While I was in Postdam, Germany for Agile Testing Days 2015, there was a blizzard of options for talks and workshops I could attend. With close to one hundred speakers, there was no way I could attend everything I wanted to, but one workshop in particular stood out to me. It was delivered by George Dinwiddie and Stephan Kämper regarding The Three Amigos Principle.
I figured I’d learned everything I’d need to know about this concept years ago. It’s pretty simple. A programmer, a product owner and a tester walk into a room… and no, this is not a set up for a joke, that’s what they do. They get together and discuss the details of a story, so that everyone can be on the same page. In my company, we most often have this interaction when a story is “kicked off”.
The idea behind the Three Amigos principle is that software testers and programmers can get involved in the process of defining, developing and testing stories earlier. What often happens, though, is that a story is reviewed from a high level, some questions are asked, and the general consensus is that we can get into the details as we progress.
As I was listening to George and Stephan share their experiences and some examples that they put together for us to work with, they shared an idea that I felt was quite powerful, and made a lot of sense. It’s called “Example Mapping”, and was developed by Matt Wynne.
Last week I introduced a story about what bad corporate communication can look like. I talked about the post, and the experience that lead up to it, with my colleague and co-blogger here on Uncharted Waters, Matt Heusser. He made me realize that that past was two in one, it was a story in a story.
The juicy part of the story is about how development managers come to be, and the problems that creates. There is also the matter of how I dealt with this phenomenon as a newly minted software practitioner and what I’d try do different a second time around.
Let’s get to it.
A friend of mine got this line in an email from the corporate office last week:
As part of a corporate effort to improve our ability to assure high-quality software is undertaking a study to determine the corporate capability of our Quality Assurance teams. Factors under review include: resource alignment, technical skills, technical skill gaps, tools in use, and testing techniques.
That email looks like a mashup of half the business lingo we learned in undergrad. The weird part is that no one knows what any of those words mean. The people reading it are usually left confused and probably feeling some anxiety about their position in the company. The people that wrote the email were probably trying to make the wording vague enough so that anything that actually happens will still fit the original story.
I’m not convinced this is how business emails should go.
Michael O’Church first came to my attention for his blog commentary on the gervais principle. Later I learned that the prolific blogger had worked for a google and other tech titans. Last week, he published an expose on the early-stage Silicon Valley funding works, titled Y Combinator and Paul Graham are bad for the world. I thought the world deserved to hear a different view.
It’s time for me to tell my story. Continued »
Some agile and lean people like to use the phrase ‘fail fast’. That slogan is usually a call to be brave and try new things that might not work out. Looking a little deeper, there is an encouragement to find what doesn’t work early rather than later when the stakes might be higher. I’ve never been a fan of the saying. Failing isn’t my idea of a good time whether is happens now, or later. And aside from that, I think it encourages the types of behavior that slow a company down instead of drive it forward.
Let’s take a closer look on what it means to fail.
Every time I have started a new job of the fully employed at a company type, one of the first things we do is go over the organizational chart. An HR person and maybe my new boss sit down with me point to the bottom of the page and say “See, you are right there. No, not there, further down. Yeah down there in the bottom corner.” And then tell about how other people in my position are now VPs of something or other.
I always hated those meetings. Careers aren’t linear, most people don’t go in a perfectly smooth path from junior to senior to management and whatever is after that. Even if progression was linear like that, the organization chart offers no help or suggestions for how to actually get there.
I want to talk about how I do it. My career is a work in progress, it will always be, but maybe this will be helpful for someone out there.
Did you hear about the woman who faked pregnancy in order to get financial support? She’s headed to prison for 18 months. The crime is larceny by trick: She convinced people to give her money based on a lie.
Back in IT, you don’t have to look far for a similar story; it might be as simple as the guy down the hall who claims a fake degree, a fake certification, or experiences he did not have on his resume in order to get a job.
Let’s start there. Specifically, someone who claims on linkedin to have the Project Manager Professional, or PMP designation, but doesn’t show up in the registry. Now it is possible the person’s registration expired, or he has the name spelled wrong. You want to be careful, so you contact the Project Management Institute Directly.
Then things get weird.
The damaging effects of multitasking in Software are no huge surprise; they’ve been covered by gurus like Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood. Atwood references the multitasking research of Gerald Weinberg, the consultant’s consultant. One common ‘fix’ to eliminate multitasking is to reduce Work In Progress, something we talk about at my company in presentations, in our courses, and yes, right here at Uncharted Waters.
So when I see a tweet like the one below, you can image it causes a strong reaction.
After a fair bit of back and forth with James, I have a bit of the context and I can at least agree that minimizing WIP can limit creativity for certain kinds of work, and could be toxic to certain kinds of creativity.
Let’s talk about what those might be, starting with my own work.
Most of our readers know about the Surfacebook, Microsoft’s latest attempt to capture new territory. As desktop operating system sales slump, they need something to continue to grow, which we discussed last time.
Today I’d like to talk about two more, perhaps less-known approaches: Microsoft’s investments in Office onsite as a service, and it’s nascent offerings of personal portable devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, or iOt.
This idea has been spinning around my brain the past week. This owes to the idea that we as a species are developing “extended cognition”, as in a part of our brain effort is now residing outside of ourselves. I owe this whole line of thought to Noah Sussman, who made an interesting challenge via Twitter that I cannot stop thinking about:
Two years ago, I could have said “sure, I can do that”. Back then, I had a feature phone, little in the way of frills. My phone was just a phone. Today? I have succumbed to the wiles of the smart phone app world, and truth be told, it has done some amazing things to reshape the way that I interact with the world around me. It has also been a major force for behavior change in me that I had never anticipated it could be. To this idea of extended cognition, I want to suggest that we can outsource other processes our brain controls, specifically motivation and willpower.