Tuesday at Agile 2012 started off with a keynote from Bob Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Standford University and author of Good Boss Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule. His talk centered around some thoughts for scaling up excellence based on a variety of case studies. Here are the key points I got out of his talk:
- Live a mindset, just don’t talk about it.
- Keep it Sesame Street simple.
- Every time you ADD something good, remove unnecessary things to make room for those new things.
There was a definite idea of doing rather than talking and keepings as simple as possible. For this second point, I am reminded of Albert Einstein’s view on Theories “They should be as simple as possible and no simpler”.
You could also restate those ideas as “don’t plan so much that you don’t do” and “simplify”.
Behavior Driven Development: Look, no frameworks! – Liz Keogh
This presentation by Liz Keogh was a nice combination of an overview of Behavior Driven Development (BDD) and coverage of using small readable domain-specific languages while coding. I was most interested in hearing Liz’s perspective on BDD, since I was already familiar with her great posts covering the topic. I was also interested to see the second bit of her session which focused on code, if for not other reason to get a feel for how it actually works. I was not disappointed.
Here are some of the key things I picked up, mostly from the first bit of her session:
- BDD can be defined as the use of examples to help us have conversations.
- The language of BDD allows us to explore the problem.
- Having conversations is more important than capturing conversations is more important than automating conversations.
- Instead of making sure you got the requirements right – assume you got them wrong.
Said another way, just like Business Value is a conversation, not a number, BDD is a conversation not a set of tests.
The Product Owner Role is a Stupid Idea: Improving how we handle customer requests – Jeff Patton
The final session I attended on Tuesday was a talk by Jeff Patton who provided his perspective on the idea of product owner. Based on the title you could probably guess he’s not a big fan. His key point was that instead of having a single product owner responsible for the backlog, you want the entire team to come to a shared understanding.
Some of Jeff’s key points are:
- Agile is the new waterfall having a handoff of information from the Product Owner to the team.
- We’re not here to build software, we’re here to change the world.
- Our job is to minimize the output (software) that we use to produce maximum outcome and impact
- To get value, you must form a hypothesis of how you are going to get it.
- Shared understanding the quality we are fishing for.
- Instead of the product owner being the single wring-able neck, you need multiple perspectives: Should we pay to build this (product management), how would we use this (user experience or business analysis), how much does it cost to build it (engineering).
- To really understand the problem, you need to get out of the building and talk with your actual customers and users.
- Discovery activities are timeboxed, delivery activities are probably estimated. Instead of saying this is what we want to build, how long will it take, say this is what we want to accomplish, it’s worth X to me how much can you do for X points.
- Your guesses about the future are probably wrong.
- It’s only after delivery that we truly understand value.
The bottom line in my mind: The team needs to jointly create a shared understanding of the problem they are trying to solve and the characteristics of a viable solution.