03 December 2019 | Produced by Kandy Shaw
Problems, problems, problems
Santa had been in a dilemma for some time and for several reasons. Firstly, he had put on a little weight after last year’s mince pies. Climbing down and then back up the chimneys was very time-consuming for an elderly Santa. The wear and tear on his Santa suits meant that his tailoring bills were high. His steel toe-capped boots also needed to be replaced quite regularly due to scuffing and the cost of talcum powder for whitening his beard after each descent was an extortionate figure that he needed to reduce. “Ho, ho, ho”, he thought to himself, “I jolly well need my clever little elves to develop a product that will deliver presents and collect this year’s mince pies and the carrots for the reindeer.”
In the meantime, Santa’s clever little elves were not happy either. They were exhausted with the time it took them to fly around watching children to see who was being naughty or nice. Creating, wrapping and delivering presents was also becoming harder for them with each passing year due to increasing demand. If their flying time could be reduced and they could find a way of watching the children without having to leave elf headquarters then more hands would be available for the manufacturing and wrapping process.
As if all this was not enough, the reindeer too were complaining to Santa about the increased weight they were having to carry every year as the number of presents rose. Not only this, but because Santa was having to descend and ascend more chimneys, he was having to carry more Santa suits so that he would always appear presentable for his Christmas card poses. These suits again, were added weight for the reindeer to pull. They wanted the elves to develop something that would lighten their load. Santa knew he needed to find ways of making the whole process more efficient and cost effective.
Santa had a good relationship with his team of elves and over the last few months two of them; Passion and Perky had trained him in the arts of project management. Passion had firstly trained him to use Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project so that he could plan and track his projects. He then mastered Microsoft Visio under Passion’s enthusiastic eye so that he could visually present to his team. Once Santa had these Microsoft skills under his enormously large belt, he enrolled on a PRINCE2 course with Perky and followed this with an AgilePM course and then a Scrum Master course. Equipped with all this training, Santa was confident that he could help his team overcome their current difficulties by coaching and encouraging them to become ‘elf-organised’.
The reindeer stakeholders had recently appointed a Product Owner called Rudolph. Having a ‘nose’ for a good product, Rudolph would not only represent their issues as stakeholders, but he would also serve as an extra pair of antlers to help pull the sleigh. The first task Santa had as a newly certified Scrum Master then, was to arrange a meeting with Rudolph and the reindeer so that a Product Backlog could be created. Three user stories were placed upon it:
- A method for the delivery of presents and collection of mince pies and carrots without Santa having to descend and ascend the chimney
- A method for the elves to monitor children’s behaviour without having to leave elf headquarters
- A method for reducing the weight on the reindeer sleigh
Sprint Planning Meeting
Once the Product Backlog had been created, Santa arranged a Sprint Planning meeting with the elves and the three ghostly Scrum Pillars; Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. Santa explained the user stories and by so doing, he ensured that all team members would be singing in harmony from the same carol sheet. Trust would ultimately grow between the elves by this means, and as Trust grew so too would Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. As will be revealed, the Pillars were to have a crucial part to play in terms of reducing the present-wrapping pressure that the elves were currently under.
Within the two-hour time slot that had been put aside for this initial meeting, the team had discussed the user stories and possible resolutions as well as how each of them planned to achieve those resolutions on time and within budget. They created a Sprint Backlog so that everyone was now visibly accountable for their own specific task.
One for all and all for one
Although the elves and the Pillars were all part of the same team, each had a different role to play. The elves divided themselves into 3 groups according to the tasks they had chosen to work on whilst Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation floated between them. In this way all teams were kept informed of the other teams’ progress. Each member still attended the Daily Scrum to share their findings, discuss any issues that may have arisen and to offer suggestions for improvement.
One team would develop a software for the drone equipment that would allow children to be watched on CCTV monitors from elf headquarters. Another team was to develop the present-delivery software that would simultaneously reduce the weight on the sleigh and save on Santa’s costs by negating the need for him to climb down any chimneys himself. The third team concentrated on developing a method for collecting the mince pies and carrots in a way that again meant Santa would not have to descend into the sooty depths.
The drone design was fairly straight forward. However, the task of creating a magical kind of lightweight plastic that would rebuild (in full working order) any image projected onto it was much more complex. The idea was that the elves would build a present as usual, then photograph it and save the image to the software. Out on delivery then, Santa, sitting on the chimney stack, would simply have to break off a minute piece of the magic plastic and drop it down the chimney breast. Merely by selecting ‘re-build’ on his laptop the present, be it bicycle or cuddly toy, would reconstruct itself.
Because the magic plastic was so lightweight and only a small amount was needed for the rebuilding of each present, this development would reduce the weight in the sleigh even more than the reindeer had hoped because the small bag of plastic would replace Santa’s heavy and overflowing sack of presents. This was an extra bonus and would mean that the reindeer would be able to cover more chimneys in a shorter time.
The third team of elves worked on the development of a slinky with a camera fitted at one end. This contraption would again be operated by Santa from his laptop on the roof. He would be able to see where the mince pies and carrots had been left and once the treats were in sight, a set of tongs would be released from an orifice below the camera. Inside the orifice would be a cardboard cylinder that would keep the mince pies separate from the carrots. Once the cylinder lid was closed behind the last mince pie, the carrots could simply be scooped into the body of the slinky and the camera would close behind them. All Santa then had to do was to hoist the slinky back up the chimney, deposit the contents into the sleigh and replace the cardboard cylinder ready for his next collection of mince pies.
Every morning the team would hold their daily 15 minute Scrum. Each elf would offer their report on what they had done the previous day, what they planned to do that day and where they hoped to be by the next days’ meeting. No issues were raised until one little elf brought up the fact that not all houses now had chimneys. How were they going to be able to deliver presents and collect mince pies and carrots? The team discussed the matter and soon came up with a resolution to the problem; they would be able to note which houses did not have chimneys when they sent the drones out. They could then email the parents to ask them to leave the mince pies and carrots by the letterbox. This would mean that the slinky would have to be adapted to flatten like a snake, but the clever little elves did not see this as much of a problem. Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation of course, would have no issues gaining access to the property by whatever means and Santa, instead of sitting on the chimney would merely need to stand by the door with his laptop.
Importance of the 3 Pillars
Once Santa had dropped a small piece of magic plastic down the chimney, the present, as earlier stated would rebuild itself under the watchful eyes of Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. They would wrap the present and place it under the tree once they were happy that it was in perfect condition. This was going to save Santa on laundry bills and everything else he had been concerned about. It would also relieve the elves of the awkward and time-consuming chore of having to wrap the presents themselves before dispatching them from the North Pole. As a result of Transparency. Inspection and Adaptation now taking over this role, more elves would be freed up to work in the present-building department.
At the end of the first fortnightly Sprint the prototype of the drone was ready for testing and so too was the present-delivery software. Both stories were moved to the ‘testing’ column of the Scrum Board. The slinky, however still needed to be adapted and developed so that it could flatten to fit through the letterboxes when required. The team was confident that it would be ready for testing by the end of the second Sprint and ideas and suggestions for improvement were offered. By the end of the third Sprint all were pleased with their progress and the last story was moved to the testing column of the Scrum Board.
Whilst the elves had carried out preliminary tests within the confines of the warehouse, they recognised the need to test the capability of their designs properly before the Christmas Day deadline. They decided they would contact parents by email to ask if their children might have a birthday coming up. If they did, then the elves could ask if they would mind having their homes targeted for testing. They would need to take a sample from both chimney and chimney-less homes so that they could test both means of entry and the ability of the software and slinky to deliver and collect. Once addresses had been gathered, the test was carried out and whilst there were one or two glitches that Adaptation was easily able to address, the trial run proved completely successful.
The overall testing results so far had greatly exceeded the hopes and expectations of all members of Santa’s team. Rudolph and the reindeer too were extremely pleased. They all discussed what they had achieved and whether they could have done things any differently, making suggestions for possible future improvements as they chatted. Most importantly, they praised themselves for their achievements. Having employed the five Scrum values of courage, focus, commitment, respect and openness they had been able to effectively collaborate with each other and had created a pleasant and festive environment to work in. Every task on the Scrum Board had now been moved to the final testing column. There was nothing more for the elves to do aside from continuing with the monitoring of the CCTV and the manufacturing of presents. It will not be until Christmas Day however, that the proof of the pudding can be properly tested. Only then can the final success of the project be measured and the stories be moved to the ‘Done’ column. Santa, however, is confident that this year, after all his presents have been delivered he will be home in time to sit with his feet up watching all the children open their presents on Christmas morning.