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Software Process and Measurement Cast 380 features our interview with Kim Robertson. Kim and I talked about big picture configuration management.  Without good configuration managements work, products, and programs often go wildly astray. Kim describes the a process that is as old a dirt . . . but WORKS and delivers value. We also discussed the book Kim co-authored with Jon Quigley (Jon was interviewed in SPaMCAST 346) Configuration Management: Theory, Practice, and Application. (more…)

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How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition

Chapter 8 of How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition, begins the third section of the book.  Part III is focused on Measurement Methods.  Chapter 8 is titled, The Transition: From What to Measure to How to Measure. This is where you roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles and get to work. Whenever you are beginning something new, the question of where to start emerges.  If I were to summarize the chapter in three sentences I would say: (more…)

Stories help you visualize your goals

Stories help you visualize your goals

In the Harvard Business Review article The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool by Harrison Monarth (March 11, 2014), Keith Quesenberry, a researcher from Johns Hopkins, notes “People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.” The power of storytelling is that it helps us understand each other and develop empathy. Storytelling is a tool that is useful in many scenarios; for presentations, but also to help people frame their thoughts and for gathering information. A story provides both a deeper and more nuanced connection with information than most lists of PowerPoint bullets or even structured requirements documents. Here are just a few scenarios (other than presentations) where stories can be useful: (more…)

A puzzle and patterns have a lot in common.

A puzzle and patterns have a lot in common.

Stories are a tool to help structure information so that audiences can easily consume them. They help presenters make sure their message stays front and center so it can be heard. While many presentations and stories in the corporate environment use the metaphor of a journey, some are best represented in other ways. Other patterns are useful both to fit other circumstances or as a tool to inject a bit of variety into presentation heavy meetings. (Just how many journeys can you take in any one meeting?) (more…)

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Software Process and Measurement Cast 379 features our short essay on the relationship between done and value. The essay is in response to a question from Anteneh Berhane.  Anteneh called me to ask one of the hardest questions I had ever been asked: Why doesn’t the definition of done include value?

We will also have an entry of Jeremy Berriault’s QA Corner.  Jeremy and I discussed test data, and why having a suite of test data that many projects can use is important for efficiency.  One question is who should bite the bullet and build the first iteration of any test data library?

Steve Tendon completes this cast with a discussion of the next chapter in his book, Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban.  Chapter 7 is titled “Budgeting is Harmful.”  Steve hits classic budgeting head on, and provides options that improve flexibility and innovation.

Remember to help grow the podcast by reviewing the SPaMCAST on iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcatcher/player. Then share the review! Help your friends find the Software Process and Measurement Cast. After all, friends help friends find great podcasts!

Re-Read Saturday News (more…)

 How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition

How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition

Chapter 7 of How to Measure Anything, Finding the Value of “Intangibles in Business” Third Edition, is titled: Quantifying The Value of Information. Chapter 7 continues to build on the concepts of quantification and estimation presented in previous chapters. Chapter 7 and the idea that we can quantify the value of information is the centerpiece to Hubbard’s premise that we measure because measurement has value. Chapter 7 defines how to quantify the value of information.

(more…)

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The Mountain is one example of a journey-based story structure.

Presentations are a story that the presenter is sharing with an audience, and any good story has a beginning, middle and an end. All too often the beginning is a slide that has an agenda, the middle is slide after slide of data and the end a slide titled conclusion or questions.  Across that arc, the presenter seeks to inspire, informs or persuade. A better approach is to use one of the tried and true story structures. A story structure is often a useful tool to ensure the audience stays attentive and hears the specific points the presenter is trying to make. The presentation does not need to be the next The Lord of the Rings or Harry Porter, but rather they could or should emulate those plot patterns.

The Monomyth or The Hero’s Journey is one of the most common story structures. The monomyth is cyclical story structure in which a hero team embarks on a journey and then returns when successful. It describes where the journey started, the trials along the way, the goal that was attained and the steps to move forward after the goal has been met. The hero’s journey was originally introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). It is a broad narrative structure that can be used when the presenter is leveraging a journey metaphor, one of the most commonly used stories in business and conference presentations.  The journey is commonly used to describe process improvement, methodology adoptions or business transitions. I tend to leverage a version of the monomyth pattern described by Christopher Vogler that has twelve steps in order to provide a journey type of structure to relevant presentations. (You can view a recent example of how I applied the monomyth to a presentation in Discover The Quality of Your Testing Process). Reflect on every adventure movie you have ever seen and you will recognize the pattern. Even in a business environment, audiences are very comfortable with this approach because they have been trained to recognize the pattern.

Similar Journey Story Narratives:

Freytag’s Pyramid is a structure that follows a similar pattern of rising action climax, falling action followed by final release. This pattern is commonly used in commercials to hold attention (example). In this pattern, the protagonist doesn’t need to return to complete the cycle however the problem needs to be solved. I often use the Freytag Pyramid as a guide to ensure short presentations have a plot.

The Mountain begins by describing a current state, shows how challenges are overcome as the story moves away from the current state towards a conclusion/climax followed by falling action. The most significant difference between the Hero’s Journey and the Mountain is that in the Mountain the conclusion does not have to be positive. For example, the Harry Potter series would have been much less of a Hero’s Journey and more of a Mountain if Voldemort had won. Similarly, the mountain would be a good structure to use to describe an Agile adoption journey that ended in implementing a new waterfall methodology. 

It is easy to see how to use the journey story narratives to tell a story of great quest however in a business environment journey story narratives have a wide range of uses.  Some of the typical business uses are:

  • Establish that change has happened in an organization.
  • Make sure that the audience understands that the progress made was not easy.
  • Show that risk taking has benefits.
  • Identify the source of new information and knowledge.

Patterns are a time-honored technique for identifying and using best practices in software development.  Most of the readers of this blog have used patterns for design, story splitting and code to name just a few disciplines practiced by readers. Story patterns like the Hero’s Journey, Freytag’s Pyramid or the Mountain can be used to guide how we deliver information. Story patterns are often useful because they  help the audience consume the presentation’s message.

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