Common and frequent activity for many agile techniques is estimation, for which many development teams use planning cards. I also use planning cards. While using them I have noticed several issues which occasionally drive me crazy. Many brands are somehow unsuitable for daily work. Some get dirty too quickly, it is awful. Dealing out cards to players can also get frustrating while attempt to split deck into four sets. Some can’t be hold in one hand (my preferred way) as I can’t read values then. Many looks so ordinary and boring with just numbers printed on piece of paper, another are designer disaster. Simply nothing that would worth mentioning, especially when one have to work with them every day……
This led me to start a project – to create real European Agile Cards. Since agile team uses the cards daily, it is important tool for them. Tool should be therefore perfectly tailored. Tool that creates emotions. Same like when you drive Jaguar E Type, or Bugatti Veyron, or Bufori. A tool, which is perfect in true Agile sense, simply Wow! A tool made in Europe, by European and to demonstrate European sense for passion. A tool, that is better than any other I have ever seen. Developers should have nice tools. Maybe I could also uncover with it what is agile fox about as many keeps asking. An ambitious goal.
I started project last year and it brought me many lessons to learn. As a Product Owner, I want piece of jewel, durable, attractive for many and to uncover little bit of agile fox so I can demonstrate agile values. As a developer, I don’t want to spend 15 minutes to deal out cards into 4 sets. A call for innovation. To create background story and to get more about Aguarra I studied studbook– in Zoologischer Garten of Frankfurt, Germany. Then works moved to France and Czech Republic, where we worked on graphic design. Iterative process like Scrum. We couldn’t get optimal color balance so we have redesigned several times. Design was created in studio of one will be famous French designer – a rising star I believe. Works were almost complete, when I noticed small fox is still missing to illustrate complete story. How this could be? Agile fox is too agile and difficult to find and photograph. I spent weeks to get one. Only in very last moment I was lucky indeed. I have got one in Brazil.
Next sprint – manufacturing. We have got samples from all around the world, but results were not any close to perfect. We have called best engineers from several companies around Europe and presented problem to them. In discussions I learned a lot about printing industry. We played with trials. And find out, sadly, it cannot be done. At least in Europe. Durability and design are real challenge. It reminds me series of articles by Steve Denning – Why Amazon can’t make Kindle in USA. Shifting industries is similar in printing. Focusing on price results in destruction of industry, which later prevents make anything. My project need to re-frame here because “made by Europeans” it can’t be done.
As a Product Owner, don’t give up. Across many time-zones outside of Europe, there is a solution there. Custom made paper. There is one and only place on this planet, where it is available. Their engineers prepared samples that were promising and look really good. As a Product Owner, I want more. We add special air-cushion. Now it is fantastic, I love it. Back to France to modify design. This time for technology. Machine is machine and wants its data raw. We are almost done, when color collision is identified on odd side. Design has to be modified, but it impacts the story. It is really pity to compromise here. As a Product Owner, I have to sacrifice one feature so product is manufacturable. Ingenuity is not enough and I can’t have everything. Now, all is ready for manufacturing. It has outstanding design with marked edges for rapid deal outs.
However, in that country, there are lawyers for everything. And there are laws saying you can’t play cards with fox unless you fully state who owns the fox. I hope the last impediment.
It’s cold Saturday morning when Jumbo Jet enters European air-space. Agile cards are finally coming. It is time to go to Skyport. I can’t wait the freighter. After almost a year it’s all over now. And I can’t believe it, when I hold first box in my hand. To say it shortly, it is fantastic! It is fantastic! It is Wow! Simply gorgeous! And it evolved to almost global project.
Thank you to all that brought their bit into the project: Noelle, Stacy, Anamika, Steve and many other engineers and sales reps who helped us along the way.
Agile Cards you can find here.
About author: Michal Vallo helps companies deploy agile techniques and improve performance. He is agile trainer, coach and manager at Aguarra and founding member of Agilia community.