Ellen will be presenting the following session
  • Ellen Grove

    Ellen Grove - Drawing Together (even when we're apart): Visual thinking for distributed teams

    45 Mins

    Moving to predominately remote ways of working has increased the challenges we face in reaching shared understandings of complex problems. And we need to be able to see the big picture together in order to really work effectively towards a common goal, especially when working as distributed teams. It’s hard enough to get people on the same page when we’re sitting together in the same room — achieving this when we are limited to communicating through online collaboration tools can be exhausting.

    But even when we are not together, we can make use of simple visualization techniques to help share what we know and to better appreciate others points of view. And we don't need fancy tools to do this – a marker, a piece of paper, and a webcam are sufficient to allow us to harness the power of visualization to improve understanding. In this interactive session, you’ll experience a simple exercise that you can use to help any group use visualization, mental models, and systems thinking to increase comprehension of complex interactions, even when working remotely. Please bring a sheet of paper and a marker — this will be hands-on!

1. What got you started/interested in modern software development methods?

I was luck enough to start my tech career on small close-knit teams where although we weren't really doing anything that might be recognized as agile we worked very collaboratively, tested through all phases, had to figure out how to get closer to our customers.  And so when the Big Company I worked with tried to introduce the One True Way to Deliver Software (based on having a huge team and long delivery cycles and old-school ways of thinking about software delivery) we had to become much more disciplined and intentional about what we were actually doing.

2. What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by the software product engineering community today?

There are still big gaps between "the development team" and the users and often with other entities in the value stream.  There is still not enough recognition that investing in quality all through the process (even if it takes more effort/brainpower/time at points along the way) results in better products in production.  And humans still like to gravitate over-optimistically towards 'easy' fixes and big-bang changes to solve deep organizational issues that require thought and probing and experimenation.

3. What do you think are the most exciting developments in software product engineering today?

I'm hoping that the budding recognition that making products accessible benefits *everyone* results in increased opportunities in software engineering orgs for people with lived experience of needing different ways of solving problems,  and better, more usable things for all of us.

4. Why did you choose the topic(s) you will be speaking about at the conference?

I wanted to talk about using low-tech visual thinking tools because one thing I'd noticed about everyone working remotely is that suddenly we were back to mostly talking and typing at each other to try to create shared meaning.  And everyone was feeling constrained by needing digital tools to support other kinds of interactions.  But if you have a camera, you can share pictures.  You don't need sophisticated digital graphics tools to be able to collaboratively draw pictures to help understand the work you're doing.

5. What are some of the key takeaways from your session(s) at Agile India?

Drawing is fun and easy and you don't need fancy tools to use drawing to dramatically improve shared understanding of complex systems and situations.

6. Which sessions are you particularly looking forward to attending at Agile India this year?

Charu Arora's session about visual strategic planning looks really interesting.  I'm always interested in anything that Angie Doyle and Talia Lancaster show up with about how to make facilitating hard work more playful.  And I think Faiza Yousef's talk about supercharging your personal growth will have some amazing insights

7. Any personal remarks/message you want to share with the software community?

.The past many months have been really challenging for all of us--massive disruption and too many personal losses.  But there have been some really amazing opportunities that have come with the shift to remote connection that have enabled us to come together in ways that weren't available before--so many opportunities to learn from and work with people we might not have encountered otherwise.  And it's definitely reinforced the criticality of recognizing that much less is certain and known than we like to think, so we must probe and experiment and always be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.