Libra: Learning and Inquiry-Based Reuse Adoption / Edition 1

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"Could software reuse play an important role in your organization? For over two decades, a dedicated community of software engineering researchers and practitioners have wrestled with the challenges of introducing systematic reuse in large-scale software development. Successful systematic reuse relies on a set of learning disciplines that can transform IT-intensive groups and companies into knowledge creating organizations. These disciplines require shifts in fundamental, implicit beliefs about software technology, knowledge sharing, and organizational realities. Without a grasp of these underlying dynamics, reuse advocates may actually strengthen resistance to reuse initiatives in the engineering culture of software organizations, while rational concerns about cost justifications or technology transfer issues fall secondary.

In the groundbreaking book, four experts with broad experience in reuse research, methods, technologies, and practice present a unique approach to reuse assessment and adoption, which directly addresses these challenges. LIBRA offers a radically new, inquiry-based approach grounded in practical techniques for assessing an organization's readiness for reuse, as well as potential barriers. These techniques integrate reuse concepts with a diverse set of other disciplines, including organizational learning, dramatic theory, and belief mapping to affirm the critical role of culture, belief, and attitude in engineering success.

LIBRA is essential reading for software project managers, strategic planners, CTOs and technology transfer agents, or working software engineers; and especially any advocate attempting to introduce reuse practices within anIT-intensive business setting. The multidisciplinary nature of this practical reference will also interest change agents in non-software fields, such as knowledge management and organizational development; and can serve as a graduate-level text for software engineering or management specialty courses.

For a sneak peek at the front matter
or a look at the first chapter,"

Sponsored by:
IEEE Computer Society

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Editorial Reviews

Offers a inquiry-based approach to software reuse and adoption that suggests practical techniques for assessing an organization's readiness for reuse, as well as potential barriers. The techniques integrate reuse concepts with a diverse set of other disciplines, including organizational learning, dramatic theory, and belief mapping to affirm the role of culture and attitude in engineering success. The four authors present a fictional case study along with a set of commentaries that illustrates implementation of the techniques. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780780360099
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Authors Sidney C. Bailin is founder and president of Knowledge Evolution, Inc. Previously, he was a vice president of engineering at Computer Technology Associates, where he played a leading role in that company's software technology program. Dr. Bailin's 22 years of software experience ranges from the development of production real-time communications systems to R & D in information agents. He has been active in the software reuse community for the past 14 years, and is best known in that community for introducing the KAPTUR methodology, which links reuse to rationale capture.

Mark A. Simos is founder of Synquiry Technologies, Ltd., a Boston-area software company developing advanced technology for agent-based metadata modeling and application composition. He has 20 years of experience in software engineering R & D, including more than a decade's experience consulting on strategic reuse and domain engineering to numerous commercial and government organizations. Mr. Simos was principal developer of Organization Domain Modeling (ODM), a leading domain engineering methodology, and co-authored several other reuse guidebooks under the auspices of the DARPA STARS program, including the original LIBRA report.

Larry Levine has 20 years of experience in consultation, product development, and management research. He is co-creator of Whole System Design (WSD), an approach integrating changes to culture, work processes, and systems. Mr. Levine has led or collaborated on strategic change initiatives within numerous healthcare, high technology and technology-enabled workplaces, including New England Memorial Hospital, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens-Nixdorf, RationalSoftware, U.S. DoD, New Brunswick Telephone (Canada), Shell Chemical, Shell Oil, L. L. Bean, Fidelity Investments, IBM, and EMC.

Richard Creps, a senior staff applications software engineer with Lockheed Martin Corporation, has more than 23 years of commercial and defense-related software technology R & D experience. His technical leadership in software reuse and domain engineering on the DARPA STARS program culminated in the development of the original LIBRA report on which this book is based. Currently, Mr. Creps is applying his expertise to the development of advanced, collaborative military planning capabilities.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures.
Perspectives on the Problem.
LIBRA Conceptual Foundations.
Core LIBRA Tools and Techniques.
Reuse Adoption Scenario and Analysis.
New Conversations.
Putting LIBRA into Practice.
Recommended Reading.
About the Authors.
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First Chapter

Chapter 1


1.1.1 The Problem
Software reuse is a multidisciplinary field concerned with the “art of not rein-venting the wheel” in software development. Progress in introducing reuse as a comprehensive practice within software or-ganizations has been disappointing in many respects. Reuse advocates who have seen their efforts frustrated have long acknowledged the influence of organizational and cultural factors and the resistance of individual engineers as primary barriers to adoption of reuse practices. Though these well-known factors of culture, belief, and attitude are often used as explanations for the failure of reuse initiatives, they fall outside the scope of most systematic reuse planning processes. Lacking systematic ways to address issues of receptivity and resistance, reuse advocates too often fall into a mode of persuasion and exhortation, preaching the reuse gospel to recalcitrant and skeptical engineers and managers. In our experience, this style of interaction is self-defeating, fails to persuade most people to change their practices or their be-liefs, and may even incite more resistance on the part of the unbelievers. We begin by • Summarizing what this book is about: key features of the LIBRA ap-proach and the problems it aims to address. • Describing the intended audience of the book and the benefits each type of reader should gain. • Explaining the unusual style and structure of the book, and offering some tips for how to read and use it.

1.1.2 LIBRA: A Qualitatively Different Approach
In response to these problems, we have developed a new and different ap-proach, which we call Learning and Inquiry-Based Reuse Adoption, or LIBRA. The central insight of this approach is that systematic reuse is one aspect of mature orga-nizational learning in a software organization. To transform an organization into one that exhibits such qualities, processes need to be established that allow software development knowledge to be more ef-fectively shared, exchanged, refined—in short, reused—within the organization. In any given organization, attempts to introduce these processes and their associated interactions are met with a unique mix of receptivity and resistance that stems from people’s beliefs, values, and concerns about knowledge sharing. Reuse can be both propelled and stalled by strong beliefs of software developers, managers, and users—beliefs about software, about organizations, and about people. Typically, conflicts in beliefs among people in an organization lead to a vicious cycle of advo-cacy and resistance. To break this cycle, a different approach is needed: one based on inquiry, rather than advocating, preaching, or proselytizing the virtues and advantages of reuse as an abstract thing. Unlike the argumentative style of championing the reuse cause, inquiry requires an effort to model another’s belief or perspective without judging it, or immediately comparing it to one’s own, or trying to change it.

Inquiry, we believe, plays an essential role in reuse assessment and planning. You start by asking questions: What past history at that company has left people skeptical of such initiatives? How threatened do people feel that if they “spill the beans” and share their knowledge freely, their value to the company might be com-promised? Maybe they’d even lose their job?

Besides deriving the necessary data for assessment, inquiry is often more effec-tive than advocacy in producing real and lasting change in an organization. The im-portance of inquiry increases the more the desired change concerns beliefs and values rather than a simple transfer of information. Inquiry is an integral part of the core interactions by which reuse happens on a day-to-day level in a software shop. Reuse happens when people have conversa-tions to support learning and to codify knowledge—what we call knowledge cre-ation— in addition to production goals. Other planning techniques can suggest who should hold the conversations and what their content should be: but inquiry is es-sential to the success of the conversations. Assessment, adoption, and sustained reuse are all linked through the common theme of inquiry.

1.1.3 LIBRA Tools and Techniques
As the name implies, LIBRA is an approach to reuse assessment, adoption, and practice in which learning and inquiry are key integrating principles. LIBRA starts from a view of systematic reuse as a form of organizational learning. The approach requires a close look at the culture and belief patterns of key individuals, the organi-zation, and the proponents of reuse. This perspective allows us to address many real-world problems encountered in introducing reuse—problems not accounted for by strictly technical approaches, nor by approaches that emphasize the business case, nor by models that view reuse as a technology to be transferred. To support these principles, we have selected, adapted, and integrated several conceptual tools. Some techniques were borrowed from the organizational learning field, some adapted from other sources, some newly minted. The tools stem from a common, learning-oriented view of software reuse. Each tool helps to improve skills for inquiry, reflection, and dialogue about software reuse opportunities. They are integrated into a tailorable, structured self-assessment framework that can be ex-tended to include other techniques as well.

There are four major LIBRA tools, described in detail in Chapter 4: Dramatic scenarios are used to describe individual and organizational inter-actions. Scenarios help us see people not only in light of their structural roles within the organization, but also in terms of their beliefs, values, and personal interests as stakeholders. Dramatic scenarios help reuse change agents to de-velop the required observation and reflection skills to be able to read such sit-uations clearly.

Chapter 5 contains a hypothetical case study in the form of a dramatic scenario. The chapter includes an extended analysis of the case study, identi-fying both productive and problematic interactions among the characters. Al-though dramatic scenarios have proven useful in general change management contexts, they have seldom been applied to software reuse assessment. They were first piloted in a software context at the Seventh Workshop on Institu-tionalizing Reuse (WISR7) in 1995 [Lato96]. In developing the Chapter 5 scenario (and other similar ones) we gained substantial new knowledge about the process (both dos and don’ts). In this book we include guidance reflecting these experiences.

  • System diagrams are used to illustrate patterns observed within scenarios. They depict a series of interactions (and perhaps forces that prevent interac-tions) linked together into a system that has persistence (it continues over time) and resistance (it cannot easily be changed). Resistance can be good or bad: sustainability or robustness for patterns we want to remain in place, stubbornness for patterns we want to change. We provide examples of inter-action patterns at both the micro level (e.g., dramatized or idealized conver-sations) and at the macro level (larger strategic pictures of business settings, market forces, organizational structure). System diagrams are an established technique in other fields such as psy-chology and organizational development. Our use of them is particularly modeled on [Seng90], which vividly describes the workings of a learning or-ganization.
  • Belief maps describe relationships between diverse beliefs that individuals hold on a common topic. An individual belief can be thought of as an under-lying theory someone uses in evaluating proposed plans or guiding personal actions. Beliefs exist within a network of supporting and conflicting beliefs. Belief mapping involves seeing beliefs in relation to each other. Achieving the ability to see your own beliefs within the map and understand their rela-tionships with other beliefs is a significant reflective step. Our use of belief maps borrows from ideas in cultural anthropology and ethnography.
  • Inquiry techniques: The Ladder of Inquiry is a framework for assessing the level of inquiry within conversations. It provides a way to keep conversations focused on areas of interest while cooling down interactions. People can then reflect and listen better, and discussion of undiscussables can take place. In-quiry techniques such as the ladder are essential for deriving the full value of the scenarios, system diagrams, and belief maps. The Ladder of Inquiry is an adaptation of the Ladder of Inference, intro-duced by Chris Argyris in his work on learning organizations [Argy92]. Together, scenarios, system diagrams, belief maps, and the Ladder of Inquiry can be used as an integrated, flexible toolkit for identifying important beliefs and interaction patterns, understanding how they may inhibit or enable reuse in your or-ganization, and exploiting that understanding to improve reuse.

The book has a very practical focus. It is primarily targeted toward reuse propo-nents, that is, engineers, managers or technology advisers who are familiar with software development realities, are generally aware of major issues in reuse adop-tion, and are looking for practical strategies to help their companies (or clients) tran-sition toward more systematic reuse. We offer advice and tips for introducing reuse into an organization gracefully and with lasting impact, by overcoming or avoiding the many forms of resistance that a proponent may encounter. The book is very consciously and explicitly not intended to persuade readers about the benefits of systematic reuse. We omit much available data about the eco-nomic and other benefits of reuse. Our omission of such data does not imply that the data do not exist. Rather, the point of the book is to explore why reuse efforts some-times fail after all such material has been presented (and even believed). If you are a reuse proponent, after reading this book you should be able to:

  • Recognize patterns of belief and behavior that serve as motivators or barriers to reuse adoption in your organization.
  • Elicit and understand the evidence or experiences underlying those beliefs.
  • Recognize your own beliefs within this repertoire of patterns and reflect on how those beliefs affect you in your role as a reuse proponent.
  • Apply this understanding to create new interactions that foster, and in fact ex-emplify, reuse.

The book is applicable to a broad range of organizational settings. Proponents typically work (or consult) with an organization that acquires, develops, and/or main-tains software-intensive systems as a critical or core process of its business operations. The setting could be a product development company, a services company where em-ployee knowledge is the key asset, a government software acquisition organization, a government contractor with development or maintenance contracts, or a large bank or manufacturing company that develops and uses custom applications to support in-house operations. The approach can be applied in concert with virtually any technical software development method, including product-line architecture-based methods, web development, and knowledge management. It applies whenever software tech-nology is driving fundamental change in business strategies or processes.

Software engineers and managers new to the reuse field, interested as potential advocates or because they are making reuse technology purchase decisions, will gain a perspective that allows them to assess the claims and beliefs of reuse proponents. Those concerned with more general software engineering management (managers, supervisors, and consultants) will gain a better understanding of how reuse dovetails, overlaps, and contrasts with other organizational change and productivity approaches. Even reuse skeptics should find this book useful. It will help them to articulate the basis for their skepticism. The principle of inquiry should allow reuse skeptics to make their case more effectively to reuse proponents. It is quite possible that for their organization and context, their skepticism is justified.

This book does not presume in-depth knowledge of software development, or-ganizational learning, or the history of software reuse; neither does it provide a thorough introduction to any of these fields. The discussion focuses on organiza-tional concepts and experiences, not on the nuts and bolts of software development. Some exposure to the language and concepts of software reuse will be helpful, but is not essential. Some examples will be difficult to follow in detail without a soft-ware background. This is partly because we wanted the dialogues to be representa-tive of the actual conversations that take place in a software shop. But since technical details are not the substance of the method or the unique contribution, we do not provide references for many technical terms or acronyms, and readers can skim such sections without missing the most important points.

We provide some references to the organizational learning field, but the book is not intended as an introduction to this area for software developers, any more than it is a primer about software engineering management for the non-software-oriented reader. Techniques we have borrowed or adapted can be used with minimal prepa-ration. We give credit where appropriate to sources for these ideas and techniques, but do not present the ideas in depth beyond what is needed for their practical use in LIBRA.

This book offers reuse proponents a fresh perspective on factors underlying a num-ber of well-known breakdowns and barriers in reuse. It may help reveal tacit assumptions in their own approach and ways in which these can lead to counter-productive efforts. We hope it will also provide guidance in developing and imple-menting strategies that allow reuse to flourish.

Toward this end, we intend the book to be read and used as a practical field guide. It will be most effective if read, then actively used. We recommend that you treat the tools as starting points for constructing your own descriptions of current and desired behaviors, and identifying meaningful next steps to take. The dialogues, scenarios, and example models reflect the authors’ personal experiences; the spe-cific example scenarios and interpretations should not be treated as an integral and inseparable part of the assessment techniques. They are intended only as seeds or catalysts to help you create and capture the knowledge most relevant and accurate for your own organization.

The style in which this book is written is unusual for a nonfiction book about a technical subject. Much of the content of the book is presented in the form of fic-tionalized dramatic dialogues or scenarios. It is important to understand the intent behind each chapter and the motivation for this unusual format.

Here is a roadmap:

  • Chapter 1 (this chapter) provides an overview of the LIBRA approach, de-scribes the book’s intended audience and objectives, and outlines how to use the book.
  • Chapter 2 provides historical background for our approach. In effect it pre-sents the problem: where the reuse field is today, how it got there, and some of the breakdowns in reuse advocates’ strategies. This chapter is presented as a dialogue between multiple characters with varying backgrounds, set at a reuse conference; the dialogue form allows us to present a variety of perspec-tives about the reuse field. We encourage you to read Chapter 2 regardless of whether you are already familiar with the history of software reuse. If you are familiar with the field, use the chapter as an opportunity to model your own beliefs and to recognize how these might influence your interaction style or your expectations about change.
  • Chapter 3 continues the dialogue to describe the conceptual foundations of LIBRA. Characters in the dialogue discuss the core LIBRA concepts: soft-ware development as knowledge creation, the central role of beliefs, and the role of inquiry in reuse assessment, adoption, and practice.
  • Chapter 4 explains the core LIBRA tools: a repertoire of techniques for ap-plying the LIBRA concepts conveyed in Chapter 3. Some of the tools borrow heavily from techniques of organizational learning consultants. However, the LIBRA tools are our own adaptation and do not necessarily conform to any other theory of organizational learning.
  • Chapter 5 presents a fictional case study and a set of commentaries. This chapter is a play within a play: the scenario is developed by the fictional con-ference attendees as a LIBRA practice session. The case study and commen-tary offer insight into a variety of adoption barriers, and how they can be identified, analyzed, and overcome. While it illustrates the use of the LIBRA tools, it is itself a tool: you can use the scenario and commentary as part of your own internal assessment effort.
  • In Chapter 6, we move from assessment to adoption. While the LIBRA ap-proach to assessment is built around the reading or creating of a scenario and its collaborative analysis, reuse adoption in LIBRA is founded on the idea of reuse-promoting interactions. We create the neologism “reuseful” to describe such interactions. The chapter offers perspectives on interaction patterns characteristic of reuseful organizations. In assessment, the conversations are about reuse in the organization; in adoption, inquiry skills are integrated into the business of software development—a bottom-up organizational change strategy.
  • Chapter 7 provides guidance for how to use the tools (e.g., how to develop and use your own dramatic scenarios) and how to integrate and use them in concert.
  • Chapter 8, a brief conclusion to the book, summarizes the LIBRA approach, examines its potential impact, and suggests areas for further work.
  • The References and Recommended Reading sections include all references cited in the book, as well as other resources we recommend if you want to learn more about LIBRA-related topics.
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If software reuse is such a good idea, why does it not occur more often? With all the work over the past 20 years in software reusability—modularity, information hid-ing, object orientation, domain modeling, component-based development—and all the work on cost–benefit models, why is software reuse still more an idea than a re-ality? In this book we offer some answers and recommendations, drawing on ideas about learning organizations and knowledge-creating companies.

The book began life as a document funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its program in Software Technology for Adaptable, Reliable Software (STARS). The STARS program pursued a tripartite strategy comprising software reuse, process-driven development, and software de-velopment environments. As part of the reuse initiative, in 1995 the authors were chartered to write a reuse planning guidebook. Not typically for such tasks, we were allowed considerable latitude in deciding the best approach. We decided a new approach was needed, one that would augment the guidance already available by focusing on issues such as beliefs about reuse, organizational dynamics, and recep-tivity and resistance.

The authors brought varied backgrounds to the project. First and foremost we drew on our own and others’ experiences in promoting reuse as developers in con-tractor and commercial software organizations, in contract research and develop-ment, and as external consultants. We had the benefit of a coauthor (Larry Levine) with considerable experience in organizational development, organizational learn-ing, and change management. Exploring and unifying these viewpoints, we came to see software reuse as one aspect of the broader problem of organizational learning and knowledge creation in a software shop. This insight led us to rethink many as-sumptions about reuse adoption and its breakdowns, and the beliefs and practices of reuse advocates.

The resulting approach—Learning and Inquiry-Based Reuse Adoption, or LIBRA—was a radical departure from top-down, broad-based approaches. Initial response from our colleagues was encouraging. Readers said the document helped to surface difficult issues that had troubled them for some time, which they had as-sumed were specific to their situation. In our subsequent research and consulting, we applied and field-tested various versions of LIBRA. While it is not a formal, sci-entifically validated methodology, our recent work has reinforced its pragmatic value.

In revising the guidebook for commercial publication we have expanded, up-dated, and reorganized all the material. We focused the emphasis to complement rather than overlap other approaches. We view the book as a basis for experimenta-tion, and a first step in a dialogue within and between the software reuse and organi-zational learning communities.

We see our contribution as threefold:

  • As theory, it advances a new view of software reuse as a form of organiza-tional learning.
  • The example content of the book illustrates this view. It captures the authors’ distillation of the experience of the software engineering community—fil-tered through our subjective perspective. This is both a key value and a limi-tation of the book. We owe the validity of our insights to the wisdom of the reuse community as a whole, and we apologize in advance for any failure to attribute specific ideas to the appropriate individuals. At the same time, any distortions, inaccuracies, or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.
  • Finally, the book offers a repertoire of techniques so that readers can generate data for their own organizations. Although we provide guidance and sugges-tions for readers who want to try the techniques, we do not represent LIBRA as an established and scientifically validated methodology.
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