: a way of looking at human behavior through the lens of time

My dear friends John Furey and Vincent Fortunato have been working on a project called MindTime for many years. I first learned about it several years ago and it’s become a dominant—and very useful—lens through which I’ve come to understand myself, friends, concepts, and communities.

It is, at its simplest, a highly-predictive personality profile. At its broadest, it’s a tremendous lens through which to understand human behavior.

Unlike the MTBI and similar profiles which uses culture-specific linear axes (e.g., extroversion and introversion don’t mean as much in East Asia), MindTime focuses on people’s universal relationship with time.

If I were to say that people are varying degrees of past-, present-, and future-thinking, I imagine this would already make intuitive sense to you. Further, this can be applied to any word, idea, company, community, brand, and even country.

Here are some examples:

  • Coca-Cola is a “past” brand and Pepsi is a “future” brand
  • Hope is a “future” word, tradition is a “past” word
  • Republicans are generally past-thinking (“Make America Great Again” implies that the past was better) versus Democrats are generally more future-thinking (Obama’s “Hope” is the idea that things will be better in the future).
    • As an aside, I think Clinton’s “Better Together” was too present-thinking to appeal to future-thinking millennials.

If a heavily future-thinking person finds themselves in a heavily past-thinking company or team, there may be a lot of conflict. Same goes for relationships (from personal experience). Simply understanding where everyone is coming from can improve empathy, happiness, and performance. My friend has used this to help develop teams at a variety of companies.

If you’re intrigued, check out their site or try the profile (free, no registration, takes about 2 minutes). I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially whether or not you find the results both specific and accurate.

For you past-thinking dominant types, you’ll be delighted to know that there’s very solid science behind it.

Agile Lessons from the NUMMI Team Member Handbook

I recently came across Mark Graban‘s “Highlights from the Original 1984 NUMMI Team Member Handbook” series. Digging through the archives at Ephlin’s UAW office papers were archived at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mark found some absolutely extraordinary gems, including this one.

Standing on the shoulders of giants, I reached out to the archivists at the library to see if I could get a copy of the full handbook. They cheerfully obliged, and rather quickly at that!

Grab the PDF and peruse for yourself. The first several pages are the most interesting, but even as you explore the rest of it pay attention to how human and reasonable it is. Mark provides an excellent commentary on several key sections, so I’ll try to avoid highlighting the same thoughts. I hope you’ll share your own findings and commentary in the comments below.

Here are some of the gems I’ve found:

Notice that the first objective is “To help [employees] develop to [their] full potential.” In fact, these objectives start with the individual employee, progress to the company, and then ultimately end with the customer receiving the “highest quality automobiles in the world.” This is a notable inversion from the usual objectives, which usually prioritize stakeholders and customers, then the company, then—if at all—the individual employee.

This is extraordinary in two ways. First, employees are given the expectation that they are going to have a greater autonomy and influence over how other aspects of the organization operate. I’ve heard the statistic that Toyota’s 300,000 global employees make a total of one million suggestions annually, 97% of which are implemented. Secondly, note that the employee handbook is characterized as helping the employee “do [their] job better,” a far cry from the usual purpose of this kind of handbook (protecting the company’s interest).

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