Monday, May 28, 2007

Meeting Effectiveness

Recently I attended a European-Indian business summit and I was representing my company Valtech. Many Italian, Spanish companies were visiting India and were look for possible business partners.
The meeting slots were pre planned/agreed and were circulated prior to the meeting. The time slot was time boxed for 30 minutes each. Separate stalls were set up for each of the EU companies, and during the specified time slot, the representatives from the Indian firm would go to the stall and have a discussion for 30 minutes.

3 of us from Valtech, met nearly 10 companies in 2 days. An important thing I noticed in the summit was the time boxing of meetings for 30 minutes. I have never seen such an efficient meeting happening from my earlier experience. During the meetings with prospective customers, we were able to make out if this is a make or brake deal and within the first few minutes itself.

Somewhere I read that most of the decision happens within the first 15 minutes of the meeting. So, I think any meeting intended towards making some decisions, would be effective it
  • it is time boxed
  • lesser the time, the better
More info. on meeting effectiveness
In one of the Agile forums, Mark Herschberg gave the following tips to improve the meeting effectiveness:
1) Set fixed time limits. I learned this from scrum meetings where we had a
kitchen timer with 15 minutes to force everyone to be efficient. Even for
longer meetings this has been found to be effective. Even if your meetings
aren't any shorter. the act of having a timer visible on the table and
counting down helps to focus people.

2) Have an agenda. Often meetings don't have a clear agenda. Even if
people know what the meeting is for (e.g. our weekly status meeting) it can
be a bit vague and fuzzy. Every meeting should require the following:
a) These are the issues to be discussed
b) These are the questions we will have answered by the end of the meeting

3) Have a clear understanding of when questions should be discussed. Often
people get side tracked as various issues come up in meetings and people
wander down a particular thread. By knowing when and where an issue can be
discussed, it's easier to say, "that's a very good issue, why don't we
address that in X meeting which is for such topics." Everyone needs to know
what meetings there are and what each are for. I'm debating creating a
"catch all" meeting once a week at my current project so if there's anything
we miss, we can always say, "put it in the catch all meetings."

4) Build a culture of efficient. Make everyone want to have fast, efficient
meetings, and empower everyone to be able to suggest moving a topic to a
different venue,

5) Recognize that there is value in inefficiency. Fast, to the point
meetings, while generally effective, sometimes miss that creative spark that
comes from getting side tracked, from the random threads that usually are a
waste of time, but once in a while yield a great insight. (This is one of
the reasons I'm looking at a "catch all" meeting to capture some of the free
form creativity.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

DBUnit Mind Map

From the last few days I have been testing DAOs using DBUnit. During the process of learning, I created the following Mind map. I will keep updating this mind map as and when I learn something new.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Scrum Master - Picken

A discussion on scrumdevelopment forum, whether the Scrum master is chicken or Pig, lead to one of the person terming SM as "Picken", partly pig and chicken.
In fact this article provides a information about responsibilities of SM at various instances.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Agile @ Philips Innovation campus

18th May, I was invited by Philips Innovation Campus, Bangalore as a speaker to talk to their team on Agile and Scrum method. Alexius Collete, Head PIC Bangalore was present with other senior management team to be part of this session. Saran, took care of the entire coordination and provided me an excellent support for making this happen.

I could see the enthusiasm in the management team to know about Agile and how to effectively implement the same. This is a clear indication of the support for Agile implementation from the top management at PIC(top down Agile adoption strategy). There is no doubt that Agile gets nurtured in such organizations.

During the session, I was happy to see the auditorium jam packed with Agile enthusiasts. In the recent weeks, I have been invited by many companies in Bangalore !

Friday, May 11, 2007

OST and Multiplex theater

Since I learned Open Space Technology last week, I am trying to encourage my colleagues to use this as much as possible. Some new joiners have hard time understanding OST and some people get scared away by the word "Technology" in OST.

Here is an analogy(may be modified :-) ) to explain OST.

Imagine a multiplex theater running movies in parallel. These movies are based on a theme and these movies were chosen by the people who came to see the movies. You have a global ticket to watch any movie you like, any time you want . If you don't like anymovies, you can as well walk out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Benefits of Top down Agile adoption

My article on "Benefits of top down Agile adoption strategy" has been published on Agile Journal

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Good books on Agile Methods

Following Agile related books are found to be good by many readers

  • Agile Project Management with Scrum - Ken Schwaber
  • Agile and Iterative Development - Craig Larman
  • Applying User Stories, Mike Cohn
  • Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn
  • Collaboration Explained, Jean Tabaka
  • Lean Software Development, Mary Poppendieck
  • Agile Project Management - Jim Highsmith
  • Managing Agile Projects - Sanjiv Augustine
  • Domain Driver Design: Tackling Complexity at the Heart of Software - Eric Evans
  • Working Effectively with Legacy Code - Michael Feathers
  • Refactoring to Patterns - Joshua Kerievsky
  • Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review - Norm Kerth
  • Agile Retrospectives - Ester Derby
  • Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, Linda Rising
  • Product Development for the Lean Enterprise - Michael Kennedy
  • Crystal Clear by Alistair Cockburn
  • FIT for Developing Software - Rick Mugridge, Ward Cunningham
Online Resources:

  • www.agilealliance. org
  • www.scrumalliance. org
  • www.theagileblog. net
  • www.mountaingoatsof
  • www.stickyminds. com
I will keep updating this list as and when I come across good ones..

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Open Space Technology

Craig Larman conducted an Open space technology event and I had the opportunity to be part of the event. This is the first time that I participated in such an event. Open Space Technology(OST) is not really like a technology, but a way of conducting events, meetings, conferences, etc.

During OST, the session could start with a specific theme. In our case, it was about Agile methods. When the participants assembled in this huge hall, Craig requested people to come forward with a burning issue related to the theme. Volunteers(conveynors) started pouring in with their burning issues written on a post-it, and pasting the same on a specific time slot.

Once the time slots gets filled, the conveynors would go to their respective counters, and interested participants can join the discussion.

some good things that I noticed:

1. The time passed so fast that, I didn't feel that it was a meeting. Enjoyed every minute of it
2. Lot of issues came up during the event.
3. participants can get full value of such events, as they can chose the topic.
4. Pretty informal setting

This might be a premature statement, but I felt that OST may not be effective if the safety and trust of participants is not built during the session. This is especially applicable if the theme is on solving burning issues.
For ex: if the team is planning to solve some people related issues of an organization using OST, senior management team present during the session might add a fear in team's mind. The fear would be due to the repercussion for being open.

It is also quite possible that, senior management by being in authoritative position, can hijack discussions. So, good facilitation skills are needed by conveynors to handle such situations.