Stop doing Agile, Start Thinking Agility

Stop doing Agile, Start Thinking AgilityIt’s interesting that when our understanding matures, things people said to you years earlier have more meaning and depth.  The title of this blog was something David Anderson said during his Agile and Beyond 2012 keynote.  Of all the interesting things I heard at that conference, that phrase has stuck with me ever since.

Stop doing Agile, Start Thinking Agility

The reason I have been thinking about this as of late is because of a user group talk I plan on attending in a couple days.  The topic is about Agile and more particularly, Scrum.

What I find really interesting as of over the last couple of years is that Agile and Scrum are being used interchangeably to those new to the industry.  Scrum appears to be the standard framework software teams are now using for developing software.

But are they using it as a framework or as a prescription?

Process vs Purpose

If you use Scrum and perform daily standups, ask yourself why you actually do them?

Really, why do you do them?

If you use them as a status update because you describe what you did yesterday, what you are doing today and what obstacles you face.  That’s not why, that’s describing what.

Responding to Change over Following a Plan

The purpose of a daily standup is to be used as a daily re-planning of your sprint.  It’s a daily retrospective.

How you can you be agile and change to meet your (sprint) goal.

It’s your daily reflection on how you can “turn down the suck, turn up the good”.

Understand the Why not What

I think it’s really important to focus on the why and not the what.  We already know this as developers when talking with our customers and trying to understand their business problems.  We dig into the why.

Yet we seemingly fail so often to ask ourselves why when it comes to all other aspects of writing software.  From the tools we use to the process we follow.

Don’t throw out your process

One approach David Anderson mentioned back in 2012 was to keep what you are doing now and start improving agility.  I think still holds true today.  It’s simply just continuous improvement. Identify pain points, one at a time and improve them.  Identify what works and amplify it.

Integrate LeanKit and Visual Studio Online

Integrate LeanKit and Visual Studio Online

LeanKit and Visual Studio Online are both two great tools.  Why not use them both?  Here is a guide to integrate LeanKit and Visual Studio Online.

Although Visual Studio Online (and Team Foundation Server) provide a task board  to visualize work items and flow, I prefer to use the fully customized Kanban board by LeanKit.  Thankfully, I found out that LeanKit has created an Integration Service, which is available on GitHub.

My goal is to manage all work items within LeanKit, however I want to be able to associate Visual Studio Online Work Items to changesets (during checking) within Visual Studio.  (LeanKit/VSO ChangeLog how-to coming soon!)

Overall the installation and configuration is fairly straightforward. However, there were a couple hiccups I encountered along the way that inspired this how-to.  I also wanted to point out that main contributor to the integration service, David Neal (@reverentgeek), was very helpful in answering questions via Twitter.  Check out the source code if you’re interested, pretty nice code.

Integration Service Installation

  1. Download the latest zip/executables from LeanKit’s website here.
  2. Follow the installation guide provided by LeanKit.

Although LeanKit provides a bit of an overview on the configuration, follow these steps specifically for connecting to Visual Studio online (or Team Foundation Server).

Visual Studio  Online – Alternate Authentication Credentials

Before you configure the integration service, you must enable alternate authentication credentials to your Visual Studio account profile.  This allows you to specify a username/password the integration service can use to connect to Visual Studio Online Web Service.

When in Visual Studio Online, access your account profile to enable the alternate authentication credentials.

VSO Alternate Authentication Creds

 LeanKit – Board Settings

In your LeanKit board settings, go to the Card ID Settings section.  Here you will want to make sure that you are using the external card ID.  Do not select the auto-increment card ID setting because we want the Card ID to be the same as the Visual Studio Online Work Item #.

LeanKit Card ID Settings

Configure Integration Service

After installation, browse to http://localhost:8090 to access the web interface.  Specify your LeanKit account and credentials.

LeanKit Integration

Next, specify your Visual Studio Online account and alternate access credentials.

LeanKit Integration

The integration service is very configurable in terms of mapping LeanKit Cards to VSO Work Items and different status.  Select the LeanKit board and the Visual Studio Online Project you would like to create a mapping for.

LeanKit Integration Mapping

In the Selection tab, you will want to select the VSO Work Item States and Types that will be mapped to LeanKit.

LeanKit Mapping

The Lanes and States tab will be populated with the swim lanes and columns from your Kanban board.  Select a column or lane and then select an available state to map.  The intent here is to specify if the LeanKit card moves to that column/lane it will be updated in VSO with the mapped State.  If you define multiple states, only the first matching state will be used.

In the example below, I’ve mapped the Backlog column  to the New and To Do VSO states.


In the Card Type tab, specify which LeanKit card types you want to map to which VSO Work Items.

LeanKit Integration Card Types

In the Options tab, specify how you want the integration service to sync.  It can sync changes bi-directional, however for my usage, I only want to push changes from LeanKit to VSO.  As mentioned above, I only want to use LeanKit for managing work items, however I want them to be in VSO so I can associate work items to changesets.

LeanKit Integration Options

Be sure to click the save button if you haven’t already.  What may not be obvious at this point is that you need to Activate your new configuration.  Click on the Activation tab, then click on the big red Activate Now button.

LeanKit Integration Activate

That’s it!

I’ve created a LeanKit Defect Card in my Product Backlog and the Integration Service has created the Bug work item in VSO.

LeanKit Test

LeanKit Test