Monday, April 24, 2017

Agile Movement's parallels to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

What parallels are there between Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the state of the Agile movement's union?

Lincoln was a primary figure at the dedication of Soldiers' National Cemetery, in Gettysburg. He did not wish to upstage the keynote speaker, Edward Everett, and so summarized in 2 minutes the principle of human equality as defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Civil War.  Do you remember, the keynote speech?  Few people do.


Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
- - U.S. President Abraham Lincoln

I heard an NPR story about a person that give their grandkids twenty dollars to recite the Address.  It sounded like a wonderful way to engage kids in history and the founding reasons of the existence of this nation.  I'm assuming that it would take the children some time to memorize the short speech and in so doing they would have questions, about what the words meant.  How many of your colleagues know what unit of quantity a score represents?  Do you know what happened four-score and seven years before 1863?

The foundational document of this new nation is the Declaration of Independence - signed in the summer of 1776 by a group of wealth white men.  They are now described as our founding fathers, yet some were quite young at the time (Hamilton, 21; Jefferson, 33; Washington, 44).  These free thinking people (and some were women - they just didn't sign the document) were called radicals by their government and traders by their neighbors.


Does any of this sound like a fractal of the Agile Manifesto and the movement that was started back in the 1990s with lightweight frameworks for organizing software product creation.  The desire to increase the good aspects and there by overcome the poor habits (appreciative inquiry or extreme programming - is there a difference?).

Is there a revisionist movement some 15-20 years beyond the 2001 manifesto creation?  Yes, there appears to be a constant yearning for the next wave, the next wagon to hitch your cart onto.

Are there amendments that need to be added to the manifesto much like the Bill of Rights?  Or is that a fringe movement on the periphery?



Modern agile  defining four guiding principles:

  • Make people awesome
  • Make safety a prerequisite
  • Experiment and learn rapidly
  • Deliver value continuously

Alistair Cockburn observer his communication style in beginner and advanced classes, he said: "[I] found that when I was encouraging getting back to the center/heart/spirit of agile, I kept emphasizing these four things, and drew them in a diamond:"



Could the newest technique Mob Programming be anything more than an incremental addition to eXtreme Programming (XP)?  Some 30 years in the making.










See Also:

Reshaping our View of Agile Transformation - Jason Little

Info Radiation vs Info Refrigeration - a metaphor

Is a metaphor a form of lightweight model?

"All models are wrong, some models are useful."
-- George Box

The metaphor of information radiation is quite well know to many in the software industry.  Did you ask why?  Maybe because much of our work is very hidden from view, until we run the program and the computer interprets the code to produce some desired outcome.  Even that outcome may be obscured from view, and we must produce reports upon the data that the program produced.  So in a world where smoke and mirrors are common, one antidote to the common problem of not knowing where one is along the path toward product completion, a visualization is a powerful tool.  

Generally speaking the information radiator has similar properties to the old fashion building heat radiator that used a steam media source to heat heavy iron and radiate the heat from the iron into the room.  It feels great to be standing next to a radiator when you've just come in from the cold.

What is the refrigeration process - what's required to cool some air?  Currently we use the 200 year old Carnot cycle to produce the cooling effect that your summers are known for.  I doubt that my home of Dallas Texas would be the Mecca of IT if not for Mr. Nicolas Carnot and his research into what would become air-conditions environments.  A comfortable 70 degrees indoors while the Texas sun is 95 in the shade.

Pressure-Volume diagram of Carnot cycle
I will leave the internal working of the AC unit to your study (I did it back in college - fascinating stuff).

When we put information is some systems we encode or compress it in such a way that the storage is efficient.  Think of a data base, significant work is done upon the data to store it.

When we pull it out of those systems we also must now do work to make the data into information, and then do more work to make the information understandable by the people that have little knowledge of where the data came from, the purpose of storing the data and the context from which that data/info may have resulted.  Someone will interpret that context, information and purpose and try to convey all this in a summary of the meaning behind larger data sets that the important people reviewing the information have time for.  This expansion of the information and subsequent summarization or generalization takes energy from the system as a whole.

pondering the connections - AC to info refrigeration metaphor....  what do you see in this metaphor?

is there a useful model to play with?


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Design Your Competition's Support Department

You are presented with a common business problem.  One technique that has always helped me to define the problem space is to invert the problem, take it to an extreme to explore the continuum of your domain.  Let's imagine that we want to redesign our software support department at MegaSoft Corporation.  Applying our inversion principle we will leave our MegaSoft support as is, and instead we will design the competitors support group. It's going to stink, people are going to hate to even call them, their people will be arrogant techies with no human compassion - they will actually hire with those skills required.  Let's pause and give this company a name...  TechHard sounds great.

Who's time is most valuable?  At TechHard the support engineers time is very valuable, so we will have process that time how long a support tech. is on the call with a customer so that our process gurus can optimize for the use of this most valuable resource.  A typical call from a director or VP in our internal support operation should be logged by an administrative receptionist (maybe even automated system) and then the support techs time can be queued up with return call tickets.  We will return the VPs call when it is convenient for our tech.  The tech can validate that the VP is authorized to access the system, and will confirm that they are still experiencing the problem by walking through a standard checklist.  Being efficiently minded the tech may skip over some simple question like power plug, on/off, reset/reboot, logout/in again if they feel the user is competent.


Answering the basic question of who's time is most valuable via the design of the competition's process is enlightening.  Which is it?  The support person's time - or the customer's time.

How are support systems designed?  Has anyone ever heard of a company that used Design Thinking or High-Tech Anthropology to create a customer centered support group?

Is this Conway's Law at work - are we truly designing the support function of our products/services - or are we just reacting?

Give me an example of great design for support:  Nest Thermostat and Fire Alarm Installation
Have you installed a Nest product?  Their installation and configuration process is well designed.  I don't know about their support department - but my expectations are set very high, if I have a problem.


History will repeat
In the 1980s universities started teaching about design for manufacturing (robots would make the parts).

Are you designing your business departments for it's function?

Speaking of support tools - your going to want a great issue tracking system.  Why not look to a market leader that has all the features your people can put on a check list?  Let's buy Jira - or should we look at the competition's product?



See Also:

Cable Internet provider Frontier's support group struggles with the corporate infrastructure that can not resolve customer problems.







Can we have a dialogue about Estimation and the behaviors it drives?


Some topic are taboo - not safe to discuss.  I've never appreciated that concept.  Those taboo topics are my favorite topics to discuss.

Taboo Topics (ordered by fear of conversation)
  • Gender - Sexual preferences - non-standard practices
  • Religion as truth, my religion vs your wrong religion
  • Politics - the correct way to govern a group the results in my opportunity
  • Pay for services rendered - why my gender is paid more than yours
  • counting - off by one errors and how to mask them; we're # 1
  • estimates - how wrong your estimate was and why I'm missing my commitment
  • prioritization - ordering methods
  • laziness - the art of not doing work
I've recently been embroiled in a "dialogue" about the twitter topic of #NoEstimates.  I would write a summary of the topic but cannot do better that this one:

Estimates? We Don’t Need No Stinking Estimates! by Scott Rosenberg
"How a hashtag (#NoEstimates) lit the nerdy world of project management aflame — or at least got it mildly worked up."

A nice summary of the dust-up.  Imagine if the tag would have been #LeanEstimates?

There are two sides to this debate - at least two sides.  But I like that the taboo topic was raised and has questioned assumptions.  I think the think that drives a topic toward the taboo is this questioning of assumptions.  The saluter of scared cows (where does that term even come from?).

So what behaviors does the process or estimating drive:


  • a list
  • TBD
  • someone misplaced the list...


"Unable to estimate accurately, the manager can know with certainty neither what resources to commit to an effort nor, in retrospect, how well these resources were used.  The lack of a firm foundation for these two judgements can reduce programming management to a random process in that positive control is next to impossible. This situation often results in the budget overruns and schedule slippages that are all too common." -- J.A Farquhar
Does a Scrum process framework and the Agile mindset resolve Farquhar's concerns that the manager may have without accurate estimates - via empirical measurement and relative estimation techniques?

I'm not sure that the Twitter-verse is capable of holding the dialogue.  My experience was not very fruitful nor enlightening.  I've been accused by a manager at work of being "anti-management" I've asked, but got no direct answer, what that term meant, and why he believed or thought this label to be useful.  I've wondered if it was because of this type of conversation.  I also asked these fellows, but didn't resolve my query with the rhetoric of the conversation.
... deleted ... a lot of tweets about actions from years ago when when the #NoEstimates twitter conversation was beginning - some relating to a blog post being edited or complete deleted.  Something I find quite acceptable (and do quite frequently myself).






The conversation went on from there...  I'm reminded of Adam on MythBusters.



... and there is some link to Anti-Management because one is willing to discuss better options or worse options than estimation...


There appears to be large amounts of animosity amongst the principle people that were having this dialogue - nope that word is not the best word, here... try debate... twitter shouting match...








How might the analogy of estimation is like addiction be a useful analogy?




See Also:


Impact of Schedule Estimation on Software Project Behavior
by Tarek K. Abdel-Hamid, SRI International Stuart E. Madnick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday, April 17, 2017

Leadership re-envisioned in the 21st Century

Is there a new form of leadership being envisioned in the 21st Century?  Is there someone challenging the traditional form of organizational structure?

Leading Wisely - a pod cast with Ricardo Semler.
Leading Wisely

"Join organizational changemaker Ricardo Semler in conversation with leaders challenging assumptions and changing how we live and work."


S1E05: Busting Innovation Myths with David Burkus

S1E06: Merit and Self-Management with Jurgen Appelo

S1E07: Letting Values Inform Organizational Structure with Jos de Blok

S1E08: Corporate Liberation with Isaac Getz

S1E09: The Police & Self-Management with Erwin van Waeleghem

S1E10: Season Finale: The Common Denominator with Rich Sheridan of Joy Inc.


A ran across this series of 10 talks because I'm a fan of Joy, Inc. author and leader of Menlo innovations, Richard Sheridan.  I saw a tweet about his talk and found a bucket of goodness.
The Common Denominator with Rich Sheridan of Joy Inc.

Richard Sheridan on podcast Leading Wisely
See Also:
A Review of Leadership ModelsExamples of 21st C. Companies
Safety - the perquisite for Leadership
Joy, Inc : How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard SheridanReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Multiple Views of Truth are Perceptions

These are a few of the images that resonate with me. For me they are very close to a door of perception. Now I've never done a mescaline trip, so perhaps I've no clue to what a door frame of perception even looks like... but these images are pretty good with a few beers and some colleagues to discuss there deep meaning and what truth is. Would we even know the truth if it walked up and slapped our face?


Translated: "This is not a pipe"


Cover image of book: Godel Escher Bach


This is Truth; while this and that are true

In any article I write that mentions a door of perception - I would be remise if I didn't mention one of my all time favorite poets and musical group - Jim Morrison and the Doors.  Now do you know that the band is named for?


Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception
"Huxley concludes that mescaline is not enlightenment or the Beatific vision, but a "gratuitous grace" (a term taken from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica).[50] It is not necessary but helpful, especially so for the intellectual, who can become the victim of words and symbols. Although systematic reasoning is important, direct perception has intrinsic value too. Finally, Huxley maintains that the person who has this experience will be transformed for the better."

See Also:

Godel Escher Bach An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
This Is Not a Pipe by Michel Foucault
Art of Rene Magritte

Friday, April 7, 2017

Waggle Dance -or- Standup Meeting

Bees do a dance that bee keeper refer to as the Waggle dance...

It is with great pleasure that you can watch and using the power of science have this dance translated into English.

Bee Dance (Waggle Dance) by Bienentanz GmbH

What does this have to do with Scrum?  The power of a metaphor was well known to the creators of Extreme Programming (XP) - so much so, that it is one of only 12 "rules" that those really smart people decided to enshrine into their process.  It is also the most likely rule to not be mentioned in any survey of software development practices.  Unless you happen to be chatting with Eric Evens, and he may agree that he's captured the underlying principle in Domain-Driven Design, the Ubiquitous Language pattern.


Have you ever observed a great scrum team using a classic tool of many innovative company environments - the physical visual management board (Scrum Task Board). The generic behavior for a small group of people (say around 7 plus/minus 2) is for the group to discover that a form of dance where the speaker moves to the board and manipulates objects on the board as they speak gives everyone else the context of what story they are working upon and what task they are telling us they have completed. Then they exit stage left - so to speak. And the next dancer approaches from stage right, to repeat the dance segment. Generally speaking one circuit of this group is a complete dance for the day. The team is then in sync with all there team mates, and may have negotiated last minute changes to their daily plan, as the dance proceeded. In my observation of this dance great teams complete this ritual in about 15 minutes. They appear to need to perform this dance early in the morning to have productive days. And groups that practice this dance ritual well, out perform groups that are much larger and groups that don't dance.


So going all honey bee meta for a moment...  Let's use our meta-cognition ability to think about the patterns.  We love to pattern recognize - our brain is well designed for that (one of the primary reasons a physical visualization of work is so much more productive as a accelerator of happiness than virtualization of the same work items).

When do we use great metaphors - in design great NEW experiences for people that are reluctant to change.  And to communicate the desired behaviors, the exciting new benefits to adopting something new.  I'm thinking of the 1984 introduction of the Graphical User Interface by the Apple pirate team that produced the GUI, the Mouse, the Pointer, the DropDown Menu, etc.

Can you see a pattern in this... a pattern that relates to people changing systems, behaviors, disrupting the status quo?  It is resonating in my neurons, I'm having a heck of a time translating these neuron firing waves of intuitions, into the motor cortex to make my stupid fingers pound out the purposefully retarding movements on a QWERTY keyboard to communicate with you over Space-Time.  If only we could dance!

See Also:

The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee by Georgia Tech College of Computing
How can honeybees communicate the locations of new food sources? Austrian biologist, Karl Von Frisch, devised an experiment to find out! By pairing the direction of the sun with the flow of gravity, honeybees are able to explain the distant locations of food by dancing. "The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee" details the design of Von Frisch's famous experiment and explains the precise grammar of the honeybees dance language with high quality visualizations.
This video is a design documentary, developed by scientists at Georgia Tech's College of Computing in order to better understand and share with others, the complex behaviors that can arise in social insects. Their goal at the Multi-Agent Robotics and Systems (MARS) Laboratory is to harness new computer vision techniques to accelerate biologists' research in animal behavior. This behavioral research is then used, in turn, to design better systems of autonomous robots.



I was just reminded of @davidakoontz's wonderful metaphor for the daily #Scrum: waggle dance :) pic.twitter.com/h3c1B49mkC

— Tobias Mayer (@tobiasmayer) April 7, 2017