My most popular posts of 2021

Product Management Jan 31, 2022

Plus two wildcards just because I can!

Last year was extremely busy with changing jobs, podcasts, keynotes, writing a book and most importantly — becoming a father to a beautiful son.

Boy, that second kid hits harder on your free time than I expected, but I am extremely grateful.

Here are my ten most popular posts in terms of views and claps. I also added two wildcards that weren’t as popular as the others, because I liked them a lot. I’ll also share a little back-story on why I wrote the article.

On a re-read of my own backstories, I realize I should spend less time on Reddit.

Wildcard 1— How Story Points turned to the dark side

People are still interested in Story Points. I’m not.

It gets tiring to talk about them, especially when you join a new team and you bump into the same misconceptions you already ran into 10 years ago.

I decided to challenge myself to see if I could write something about Story Points that would interest me without turning in yet another cookie-cutter Story Points article.

Is it possible to relate Story Points to frogs? Yes, it is!

Wildcard 2— Are you practicing Anaconda or Hummingbird-style Scrum?

I had yet another argument on the subject of why Kanban is more flexible than Scrum. People practice different styles of Scrum that lead to this incorrect belief. I decided to come up with a label so we can easily talk about this misconception to help people realize there’s a different way of doing Scrum that doesn’t conflict with the Scrum Guide.

I studied Biology, that’s why I use many examples from the animal kingdom in my writing. As a kid, I actually sneaked outside of my room at night to watch nature documentaries in the bed of my parents while my older brother was sleeping.

10. SAFe is a marketing framework, not an Agile scaling framework

SAFe Agile doublespeak, or Agile terminology hacking as Sjoerd Nijland calls it, frustrates me. I don’t care what framework people use. I will gladly use Waterfall if necessary. The intentional misrepresentation of concepts SAFe has borrowed from other frameworks and methodologies is troubling. That’s why I believe SAFe is a marketing framework, not a scaling framework

9. Product Owners are great when their team doesn’t need them

I was working with a few awesome Scrum Teams as a Product Owner and they barely needed me. When I started out my career, I was constantly running and had to hold the hands of my teams every step of the way. This was not their fault, it was mine. I wanted to write something to show there’s a different way than constantly value-babysitting your teams.

8. How to deal with an absolute unit of a Product Backlog?

I was browsing Reddit and stumbled upon the AbsoluteUnits subreddit. I had already written an article in the past about why you shouldn’t have a long Product Backlog. The visual of the absolute unit of a sheep stuck with me and I had to write an article where I could use it.

I also read on Reddit that water in certain sprinkler systems turns to sludge over time, so I wove that into this story as well.

7. Why most scaling frameworks are a fad that will blow over

Scaling frameworks are lazy and I believe we can do better. Whenever there are some coordination issues, someone drops ‘Scrum of Scrums’ or let’s adopt a scaling framework. If that’s the best they can come up with, that usually means there is a poor understanding of the real problem.

No. You should not do that. Fix your problems. Scaling frameworks are not designed to fix your problems and by copy-pasting whole scaling frameworks you will not find out all the things they make worse.

Start with the simplest thing that could work, which never is a scaling framework. Use empiricism to scale Scrum. Work with what you do know to figure out what you don’t know. Adopting a whole scaling framework is NOT empirical. That’s like taking a cocktail of medications and expecting to be cured.

6. Having Product Owner and Product Managers work together is crazy and ineffective

Seeing a post from a Dutch SaaS start-up where they were looking for a PM to work together with a PO, I thought: “Why do companies using Scrum still don’t get it after all these years?”.

I decided to write something with humor to show how crazy the solution is and why you should never consider it in the context of Scrum.

5. Why estimates and timelines are the biggest enemy to delivering value

I was browsing Reddit and came across a story from Goldeneye 64 that explained that multiplayer was added one month before release without management knowing. If management had known, then multiplayer would never have been added and Goldeneye 64 wouldn’t have been the smashing hit it was back in the 90s. I wanted to write something to show how focusing on timelines can put the delivery of value to the backseat.

4. User Stories are ill-suited for expressing requirements

We’ve all seen terrible User Stories and when I saw a picture from Nussi Einhorn on LinkedIn it suddenly clicked for me why this happens and had to share my thoughts on the subject.

3. 10 Agile and Scrum memes inspired by Squid Game

I had a blast watching Squid Game and the memes it spawned. I decided to inject a bit of fun and make some Scrum and Product Management inspired Squid Game memes.

10 Agile and Scrum memes inspired by Squid Game
Agile transformations often feel like rolling a rock up a hill, here are some memes to brighten your day

2. 11 Laws of Software Estimation for Complex Work

The idea for this article came to me when I had to produce yet another detailed planning for delivering a big new module. The delivery manager forced me to break everything down up-front, and while done with good intentions it ultimately slowed everything down.

This made me think about all the estimation mistakes I had encountered over the years and whether I could capture them in some laws grounded in my personal experience.

I want to thank Francisco Carle for the amazing illustration he made which helped bring the piece to life.

Also, be sure to listen to the great podcast episode discussing the article if you prefer listening over reading:

1. Why roadmaps reflect the level of Agile inadequacy

I was incredibly frustrated with a roadmapping process I had to participate in. The teams I was part of as a Product Owner were Agile in their way of working and mindset, but we were surrounded by a swamp of bureaucracy.

The swamp of bureaucracy became most apparent in the roadmapping process and I tried to make clear why this happens. I guess it resonated with many people.

That’s all folks! Thanks for all the reads, claps, follows, messages and support.

I’ll do another one next year.