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Re: [XP] Prime Directive and the energy to change

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  • Dale Emery
    Hi Manuel, ... The part of the Prime Directive about given ... the situation at hand is very important for me. It asks me to look at the conditions that
    Message 1 of 260 , May 3, 2007
      Hi Manuel,

      > I often /want/ to do my best (work out, etc), but sometimes I don't,
      > because
      > I'm too lazy, or just forget it, because I sit in front of my computer
      > reading
      > interesting mailing list discussions.

      The part of the Prime Directive about "given ... the situation at hand" is
      very important for me. It asks me to look at the conditions that limited my
      performance, or (as is usually the case) by which I limited my performance.

      You did the best you could given your laziness and forgetfulness. Reading
      interesting email discussions was the best you could do given that, at that
      precise moment, you valued reading interesting mailing list discussions more
      than you valued other things.

      I love the Prime Directive--especially the second part of it, about "given
      ... the situation"--because it invites me to identify and challenge and
      adjust those givens. Once I have identified and acknowledged those
      conditions that led me (then) to do something that i (now) believe to be
      less than what I "could" do (whatever "could" means), I can set to work
      adjusting those conditions.

      If I'm lazy (and I am), is there something I can do to make the hard work
      easier, so that I can do it even when I'm lazy? Is there a way I can shift
      my definition of laziness, or the implications of it? For example: I'm
      lazy, so I want to get the hard work done first so I can relax.

      If I'm forgetful (and I am), is there something I can do to help me
      remember? For example: I've learned to set triggers for myself, such as
      computerizing my TODO list with automated alarms, or putting my wallet in
      the empty Milk-Bonz box so I remember to buy Brita more treats.

      If I sometimes distract myself from more valuable work by instead doing more
      interesting things such as reading email (and I do), is there a way I can
      find or create more interest in the work I "ought" to be doing (whatever
      "ought" means), or less interest in the things I use to distract myself?
      For example: Every few years I spend a few weeks tracking where my time
      goes. At the end of the day, and again at the end of the week, I review
      where my time went. Those reviews often make clear that I'm spending my
      time on things that give me some fleeting, intense value at the expense of
      things that give deeper, more subtle value. So I begin to make mental notes
      (and other kinds of notes) to trigger me to notice the activities I commonly
      use to distract myself. When I notice that I'm about to distract myself, I
      can (sometimes) catch myself and instead focus on the deeper value. And as
      a bigger bonus: Just knowing that I will be recording my next activity
      triggers me to ask, "Is this what I really want to be doing right now?"

      Always, always, always, I did the best I could, given the conditions around
      me or, more importantly, within me. The conditions limited my performance.
      If I now wish I had done better (as often happens), the key to improving is
      to remove or relax those limiting conditions. I apply The Prime Directive
      to my personal work by saying, "I did the best I could, given..." then fill
      in the givens. Then I set to work removing or relaxing the limiting
      conditions so that I perform better in the future. Usually, the most
      important conditions are the conditions within me, the conditions that I
      created--conditions like laziness, forgetfulness, or valuing my connection
      with mailing list communities over the work my boss is paying for. If I
      created those conditions (and I did), then they are the conditions I can
      most directly improve.


      Dale Emery, Consultant
      Inspiring Leadership for Software People
      Web: http://www.dhemery.com
      Weblog: http://www.dhemery.com/cwd
    • Kent Beck
      A theme is not a stack of stories. A theme is, A topic of discussion or writing; a major idea or proposition broad enough to cover the entire scope of a
      Message 260 of 260 , Jun 4 8:50 AM
        A theme is not a stack of stories. A theme is,"A topic of discussion or
        writing; a major idea or proposition broad enough to cover the entire scope
        of a literary or other work of art." Applying this idea to development, a
        theme is a major idea covered by a relatively wide span of time, like a
        quarter or a year. Themes might be meeting more of existing customers needs,
        meeting the needs of new kinds of customers, or making a system easier to
        buy. Themes are units of accountability and purpose. Like the NASA janitor
        who job was to help put a man on the moon, themes help everyone focus on
        what they are trying to achieve together, not just what they themselves are

        One of my fundamental assumptions is that people are capable of far, far
        more than they generally achieve. Themes are one way to encourage people to
        be more of who they are for the team. Are you a coder who secretly has a
        gift of empathy with customers? A manager who is great a debugging? An
        executive with vision? Following rigid job descriptions, much of what each
        team member could contribute gets lost. Focusing together on a shared theme
        offers permission to stretch beyond tidy, comfortable roles.

        If my goal is to be accountable and transparent in my work, and my goal is
        to accept as wide a set of responsibilities as I can, then I need to look
        for ways to be accountable and bigger things to be responsible for than just
        the code. I see themes as a vehicle for accountability and responsibility.
        For themes to be effective, they need to be able to be evaluated by business
        people. They need to connect to the work that I can do. They need to be
        things that I can confidently sign onto. To ensure accountability, themes
        should be discussed and agreed with a wide variety of people. This is
        "calling your shots" at a large scale. To provide team-wide motivation
        themes need to address issues many people care about.

        Measures can help to support themes. Profitability, traffic, retention
        rates, conversion rates, error rates and dollars per order are all measures
        that many people can understand and appreciate. If the theme of the quarter
        is to "meet more of the craft beader's needs", then the average amount
        ordered per person should rise. The measure is not the theme, though, it is
        a consequence of effectively addressing the theme.

        Deming talks about constancy of purpose as one of the key management ideas.
        While this seems to contradict embracing change, I think the two concepts
        are compatible. You can maintain constant purpose while constantly varying
        your methods. Themes are the constant purposes worth working on for months
        or years, even while technology and practices vary day-by-day.

        Since shared motivation is part of the goal of applying themes, gaining
        justified confidence that they can be achieved needs to be part of the
        planning process. That's where the stack of stories comes in. On a recent
        project, when we needed to address the theme of demonstrating the system to
        managers, we discussed and agreed to a stack of stories that we all thought
        would make the system demo-able. We had estimates on the stories so we knew
        how much a demo-worthy system was costing us, both in absolute terms and in
        opportunity cost. Conversely, themes can help teams choose not to schedule
        one of those interesting, challenging stories that don't fit into the bigger

        Deciding to become accountable, responsible, and transparent is the key
        change. Themes are one way to make that happen.


        Kent Beck
        Three Rivers Institute


        From: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ron Jeffries
        Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2007 4:33 AM
        To: extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: A Real-World Experiment With Hours Instead of Points -- was Re:
        [XP] Re: Beefing up The Project Velocity

        Hello, Kent. I have a question. On Thursday, May 24, 2007, at
        12:34:26 PM, you wrote:

        > I agree that XP teams seem to focus more on maximizing throughput rather
        > than long-term planning. I think the two need to be in balance, which is
        > I combine weekly and quarterly planning. I find the quarterly plan works
        > best when it is focused on business-oriented themes rather than simply a
        > bigger stack of stories. On one recent project, the theme for a while was
        > "get more traffic to the site" (actually it started out being "get any
        > traffic to the site"). Then it became "make a compelling demo for
        > What the team committed to in the long run wasn't features, but business
        > effects. I suppose we could up the accountability by making the theme
        > the first sale".
        > I prefer business themes to minimal feature sets because 1) themes
        > constantly remind me why we're doing what we're doing and 2) themes give
        > more flexibility to learn and change while maintaining (and enhancing)
        > accountability.

        Is a theme a collection of stories? If not, how does one estimate a
        theme for release planning?


        Ron Jeffries
        I could be wrong, but I'm not. --Eagles, Victim of Love

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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