February book review: Facilitating with Ease!

Ingrid Bens
Facilitating with Ease! Core Skills for Facilitators, Team Leaders and Members, Managers, Consultants, and Trainers

Most software projects today involve a number of team members with special skills: customers, stakeholders, developers, web designers, graphic designers, testers, and others. In such environment, how do we keep focus on business value, meet target dates, and ensure quality of the final product? How do we work efficiently together as a team to deliver a successful business solution?

Today, comprehensive knowledge sharing, quality decision making, and effective collaboration among all team members is critical to the success of the organization. However, it is not uncommon to see teams with limited knowledge-sharing and decision-making skills. As a result, meetings are poorly run, valuable time is wasted, and no clear benefit is achieved. How do we remedy this situation? 

I recommend recognizing the importance of quality facilitation and paying proper attention to process elements. Ingrid Bens demonstrates many tools and techniques on how to do that. Our next step is to introduce a practical and repeatable approach to organizational learning. But wait... I am jumping ahead of myself into one of my next book reviews.

Among many excellent resources on the subject of facilitation, Ingrid's book "Facilitating with Ease!" stands out. Ingrid touches on both theoretical and practical aspects of facilitation and presents relevant information in a very concise manner. This makes her book well organized and easy to read.  I highly recommend it.

Happy reading! 

Dinosaur Thinking video by Henrik Mårtensson

This short video provides an excellent overview of why Scientific Management worked well in the early 20th century and why it makes it very difficult for organizations to adapt to the new world today. Enjoy!


Videos from OreDev 2008 conference available for general public

Videos from last year's OreDev conference are available for general public:

Check out sessions from all three days and do not miss my favourite Domain Driven Design (DDD) track. Enjoy!

January book review: Scrumban

Corey Ladas
Scrumban: Essays on Kanban Systems for Lean Software Development

Many agile teams subscribe to a development approach which Corey Ladas describes as craft production. A team of generalists is working together on user stories from an incoming queue, usually a product backlog. Each idle team member (or each idle feature crew) takes ownership of one user story at a time until there are no idle team members or no pending user stories available. This approach allows a team to control the flow of work and achieve a level of predictability in the process. However, it provides limited knowledge transfer and division of labour and, thus, often results in high variability in deliverables.

In this book, Corey offers a different approach to managing work items. A team of specialists uses kanban scheduling and other lean techniques in order to maintain a smooth and continuous flow of business-valued work items and maximize their throughput into production. What I like about this approach is that it recognizes the area of expertise of each worker and provides clear leading visual indicators of project health (as opposed to a lagging indicator such as velocity).

The book is thought-provoking and very interesting to read. If you have been thinking about introducing a more formal engineering workflow within your team, this book is for you.

Happy reading!

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