One session that I attended in Chicago at Agile 2009, and thoroughly enjoyed, was Alistair Cockburn‘s Blitz Planning workshop. First, Alistair is an engaging speaker and is full of great ideas. Second, it was the last day of the conference and I was eager to start trying some of these new tricks, tips and techniques I’ve learned about all week at home at Point2.
Blitz Planning results in “getting the contents of everyone’s head into a common space” and is meant to be speedy. In the 90-minute workshop we planned a non-technical workflow (the process of getting up in the morning and getting out the door), then we planned an information kiosk system start-to-finish, and identified the earliest we could do the initial rollout.
Ideas are recorded on index cards by all members of the team as they come to mind and are not subject to scrutiny by other team members. As a team member writes on a card, they call out their idea to help avoid duplication, and to spark more ideas from other team members. When the team feels the plan is near complete, the cards are laid out on a table in chronological order, the plan is checked for completeness and any dependencies are identified. At this time cards may be torn up, and more cards may be written to fill the holes in the plan or re-work it to remove dependencies and shorten the critical path to allow early delivery. Alistair introduced the concepts of the “technical walking skeleton” and the “business walking skeleton” which contain the bare minimum to make it work, and the bare minimum to provide business value, respectively. Your earliest possible delivery consists of both the technical and the business walking skeletons.
Unlike the information kiosk example at the conference, the project we planned touches existing systems and contains many moving parts. Instead of 20-30 minutes to design a system and discuss it, we took an afternoon to write the cards and discuss, and we have more discussions and card-shuffling sessions planned for the next few days. So far it’s been an interesting exercise and I feel like we’ve identified several potential problems early. I’ll keep you posted.
By: Tefon Obchansky
The conference is pretty much wrapped up. The banquet and keynote put the finishing touches on a wonderful week of learning, collaboration, and meeting people who share the same passion for how to create awesome software.
In the coming weeks I’ll be posting about the things I’ve learned and how we can make our company better. I need some time to absorb how all of the different sessions tie into each other. It didn’t seem to matter if the session was about UI, project management, distributed teams, or coaching – everything kept coming back in some subtle way to the Agile Manifesto.
Once my subconscious has some time to mull this over and make sense of it, I’ll post. I’m going to do it just in time because as they say in Lean, JIT happens.
By: Ryan Shuya
Day one at the Agile 2009 conference in Chicago has more or less wrapped up. Sessions did not start until late in the morning so it gave the Point2 crew a bit of time to go out for breakfast, and to figure out where each of us had to be.
My first session was Developing Agile Leaders and Teams: A Developmental & Transformational Path as presented by fellow Canuck Gilles Brouillette. He spoke about the psychological theory behind the evolution of leaders in our society. It was interesting to see how 90% of the population hits a leadership ceiling, while only 10% are able to break through it.
After lunch I had the pleasure of seeing Robert C. Martin speak about Craftsmanship in software development. This guy is a pro and it was nice to see that Point2 is already doing most of what he is preaching. An interesting moment was when he asked people to raise their hands based on how many unit tests their team had. Mine stayed up until the “over 4000” mark, and one guy kept his up stating they had 20,000. Martin thought that was awesome, then asked how long they took to run. The guy responded, “all day.”
Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback by Elizabeth Keogh was acceptable, but I think Point2 is further ahead on some of the feedback work we’ve been practicing internally. I personally think that the feedback session proposal we made to Agile 2009 would have been stronger.
My final session for the day was 10 Temptations of an Agile Coach (new or experienced). Stevie Borne did a nice job of exposing many pitfalls that Agile leaders can succumb to, while providing many tips to help recover from, and avoid them.
The day wrapped up with an Ice Breaker event which included a few minor events, company booths, munchies, and “beverages”. I had the opportunity to speak to a few people in the crowd, and it was interesting to see people in different stages of Agile adoption. It was also pretty cool to be asked for advice on how they could make the transition easier, and what types of processes they should embrace. Seems like we’re doing the right things back at home.