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Agile 2009 – day 3

Posted by Mike Longin on August 27, 2009

Session 1 – Agile @ Yahoo: Experiences from the Trenches

This was a great presentation.  Yahoo like Ultimate was trying to bring Agile to a large development team.  This really has been a very large obstacle for many organizations and it is always interesting to take the time to hear about the.  Yahoo initially started with some pilot teams (4) and then rolled it out to a larger group.  What they found was that as the implementation went further and further, teams started reintermpreting agile and became very fragmented.  Some of the symptoms were:

  • Cherry picking Scrum principles like pair programming and CI

The creation and use of multiple tracing tools

  • Sever micromanagement

To compensate they created Scrum coaching teams to help spread “good” agile DNA through the company.  What happened was that in 2008 when the coaching team was disbanded due to budget cuts, the DNA had fully integrated itself into the organization.  People wanted to be agile and wanted to keep the good ideas.  In affect they had the opportunity to learn a fairly important, though often ignored lesson

Bad Agile is worse the no Agile

Chris and I are planning on taking two ideas from Yahoo to really try to implement at Ultimate

  • Build an internal agile community that communicates regularly
  • Start making field trips to other teams scrum meetings and work to disperse scrum methodology.

You can read Chris’s entire thoughts on the presentation here  I think he really summed up the points well.

Session 2 – Esther Derby – Performance without Appraisal: What to Do About Performance Reviews

Of all the sessions I have attended, this was the one where I took the most notes.  I am going to summarize the main talking points below.  I highly recommend at least perusing her blog at some point (  That being said, here are some of the ideas I was able to pick up from her:

  • Ranking systems breed competition which in the end is always negative
  • Levels
    • Should be viewed as a criteria for promotion.  Most often they end up being taken as your level as a human being
    • Require regular feedback to be of any use
    • Feedback needs to come from someone that is both trusted and be seen as a two way sleep. If it is only one way then the relationship is broken and the feedback will not be effective
  • Law of Crappy Systems – If talented people fail in your organization then you have a crappy system (seems very simple)
  • Behavior is a function of Person and Environment B=f(P,E)
    • Ignoring the environment and only concentrating on the person will not solve most issues
  • It is really easy to attribute individual behavior as a system behavior and a system behavior as individual
  • Treat exceptions as exceptions for both the good and the bad. Do not treat everyone poorly because of one bad apple. Do not reward everyone for one good job
  • Believing employees should be grateful to both have a job in this economy and to work for you is an incredibly negative message to send

Finally as a last point it was reiterated

It’s all about feedback

Session 3 – Chris McMahons – History of a Large Test Automation Project using Selenium

I had actually seen parts of this presentation internally but came away with a few very important points

  1. Tests should not all take the same path to get to a testing point.  You should try many pathways.  Chris has a great illustration of a tree (bad) vs a web (good) which really demonstrates this.
  2. There is a test step sweet spot that I referenced in an earlier blog.  In summary, you need to limit your test steps to around 200
  3. For social networking there is a 90-9-1 rule that I found very interesting
    • 90% of your users read material
    • 9% edit\comment
    • 1%add
  4. Requirements for a good test suite\test plan
    • Maintain Fixtures (macros)
    • Feature coverage
    • Create a web through your product, not a tree
    • Fast routine reporting
Session 4 – Marie Kalliney – Transitioning from Agile Development to Enterprise Product Management Agility

I actually work with Marie as well and really went to be a cheerleader.  That being said it is very interesting to see your companies product management structure from the outside looking in.
Session 5 – Llewellyn Falco, Daniel Gilkerson – Reducing Test Maintenance – A Picture is Worth 1000 Tests

This presentation really intrigued me.  Any idea to reduce test maintenance is something I listen to.  However that being said I really was at odds with this presentation.  While not exactly the same, Llewellyn and Daniel were demonstrating a technique that not only goes against TDD (which I am not a complete fan of but I agree with mostly in principle) but they were advocating what is essentially a record\playback using bit comparisons which I am completely against.  The tech they showed to accomplish this was definitely neat, but the idea itself is just too dangerous to me.

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