Essence and Problem Solving Blog

November 16, 2019

Let’s start a conversation on integrating Essence into day to day activities as a thinking framework and general problem-solving tool

I received a question on the title of last week’s blog– “The value of listening to people who think differently from yourself.

To clarify, if it wasn’t already clear to you, there are two distinct groups of people I was referring to.  First, are the SEMAT volunteers from around the world who shared their different perspectives based on their own experiences and culture.  The second group is the reviewers of my “Shy Boys” book who– as I explained in the blog– shared their own experiences and perspectives in helping me write a better book.

This week I would like to start a conversation (or get your feedback) on an idea I received from one of those book reviewers that really appeals to me, and I am particularly interested in hearing the thoughts from those of you who are in the education field.

This reviewer was a software developer in industry and had gone back to the university to teach software engineering to our next generation of software professionals.

Let me first give you some context for the reviewer’s comment.

In Chapter Fifteen of the book I refer to a discussion I had with Watts Humphrey shortly before his passing in 2010 and I state:

Part of training in how to act professionally includes how to listen, learn, improve and work collaboratively as a team member. These essential elements to software engineering success are found within the Essence framework Team Alpha checklists.”

This reviewer made the following related comment:

“Most Computer Science programs have a Software Engineering class, but the common issue is that the ideas are isolated within that particular class. In many programs, mine included, the software engineering class  is presented in the third year, after the basics are taught. You highlighted in this book the idea that you believed Watts wanted to make sure graduates had the proper attitude. One class in a computer science degree, as I learned over the years, doesn’t influence students enough to keep it present. I think we need to take a wholistic approach… We need a curriculum that integrates these ideas into the day to day activities without having to detail the activity in a text. While I was pleased that you and your colleagues produced a textbook, I think it might be more helpful to use “stealth mode” within the classroom environment. How to accomplish this could be your next book!”

 This comment got me thinking about how such a “wholistic approach” might be implemented in a university environment and one idea that occurred to me was to use Essence as a thinking framework to aid problem-solving in multiple computer science courses.

Just to provide a few examples where I think Essence could be integrated into existing courses, consider the fact that most computer science curriculums today have distinct courses in Cybersecurity, Computer Ethics, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, and Software Requirements/Design/Testing.

Each of the computer science courses mentioned above provides its own unique perspective into critical challenges related to developing software.  Each of these perspectives brings its own set of common problems, or challenges, that students need to be exposed to, and learn how to go about dealing with in a professional way.

As a common ground for all software engineering endeavors, Essence could be used in each of these classes to demonstrate to students how to go about analyzing such challenges, identifying related root causes, and assessing options and consequences of possible decisions.

What I am suggesting could provide a path to achieving the “wholistic approach” my reviewer referred to by helping to teach our next generation of software practitioners what it means to act professionally when it comes to the common challenges they are likely to face when they enter industry.

One potential advantage to this idea is that it doesn’t require university professors to make major changes to their existing course curriculums as Essence is integrated into the existing course material as a tool that aids critical thinking and problem-solving.  This approach also can help students learn practical ways to use Essence to address common challenges they are likely to face in industry.

Another potential advantage to this idea ties back to one of the potential problems we are trying to solve with Essence as I state in Chapter One of my “Shy Boys” book.  That is, the fact that “there isn’t commonly accepted software engineering terminology so when new graduates come out of school with computer science degrees and go into industry they have a whole new set of terms to learn, and then if they change  jobs and move to another company they  have to relearn a whole new set again.”

By integrating Essence into multiple computer science courses as a thinking framework and general problem-solving tool we can continually reinforce the Essence standard terminology so it becomes the natural language of choice for new graduating computer science students as they enter industry.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this idea, particularly from those of you within the education field.

If you believe this idea might have merit, I am also interested in hearing about any specific problem scenarios you may be currently using, or thinking about using, in your course material.

We can then use such scenarios to continue this conversation by providing practical demonstrations of the power of Essence as an aid to critical thinking and problem-solving related to these timely computer science topics.

To be clear, what I am suggesting is not intended to replace a first course in Software Engineering using Essence, but rather to show how Essence can be effectively integrated into other common computer science courses as an aid to critical thinking and as a general problem-solving tool.

Looking forward to hearing your feedback and keeping this conversation going!

May 16, 2019

Using Essence in “stealth mode” to help solve a Cybersecurity Challenge

September 12, 2018

Cybersecure Software: New twists to well-known questions every developer should be asking

In this short video new cybersecurity twists to well-known questions every software developer should be asking are explored.

Alternatively, the video could have been titled:

What do we really mean when we say Essence checklists are not “check-the-box” checklists, and you will understand why as you get into the video.

As always, feedback is encouraged.

April 6, 2018

Making the Heart of Agile concrete: Essence

Did you ever pick up a book, expecting to learn a new approach to software development and you get about 50 pages into it, and you stop and think, “What the heck is new here?”

If this resonates with you, then you might be interested in a talk I am giving at the Heart of Agile conference in Pittsburgh in just a few weeks on April 26.

http://heartofagile.com/heart-of-agile-conferences/heart-of-agile-pittsburgh-2018/

In this talk I explain how the software engineering community can solve this frustrating problem we all face.  And I will share concrete examples and success stories demonstrating how your coaches and developers can use Essence today in what I call “stealth mode” to strengthen your teams implementation of the Heart of Agile, regardless of your agile implementation approach.

Hope to see you in Pittsburgh!

 

February 21, 2018

Making software development as simple as possible, but not simpler

This short video blog explores a recent claim by Alistair Cockburn that agile has gotten too complicated and it does so in the context of what Albert Einstein once said about simplicity.

February 10, 2018

The essence of how Essence makes practitioners better for life

February 4, 2018

How Essence Makes Practitioners Better Software Estimators for a Lifetime

This is the fourth short video-blog (roughly 9 minutes) in my 2018 series on Essence and Software Engineering. As always feedback is encouraged.

 

January 27, 2018

How Essence Makes Practitioners Better Software Modelers for a Lifetime

This is the third short video-blog (roughly 8 minutes) in my 2018 series on Essence and Software Engineering. As always feedback is encouraged.

 

January 19, 2018

Things You Can Take with You For a Lifetime

This is the second short video-blog (roughly 7 minutes) in my 2018 series on Essence and Software Engineering. As always feedback is encouraged.

 

 

January 11, 2018

Motivation for Essence in 7 Minutes

Over the next few weeks I am planning a series of short videos on selected Essence and Software Engineering topics.  Following are a few tentatively planned topics:

  • Using Essence Alphas like the Dashboard in Your Car
  • Scrum and Essence: An Example of What Practitioners Can Take with them for Life
  • Examples Demonstrating How Essence Checklists Are Different from Traditional Checklists
  • Examples Demonstrating How Essence Checklists Help Teams Become Self-Empowered
  • Examples Demonstrating How Essence Activity Spaces Can be Used in Industry
  • How Essence Can Help Teams Determine if they have a Leadership or a Management Problem
  • Examples of a Team Using Essence as a Reasoning Tool to Solve Common Problems
  • A Case Study of a Team that used Essence to Help Them Discover an Innovative Solution To a Difficult Problem
  • Examples of a Team Using Essence Competencies to Determine if They Have a Skills Problem
  • A Skill Practitioners Can Take with Them for Life: Making More Accurate Estimates using Essence

I start off this series this week with a 7 minute video motivating Essence.  As always feedback is encouraged.

If you are interested in learning more about how Scrum and Essence are partnering, checkout the latest announcement on the SEMAT website (www.semat.org).

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