XP2008 – Day 3

Dave Snowden‘s keynote was entertaining and interesting, although quite a lot of it went over my head.  Dave talked about the need to understand why something works in order for it to scale, with reference to agile development.  His work covers Complex Adaptive Systems, Cognitive Systems and Evolutionary Phsycology and Anthropology.

Some points which stuck out for me were:

  • Adopt a safe-fail experimentation rather than a fail-safe design approach
  • Hindsight doesn’t lead to foresight
  • Manage and monitor boundaries and attractors
  • Measure impact, not outcome

I also attended Lasse Koskela‘s Retrospective Exploration Workshop.  I was primarily interested in seeing how the exercises worked as I’m putting together our own similar course for Conchango as most of the content was based on the agile retropsectives bible.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t really enough time for a good hands-on simulation, although it was enough to trigger some thoughts.  One key thing is to have a shared context which participants to use.  Another conundrum is whether to do lots of powerpoint up front, followed by a full retropsective simulation, or whether to interleave presentation with experience.  One final nice idea which Lasse used was for situations where you don’t have much wall space.  He lifted a table up onto its end, so the table top became a temporary wall which he could stick paper to.

Finally, Sean Hanly spoke about his experiences with a strartup TicketSolve.  This was fairly standard stuff until he mentioned the magic work ‘kanban’!  It turns out that they had difficulty in release planning due to the constantly changing priorities, so adopted a basic kanban approach whereby they only planned short term for the immediate customer needs, and pulled features in iteration by iteration.  It sounded like they had lost some of the big picture as a result which a quarterly planning cadence could have helped with.

As usual side conversations have been as interesting as the main conference.  A theme that has emereged for me is the shift from delivering ‘working’ software to delivering ‘successful’ software.  That’s what Jeff Patton is aiming for, and I think its a goal of the KFC.  Rather than simple asking ‘what do you want?’, ask ‘whats your goal?’ or even ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’.  This helps focus on the value being developed and delivered.

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