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Topics on applying agile methods to creative interactive multimedia products
Updated: 4 hours 21 min ago

Gear Up! - A Leadership Transformation Story

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 18:00
This is a story about how effective vision for change can be made collaboratively  among leaders.  The practices used are documented in my recently released book (coauthored with Grant Shonkwiler):

Gear Up! Advanced Game Development Practices

By Clinton Keith

I recently visited a studio that had created a new game and was transitioning to live support for it, adding features and content on a regular cadence. They were struggling with establishing roles and process for this transition and although they had strong leadership in place they wanted help coaching the transition.

I spent three days with this remarkable group facilitating practices captured in my new book “Gear Up!”.  The first days consisted of learning about them by speaking with individuals.  As an outside coach, the key is to ask questions that are neutral and result in hearing what is important for them to communicate.  Powerful questions (page 76) provides some useful guidelines for this.  Typical questions asked were:
  • If you could change one thing, what would that be?
  • What things waste your time?
  • What's best about this group?
  • What is a real challenge here for you?
This exposed some divergent and shared opinions about responsibilities, process and where improvements should be made.

On the second day, we convened offsite in a small Remote Meeting Space (page 73).  The first step was to set the stage for the meeting, to establish goals, make a working agreement and air concerns.  Next I asked them to create a Premortem (page 59) that would reveal a set of shared and individual concerns about their game and studio.   These included:



  • A competitor game releasing a similar feature earlier
  • Late changes from the stakeholders
  • Key developers leaving the studio
  • Major quality problems discovered after deployment


They then prioritized those issues by impact and probability using a Risk Matrix (page 63) and began asking the Five Whys (page 94) on the highest priority concerns





Next we took a look at their existing process by creating a flow map using Visualize Your Feature Workflow (page 66).  Since such a flow is rarely mapped graphically, there is often a disconnect among a leads group about how their process works.  As a result, the big benefit of this  exercise was the discussion during mapping.

Following this, we discussed changes to the flow to address two things:

  • How to reduce the time, from concept-to-deployment, of the process flow for new features.
  • What changes might be effective in addressing the root cause failures they identified earlier.


Having created a new process flow map, we discussed roles and responsibilities.  A favorite of mine, similar to a RACI map, is the SRF map (page 70).  A SRF map identified the roles that sign off on, are responsible for or facilitate any activity in the process flow.  Again, the conversation among the leads is the most important part here and the facilitation by a coach can help them converge to agreements about the roles.

The last step was to test the updated process by throwing use case scenarios at it using the Table Challenge (page 28) practice.  These challenges were derived from the premortem and risk assessment practices.

Finally, the team committed with each other to hold retrospectives at a regular cadence and to review their throughput and the SRF map as part of the discussions on improving their product development flow.

As with the other practices in the book, these three days engaged conversation across the entire group creating a shared vision and vocabulary that is essential to implementing lasting and effective change.

Learn more about advanced practices.
Categories: Blogs

The Story Behind Gear Up!

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 19:03

Gear Up launched today!

Wow...seven years almost to the day since my first book.   What took so long?  Well, cranking out 250 pages of text, illustrations and doing most of the proofreading on my own took years.  I'm proud of the result, but it was a "check off the bucket list item" thing at the time.

This book was different.  First, let's visit its origin.

Developers always ask me “we’re having problems doing X with methodology Y, what should we do?”. My first answer is always “What have you tried?”.  I ask this because the best solutions usually come from the people doing the work and experimenting with new practices, not following so-called “best practices”.

“Best practices” implies there are none better. Practices will always change as do our players, technology and markets. This leads to experimental practices, where teams explore ways of adapting to change and improving how they work together.

Thinking about that original question, I think of all the experiments I’ve seen developing games, training and coaching at over 100 studios over the last decade.  I thought that if we could share these as a reference, it might spark that sense of experimentation with many developers.  Experimentation is key not only to creating great games, but creating great teams.

I had a GDC workshop coming up, so I decided to make it about such practices.

The "Shonk" and I sporting our
Rugby jerseys at GDCThe effort hit gold when I started asking for other developers to tell their stories.  One such developer was Grant Shonkwiler, a producer I’ve known for years who has worked on dozens of titles at some of the more renowned studios.  Grant started pumping in practices and ideas for the collection faster than I could keep up.  As a result, the workshop evolved to be a collaborative exercise in discussing and sharing advanced practices, or experiments as we liked to call them.

While collecting these practices, we established some criteria for what makes a practice “advanced”:
  • Experimental - Expressed as something we are doing to solve a specific problem. If it doesn’t solve it, we stop doing it. Implemented with the idea that it will be eliminated or someday replaced with something better.
  • Incremental - Not so large that we don’t see the benefit, at least in an iteration or release cycle of a few months. They can be validated quickly
  • Flexible – Not too specific so as to be adaptable to differing needs
  • Collaborative - Not imposed. Demonstrates consideration, and respect. 
  • Radiative - Visible. Creates transparency. There is sometimes an electronic solution, but they are only recommended for distributed teams
Following GDC, our little group grew to dozens and our collection grew to book-sized proportions which led us to publishing them.  As with the practices, the book is an experiment.  We expect the collection to continue growing, which is why it’s on LeanPub for now.  First, we’ll inspect what the industry says about our effort and adapt it from there.

This experience was a joy.  It felt like being on a team again, which I have sorely missed.  Maybe the next book won't take seven years!

If you are interested in learning more about the book, please visit
www.AdvancedGamePractices.com



- Clint

Categories: Blogs

Certified Agile Leadership course in San Diego April 25-27

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 15:01
The key to successful agile adoption and growth lies not only with developers, but studio leadership as well. We all know that cross-discipline teams iterating on features creates a benefit, but to achieve the far greater (and rarer) reward of developer engagement and motivated productivity, you need deeper cultural change.  This requires a shift in the mindset of leadership.
The Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) course provides this shift.  It distills the experience and wisdom of decades of experience applying agile successfully and leads to true leadership transformation.  In taking the course, I personally found that not only were my leadership approaches transformed, but it altered how I engaged with family, friends and my own life.
I will be joining the CAL course being taught by my friend and occasional co-trainer Peter Green In San Diego on April 25th through the 27th.  Please join us!
http://agileforall.com/course/cal1/
Categories: Blogs