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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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