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Team Practices - ITS Iterative Framework

Team Practices focuses on group activities that support the Agile methodology.

 

Techniques

Informative Workplace

An Informative Workplace is one in which easily interpreted feedback mechanisms (visual, audio, or other) keep the team apprised of the status of its daily work.

The idea of Informative Workplace is to build feedback mechanisms that support the daily work of an agile team. These mechanisms can be:

  • visual displays that the team manually updates, such as colored dots on story cards to signify status changes or the wall to communicate assignments
  • daily stand ups to share information
  • electronic devices such as lava lamps or audio signals linked to automated processes

It is vital that whatever mechanisms are put in place add value to the project and are:

  • Easy to interpret
  • Low maintenance
  • Adapted to local practices

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops are agile practices that reinforce other agile practices.

Feedback Loops reinforce agile practices. A handful of these are small-scale practices that further drive large-scale practices. Small-scale practices support and strengthen large-scale practices by providing high-quality input. These lower-level practices are:

  • Pair programming
  • Coding standards
  • Unit and function testing
  • Refactoring
  • Simple design
  • The 40-hour week

The small-scale practices combine to create the inmost of three nested feedback loops driving effective agile development. This deepest feedback loop drives the creation of well engineered software, which is critical for success in any agile project.

Large-scale practices guide small-scale activities and defend against possible mistakes. The higher-level practices are:

  • System metaphor
  • Continuous integration
  • On-site customer
  • Collective ownership
  • Acceptance testing
  • Planning game
  • Short releases

These large-scale practices combine to create a second-level feedback loop that defines and constantly adjusts the project’s direction. This ensures the project tracks, as closely as possible, to the needs of the business users who will use the application system.

The third and highest level of the Agile model of nested feedback loops consists of project management activities that monitor and manage projects. This third level gives project visibility to all participants and stakeholders involved in agile development so that everybody knows what is happening on the project and whether the project is meeting expectations; for example, the daily stand ups and planning game.

Fail Fast

Since failure is a cost of doing anything worthwhile, it is best to fail sooner rather than later so you can correct sooner.

Failure is a source of waste. The only way to entirely avoid failure, though, is to avoid doing anything worthwhile. Embrace failure instead of trying to avoid it.

Think:“If this effort (idea, piece of code, and so on) is sure to fail, I want to know that as soon as possible.”

Look for ways to gather information that will indicate the project’s likelihood of failure. Conduct experiments on risk-prone areas to see if they fail in practice.

Failing fast applies to all aspects of work, even to examples as small as buying a bag of a new type of coffee bean rather than a crate. It alleviates excessive worry about whether a decision is good or bad. If there is uncertainty, structure work so that errors are exposed as soon as they occur. If it fails, let it fail quickly rather than linger in limbo. Either way, invest only the time and resources needed to be sure of the results.