Are your customers satisfied?

.. and are you willing to settle for that?

The Lean MindsetFor their latest book, The Lean Mindset (great book, btw – buy it on Amazon here), Mary and Tom Poppendieck took a long hard look at where we are now and where the Agile/Lean movements have taken us. What they argue is that we have been concentrating on building the thing right.

We’ve been delivering flows of value on time, with lots of features requested by the involved customer. We’ve been communicating and demonstrating and getting frequent feedback. We’ve been adapting to change. And we’ve been missing the point. Continue reading

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Use new technology carefully

I recently read J.K.Rowling’s blog post on why she is going to vote #NoBorders in the Scottish independence referendum in September. Read it. It’s an interesting, measured, thoughtful post, and she writes well (maybe she should consider writing a book someday :-))

So what has that got to do with software development?  In itself, nothing. In its implementation everything. Her blog design showcases the perils in embracing new technology. Continue reading

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Five Blogs – 27 May 2014

Five Blogs – glad you enjoyed.

5blogs

The (best) five blogs I read today. Check them out.

Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Running
Written by: Taylor Miller

The Residue of Leadership
Written by: Guy Clumpner

Create a Team Charter to Go Faster and Smarter
Written by: Jesse Lyn Stoner

Are Australian Software Testing Jobs at Risk?
Written by: Colin Cherry

Be Your Own Person
Written by: Ian Brockbank

Quote of the day:
“Creativity without insight is worthless” -Marc Pritchard

You can follow this page on Twitter

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What price Scottish independence?

There is a lot of rhetoric about how Scotland will be better off under independence. What I haven’t seen up to now is much quantitative analysis.

I was at an event in the university of Edinburgh business school recently, and professor Brad MacKay presented some analysis he had done.

There were a couple of simple parameters to this:

  • how long it takes to complete the process of separation (untangling healthcare, tax, welfare, pensions, legislature, etc). This will take time and cost money, use effort which could be spent on other things, and create uncertainty which will impact businesses. I think Brad’s calculations assumed it would effectively cost 20% GDP during that time. It certainly won’t be zero…
  • how much Scotland grows after independence.

Brad showed a couple of different scenarios, and ran through the calculations of when they would pay for themselves.

The first scenario was optimistic. It only takes three years to untangle the two nations, and Scotland grows 50% faster after than before (3% pa instead of 2%).

In this scenario, it takes around 14 years to get back to where we are now (I.e. finish paying for separation), and 21 years to overtake where we would have been otherwise.

A slightly less optimistic scenario. We still outgrow the rest of the UK, but only at 2.5%, and it takes four years to untangle. I don’t remember when we get back to where we are now, but it takes nearer 50 years to catch up to where we would otherwise have been.

I haven’t seen much discussion about how much the process of independence will cost, or much measured debate on how much it is actually worth and how long it will take to pay off, so it was good to see some reasoned analysis.  I don’t know how accurate the numbers are, but they sound plausible to me, if not downright optimistic – is it really believable that we will outgrow the rest of the UK consistently for decades?

I don’t know about you, but that seems a long time to me to wait for a payoff which is distinctly uncertain.

If you disagree with this analysis, give me some alternative numbers. It sounds measured and realistic to me.

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Overcoming 7 Common Pitfalls of Transitioning to Agile

Johanna Rothman will be in Edinburgh in next week with Gil Broza, and she has agreed to do a free evening session for the Lean/AgileScotland community on the night before the course starts.

Date: Wednesday 21st May, 7:30pm
Venue: Wolfson Microelectronics, 26 Westfield Road, Edinburgh EH11 2QB

Westfield Road is on the 22 and 30 bus routes; we’re almost exactly opposite Sainsbury’s Murrayfield, and just across the railway line from Murrayfield Stadium. If you come to the main reception, the security guard will be able to contact me. There should be a reasonable amount of parking at that time of night.

If you’re planning on coming, please email me so I have an idea how many to expect.

Here’s Johanna’s description of the event:

If you’ve been considering agile or moving to agile, you may have encountered some pitfalls in your projects. You are not alone.

Agile is not a slam-dunk change. There are several common pitfalls when you transition to agile. If you recognize them, maybe you can fix them. Johanna Rothman will discuss “The Iteration is too short/the stories are too big”; “We need an expert”; “Implementation in Layers”, “Experts estimating”, “We must have overtime”; “We don’t have technical debt!” and “Featur-itis”, and what to do about these problems. If we have time, we will discuss any issues you see on your projects.

Johanna Rothman Bio

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential risks, seize opportunities, and remove impediments.

Johann a was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the current agileconnection.com technical editor. Johanna is the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

She is writing a book about agile and lean program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagment.com, and writes two blogs on her web site, jrothman.com, as well as a blog on createadaptablelife.com.

Hope to see you there!

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What’s wrong here?

What’s wrong with these doors?

image

Continue reading

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What difference does a couple of seconds make?

Two seconds. It doesn’t sound a long time, does it? Who worries about a couple of seconds?

Maybe you should.

Continue reading

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Last day for early-bird discount on The Influential Agile Leader

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have heard that The Influential Agile Leader is coming to Edinburgh in May.  Today (8th February) is the last day for the early-bird discount.  We have over 20 attendees already, with a limit of 30, so get in today to save £200, or if you can’t, get in soon before it’s too late.

What’s it about?  Since you’re reading this blog, I assume you believe Agile/Lean development improves how and what we deliver, and improves the quality of life for the teams as well – or at least, you’re interested in it.

Do you really feel your team and company “gets” Agile and is working as well as it could?  Or are you frustrated by people “doing Agile” without really understanding it and gaining the benefits?  Do you want your team to be more engaged and collaborative? Do you want to expand your influence and coach your colleagues in how to REALLY be Lean?

Do you want to know what you can do to improve matters?  If so, The Influential Agile Leader event is for you – but there are only a few days left to secure the 33% super-early-bird discount – it runs out at the end of the year. After that you can get a smaller early-bird discount up until sometime in February.

As regular readers will know, I’m really excited to have managed to persuade Johanna Rothman and Gil Broza to come to Edinburgh to repeat a 2-day interactive event they ran last year in Boston which they called “The Influential Agile Leader.” It’s a small group, very interactive and directed to what the group members want. Johanna specialises in managing people, projects and portfolios in the real world – I list below some of the books she has published which I refer to regularly. Gil is an agile coach who last year published “The Human Side of Agile” about er, the human side of agile – i.e. tools, techniques and approaches for working with the fact that agile development is done by real people with feelings, aspirations, concerns, likes and dislikes.

They’re running their course again next year – and I’ve persuaded them to bring it to Edinburgh as well!  This is  a unique collaborative training event with Johanna Rothman (“Manage it!”, “Manage Your Project Portfolio”, “Managing – Behind Closed Doors”, “Hiring Geeks that Fit”) and Gil Broza (“The Human Side of Agile”). You’ll spend two packed, focused days with a small group of your peers, working on your Influence and Coaching skills, and discussing group-selected topics such as Agile like you mean it, Team-level alignment and collaboration, Program and project portfolio management, Partnering across the organisation, Reinventing yourself, and more. You will learn from and share with Gil, Johanna and the other participants and build your networks with other people like you.

There’s a £200 early-bird discount if you get in before the 8th February, and I’ve managed to negotiate an extra £100 discount for my friends if you use code ASC_IAL_2014. We now have over 20 people signed up, with a limit of 30, so get in now before it’s too late.

Registration now at www.InfluentialAgileLeader.com, where there are also more details and video testimonials from previous attendees. Normally £1495, but get in today for an early-bird price of £1295. Get a discount if you book with your friends and colleagues.  And remember the extra discount for my friends: if you use code ASC_IAL_2014 you will get an extra £100 off the price.

Hoping to see and discuss with you there.

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Only a few days left for 33% off The Influential Agile Leader

If you’re reading this blog, I assume you believe Agile/Lean development improves how and what we deliver, and improves the quality of life for the teams as well – or at least, you’re interested in it.

Do you really feel your team and company “gets” Agile and is working as well as it could?  Or are you frustrated by people “doing Agile” without really understanding it and gaining the benefits?  Do you want your team to be more engaged and collaborative? Do you want to expand your influence and coach your colleagues in how to REALLY be Lean?

Do you want to know what you can do to improve matters?  If so, The Influential Agile Leader event is for you – but there are only a few days left to secure the 33% super-early-bird discount – it runs out at the end of the year. After that you can get a smaller early-bird discount up until sometime in February.

As regular readers will know, I’m really excited to have managed to persuade Johanna Rothman and Gil Broza to come to Edinburgh to repeat a 2-day interactive event they ran last year in Boston which they called “The Influential Agile Leader.” It’s a small group, very interactive and directed to what the group members want. Johanna specialises in managing people, projects and portfolios in the real world – I list below some of the books she has published which I refer to regularly. Gil is an agile coach who last year published “The Human Side of Agile” about er, the human side of agile – i.e. tools, techniques and approaches for working with the fact that agile development is done by real people with feelings, aspirations, concerns, likes and dislikes.

They’re running their course again next year – and I’ve persuaded them to bring it to Edinburgh as well!  This is  a unique collaborative training event with Johanna Rothman (“Manage it!”, “Manage Your Project Portfolio”, “Managing – Behind Closed Doors”, “Hiring Geeks that Fit”) and Gil Broza (“The Human Side of Agile”). You’ll spend two packed, focused days with a small group of your peers, working on your Influence and Coaching skills, and discussing group-selected topics such as Agile like you mean it, Team-level alignment and collaboration, Program and project portfolio management, Partnering across the organisation, Reinventing yourself, and more. You will learn from and share with Gil, Johanna and the other participants and build your networks with other people like you.

There’s a 33% super-early-bird discount if you get in before the end of the year, and I’ve managed to negotiate an extra £100 discount for my friends if you use code ASC_IAL_2014. We now have 10 people signed up, so the course is definitely going ahead. I know we’re getting to the end of the year when funds are difficult to find, but if you are solidly interested, please book now, and you will secure a significant discount.  If you really can’t book now but want to go, you will still be able to take advantage of a (smaller) early-bird discount until mid-February.

Registration now at www.InfluentialAgileLeader.com, where there are also more details and video testimonials from previous attendees. Normally £1495, but get in before 31st December for a super-early-bird price of £995. Get a discount if you book with your friends and colleagues.  And remember the extra discount for my friends: if you use code ASC_IAL_2014 you will get an extra £100 off the price.

Hoping to see and discuss with you there.

In the meantime, have a great Hogmanay, and all the best for 2014.

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Are we engineers?

I remember years ago, after I had been working a couple of years, having a long argument with someone who disagreed with us calling what we did software engineering. I have recently been reminded of this by Joe Wright @joe_jag who has been asking whether engineering is a bad metaphor.

He gave a lightning talk at Lean Agile Glasgow tonight on the topic. His argument is that the software engineering which came out of the initial “software engineering conference” organised by NATO in 1968 took as its inspiration structural engineering, and actually misunderstood a lot of the reasons anyway. For example we saw mathematical models and thought they were used to do the design, whereas they are actually for cost reduction since they’re cheaper and faster to build and iterate than prototypes.

Anyway, he argued engineering was a bad metaphor, (and offered cultivation as a better metaphor).

I think this misses what engineering is. We look at a production line and think that’s engineering, but it isn’t. It’s production. Our equivalent is compiling, or maybe pressing the DVDs with the final product (those of you who remember products that actually came on physical DVDs). The engineering part was coming up with the design that the production line is building, and optimising the production line, and so on.

So what is engineering? Fundamentally to me it’s the management of compromise. It’s about building/developing/producing as good a solution as you can within a certain set of constraints.

These constraints can be time, resource, market window, physics, human behaviour, existing building blocks/product, target cost, efficiency, load, …

Good will vary depending on the product as well. It will be a mixture of feature set, price, robustness, scalability,  manufacturability,  flexibility,  customisability, cost to manufacture, throughput, efficiency, …

Every project has a particular set of constraints to work within, and a target deliverable. In the case of BloodhoundSSC, the constraints are mainly physics, and the target output is a car than can travel at 1000mph on land twice through a measured mile within an hour. In the case of a can of Irn Bru, the constraints include the price the consumer will pay, how thin you can make the can while still maintaining structural integrity (save a fraction of a penny on every can, and with millions of cans it adds up), how many cans of the drink you can produce in a given time, how easy it is to transport to the shops to be sold. You get the idea.

So, given that definition, are we engineers? I would say absolutely Yes. Our constraints are development time and resource, how well the developers can coordinate and cooperate, how week we can understand our customers… or experiment to understand our customers, market windows, hardware limitations such as resources, timing/speed, operating system(s), skills of our developers, available libraries, compilers, debuggers, test frameworks. Our target output will vary from project to project, including what good means – the quality required for a Web page is rather different from the quality required for a nuclear reactor controller.  Fundamentally the target output will be defined by Bob Marshall’s Antimatter Principle “attend to folks’ needs.”

So is engineering a good metaphor for what we do? Absolutely Yes! That’s not to say other metaphors can’t also be useful – I do like Joe’s cultivation metaphor, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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