This post is designed to give you a solid strategy for discussing and agreeing on different aspects of the task ahead, during a traditional Agile development “3 Amigos” planning session.

What is a “3 Amigos” planning session?

Three amigos refers to the primary perspectives to examine an increment of work before, during, and after development. Those perspectives are:

  • Business – What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Development – How might we build a solution to solve that problem?
  • Testing – What about this, what could possibly happen?

People holding these different perspectives should collaborate to define what to do, and agree on how they know when it is done correctly. The end result of such a collaboration results in a clearer description of an increment of work often in the form of examples, leading to a shared understanding for the team.

It’s also good practice for to review increments of the product that have been implemented to make sure it’s correct from those different perspectives.

The concept of three amigos intends to balance between no collaboration between people with different perspectives and involving an entire team in discussing all the details of every increment of work.

Source: Agile Alliance

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

The “Six Thinking Hats” process is a simple, and effective parallel thinking process that helps team members be more mindfully focused on a discussion topic, and ultimately more productive as a team.

Each thinking role in the discussion is identified with a coloured symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching hats, team members can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting into the most valuable discussion points.

The hats are described as follows:

Six coloured Thinking Hats

The White Hat calls for information known or needed. “The facts, just the facts.”

The Yellow Hat symbolises brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.

The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.

The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.

The Green Hat focuses on creativity; the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.

The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats® guidelines are observed.

Combining concepts

Let’s run through the different hats, and some example “3 Amigos” discussion points they might bring into the discussion.

Blue hat - The Thinking Process facilitator’s hat

This person (often the PO) manages the flow of the conversation and make sure all hats have been worn, and different aspects raised have been discussed and noted.

White hat - The Facts hat.

  • What dependencies do we have (deadlines, time, people availability)?
  • What is the scope of the work?
  • What data/information/facts are driving this feature/decision/direction?
  • What further information would improve our mental model of this?
  • What data or information do we expect to gather from this work, and how will we use it?
  • How will we measure success or failure?
  • Are we sure about…?
  • Are we thinking logically about the work, rather than emotionally?

Red hat - The Feelings, Hunches & Intuition hat.

  • Is this work being driven solely by intuition?
  • What assumptions are we making?
  • How do we feel about this piece of work?
  • What feelings do we expect the user of this to feel?
  • Have we documented the feelings/intuition, to understand it’s validity in future?

Green hat - The Creative hat.

  • Is this piece of work the right thing for the problem we’re solving for?
  • What other ways can we solve the problem?
  • What different ways might we do this work?

Black hat - The Caution hat.

  • What risks are associated with this piece of work? What might go wrong?
  • Where do they sit on a risk matrix?
  • Do we need to mitigate anything, or accept the risks?
  • How do we recover from problems?
  • Should we use a 3-point estimate (min/ likely / max) for this work as a buffer?
  • Should we give advanced warning of the potential impact of failure to stakeholders?
  • What is the absolute ‘worst case’ for this work?

Yellow hat - The Optimism hat.

  • We know what we need to create.
  • We know how it will make customers feel.
  • We’re happy that the piece of work will solve the problem.
  • We’ve identified and mitigated risks.
  • Now we get to deliver some amazing functionality.
  • We should schedule a demo.
  • We should get customers to look at the work.

Summary

Hopefully this post has started you off thinking about how the Six Thinking Hats might help your teams to discuss and agree on different aspects of the task ahead. That in turn should lessen ambiguity, give greater clarity on what you’re working on, and reduce issues you might otherwise have found later in the process.

Also, a huge thanks to one of my colleagues, Rachel Maher for bringing the Six Thinking Hats idea to my attention to begin with.