Make sure you’re telling the right story.


Early in the history of Agile, most descriptions of Agile included the need to define a central metaphor to help guide the work.  Somewhere over time, the idea of a central metaphor has disappeared as Agile thought leaders have focused on more tactical facets of agile methods and frameworks. It’s time to reconsider the big picture story.  

The central metaphor delivers: (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 440 features our essay on two storytelling techniques: premortems and business obituaries.  Almost all work that takes more than a few days is subject to risks that are not immediately obvious without some form of structured process to focus the team’s thought process. Teams often use storytelling techniques to generate a big picture/vision to guide a project or to help people frame their thoughts. A story provides a deeper and more nuanced connection between the team and information than most lists of PowerPoint bullets or a structured requirements documents. The same storytelling skill can be used as a risk management tool. Premortums and business obituaries are structured techniques for using storytelling for risk management.

Our second column is from Jeremy Berriault. Jeremy discusses the importance of conferences for learning new ideas and for networking.  Jeremy suggests that if you are have not learned new ways to test and you are testing the same way you were last year then you are falling behind. Jeremy  blogs at  

Jon M Quigley brings his column, The Alpha and Omega of Product Development, to the Cast. In this installment, Jon discusses mental models and their impact on how you develop and deliver value.  One of the places you can find Jon is at Value Transformation LLC.

Re-Read Saturday News

Chapter 3 of Holacracy completes Part 1 by laying out the structure needed for an organization to be able to quickly and continuously evolve how authority is distributed.  An organization’s structure needs to be conducive to the processes needed to distribute authority.  This chapter provides an alternative to the classic pyramid structure of organization design which is typically out of date, irrelevant and difficult to change.

Visit the Software Process and Measurement Cast blog to participate in this and previous re-reads.

A Call To Action

I need your help. I have observed that most podcasts and speakers at conferences over-represent people from Europe and North America.  I would like to work on changing that exposure. I would like to develop a feature featuring alternate software development voices beginning with Africa and Southeast Asia. If this feature works we will extend it to other areas.   If you can introduce me to practitioners that would be willing to share their observations (short interviews) I would be appreciative!


The next Software Process and Measurement Cast will feature our interview with John Le Drew.  John and I discussed the concept of safety at work and how safety, or the lack of it, affects software teams.  John is the host of the Agile Path Podcast I recommend you check out his podcast but make sure you are back here for our interview next week!

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here. Available in English and Chinese.

An obituary was written when a queen was interned

In keeping with a slightly morbid bend in storytelling techniques, we add to the premortem technique the idea of a business (or project) obituary.  An obituary is a specialized form of a news story that communicates the key points in the life or a person, organization, event or project. During my college years, I spent time in college radio stations on air both playing music and doing the news (where do you think the podcasting came from? Check out the Software Process and Measurement Cast).  In the newsroom we largely knew how to put together an obituary.  We kept a few critical local celebrities written and ready just in case (in the business, this is called a morgue).  Just like any story an obituary is comprised by a set of attributes.  A typical (simplified) set of components found in obituaries (Chapter 51 from the News Manual – Obituaries) includes: (more…)

Identify the risks before you start with a premortem.

Storytelling generates the big picture to guide a project or to help people frame their thoughts. A story can provide a deeper and more nuanced connection with information than most lists of PowerPoint bullets or a structured requirements documents. Storytelling can be used as a risk management tool.  Premortems are a useful tool for helping project teams anticipate risks.  Premortems were described in the Harvard Business Review, September 2007 by Gary Klein.  The basic premortem approach can be can be customized with storytelling to increase the power of the technique. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 417 discusses the six elements of business stories.  These six elements are required for effective business stories.  We also tackle whether each of those elements are equally important in telling the different types of stories spun in a business environment.

Steve Tendon joins the SPaMCAST this week to discuss Chapter 12 in Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban, published by J Ross (buy a copy here).   We discussed the Herbie and Kanban. The story of Herbie provides a great metaphor for the flow of work through an organization and how it can be improved. Visit Steve at

We cap this edition of the Software Process and Measurement Cast with a visit to the QA Corner with Jeremy Berriault. Jeremy and I discussed the Samsung Note 7 and testing. While we may not have to test lithium ion batteries professionally, we can extract lessons from this scenario on risk and testing! Connect with Jeremy on Linkedin.

Re-Read Saturday News

We continue the read/re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (published by Jossey-Bass).   As we move through the first part of the book we are being exposed to Lencioni’s model of team dysfunctions (we get through most of it this week) and a set of crises to illustrate the common problems that make teams into dysfunctional collections of individuals. Today we re-read the three sections titled Deep Tissue, Attack and Exhibition.  

Visit the Software Process and Measurement Cast blog to participate in this and previous re-reads.

Next SPaMCAST (more…)


Not a classic business story.

Jerry Owens reached out after we explored the six elements of stories to ask whether all of the elements were equally important for every type of business story.  The short answer is no. However, a more intricate explanation needs to include that even if an element is equally important, each element can be used either in a tactical (focused on an immediate or short-term time horizon) or strategic (focused on the long-term or overall perspective) manner depending on the type of story being told.


Serene picture of a river.

Like a river, stories have many integrated ingredients.

Stories in the business environment are typically more constrained than the storylines on a telenovela.  However, all effective stories have a six basic elements that are required to clearly and effectively communicate in the business environment.   (more…)