Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Feedback Loop Workshop - The Vision

It  is extremely important to understand where we are and where we want to go. This Workshop is all about that, regarding Feedback Loops. It is mandatory to have people from every part of the organisation and from different roles, not only developers or testers. This is how we are ensuring that we are drawing a complete picture.


  • Big White Board. I prefer a movable one
  • Flip Charts. 1/5 people
  • Post Its
  • Pens 


  • What are the feedback loops
  • Picture about the present
  • Break
  • Vision about the future
  • Wrap UP

What are the feedback loops

This is a short talk about the Feedback Loop itself. This gives a basic understanding what we want to achieve in this Workshop.

Picture about the present

Split people in small groups. In the groups there should be diversity as much as possible. The size can be around 5 people. Give people a flip chart, pens and post-its. Ask people in groups to create picture about Feedback Loops in timeline. It needs to present the situation at the moment. People can be really free style. I usually draw really simple example. You can give groups around 20 minutes time to create their own picture.

After creating pictures, every group presents their view to the rest of the people, question may be asked, but try to avoid criticism, this is just showing the result from this part.

Create common picture. Share the white board into two parts. Draw the timeline and let people merge their pictures together. You can give a 20 minutes time box.

Rough example about feedback loops

Vision about the future

Now we are ready to draw the picture about the bright future. People can stay in the same groups or create new groups, again with the diversity. I prefer old groups, because there might be already some group dynamics in. Now same exercise, but let the people create a picture without the legacy. People should free their minds about solutions at the moment and they can really be as creative as they can. Again about 20 minutes.

Presenting the picture and in the end merging the pictures.

Wrap UP

You can briefly tell, what has happened today and what are the next steps. Ask people to present their pictures again.

My Last Words

Like I said in the beginning, the idea is to create vision. Vision does not need to be perfect. Nature of things are that they are changing, so this is just a snapshot about the situation at the moment and the vision what it should be. This snapshot should be created as often as needed. In other words, this is a longer process, not just one shot. :)

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Feedback Loops

I have been thinking, how to dig out the essence, why do we need Test Automation and Continuous Integration. Also how to help people to understand why these things are really important, when we are doing more fast paced software development.

I came up with two Workshops  which are related to one another. In this blog post, I'll explain the concept of Feedback Loops and there will be two more posts, which are describing those Workshops more carefully.

Copyright Robin Stott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
So what do I mean with Feedback Loops? Feedback Loops are the things, when people who are developing the product starts to get feedback. Did he/she provide right kind of behavior to the product? In the end, customer is the one who gives the final verdict, does it do what they want.

These Feedback Loops can be something like this:
Unit Tests
Acceptance Tests
System Tests
Load Tests

And why are these so important? I have used this wine metaphor before. Abnormal behaviour is not like a wine, it does not get better with age. The sooner you catch and fix the abnormality, the better. What do you think, which one of these scenarios is cheaper? Customer finds a performance problem, which is caused by an architectural flaw vs. create small functionality based to the architecture and test it as soon as possible.

These thing are not directly tied to the Test Automation and Continuous Integration, but with the knowledge what I have, those things are mandatory to create as fast feedback as it can be.

Like I promised, following two posts will be about those workshops, so stay tuned.

Friday, 11 May 2012

It's just the tip of the iceberg.

An organisation is in the middle of Agile transformation process. Some Agile methodology is implemented, but something is not right. Teams are lazily having their retros, some of them are dropping the daily stand ups. All cool practices are not really taken into use. The organisation feels like teflon, nothing really sticks and some off the stuff is falling off.  Does this sound familiar? If so please go on.

Introducing Agile software methodology (eg. Scrum) to the organisation is fairly easy, most easiest way is just to use old Command and Control mechanics and just push it in. The process is pretty simple, only three roles, handful of artifacts and meetings and that's it. But does it really stick? I would say no. I see the whole thing as an iceberg.

By Created by Uwe Kils (iceberg) and User:Wiska Bodo (sky). [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


This is where all processes, practices and methodologies are. If this part starts to show symptoms it's really painfully visible for everyone. In my experience, this is also what people are trying to fix. Usually this is just pushing more those processes, methodologies and practices in and what I have seen, this rarely do the trick. The reason for this is that there is really no soil to grow, soil is in the rest of the iceberg.


Here is the organisation culture, if this is not right, nothing magnificent really happens. When I'm talking about organisation, I mean everybody included from the coding grunt to the highest manager (and whatever roles you have in your organisation). Do you have trust in place? Are the different roles of your organisation blaming one another? Are people really taking responsibility? Is it really a great place to work? Do your people collaboratively seek better ways to satisfy the customer?

If you get this part working, I claim that magic really starts to happen. People are seeking better ways to work and they are learning and discovering new things.


It is always easier to work with the tip of the iceberg, the rest of the iceberg is really much harder and also more fuzzy. But hey the question is: do we really want to change the world? Or at least our organisations? Please, if any ideas, post a comment.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Given Empowerment

The company goes Agile. In one night teams are in self-organization and -management mode. The management announces empowerment to the teams and stands aside. Time goes and it seems that teams are not performing as expected. The blaming starts: "even with the empowerment you are not delivering".
Sculpture "Empowerment", Lincoln (PAUL FARMER) / CC BY-SA 2.0
Empowerment is something what leaders should foster. Leaders should create an environment which really supports people's and team's self-management. In an environment with no blame but trust, people can truly choose how they are working and learn new things. Also a clear vision why and what we are doing, including constant constructive feedback must be in. These things are not coming automatically when empowerment is given.

It is about focusing what you can do for your people, not what they can do for you, or how they should act / behave. As a work it's difficult, much more difficult than giving commands.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Catching the big one.

The release date is approaching and some important features are still missing. It might be that we are losing a customer because of that. There are basically two paths to take. First one is to start cut corners, do some hacking, maybe not test that thoroughly etc. In other words we take technical debt to try to reach our goal. For the short term point of view, this sounds attractive.

The second choice is not to take technical dept and leave some functionality out from the release and negotiate with the customer(s). For the long term this is usually the better choice. If the product is something for which the life time is long, even decades, we are doing less work, because we don't need to pay back technical debt and intresses. This is might be because we are not catching one particular customer, put there is plenty of fish in the sea and competitive benefits comes in t
he long run.   

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Where the heck are we?

Your nightly build is red. There are some test cases failing and you know that this should be the moment when you need to stop and investigate. Your Product Owner runs in the team room and start to rant about features which must be in before the release at the end of the week. He is questioning are those faults so bad that we really need to consume time to fix them, because we have promised some cool stuff to our customer.

Roadsign to Lost farm near Bellabeg. (Stanley Howe) / CC BY-SA 2.0
What to do? Every time we have failing test case(s) in our build(s) it means that our location is unknown, failing test case says that behavior of our product is not what we have expected it to be and before those case(s) are green again, everything what you create are just hypothesis.

Abnormal situation is work need to be done, and it's work that does not get any better with age, actually quite the opposite. It's work which generates more work. On the other hand, if we use stop the belt and fix the problem immediately it causes idling to the rest of system and the bigger the system is, the bigger the effect of idling is. So what do? I think that abnormality should always be removed as soon as it is noticed. We should always have the best understanding where we are and get back on the map quickly.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Learning from your peers

Long time no see. :)

Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches are often promoting pair coding and collaboration. The reason for that is very simple, the best way to learn is to learn from you colleague, that drives both of you into the new path of learning.

 But how about the SMs and Coaches themselves? One of my mottos is practice what you preach. Which means in this case, that you should also do pair working yourself. One of the great opportunities, if you are in a corporate environment like I am, is to work together with one of your colleagues. If you find this hard, it's again a good opportunity for learning. If it's hard for you, it's probably hard for other people as well. My case hardness comes from exposing myself, as good as also in bad. Very sensible thing I must say.

BTW. We as Coaches and Scrum Masters must grab all the possibilities.