Agile Mumbai 2008

Creating shared understanding with index cards - Proposal  

Creating Shared Understanding with Index Cards

In the fable of the blind men and the elephant each of the blind men touches one part of the elephant and develops a perception of the elephant as a whole:
  • One touches the side and perceives the elephant to be like a wall
  • Another touches the tusk and perceives the elephant to be like a spear
  • Another touches the tail and perceives the elephant to be like a snake
  • ... and so the fable continues.
This fable provides an excellent analogy for the perceptions of each member of the customer community: finance, sales, marketing, operations, end-users and stakeholders; all have different perspectives and priorities. In this session you will explore, learn and practice how simple index cards can effectively be used for creating the shared understanding when defining stories and planning releases.

Content Outline

This session is primarily aimed at Agile 2008 attendees who are new to agile, and/or using cards to create shared understanding when working with stakeholders/teams. It covers the following:
  • Why Shared Understanding? (10 minutes). During this part of the session we will introduce the sorts of situations typically encountered where people have different perspectives and often leave a requirements / planning session thinking they are all agreed, when in fact, they leave with different understandings about what was agreed.
  • Introducing Cards (40 mins). An exercise to introduce a card based technique that can help to reduce this issue. The exercise is non-software so everyone can be involved and participate. We ask participants to work in pairs, and first try the exercise without cards and then try it again using cards. Time to reflect on the use of the techniques is also built into this section.
  • Using cards to prioritize (10 mins). Again, in small groups, we set-up an exercise in prioritizing with cards, so that attendees get a sense of the different uses the card technique opens up for them.
  • Using cards to create models (25 mins). Continue exploring the uses of cards to create models using cards, and how that impacts the quality of the model and the shared understanding gained by the different participants in the modeling exercise.
  • How can you use cards tomorrow? (5 minutes). A summary of what has been covered and how attendees could use this technique on their projects tomorrow.
Further information concerning the exercises is included in the sample slides attachment.

Angela Martin, Martin IT Consulting Limited

Angela provides agile software development consultancy, training and coaching to teams and organizations. She specializes in "building the right thing" and works closely with organizational stakeholders, end-users, business analysts and software developers to bring agility into this space.

She has over thirteen years of software development experience and has been applying agile techniques since 2003. Angela also regularly presents at a number of well-known conferences, including Agile 200x, XP200x, XP Day 200x and OOPSLA 200x and teaches the Agile Methods course within the Software Engineering Programme at Oxford University. She has just completed serving a two-year term on the Agile Alliance Board of Directors.

History of the tutorial

This session has been run at the Agile Business Conference in London (we had to turn people away) and at the Agile Methods course at Oxford University.


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