Are the Rangers courageous or crazy to brainstorm and adapt methodologies from clever people as part of Ruck?


The Rangers ecosystem is a complex one, made up of members who are full-time employees, contractors or partners of Microsoft, members who are dedicating their personal time and passion to the projects, and members who are distributed around the globe, operating in a variety of time zones, cultures and infrastructures. The latter may sound trivial to those that have grown accustomed to the phenomenal bandwidth in Northern America, but is a huge factor in areas where connectivity is both limited and expensive.

For those that have been following our Ruck initiative, the following objectives should be nothing new:

  1. Embrace Agile methodologies, especially some of the successful Scrum concepts.
  2. Create a process that supports distributed, virtual and part-time teams.
  3. Create an infrastructure that supports full-time employees, contractors and partners as equal first-class team members.

Questions that have popped up again and again … :

  1. Why is the Rangers process (under construction) called Ruck?
  2. Are the Rangers crazy to adapt well-known methodologies?
  3. Have the Rangers found any value in Ruck yet?
  4. Will the Rangers share the findings on Ruck?

… four good questions, which I will briefly try to answer. There are many more, but these five seem to be the most important ones today.

Why is the Rangers process (under construction) called Ruck?

We initially investigated the Scrum framework,  as both Brian and I are Certified Scrum masters and have used Scrum effectively in previous engagements. The initial (and current) Ruck quick reference poster resembles a lot of the Scrum concepts, although we recently made a mental switch to saying Ruck is based on Agile concepts, not Scrum. 

… Ruck guide used by Lab Management Guide team.

As we are deviating from Scrum concepts and practices, operating in an environment in which no Scrum Master would ever consider Scrum, we decided to refer to our process as Ruck (loose scrum) to ensure that we distinguish ourselves from Scrum and that our deviations are not considered sacrilege by the Scrum community.

Are the Rangers crazy to adapt well-known methodologies?

I believe that it takes courage to take a process or methodology (Agile, Scrum, CMMI, SPICE, …), created by experienced and smart people, and tailoring it to align proven and productive processes with our challenging environment. We are looking to learn from the proven methodologies and to add the extra spicing to the menus as we experience them in our Rangers ecosystem.

The result will not be a silver bullet, but will definitely encapsulate our learning's and assist other teams operating in similarly challenging environments.

Have the Rangers found any value in Ruck yet?

While the tailoring of Ruck has cost project teams, the stakeholders and the Ruck masters sleepless nights, the Ruck initiative has delivered greater visibility into the projects and the state-of-the-nation of the projects. A huge challenge with the distributed, virtual and part-time environment is to understand the overall status, reveal impediments and ensure that green-yellow-red status indicators are based on fact not the teams belief or in some cases hope.

Status smell, impediments and other challenges we often unearthed in the later stages of Rangers project is now becoming evident early, allowing us to take corrective action early and avoid the usual end-of-project death marches.

The main values I (my personal view) am seeing, compared to previous Rangers projects:

  • Planning (Epic, persona and team) creates a more solid foundation for teams to work from. Assumptions and misunderstandings are reduced, while the consumer gets a more real-world product.
  • Collaboration and exchange of status is more effective. Instead of time consuming email exchanges and regular status meetings, the 10min/feature team/week stand-ups are delivering the status quicker and more accurately.
  • Status smell and impediments are unearthed easier and addressed quicker.
  • The new infrastructure, using Team Foundation Server, is creating an ALM environment for everyone involved that is supporting, not impeding, the team.

Will the Rangers share the findings on Ruck?

Absolutely! Our plans are to create a detailed whitepaper based on the current Rangers projects using and hardening Ruck. The format and distribution of the whitepaper is not yet defined, but will be shared with the community.

Send me your questions, your concerns and suggestions in terms of this initiative. I am sure that we are not the only ones living in a fully distributed, part-time and virtual team environment.

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