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Small Controlled Experiments


The project was of to a bad start: an inherited legacy codebase, a waterfall contract, and a projected loss. The promise of Kaizen or Continuous Improvement seemed very appealing. But when we tried to incorporate this into our process, it didn’t catch on. Biweekly retrospectives didn’t seem to expose any problems we could improve upon. The ceremonies we tried, like Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles, added too much overhead. We were doing something wrong.

Continuous Improvement implies that you know exactly where to focus your efforts. Like scientists, we started to experiment, without deciding upfront what we expected the outcome to be. The rules? Make every experiment as small as possible. No meetings, no consensus, no cumbersome evaluation process. We let the results speak for themselves. This talk explores the successes and failures of a team that went from survival mode to learning mode over the course of a year.

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Small Controlled Experiments

  1. 1. small controlled experiments @mathiasverraes
  2. 2. small uncontrolled experiments @mathiasverraes
  3. 3. Mathias Verraes Independent Consultant Value Object Comm.V Student of Systems Meddler of Models Labourer of Legacy verraes.net
  4. 4. Fitness landscape
  5. 5. Continuous Improvement
  6. 6. "When changing teams or organizations, the trick is not to try and push them out of their current behavior. (...) A better idea is to change parameters in the environment so that their current situation becomes unstable and disappears all by itself." 4 Jurgen Appelo6 6 Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders
  7. 7. Heavyweight
  8. 8. Retrospectives are too slow
  9. 9. Unproductive pressure to improve
  10. 10. Daily Two minutes, after standup
  11. 11. Brainstorm rules "Yes, and... " Divergence Convergence7 7 "Thinking in New Boxes", Alan Iny & Luc de Brabandere
  12. 12. Avoid upfront consensus "A meeting is where ideas go to die" Experiments over opinions
  13. 13. "If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine." 4 Jim Barksdale
  14. 14. Avoid upfront expectations Expectations determine outcomes
  15. 15. Low impact Small, cheap, reversible, low-risk
  16. 16. No backlog Backlogs kill motivation
  17. 17. Timeline Stickies
  18. 18. Guarantee veto Everybody must be heard
  19. 19. Measure selectively & intentionally Avoid optimising for the metrics
  20. 20. Accept uncertainty Non-scientific Exposes invisible problems
  21. 21. Accept gut feeling Emotional response is fine
  22. 22. Accept failed experiments Welcome failures as new data points
  23. 23. Kaizen Mind The urgency to improve
  24. 24. Climate of Doubt Assume everything is broken and fixable
  25. 25. "If an idea is obviously bad, find a quick way to test it, because if it's not bad, then it's really interesting." 4 Kent Beck
  26. 26. Experiment Deliver one story a day
  27. 27. Experiment Atomically scoped stories
  28. 28. Experiment Start every story in pair
  29. 29. Experiment Testers deploy independently
  30. 30. Experiment Core Protocols
  31. 31. Experiment Syncing physical boards
  32. 32. If it's not on a wall or a board, it's not visual.
  33. 33. Experiment Measure by hand
  34. 34. Experiment Hide the estimate from the board
  35. 35. Experiment No more sprint deadlines
  36. 36. Experiment No interrupts after lunch
  37. 37. Experiment Vizualize cost of interrupts
  38. 38. Experiment Wall of Technical Debt8 8 http://verraes.net/2013/07/managed-technical-debt/
  39. 39. Use experiments to detect problems
  40. 40. @mathiasverraes http://verraes.net/2014/03/small-controlled-experiments/ http://verraes.net/workshops