I have been revisiting the Popendiecks’ 2003 book: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit.  One of the tools in the book is Set-Based Versus Point-Based approach.  This tool is based on Lean principle of amplifying learning. 

Point-Based approach is based on choices.  The authors represent this via the following an illustration:



Whereas, Set-Based approach is described as one about “constraints, not choices” and that it requires “significantly less data to convey far more information.”

I inadvertently stumbled on an opportunity to try out this tool, exactly in the way it is described in the book.  While facilitating a community of practice which has 9 team members, I had a need to schedule a meeting.  But, since we all work on different teams, coordinating simple schedules for this part-time effort is usually a challenge.  It would be simple to see everyone’s calendars and schedule a meeting.  However, many people don’t keep their calendars up to date.  Or they have blocked off time, but are actually available.

Even during face-to-face meeting, since people don’t have their schedules in front of them, they are reluctant to commit.  So it becomes hard to converge on a time.

My initial instinct was to use the point-based approach by letting everyone know the best time that worked for me.  But I decided to try the set-based approach.

Here is how I communicated the constraints via email to all the team members:

  • Apart from me, one particular team member needed to be present, as she had the key information on the topic
  • Additionally we needed 2-3 more team members
  • I provided 2 blocks of 2 hours each that I could meet for an hour long meeting

And lo and behold, within few minutes, I got the needed response.  What had in similar circumstances took a flurry of emails, and still no convergence; with this approach, we converged on time with just 1 email each from the team members.  Few let me know which time worked, others let me know they weren’t available.  And I was able to quickly pick a common hour that worked for half the team to meet.

It was great to see the tool in action.  Next, I am keeping my eyes open to use this on a development project.