Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.....


Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking. The ultimate cliché for those who are accustomed to public speaking.

For me though it was true, it was my first time up on stage, in front of the lights, with an audience I (mostly) didn't know. I was surprised. I was nervous, and I'm not a nervous person. But I really enjoyed it, and I think the audience did too. 

When I look back, these positive points come to mind:
  • The subject matter was something I felt strongly about. I have wrestled with the subject for the past four years and had endured some hard lessons and some great successes, giving me real confidence. It was based on experience and not theory. 
  • Lots (and lots) of practice. Both in my head and out loud. This allowed me to get my timing right, tweak content and most importantly, the talk felt natural. As soon as I started, my brain knew what was up next and how long to spend on area.
  • I went light on the slide content. My previous attempts at speaking had been focused on the slides themselves and reacting to the content on them rather than speaking. However I took a conscious decision to lighten the slides and talk from within.
  • I worked in small chunks, allowing for iterative improvements. Mainly because I built the content on the train on the way to work. Half an hour at a time for both content creation and to practice delivery. Walking away then re-engaging seems to compliment my style.

Maybe I could have improved by:
  • I went big on ideas, then cut down to a small presentation. Maybe I went too large, I built thirty to forty minutes worth of content. After four years with wrestling with the topic I had a lot of ideas! It led to some hard decisions over what to leave out, and a timing horror a couple of days before!
  • I could have done more practice but in front of other humans. My first opportunity to get feedback was on the night itself, when I had a multitude of opportunities to get some real human input before the big night.
  • A little less humour and more message. I intentionally went for a light tone, as I think a lightning talk should have a couple of laughs, but I left afterwards feeling that I may have overdone it. However I won't beat myself up too much for that one.
Plus I didn't wear a hat. Appeared to be a deal breaker....

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Project Inception: The Forgettable Mnemonic



This blog is designed to help me to remember the thing that I'd created a mnemonic about, so I didn't forget. I did forget it, immediately after presenting on the topic. So, writing it down should help.

So, when you want to kick off your project in an expedient but sensible manner try my charming mnemonic, IWOOWI (pronounced I-WOO-WI):


Iterate, Man! 
If your engineering iterations are two weeks then limit your project inception to that period too. There is an excellent chance that more thinking than this will only ever beget more and more thinking at this point.



Who Feels What About Which or Whom and Why? 
I know, this is awkward as you'll need to ask about feelings. Let me put it this way, how many rational decisions were made on your last project? Humans are inherently irrational, place no expectations of sensible decisions on your stakeholders. Discovering how they feel about a feature/deadline/other stakeholder is more useful information than what they know. As it will be what they think they know.


Obvious? 
The software development world does so many things which don't have an obvious reason why they should be done. Not every reason is obvious. Being non-obvious is sign. When the bus is about to run us over it is obvious that we should take evasive action. If your project/product has no obvious reason for existence, ask the question.



Optionality 
In the beginning you will meet those who wish to confirm, finalise and nail down each and every aspect of your project. It is a tempting thought. Until the entropy of time gets involved. Resist these nail-downers and approach your project kick off with a view to increase your options, not narrow them.
Why is this so hard? - If your project kick off is unforgiving, then what you shouldn't do is doggedly push on with your plan to get under way, you should ask the question of why this is so. Perhaps some of the previous parts of this mnemonic are in play, most likely your stakeholder engagement is not what it might be or the critically important project that you are about to embark on is not, well, all that important.



If stuff built > 0 && {insert kick off document name} !signed off 
This test provides an examination of how effective your current process really is. If the kick off document that you have slaved over is still awaiting a rubber stamp 10 weeks into the project, I think you know how keen your stakeholders are on both your project and the way you've handled the kick off phase.

This mnemonic summarises (for me) the key to an effective project inception, setting the tone and direction of the humans involved. Technology and process plays a part but I believe (and experience tells me) that your humans having a similar vision at the same time is crucial for successful delivery.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I was wrong and we missed out


So, it was the office Christmas Party on Friday. 

A few beers and laughs were had, much discussion on our testing world but on reflection I missed a great opportunity.

I need to be vague but chatting to a person (currently a programmer, who will remain nameless) who said that someone who he knew 'took a step down the ladder and decided to be a tester.'

Now, my response contained more than a little indignation. I put together a polite but scathing comeback, wallowing in my own righteousness.

I was wrong. I had a chance to have a reasoned debate around why this person thought what he thought about testing as a craft. I could have asked:

  • Why do you think its a step down?
  • Is working with a tester valuable to you?
  • What skills do testers you know have?
  • What skills do you think they should have?

I let that slip away when we could have learned something from each other. And another chance to progress the debate of the value of testers and what we bring to the world.

Shame.