Posts on collaboration

Agile Requirements: Not an Oxymoron

Adult children. Jumbo shrimp. Seriously funny. I’m sure you recognize these expressions as oxymorons—self-contradictory phrases, often with an ironic meaning.

Should we add “agile requirements” to the list? Does agile development fit in with traditional requirements practices? And if so, how?

Once More into the Breach

Traditionally, defining requirements involves careful analysis and documentation and checking and rechecking for understanding. It’s a disciplined approach backed by documentation, including models and specifications. For many organizations, this means weeks or months of analysis, minimal cross-team collaboration, and reams of documentation.

In contrast, agile practices—leanLean, Sscrum, XP, FDD, crystalCrystal, and so on—involve understanding small slices of requirements and developing them with an eye toward using tests as truth. You confirm customers’ needs by showing them delivered snippets of software.

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Opening Space for Passion, Energy, and Learning Part II

Last time, I introduced Open Space, an innovative approach to creating change in whole systems and inspiring the best in human performance. Also called Open Space Technology (OST), Open Space was created by Harrison Owen in the 1980s. It’s a self-organizing practice that encourages people to exchange information and ideas in informal settings.

How Does It Work?

To start, Open Space participants gather in a dynamic opening event in what we call the marketplace. Anyone can offer topics they care about, want to reflect on, and learn about with others. You don’t have to be an expert, guru, or even highly experienced or knowledgeable about the topic you convene. During the marketplace, participants create a board that lists all the session topics people want to talk about, with time slots and locations for each proposed topic.

Then each participant directs her own choices. Groups convene sessions around these topics and record their findings.

Open Space operates on four principles:

1. Whoever comes is the right people.

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

3. Whenever it starts is the right time.

4. When it is over it is over.

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Opening Space for Passion, Energy, and Learning

Next week, I’ll have the honor of facilitating the Open Space at the Deep Agile 2010: Empowering Teams with Agile Games Conference May 15-16 in Boston.

If you haven’t heard much about Open Space, read on. I want to share my experiences and define this technique in detail.

My Open Space Journey

Imagine going to an “un” conference: it’s like other conferences, except that you determine the topics, interact with others who have passion, experience, and curiosity about the same topics, and cross-fertilize your knowledge by sharing with other highly engaged learners. If you’re bored, tired, or not getting value from any session, it’s OK to just walk away. Oh, and someone will record and share the findings, so you can get a flavor for any sessions you missed. That’s Open Space.

Wow.

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Lessons on Distributed Volunteer Collaboration: Retrospective on Delivering the IIBA BABOK, Part 2

In my earlier post, I talked about a project I am working on: an all-volunteer effort to write an Agile-BABOK® extension (now we are officially calling it an “extension”, vs. an addendum).

I had suggested we learn from a similar effort—the development of the BABOK itself.

I figured the agile extension effort would be an ideal opportunity to document and leverage the lessons learned in conducting a project staffed by our geographically dispersed volunteers.

What works? What doesn’t? How can we adjust our practices based on our experience?

To learn about the BABOK development effort, I interviewed Mary Gorman, the person I consider the most knowledgeable about the BABOK (except for Kevin Brennan, IIBA’s VP, Body of Knowledge). (By the way, Mary’s BABOK Navigation tools are being freely provided to the business analysis community on our EBG Consulting web site.)

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