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I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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Paul Tevis

Entries in lean & agile (23)


Community Building

Last Thursday was the second get-together of the Santa Barbara Agile Meetup group. Like the first time, we had a dozen people, though half new attendees and half were repeat offenders. There were some excellent discussions, and the energy in the group was palpable. When the end of the evening came, I could feel that no one was ready to leave.

I’m excited to see where this could go. When Heidi and I kicked off the group, we wrote this mission statement:

Our goal is to create a living, self-sustaining, Agile entity that provides people with inspiring new ideas about Agile to apply in their daily work, and fun opportunities to connect and network with like-minded professionals in the Santa Barbara area.

I believe very strongly in that “living, self-sustaining” idea. I’ve been part of a number of different volunteer groups that lacked that energy, in large part because it was not an explicit part of those groups’ mission and because the initial burst of energy that created the group had faded away. I want to build a community, one that can shift and adapt over time, one that fulfills its members’ needs, and one that doesn’t need its founders in order to thrive. And I’m excited that we might be on the path to doing that.


Improv and Agile on the Brain

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting alongside my partner-in-crime Jake Calabrese at the Scrum Gathering in New Orleans. For ninety minutes, we walked twenty or so folks through a series of improv exercises that they could use in an Agile context. Stephen Starkey captured it nicely:

Paul Goddard ran a similar session right before ours, and on the last day of the conference the three of us teamed up to run another impromptu session. This set my brain to spinning, and when I got home, I found that one of our participants wanted me to come and run a series of workshops on these topics at her company, which happens to be in the Los Angeles area. I don’t think its going to work out (I’m not really set up to do that kind of thing right now), but it reinforced that there is real interest in this area.

One of the promises I made to myself at the conference was that I would continue my exploration of these topics. Here’s my short list of possible future conference session topics:

  • Complexity, Improvisation, and Agile
  • Improv Games for Scrum Ceremonies
  • Status Work for Managers and Coaches

Improv For Software Engineers

Back in May, I spoke at the 3rd Santa Barbara PechaKucha Night. If you can stand hearing me say, “right?” approximately once every 5 seconds, here it is.


Engaging, Clear, and Concise

Kent Beck’s Test-Driven Development by Example is the next best thing to pair-programming with a master of his craft.

I’ve never met Kent, but I have to imagine the book is written how he speaks — because no one would write it that way if they didn’t. I’ve never encountered a more conversational book, replete with digressions, arguments with himself, tangents, and bad jokes. This doesn’t distract from the content, but instead creates authenticity. The first two sections of the book are extended examples, and written in that voice they built the sense in my head that Kent was less an author and more a person. That meant that when he switched from the descriptive to the prescriptive in part three, I took his rules as things he had learned from his experience, rather than as wisdom delivered from the mountaintop.

Speaking of part three, the question-answer form that he uses in laying out his patterns for TDD is one of the most effective ways of communicating these kinds of ideas I’ve seen. An example:

One Step Test
Which test should you pick next from the Test List? One that will teach you something and that you are confident you can implement.

This is followed by two or three paragraphs explaining the rationale for the guideline. I found this problem-solution-explanation format solves an issue that faces so many authors: How to design a text so that it can serve both as a tutorial and as a reference.

To do both of these things in a book so short is a masterstroke.


Slicing It Thinner and Thinner

Part of my plan right now is to take all of the things I’ve decided are important and take at least one step forward on each of them every day. That means when I get busy, I don’t just drop two or three and work on the others. It means I have to find ways to take smaller steps so I can fit them all in. It’s challenging, but I’m finding it very satisfying. I can’t fit two half-hour tasks in but I have time for one? I have to find a way to make fifteen minutes on each of them worthwhile. And that’s really the trick: Learning to see how I can make tangible progress in smaller and smaller chunks of time.

I’m sure that my Agile experience has nothing at all to do with this…