“Team at War” tryout

Help! My Team is at war!

As Shukkie announced, the Belgian XP group organizes a tryout of Yves and Ignace Hanoulle‘s “Help! Mijn team is in oorlog!” session. In this session, participants experiment with different techniques of dealing with conflicts in teams in small role plays and simulations.

This session also features on the program of the XP Days Benelux.

I’m looking forward to this session. Last year, I participated in Yves and Ignace’s “Leadership game“, where we could experiment with different styles of leadership. It’s fun and you learn something; you learn something about yourself.

Thanks to Shukkie and XPlore for hosting and organising this evening. Read more about it.


The XP Day Program. pt. 6

People! People!

As the Agile manifesto says: “We have come to value individuals and interactions over process and tools”. No XP Day Benelux conference would be complete with a selection of people- and team-oriented (or “fluffy bunny”) sessions. It’s great that this subject gets more attention, even among those who would not call themselves “managers”. In an agile team, everyone is expected to participate fully and reflect on all aspects of good performance, including “people issues”. We can all benefit of becoming more aware of how we and our teams (mal)function.

There is an aspect of this that sits uneasily with me. I don’t know about you, but I trained as a “Computer Scientist”. I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. I’m certainly more aware of and better able to deal with “people issues” than I was before – which isn’t saying much! But there are times when I’ve told people in my team that I was neither their mother nor their psychologist, I was not the person to help them with the problem they brought to work. Get some professional help if you can’t deal with the problem yourself. You don’t see psychologists give IT sessions at psychology conventions, do you? Well, I haven’t been to any, so tell me it that happens or not…

Dealing with difficult personal and team issues is hard and dangerous. You don’t want to make the situation worse than it was before. Luckily, we’ve got some people who know what they’re doing. Trust them.

Help! Mijn team is in oorlog” (Help! My team is at war!) is a followup of Yves and Ignace Hanoulle‘s very succesful “Leadership Game” session. Yves and Ignace create a safe simulation environment where participants can experiment with different ways of dealing with conflicts within a team. The session is in Dutch, because its the organizers’ experience that it’s a lot easier for people to concentrate on the content when they can express themselves in their mother tongue. Ignace is both an engineer and psychologist; Yves is an agile coach and trainer. I’ll attend this session at a pre-conference tryout. More about that later…

Ben Fuchs and Joseph Pelrine present issues and techniques at the team level in their “Turning Up The Heat (without getting burnt)” session. In the session, Ben and Joseph present bits of theory, followed by practical exercises. This will be a very interactive session. You’re in safe hands with a trained psychologist and an experience Scrum master. I won’t be able to attend this session, because my session is in the same timeslot, but I intend to be at the session at XP Days London.

Including “Difficult Conversations” by Hans Keppens and Vladimir Blagojevic in the program was a difficult decision. There is a danger that some conversations will become “too difficult”. However, this session is more an introductory presentation of a different way to understand and have conversations, not a workshop. You may find the topic interesting, in which case the presenters can provide you with pointer to more in-depth information.

Lasse Koskela‘s “Resistance as a Resource” is a more playful workshop, where we can explore where all the resistance against our brilliant ideas comes from. In the game, first described by Dale Emery, we bring up examples of resistance and then imagine why a sane, intelligent and well-meaning person would have those objections. In doing so, we look at the situation from the point of view of the person we’re discussing the issue. And maybe, this will lead to a better understanding of the situation and a better proposal from us. I’m looking forward to this session: the format is very simple and it can give us valuable insights. If this session works out, I’ve got a lot of people with whom I want to play this game; people who encounter a lot of resistance. Have you ever encountered resistance when trying to introduce, say, agile principles or practices?

What’s that doing there?

We always have some oddball sessions whose subject matter is not directly related to agility. Or is it?

Bernard Vander Beken will teach us “How to get things done: agility for your life“. Bernard will present the techniques from David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”, a pragmatic way of organizing life and work. He will also show how you can use these techniques to improve working in an XP development team. I want to get more done; do you?

In the “Presentation Zen” workshop, I introduce some techniques for presenting ideas. The participants can then experiment with these techniques. The session is named in honor of Garr Reynolds’ blog, where he collects examples of great presentations and presentation techniques. Why would you attend this session? You might be called upon to present your ideas to an audience; you might be asked to tell your colleagues who could come about XP Days; you might want to use more effective ways to get your ideas across. Have a look at some of the presentations linked from the session page and bring your laptop. Stop using boring bullet points. Now.


The XP Day Program. pt. 5

Testing. Coding. Testing. Coding.

Here are three more “technical” sessions for programmers and testers.

Emmanuel Gaillot and Christophe Thibaut show, in the form of a “Kata” exercise, how you can apply Test Driven Design in a functional language in their “Fugue about Paradigms and Functional Programming“. We’ve all seen TDD demos before, but this one is different in many ways. The particpants in the Paris Coding Dojo have developed several forms of programming exercises. In a Kata, the presenters solve a programming problem live, using TDD. The aim of the session is to take small, clear steps so that everyone in the audience understands how and why the presenters take each step. In this session, Emmanuel and Christophe will use the Haskell functional programming language instead of the more familiar object-oriented languages. It’s a great way to introduce an unfamiliar programming language. The session also raises the question if the functional programming paradigm leads us to solve problems differently.

Anko Tijman will present and discuss ways to “Build and Agile Test strategy“. Agile methods have done much to emphasize testing and bring it to the attention of developers. The gap between testers and developers has become smaller. Anko will tell us more about extending agility deeper into the testing profession.

Vera Peeters asks a controversial question: “Is JUnit overdesigned?“. Could it really be that a tool written by Mr Kent “You Aren’t Going to Need It!” Beck contains some stuff you don’t need? I’m shocked! How many of your unit testing framework features do you use? How much do you use of other frameworks’ features? What is the cost of frameworks, of reuse? When is it more effective and economical to write than to reuse? Discuss these and other burning questions in this workshop.


The XP Day Program. pt. 4

Starting off on the right foot..

The beginning is a very delicate time” opens David Lynch‘s “Dune“. This is true of projects too. The following sessions can help you get started.
In “Agile Planning“, Sven Gorts and Hans Keppens explain how planning is done in agile projects. This is a nice introduction to the subject with real life examples. If you want to know how it’s done, come to this session.

Planning for non-functional requirements in agile projects” by Johan Peeters and Paul Dyson is a simulation where you get to experiment with different techniques to prioritise, estimate and plan non-functional requirements. Whereas the agile methods have a lot to say about functional requirements (“stories”), very little is said about more pervasive, application-wide quality requirements. Some time ago I discussed with Johan about agile planning. He agreed that it could work for features, but not for security requirements. Johan argued that you couldn’t plan security requirements in an agile manner. I said you could. I just didn’t know how. Now, Johan knows how. It works. See? I told you so! 😉

In “Agile Factors“, Rachel Davies and Steve Freeman lead a workshop where the participants look at the important things to agree on before you start a project. Agile methodologies leave lots of room for variations and tuning parameters and expect teams to tune regularly. How long will your iterations be? When do you hold the standup meeting? Which one of those are important to agree upon before the start of the project? Which points do you really need to have consensus on before going further? Bring your ideas to this workshop and explore them with the other participants. Next time you start a new project or a new iteration, you will have a better idea of the what you need to settle quickly.

… and keeping on going

Once you get going, you need to keep going, check where you are and adjust your course. The following sessions will help you do just that.

In the “Continuous Integration” session, Vera Peeters and Sven Gorts explain what continuous integration really is. Small increments, a system that’s always working and rapid feedback are essential to keep going and to keep on the road. This session explains how you do continous integration and what’s in it for developers, testers, managers and customers. This is one of the base practices and principles. If you don’t have continuous integration yet, come to this session to learn how and why. If you integrate continuously, come to this session to contribute your experience.

Steve Freeman and Mike Hill will teach us “Story telling with FIT“. FIT is a wiki-based tool to write acceptance tests, conceived by Ward Cunningham. Acceptance tests clarify communciation between customers and developers. This very interactive tutorial concentrates on the communication aspect of acceptance tests: it’s all about creating a common language with the customer and within the whole team. If you really want to know what your customer wants, this session will help.

Are we there yet? Do you get that question often? Do you know the answer? Does everyone on your project know where you are? “Writing on the Walls” by Emmanuel Gaillot and Christophe Thibaut lets participants explore different very simple techniques to make project status very clear. If you want to be agile, you have to change course. You can’t do that unless you know where you’re going and where you are now. Warning: after this session you will have an urge to put flipcharts, whiteboards, index cards and post-its on your walls. Don’t resist the urge. Let everyone know where you are.


Famous for 15 seconds

Kevin Rutherford included this blog in the “Carnival of the Agilists“, a twice-monthly posting of noteworthy blog entries about agile. This week’s entry puts this blog and the XP Days Benelux conference in the spotlight.

Have a look, if you haven’t yet, to Emmanuel Gaillot’s “Borrow the first 5 minutes” and Dave Nicolette’s “Lean: process over people?” blog entries. Can’t say I agree with Dave’s conclusion that Lean is for those who don’t trust people…