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 https://jberria.wordpress.com/  

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  This chapter provides an alternative to the classic pyramid structure of organization design which is typically out of date, irrelevant and difficult to change.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!

Next SPaMCAST

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 www.tendon.net.

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…)

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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.

(more…)

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…)

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In Software Process and Measurement Cast 410, we feature our interview with Jessica Long.  Jessica and I discussed storytelling. I find that storytelling is a useful tool to help individuals, teams, and organizations.  Projects can use stories to generate user stories and as a tool in retrospectives.  Stories are also a tool in generating a vision of the future in organizational transformations.  Those are just a few of the multitude of uses for storytelling in changing how value is delivered!

Jessica and I will both be presenting on using stories at the Agile Philly, Agile Tour 2016 on October 10th.  If you are in the Philadelphia area please register and attend!

Jessica’s bio:
Jess Long is an Agile Coach, a writer, a speaker and a mother with a passion for driving meaningful stories across multiple iterations in all facets of life. Transforming Corporate America and living to tell about it is no small feat. She keeps some level of sanity by finding humor in otherwise absurd situations.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/scrumandginger
Blog: https://scrumandginger.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-long-pmi-acp-csp-cspo-87626614

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we reach the penultimate week in our re-read of Kent Beck’s XP Explained, Second Edition with a discussion of Chapters 24 and 25. Chapter 24 discusses the value and power in communities. Chapter 25 is Beck’s conclusion and reflection on the book: XP is about people!

Next week we’ll wrap this re-read up and get ready to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (published by Jossey-Bass).  This will be a new book for me, therefore an initial read, not a re-read!  Steven Adams suggested the book and it has been on my list for a few years. Click the link (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team), buy a copy, and in a few weeks we will begin to read the book together.

Next SPaMCAST

The Software Process and Measurement Cast 411 will be a big show featuring our thoughts on servant leadership. In SPaMCAST 411 we will have a visit from the Kim Pries, the Software Sensei. We will have more from Steve Tendon on the Tame The Flow: Hyper-Productive Knowledge-Work Performance, The TameFlow Approach and Its Application to Scrum and Kanban published J Ross (buy a copy here).  And anchoring the cast will be Gene Hughson with an entry from his Form Follows Function Blog.  

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.

Listen Now

Subscribe on iTunes                   Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

The Software Process and Measurement Cast 399 features our essay titled, Storytelling: Developing The Big Picture for Agile Efforts. Agile reminds us that the focus of any set of requirements needs to be on an outcome rather than a collection of whats and whos.  Storytelling is a powerful tool to elevate even the most diehard requirements analyst from a discussion of individual requirements to a discussion of outcomes. Before we can generate a backlog composed of features, epics, and user stories, we need to understand the big picture.

Our second column is a visit to Gene Hughson’s Form Follows Function Blog.  We discussed an entry titled A Meaningful Manifesto for IT.  Do we need a manifesto to know that how well we are meeting the needs of our customers is a reflection of how fit IT is for purpose? Perhaps the answer is yes, if for no other purpose than to ensure we make sure that what we deliver is not a waste of money.

Anchoring the cast this week is the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  Kim discusses the role of deliberate practice in increasing the capability and capacity of teams. Kim’s provides practical advice on improving team performance.

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we begin the Re-read Saturday of  Kent Beck’s XP Explained, Second Edition with a discussion of the Preface and Chapter 1.  These sections provide a definition of XP and context for the diving into the principles and techniques. Using the link to XP Explained when you buy your copy to read along will support both the blog and podcast. Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog (www.tcagley.wordpress.com) to catch up on past installments of Re-Read Saturday.

Next SPaMCAST

The next Software Process and Measurement Cast, #400!, features our interview with Jim Benson. Jim and I talked about personal Kanban, micromanagement, work-in-process limits, pattern matching, pomodoro and more. This was a marvelous interview to commemorate our first 400 shows!

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.

Ruins of Willkarakay

Telling stories is a natural human activity from time immemorial.  Creating a succinct and informative story to describe a business need or the future of an organization is challenging.  Stories are not bulleted presentation slides, although those tools can be used.  Rather stories at this level are longer narratives, or at the very least they are like the paintings in Lascaux Caves which evoke a longer narrative. Narrative storytelling is not a tool typically found or appreciated in status meetings, the process of building a narrative that describes a business need or the journey an organization must take to achieve a goal often needs facilitation.  Three facilitation tools are commonly used to help a team or an individual to build a story in a business environment. They are: (more…)