📬 The Backlog

📬 The Backlog is Thomas van Zuijlen's weekly newsletter on practical agility, with annotated articles on Scrum, facilitation, collaboration, and (product) development.

30 May 2022

📬 The Backlog #180

The term for organisations suffering from management over-mandating stuff, the difference between responding and reacting to change, and the reason your talk proposal didn’t get accepted by that one conference.

  1. Alan Kelly has started noticing a particular work-in-progress problem variant, which he calls The Excess Strategic WIP problem. It’s when ambitious or out-of-touch leadership ‘strategically’ mandates more work than their organisation is able to deliver on — resulting in high(er) WIP and the associated troubles.

    Writes Kelly: “By its nature ‘strategy’ is big, which means that the feedback cycles are long and the problems of excess strategic WIP take time to play out. What is a WIP problem looks like another failed strategy.”

    While he doesn’t have an immediately implementable cure for this variant pattern, he does have a starting point for people noticing a similar challenge in their own environment.

    In the process, Kelly also vocalises some actionable views on what constitutes proper use of OKRs (and what the opposite of that looks like).

    If you’re into Lean and/or are using OKRs, do read!

  2. Product Owners, this one’s for you: In Are You Responding or Reacting to Change and Why It Matters, Jimmie Butler highlights a semantic difference with far-reaching consequences for your agility.

    He states that an ability to react is often considered valuable to agile teams. However, Butler argues, when we’re reacting, we don’t take the time to relate the merits and costs of some change to our broader strategy. Therein lies the difference between reacting and responding.

    This is what it looks like if you’re stuck in a pattern of reacting, says Butler:

    “You may have a strategic plan, but you rarely get to live it out due to so many pivots — pivots that are rushed and reactive. The result is a misaligned architecture, technical debt, stressed-out teams, and a lack of strategic focus.”

    And who wants that, right?

    Butler has practical advice for POs (and teams) faced with pressure to react to changes and requests, starting with taking the time to make sure [a thing] is worth doing. Jump to the end of his article for the rest, and be prepared to slow down your action a little.

  3. Then: Samuel Nitsche is part of, among others, the review committee for Agile Testing Days 2022. Having reviewed and judged hundreds of abstracts, in Why did my favorite conference reject my talk? he shares some of the reasons a talk might be rejected.

    Among those: the odds are often stacked against your talk, as confs get many more submissions than they have slots to give out. Similarly, if your talk is on a ‘hot’ topic, chances are simply high that other people have also submitted a proposal on the same topic - potentially compounded by a conference with a core theme.

    And there’s more, of course, which Nitsche covers while highlighting things that do sit within your sphere of influence as a talk submitter.

    The article also contains links to other posts on the same topic, including my recommended follow-up reading, Elizabeth Zagroba’s What You’re Missing in Your Conference Abstract: Spoilers, which squarely falls in the ‘within your control’ category. Don’t write abstracts like they’re clickbait - got it.

    It’s really nice to get this sort of insight into what happens once you push “send” on that form or email. Bookmark if you’re an aspiring conf speaker.

Have a strategically-aligned week and Scrum on,
Thomas van Zuijlen

PS –

Hey, speaking of conferences: Next week I’m hosting Agile Day Kaunas, a single-day event for agile practitioners from all walks of life. It’s going to be epic and fun. Plus:

🚨👉 I get to give away a free ticket to the event 👈🚨

So if you’re still on the fence about going, time to jump off it! Just reply to this email and we’ll get you into the conference.

See you in Kaunas on Thursday 9 June!