Archives for the Month of March, 2008

Andon du Jour – London Underground Part Trois – The Grand Finale

Dear Reader, I’m pleased to announce that the case of the troublesome staircase has finally been resolved. The staircase was re-opened sometime between late January and February, albeit wrapped up in black-and-yellow sticky tape. Susie from London Transport never got back to me, but at least travellers could resume their new year’s resolution of getting healthy by using the staircase once again.

If the staircase were a software application, then the sticky tape would be a testament to a poor design and even worse engineering as somebody somewhere probably decided that Test-Driven Development would be a) too much hardwork; b) not worth the while; c) TDD, what’s that then? or d) all of the above.
I felt relieved then disappointed when I first saw the staircase covered in snaky yellow-and-black sticky tape. I figured back then that that was as good as it was going to get. That the tape was there to stay.

The tape was going to be testament to rubbishy British design and engineering everytime I used the staircase. ‘At least you can use the stairs now!’ I hear the optimists among you valiantly volunteer. And you would have been right.

So you can imagine my surprise today when I discovered the black-and-yellow tape had been replaced by a ‘proper’ solution: the tape has been replaced with metal casings that run along the length of the rail of the entire staircase. Well, almost.

It seems the team responsible for implementing the proper solution struggled with the use of their measuring tape which means that there’s still around 10 centimentres of the railing covered in black-and-yellow sticky tape in one corner. I wonder what else that team is responsible for putting right. And what about the architects and implementers of the staircase design – what do they do now? Do they know about their design failure? Is this really a happy ending?

To Infinity and Beyond

Why Agile?

Being an Agile consultant-coach means I’m constantly challenged by what I do, how I do it and, most importantly, why I do it. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about myself and others by striving to be agile. Fortunately, that’s one of the things that gives most meaning to the work I do.

Agile Everything

I recently presented at SPA and shocked the audience when I alluded to my experience of having been on an Agile death march project.

‘Surely that’s not possible?’ replied the first gasp from the audience.

‘Isn’t that blasphemy?’ resonated a second gasp around the room.

‘I’m intrigued by your negative Agile experience,’ said an Agile coach with a gleeful smile, pen poised, ready to mark me down on my Agile competency.

Why wouldn’t Agile death marches exist? After all, Agile is just another methodology. It’s simply another way of getting people to work together. You can’t immunise your project from failure just because you say you’re doing Agile. Now that would really be make believe. I call it play pretend.

Growing Old Gracefully

Q: What could possibly be tougher than growing old?
A: Trying to be agile when everyone else believes they are but aren’t.

Earlier this month, I spent a lovely Spring evening with a bunch of young Agile enthusiasts at QCon London and was asked, ‘What would be your top 3 life tips?’ I surprised myself with the following response.

  1. Be true to your passion. Do what you love. I didn’t believe this was possible or sustainable when I was younger. I now know it is. Depending on your point-of-view, to do otherwise would either be a pity or a waste.
  2. Being better than the rest is easy when everyone else is striving for mediocrity. If you want to stand out from your peers, you only need to be mediocre++. Is that all you really want to achieve?
  3. Use your gut instinct to help make informed decisions. Having only ever had a career in IT, over the years I had learnt to value my logical brain over my creativity side. Experience has taught me that tapping into my creativity creates opportunities I never thought possible.

One life. Live it well.

The only real currency we have is time. Invest wisely.

SPA 2008: A Retrospective

I’m fairly certain there’s no better way of spending four Spring days in Bedfordshire, England than at the Software Practice Advancement (SPA) conference. I left feeling re-energised with plenty of food for thought on what continuous improvement (Kaizen) really means.

What worked well: The Highlights

  • Playing the Snow White and Seven Dwarves Game with 16 grownups, described by participants as ‘curious, fun with excellent materials’ and got lots of feedback on how to improve the game.
  • Co-presenting a Real Options session with Chris Matts and Pascal Van Cauwenberghe and explored alternative ways of how to think about Real Options. I think we were over-ambitious in our refactoring of the session – fortunately, the SPA audience remained enthusiastic and receptive to innovation!
  • Co-creating a Teamwork Techniques BoF (Birds of a Feather) with Pascal and Charles Weir. It was a great example of collaborative working and learning through doing. The session was successful because it leveraged the experience and knowledge of all the participants which enhanced the quality of learning, usefulness of materials and the amount of fun had by all. The techniques covered included Creative Thinking process, Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats, Chris Avery’s Responsibility Model and Burndown charts.
  • Attended an excellent session on Awesome Acceptance Testing by Joe Walnes and Dan North. The thoughtful delivery made a usually dry (but very important) topic interesting, entertaining, educational and enabling.
  • Attended John Nolan’s session on Getting to ‘No’ on how to say ‘No’ in a constructive way.

Ideas for making SPA even better

  • More sessions like Joe and Dan’s with a well-defined purpose, tangible and pragmatic advice and entertaining presenters
  • More genuinely-interactive learning like the Teamwork Techniques BoF
  • Form quartets based on at least common interest to make them more meaningful rather than dividing people into random groups of 4
  • More opportunities for active conference attendee participation
  • More emphasis on accelerated learning and personal development in terms of session structure and content because the best software is developed by teams of effective individuals

Thank You!

  • To Pascal and Vera for their enthusiasm, feedback, support and being great idea factories.
  • To David Peterson, Maria Bortes and Dyan Corutiu for participating in the rehearsal session and providing constructive feedback that helped us use the cards more.
  • To Chris Cooper-Bland for co-presenting and assembling the final presentation and believing in dwarfish appeal.

And a big T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U as usual to Jim for bringing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to life as cards and making the game real.