Cards Anchoring

Best estimation is no estimation at all is a recent industrial mantra. Its underlying assumption is that future is unpredictable and thus estimation (as any other kind of prediction) is doomed by default. So why spend so much time on estimating (and even times more on trying to stick to these estimates) instead of using that energy for something much more valuable?
I tend to agree with #NoEstimates. However we might be in a situation where we cannot control or even influence that decision. Good for us as today we have some great agile estimation techniques that could be of great help to us, including T-Shirt sizing, Planning poker, Table sorting, Triangulation and many more. By being relative and group-based they have proved to be much faster and accurate than their predecessors. But still the “Garbage In, Garbage Out” principle applies – meaning that if the estimates (either of complexity or effort) used as a baseline are wrong – so are the newly produced ones. And the greater the Planning fallacy of a team is – the more evident this principle becomes. Cards Anchoring was created specifically for this particular situation and aims to improve it a bit by: (1) changing the baseline from previous  estimates to actual complexity / effort (thus bringing historical data and lessons learned to the estimation process); and by combining both complexity and effort estimation (thus ensuring they are perceived as different concepts and used for different purposes).
Continue reading →

The Forever Check

We are living in a fast-motion world where we are constantly bombarded with so many responsibilities, associated duties and tasks. And if we do not manage them with caution we often find ourselves in a situation where we have no direction and we are spending most of our time on the insignificant and unimportant matter. However this is not our greatest problem – many times we remain unaware of (or ignorant to) the danger until we become the boiled frogs and we burnout. The Forever Check is a simple self-assessment technique which might show us when the “water is boiling” and is time for change.
Continue reading →

The Faceboard Game

The Faceboard Game is a get-to-know exercise which was specifically designed for large groups (of 50+ people) and initially targeted to entire software engineering departments which lack cross-colleague, cross-project and/or cross-product awareness and suffer from departmental and/or team silos. The desired outcome was participants: (1) to associate names and faces with concrete colleagues; (2) to learn interesting facts about one another (and thus be able to find associates and form groups of interest); and (3) to learn interesting facts about company’s projects and/or products. Moreover the expectations were to have an artifact created at the end of the exercise which could be further used to continuously promote cross-colleague, cross-project and/or cross-product awareness. The latter was called the faceboard and was envisioned to have individual pictures of all participants together with few interesting facts about themselves and the projects and/or products they are working on.
Continue reading →

The Misemotions Game

Software engineers are often seen by others as loony nerds (or weirdos) who are spending most of their time “interacting” with machines. And the more time passes, the more they are leaving the boundaries of “humanity” and becoming machines of their own. And within this transformation they seem to lose their emotionality and empathy (or emotional intelligence in general). The Misemotions Game is a great exercise to challenge this stereotype and prove that software engineers do express and recognize emotions not worse than others. It is a variation of the Chinese Whispers (or the Broken Telephone game) where participants have to properly convey emotions (instead of text messages) among themselves in a row. It is called “mis”-emotions in analogy to “mis”-communication as it is fairly easy (for everybody and not just for software engineers) to fail passing the correct emotions to others.
The Misemotions Game could be also used to challenge the emotional intelligence and/or increase the emotional awareness of any group of people as well as an warm-up exercise or a party game in any context.
Continue reading →

The FLY Technique

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and stressed out in your life or work? Periods when you were fully occupied with various tasks but you still lacked (1) productivity (or getting more things done); (2) efficiency (or getting more value and less waste); (3) effectiveness (or getting better results); (4) work-life balance (or getting more free time); and/or (5) health (both physical and mental)? Periods when everything around you moved too fast and time always slipped away? If yes – then you should know quite well what it feels like living in a fast-motion world. When this happens occasionally and has a short timespan – it should be OK. But if it is continuous (or even endless) – then there is a serious risk of exhaustion and burn out if things don’t get slower. Moving from fast-motion (fast-mo) to slow-motion (slow-mo) and still getting the most out of it is what time management is all about.
There are many time management techniques which could help you manage your workload in a better way. Among the most popular ones are Get Things Done (GTD), Franklin Covey Method, Do It Tomorrow (DIT) and the Middle Way Method as well as some more narrowly focused “hacks” as the Swiss Cheese Method, Don’t Break the Chain, Inbox Zero, (10+2)*5 Hack, 10-Minute Hack and The Rule of 3. The FLY technique is built on top of these by (1) extracting the types of tasks that might be encountered and the possible actions that could be taken towards them; and then (2) synthesizing this information into a common algorithm. Furthermore it embraces some important time management principles as “Less is More” (or “Little and Often”), “Last Responsible Moment” (or The Mañana Principle), “One Thing at a Time”, “Keep it Simple Stupid”, “Handle Things Once” (or “Blocks Out Time” / Timeboxing), “Limit Work In Progress” / “Know Your Limits” (or Closed Lists), “First Things First” and the Pareto Principle (or the “80-20 Rule”).
The FLY Technique is named after the flies insects. Scientists have found that flies live in slow-mo and perceive time at a rate that is around 7 times faster than humans! And this is exactly what the FLY technique aims to do – to slow things down (just like the flies) so time does not fly away
Continue reading →

The Miscalibration Principle

Do the “right” people do the “right” things “right” in your organization? If not (which is most probably) – then you might suffer from the miscalibration principle. The latter states that the discrepancies between what work is expected by a given individual and what is actually delivered / desired by / competent for increase with time. These discrepancies are defined as operational / motivational / competential miscalibrations respectively (with a joint name of occupation miscalibration) and further quantified through the so called occupation dominoes and occupation accordions. Hopefully by being aware of the miscalibration principle and by having the needed toolset (to capture and measure it) you might be able to outrun time and keep your organization calibrated.
Continue reading →

The Occupation Vectors

The Occupation Vectors are universal way to describe in a simple and practical way any position or role within a company (at least in the context of Software engineering). Their main purpose is to allow: (1) the determination and examination of the consequences of combining or splitting corporate positions and roles, transferring, promoting and demoting employees, etc. (e.g. due to organizational restructuring, implementation of employee reward and recognition programs, etc.); and (2) the mapping (or calculating the similarity) of different positions and roles (e.g. due to transitioning to new software development methods as Scrum/XP/DSDM/etc., mergers and acquisitions, etc.). Moreover the occupation vectors might be used as an instrument to roughly assess the efficiency of performing various positions and roles in a given company, branch, department, workgroup, etc. (through the so called Occupation Efficiency Metric).
Continue reading →

The Teamwork Oscars

The Teamwork Oscars is an exercise created for practicing Benne and Sheats’s group roles (although it might be adapted for any other similar classification). It does so by asking teams to resolve text puzzles (derived from popular teamwork fables) while at the same time team members are acting various group roles. Based on their performance the teams (as well as the individuals) might be awarded Oscars. The exercise could be also used to discuss the importance of group roles on team dynamics and teamwork.
Continue reading →

The Workplace Equations

The Workplace Equations is an exercise that drives a meaningful discussion on what satisfaction and motivation is in the workplace. It does this through the metaphors of Heaven and Hell, organizational storytelling and various elements of gamification. Furthermore the exercise could be used by teams to derive their own Workplace Equations (based on their specific understandings / perceptions of satisfaction and motivation) and then use these equations to continuously monitor and assess how close their workplace is to Heaven and Hell through the Workplace Signboard.
Continue reading →