Monday, August 9, 2010

Some thoughts from day 1 of Agile2010

I started the day with Mary Poppendieck's talk "Leader's Workshop: Making Change Happen and Making it Stick" which was based on the following book: Switch: How to Change things when change is hard. The talk was split into 3 parts. First you need to Motivate the Elephant, then you need to Direct the Rider, and finally you need to Shape the Path.

Mary suggested that in order to Motivate people, you need to treat them like volunteers. You need to treat them like they could leave at any time. A quote from Peter Drucker: "They need, above all, challenge. They need to know the organization's mission; believe in it, they need to see the results". As our table discussed this concept, we were able to easily relate to our own stories of leading youth at church or in boyscouts. I think this would be a great way to be treated and I can see how it would translate into energized and passionate employees. A volunteer team has to be engaged or they will disappear.

The purpose of Directing the Rider is to provide clear direction. One of the ways to do this when change is difficult is to find the bright spot. When you are having trouble implementing a change, look for some small success and then duplicate it. She gave a great example about post-it notes. When 3M first made the post-it notes, they could not sell them. They test marketed them in several locations and they only sold them in one ("the bright spot"). It turns out that the sales rep in Richmond Virginia decided to give them away and once he did everyone wanted one. 3M then followed this model in other locations and now post-it notes are a household item (and a valuable agile tool!). So, to direct the rider in difficult situations, find instances of success and clone it. A book that she references is: Positive Deviance: Influence: The Power to Change Anything"

Finally, she suggests Shaping the Path by looking at the long term and allowing local decision making. You also need to find ways to make the desired change the path of least resistance. "Change will only stick when the path of least resistance is the path of change." IBM's move towards agile was used as an example. Instead of forcing agile, they allowed it to succeed in smaller teams and then sold and promoted those successes. Soon, everyone wanted to do it.

In summary, to encourage change in a team when it is difficult a) treat your team as volunteers b) find the bright spot and clone it and finally c) make the desired change the path of least resistance.

In the afternoon I went to Hacker Chick and Dawn Cannan's hands on presentation "Better Story Testing through Programmer-Tester Pairing". We had fun doing developer/tester pairing of acceptance tests in FitNesse and Java. I learned a few new FitNesse tricks and also that I haven't lost all my dev skills. I played the dev role and our team was the first to complete the assigned task, beating some notable names in the room <cough>Brian Marick</cough>. The session also re-inforced ATDD and gave me some ideas I'd like to incorporate into a future presentation.

Also, I missed Janet Gregory's talk this morning on the Dance of QA in agile, but I managed to talk to her this evening at the mixer. She gave a quick summary of her talk and how she related it to dance. Agile team members need to be like contestants on "So You Think You Can Dance". On the show, hip-hop dancers learn other dance styles like ballet and vice versa. Similarly, agile team members (including QA) need to improve their skills in all of the disciplines in a project team. An interesting thought.

Thanks to everyone - a great first day.

In other news, Bob Payne is now following me. #Stalker.