Tag Archive for 'tools'
I wrote a teaser post about iterative and incremental rebranding of eXperience Agile in September… It’s been four months and almost as many newsletters since then . So time to de-tease the blog…
Marc suggested to do part of the upcoming newsletter as a Temperature Reading, so besides getting some information, our readers also learn a technique, and it helps us structuring our own reflection over the past year. It’s been about a year since Marc, Rob and yours truly sat together after xp days london to discuss closer collaboration with courses and coaching (but still as loosely coupled as possible, because we like our independence).
A Temperature Reading has five questions, the order of which you can vary, depending on the context (see Temperature Reading for explanation and the default order, I’m going to do something different here).
I’ve been looking (and still am, but less) for a simple solution to test-drive website development with browser integration. Rob Westgeest pointed me to Firewatir. Firewatir is a Ruby wrapper around Firefox through the JSSH shell extension.
Firewatir is new and still under development, but looks promising to me, as it fullfills the four R’s: Easy to Read, (w)Rite, Run and Refactor. The only thing that is required is a firefox plugin for JSSH and a ruby library (installable through rubygems). Current downsides are scant documentation and the test process seems to hang sometimes. We also had to make some extensions to start Firefox automatically under linux (Firewatir was originally made for windows). The scant documentation you can get around if you read the tests.
We had a session on browser testing at Agile Open Europe this week. Apparently, links to Firewatir and its (scant) documentation are not that easy to find from some countries.
- Introduction to FireWatir
- Posts on FireWatir in Angrez’s blog (the developer)
- Download page for FireWatir, manual and JSSH extension
Hope this helps to make them easier to find. I’d be curious to know what you are going to use it for
A friend of a friend asked me: How do I prepare for my first open space event?.
Here is my zeroth draft answer to her:
Short answer: Decide what the theme for your meeting is, book a room and invite participants. Then create a context that gets everyone into creative flow, and at the start of the meeting explain the mechanics of open space. This way, your meeting is very likely to generate useful results for everyone and … be a lot of fun.
Open space is the simplest meeting format that could possibly work.
It is based on (un)common sense of what people do naturally in productive meetings.
A clear theme is important, as are the principles. For me the principles are the most important, I’ll explain the open space conference format ‘by the book’ after the principles. If you understand the principles and have some experience running open space, you can adapt the format to fit more situations.
Principles (from Wikipedia on Open_Space_Technology):
While the mechanics of Open Space provide a simple means to self-organize, it is the underlying principles that make it effective both for meetings and as a guidepost for individual and collectiveeffectiveness.
The Law of Two Feet — a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility — expresses the core idea of taking responsibility for what you love. In practical terms, the law says that if you’re neither contributing nor getting value where you are, use your two feet (or available form of mobility) and go somewhere where you can. It is also a reminder to stand up for your passion.
From the law flow four principles:
- Whoever comes is the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- When it’s over, it’s over
And finally, the open space rallying cry:
Since the meeting is supposed to be self-organising, the conveners put their energy _not in running the meeting_ but creating a setting that gets everyone’s creative energy flowing.
before-meeting preparation, on-site preparation, Opening, marketplace of ideas, break-out sessions, closing, (optional action planning session).
Decide on the theme. Possibly appoint someone to be a sponsor (the person that introduces the theme of the meeting) and facilitator(s) – the people who create the context before and guide participants during the meeting. Book a suitable venue, decide on size etc. (room/rooms). Invite people. You may or may not have formal registration, sometimes having people sign up on a wiki can be enough.
Preparation on the (first) day:
Put chairs in a circle for the start of the meeting. If you have more than seven participants, make a big circle for the start and create circles of chairs elsewhere for the break-out spaces.
Break-out-spaces are where the bulk of the meeting, after the theme setting and creation of the agenda takes place.
Have bold markers and pieces of paper ready. Prepare a wall where people can post their issues for break-out-sessions. Divide the wall into a matrix of timeslots and break-out spaces.
If possible, have food and drinks on-site, so that people don’t have to wait or go elsewhere for that. This helps the attendees gel more. Also, try to have a space for your group only.
- Show the timeline, how the event breaks down into Opening, Marketplace of ideas, break-out-session, closing.
- Sponsor introduces the theme. Briefly. One or two minutes max. Long openings drain the energy of the meeting quickly. Get participants to work ASAP.
- Facilitators introduce the principles and the format. Explain how the marketplace of ideas works.
Marketplace of ideas:
- Participants write ‘issues’ on pieces of paper. Preferably with bold markers, so they are easy to read from a distance.
- Participants choose a timeslot for their topic on the agenda wall.
- One by one, participants explain their issue to the others, with the aim of drawing the right people to their break-out-session.
Once people do not come up with new issues (wait a little bit, and ask ‘are we done?’. I find the silence that often happens at the beginning and end of the marketplace the scariest. However, this silence seems to be very productive.
You may ask people to put their name on sessions they want to attend. More than one session per slot is OK… (law of two feet ). This gives conveners an idea of how busy their session is going to be. It gives participants an image of how the break-out session is going.
People may shuffle sessions around, or merge sessions as they are deciding where to go.
Have a wiki where people can record outcomes of sessions, or provide paper forms for note-taking during sessions (recording who attended, a summary of the session and outcomes/questions for further work) that you
can collect into a ‘book of proceedings’.
The facilitators’ role in this bit of the conference is to answer questions, and make sure everyone has the materials they need to run their break-out session. They do not (in principle) intervene in the sessions – the participants are supposed to self-organize.
Have everyone back in the circle. A simple and effective way to close is to have the participants pass a ‘talking stick’ around, and let them (briefly, e.g. in a sentence or a word) say what they feel about the day.
Optional: action planning.
Have a bit where people can convene around flipcharts to plan actions for things that came out of the break-out sessions. This uses a mini-marketplace (since there is just one timeslot). I’m not entirely convinced this works wel, although I’ve seen it work well recently at Agile Open Northwest. Maybe more on this later.
The book Open Space Technology by Harrison Owen uses more text to explain open space. I’ve left some things out, to make this howto short – some people may feel that this is stripped beyond the bare necessities… Oh well, I believe this is enough to get started. I may pontificate on subtleties and my experiences later… Or I may find a way to make the how-to even shorter.
Is this helpful?
I participated in (re)writing a bunch of discovery session and tutorial proposals for agile2006. That turned out to be interesting, as all but one of them got selected, amidst fairly stiff competition. We decided not to run the xp game – running too many sessions is bad for the quality of individual sessions, and there are similar sessions in the programme already.
As this conference is going to be large, we tried to let our sessions scale to larger audiences, amongst other things by having more co-hosts per session than normal. That leads to a web of sessions, where some sessions share almost the same set of hosts, but not quite. After acceptance, I had a hard time deciding how to give my best effort in running the sessions. I decided to take responsibility for running the sessions where I am first or second organizer, and support other sessions in a ‘best effort’ way, where I’ll do whatever I can based on time and energy that I have.
Participating in many proposals with many co-hosts is slightly confusing. But fun.
I’ll be co-hosting
- The drawing carousel – a pair programming eXperience
- Simple tools for communication – a Balancing Act
- Systemsthinking workshop – using the Diagram Of Effects (DOE) to effectively change your work environment.
Together with Marc Evers, hopefully supported by (in various configurations, depending on the session and what suits our co-hosts in the schedule) Laurent Bossavit, Emmanuel Gaillot, Rachel Davies and Lynne Azpeitia.
I’ll be supporting in preparation and/or running (tool words is in the same slot as systems thinking unfortunately):
- Tracer Bullets (an experiential session on feedback) by Rob Westgeest and Tjakko Kleinhuis
- Tool Words, Weapon Words by Laurent Bossavit and Emmanuel Gaillot
- Writing on the Walls (about the use of information radiators) by Laurent Bossavit and Emmanuel Gaillot
Writing on the Walls is new, Tracer Bullets revamped – I haven’t had the good fortune of attending it so far.
To work more effectively with a client, I collected the steps I use to make a diagram of effects:
- Tell a short story to give an overview of the situation.
- Select the most interesting story (In a multi story workshop)
- Ask (the storyteller) detailed questions on the selected story
- Collect variables (observables or measurables) variables and other elements based on the current situation. Interventions come later.
- Draw arrows between variables. does a variable have a positive or negative impact on an other? Start with the most interesting variables.
- Simplify. strive for 7 ± 2 variables. Remove all variables that aren’t related to others. Keep only the most interesting variables. If there are still too many, split up the diagram. Try step 10 if there are still too much.
- Look for loops in the relations. are the loops reinforcing or balancing/stabilizing?
- Add intervention points
- Draw a ‘new system’ diagram (in case intervention points are not sufficient)
- Present the diagram to a group
- Adjust the diagram based on the feedback (use any of the previous steps as you see fit)
- Store the diagram so you can easily retrieve it later (digital photos of flipovers, or use a diagramming software).
A diagram of effects makes it easier to get the writing juices flowing, as well as connecting the dots in clients’ stories and (help them) find holes in my understanding.
I’m preparing to assist Marc Evers tonight at the Thinking for a Change workshop (description for use at the SPA conference, later this month). Marc and Pascal already made a presentation. That contains this gem by Richard Bach:
“If you really want to remove a cloud from your life, you do not make a big production out of it, you just relax and remove it from your thinking. That’s all there is to it.”
Hmmm. Simply. Easier said than done. Nevertheless, the only way to end drama, is to end drama. So I agree.
Idleness as a waste of time is a damaging notion put about by its spiritually vacant enemies. Introspection could lead to that terrible thing: a vision of the truth, a clear image of the horror of our fractured, dissonant world.
I have gotten some of my most disruptive ideas when forced to stay in bed for days because of illness. For instance, the decision to become an independent consultant came to me, when I was admitted to hospital for over a week, back in 2001. I was striving hard to get various things of the ground (and working hard to that effect as well). When I was admitted to the hospital by surprise (so the neurologist could run a lot of tests in a short time) I was, so to say, stopped dead in my tracks.
Having nothing to do for most of the day besides a little reading, I pondered what things I could do to increase my effectiveness. After a few days of lying in bed, I realized I was not getting anywhere. This was disruptive, because until then I was living under the assumption I had found my dream job. I realized it was time to do something else.
After a week at the hospital, I became an outpatient. I stayed at home another week. Because of the heavy antibiotics I got, I was too tired to do much, so I spent most of my time just sitting in the garden (yes, summer can be an excellent time to be ill). Spending this idle time, with some reflections on life which hospital visits seem to bring inevitably, was a major factor in my decision to explore independent consulting as an option.
It is not guaranteed to work – not every time I get lay in bed ill, I get disruptive ideas. Introspection remains scary. There have been times I was scared to go on holiday, in case I might get those disruptive ideas. Especially, since at first, I have only an idea of what is wrong, not what could be done to remedy the situation. I’m trying to spend more idle time now.
When I started my independent consulting, I imagined I would have more time like when I was in university – just visiting people, hanging out, chatting on the couch. Instead, I have worked more hours than ever before… So recently, I’m making more time to travel and hang out with friends and colleagues.
Rachel Davies is blogging about what for me was one of the highlights of XP Days Londen 4 – a presentation and workshop by Dave Snowden about Cynefin, a framework for Sensemaking. You can find more information about this in the paper Sense Making in a Complex and Complicated world by Cynthia Kurz and Dave Snowden (IBM Systems Journal, Vol 42, No3, 2003).
Luckily, I read the paper before going to the workshop – that left some room in my head to fill some of the gaps in my understanding the paper had left me with, rather than being overloaded (as most of the workshops’ participants seemed to be. It made quite an impression). By the way, the reason I read the paper was that I was wondering if paying to attend this workshop was worthwile. Since after reading I still had many puzzles, I thought it would be, and it was. I’m still ruminating over these ideas.
One of the ideas that resonated most with me was the Cynefin Domains model. It is sort of a two-dimensional matrix. The paper has a nice graphical depection that makes it clear that the boundaries between the domains are semi-permeable. One way I understand this model, that an organisation can move from one domain to another by making sene of where it is now – and seeing if the paradigm it currently applies for e.g. decision making is appropriate. I’ve transcribed the four domains into a table:
|Complex – cause and effect are only coherent in retrospect and do not repeat||Knowable – cause and effect separated over space and time|
|Chaos – No cause and effect relationships perceivable||Known – cause and effect relations repeatable, perceivable and predictable.|
To give one illustration (more in the paper mentioned above) Systems Thinking and Scenario Planning fit into the Knowable domain. Someone at xp days london asked me if I didn’t find it annoying that Dave Snowden sort of mowed the grass before my feet; Marc Evers and I were hosting a Systems Thinking workshop at XP Day London the next day.
I responded that I was very glad for the context setting Dave Snowden had done – we used the Cynefin Domains model in the introduction of our workshop, as we are constantly looking for a better way to briefly introduce Systems Thinking at the start of a workshop. I am not Systems Thinking it is one of the techniques I use to make sense of the world around me, if and when appropriate.
So how do I believe this model relates to appropriate forms of setting up an organisation? I immediately related this to Gerald Weinberg‘s Cultural Patterns (aka Shooting and Aiming Stances) for organisations, so I came up with this mapping:
|Complex – Anticipating||Knowable – Steering|
|Chaos – Variable||Known – Routine.|
The Congruent cultural pattern would be equivalent to sensemaking: taking self, other and context into account, and choosing (and changing, if the domain shifts) a cultural pattern that is appropriate. When I was reading the wiki page on Cultural Patterns I realized I forgot Oblivious. Thinking about it now, I find it hard to place. Maybe the oblivious cultural pattern is not realizing where you are, and not making any choice for an organisational form.
The connection was somewhat natural, since with a group of systems thinkers we’ve been thinking about how to move from one cultural pattern to another. In the workshop and paper, Dave Snowden says they’ve identified a number (27 if I remember correctly) of specific choreographies to move from one domain to another.
For instance, working iteratively is a way of moving from Known to Knowable and back, and moving from Knowable to Complex can be done by Exploration (to move in the opposite direction, use Just-In-Time Transfer).
Dave Snowden talked about the relation with eXtreme Programming. At first sight, I would place XP at the Known/Knowable boundary, because of the Iterative aspect. He seemed to place it in the Complex domain which left me a bit puzzled.
The way I could place it there, is that XP also has an exploratory component (e.g. doing spikes), and the extremely short iterations make it possible to investigate multiple alternative solutions (relating to what Snowden calls probes, exploration and to Set Based Development). Another component to XP/Agile is delaying (design) decisions as long as possible, which relates to just-in-time transfer.
I just noticed I’m using a lot of emphasis in this post. It seems to have a high jargon density. I’m looking forward to the article collection promised at cynefin.net, so I could upgrade some of the emphasized words to hyperlinks. In the meantime, I recommend you read the paper if these ideas interest you. I’m also interested in any comments you may have on this blog entry, as I’m busy understanding the Cynefin paper.
Yesterday, I was reading again in Quality Software Management volume 4 – Anticipating Change by Gerald Weinberg. In chapter eight I found a description of Virginia Satir’s Five Freedoms, which goes nicely with the Learning to See theme from the day before:
- The freedom to see and hear what is here, instead of what should be, was, or will be.
- The freedom to say what one feels and thinks instead of what one should.
- the freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought
- the freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission
- the freedom to take risks on one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only ‘secure’ and not rocking the boat
these originate from The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond.