Guest Post: The Cranky Test for Agile Product Managers

Today we have a guest post from Scott Sehlhorst, product management consultant extraordinaire and author of the tasty-good Tyner Blain blog.

Although he is contributing this "Cranky Test for Agile Product Managers," Scott may be genetically incapable of true crankiness.  One of his co-workers once accused him of having excess serotonin levels.  And he's never had a headache.  Nor has his dad or his grandfather. Scott once parachuted in to help out late in an "agile" project, and it inspired the following exam.  After you take the quiz, you'll understand why I am publishing it.

The Cranky Test for Agile Product Managers

One of the challenges that comes from the growing popularity of agile development is that sometimes the people racing to adopt the methodology out-pace the clue-train of understanding. Some teams say "Agile" without knowing what that really means. Sometimes part of the organization knows how to be agile, and other parts don't. That can be a source of frustration for everyone. If you're a product manager, working with an Agile (or "agile") team, you might just get cranky. Being sensitive and pragmatic and realistic, just how cranky can you justifiably be?

Here's a quick multiple choice test, for product managers joining an Agile team mid-flight.

Take the test to see just how cranky you can (justifiably) be. Record all your answers without reading ahead.

  1. In the first daily stand-up meeting you attend you heard (pick one):
    1. Each member of the implementation team say what he did yesterday, what he will do today, and what if any roadblocks he faces.
    2. A user-rep / proxy from the business says "I have a couple UATs I'd like to add to that 'send a gift' story you're doing this sprint.
    3. The architect proclaims that all stories must be delivered two weeks prior to each sprint, after which point, the business is not allowed to change them -- only development can change them.


  2. You sit down with the key stakeholders to prioritize the target users / market(s) / market segments, and you're told (pick one):

    1. Here's the persona representing our most profitable customers, and the one representing the bulk of our customers.
    2. We are focused on mom and pop SMB retailers. We'll define the other market segments later. Remember:  Mom. And. Pop.
    3. It's the Internet -- for all we know, our customers are dogs. We suspect most of them speak English. At least some.


  3. You reviewed the stories to find (pick one):

    1. Each story is on a yellow post-it on the whiteboard in the war room, with a pink post-it nearby including some 'verify' statements.
    2. All the stories that were just estimated for this sprint are sorted into columns based on size in points (and the team uses fibonacci for the values).
    3. All 'stories' are managed in a requirements repository, from which MS-Word docs are generated, zipped up, and emailed to the development team, who modify the word documents, and store them in subversion in a directory structure reflecting if they were accepted or rejected (for lack of clarity).


  4. When you asked about testing, you were told (pick one):

    1. We automate our unit tests and incorporate into the daily build process - we won't promote to the trunk with bugs.
    2. Do you mean testing what we wrote, or testing by users to make sure we wrote the right stuff? We did both.
    3. The person who manually tested was working against a different version of the product than development.


  5. When you asked what the user feedback so far has been like (pick one):

    1. Very positive from a couple people in our target demographic - and we uncovered some great new ideas.
    2. Rough. The stakeholders let us know that they met last week, and completely changed their strategic goals - but we're adapting now.
    3. Users? Look at the time...


  6. You corner the QA lead for the project to talk about performance testing and (pick one):

    1. She shows you the logs, and how they identify which stories get the most action, and how long they take. Then she circles "the bad one" and shares that it just got prioritized into the current sprint.
    2. She takes you to the break room, and shows you the trend charts on the wall, for average response-times for the top ten stories (in importance to the key persona) - pointing out which times are above "ok" and which ones are below "ok." Then she starts to ask you about scalability.
    3. She suggests that if you sit down with a stopwatch in front of the test server, next week, after the next build, you can probably measure performance, if the build doesn't crash all the time like the current build.


  7. You hear a rumor that the cadence of releases is not working very well. When you investigate, you find (pick one):

    1. Weekly releases are too frequent for the users to review, and they are asking that we move to biweekly releases.
    2. Monthly releases are too far apart, and now that the automated build process is done, developers want to move to biweekly releases.
    3. Our first release is two months away. How can anyone be complaining about the frequency of releases? No one has seen it yet.


  8. The management team is completely replaced when a new CEO cleans house. When you meet with the new CEO to review project status, you share (pick one):

    1. The burndown charts and expected "completion" of today's version of "the project vision."
    2. The sequence of deployment of tangible, valuable capabilities, combined with the number of users at each release.
    3. A hand-waving explanation of why nothing can be deployed after 6 months, and how "everything" is 80% complete.


CALCULATE YOUR SCORE

  • For every (1) answer, give yourself 0 points.
    • For every (2) answer, give yourself 0 points.
    • For every (3) answer, give yourself 5 points.
  • Give yourself 1 point for every time you've been hit with the recent Facebook reincarnation of the 25-things meme.

Total up the points. This will tell you, on a scale from 1 to 40, just how cranky you can justifiably be.  If you hit 40, make sure you sign up to write a guest post!

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California http://blog.sueraisty.com