9 Kick-Starting Development Using Essence

What we have presented thus far (in Part I) provides an overview of how to productively utilize the Essence kernel. As we progress in this part of the book, we will provide greater detail on how the Essence kernel helped Smith and his team with the development of their recommendation engine.

In this chapter specifically, through the story of TravelEssence, we show

  • the role the Essence kernel can play in helping a team, during a real development endeavor, to stay focused on the most important things;
  • the importance of stakeholders' involvment, clarify of the requirements and the scope of the software system;
  • the notion and role of opportunity;
  • the work breakdown in relation to the agreed way of working;
  • the importance of integrating the work of all members of the team;
  • the steps to set up Essence for real usage;
  • the application of card games step-by-step, including the involvement of discussion, argumentation, and voting; and
  • the concept of combining games into a well-aligned flow during the development process.

In our story, Smith used the Essence framework to help his team ask the right
questions and get pointed in the right direction. To get started, his team needed to know where they were and what they needed to head toward.

The Essence kernel, together with some of the games we saw in Part I, provides the tools to do just that.

Getting started with Essence involves the following steps:

  1. understanding the context through the lens of Essence;
  2. agreeing on the development scope and checkpoints, including where the endeavor begins and ends; and
  3. agreeing on the most important things to watch.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to

  • explain the steps involved when getting started with Essence (i.e., understanding the context, agreeing on scope and checkpoints, and agreeing on the things to watch);
  • explain how to use Essence’s areas of concern to understand the context of the problem or opportunity an endeavor addresses;
  • for a sample endeavor, name the related stakeholders, the opportunity, requirements, software system, work, team, way of working; and
  • explain the concept of sub-alphas and when they are useful, including examples of sub-alphas.