Saturday, October 25, 2014

#NoProjects/#BeyondProjects - a developer footnote

Last Friday I delivered a revised version of my “The End of Projects and What to do Next” presentation - otherwise known as #NoProjects / #BeyondProjects. The presentation is on Slideshare if you missed it - or better still see it next week at Lean Kanban UK 2014 (use the code LK14SPK for 15% discount).

In the post conference drinks was chatting with a developer - Matt from New Zealand if my memory serves - and he came out with what some might think was a surprising comment. He said: “I’d never thought of a project like that before.”

Specifically he meant he’d never thought of “a project” in sense “project” is used by APM/PRINCE2 and PMI, which is:

  • The PRINCE2 definition: “A temporary organization that is needed to produce a unique and predefined outcome or result at a pre-specified time using predetermined resources.”
  • The PMI definition: "PMI defines a project by its two key characteristics: it is temporary and undertaken to create a product, service, or result that is unique."

He went on to say that he believed “a project” was “a collection of features.” I can’t say I’m surprised by this, I think many people regard a project as “a collection of features.”

In fact I’ve long suspected that many developers don’t even get that far. To many developers a project isn’t any of these things, a project is “A collection of source code files that build an application.” Back when I was coding C++ this was exemplified by Microsoft Visual Studio where .prj files (i.e. .project files) listed the source code files and “make” instructions to build an executable.

I have a lot of sympathy with this - and other - developers who take this attitude. One might say they have moved to an Beyond Projects mindset already.

The term Project is being used, it is the language of the team but it is being used to mean different things. When this happens the people are using the same words but are not talking about the same thing. Goals, objectives, aims, deadlines, and everything else is missed up.

Its just another example if what I call “False Projects” - using the word “project” without really meaning it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dialgue Sheets (2 of 2): Searching for Guinea Pigs

This post follow directly on from my previous one, Dialogue Sheets and Update.

I’m looking for some guinea pigs….

Are there any teams out there who would like to try a dialogue sheet focused on requirements?

I’ve long thought that Dialogue Sheets would be a good way of discussing software needs, requirements, customers, problems and such. I’ve started designing some sheets to address this - the first one is a high level Products and Customers sheet. In intend to produce a more day-to-day product sheet and a sheet of internal IT.

Now I’d really like some teams to step up and say: We’d like to try one of these sheets.

There is no charge for this and I’ll supply the sheet. I need a teams which are willing to give me half a day.

I’ll give you the sheet, I’ll observe as you complete it, we’ll debrief and thats that.

Preferably I’d like my guinea pigs in the Greater London area (because that is easy and cheap for me) but I’m happy to come wherever you are. (OK I might have a problem is you are a few thousand kilometres away but lets talk.)

Interested?

Call me or mail me - contact details here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dialogue Sheets update (1 of 2)

It has been a while since I’ve written about Dialogue Sheets here - or indeed anywhere else. So here is a quick update and a request for some guinea pigs - I have ideas for new sheets but I need some teams to try them out. (If you want to be a guinea pig for a new sheet skip to the end of this blog.)

The impetus for writing this blog is a new French translation of the T1 Retrospective sheet. I am most grateful to Nicolas Umiastowski for this translation which is now available with the other sheets.

Nicolas has blogged (“Retrospective dialogue sheet in use”) - with photos - about using the sheet this week with a team. The post is well worth reading, everyone was involved and it sounds like there was a lot of energy in the room.

More generally, the sheets continue to be used by teams, lots of downloads still happen from the Dialogue Sheets website. Unfortunately I don’t get much feedback on what happens after the download. If you have download a sheet and have tried them then I’d love to hear how it went and what you think.

Now some statistics.

There have been over 3000 downloads since 1 January 2012 from 94 countries.

(A word of warning here. I’ve made no attempt to cleanse the data. I know it contains some duplicates and some fake e-mail address (e.g. a@b.com) so I assume some of the downloads are fake. Given there are now over 3000 downloads I think (hope?) this doesn’t make a big difference.)

Unsurprisingly the USA leads the world with 20% of downloads, then the UK (15%) after which numbers quickly tail away: Germany (6.5%), France (5.5%), Sweden (4.75%), Norway (3.9%), Australia (3.8%), Netherlands (3.5%), India (2.8%) and Canada (2.75%).

I am sure one of the reasons France scores so highly is Laurent Carbonnaux’s translation of the Sprint sheet. Nicolas’ translation could see France overtake Germany. (I hope we’ll get some more translations and have added some notes on translation to the website.)

The most interesting story I’ve heard this year about Dialogue Sheets is from Sweden - the country where they were originally invented. I am told that there is a childrens’ nursery school (kindergarten) where the teachers hold a fortnightly retrospective using the sprint retrospective sheet! Wonderful.

The statistic I still find most interesting the retrospective frequency question.

I ask all downloaders “How frequently do you hold a retrospective (at the moment) ?”

Nearly 8% of downloaders say they are retrospective facilitators. Excluding these people, 47% of downloaders claim to hold a retrospective regularly (every two weeks or once a month.) But 44% say they never or rarely hold a retrospective.

Now I think it is fair to say we can expect those who hold retrospectives regularly to be more interested in these sheets therefore I expect these figures to be biased towards such people. In other words, if 44% of people interested in retrospective dialogue sheets say they rarely hold a retrospective I expect the true number of software professionals who hold a retrospective rarely to be a lot higher. Sad.

Moving on from numbers, some other changes.

About 18 months ago I introduced an Iteration Planning sheet, this doesn’t have so many downloads (over 200 in total). I’ve also written a description of how to use this sheet (same page). I know my style of planning is slightly different from everyone else’s - heck no two teams are ever the same! (Since I published Xanpan it have wondered if maybe I should rename this sheet as a “Xanpan planning sheet.”)

When I do training sessions I leave the teams copies of both the Sprint Retrospective sheet and the Planning sheet to help get them started. By all reports they help a lot.

The print on demand service is still there, it is little used and I was recently able to reduce the prices there. But if I’m being honest I don’t think the price of a Dialogue Sheet is a bit issue for two reasons. Firstly unless you are buying a lot of sheets, and unless you live in the USA, you will probably find the cost of postage greater than the sheets themselves. Hence I think most teams get these sheets printed locally.

Second, I think teams that have to ask for money have as much trouble getting $50 as $500. So it is the fact that the sheets cost rather than how much they cost which is the problem.

Now to the innovations….

I continue to use the Agile Thinking sheet at the end of Agile training courses to help teams talk about how they will put the training into action. This has proved very very successful. Steve Smith has recently adopted a similar sheet on his continuous delivery courses.

While I’m writing this I should mention some other changes that happened a while back, I retired the T2 sheet - it was not different enough from the T1, T3 and Sprint versions. And I updated the T1 and Sprint sheets - the Sprint sheet now has time boxes on it to aid with keeping the retrospectives to schedule.

One more thing… but that can wait for the next blog post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#NoProjects / #BeyondProjects - Agile Tour & Lean Kanban UK conference

The next few weeks sees me delivering my #NoProjects/#BeyondProjects presentation at two London conference - Agile Tour London (Friday this week) and Lean Kanban UK (3 & 4 November). In fact I spent a lot of yesterday refreshing the presentation. Problem is there is just too much to say, the more I look at it the more problems I find with the project model but at the same time I want to make the presentation more positive by emphasising the alternative, the Beyond Projects bit.

Anyway, the reason for mentioning this is… the good folk at Lean Kanban UK have sent me a discount coupon to share with my readers.

When booking on the Lean Kanban UK website use the code LK14SPK for 15% discount. Simple, really.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Contracts for Agile

Last night I did a presentation to the Agile 4 Agencies meet up group on the topic of “Agile Contracts” - although I believe “Contracts for Agile” might have been a better title.

This was based on my InfoQ Agile Contracts piece from 4 years ago - also available as a PDF from the Software Strategy website. My thinking and experience has moved a bit since then and some of that was incorporated into the presentation.

When creating the presentation I very much set out to work from the original piece, although as anyone familiar with my writing will know, this territory touches on “Dear Customer, The Truth about IT” (Agile Connection and now the prologue to Xanpan - which is also available from the Software Strategy website - my stuff has a habit of being reused.)

Anyway, the “Agile Contracts” is now online at SlideShare. And I believe a recording of the night might appear before long…

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Estimates Land Mine - use and misuse of estimates

After posting my last post - Estimate or #NoEstimate that is the question? - I felt a little as if I’d stepped on a land-mine. That is to say I had a few comments and a bit a mini-twitter storm. If I’m being honest I have been avoiding some of the estimates/#NoEstimates debate until now precisely because it is obvious feelings on the topic run high.

Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was that a post intended to support making human estimates was interpreted by many Tweeters as part of the #NoEstimates movement! Maybe convergence between #NoEstimates and #NoProjects is already happening in the public mind.

In the meantime it seems to me that a lot of the problem with Estimates lies in what they are, what they are not, how they are used and how they are mis-used.

As is so often the case it all depends on what we mean by the word, in this case “Estimate”.

Generally I find it useful to agree with Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." (Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Caroll).

After all, who can forget Bill Clinton saying:

“It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”

While I am sometimes guilty of the use and misuse of words myself I find it helps to keep an open mind on just what someone means when they use a word or phrase. For example, if a developer says “Unit tests” I try not to jump to assumptions about what “Unit tests” actually are. The fact that such language is used is itself interesting but I also want to know what they actually mean by it.

But back to the word “Estimates.”

On occasions like this I like to check my dictionary, in this case the :

“Estimate

        1.        to form an approximate idea of (size, cost, etc.); calculate roughly

        2.        to form an opinion; judge

        3.        submit an approximate price for a job to a prospective client

        4.        an approximate calculation

        5.        a statement of the likely charge for certain work

        6.        an opinion” (Collins Paperback English Dictionary 2001)

My other usual source is Wikipedia which on this occasion gives:

“Estimation is the process of finding an estimate, or approximation, which is a value that is usable for some purpose even if input data may be incomplete, uncertain, or unstable. The value is nonetheless usable because it is derived from the best information available.”

From these definitions I define a sense that an estimate is:

  • Approximate
  • A statement of possibility
  • Is based on available data which may itself be incomplete or variable

Maybe all estimates should be accompanies by a statement of probability but as Kahneman and Tversky described in the planning fallacy, and has been proved repeatedly since, not only do humans underestimate time but humans are over confident in their estimates. Thus any estimate probability statement would probably itself be an over estimate of probability.

Besides, very few of the “estimates” I’ve ever seen are accompanied by a statement of probability so I don’t think this suggest will get very far.

More importantly these definitions also help tell us determine what an estimate is not:

  • As estimate is not exact
  • An estimate is not a promise, guarantee or commitment
  • An estimate is not a target or deadline

And it is not several other things.

Now in my previous blog post I introduced the idea of “Accurate Estimates” so I was actually sneaking in the idea that an estimate could have a high probability and could be an accurate indicator of what will happen. Perhaps I was guilty of something there.

The trap I fell into is one that many fall into, that of accepting the general usage of the word “Estimate”.

In general usage - in the software community - we misuse the word estimate.

Firstly we automatically equate Estimate with “Effort Estimate”: effort (and therefore cost) estimate proliferate in software development but we overlook other estimates that might be useful, in particular Benefit Estimate.

Second the inherently approximate nature of estimation is too often ignore, estimated are endowed with a sense of promise of what will be rather than recognising their inherent approximate nature. (And as noted in the Planning Fallacy, Vierordt’s Law and Hofstadter's Law time estimates will always be under estimates.)

This also leads to too much conversation about “Why was the estimate wrong?” - sometime blame may be implied. The answer to the question is really: “The estimate is not wrong because it was an ESTIMATE” That is to say: An estimate is never wrong because an estimate is an approximation and therefore is not binary “Right” or “Wrong”.

Sure you can have a conversation about why the estimate was very different to what actually played out but the nature of that conversation is going to be different depending on what you will do with the findings of the conversation. For example, if the resulting information is used to refine future estimates it will be a very different conversation to one where the result will be punishment for someone. (Yes, people do get punished, I once saw a company where Project Managers were rewarded/punished based on the variance between estimated time spent on work and actual time spent.)

In short too often an approximate estimates based on variable information is used as some kind of exact promise to meet a deadline.

Software developers love to imagine it is evil managers who take their estimates, massage them to be politically correct, promise them to higher ups and then force poor coders to honour the number they first thought, but, big BUT, managers are not the only ones. Even in everyday life the Planning Fallacy, Vierordt’s Law and Hofstadter’s Law hold. Observe yourself next time you have to catch a bus, train, complete a tax return, hand in course work or do something (almost anything) with your kids.

I would love it if I could wave a magic wand and reset everyones’ understanding of the word Estimate but I don’t see it happening.

And I think - although Woody and Vasco might like to correct me - that a large part of the #NoEstimates movement is motivated by this problem. The way I see the logic is:

  • Estimates are seldom recognised for what they really are and honoured as such.
  • Estimates are misused and used as a stick to beat people and organizations.
  • Therefore estimates have become a problem and it is better of finding a way or working without them.

I’m not saying this is the whole #NoEstimates logic but it is part which strikes a chord with me.

Incidentally, because I believe estimates are not a promise I don’t believe in Scrum commitment and because I believe they are approximate that in Xanpan I focus their use on the near term. And because I believe benefits should dictate deadlines not effort I refuse to use estimates as deadlines.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Estimates or #NoEstimates? that is the question

To estimate or not to estimate, to join the #NoEstimates bang-wagon or not, that is the question.

Maybe it is a navel gazing exercise for agile-folk but it does seem to be the reoccurring theme. And I can’t get over this feeling that some of my peers think I’m a bit stupid for continuing to support estimates.

Complicating matters I’m finding my own work and research is starting to be cited in support of #NoEstimate - Dear Customer (PDF version), my publicity for Vierdort’s Law, Notes on Estimation and More notes on estimation. Add my own #NoProjects / #BeyondProjects logic isn’t far removed from the whole estimates discussion.

At Lean Agile Scotland a few weeks ago Seb Rose and I were discussing the subject, in the end Seb said something to the effect:

“How can you continue to believe in estimation when your own arguments show it is pointless?” (I’m sure Seb will correct me if my memory is fault.)

My reply to Seb was something along the lines:

I continue to believe that estimation can be both useful and accurate, however I increasingly believe the conditions under which this holds are beyond most organizations.

To which Seb challenged me to list those conditions. Well here is that list.

I’ve blogged about this before (well, I’ve mentioned it in lots of blogs, see this one Conclusions and Hypothesis about estimates) and I’ve devoted a large section of the Xanpan book to talking about I see estimates working but I think its worth revisiting the subject.

Before continuing I should say: I’m talking about Effort Estimates specifically. There is another discussion which needs to be had around business value/benefit estimation.

Here is, a probably incomplete, list of conditions I think are required in order for effort estimates to be accurate:

  1. The people and teams who will undertake the work need to do the estimates
  2. Estimates go off if not used: estimates only remain valid for a short period of time (days), the longer the elapsed time between making the estimate and doing the work the less accurate they will prove
  3. Estimates will only be accurate if the teams are stable
  4. Estimates much be calibrated against past performance, i.e. data is needed
  5. Together #3 and #4 imply that only teams which have been working in this fashion for a while can produce accurate estimates
  6. Teams must have a record of delivering and must be largely able to undertake the work needed, i.e. there are few dependencies on other teams and few “call outs” to elsewhere in the organization
  7. Estimates must be used as is, they cannot be adjusted
  8. Estimates cannot be used as targets (Goodharts Law will cut if they are)
  9. Estimates made in units of time (hours, days, etc.) are not reliable
  10. The tracking and measurement process must measure all work done, not just “project” work
  11. Financial bonus should not be tied to estimates or work
  12. People outside the team should not coerce the team in any way

There are probably some other conditions which need to be on this list but I haven’t realised. I’m happy to have additional suggestions.

Perhaps this list is already so long enough as to be unachievable for most teams. Perhaps meeting this conditions are unachievable for many, even most, organizations. In which case the #NoEstimate’ers are right.

So… I believe estimation can be useful, I also believe it can be accurate but I believe there are a lot of factors that can cause effort estimates to go wrong. In fact, I know one team, possibly two, who claim their estimates and planning processes is very accurate. Perhaps I cling to my belief in estimates because I know these teams.

When estimates do work I don’t believe they can work far into the future. They are primarily a tool for teams to decide how much work to take on for the next couple of weeks. I don’t expect estimates further out will prove reliable. Estimates for 2 to 12 weeks have some value but beyond the 3 month mark I don’t believe they will prove accurate. So my advice: don’t estimate anything that isn’t likely to happen in the next 3 months, and don’t plan any work based on estimates which extend more than 3 months into the future.

Which means: that even if you accept my argument that estimates work they may not tell you what you want to know, they may not have much value to you under these conditions.

And to further complicate matters I suspect that for mature teams estimation becomes pointless too.

As implied by the list above I would not expect a team new to this (agile) way of working to produce reliable estimates. With experience, and the conditions above, I think they can. One of the ways I think it works is by helping teams break down work into small pieces which flow. As a team get better I would expect the effort estimation to exhibit a very tight distribution. When this happens then simply counting the number of card (tasks, stories, whatever the thing you are estimating is) will have about the same information value for a fraction of the cost.

(For example, suppose a team normally do 45 points of work per iteration, if the teams average size estimate is 5 with a standard deviation of 0.5 then they would be expected to accept 9 pieces of work per iteration. If these statistics are stable then estimation works. But at this point simply taking in 9 pieces of work would also prove a reliable guide.)

So:

  1. Effort estimation doesn’t work for immature teams because they don’t exhibit the conditions above
  2. Effort estimation does work for mature teams but
  3. Effort estimation is pointless for very mature teams

Even given all this I think estimation is a worthwhile activity for teams of type 1 and 2 because it has other benefits.

One benefit is that is promotes discussion - or at least it should. Another is that it forms part of a design activity that helps teams make pieces of work smaller.

But there is another reason I want teams to do it: Credibility.

Estimation is so enshrined in the way many businesses work that teams and those trying to introduce change/agile risk undermining their own credibility if they remove estimation early. And I don’t just mean credibility with “the business” I think many developers also expect estimation and if asked to adopt a process without it will be skeptical.

So its just possible that estimation as we knowing - planning poker, velocity and such - is a placebo. It doesn’t actually help many teams but it helps people feel they are doing something right. In time they may find the placebo actually works or they may find they don’t need it.

Another reason why I like developers to think about “how long will the take” is that I believe it helps them set their own deadline. It helps them focus their own work.

Thus I keep advocating estimates because I think they are useful to the team, the fact that you might be able to tell when something might be “done” is a side effect. Since I find long range estimates questionable I advocate a cheap approach which might be usefulness or might just be a placebo.

However, I do believe, that given the right conditions teams can estimate accurately, and can deliver to those estimates. Increasing I believe very few organizations can provide those conditions to their teams.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#AOSW - Agile Outside of Software - starts here

We had the Agile on the Beach conference a couple of weeks. In a word: Brilliant - just look at the photos and see how people enjoyed themselves.

OK, I’m biased, I’m one of the organisers, but many people told me it was brilliant or they just didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

There is much I could write about Agile on the Beach but I don’t have enough time. Plus right now I want to focus on just one thing that came out of the conference:

Agile Outside of Software - #AOSW

Just before the conference I published a blog version of my talk to the conference (Agile Outside of Software the blog) and now the slides are online (Agile Outside of Software the SlideShare). Well between the post and the presentation, Agile Outside of Software turned out to be a hot topic.

And it wasn’t just me:

  • Belinda Weldlock talked about using Agile outside of software to help various Cornish companies: toy companies, florists and others. Her talk is available on YouTube.
  • Belinda also had a video made by Oxford Innovation about Agile in Cornwall: this started with the Cornish Software Mines Agile Programme that I was involved with four years ago. Oxford Innovation have built on that legacy.
  • Sabina Renshof from The Netherlands also spoke to me about how she had used Agile with various non-software teams
  • Rachel Picken gave a presentation on her use of Agile in a Public Relations company.

One of the points I made was: There is good evidence to think Agile does work outside of software but we lack case studies. I have a few:

  • I my own case study from GSMA (writing a specification document with a dispersed team)
  • The use of Agile at my client Sullivan Cuff software for everything! Software development, sales, support and well, everything!
  • I highlighted case studies from previous Agile on the Beach conferences (Kate Sullivan at Lonely Planet and Martin Rowe at Petroc college.)
  • And I discussed the 2007 case study of Shamrock Foods from MIT Sloan Management Review.

(After the conference I discovered this small book which I’ve only just started reading: “Scrum Marketing: Applying Agile Methodologies to Marketing”.)

But we need more.

So Sabina came up with the great idea that we start a collection. And I think we should.

It starts here, right now with the Twitter hashtag #AOSW - well actually, this hashtag was coined at the conference, I’m just a little late announcing it on my blog.

Right now we’ve not worked out how we are going to do this - my guess is a wiki or a LeanPub collection - but right now, if you know of a case study - documented or not - please share:

  • leave a comment on this blog
  • Tweet with the #AOSW hashtag
  • E-mail myself or Sabina

Lets get collecting.

Right now, if you want to know more I’m repeating my Agile Outside of Software talk on 3rd November I’m giving the talk again BCS Bristol “Beyond Software”.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nightmare on Agile Street 2: Managed Agile

Blow me down, its happening again…

I’m awake. I’m wet, its a cold sweat. Its the small hours of the morning and the dream is horrid....

I’ve been sent to Coventry.

I’m in a clients office waiting for a meeting to start. The development manager is telling me she has selected me to help them become Agile, she checked me out online and recognises that I am pragmatic. Thats why they chose a new tool called Kjsb, its pragmatic too.

Pragmatic.

God does she know how much I hate that word? Pragmatic to me? I recognise that Agile and Waterfall are points on a spectrum and that most organizations, for better or worse fall somewhere in-between. I recognise that every organisation exists within a context and you need to consider that. And even change the context.

But pragmatic? Pragmatic is the Satan’s way of saying “Heaven doesn’t work in the Real World(TM)”.

The CTO enters and is putting down redlines. He knows all Agile, but his people… its his people you see … you can’t trust them, they are like children, you can’t let them have too much say. They need a strong man to lead them.

They had a developer here once who practiced Agile. He did that test driven stuff. He didn’t give out dates. He gave Agile a bad name in the company. The PMO will never accept that.

Fortunately they have just bought Kjsb. This wonderful tool will fix everything. Kjsb has a feature that translates burn-downs into Gantt charts at the click-of-a-mouse. And back again.

The problem is: teams still aren’t shipping on schedule. They need predictability. Predictability is what the one thing really need.

And flexibility. Flexibility is important. Flexibility and predictability, the two things they really need.

And now variation in features. They can’t trade features for time. Fixed scope, Flexibility and Predictability are the three things they need.

But… they have unforeseen technical problems - not bugs you understand, but unforeseen technical problems. They really need to be able to deal with those things. Technical fixes, fixed scope, Flexibility and Predictability are the four things they need.

Nobody expects…

I want to explain queuing theory... a grasp of basic queuing theory is the one thing they need - stick their feet on the ground and cement them to it.

One of the teams runs Agile. It is run by the CTO himself and its good. The other teams... well they don’t really have that much experience. Though the managers are going to get their Scrum certificates real soon now.

How, he asks, can we get everyone else to buy in?

How can we get the PMO to buy?

How can they make the Product Owners buy in?

Mention of the PMO stirs the old guy in the corner, the one who’s hiding behind his laptop, the widescreen laptop with the numeric keypad. And mention of the Product Owners causes the Analyst in the other corner - the one hiding behind the ultra thin laptop - to raise an eyebrow.

Now I see they all have laptops out in front of them... and some of them phones too. In between moving their mouths each of them is staring at their screens.

I’d better say something. “Well,” I start...., “how about we get people from the team who are doing this well to talk about their experience?” Blank looks all round, are they listening

Or doing e-mailing

“Could you them your own case study?”

No - that won’t work because that teams are so very different from everyone else in the company nobody will believe it. They are all individuals.

Besides, the developers won’t be at the buy-in meeting. Its for managers to buy in. Once the managers buy in the developers will be told what to do.

....

I try a different approach: “Instead of talking to the PMO one day, and the Product Managers the next day, and the Development Managers the day after... why don’t we go vertical and take each development team in turn, with the appropriate project, product and development managers?”

No. Managers manage, they are the only ones who need to know. And they are the ones who will be allocating the work with Kjsb.

“Need to know” - “Allocating work” Did I really just hear those words?

Whose version of Agile have they been reading?

O my god, these guys are going on a Scrum Master course next week, there is going to be a bun fight, I don’t know who I worry about most these guys or the poor sod who is teaching the class….

Can I just check,” I ask, “each team has a project manager assigned, a product manager, a team lead, they will soon have a Scrum Master too?” Heads nod, “and… there are several development managers spanning several teams each?”

Yes

“So if I’m counting right…. each team contains about 4 developers and 1 tester? (Plus UAT cycle lagging several weeks later)”

Yes

“O see…” Am I keeping a straight face? Does my face hide my horror? 3+ managers for every 5 workers? - either this business prints cash or they will soon be bust.

....

“Really,” says the development manager, “we are talking about change, I have 12 years change management experience from call centres to financial services, the CTO hand picked me to lead this change, software development is just the same as any other change”

When did Fred Brooks come into the room, in fact what is he doing in Coventry, he lives in Carolina, why is he wearing a dog collar? And why is it 1974? He’s now standing at the lectern reading from a tatted copy of Mythical Man Month

“In many ways” says Brooks, “managing a large computer programming project is like managing any other large undertaking - in more ways than most programmers believe. But in many other ways it is different - in more ways than most professional managers expect.”

Well this is a dream, what do I expect? Its 2014 again…

“The key is to set the framework,” she continues, “establish boundaries so people know what their responsibilities are then we can empower them”

Fred has gone, standing at the lectern in dog collar is Henry Mintzberg - my management hero - he is reading from another tattered book entitled Managing:

“the later term empowerment did not change [manager control], because the term itself indicated that the power remained with the manager. Truly empowered workers, such as doctors in a hospital, even bees in the hive, do not await gifts from their managerial gods; they know what they are there to do and just do it.”

Empowerment is dis-empowered: using the words say one thing but the message given by using those words is the opposite.

“What we want is consistency across teams” says the CTO who now resembles Basil Fawlty

(What happened to “all my teams are different”?)

“And a stage gate process” says the PMO man, or is it Terry Jones?

“And clear roles and responsibilities” says the Cardinal Fang

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” says Michael Palin - where did he come from?

....

“It seems to me” starts the Product Owner “that we are making a lot more paperwork for ourselves here”

O the voice of sanity!

“Yes” I begin…. “if you attempt to run both an Agile and a Waterfall process that is what you will have!”

Silence. I continue, “Over time, as you see Agile work, as people understand it, I would expect you will move to a more Agile approach in general and be able to reduce the documentation.”

“No.” The PMO seems quite certain of this, “I don’t think that will happen here, we need the control and certainty that the waterfall and our stage gates provide. We won’t be doing that.”

Poor Product Owner, if he is lucky he’ll be shown the door, if he’s unlucky he’ll be retained.

...

“If you want people to buy in” I suggest, “we must let people have their say.”

The PMO is ready for this: “Yes, we know that, we’ve already arranged for a survey” and she reads the questions:

Q1: “Do you agree our development process needs to change?” Yes or No

Q2: “Our organization wishes to remain in control but we want the benefits of Agile, do you think we should:

a) Embrace Marxism in its entirety,

b) Mandate Waterfall throughout the organization or

c) Create a Managed Agile process?”

Q3: “Have you seen the features provided by Kjsb?” Yes or No.

O my god, its a North Korean election.

I suggest the questions are a little bit leading. “Well we don’t want people being awkward” chips in the CTO.

We get up to leave.

“You know,” I say, “when you’ve had a chance to run this process for a while you will want to inspect it and modify it” - but while I’m saying that I’m think “No plan survives contact with the enemy, start small, see what happens.”

“O we’ve already done that. This process is the result of doing that. We won’t be changing it.”

Back in my kitchen, a warm milk in my hand. A bad dream.

It was a bad dream. That stuff never happened. How could it? The contradictions are so obvious even a small child could see them. Couldn’t they?

As I climb the stairs back to bed a terrible thought: what if it wasn’t a nightmare? what if it was real? and what if they call me back for help?

Could anyone help such people?

Thursday, September 04, 2014

September Xanpan sale

I set up LeanPub discount coupons for people who attend my conference talks. I’m at Agile on the Beach this week, Lean Agile Scotland next week and BCS Leeds in between so I’ve decided to just discount Xanpan for the whole month.

The full price is usually $19 (sorry UK folks, LeanPub do things in dollars), the minimum price is usually $15, but for September I’ve reduced it to $9.50.

Please feel free to just pay $9.50, its a sale - Xanpan: Team Centric Agile Software Development.

I’ve also reduced the price of the printed version of Xanpan on Lulu to £11.70 (for me Lulu is in pounds but for people elsewhere… its complicated.) The printed version contains a coupon for a free version of the LeanPub eBook.

I’ll put the prices back up at the end of September so get it now!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.