Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bags of Tricks

When you give an idea a name, you start a process of figuring out what it includes. In an Agile Coaching Circle in Helsinki, the instructor introduced their bag of tricks: things he often does as an agile coach, materials and activities of all sorts that sort of are his fingerprint - this you can expect of me.

On my way home from a meetup in a different city (3,5 hours train ride away) today I started to think about my bag of tricks and what it includes and does not:

What I have in my active bag of tricks - stuff that comes out without effort:

  • Presentation karaoke. I often bring out a "battledeck" and get people doing a friendly version of  this. There's no battle, other than within yourself. Random topics collected from the group, 5 random slides from a collection, with control over the timing and GO. 
  • Software to test. I have different apps I often whip up for a session of testing. And applicable documentation to test some parts of those. This piece seems to be one that is growing most in my tricks. 
  • Group learning activities. Getting people to mob or pair on tasks, or work on ideas to put them together in some sort of synthesis.  Running a retrospective in a few formats. Running Lean Coffee discussions. 
  • Games. I have a few I use on the games front, like playing 20 questions and learning strong-style pairing with a phone exercise.  
  • Stories.  There's stories I seem to be telling again and again. There's others that get forgotten. I need to make my stories a better part of my bag of tricks. 
  • Cheat sheets and summary sheets. I often notice myself going for Elisabeth Hendrickson et al's Cheat Sheet or Bach/Bolton's Exploratory Testing Dynamics or Michael Hunter's You Are Not Done Yet -checklist or Cem Kaner's Taxonomy of issues from his Testing Computer Software -book. These are distilled ideas over explanations. 
  • Common testing answers. There's things I say with autopilot, like responses to claims like "Everyone can test", "No user would do that" and questions like "Why didn't you find that bug?" and "Do testers need to be also programmers?"
  • Recruiting new speakers. This is my go-to topic whenever I'm struggling with social anxiety or feel the need of getting to know people. From finding out their topic to finding a place to share the topic in, it's an area of tricks. 

What I don't have in my active bag of tricks - ideas for extending:

  • Videos.
    Well, I have videos. I show one specific video often. But mostly I don't like showing videos. I'm too impatient to watch videos. Videos exist so that you can watch them without company. So I have my hangups on videos and thus I don't carry them around in my bag of tricks.  
  • Jokes.
    I feel I suck at telling jokes. Even worse than telling a joke is the idea of telling the joke again. 
  • Agile games.
    There's a whole bunch of games and exercises I've experienced that are useful ways of showing things. I notice myself often thinking I should activate (facilitate some myself) the knowledge of other people's simulations. 
  • Testing games.
    These are mostly things I've learned from James Bach and Michael Bolton. I find it uncomfortable for me to run these. Like getting people to play the Beer game (I just talk about it existing), or getting people to play the dice game. 
  • Article references.
    I rarely give people articles to read more on the topics on. I more often reference a book than an article. 
What kind of things are in your bag of tricks? How could we share more of this stuff?