I attended an interesting session this afternoon - Seeing the Forest and the Trees by Martine Devos and Diane Gibson. I've never attended a session quite like this; it was interactive, and a half day (1 pm - 6:30 pm) long. It didn't feel long though; the session flowed very well. The women running the event are R&D people, who work mostly on team focus/communication issues. We got an inkling of that in the first ice breaking exercise:
We split into pairs, and we were told to see how high we could score in thumb wrestling. So, we all went at it, competitively. Then Diane and Martine showed us that by cooperating and taking turns, we could score higher - as a team. That set the tone for the rest of the session, and most of us were pretty well hooked.
That led to introductions - everyone selected a picture (from a large set of postcards) or a small stuffed animal as a metaphor - either for themselves, or for what they did at work, or for what they hoped to get out of the session. I picked a picture of the Milky Way, with a "You are Here" pointer to the Sun (as with Smalltalk, "out of the mainstream" :) ). The selections were interesting:
- A bear with a duck swim flotation device - this person was just hired to be a team lead/team builder, and he saw it as unfamiliar territory - like the bear.
- A bat - "Wraps around a problem", has powers that others lack (night flying, etc)
- Mine - out of the mainstream (but highly useful!), just like Smalltalk.
- Next person - a picture of a girl lying on top of a chalk outline of a bike in the bike lane. This guy was going to be a team lead, and he was hoping for some help/direction - from anywhere
- A Zebra lying down - but the animal was actually a bear in a zebra suit. So is it a bear, or a zebra? The idea is that this represented the ability to talk about a subject w/o actually talking directly about it.
- A person working on a project that cuts across operational boundaries, and which may become a product (for sale). Picked a loud, green frog - said it looked troublesome, like his project
- Working on product design - selected a pink elephant. The product is for traders, who need short term answers, but within the context of a long term solution. i.e., the conspicuous "Elephant in the room" needing discussion
- Martine selected a starfish - "Likes to be the star". The Starfish is actually a wrapper ona different character - "fear of failure"
- Picked a Red Fox - need to look "outside the box", beyond the normal context for project solutions
- Diane picked a jester - funny, but also a truth teller
- 2 pictures of an eskimo - this guy had been to Greenland in the winter (something he said we should all do!) - and that reminded him of his project, which is being developed and deployed in multiple countries. He's the project architect - gathers requirements, gets credit/blame - works with people in a foreign (to him) country - thus the picture of a "remote" people
- A Purple bat - Flies in the dark (like her new job - no clear idea of her role yet). Hoping not to crash into anything, company is experiencing rapid growth (120 - 200 in her area the last year) - lots of issues to deal with. Bat can also "completely hide itself"
- Chicken - hiding inside is someone doing a workshop later this week
- Monkey with a red snout - consultant on a large project. Thousands of people, hundred in the IT dept (at this company) - hard to figure out what is going on - many people working "like a group of apes in a forest"
- Picture of a jazz band - individual players who come together for a gig - like a project team
- Lion - "King of the Jungle" - Stalking problems in the system, Focus on them, kill them, sleep in the afternoon. "beast of power"
- a Six String guitar - no expectations for the workshop, decided to come on a coin toss. Strings are for making music - must be played together and "in tune". Have to make a willful effort to get people to work together well
So, after the introductions we were asked to rate (personally, and on a communal board) this activity and all activities of the day on this scale of questions:
- How do you feel?
- What Happened?
- What did you learn?
- How does it relate to your work?
- Any "What ifs" or "What Nexts" ?
That took us to an interesting problem in scaling. We were given two decks of cards, which were mixed on a table. Two people were picked as implementors, one more as a customer. The customer determined how the cards should be sorted, and then the two implementors had to execute that while being timed. Here's what the customer wanted:
- Red deck on top
- Blue deck on bottom
- Cards within a suit sorted, Ace low
- Suits ordered by clubs/diamonds/hearts/spades
The two people each sorted a pile, and then they sorted the suits, one suit per person. That took 5 minutes, with some of the time engaged in planning. Then we got all 14 of us together, with 7 decks of mixed cards. The decks were different sizes as well, so a requirement that they be stacked biggest to smallest was added. We had to determine a process to use, which was simple:
- Each deck was sorted from the mixed pile by one person
- That person dealt out the suits to 4 other people
- Each person receiving a suit sorted numerically
- The individual decks were recombined in the right order
- The decks were peoperly stacked, and ten presented to the customer
We made some mistakes, which needed correction. This all got us into an interesting discussion on the value of Q/A and of up front planning. That got into the differences between manufacturing (which this was like), as opposed to software development. We talked about how we ended up with an emergent plan from emergent, ad-hoc project leaders. That ran through the rest of the day. So we determined that the 2 man job was ad-hoc, with an emergent plan. The larger team developed a pipeline approach, developed by a few emergent team leads. We decided that having someone check the order before turnover (Q/A) would have been useful. A few questions came up:
- Would written requirements have been better? No, but possibly had it gotten more complex
- Would more people have helped? We thought not, even woth more decks (unless we got more than 14, the number in the whole group). That would have bogged down our first step).
So ultimately, we found leaders and ended up with emergent design/planning. Sort of XP like, a few people thought.
That was maybe the first 1 1/2 - 2 hours. I'll post more of my notes on this tomorrow; It's late here (almost 2 AM!), so I'm off to bed.