SPA Conference session: Where do I start?

One-line description:What are the best things you can do to orientate yourself and become effective when you arrive in a new organization or take on a new role in an existing one?
Session format: Workshop (75 minutes) [read about the different session types]
Abstract:Whatever level you work at in an organization it is challenging to become effective quickly when you first arrive. In most cases you need a degree of context to be able to make effective decisions, whether that is understanding the codebase or understanding the power structures in the organization. Different aspects of context will be more important in different roles but there is probably a continuum of knowledge that is useful to differing degrees.

What we are looking to gather are a mixture of technical and non-techincal practices. For example, from a technical perspective, if there is no system architecture diagram it might make it easier to understand the new system you are working with if you try to draw one, asking questions as you go. From a non-technical perspective you might want to make a map of how the different managers in the hierarchy fit together and what their responsibilities are.

We are interested to know whether there are techniques that could be applied in more than one scenario which could include:

* Joining an organization as a fulltime employee
* Being promoted to a new role in an organization
* Moving to another part of an existing organization
* Arriving in an organization as a contractor or consultant

We are also interested to know which techniques can be applied more than one role and which ones are less useful in one role than another. These roles could include:

* Developer
* Team leader
* Analyst/Tester
* Coach
* Architect
* Project manager

Other angles might include whether different techniques apply at different levels or whether different techniques apply in different sizes of organization.

This workshop aims to answer some of these questions by drawing on the experience of the attendees and session leaders, reflecting on what has worked for people in a context and forming up a toolkit of techniques and mechanisms people can try to apply in their own work environment.
Audience background:Anyone who has had a role in any organization.
Benefits of participating:Validate if any of the techniques you have found useful are likely to work in a different context.

Learn some new techniques and practices you could apply next time you change role or even use them to reboot your current role.
Materials provided:Pen pictures of three organizations, one big, one medium and one small, that can be used to try and validate whether a given technique is likely to work,
Process:The session will start with brainstorming in small groups. People with similar roles and similar organizational contexts will be gathered into groups to come up with some practices that they have found helpful, capturing the practice, the role, the size of organisation, and the scenario. They should also make a note of why they think it helped. Groups will probably want to constrain themselves to a number of scenarios, roles and organizational sizes to get a coherent set. These practices will be formed into a display.

In the next phase, people from other groups will assess whether any of the techniques could apply in their own role and context combination. If someone spots something from another group that either: a) jogged their memory about something they had done themselves or b) sounded like a really good idea they wish they had used, then they should make a note.

When people return to their groups they can negotiate to add into their list any newly remembered/discovered practices that they think are relevant to the contexts and roles they have discussed. A second round of brainstorming will then involve integration of any new practices into the group's existing list and ranking of the importance of the practices.

The final phase will be a quick review of the top ranked practices of the different groups.
Detailed timetable:00:00 - 00:05 Objectives and process
00:05 - 00:10 Sort into suitable groups
00:10 - 00:30 Initial brainstorm
00:30 - 00:40 Gallery
00:40 - 01:00 Second brainstorm and prioritization
01:00 - 01:15 Top ranked tips and reflections
Outputs:The top ranked techniques will be published on the conference wiki
History:No history
1. Andy Longshaw
Blue Skyline
2. Eoin Woods
3. Nick Rozanski
Barclays Capital