Concrete, the C in CRT

This article expands on the Concrete in a Concrete Reflective Tool. Applying concrete tools is a good way to avoid alienating over half of your audience.

(This is part of the Introduction to CRT article, this expands on the nature and value of Concrete tools.)


The definition of concrete I use is:

representing or applied to an actual substance or thing, as opposed to an abstract quality

The idea is to focus on actual things, empirical examples, quantitative measures and visual or tactile things.

Kanban is a Lean (Toyota Production System) tool being applied to software development. At the Lean Kanban conference in Miami last year I heard three separate people leading Kanban teams say “people who never contributed before started sharing ideas up at the board”. This is huge. Getting people engaged _is_ the big win with any process change.

Kanban has a visual board, like most Agile teams, but includes many more concrete “levers” that Agile visual boards don’t have. How many columns? 4, 5, or 12? How may classes of services? 1, 2, 4? How many Features should be concurrently waiting for Acceptance? 2, 4, 20?

These are extremely concrete questions and answers. Everyone can participate and articulate an opinion about 2, 4, or 20.

Why is concrete so important? Concrete processing is applicable to more of the population. From Myers-Briggs we think we can generally divide people into, among other things, those that are “Sensing” and those that are “iNtuitive”. Studies have shown the following ratio is applicable to the population at large:

S-vs-N: 73.2% is S, 26.8% is N

This means that presenting abstract ideas or conclusions will be less absorbed by most of the population. In the technology fields this ratio is apparently closer.

A related idea is visualization, an important way to make things concrete. See the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for reference.

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