Thursday, 22 March 2007

Agile Infection Growing

This is a bloody good idea. It builds upon my own Virgoen tendancies to write lists and tick things off, but what the list model lacks is the "in progress" state. Plus occasionally my lists get confused. See today's notebook page:
Thursday

    Fix bugs in Test Director
    Merge fixes up
    Do build
    Merge down
    Read terms of contract
    E-mail solicitor
    Go to Robert Dyas
    Order DAB Radio
    Finish business analysis docs
    Carry on with QCon note consolidation

How do I know which ones I've started? I could do with a couple of boards at least as well to separate the personal from the business.

Also note that I took something away from my Time Management course, attended when I was a mere graduate at a large manufacturing organisation: make a new list for each day, discarding your completed items and moving forward the incomplete ones (it also mentions to discard "low priority" items that haven't been done over a week or two under the theory that you'll never do it if you haven't by then).  This is great for keeping a nice clean list of achievable goals for the day, but a bit rubbish at giving any positive feedback - no matter how much you get done, every day there's yet more to do, and lack of visibility on what you have actually achieved. The example story wall in the link above is great for a sense of acheivement - yes there's still things to be done but look how much has been achieved in comparison!

However, I am going to make the common criticism of cards: one of their major advantages, their "physicality"1, is also the disadvantage - whilst I can take my little notebook round with me, I can't lug a story wall between work and home. And although some of those things are personal tasks, they need to be done at work (e.g. e-mailing because I haven't got my broadband at home yet) or between work and home.

Mind you, I actually have 3 pieces of paper containing lists of things to do / buy / check / clean with regards to my new flat, because of my inability to actually carry the notebook with me.  Or the same one at least.

I think this means two more items to be added to the "To Buy" list: a magnetic whiteboard and some story cards. I like whiteboards because you can even scribble stuff behind / around the cards.

EDIT: Bah, someone else already beat me to it.


1 This is an extract from James Shore's section on Stories:
Write stories on index cards.

This isn't the result of some strange Ludditian urge on the part of XP's creators—it's a deliberate choice based on the strengths of the medium. You see, physical cards have one feature that no conglomeration of pixels has: you can pick them up and move them around. They're tactile. This gives them power.

3 comments:

  1. pirate_destrin22 March 2007 14:20

    you can pick them up and move them around

    You can also do that with various other online tools...I've often thought the storycard approach was limited to to the geographical issues of everyone needing to be able to see it. Whether you move around a lot for work or have a personal one that needs to move with you or are managing a development team across different offices they become less than optimal.

    Why isn't there an online tool for doing this yet? Just a big virtual board you can create/edit cards and move them around on just by clicking and dragging would be pretty awesome, then as long as you have an internet connection you're sorted

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  2. I've often thought the storycard approach was limited to to the geographical issues of everyone needing to be able to see it

    I agree, and lots of others do too. But one of the points raised at QCon is that agile generally doesn't work too well in a distributed team anyway, it just isn't that compatible with its principals or methods of team working - for example daily stand-ups aren't the same if you have someone joining by video conference.

    I'm not sure you could get it to work in an online tool. You generally have to use a big wall (for projects anyway, not sure it applies the same to weddings etc). Can you get a drag-drop tool in a useful resolution, even with dual-screen 21inch monitors like the ones I'm using now? Plus that also provides a barrier to entry, the big screen thing. The great thing about cards is ANYONE who walks into the project room can see, and more-or-less understand, the current status of the iteration.

    Detica take a halfway approach for some projects they talk about - because they sometimes do have to move the story wall around (although they don't call it that) they use enormous sheets of brown paper to stick it to, then they can roll it up and take it elsewhere. You can't say they don't respect the low-tech approach.

    Anyway I'm not disagreeing with you at all, but I have to admit to not really knowing the solution, or even which direction the solution lies in.

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  3. pirate_destrin22 March 2007 17:43

    agreed on the distributed team thing not being completely suited to some methods...I mention it because I know it's something we face a lot (our 'core' development team is in Ottowa but we have SME's in York, Denmark and Holland for example!) and I think there are ways that could be found to solve these sort of issues.

    With a suitably funky UI you could have it resizing and zooming as appopriate for particularly large boards...I'm also not really saying this is a better option but there are situations you are forced into where there should be better alternatives...plus I'm always a fan of digital content anyway because of the generally easier methods of sharing/backing up/editing etc. so it seems there 'should' be an answer that can cope with this situations

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