What Are: Agile Development Practices?
eXtreme Programming (XP) – Software Development
eXtreme Programming isn’t new. The XP Practices have been around for quite a long time now, so it’s difficult to understand why so few software shops actually use them. To read some essential information about XP, check out this article by Ron Jeffries. You may want to go get Kent Beck’s book too.
All Other Industries
All industries probably have a set of ‘best practices’ that describe an environment of working that is suited for flawless development of their product(s). Since I’m only deeply knowledgeable in Software Development and Woodworking (which I’ll not bore you with here), I’ll simply say that you should investigate your industries practices, and try to employ them as best as possible.
Creative Development Practices
In this area, I’ll give some Agile Development Practices based on Brian Eno’s and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies. Because the Oblique Strategies are copyrighted, and I respect the inventors like crazy, I’ll not copy their materials here. What I’ll do is attempt to create some practices that may help spur some creativity in the ways in which you and your team(s) work.
Explore what you would NOT do to solve your problem. Flip the script, so to speak. If you cannot find the right path to take, identify all of the paths you’ve considered and dismissed, as well as all of the paths that you’d never take, but haven’t considered. Then reason out WHY you wouldn’t take those paths you ahven’t considered. Maybe you’ll select on of them after all.
Take a Break
Leave your work area often. Get oxygen flowing to your brain. Walk away from your desk, your office, the floor of the building you work in. Go outside if possible. If you work outside, go inside. A change in your surroundings will get the creativity flowing.
Get the team together and tell them all of the things in the back of your mind that are nagging at you. It may be that the rest of the team thinks just like you do. Maybe they don’t and they can solve your suspicions inshort order.
The Right Person For the Job
If you can’t solve the problem, maybe you aren’t the right person to do it. Go find that person. Explain the problem. Ask them if they would take on the problem, if they could. This isn’t a job offer, nor are you asking them to solve the problem. You are merely trying to find out if the right person would even want to do the job.
What Would Your Hero Do?
Close your eyes
Think of the problem with clarity
Put yourself in your hero’s shoes
Now think of what they would do if they had this same problem
Do what your hero would do
Where Did Your Mind Go?
Set a timer for 3 minutes
Close your eyes
Try to clear your mind
When the timer goes off, what are you thinking about?
Incorporate it into the work
Use Your Own Ideas
If you’ve been given a direction in how to implement a solution, but you have your own idea, find a way to fix the problem using both methods. Present both solutions to your team for consideration.
The Garden vs The Skyscraper
Before deciding a path, focus your thoughts on whether this problem has been thought through completely. Is this a problem where you were planning to just build upon the ground already established? Or do you need to dig deeper to find out what lies beneath? Make sure that when you do decide to build, that it is not upon sand.
Stop. Ask yourself – Ask the Team – “Would anyone want this?”
Inspect and Adapt on the Order in which your team does things.
Abandon a rule of work.
Inspect what recipes you use to create your work. Now abandon them.
Create & Decorate
Set it free. Create and decorate.
Humanize something previously thought to have no errors.
The Plan is THE PLAN
Only do what was decided on in The Plan.
(Later inspect how well you plan.)
The next time you find an error, embrace it. It was created for a reason. Make the best argument you can for keeping it.
Wherever you are. Go outside. Shut the door. Come back later.
What mistakes did you make last time? Don’t ever make the same mistake twice.
On the Contrary
Whatever mistakes you made last time, try to make them again. We are where we are because of how we got here.
Where’s the Line
We draw metaphorical ‘lines in the sand’ about how to work, what to work on, and what is acceptable. Erase the lines.
Meditate on it.
Go back to basics. Stop being fancy. See what happens.
How Do You FEEL About the Change?
What does your gut say? Is it contrary to the team’s decision? Express your differences.
The next time someone gives you advice, no matter how crazy, take it.
Embrace the boring things now. Wanting to change will naturally give way to creativity.
Remove everything possible. Make sure it still works.
Build this one / Solve this one, in reverse. Start at the end, and work toward the beginning.
Easy Works Too
Try doing the easy thing. It could be the best thing.
Last Job First
List out everything that needs to be done.
Do the last thing on the list.
Did the list change?
Hire the Unsuitable
You don’t actually have to hire someone for this, but people have done it before with great results. Bring someone to your team that doesn’t have the same experience or skillsets as the other team members. Explain the problem you are working on. See what they have to say, or if they can provide a solution candidate based on their previous experience in other areas.
Define the Obscure
If there is something undefined about the problem you are trying to solve for, make it more explicit. Share the problem and your refinement with them. Maybe they can refine it even more. Through this refinement, listen to your creative side and see if a solution presents itself.
In the Box / Out of the Box
Completely identify what your organizational or bureaucratic impediments or restrictions are to solving your problem. Now, completely map out what it will take to solve your problem within those constraints.
Imagine yourself outside of the organization trying to solve the problem without any constraints. Map out this solution.
Now, go change the organization so there are fewer, or no, constraints.
Make Insignificant Changes
When you are between things to work on, find something completely insignificant to do. Do it.
Remove the Explicit
Find a teammate to work with. Find a future work item and remove all of the specifics about it. Keep moving toward ambiguities, until it is impossible to make it more ambiguous. Now, without a goal in mind try making the work more specific again.
Light Touch vs Heavy Hand
Do the least amount of work possible. But make that work as beautiful as possible.
Break the Rules
Find a rule that your team came to concensus on. Break it. See if that makes the product better or worse.
In the next Retrospective, make only constructive statements (no critical statements).
Ask yourself (the whole team) “What if we did nothing?”
Now try doing nothing.
Practice some disciplined self-indulgence.
(This one is copyrighted by Eno and Schmidt)
Above all else, do not destroy anything.
Switch instruments with someone else on the team.
Part it Out
Everyone work on individual parts. Integrate later.
Is it Done Yet?
Constantly ask yourself (or each other) if what you’re done yet.
Brick / Wall / Cathedral (In Reverse)
Do you know that old visualization technique of not focusing on the bricks you are laying, nor the wall that you are building, but you should focus on the CATHEDRAL you are building? Yeah, forget that. Focus on the brick you are making. Just the brick.
Suddenly, do something completely unpredictable.
You need to trust yourself. You are WHERE you are, because of WHO you are.
Decide What to Maintain
You can’t keep all of those plates spinning at once. Choose what to keep. Choose what goes away.
Change Your Filter
Look at your product from the POV of your smallest customer segment. What can you do to make them the largest segment? What can you do to make them the happiest customers ever?
Gift Horse. In the Mouth
Deeply inspect the most embarrassing mistakes you’ve made. Share them. Brainstorm on what could have happened if they hadn’t been reversed.
Often the most important things are the first forgotten. Record important things as you see them, when you see them. Show the team when the time is right.
As a team, work against your better judgement.
Quietly In the Darkness
Imagine you are alone. If you can BE all alone, even better. Turn out the lights. Put in earplugs. Take a moment. Now Go!
Get together with a teammate. State the problem using words. If you can’t state the problem, demonstrate it to your teammate, and have your teammate help you. You need to HEAR the problem.
Do what your gut tells you NOT to do. Be VERY uncomfortable with the solution.
A Hero’s Work is Never Done
If you were the Team Champion, what would the solution look like?
If the team hated you for being the Team Champion, and they kicked you off the team, what would the solution look like after they changed it?