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Agile Software Narratives and other examples

February 14, 2009

Some time ago we announced a narratives project around the practice and community of Agile Software development. It got stuck for a while but, with now that Cognitive Edge has finished the new version of its fragment gathering system, we should be able to make some progress.

This reminded me once again of how, in opposition to the way most of us are trained, concrete examples are so effective when we’re trying to communicate; start from some examples and work out what they mean to us. In my world, I’ve seen how describing requirements in terms of examples (implemented as automated tests) has radically improved the quality of the systems I’ve worked on. Keith Braithwaite has a nice discussion of why examples seem to work linked from here.

Of course, the idea has been around for ever—that’s what Use Cases were supposed to be, and the Usability people have been working with “Personas” for decades—but things went astray when we started using metaphors about building construction.

What’s new is that we found an approach to doing this that works in practice, and that doesn’t involve endless discussions of turgid documents. What’s even better is that it seems to be a way for software people, who do abstraction for a living (or at least the good ones do), to communicate with everyone else, who have no idea what the geeks are talking about.

It’s important that we get this project moving again, because the Agile Software community should be hearing about the Cynefin approach. Cognitive Edge have speculated about using narrative fragments to drive system requirements, and we have the organisational tools to turn that into working systems.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.
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