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Hyperproductivity, Performance Reviews, and Too Much Pizza

August 27, 2009

Day three at Agile 2009 started off with the great experience report Shock Therapy: How to Bootstrap a Hyperproductive Team. This session was ran by Scott Downey an agile coach for 68 teams at MySpace, Bjorn Granvik, and Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland.

The three of them spoke about crucial criteria for achieving a hyperproductive state in a Scrum team. A few examples included implementing one week iterations, introducing a few non-negotiable rules (can only be changed if the team can provide a business reason for it), and a definitive meaning for done. They presented real world data of teams they had worked with that managed to reach this – a 240% minimum velocity increase. My only complaint about this session was that it was limited to 45 minutes.

My next stop was down the HR track hearing Esther Derby speak on the topic, Performance Without Appraisal-What to do about Performance Reviews. She had strong feelings that yearly performance reviews that rank or put people at certain levels are not effective. Research has shown that people are unable to gauge ways that they can improve with infrequent reviews that rank them.

Esther was certain that we could do better, arguing that constant feedback is the way to ensure people are growing and learning – feedback should be business as usual. It was great to see her making suggesting that Point2 has already adopted. She did a decent job of relating the subject matter to the software industry, and more specifically agile shops since they introduce different challenges. She also spoke about an interesting law.

The Law of Crappy Systems: a crappy system will inhibit the ability of the most talented person to perform brilliantly

Scaling Scrum with Feature Teams by Bas Voddewas a look at how to get multiple Scrum teams working on the highest priority items in the backlog. To get to this state Bas proposed that you need to change your component teams into feature teams that are able to work on any item in the backlog. Sound familiar? It should because this is exactly what we are trying to do at Point2. Bas says he has managed to scale this up to over 2000 people projects, so our instance is small in comparison, but the techniques are the same.

The only problem I had with his discussion was that he identified some of the major challenges (ones that we are currently facing at Point2) of making the transition, but no real concrete way of working through them. For example his solution to having multiple teams working on the same codebase could be remedied by using something like SVN merge. Another problem of reaching a level of collective code ownership over a large product was mentioned, but no real-world, take-away ideas were presented.

My afternoon was filled with a three hour workshop Getting People to Take Responsibility and Demonstrate Ownership led by Christopher Avery and Ashley Johnson The two of them explained the states of mind that all people experience when they are presented with a problem or crisis. The workshop provided techniques on how to identify when people (including yourself) enter these states of mind in hopes of moving past them.

The theory is that while you are in these states of mind you are completely unable to make responsible decisions – in essence, we are not very smart during these times. The point is to get to the responsible level as quickly as possible, and then solve the problem at hand. This workshop was excellent and I would recommend it to everyone. It applies to all aspects of life.

Following the daily sessions the Point2 crew went out for some Chicago Style pizza at Giordano’s. Ryan convinced us that we needed two fourteen inch pizzas between the five of us. Some of us disagreed with this estimate, but in the end we went with his plan. Needless to say none of us felt very good after eating the pizza. We nearly polished off the two pizza in their entirety, but at what price?

By Hemant J. Naidu

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  1. p2aidan
    August 27, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    Ah, Giordano’s. They put the pie into pizza.

  2. August 27, 2009 at 6:21 PM

    Did Esther get into how to best provide meaningful feedback for staff?

  3. August 31, 2009 at 8:10 AM

    Actually the feedback patterns we follow at Point2 are geared towards peer to peer feedback.

  4. Karen
    March 10, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    Hey, Hemant.

    I’m curious to know what you’ve learned/experienced since partaking in these Agile 2009 sessions. Maybe you should write some follow up posts? Some ‘howtos’, perhaps?

    I’d love to read them, refer to them…

  5. March 11, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    How about my next post is about how I benefitted from attending Agile 2009?

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