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The SPaMCAST 589 features our essay on using clean language to refine requirements. Clean Language’s pedigree is from psychotherapy and has found a home in coaching. It is also a valuable tool for discovering information about work products. As product managers, product owners, and stakeholders interact with the world and then describe a set of wants and needs they use metaphors. Clean language helps us unpack those metaphors.

We also have a visit from Susan Parente who brings her Not A Scrumdamentalist Column to the podcast. Susan delivers thoughts and ideas about virtual agile.  Reach out to Susan at parente@s3-tec.com.  (more…)

Sometimes art is a metaphor and sometimes it is something else.

 

Clean Language’s pedigree is from psychotherapy and has found a home in coaching. It is also a valuable tool for discovering information about work products. As product managers, product owners, and stakeholders interact with the world and then describe a set of wants and needs they use metaphors. Metaphors are communication shortcuts that need to be explored. For example, product visions are often metaphor magnets. Most vision statements are considered internal and proprietary, therefore, they are hard to find (NDAs keep me from sharing the ones from companies I work with). Apple’s vision statement, according to Mission Statement Academy, is “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.” If that statement was an input for building a product backlog there are several metaphors that would need to be explored so they can be converted into features and user stories. Clean Language is a way to get people to realize and describe what they know, what they think, how they feel while reducing bias in the results. Using clean language to identify and record requirements and needs follows the standard format for asking clean language questions with a few twists. (more…)

What happens next?

Clean Language is a  tool to explore the metaphors used during discussions and conversations.  The term metaphor is being used in a broad sense to include similes and other subcategories.  Clean Language was originally developed by David Grove, a psychotherapist, in his practice working with trauma survivors. While many of us have been involved with death march projects over the years, a psychotherapy technique feels like overkill, especially since it takes a lot of effort to learn Clean Language Questions. However, the payback is worth the effort. I recently was sitting in the airport listening to a conversation between two colleagues. In a five-minute slice of the discussion, I counted 42 separate metaphors. Perhaps all the metaphors were understood, or perhaps they were participating in mutual mystification. A few well-placed Clean Language Questions would have been useful to ensure the conversation was synchronized. There are several categorizations of clean questions.  For example ‘Metaphors in Mind’ by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins group questions into nine categories. Other schemes range from four to nine.  The number of categories is less important than the idea that different questions will elicit different responses. Clean Language Questions seek to get the person answering the questions to recognize: (more…)

Stories are full of metaphors and similes.

Many of us spend at least a plurality of our day in meetings or talking with people. The give and take of conversation is core to software development. Ron Jefferies stated that user stories included a card, conversation, and confirmation. The problem is immediately apparent to anyone that has been involved with getting work done; language is imprecise. Metaphors are one of the culprits. Clean Language, borrowed from psychotherapy, is one of the tools that can be used to shine a light on what a speaker means when they use a phrase. In Clean Language – Basic Concepts it was noted that clean language can be used to establish the underlying meaning of a metaphor. It turns out that identifying metaphors is not as easy as the literature suggests. Exploring metaphors and why we care is an important digression. (more…)

Clean Language is a technique for shaping a discussion. The questions at the heart of this approach are designed to discover and explore a person’s personal metaphor. Clean language is a very useful tool for a wide range of roles from coaching to exploring requirements and needs. Before we explore how to use this approach for developing requirements and breaking user stories down we need to cover some basic concepts.  (more…)