Showing posts with label norway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label norway. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Our Workshops at XP 2010 in Norway

Yesterday I delivered two workshops at the XP 2010 conference in Trondheim, Norway. The run up to this conference has been awfully busy for me from a work perspective, so I'm extremely pleased that the sessions went quite well, despite my lack of obsessive preparation. I just want to quickly share the artifacts from each workshop.

Facilitating Dialogue in situations of conflict

I presented this session with Rixt Wiersma. As with other runs of this workshop, we got a decent list of ideas for conflict management in the Agile context, though my guess is that these ideas can be equally useful for any other context. The premise of our workshop was that while we place a huge emphasis on communication and collaboration in Agile teams, a high degree of communication can mean a high degree of conflict. The secret to managing this conflict, is in facilitating dialogue so you can get all the interests on the table. While the slide deck above will give you an idea of what our recipes for such situations are, here are some ideas the group came up with:
  • Take another perspective to the problem. Try to have smaller group approach the problem from different perspectives.
  • It could be that everyone's thinking of the same thing. So a 'rapid-first-cut' solution will help you detect this and establish common ground.
  • Start fast - don't spend too much time looking a toad you have to eat.
  • Decide generalities first and then go into the specifics. This helps to understand if every agrees in principle with a certain approach. (a lot of people recommend this)
  • Grouping similar decision items helps with generalising.
  • Visualisation helps a lot, use big, visible charts in meeting to make mental models explicit.
  • Use an explicit criteria; agree this with the group and keep referring back to it on a big visible chart.
    • First agree on the most important criteria.
  • Destroy the psychological binding between people and problems. Try to unentangle the two. When necessary, you may even want to create a psychological binding to help people be more associated with their decisions.
  • Time matters and a time-box helps.
    • Have more of the 'last minutes' by keeping focus on the timebox and having at least some kind of a decision by that time.
    • Creating smaller timeboxes for various parts of the decision helps.
  • Start with a flawed version of your solution and then iterate from there with everyone's inputs.
    • Have a solution ASAP, then try to refine it.
    • Ship early! Get version 1 out as soon as possible.
  • Gather all opinions in a group.
  • Be an active part in deciding ground rules for the decisions that follow.
  • Consider actually appointing an observer when the team must discuss controversial issues.
    • Sometimes being an observer is a good way of dispassionately evaluating a situation.
  • Make the value system open. Don't make an assumption about other people's values.
  • As a facilitator and participant, ask:
    • Does everyone agree?
    • What problems do you have?
  • Make the options visible to everyone involved in the decision.
A few interesting resources that people mentioned during the workshop:
  • Mountain Goat Software has some interesting tools that can help deal with conflict situations in very Agile specific contexts; project success criteria, prioritisation, etc.
  • The Evaporating Cloud is an interesting bit of literature/ technique that helps you reach a win-win solution. It's also known as the conflict resolution diagram.
  • The Thomas Killman instrument is a tool that helps measure an individual's response to conflict situations. This is interesting because a number of people are genuinely comfortable in conflict, while others are highly disturbed. The TKI is quick to administer and interpret. It takes about 15 minutes to answer the questions, and an hour or so for interpretation by a trainer. 
  • Type Talk at Work is another interesting book that helps groups explore their similarities and differences in personality through the science of the Myers Briggs Type Indicators. Getting these personality differences to be explicit helps in a big way with team creation, which in turn helps people understand each other's peculiarities in a conflict situation.
  • I also recommend Strengths Finder as another way of building awareness about people in the team, so you can deal with conflict situations with a fair understanding of the people involved and their strengths.

The Distributed Agile Game

I ran this workshop with Chirag Doshi. As usual, three hours passed by without any trouble whatsoever. We had a small group, but no issues with energy whatsoever! All I have to share with you is my deck from the session is my slide deck.

Want a copy of either of the above games?

If you want a copy of either of these two games we played at these workshops, please send me a direct message on Twitter and I'll be happy to share the materials with you. If you'd like to know more about ThoughtWorks, then please visit us at
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