Myth: "Agile teams don't document."
Truth: Some of the best documentation we've ever seen comes from Agile teams.

Agile Engineering practices have revolutionized the ways in which documentation is treated and produced. In high-stakes environments with heavy compliance and audit requirements, a tendency toward exhaustive documentation is dangerously common. This workshop provides direct guidance and simple tools to help a document-heavy workplace think differently about documentation.

I have developed this workshop to help an organization reframe their understanding of documentation with respect to knowledge work in complex environments so that they may eliminate unnecessary artifacts and simplify/automate others.

 
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Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Segement 1

1. In this segment, participants will work in table-groups of 5±2 to list all documents which come to mind. A canvas of my design will be given to each table-group which they'll populate with stickies. Examples: UI design, test plan, Project Plan, tech spec, SoW. Also email, chat messages, contracts, flow diagrams, audit evidence, test results, prototypes, source code, Master Service Agreements, etc.

Before moving to segment 2, ensure each group has at least these on their worksheet:
• Contract • Requirement • Artboard (or synonym) • Test plan
• Test result • Source code • Usage guide • Installation guide

Segment 2

In segment 2, we clarify the ‘Point of Implementation’. The ‘Point of Implementation’ is the point in time that a new behaviour/feature/requirement/element is codified into the product. If thinking in terms of a new feature, consider the moment the source code is being altered to produce the new behaviour – the new feature is said to have been “implemented” when a human can execute the new feature. If thinking in terms of a bug fix, consider the moment the source code is being adjusted to correct the undesirable behaviour. In this way, each Point of Implementation for an adjustment to the Product *follows* some activity, such as discussion, designing, or experimentation. And each Point of Implementation for an adjustment *is followed by* automated testing, deployment, and real-world use of the new feature.

Segment 2 ends when everyone understands this definition of ‘Point of Implementation’ — even if they don't yet agree with it, they can understand and use this definition for the remainder of this workshop.

Segment 3

1. The participants will be provided instruction to alter their canvas slightly (i.e. labels get added to the game board).

2. Participants will move and group their sticky-notes accordingly. All documents which are “done” prior to a Point of Implementation shall be moved upward on the canvas; all documents which are “done” at or after a Point of Implementation shall be moved below.

Examples: A requirements document (like Product Backlog Item) is most-often used as a planning document before implementation. Source code is often contributed at the point of implementation. An automated acceptance test (TDD or BDD) is contributed during implementation and the results of the test are known after implementation. [Below.]

Remark: As in the previous segment, cognitive dissonance and argument may occur – usually in work environments where the release of source code (into production environments) is considered “implementation”. In waterfall settings, the point in time when source code is committed (i.e. implemented) and the point in time when that same source code is launched (i.e. released) may be segregated by days or months. In Agile Engineering environments, those points in time (between implementation and release) may be minutes.

Regardless, with our working definition of 'Implementation', the Point of Implementation occurs, not when the code is released into production environments, but when the code is committed to the repository – that is when the new functionality is said to be “implemented in the Product”.

Segment 3 ends when each group has finished moving their stickies and when the facilitator confirms that at least these are above the horizontal:
• Contract • Requirement • Artboard • Test plan

And at least these are below:
• Test result • Source code • Usage guide • Installation guide

Segment 4

We actively seek and practice ways to maximize simplicity and value while also keeping waste to a minimum. The following guiding principles will help a team to develop those agile practices as they seek to maximize simplicity and value of their work and product.

1. Documents which inform decisions leading up to a Point of Implementation are kept:
- Lightweight
- Disposable

In this category, all dialogue is conjecture. (Speculation, not specification!)

2. Documents which record the condition of the Product *at* a Point of Implementation are kept:
- Version-controlled with the Increment
- User-centric/audience-specific

In this category, documents are valuable because they increase transparency of 'done' product.


Segment 5

Table-groups will discuss ways to radically simplify and/or automate the documents listed on their canvas. And for each, if the quality expectations described in Segment 4 cannot be achieved, the document will be removed from the canvas and discarded.

Closing

Table-groups will be invited to list the documents they were able to remove from their canvas. Celebration will ensue!

Learning Outcome

Attendees will:

1. Reframe their understanding of documentation with respect to knowledge work in complex environments. (Documents are not truth. They are snapshots of current understanding. If not treated carefully, they create fiction not transparency.)

2. Reframe their understanding of 'implementation' — when does it occur in product development? (Hints: it isn't a phase or project milestone; it is every moment in which a decision is codified in *the product*.)

3. Compare the purpose of artifacts/documents produced pre and post implementation. (Documents pre-implementation do not represent decisions; they represent, at best, incomplete information. Documents created at-or-after the point of implementation have potential value but are frequently made obsolete with the next increment.)

4. Appraise commonly-used documents with respect to customer-value. (Documents are often produced because someone demanded they be done; but many documents are not the artifacts that any customer is willing to pay for. How might we focus on documentation which has actual value?)

5. Consider and describe ways each artifact may be eliminated or simplified. (Like eliminating a Business Requirements Document in favour of a flexible/dynamic Product Backlog, how might an Agile team simplify the design and production of necessary artifacts/documents.)

Target Audience

Business Analysts, Architects, Project Managers, Auditors, Product Managers, Delivery Managers, Quality Assurance Managers, Risk Managers, Software Engineers, and anyone new to Agile work.

Prerequisites for Attendees

Some exposure to Agile Engineering Practices would be helpful, but not required. Example: Test-driven development; Version Control; Continuous Integration; User Story; Incremental/Emergent Architecture.

schedule Submitted 10 months ago

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