A Waterfall In Dania Beach

A Waterfall In Dania Beach

This is a very exciting time for Big Orange Square! We’ve now got two training centers: one in Longmont, CO, and another in Fort Lauderdale, FL (technically it’s in Dania Beach, but it’s easier to just say Fort Lauderdale).

The Longmont shop has been open for business for all of 2017, but while we’ve had our Fort Lauderdale location secured since March of 2017, our first class at that location did not take place until December 2017. While we have been through the build out process before we’re always curious about why these things take so long.

At Big Orange Square, we say we can help you deliver “Twice the Product in Half the Time™,” which means the normal cycles we see in product development is generally four times longer than what it could be. Opening our shop in Florida has taught us a few things about why it has taken us four times longer to open than we’d originally hoped for.

After an extensive and expensive plan submission/rejection/resubmission processes, we built the walls and roughed electrical and plumbing for the bathrooms. Here were the steps required for us to put up drywall:

  1. Schedule the plumbing inspector.
  2. If plumbing passes we can schedule the electrical inspector…
  3. If electrical passes we can schedule the framing inspector…
  4. If framing passes we can schedule the insulation inspector…
  5. If insulation passes we can dry wall and then request additional inspections, etc….
  6. Process Improvements Aren’t Just For Software Development
    Does this sequential waterfall process sound familiar?

I believe civil engineering can become more agile. We can bring the team-based approach of Scrum to the Permitting and Inspections Department, too. My hope is that, in addition to commercial endeavors, public services can realize and utilize the benefits we’re promoting. Although our shop was built with a waterfall in Dania Beach, it will operate with agility!

When you need the extra edge during product development, it can be difficult to know where to turn. While there are many consulting groups out there, very few of them have the deep knowledge and experience making agile/Scrum work for many different kinds of business. There is no reason to be intimidated by agile when you have Big Orange Square on your side.

When your team visits our training facilities, you’ll quickly be immersed in the unique agile/Scrum program that we have developed to make small firms competitive, viable, and efficient. If you’re curious about how our training works, learn more about it here. Contact us today to learn how Big Orange Square can teach your team to work and think more efficiently and effectively!

Why Lean Process Improvement Is The Only Way To Stay Ahead: Part Two

Why Lean Process Improvement Is The Only Way To Stay Ahead: Part Two

In our last blog, we started discussing how lean processes will help your company stay ahead and functioning effectively. Today, we’ll examine how we can help prevent burnout on your team.

Preventing Burnout

Everyone understands how important it is to work hard to achieve goals and to make sure your product is ready to go on the deadline or before a competitor releases theirs, but one area that might be hurting your team more than you might realize it is burnout. As a business owner or manager, you might be used to working long hours and long weeks, but your team might not. Even if they are ok with working these long hours, there comes a point where they might start to feel burnt out. While you could give them time off, there is a better way to prevent burnout from slowing down your project: repeatable processes.

While “repeatable processes” might sound like repetitive, menial work, that isn’t necessarily true. In the context of software or product development, repeatable processes simply mean having a standard for development cycles that include development, testing, and collaboration with other groups.

You might be more familiar with this concept under another name: iterative development. Iterative development is an incredibly powerful, and surprisingly simple, idea. Instead of looking at your goal (a piece of software or a product) as a single, monolithic “thing” that exists somewhere in the future, a more productive way of reaching that goal is to break it down into pieces that are then worked on by small teams who will develop pieces of the larger product, then come together with the other teams, see how the pieces work together, and then return to refine or enhance their pieces before moving on to the next section.

By using these smaller developmental stages, your project benefits in many ways. First, your teams won’t have to worry about everything all at once. Instead, they focus on smaller pieces that have an ultimate goal is mind. Second, your software or product will be better than if every member of your team was working to complete the larger project instead of the components. Iterative development relies on constant testing and input based on the needs of the other teams. These “smaller” steps can end up creating a number of benefits, one of the most important of which is reduced burnout.

Always remember: without your team working as effectively and efficiently as possible, your project, your product, and maybe even your company, can fall behind and lose its ability to stay competitive. If you’re concerned that your team might be on the edge of burnout or if you are putting together a new team and you want to prevent burnout or waste from happening as you get ready to begin, contact us at Big Orange Square as soon as possible. We have decades of experience working with teams and teaching them to be as effective as possible when developing products or software. We have training facilities in Colorado and Florida, and we teach all around the country. Check out some of the classes we’re offering, here. If you have any questions please reach out to us.

Why Lean Process Improvement Is The Only Way To Stay Ahead

Why Lean Process Improvement Is The Only Way To Stay Ahead

If you run a business, you know exactly how important it is to maximize everything you have. From brainpower to capital, you do everything you can to ensure that nothing is wasted because waste can cause you to fall behind. In order to stay out in front of your competition, you need every edge you can get.

At Big Orange Square, we have dedicated ourselves to helping your team learn how to improve processes across the board. We have decades of experience training people how to utilize Agile/scrum for everything from software to product development. Since forming this company, we have started training groups using our kinesthetic coaching methods which give your team a hands-on experience that will have them applying their new skills on the first day of training. Read on to learn about how our training can help you apply lean process principles that will keep your business moving forward.

Learn To Use What You Have

One of the best ways to ensure that you aren’t letting anything go to waste is to examine what your resources actually are and to make the most efficient use of them as is possible. This includes your employees. Maybe you hired a programmer or designer to work on one part of your current project but through interviews or tag-ups you learn that they’re also highly skilled in another area that could be beneficial to your project.

The same techniques you use to put your team’s skills to use as effectively as possible can also be used to make your budget last as long as possible. We can teach you to look for wasteful redundancies within the company by better examining how your employees work. Most redundancies are actually slowing your workers down, so they might know exactly where these problems are and how to fix them.

These processes might seem easy, but they’re not. They are simple to understand, but very difficult to master. That is where we come in. At Big Orange Square, we have trained thousands of people to improve their processes. While we come from software, we have also branched out into product delivery processes. We can show you how to maximize the power of your group to keep development cycles fast and effective.

We teach you to deliver early and deliver often in terms of tracking development processes. By checking early and often, your team will feel more accomplished and they will be able to better handle any problems that other teams noticed.

Learn more about how this helps your team stay fresh and motivated in our next blog!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about how we work or when you can come to a class, please contact us. If you need more in-depth training, we also offer coaching sessions where we come to you and work directly with your team to help you improve. We have decades of experience helping teams in software and product development reach and exceed their goals. Please contact us as soon as possible!

What Is Iterative Development?

What Is Iterative Development?

Maybe you’ve heard of agile product development or scrum, but you aren’t clear on the details. Maybe you’re familiar with agile/scrum in relation to software development but you aren’t sure how it can apply to your manufacturing business. These frameworks can help you be successful because of the way that they utilize iterative development to quickly and efficiently build new versions of software or a product.

At Big Orange Square, we have the experience needed to help your team learn to apply these frameworks and principles to streamline and improve product development. Whether you work in software or in an industry where you are developing physical products, Big Orange Square can push your team to improve their processes. Contact us today to learn more about how we work and read on to learn about the basics of iterative development.

What Is Iterative Development?

Simply put, iterative development is a way of breaking a project into smaller pieces where the project is brainstormed, built, and tested over and over until the project is finished. While this might not seem overly complicated, putting it into action in an efficient manner takes work and practice.

As an example, let’s think about developing a clock.

To start, you would split your team up based on their strengths. One team might be made of materials experts while another is made up of members who understand power sources while the last team is made up of designers and fabricators. Each team starts working on the most pressing issues that they know they need to overcome to achieve the end result: the best possible clock.

When each team accomplishes one goal or overcomes a problem, they reconvene with the other teams, combine the newest iterations of their tasks, and then start the process again using the newest form to build from. By returning to the smaller groups with new knowledge and new problems to be solved, the development cycle actually moves more quickly because the issues are being attacked from multiple sides and anticipated before the product is “finalized.”

Going back to the example of the clock — the materials team might determine that Material A might be the best choice because, while it may be more expensive than Material B, it weighs less and therefore requires less power to operate. This discovery allows the power source team to spend more time working on making its energy source smaller and more affordable, while the design team can use the lighter material to come up with innovative designs.

If you’re interested in helping your group improve their process and products, contact us today. We have decades of experience working with teams who are trying to improve their procedures and products by maximizing every second and every cent. At Big Orange Square, our goal is to help you build Twice the Product in Half the Time™. We accomplish this goal by teaching your team to think differently and to be able to pivot and change according to the newest and most important data available. Get in touch with us today to see how we can assist your team.

Hands-On Learning

Hands-On Learning

If you’ve recently decided to put together a team to develop a new product, you might be a little overwhelmed at all of the work that needs to be accomplished before you have a viable prototype that can be thoroughly tested, improved, and then produced.

At Big Orange Square, we’ve developed a method of teaching agile production in a way that makes its tenets intimately familiar to everyone who participates! Whether you’re in software or product development, this class can help your team learn to harness the power of iterative development. By approaching development in this way, not only will you be able to have a working product sooner, your product will already have many of its problems worked out before it gets into the hands of consumers. Contact us today to learn about how we can teach your team or read on to learn a little bit about our innovative process!

Our Agile/Scrum Process

In order for the ideas behind Agile/scrum to really make sense, we employ several different stages in our process to fully illuminate the ways that you can make it work for you. Because every company is different and every group of people are working with a different set of skills, we try to impart this new knowledge in ways that translate easily for everyone.

The Quick Simulation

During the quick simulation, we teach you how to make different technologies work together by having groups separately build the components of a small car. After the individual pieces have been constructed, we then bring them together to form a working model. During this stage we try to teach you how to divide a project and what each team needs in order to produce work that is not only useful on its own but as an important part of a larger project.

The Extended Simulation

This is where we kick these principles into high gear. During the extended simulation, your team will build a car! We provide some of the basic systems and then teach you how to bring them all together by working on smaller teams that work toward completing the entire project. By scaling up the processes in the quick simulation, you can see how your team works towards meeting larger goals.

The Results

Not only will your team have had the fun of completing this project together, we will also sit down with your entire team and go over YOUR process to see where these techniques can benefit your business. This simulation works well for any kind of business, not just automotive groups. We choose to teach using cars because they are complex machines that all of us understand on some basic level. This familiarity allows your team to jump into the simulations without having to learn all of the ins and outs of another kind of software or product.

How To Manage Trade-Offs In Design

How To Manage Trade-Offs In Design

Budgets: It’s Not Just Money That Is Scarce

By Hubert Smits

The Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system initially proposed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is one of the most exciting technological propositions in recent history. To accelerate its development, SpaceX announced an open competition for engineering teams to design their own Hyperloop pods to compete on a test track in 2016. Formed on social media site reddit, rLoop is the only non-student team to reach the final stage of the competition.

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to work with these dynamic, brilliant and very dedicated volunteers.

The Challenge:

The rLoop team wondered whether all their parts would fit into the available space of the pod. For example, extra batteries would make it easier to design magnets and brakes, but they add weight and take up space. Stronger magnets produce more heat, which is difficult to get rid of in a vacuum. The challenge was how to handle the trade-offs needed in this situation.

The Solution:

My proposal was to treat the scarce resources like money: lay out a budget for the use of a resource. With 100Ah of electricity available for all the power consuming parts inside of the pod, decisions had to be made: 40Ah to levitation, 30Ah to braking, 20Ah to logic, 10Ah to spare.

Just like in your household budget, you can shift allocation. For example, less money for vacation, more for the new car. In the rLoop environment, it may be more power for levitation, less for braking. Some of those trade-offs are needed. The magnets may not be able to lift the weight of the pod, so something has to give (like you give up your vacation when the car breaks down). Others might enable more elaborate solutions. Teams can negotiate and haggle about the use of the budget. Ever done that with your family members?

The trade-offs are more complex than your household budget because different budgets influence each other. For example, the need for more power may dictate bigger batteries, which influences the weight budget. Now negotiating a power budget becomes more difficult: more teams are involved and more factors need to be taken care of.

Just like other reports in Scrum (Burn-down and Burn-up charts), the main goal of managing the budget is to give warnings when a budget is challenged. The Scrum Master can issue the warning and the team has to find a solution.

Here are some photos I took while working with the rLoop team:

This is the brake system this team developed from scratch. It is one one of the reasons they were recognized with the Innovation Award.
This tube is the model required for the SpaceX test flights. It is 25% of the real pod.
These drawings are the documentation linked to the Scrum task board.

Go Deeper

More about rLoop. rLoop is an open-source, crowdsourced, online think tank. Visit their website: www.rloop.org

Burn-down and Burn-up Charts
“The team displays, somewhere on a wall of the project room, a large graph relating the quantity of work remaining (on the vertical axis) and the time elapsed since the start of the project (on the horizontal, showing future as well as past). This constitutes an “information radiator,” provided it is updated regularly. Two variants exist, depending on whether the amount graphed is for the work remaining in the iteration (“sprint burndown”) or more commonly the entire project (“product burndown”).” — AgileAlliance.com

Teams: Cross-Functional Is Broad In An Industrial Environment

Teams: Cross-Functional Is Broad In An Industrial Environment​​

By Hubert Smits

A couple of months ago I talked about Scrum4HW™ to a local user group. Lots of interest, good discussions, and several people from the industry attended. One of the people working in the manufacturing space, made an important remark when I talked about a six- to nine-year cycle to get a new car model on the road.

“It isn’t the design of the car that takes six years,” he said. “We can do that in a year. But to align supply chain and manufacturing, that takes the other five years.”

Cross-Functional Team In Scrum For Hardware

“Delivery teams are cross-functional, with all of the skills as a team necessary to create a product increment.” – a quote from the Scrum Guide,

This quote means that a Scrum Delivery Team not only has design engineers (for electronics and mechanics), but also people who work in the supply chain or manufacturing space. Once those skills and interests are represented during development of a new product, “Twice the Product in Half the Time™” is possible.

I have two examples to share with you:

The first occurred in the rLoop team developing battery packs. Inside a pack, the battery material is enclosed in a material designed to dissipate heat. The designer created a clever production process using only an electric heater and a kitchen vacuum sealer. Another volunteer produced 300 of the heat dissipation layers. Half of those were too thick, and the battery packs couldn’t hold them. A waste of time and money. Had a manufacturing expert been involved, tests would have been developed for the volunteers so this mistake wouldn’t have been made.

Another client was used to spending three to four years developing new banking equipment. Hand-offs made it hard to find problems until very late in the project — problems that were often only solvable by redesigning parts of the equipment. These redesigns were the reason that these projects took so long to complete. After considering the cross-functional concept and bringing the right people into the development team, they delivered the next piece of equipment in four months!

I believe that two things happen when the right people are on a team: problems are found earlier in the process, and both a problem-finder and a problem-solver are part of the same team. Finding a problem early makes it easier to solve it. In a four-year project cycle, the people working in the first year aren’t readily available to solve a problem that is found in the last year. Teams need to go for the win: there is no them-and-us because we are all here to win! When a problem is discovered by the person in charge of the supply chain, the entire team works together to fix it.

Ken Schwaber stated, “Scrum is simple, not easy.” The scenario above isn’t easy — people can be spread out over the globe, and products can be large and complex. However, as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Work on the challenge to create a cross-functional team in your Scrum4HW™ project, and it will pay off!

If you’re looking to help your team optimize your processes, get in touch with us at Big Orange Square. We have been helping teams learn how to work at peak efficiency for years, and we can help your team, too!

Go Deeper:

rloop: rLoop is a non-profit, crowd-sourced online think tank, competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition. rLoop is comprised of over 300 members representing more than 15 countries. Rebecca Zhou is one their members and she spoke at the Scrum Alliance Scrum4HW Track in San Diego April 2017.

Ken Schwaber: Ken co-developed the Scrum process with Jeff Sutherland in the early 1990s to help organizations struggling with complex development projects. One of the signatories to the Agile Manifesto in 2001, he subsequently founded the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is the founder of Scrum.org.

Scrum Makes Sense For Startups: Part Two

Scrum Makes Sense For Startups: Part Two

In our last blog, we discussed how the Scrum framework can be helpful to startups who are looking to get the most amount of work done as quickly as possible in order to get it on the market as soon as they can. We also talked about how Scrum is an adaptable framework that can change the way you think about your final goal.

In today’s entry, we will talk about why moving towards iterative development can be so beneficial for your startup team in an age that demands speed and flexibility. If you want your team to start working more efficiently, call us at Big Orange Square. We offer public classes about Scrum and agile development as well as personalized training programs built specifically for your team. We have trained more than 15,000 people over the last 10 years and we can help you, too.

Iterative Development

Iterative development is the cyclic process of developing a prototype, testing it, and then refining the prototype after analysis. While this might not sound much different than the way that products and some software is traditionally built, it is actually a different process. While traditional development focuses on taking steps in order, iterative design instead looks at the final product as a collection of products that must each be built in order for the final product to function correctly. By accepting this model, teams don’t have to wait for other pieces to be completed in order to complete theirs. Instead, teams work in parallel to build the products that will then combine in the end for the final product that you want to take to market.

Each team works on their own product separately but they all come together frequently to share their findings and to show the others how their product will eventually fit in with the others. By repeating this process of prototyping and refining, each team is solving problems every day that might otherwise take weeks, months, or even years, to be discovered. The iterative design and development process basically creates a large number of scenarios that mirror the actual use of your product by users without having to risk the bad press that follows broken software or a product.

At Big Orange Square, our approach to teaching Scrum is tailored to both software and physical product development. Our method will help you work through the processes and make your work move more quickly by actually engaging your minds with hands-on training. We have found that tactile training yields the best results by showing teams that the prototyping process is much less scary than they think it is and that it yields faster results with better solutions.

Contact us today to find out how we can help your startup team get off on the right foot. We have years of experience helping software development teams get started with agile Scrum and we have tailored these processes to work with physical product development in a way that hasn’t been done before.

A Professional Pivot Creates A New Purpose

A Professional Pivot Creates A New Purpose

by Katrina Starkweather, Marketing for Big Orange Square

Before The Pivot

Hubert Smits teaching at our new headquarters.
Class time with Hubert Smits. There are a few slides – but not a lot.
I’ve been working with Hubert over three years. He loves all things Scrum and teaches Certified Scrum Master classes. My job is to promote his work through various marketing activities. We had our ducks in a row: great looking website (www.smitsmc.com), Twitter followers (@hubertsmits), a happening LinkedIn profile and company profile – all working in his favor. Business was good!

But, I could hear it in his voice that Hubert wasn’t really happy.

Then, one day, about a year ago as of this writing, he called me. And nothing has been the same since that phone call.

In February 2016, Hubert joined some friends at a Train the Trainer class in the Seattle-area. Joe Justice, a well-known and respected agile trainer for Scrum Inc., was teaching Certified Scrum Trainers how to use Scrum to build products, namely a Wikispeed car. The class and the concept clicked for Hubert in such a way that he saw exactly what needed to happen next. He needed to do this. He needed to combine his passion for creating, with his passion for teaching, with his passion for Scrum.

He Pivoted And Now I Can’t Keep Up With Him!


BOS HQ LongmontFast forward one year to February 6 – 9, 2017. Hubert and his new business partner, Peter Borsella, held their first class at their new Colorado Headquarters!

(The week prior, both of them had led a class onsite with our client, CISCO. Pretty cool!) This week, they were working with ARCA, a manufacturer of cash automations technology for financial institutions and retail customers. They are an international organization and they brought a big team for this training: we had students here from England, France, Italy and the US! Two of them were here last August, when we held our first class in Boulder, Colorado in conjunction with our Scrum4HW gathering. (Link to that page). I couldn’t wait to see them!

I drove right to the spot that had been described to me: an unassuming warehouse-style building in the tiny town of Hygiene, Colorado (just north of Boulder, Colorado).

No One Is Asleep And One Team Skipped Lunch

I walked into an incredible experience. It was day four of the training. I’ve been to day two of training for other classes and it always looks the same: glassy-eyed, yawning students sitting under buzzing fluorescent lights as slides fade in and out on the screen while the instructor tries to keep everyone’s attention. I didn’t find this happening. Instead, students were asking questions, talking with the instructor, Hubert, and he was writing on a flip chart and not even using a projector! Throughout the next 30 minutes, I confess, he did show a few slides, but the focus of the class wasn’t on those slides: it was on the content. “Can this really be day four?”

Lunch arrived. Rather than running for the boxed lunches and grabbing their cell phones, the students opted to meet together. They met around the whiteboard and moved sticky notes from “doing” to “done” and “to do” to “doing” and each team held a short stand up reviewing what they had done and wanted to do and whose help would be needed. Finally, they broke for lunch! (I was so relieved because I was starving!) Oh wait, not all of them grabbed lunch. One team put lunch off because they really wanted to figure out their wheel assembly. I overheard a team member, Jason Schreuder, say, “I want to get those wheels on. I’m going to skip lunch until I get that figured out!”

Here you can see some photos. Photos really don’t tell the whole story. The shop is large and accommodates a classroom on one side and a workshop on the other. Beyond the workshop is another large warehouse we also use. As you can see, Hubert organized every tool so that students can find and use what they need quickly and easily. There are garage doors throughout the space, which allows the students to move equipment where they need it. It also gives them an incredible view of the Rocky Mountains.

I talked with the students and found that they were all staying in Boulder, Colorado, a breath-taking, beautiful 40 minute drive from the shop. At night, they partied! During the day, they worked! Hubert told me that they arrived at 8am and stayed until 6pm – even though he’d planned a 9am to 5pm class – because they couldn’t wait to learn the Scrum framework and try it out on building the car.

The ARCA folks were enjoying their training experience and they were learning a lot. Christopher Curley, an experienced Certified Scrum Master, shared with me that his team, which was focusing on building the floor and adding the seats to the car, had learned over the four days how to self-organize. “At first, I was very involved coaching them on how to work together, make decisions and now, I can just stand here and watch them work. They’ve totally got this figured out.”


I couldn’t wait to catch up with my friend from last August, Dawn Guttman. Dawn doesn’t like the spotlight, but you can see her in this photo from our August class: drill, baby, drill! She’s a manager at ARCA and, although Dawn attended last summer, she came this time to develop relationships with more ARCA team members who work with her team, but in other countries. Dawn is based in the US and works on the software-side of the business, and interfaces with manufacturing and finance. I asked her how the training was going. “It’s great! I really like the new space and it is making such an impact on everyone to have class time here and then walk over there [to the shop] and apply what we’re learning. Everyone’s really getting it.”

Hubert had Panera bring in breakfast and lunch every day, so the students ate well and had plenty of good coffee. But, if a student needs a break, Hygiene offers so much more than your typical business park or hotel-based training. The views of Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains will refill your lungs. And if you need a coffee boost or a nibble, the Crane Hollow Cafe is right across the street. Another real bonus is the Purple Door, just a few steps from the Big Orange Square’s front door. It’s a cool market that provides yummy organic, local food and gluten-free baked goods.

I shared these other juicy tidbits about the location of our training facility because it’s another aspect of this training that makes it unique. I mean, that’s in addition to how unique our class is in the first place: it’s unique to build a car as you learn how to Scrum. When I took my CSM class, it was in a hotel conference room. We played a few cool games and had some good discussions. But, I’ll take training at the Big Orange Square (BOS) headquarters over that training if I have a choice. And, yes, of course I’m biased: I’m the marketing person for BOS. But, I’ve delivered training for IBM, taken the CSM class [from Hubert!] and so I do have some perspective. THIS PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT XTREME CLASS ROCKS!