SPA Conference session: Tracer bullets re-imagined

One-line description:"Ready, fire aim" to tune the development process, not just the product that you build
Session format: Workshop [read about the different session types]
Abstract:This is a re-imagining of the original Tracer Bullets at XpDay01, with a chance to reflect on what's changed in a decade of agile since the first session.

"There are two ways to fire a machine gun in the dark. You can find out exactly where your target is (range, elevation, azimuth) and the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind), determine the specification of the cartridges and bullets and the actual gun you are firing. You can use tables to calculate the exact bearing and elevation of the barrel and then, if the environment doesn't change, your bullets should land close to their target. Or you could use tracer bullets. Tracer bullets are loaded at intervals in the ammo belt alongside regular ammunition. When they're fired their phosphorus ignites and leaves a pyrotechnic trail from the gun to whatever they hit." -- quoted from The Pragmatic Programmer.

It's not about hitting a target, but rather constantly checking that you are heading in the right direction. It is better to try early and take small steps to improve your aim.

In this workshop attendees will experience an extreme simulation of building software using the principle of extensive feedback and evolution, which is at the core of XP. Teams will have to build a product from things like wood, sticky tape and pins in a non-software game within a short timeframe.

In our experience of working within agile teams, we have found that it is just as important to apply the principle of extensive feedback and evolution to the development process as it is to the software itself. We have found that a team applying XP will use the core practices as a recipe to create a specific XP flavour within its environment, and use feedback to adjust this recipe.

The workshop is structured so that we investigate and apply this principle and, through coaching and reflection, we expect to draw conclusions that show how to make the process itself as agile as the software developed.

Audience background:The workshop is open to both technical and non-technical people. You need not have direct experience of XP or agile processes to attend. We expect a mixture of developers, team leaders, analysts and a mix of non-XP and XP-users.
Benefits of participating:What will participants learn?
Tracer bullets challenges you to think differently about the way you work, and assists a team to build an agile process of their own recipe, and through extensive feedback follow an evolutionary path towards a solution.
Materials provided:We'll provide all the materials used to build tools within the workshop ( we will need flipcharts and presentation screen)
Process:Participants will be split in to teams, and asked to perform two practical sessions where they work as a group towards a goal. The practical sessions will be embedded within a few short presentation pieces and coaching.
Detailed timetable:Schedule
00.01-00.10 Intro & rules, some way to group attendees (on way in to room?) by agile experience.

00.11-00.35 Game 1, in teams. Simple object to measure. 7 mins access.
00.36-00.45 Debrief, in teams. What's in the box, show the drawing. How did you get here?

00.46-00.55 TracerBullets presentation
Focus on planning the process. Not just iterative, need structure, tests, review, (measurements), need a process, XP as recipe.

00.56-01.10 Coaching
Teams decide how to apply TracerBullets to the next game by designing a process that fits. Use coach nuggets (see notes) to help plan their process. Also suggest terms (see notes) to express their planned progress.

01.11-01.40 Game 2, in teams.
More complex object. Extra suggestion to draw an estimate of the shape and note changes in the iteration at end of each iteration. Use structured Flip chart sheets - eg: one diagram per page.

01.41-02.00 Group discussion and team flip chart preparation
As one group we have a short discussion how Game 2 went. We will ask some questions (see notes) that help focus the flipcharts on the process changes and effect.
The teams prepare a presentation that focuses on the effect the process(changes) had on their activities.

02.01-02.15 Teams conclusions
We ask the teams how they experienced the difference between Game 2 and Game 1. Assuming 6 teams they all will have 2 minutes to present their conclusions.

02.16-02.30 What's changed in 10 years?
Rob and Paul will present their view on agile over the last 10 years, what's changed and how relevant tracer bullets is now. Level of agile adoption, small percentage of people pushing boundaries, more focus now on retrospective on process.
Outputs:Flip chart, drawings from the workshop, conclusions from the group discussions.
History:OT2001, XPDay03, XPDays 2003 (Benelux), OT2004, Agile2006, XPDays 2012 (Benelux)
1. Paul Simmons
Rochester Software House
2. Rob Westgeest
Westgeest Consultancy