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Enough of Processes: Let's Do Practices: Part III

A New Way of Using Practices

For practices to be useful, they need to be more than just something you read as a reminder or to understand an abstract concept (such as iterations). They must also help you understand your project and progress more effectively. We do this by further refining the card metaphor. Just as we have CRC (Class Responsibility and Collaborators) cards to identify and design classes, we use cards to facilitate almost every facet of software development.

This allows the cards to play a role throughout the project, rather than just being used when the team is learning or preparing to start work. With this in mind, we would like to highlight two ways to use the cards.

One way is when you work with the practices on the project. The cards make it easy to apply the practices and create tasks for the team to undertake. Among the most important things presented on the cards are the lifecycles of the things involved in the practice. These let the cards be used to visualize the current state of the project and determine the next move(s). You can do this as part of project planning or on the fly as the team decides what to do next. As you are always looking at the next move, you always know which parts of the selected practices to apply. If things have already been done or are already in place, then practices to achieve these results aren't needed and can be ignored.

Collections of cards can be assembled to represent the work to be done. By writing on the cards, we can capture exactly what's going on: estimates, progress to date, and who's doing what. We can then use the cards to build the backlog, the task lists, and the iteration plans.

By relating the work to the practices in this way, the practice information is always immediately at hand and it is clear which practices are to be applied when. They can even be tracked by sorting and writing on the cards, or by entering the work items they represent into a spreadsheet or task management tool.

A second way to use cards is when the team applies a single practice. One of the most exciting things about this approach is the ability to apply a single practice without changing the rest of the things being done on the project or reworking the things already produced. By using the kernel to drive the project forward from its current state to its desired state, you can apply the practices you need when you need them. This means that teams can select and experiment with new practices without undertaking long and wasteful process engineering or documentation exercises. Cards can also be useful when you plan and track the project, and when you improve your way-of-working.

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