Agile

15 % Solutions or Little Things Can Make Big Difference

Tales from the Retrospective

In our last Retrospective we experimented with a different approach than usual.

We did it on the model of 15% Solutions.

The term was first coined by Gareth Morgan in his book Imaginization.

It says essentially that we can find 15% of actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference.

Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide…

desert-sands-2-1409357
Source: https://freeimages.com

… and change the whole landscape!

We started with a warm-up, where we asked two questions:

  1. What is your boldest, yet actionable idea of improvement?
  2. What is your challenge? What kind of help do you need?

The questions are meant to provoke innovative thinking and keep the connection to the ground (yet actionable). We had conversations in pairs, switching pairs every 5 minutes.

The idea was to explore the possibilities (personal ideas) and prepare for the second part where we think of Solutions.

As observation, all people involved really thought of bold, transformative ideas, and some evolved their ideas based on the feedback received during conversations.

Next Step: 15% Solutions

Second part of the Retro was dedicated to exploring the concept of 15% Solutions.

Questions that were asked:

Where do you have discretion and freedom to act? What can you do without more resources or authority?

What is your 15%?

It started as a personal introspection. Then we had discussions in groups of two, four and finally with the whole group (1-2-4-all model).

We ended up with a set of rather personal objectives, small and doable.

The final discussion was intense, people sharing their 15%, some being skeptical, most being confident.

We decided to keep our post-its personally and I have put mine above my desk:

IMG_2989

15% Solutions is part of Liberating Structures, a collection of “microstructures” that make possible out of routine, meaningful interactions within bigger groups.

They have been introduced by Henri Lipmanowicz in his book “The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation

Liberating Structures are built on the idea that everyone is included and everyone has equal opportunity to contribute.

It is up to the facilitator to combine microstructures to fit the objective of the meeting, therefore to create unique experiences every time.

Some of the “whys” behind choosing 15% solutions approach were:

  • Move away from blockage, negativism, and powerlessness
  • Have people discover their individual and collective power
  • Reveal bottom-up solutions
  • Share actionable ideas and help one another
  • Build trust

Lipmanowicz

I highly recommend this book it if you are interested in this kind of facilitation techniques.

[Later Edit]: I came across Seth Godin’s post about “Streaks”: https://seths.blog/2019/08/streaks/

Streaks are their own reward.

Streaks create internal pressure that keeps streaks going.

Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.

Habits are much easier to maintain than commitments.

Agile

Tales From The Magical Forest (An Agile Open Space Facilitation)

Magical Forest

Every year, agilists from Romania gather in a beautiful place near the mountains for Agile Coach Camp. It is an unconference event, where a bunch of passionate people meet for a whole weekend in order to share and learn.

If you are curious how things went this year, take a look at our Twitter Feed https://twitter.com/hashtag/accro18

This year, me and Oana volunteered to Open the Space (moderate the Open Space Technology) on Saturday morning.

We wanted to do something different to be in accord with the “theater” theme, so we thought to put in scene our own screenplay. Isn’t it cool that our event is at the same time with Sibiu International Theater Festival? So, let’s see how it went:

On a special inspired moment I wrote the lyrics and found this beautiful musical cover. Then Oana added the scene directions and everything came nicely into place like a magical puzzle.

Of course we rehearsed. A lot. We even had a happy crowd of volunteers and we rehearsed together Friday night, at the location. In the end, here we are at the time of the show:

Open Space

Music On, Let the Show Begin!

Tales From The Magical Forest

Agile Coach Camp Romania, Albota, 15th June 2018

Screenplay: Adi; Directions & Costumes: Oana; Music @ebunny

Scene 1

00:00

[Enter Oana]

 

Once upon a time

in a Transylvanian village in the middle of the magical forest

 

There was a gathering;

 

People were coming from all cardinal directions and settling under the blue sky.

 

It was at dawn, a chilly – windy morning and the trees were swaying, bending towards to the people.

 

Nasty howling from packs of wolves far away you could hear.

 

There’s  no escape if you dare out alone in fear…

 

Scene 2

00:47

[Enter Adi & 6 others]

 

Suddenly all rise!

[group rise, talk, then split into two groups, on both parts of the stage]

 

It is about the time.

 

Everyone has been waiting for this for too long…

 

They look each other in the eyes.

They know how important it is

 

What is to be done.

 

They are fearless.

They know what to do:

 

They split into groups.

Off to the woods, they find a suitable place …

 

Take out their weapons….

 

And BEGIN

 

A CURIOUS MIND GAME:

Scene 3

[1:26]

[Dialogue Adi – Oana]

[Adi]

TO ARGUMENT

[Oana]

TO TRAIN

 

TO PRACTICE

 

TO SHOW

 

TO ASK

 

TO ANSWER

 

TO MENTOR

 

TO COACH

 

TO SUSTAIN

 

TO ENCOURAGE

 

TO ASSIST

 

TO TEACH

 

TO LISTEN…..

TO LISTEN…..

TO LISTEN…..

 

[pause, all sit down]

Scene 4

1:55

[Oana]

[pause]

Some are getting bored or defeated, but never give up.

They switch the team, apply the RULE OF TWO FEET.

 

They simply stand up, look around and find another group to join their exercise.

[both leave]

……

[PAUSE]

Scene 5

2:19

[Adi]

And I see others that simply find their nest and lie comfortably.

Unraveled, Undisturbed.

Just lie, caring for themselves.

Then hop from one group to another like a BUTTERFLY

 

02:55

[Oana] [volunteers distribute post-its/cookies]

The bold ones – they cross-pollinate – like a BUMBLEBEE. They are so full of knowledge, that they are ready to share with everyone, in every group.

 

And more! – they take ideas from one group, add some personal flavor, and give them away to others in another group .

 

By the end of the day everyone is exhausted… (3.33)  
Scene 6

03:34

[Adi] [Volunteers gather in a circle, look each other in the eyes]

But we all know

 

Today was a great day.

Because we grew stronger, and better,

 

and are now ready

 

for the Real Fight

It is is going to be soon – we know.

It is going to be harsh – we know.

 

AND WE ARE NOW PREPARED FOR IT!

 

[3:53]

We thank each other.

 

It’s been a rough day.

With lots of learning and insights.

 

Discussions and discoveries.

 

Nevertheless

It’s now time to celebrate

 

LET THE FEAST BEGIN!

 

[…… music continues until fade out]

© all rights reserved for screenplay lyrics

IMG_20180616_090918

IMG_20180616_091029IMG_20180616_091039

 

Agile

A Story for the Wake of Spirit

Night is falling again. Long shadows from the outside transformed the trees into apparent giants clothed in funny white shirts. I hear usual noise from the corridor. People talking, TVs humming, dishes, steps, rolling boxes, then Silence.

It’s a normal evening here at the MB hospital where I’ve been for the past 3 days.

The first hours were hectic and barely I remember details. I entered our dark room on Sunday night at about 1 AM.

I was coming a long way…

Just one week ago I was frantically going about preparing for my preferred yearly Camp event at Rückersbach, Germany. The second day at 8:40 a plane was going to take me 1500 km closer to the destination.
Suddenly, I have this Flu outburst in the middle of the store while doing last-minute shopping, my head was heavy, my lungs were aching, sense of smelling long gone…

Fortunately at home, after a few pills and some inhalation I feel much better.

In the morning, 5:45 off I go to the trip!

Only good things happened for the next four days, a magical atmosphere created by heartful individuals passioned and curious and playful…

And this is the final day. Sunday morning. My coughing is ever stronger and painful, every inspiration brings more pain to the mix. I give up talking, I just sit and watch.
Someone gives me some Ibuprofen forte magic pill that puts me on for the next 6 hours.

Sunday 2pm – the event is over. I feel like flying right away 🙂
My plane takes off at 6:20, so I drink even more tea, take some more Halsschmerz pills (lung pills) and I wait.

We then drive to FRA airport then I go all the way to the gate like I am in a dream. All sounds around me are weak as in an old movie. I am getting dizzy now.

After a seemingly long wait we are called through the gate. I get in the plane.

Huh! Two more hours and it will all be over!

After about one hour into the flight something goes wrong. My eyes want to roll, I become more and more dizzy. My throat feels like one thousand pin pricks. Everytime I inspire I feel pain.

And the ears. God, the ears!

Imagine someone throwing a giant bump hammer at your both ears all at the same time.
I am just grabbing my ears, twist them, toss them, try to take them out of my head. And the pressure increases every minute as we descend.

In order not to faint I am fixing stubbornly the table handle in front of me and count half hour, quarter, minutes. Getting small visual hints from the map ahead: now we are really close. What is this guy waiting? Let’s land!

Finally when the ground is touched I can hear next to nothing, my body is overheated and I almost fainted, but I didn’t! I made it!

Cool stuff but my consciousness is at the brink between dream and awake. I simply cannot feel my legs. I am not able to descend the plane by myself. In fact I am only able to ask for medical help.

After a seemingly very long wait they come and give me first-aid: blood pressure: 8, temperature: 40.3 degrees centigrade, overall status: dizzy. After they perfuse me with serum I slowly recover…

Now I have to answer the usual protocol questions. Where have you been? Since when you have this cold? Have you declared it at FRA airport? No? Well done! Otherwise you’d still be there by now.

After some more questions and a loong waiting an officer asks for my ID, so that I lawfully re-enter the country and off I go with the special reduced mobility lift attached to the plane: how cool is that?!

It’s now 11 PM (1.5 hours after the plane landed)

I am taken via Airport Ambulance to the medical cabinet. They put me again to some tests, all seems fine now – Thank God. I could also see the crazy weather outside so much different from that in Germany three hours before.

The Road

I had never been gone by ambulance before. Never. Ever before.
So it was a new experience, my perfusion attached and dangling above my head, the car going at normal pace to a seemingly never ending journey.

With me is this calm lady Assistant asking from time to time if everything was ok. It was!

************************************************************************************
IMG_5774
Sunbathing… It’s the first time since I am here that I get to see the sun this long.
ONE FULL HOUR! That’s due to the big building in front. Nevertheless the feeling of sleeping while warm sunrays are bathing your face is ludicrous.

I feel so much better now. And it’s been quiet… Well, let me introduce you my new room mate: Big shoulders, thunder voice, bald-headed, and…

 

American!?!!

 

So from all Bucharest population that gets sick with Flu on a late February afternoon, here is this American diplomat guy, that is introduced into my room along with a talkative tall Romanian lady presented: “The doctor”.

His story is also good: He has almost fainted in his private clinic ER (Emergency Room) due to low blood pressure and low Oxygen saturation in the blood and he was directed here with Flu suspicions.

He is coming along with a big oxygen tank that is immediately replaced with the wall oxygen sock. He is immediately taken care of by the nice personnel and after a short investgation with the Lifesignals display, his mask is put away 😉

?!? “The doctor” is thinking to herself – here at the hospital they have different standards for Oxygen saturation as in our Clinic…

All in all the man seems weaken but OK. While he is asked for details his voice is thundering on the small room. In the mean time various people are setting up his space, bring in perfusors, take his blood pressure.
For me it’s an interesting opportunity to talk but for now I keep the questions to myself.

 

***********************************************************************************

 

Some conversation on the corridor draws my attention:
– Where ya going papa? See you have that thing attached to ya ( the drain bag )
– I’m going home!
– How come you’re going home? How about going back to your bed! Stop playing with that bag!
– I don’t want to go to bed!
– Go to ya bed into the saloon right now!
– Which saloon?
– Which saloon? YOUR saloon!
– But I am hungry!
– Why haven’t you eaten when the food was here?
– I didn’t like it!
– Go to bed! (Come to bed – voices from his saloon are calling)
– I want to go home, I have a life!
– I also have a life… of a small puppy ( a dog’s life)
And the conversation settles here. After some rumors we can assume the old papa is back to his bed. I don’t know whether someone is really supposed to pick him up today. I try to relate to his impatience and I am fully with him.

**********************************************************************************

 

After 4 days and 5 nights I feel like I can’t wait till tomorrow.

Still one half afternoon and one night remaining then the hectic mornings and who knows what…

 

Adrian Suciu

Bucharest, Thursday 1st March 2018

Agile

Amazon TechO(n) Conference Iași

Amazon TechOn Conference, Iași 8 October 2016

“It’s Always Day One at Amazon”

robotzel

Saturday October 8th I visited AmazonTechOn Conference in Iași. Why Iași? Because Amazon has opened here a development center since 2005.

Conference was hosted in the iconic building of National Theater.

national theater.jpg

 

Amazon TechO(n) conferece is held every 2 years and here come speakers from the US Headquarters to present technical goodies and best practices at Amazon.

For this year there were 7 main topics covered:

Agenda

1. S3 Under the Covers: “Distributed Systems at Scale”

2. Customer Experience: “Learn & Be Curious”

3. Amazon Robotics Overview 

4. Developer tools: “Agility at Amazon”

5. Customer Behavior:Experimentation and Failure”

6. Security:A Day in the Life of an Amazon Application Security Engineer”

7. Building Testing Ecosystems 

By far, the most captivating one was called “S3 Under the Covers: distributed systems at scale“:

1. S3 Under the Covers: distributed systems at scale

Core Systems Primitives that power AWS

by Allan Vermeulen, Distinguished Engineer, AWS

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The speaker, Allan Vermeulen works in AWS Division and is one of the 10 Amazon “Distinguished Engineers” that has worked there since 90’s. He was part of the team that set the building blocks for S3, the Amazon Storage solution.

A very similar talk was given at Re:Invent developers conference in 2014. Here are the slides, and here is the recorded presentation from that event.

My takes from his talk:

  • Distributed systems metaphor: A man with a watch knows what the time is. A man with two watches – never knows for sure!
  • How to deal with partial failures? Be Paranoid!
  • When working with high load, be prepared to deal with partial failures under unthinkable scenarios: Bit Rot, flipped bits in memory, et cetera. They had an 8 hour outage at Amazon because there was a bit-flip in memory that started a chain reaction and collapsed whole racks.
  • With incoming data, calculate the checksums after storing data on shards, just to be sure it remains unaltered
  • Be smart when sharding the data. Latest Amazon strategies: use “cells”=groups of equal # of servers, to store clusters of servers, so that you have isolation for your clients.
  • Distributed Computing Challenges:
    • Discovery of group membership of objects stored in S3. “Gossip Protocol“, based on “epidemic algorithm” – custom made protocol for S3
    • Failure detection: silent or dead? Make your servers talk, never assume status based on server silence.
  • Amazon implements TLA+ algorithm to manage their cloud: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TLA%2B
  • How do you test this kind of distributed systems? As you cannot practically generate huge amounts of load to the test systems, you use a Chaos Monkey, to inject entropy into the systems.

2. Learn and Be Curious

It’s always day one at Amazon

by Sean Scott (VP of Consumer Experience Technology, Amazon)

My takes:

  • Ask questions. Use the five whys to get to the root cause of a problem
  • Seek for different opinions.
  • Make mistakes
  • Test experiences, not features. Focus on the path to the result, not the result itself.
  • Work backwards, starting with the customers. Use techniques like triangulation (eyeballs heat map)
  • Some discoveries at Amazon :
    • The shipping test: “super saver shipping” was changed into “Free shipping” (no one was reading the previous one, after this experiment they hired linguists)
    • Amazon Author Pages – people were looking for all books by …, so they created the author pages → eventually transformed into a business itself (1.4 million pages automatically created for authors)
  • “We plant lots of seeds”

3. Amazon Robotics Overview (amazonrobotics.com)

by Drago Kassabov (Director of Operations, Amazon Robotics)

  • They use robots in “Fulfillment centres”, to help partners bring goods to be packaged.
  • Next challenge (unsolved problem yet): make robots grab things from the pallets, and put them in the right basket.
  • For that they went to big Universities across the globe, and made “Tech Jams” to test robots prototypes.
  • Sponsored event: Amazon Picking Challenge in Germany. Next event will be in Japan.

o-AMAZON-ROBOTS-facebook.jpg

4. Agility at Amazon

by Ken Exner, director of AWS Developer Tools

 

Historically, Amazon had a Monolith Development lifecycle:

monolyth.jpg

i-love-apis-2015-microservices-at-amazon-12-638.jpg

Due to changes to micro-services, they needed to change the development life cycle.

They grouped in teams of up to 8 persons (“Two pizzas team”), with full ownership, including maintenance.

Such teams own one or more “primitives” = microservices at Amazon, end-to-end.

They have automated the entire process. They have hooks in place, e.g. in case of CPU escalated consumption, rollback automatically.

My takes:

PIPELINES

  • Use release pipelines all the way to production
  • Pessimistic deployments (Invest in validation)
  • Faster isn’t better!
  • Deployment strategy: deploy one box then test (sophisticated analyze the transactions), then deploy in 1 “AZ” then in one region, etc.
  • Optimize ECT (Edit-Compile-Test) loop, because you want to catch problems as early as possible.
  • The other loops, like Code Review, or Staging or Production testing move much more slowly.

ect loop.jpg

DEV/OPS CULTURE

  • Monitor everything.
  • When encounter a live problem, ask: do we have a graph for that problem?
  • On Wednesday morning there is a meeting where all higher management looks at the graphs and spot issues
  • Measure everything you can. 
  • Convince people that automation is better
  • Canary= tests running against staging=synthetic monitoring
  • Code coverage checks: if < 70% Unit Tests then gate (stop) the release
  • Tests on systems: Unsolved problem: How to do automated integration tests? (they’re trying to solve it today at Amazon)
  • Experimenting with policies as part of the pipeline, they will inevitably add bottlenecks
  • Lessons learned: 

lessons learned.jpg

With thousands of teams (two-pizza teams), and microservices architecture, they do in multiple environments

64 million deployments a year.

 

5. Experimentation and Failure

Success, one disapointment at a time

by Blair Hotchkies, director of Consumer Behavior

  • Jeff Bezos quotes that drive the experimentation at Amazon:
    • “Failure and invention are inseparable twins”.
    • “If you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment”
    • “Organizations that embrace the idea of invention, are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments to get there”
  • Experiment -> from failure to success Fire Phone to Amazon Echo (Alexa). Without the failure of Fire Phone they may have never launched Echo
  • How they experiment:
    • A/A testing -Select two distinct groups of people and show them exactly the same thing
    • They are using the P-Value to assess how confident they are
    • An experiment is started with a Hypothesis that noone has tested before
    • They use peer review to evaluate experiments
  • Pay attention to Culture Antipatterns (e.g. jumping to conclusions, tendency to tell & believe stories instead of backing up with data)
  • Hire high judgement individuals, reward decisions and not outcomes

  • Focus on learning
  • Bake in Checkpoints
  • Celebrate abandonment and negative findings

  • Publish also negative learning (failed experiments)
  • They developed an Amazon Experimentation Tool.
  • Question: How do you decide between small gains versus long term loss: Answer: It is not a solved problem at Amazon. We are working on it.
  • Question: How many experiments do you make at any given moment? Answer: A few thousands. Many are tiny ones.

Tool: “Customer Session Replay” demo-ed:

Live browsing data is recorded and reproduced on screen for the analyst so he can see the exact customer environment.

customer behavior.jpg

6. A Day in Life of a Security Engineer at Amazon

by Jon McClintock (Principal Security Engineer in Information Security, Amazon)

My takes:

  • Security is part of the development process
  • In an Agile world, integrate security into the process, just like code review process
  • As a Security Engineer, you make an educated risk decision
  • During design phase:
    • Threat Modelling: D.R.E.A.D. Model: Damage, Reproductibility, Expoloitability, Affected Users, Discoverability

    Biggest challenge: how paranoid do you need to be?
    There are no black and white decisions!

  • Best security engineers are those that can turn a security no into a security yes
  • How?
    • Rather than have access to data, think about alternative ways to identify problems w/o access to data.
    • Change the solution so that data passes encrypted through Tiers where we do not need it.
    • This way you turn the sec. no into a Yes, and developers can deploy safely into production
  • Security Resources:

7. Building Testing Ecosystems

by Phil Sigel (Senior SDET in Digital Content Platform, Amazon)

My takes:

  • At Amazon, the communities of practice are called “Samurai Groups”
    • learning, training, coaching, etc.
  • “If a test isn’t automated, it does not exist”
  • Load Testing – questions:

testing

  • Load testing: Send realistic amounts of data, then do an offline replay – replay it right away
  • Shadow Testing: Intercept requests and responses from the new system
  • Service Mocking: Hook Mocks on the repo., decorate clients to dependent ecosystems,
  • Create an ecosystem in the end, where tools work together and share data.
  • We should fail in a way that our customers do not have a lousy experience.

That was it!

I am looking forward to the next edition of AmazonTechOn Conference, hopefully earlier than in 2 years 😉

October 2016

 

 

Agile, Development

A Story for the Hacker In You

Dare to Hack!

Have you ever dreamt to be a Hacker?… At least for a few hours? Did you ever take part in a Hackathon?

I had the chance to be the Host in Bucharest for our internal

1&1 Cloud Server Hackathon

01-welcome-to-hackathon-768x1024.pngIs it for me?

So, what’s in it for me? – You would ask.

And you’re perfectly right.

I would say that a hackathon “is for you” if you love to explore new things, if you like to be the first to walk unbeaten paths, and unearth bugs and other beasts hidden in a brand-new software.

That was the case for us on Thursday night.

Preparations started days before – checking video connection between locations, making sure we have everything needed in such events – laptops, projector, cables, pizza, drinks.

Kick Off: 17:00 CET in all locations

We kicked off on Thursday, June 18th, 17:00 CET simultaneously in 1&1 offices from Bucharest, Logrono, Karlsruhe, Munchen and Gloucester.

From Bucharest we had 15 participants.

We were connected via Video call and Chat with all the other locations and were in contact with the Platform guys and also with Customer Care.

The rules were clear: we were not allowed to make the platform unstable nor attack customer contracts, but nevertheless we could send in code that was able to do so 🙂

After a short introduction by Javier, our colleague from Arsys Logrono – subsidiary of 1&1 in Spain – everybody was given his/her test account and  was free to start playing around the platform.

The Platform

03-Cloud-Server-API-150x150About the platform I have to say it’s a pretty powerful virtualization API that will soon be launched for all 1&1 Cloud Server customers to play with and contribute.

You can practically do anything you can imagine to manage programmatically your 1&1 Cloud Servers.

The competition

Starting on Thursday night and before Monday 22nd June end-of-day, any participant in the hackathon could enter the competition.

A jury formed by experts of the Cloud Server Platform will check all submissions and award for:

–          the major vulnerabilities found on the platform or API and for

–          the Best Mobile App and the Best Desktop App.

It’s all About the Thrill

04-font-too-big-300x225

So, how is it like to be part of a hackathon?

This is a good question because you actually can’t tell when the time flies by.

It’s something close to a hive swarming – lots of messages coming by the chat wall, small issues or big issues waiting to be solved right away:

Due to the relative small timebox, the people focused Thursday night on finding bugs and testing all the possible scenarios in the API.

60 people filed 33 bugs in 5 hours.

The good thing is that they found only minor vulnerabilities and some improvements for the platform.

Since the deadline for submissions was extended until Monday 22nd end-of-day, the thrill is still on – we wait to see the Winners.

Try it yourself!

If you want to feel the thrill yourself, I invite you to find a hackathon near you – that’s not so difficult – there was one a few weeks ago in Bucharest:

HackaTMe – 24h Hackathon with 2,500€ Cash Prizes!

Saturday, Jun 6, 2015, 10:00 AM

We Love Digital
30 Dacia Blvd. Mecano Building Bucharest, RO

5 Hackers Went

T-Me Studios, one of the leading mobile app developers in Europe, is happy to announce its first ever 24-hour hackathon, taking place in Bucharest, on the 6th and 7th of June, at the We Love Digital HQ.If you work, breathe or dream in code, go ahead and sign up here for a weekend of doing what you love.Oh, plus a chance to take home cold hard cas…

Check out this Meetup →

Adrian Suciu, 25th June 2015

Originally appeared on http://blog.1and1.ro

 

Agile, Development

Taking Baby Steps

babysteps1

Hi all,
On Monday, April 6 I participated in Taking Baby Steps MeetUp organized by Adi Bolboaca.

This was a nice technical experiment based on Pomodoro Technique and TDD – Test Driven Development.

We had to pair with a participant, write some code together in our preferred language, respecting some rules.
In the end we had a Retrospective with our main outcomes from the session.

What is it all about?

The rules seem long but are easy to remember:
Short: you are forced to commit every 2 minutes. If the test is not green you revert the code.

600_436032616

  1. Setup source control repository.
  2. Setup a timer for 2 minutes interval when you start.
  3. Write exactly one test
    A. If the timer rings and the test is red then revert and start over.
    B. If the test is green before timer rings then commit.
  4. Restart timer (no discussions in between timers)
  5. Refactor
    A. If the timer rings and the refactoring is not complete then revert and start over.
    B. If the refactoring is complete before the timer rings then commit.
  6. Restart the timer (no discussions in between timers)
  7. Go to 3.
  8. When session time is up delete the code.

The problem

We had to work on Tic Tac Toe problem with a clear indication that the purpose was to practice and not to solve it.

tictacttoe

2 minute Sprints, Retrospective after 25 minutes

After the first 25 minutes we had a Retrospective.
We had just 4 commits and lots of frustration for the reverted code smiley
At the question “What would you change?” the answer was unanimous: the sprint duration.

Everybody had the option to change duration to whatever they wanted.
Me and my pair went from 2 minutes to 3 minutes.

The Flow

Going up with 1 minute proved to be the right decision. We met our goals and had lots of commits.
At the next Retrospective, after 25 minutes we did 9 commits and 3 refactors.
No more code reverted.
We also took 2 sprints just for talking about next steps.

Even though our application did not do too many things, we were happy about the direction.
Basically we wanted to follow the TDD rule: start with the simplest test possible then refactor.

Delete Your Code Now! (Key Learnings)

After another session of 25 minutes, we suddenly heard a dreadful Star Trek voice calling us to “Delete your code now! Delete your code now!
We had to do that, so that we don’t get attached to code too much. Anyway it was only written for testing purposes.

Our main findings after this session:

600_436032630

  • Experiment to find the right timebox
  • Use this technique to attack a problem with high complexity
  • Find out your things to improve to yourself (typing speed, shortcuts, programming language, etc.)
  • Learn to use right meaningful names and improve iteratively
    My take: this technique helps a lot to Focus on doing exactly one thing at a time – and achieve the state of flow.

Further Reads

What do you think? Would you try such technique?

Adrian Suciu, 08th April 2014

Originally appeared in 1&1 Romania Academy internal Wall.

Agile

Insights from Bucharest MeetUp “AgileTalks#2”

Me and a few colleagues attended yesterday the AgileTalks#2 MeetUp in Bucharest. Below are my insights from this event.

As usually the most interesting part were the free talks during the Open Space in the end.

Agile Talks 2
Photo by Vlad S.

There were 2 presentations:

Cornel Fătulescu from Pentalog talked about his experience as a self-taught manager
Reaching for excessive control as a manager was a bitterly disapointing experience for him.
Finally he ended up in the Agile way of thinking – handing over to the team a lot of responsibilities within a few accepted rules.

He did a nice parallel with his personal life experience – told us how he experimented new approaches with his kids based on Agile principles – including a Kanban board for at-home activities (!)

He noticed that there were not many differences on how to approach a kid than how to approach a member of the team.

Conclusion: Gaining control is not the point – making the team responsible for their own work is the key.

My Insight: Personal life management has similar challenges as people management at work. It’s worth trying and experimenting techniques from both worlds to obtain a desired outcome

Nice discussion during Open Space:

  • The way human mind is working usually is counter-intuitive and irational
  • The most obvious example is the decision-making under stress.
  • It came to discussion the two-systems theory of Kahnemann-Tversky
  • The conclusion was that at crucial times it would be better to control our “System 1” (the limbic system) reactions
  • There are quite a few people able to achieve such self-control – like those who practice meditation.

The second speaker was Eduard Budacu, PhD Student at ASE.

He talked about how to reach productivity using a technique called “Pomodoro”.

My Insight: the most challenging part of the technique is to get rid of the “INTERNAL (SELF) DISTRACTORS”.
How to achieve that: relaxation techniques, meditation, therapy (“Positive Psychology”)

Nice concepts discussed during Open Space were:

  • How Pomodoro technique helps you enter the “State of Flow” – ideal for best productivity
  • He does at most 4 “Tomatos” per day – that is chunks of 25 minutes focused work – and is very happy with it. (No need to overcommit yourself!)

All in all it was a nice experience hosted by Claudia from AgileWorks with quite a crowd of people (about 50 persons – one of the biggest MeetUps so far).
Looking forward to AgileTalks#3 now….