Friday, January 28, 2011

What is a Sustainable Pace? Velocity - Right? No!

Do you know what your team's sustainable pace is?  Do you believe it is equal to their Velocity?

Let's try to answer that question.

Scrum tells us that we should be Sprinting toward the goal of delivering working software.  But then it tells us that we should work at a pace that is sustainable over the long haul.  Is that an oxymoron?  Or is that Zen?

Velocity is the rate at which the team is delivering valuable-working-tested software to the customer.  If that velocity is at a steady state then it is the sustainable pace for that team - right?  I'll agree to that - if that velocity is relatively steady state over 2 years of time.  Then there is a high likely hood that the velocity accounts for vacation, holiday, sickness, team member changes, and growth of the scope of the definition of done for a sprint.

So how do you get a team working on a project to a steady state for two years?  In this industry - you don't!  But that doesn't mean we can approximate the point where steady state sustainable pace would be in the future.  Issac Newton invented calculus just to predict the complex motion of the earth around the sun.  Surely we could borrow his limit equations to  project the function of sustainable pace and predict where that pace would be in a future state.  That is after all not much different than what he was trying to do - predict the future.  Where would the earth be at some point in the future, in relation to the sun.

Assume that a team can Sprint at a Velocity average of 34 pts within the first 6 months of their project.  They have gone from the starting gate to Sprinting.  They start to reliably deliver working tested software every few sprints - they are in the groove.  This is not their sustainable pace.  Their sustainable pace is 1/3 that value.

Wow!  One-third, that's a bold statement.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How do you connect with Digital Natives?

I'm thinking a lot these days about the environment that we inhabit.  And who is here beside me.  The faces look similar to when I started in this business 20+ years ago, but what makes those people tick, is quite another matter.

Many of these faces belong to Digital Natives - a person that grew up in a digital world.

The term “digital native” and “digital immigrants” comes from Marc Prensky a writer, speaker, consultant and inventor in educational games and learning processes. In coining these terms Mr. Prensky is drawing on the analogy of natives to a homeland and in this case we are talking about the digital land or those who have always known the internet and the immigrants are the ones that are coming to this new land, some kicking and sreaming and others eagerly exploring and learning the new skills, language, and culture needed to travel in this digital world (Prensky, 2001). In this new digital land the natives have an advantage over the immigrants. This advantage stems from the immigrants lack of cultural context with which to judge, and perceive experiences, while the natives grew up in the new land and have assimilated to the environment. The natives have subtle differences in speech, social interactions, and are fluent in the digital communication forms that are prevalent in the new land, whereas the immigrants are perceived as having an accent. This accent “can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information as secondary source rather than their first source, or they will want to read the manual for a new program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach them to use it” (Prensky, 2001). Digital natives will be confortable using neologisms. A digital native will be so familiar with the Wikipedia that they will be comfortable with the word used as a verb. A digital immigrant on the other hand may well ask what is a Wikipedia? Wikipedia is an online multilingual, encyclopedia project, which has been created by a collaborative effort of hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors. For example one may hear a digital native say, “Just a minute, while I wiki that”. The native is implying that they will search for the topic of conversation on the Wikipedia web site, and then include information found into the conversation. What may surprise the digital immigrant is that this referencing the web site and searching for information will happen in parallel with the continuing conversation, perhaps with very little interruption of the conversation. This ability to multitask a conversation with individuals (verbal communication) and a conversation with a web site (textual communication); perhaps over a mobile device with a screen and keyboard that fit within the palm of your hand, is one characteristic of the digital native. The Digital natives are accustomed to rapid change, and perhaps even thrive within this environment. The immigrant on the other hand may cling to stagnant eddies in the flow of innovations. Innovation that may appear to the immigrant as high-tech, such as email, but be perceived by the digital native as old and tired.


Excerpted from: The Digital Generation - Teaching to a Population That Speaks an Entirely New Language by David Koontz; Tracy Gibson, Ed.D.; & Mark Van Den Hende, Ph.D.





Did You Know  - from the wiki Did You Know?/Shift Happens


Here's a great article and example of engaging the Digital Natives in education.  Wake Forest University's Business school gave newly enrolling grad students iPods - just so they could connect with them via video.

Video Production for WFU’s Summer Management Program



"Web-based video is quickly becoming a must-have to tell your story."
-- David Caudle

These guy's at Frogman taught me that do really connect one has to immerse themselves - to dive deep. I used that metaphor in a training class just this week. We were creating a product scorecard - comparing features of an existing application to desired features of a product to be developed. The scorecard has to allow for the reader (the user) to dive deep into the information and right down to the data layer if they so choose.
Full disclosure:  Frogman Interactive is my brother's web development company.

Cognitive Dissonance required to Secure iPhone

I was just sent a link to a good article on smart phone security and safety.  It got me thinking about the mistakes I had made in my iPhone info security strategy.  Why had I made these simple mistakes?

Common Sense Security for Your iPhone

This article is about the basic.  Since I've had my iPhone stolen on a trip to Europe I'm an expert.  My iPhone had at the time: Find My iPhone installed and active.  But it didn't work, as the iPhone was in Airplane mode (being in Europe and off the home AT&T network).  Since the iPhone would not connect to the network, the Wipe Commands from Apple would never reach the iPhone (in Airplane mode).  A severe limitation to the security while traveling out of country (and an opportunity for a global service provider).

My iPhone had Passcode turned on, it had SplashID - a safe for sensitive info like credit card numbers, etc.  I had all my credit card info, banking account numbers, driver's license, passport info, tons of membership cards in the SplashID app.

After trying to wipe the iPhone when it went missin
I tried to remote wipe the iPhone when it went missing.  After hours of turning the state room up side down and inside out.  Using the ship-board Internet connection was difficult, time consuming and results-questionable.  But the wipe never worked.  My best guess, even after talking with Apple tech support, is that the airplane mode assisted the thief - foiling the wipe.

I found the thief had most likely sold the iPhone because it appeared to have come into the possession of someone in the Asian content.  The phone was lost in Italy.  The possessor was using my Mobile Me account to store their contacts.  I emailed their mother and explained the appearance of their child's new iPhone that looked slightly used.  It may have been purchased on the black market.  Mom never responded to me.

What mistakes had I made?  I was quite panicked and sick.  Some of my credit card info was also in the iPhone's Contacts app.  Other sensitive info was in the Camera apps photo album (pictures of my passport and credit cards).

These mistakes were made because of the cognitive dissonance require for one to secure their smart phone.  One has the mental model that the apps and info stored and accessible via the iPhone should be quick to access and retrieve.  This model is in direct opposition to the need to secure the info.  Putting it into the safe requires several extra steps, retrieving it requires several extra steps, the discipline to segregate the info requires cognitive dissonance.

When I'm at the airplane checkin counter and the clerk ask for my frequent flyer account number, rather than finding it in the contacts app, I have to retain the discipline to open the safe, login to the safe, search the safe for the card and then I can answer the query.

But, I've learned a lesson. Yes, I failed.  I'm turning it into success. Now I'm just practicing, practicing, practicing the lesson.  I hope you will also.

A Technical Debit - Collateralized Debt Obligation you should not invest in

I just watch Ward Cunningham explain the XP Technical Debit metaphor that he coined.  It enlightened my understanding of how the term was applied in the early days (when he used it), and how we have mutated the metaphor to cover areas he never intended.


Ward Cunningham's Debt Metaphor Isn't a Metaphor (18 March 2009)


In summary Ward was suggesting that it was valuable long term thinking for a company to take on debt (technical debt) in order to ship a product early and get market feedback. Feedback that would get factored into the next iteration (release) of that same product. You see building software by Ward's XP model is not like building a house or a sky-scraper, it's like growing a garden of asparagus. Asparagus is a flowering perennial which requires several seasons of cultivation before it is ready to ship to market.  My father grew asparagus in our garden, when I was a kid, I didn't like it much then, but love it now.

Using debt to achieve something much more valuable is using the power of debt in a good way.  Like buying a house for your family to live in.  To shelter them from the environment when you live in Chicago.  But if you live in Hawaii, the debt taken on to shelter your family may be much less valuable.  Hence many people live in much less house in warmer climates.

Some people of course take on debt to live in lavish houses for other reasons.  One could debate if these reasons are rational.  And therefore debate if the debit is good or bad.

We all know by now that there is bad debit.  Our wonderful banker friends have given us a great lesson in trusting them, and there use of our money to create more and more complex debit instruments.

Are we in the software world following their lead?

Pist - hey, I've got a great Collateralized Technical Debt Obligation Instrument for us to invest in.  We just hack out this code, get the prototype hooked into the DB, don't worry about unit-test, do away with all that automated acceptance test framework.  We allow someone else to test it, we just write and sell the application.

Chris Sterling just published his book on this topic, Managing Software Debt.  I've not read it yet, but it is in my todo list.  Lisa Crispin wrote this review.  In full disclaimer mode - I've worked with Chris - and he rocks it!

Managing Software Debt

Want to know more about Collateralization of Debt - read the highlights from the Motley Fool on the official Debt Crisis report (warning - it may bring tears to your eyes):  Financial Crisis - greatest hits from the official report.

See Also:

The Technical Debt Trap - Doc Norton


Friday, January 21, 2011

First thing we do is Review

I'm working with a wonderful team this week in a unique "kickoff" or as we call it in our vernacular a team launch.  Here I have a mental image of an aircraft carrier with a plane on the flight deck, cocked and locked in the steam powered slingshot.  The flight control officer drops a flag and pow the team takes flight off the deck and into the air - easy, peasy.

A new experiment I've tried in this launch is the one hour iteration.  We have been working day in and day out all week.  However I've set a cadence of one hour iterations.  We start promptly on the hour, work in the iteration for 50 minutes and break for 10 minutes (yes you're thinking of tomatoes).

I've started each iteration with a mantra, "First thing we do is Review."  After 3 days the group is now doing this with out my prompting.  Heck just yesterday, they even started 1 minute after the hour because I didn't stand up and start the meeting promptly.  Yes, I was sitting calmly watching the clock, waiting, like a viper ready to strike.  I had decided when to act (5 min past the hour).  But one of the team members reminded me of the time to start, and with just the slightest encouragement, off he went and started the meeting with a review.  It's a proud moment when the plane makes it off the deck for the first time.

Yesterday I also broke cadence - slightly by accident but heck I'm a consultant - I've learned the art of turning my mistakes into learning moments for the group.  During one iteration we didn't end on time - we ran 5 minutes past the XX:50 mark, so I announced twice we would start at 10:05 AM.  I got into trouble with the team at 10:02 for not starting on time.  Explained that I had adjusted their schedule and announced it - ah-ha it's their "fault" for not listening.  No, it's my fault for breaking cadence!  But it is a teachable moment.

Now do you think they will see the fractal nature of this workshop and the Scrum cadence of a Sprint, of the Daily stand-up meeting where the first thing they say will be a review?  Then a plan for the day.  I've got a game I want to play with them - a metaphor for this - and like the viper I'm ready to strike.

I hope I've put enough steam in the launch piston - I see the flag dropping.

See Also:

Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams by Diana LarsenAinsley Nies 

Patterns in Nature - is there a fractal nature to the universe?





And they called it Scrum (iteration 4)




 See also:  And they called it Scrum (iteration 5)



I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does Andy's monologue, What it Was, Was Football sound like your management or C-level?

Why did they call this lightweight process (that later became know as an Agile process framework) Scrum?  I don't know - but allow me some revisionist historical fiction, and I'll tell you.

Scrum by definition is a play in the real sport of Rugby.  I think Jeff Sutherland (roots of Scrum) may be a Rugby fan.  Being an observant guy and noticing the similarity to software development and the true game, it hit him one day in the midst of a game (it was most likely a legal hit, as there are few illegal hits in Rugby - this ain't Football).

Scrum - in Rugby:  a play that commences after a pause in play (and we ain't goin' stop for just anything - this ain't Football) where the two opposing teams discuss in an orderly fashion the true possession of the ball.  The outcome of this play is the start of a complex (perhaps chaotic) plan by the possessive team to reach their objective and score a goal.

Now why does software development even resemble this game?   Well we do sometimes pause during development.  Well not the really good teams - just the nanzy-panzy teams.  But it is the beginning teams with which we must work first.  The paws of which I speak are the daily breaks we take for the dog walking and the spouse's honey dew list, and resetting the alarm clock to 6:00 AM after the cat unplugged it again (rather that default to 12:00 - wouldn't 6:00 AM be a better default - wonder what their Story Test script has in that spreadsheet cell).

So how do we restart the team after a pause?  One technique is a stand-up meeting where we gather around in a lose circle and focus upon the first objective, who has the ball?  Then we make a plan (maybe we call an audible play) we break and execute the plan.  In the mean time we would like a referee (preferably wearing an embarrassing shirt) to be watching the group, to make sure we don't inadvertently violate some rule of the game.

Now just for the edification of American's who think they know all about Football (the world snickers - oh, you mean American Football - that nanzy-panzy game).  Why not call this new lightweight process Football?  It has much more planning and the teams pause at very defined regular intervals to re-plan.  They have more people in funny looking shirts running all around blowing the whistle on violators.  Much better analogy - right?  Well yes, to the old way of doing software development - waterfall.  In waterfall we did a lot of planning, and then executed the plan.  In Football, they spend more time in huddles, than running the plays.  Jeff must have considered this.  Did he wish his software developers to spend 4 hours to complete a project (wall clock of a televised game), when the actual time running plays was some small fraction of the official 60 minute game clock?  Small fraction you say - what?  Well, yes the plays take 10 - 20 seconds, but the huddles take up to 25 seconds.  That equates to roughly 30% - 45% of the game in true action compared to the project duration Gant chart of 60 minutes, not to mention the overages to total project duration caused by advertiser (stakeholders) change request to pause for their special agenda item of interest (commercial break) to the users.

Hey, Jeff, good call on the naming - Football sucks!



What it Was, Was Football (YouTube).
Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (pulse 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain, NC in very Surry county.

.... read the final iteration of this article ...



If you are a fan of Sheriff Taylor's management style - you will enjoy this article by Donald E. Gray: 

Managing in Mayberry: An examination of three distinct leadership styles



Just found this video of Jeff Sutherland on the evolution of Scrum the process framework.





Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fail-Successfully:: What was Columbus' Problem?

Columbus Coat of Arms
Christopher Columbus' purpose was to find a faster, safer route to the silk, spices, and opiates of Asia (a total system rewrite for the failing legacy system - Silk Road).

"Columbus map", drawn ca. 1490 in the Lisbon workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus[1]
Was his problem that he didn't know his location and the location of his destination?  No.  Those were knowns to him.  He had maps of these locations.

Was his problem that he didn't know how to navigate?  No.  He was an accomplished ship's captain and in those days you had to navigate via dead reconing and he was adopting the new technology of celestial navigation.  I'm practicing a bit of historical speculation but in his day, figuring out Latitude was hard but a known problem with lots of calculations requiring a computer (person good with figures & lookup tables).  Guessing at Longitude was an unknown problem. It would be centuries before this problem is solved by John Harrison (1693 – 1776) a clockmaker that invented the marine chronometer, capable of sufficient fidelity to be useful in determining longitude after a long period of time away from the known location.

Toscanelli's notions of the geography of the Atlantic Ocean, which directly influenced Columbus plans
Was his problem that he didn't know the earth was round?  No.  In his day many educated people knew the earth was a sphere.  He didn't discover this fact.  It was well known by Ptolemy, and expanded by Aristotle, who lived in the 4th century BC.

Human Scale Bias

I believe his problem was that he had a problem of scale.  He could not image the true scale of the earth. As experienced as he was and he was an expert (10,000 hours of study).  He had a human scale bias to his mental model of the earth and the location of the continents.

"Where Columbus did differ from the view accepted by scholars in his day was in his estimate of the westward distance from Europe to Asia. Columbus's ideas in this regard were based on three factors: his low estimate of the size of the Earth, his high estimate of the size of the Eurasian landmass, and his belief that Japan and other inhabited islands lay far to the east of the coast of China. In all three of these issues Columbus was both wrong and at odds with the scholarly consensus of his day." -- Wikipedia

"True and Accurate" map of Christopher Columbus's voyages
In the abstract, he had a poor fidelity mental model.   Which resulted in misnaming of the native American population "Indians".  Hey, in an operation (space-ship earth) this big, mistakes are bound to happen.  It's not about blaming the brave soul that made the mistake, it's about learning, and doing better next time.  Good job Chris!  Next time Trust - but Verify.

With what I now know about the wonderful Indian (India) population and their many languages.  I can understand Chris' jump to the conclusion that just because these people on the coast didn't speak any of the languages that he and his ship mate's knew of Asian languages didn't mean he wasn't in India.  Ouch - wrong again.

His problem was just a problem of poor modeling.  He failed to write an Acceptance Test for his purpose.  His replacement for Silk-Road, also failed.  But he learned a lot in his failures, therefore we consider him a success.  A little phenomena I call "fail-successfully."

---

Ref: [1] "Marco Polo et le Livre des Merveilles", ISBN 978-2-35404-007-9 p.37
Wikipedia - contrary to my academic "professors" I think Wikipedia a cite-able creditable source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus I believe given another 400 years they will evolve to use the new technology of hyper-text, rather than the antiquated citation.

Did Columbus know the world was a sphere?  Yes, here's why.

Was Columbus the first to the new world?  No.
RUINS OF VIKING SETTLEMENT DISCOVERED NEAR HUDSON RIVER


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Prioritize, and reprioritize like the ship's capatin of the USS Constitution



The U S. S. Constitution (Old Ironsides), as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea.

According to her ship's log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum." 

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November.  She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.

On 18 November, she set sail for England.  In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted.  Nevertheless, although unarmed she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland.  Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.

The U S. S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,350 gallons of water!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Story Points - what's with the missing numbers?

First let's talk about Numbers, then something else, and then Story Points.

Number, integers and real numbers provide the scientist with a very valuable tool, a continuum of regular spaced labels for comparison purposes.  These integers are sequential with no gaps or voids.  This is quite special in nature, for there are very few things in the natural world that are so regular and consistent over an infinite range.

Let's look at the number 10.  It's a nice round number (divisible by two) and it has a roundness to it's drawing.  It is a commonly used end point in quizzes and surveys.  Is there something special about it - why not use 12?  Chicken farmers do, bakers do, why don't we in the Agile software world?  No - we use unlucky 13.

Something else - Font Sizes
What's your favorite font size?  I'm betting 12 point.  Because it is the default on most software programs - I'll wait take a look.  While you're up there at the font menu where is font size 13?  Maybe right there below 12.  Where is size 15?  On one of my favorite tools the drop down goes 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 14, 18, 24 ....

What's wrong with 15 point?  And why are all those other numbers missing?

While we're talking fonts, I remember back in the early 1990s teaching people about fonts, font styles, and font sizes.  Back then we had more choice.  One typically entered font size in a free form text box, you could have any size you thought might be pre-loaded on your computer.  Fonts were static in size and not scalable (TrueType).  There was a lot to learn about fonts.  What's a point?  Well it turns out I know what a point is:  and 72 of them can dance on a ruler within the tick marks of any inch.

Story Points the missing numbers
Agilist typically use a range of numbers with gaps to describe XP User Stories effort estimates (size).  One common set of numbers is the Fibonacci Sequence, or a modified Fib-Sequence (fib as in lie).

 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, ...  (Fibonacci Sequence)
 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100, 200, ...  (the Fib-Sequence)

Mind the Gap please.  Well are you OK with not finding the 15 pt Font Size?  Then why do you get so concerned about a few missing story point sizes.  It's the same damn thing.  Nobody wants to use font size 34 or cares about the difference between the 12 point story and the 11 point story - just call them all 13 points and move right along, nothing to see here folks.

Why did Agilist choose this particular sequence when the doubling sequence would work also, or the old school cooking measurement system of teaspoons to cups (48 = 1), or pints, quarts, gallons (8=4=1).  Or teaspoons, tablespoon, cups, pints, quarts, gallons ( 768=256=16=8=4=1).

One reason is the utter simplicity of the Fibonacci sequence and that it is an additive system of relative measures.  The sequence is granular at one end and smooth at the other.

If the opposite of granular is smooth, then which end of the Fibonacci Sequence is smooth and which granular?  Why does granular have a small connotation?  I think this is why I don't like the word granular - it's ambiguous when typically used.

Let's recap - in the 1970s it was the metric system, in the 1990s it was the Font Size, and now in the 2010s it's Story Points.

Paraprosdokian - a funny figure of speech, if I could pronounce it.

Yes copied right from Wikipedia for your reading pleasure.

A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Some paraprosdokians not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but also play on the double meaning of a particular word, creating a syllepsis.

Examples

"If I could say a few words, I'd be a better public speaker." —Homer Simpson

"If I am reading this graph correctly — I'd be very surprised." —Stephen Colbert

"You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they have tried everything else." —Winston Churchill

"If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." — Dorothy Parker

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." —Groucho Marx

"She looks as though she's been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say when." —P. G. Wodehouse

----

And here's some from the old-boys network.



   Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat
   you with experience.

   I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not
   screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

   The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

   Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright
   until you hear them speak.

   If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

   We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.

   War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.

   Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a
   fruit salad.

   The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

   Evening news is where they begin with "Good evening," and then proceed
   to tell you why it isn't.

   To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
   research.
 
   A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train
   stops. My desk is a work station.

   How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a
   whole box to start a campfire?

   Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can
   train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

   I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.

   A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you
  don't need it.

   Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an
   emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR."

   I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

   Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars,
    but checks when you say the paint is wet?

   Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and
   50 for Miss America ?

   Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a
   successful man is usually another woman.

   A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

   You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to
   skydive twice.

   The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

   Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

   A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that
   you will look forward to the trip.

   Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

   Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

   I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured by
   a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

   Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

   There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they
    can't get away.

   I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

   When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department
   usually uses water.

   You're never too old to learn something stupid.

   Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

   A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as
   when  you are in it.

   Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Velocity - defined; but it's so much more complex

If you need a definition of Velocity go ask your typical 9th grade student taking Physics.

Velocity - A vector that measures the relative change in position of an object, and indicates the objects average direction.

Velocity is a vector.  A vector consistent of two components: a scaler magnitude and a direction.  It is typical for the definition of velocity to be simplified to speed & direction.  But that is a simplification.  Magnitude is a scalar - just a number (with or without units).  Dirction is a heading - based in the coordinate system being imposed upon the measures.


scalar - A quantity, such as mass, length, or speed, that is completely specified by its magnitude and has no direction.

The magnitude of change in position in the case of this vector is a scalar.  That magnitude may be calculated in many different ways.  But in the motion of objects it is simple to calculate the difference between initial and current position.  All other motion (the track of the position through time) is wasted motion.  That track may be interesting in itself, however.

The direction is some what more complex than just a known heading - 23.4 degrees East of North.  True north or magnetic north?  In the case of our vector above the direction was an average direction indicative of the general direction based upon the initial position.  Note that drawing a line through both end points of the line segment would also give a direction - slightly more toward the North (top of the page).  Which is more accurate - neither.  They are both valid measurements of the direction - the method of arriving at the direction is just slightly different.  One could be considered an average heading (shown) - a better indication of trend toward a place.  The other (line through end-point segments) is more of an instantaneous direction based on two data points.  The former is reporting more accurately the trend over time, the latter more accurate direction if variance were to cease.

What is Velocity in the Agile / Scrum meaning?

Scrum team velocity is the amount of work effort completed and accepted by the Product Owner per Sprint (a rough measure of time) in the direction the Product Owner has steered the team (hopefully toward the Goal).  It consist of two components - the scalar Story Points completed, and the direction.  How one measures these two components is a blog posting for another time.


See Also:

What is a Sustainable Pace?
Why not Velocity as an agile metric? by Ester Derby
Ron Jefferies apologies for his part in creating the Velocity metric:  Should Scrum die in a fire?
"In my thinking, velocity is an obsolete topic. Out there in the world, estimates will be with us for a long time and will be misused. They were before Agile came into being, and will be for a long time to come. For my part in it, I apologize. Meanwhile you’ll need to deal with the topic as best you can, because it’s not going away." - Ron Jefferies

And they called it Scrum (iteration 3)


I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does Andy's monologue, What it Was, Was Football sound like your management or C-level?

Why did they call this lightweight process (that later became know as an Agile process framework) Scrum?  I don't know - but allow me some revisionist historical fiction, and I'll tell you.

Scrum by definition is a play in the real sport of Rugby.  I think Jeff Sutherland (roots of Scrum) may be a Rugby fan.  Being an observant guy and noticing the similarity to software development and the true game, it hit him one day in the midst of a game (it was most likely a legal hit, as there are few illegal hits in Rugby - this ain't Football).

Scrum - in Rugby:  a play that commences after a pause in play (and we ain't goin' stop for just anything - this ain't Football) where the two opposing teams discuss in an orderly fashion the true possession of the ball.  The outcome of this play is the start of a complex (perhaps chaotic) plan by the possessive team to reach their objective and score a goal.

Now why does software development even resemble this game?   Well we do sometimes pause during development.  Well not the really good teams - just the nanzy-panzy teams.  But it is the beginning teams with which we must work first.  The paws of which I speak are the daily breaks we take for the dog walking and the spouse's honey dew list, and resetting the alarm clock to 6:00 AM after the cat unplugged it again (rather that default to 12:00 - wouldn't 6:00 AM be a better default - wonder what their Story Test script has in that spreadsheet cell).

So how do we restart the team after a pause?  One technique is a stand-up meeting where we gather around in a lose circle and focus upon the first objective, who has the ball?  Then we make a plan (maybe we call an audible play) we break and execute the plan.  In the mean time we would like a referee (preferably wearing an embarrassing shirt) to be watching the group, to make sure we don't inadvertently violate some rule of the game.

Now just for the edification of American's who think they know all about Football (the world snickers - oh, you mean American Football - that nanzy-panzy game).  Why not call this new lightweight process Football?  It has much more planning and the teams pause at very defined regular intervals to re-plan.  They have more people in funny looking shirts running all around blowing the whistle on violators.  Much better analogy - right?  Well yes, to the old way of doing software development - waterfall.  In waterfall we did a lot of planning, and then executed the plan.  In Football, they spend more time in huddles, than running the plays.  Jeff must have considered this.  Did he wish his software developers to spend 4 hours to complete a project (wall clock of a televised game), when the actual time running plays was some small fraction of the official 60 minute game clock?  Small fraction you say - what?  Well, yes the plays take 10 - 20 seconds, but the huddles take up to 25 seconds.  That equates to roughly 30% - 45% of the game in true action compared to the project duration Gant chart of 60 minutes, not to mention the overages to total project duration caused by advertiser (stakeholders) change request to pause for their special agenda item of interest (commercial break) to the users.

Hey, Jeff, good call on the naming - Football sucks!



What it Was, Was Football (YouTube).
Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (pulse 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain, NC.

... keep reading the next version ....

And they called it Scrum (iteration 2)


 See also:  And they called it Scrum (iteration 5)

I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does Andy's monologue, What it Was, Was Football sound like your management or C-level?

Why did they call this lightweight process (that later became know as an Agile process framework) Scrum?  I don't know - but allow me some revisionist historical fiction, and I'll tell you.

Scrum by definition is a play in the real sport of Rugby.  I think Jeff Sutherland (roots of Scrum) may be a Rugby fan.  Being an observant guy and noticing the similarity to software development and the true game, it hit him one day in the midst of a game (it was most likely a legal hit, as there are few illegal hits in Rugby - this ain't Football).

Scrum - in Rugby:  a play that commences after a pause in play (and we ain't goin' stop for just anything - this ain't Football) where the two opposing teams discuss in an orderly fashion the true possession of the ball.  The outcome of this play is the start of a complex (perhaps chaotic) plan by the possessive team to reach their objective and score a goal.

Now why does software development even resemble this game?   Well we do sometimes pause during development.  Well not the really good teams - just the nanzy-panzy teams.  But it is the beginning teams with which we must work first.  The paws of which I speak are the daily breaks we take for the dog walking and the spouse's honey dew list, and resetting the alarm clock to 6:00 AM after the cat unplugged it again (rather that default to 12:00 - wouldn't 6:00 AM be a better default - wonder what their Story Test script has in that spreadsheet cell).

So how do we restart the team after a pause?  One technique is a stand-up meeting where we gather around in a lose circle and focus upon the first objective, who has the ball?  Then we make a plan (maybe we call an audible play) we break and execute the plan.  In the mean time we would like a referee (preferably wearing an embarrassing shirt) to be watching the group, to make sure we don't inadvertently violate some rule of the game.




What it Was, Was Football (YouTube).
Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (pulse 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain, NC.

... read the next iteration of this article ....

And they called it Scrum (iteration 1)



 See also:  And they called it Scrum (iteration 5)


I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does this monologue sound like your management or C-level?





And they call it Football (YouTube). Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (pulse 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain, NC.

... see next iteration of this topic ...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Boundaries, Location & Navigation

I think the theme for today is Boundaries, Location and Navigation.

I'm working for a mapping company, wonder if I need a vacation? A little distance from work could provide perspective.  Perhaps my reptilian-brain and monkey-brain are overtaking the Homo-brain, it happens when they are working out a deep problem.

I noticed that Navteq was at CES - here's an excerpted twitter stream:

Location is so much more than Navigation. Stop by and see us at booth #36062 and find out why.


@ Location is so much more than Navigation. Stop by and see us at booth #36062 and find out why. // Where's booth? need direct'n


@ We're in the upper level South Hall next to Garmin_ Look forward to seeing you!


@ Location is so much more than Navigation. I was funnin ya ya gave a location but I need navigational aids - maybe its versa vise


Now I happen to believe that there is more to location than coordinates.  But is Location so much more than Navigation?  I think I use navigation to get to locations.  One is the means, the other the end.  But in context is one more important than the other?

I used their location info (booth #36062) but it was not enough.  When I responded with a request for more info - I got directional information (upper level & south hall).  Both relative directional pieces of data that I needed to turn into navigational information.  They also gave me a landmark (next to Garmin).  Had I actually been at CES, perhaps I could use some form of navigation to dead-reckon my way to Garmin.  Where I could use another form of navigation - sighting, to look for Navteq and then navigate to them.

So how do borders fit into all this navigation and location stuff?  Well turns out I work in the Boeing Building in Chicago.  Boeing builds many of the planes we sit on for long periods of time (sometimes on a tarmac) while someone else worries about the navigation, to take us to our destination (location).  Now this building is chock-a-block full of cubicles.  Of which I'm one of several consultants encouraging Navteq to remove the cubicles (bulldoze them all to hell) and create a new humanistic Agile environment.  Cubicles are all about boundaries - right!  And the Boeing building uses a numbering scheme to give a location to each.  It's a smart numbering system.  I live in cubie  10 A 112.  I say it's a smart system in jest - because there is nothing quite so smart as being 1/2 as smart as a smart system.  The 10 stands for the 10th floor.  That works very well.  The A - who knows but there are A, B, C, Ds in the floor I'm on.  The 112 - just some sequence number.

Now just about two weeks after being their I noticed a pattern (quick ain't I).  All the As were in one area of the 10th floor, and the Bs were segregated to a different area, almost like this denoted quadrants (in a rectilinear building).  So if one assumed that the letter was a designation for the quadrant of the building then things got easier to navigate.  If one was at my desk 10 A 112 and needed to go to the conference room 11 B 102 one could map out a navigation strategy.

Working on this assumption I found finding conference rooms was now much easier, I only needed about 10 minutes to wonder in one quadrant of a building to find the sequence index of a room in a rather large area that had no natural boundaries to denote sequential start or end.

I mentioned that to a colleague and it hit him that this system would help him - if it were true.  We had reduced the problem domain from the whole building with a location number into a subset that was now just the size of a portion of one floor of the building.

This is only a part of the solution, however.  One wonders why if the A, B, C, D were indicators of a quadrant system - didn't the building architects use the common terms for quadrants - North, South, East, West?  Was the fact that the build is on a north-south street such an impediment to a smarter smart system?  One could easily imagine renaming my 10 A 112 to the smarter 10 SE 112 because I'm in the south-eastern corner of the building.

Why didn't the architects catch this bug in their big up front design of the building?  Do they have any idea of the cost of this bug?  Would iterating on designs help them, would feedback from tenants of their builds be helpful?

Wait- I've got an idea why this A, B, C, D system was used.  This is an airline building!  Airlines are designed to have an arbitrary seat designation system to slow down their boarding process.  How many times have you been sitting in seat C 23 and had some guy walk up and say - "I have the aisle ticket," you say so do I.  He pulls out ticket A 23 and you point to the window.  He points to the label on the overhead bin and says "A is the aisle seat."  Wow - how often do you travel?  Yes, I know the signs don't help, they are ambiguous unless you read the manual for the sign.  They can be interrupted in two ways.  And A does sound like it should stand for aisle.  But even the airlines don't count "C, B, A, D, E, F."

This is the Boeing building after all.  So I can understand why they used their A, B, C, D designation system.  It's arbitrary and slows down communication and navigation.

Then Navteq piled onto this wonderfully arbitrary system by overloading the conference room names.  In this meta-system Navteq has designated each floor as a "continent," and named each conference room by a country's name in the floor's continent.  So it is very common to ask where the meeting will be held, and the response will be "in Argentina."  Now if you have been living in this system for a long time you can overload your understanding of world geography with Navteq floor geography and map-reduce the meaning that the conference room Argentina is in South-America and South-America is (brain table lookup) the 10th floor.  So now you just have to wonder the 10th floor until you stumble upon the conference room with a label on it that reads  "10 B 115 / Argentina."

Yes, Location is much more than Navigation.  Take it from the people who understand how to do all of these things: navigation, location and boundaries.  Boundaries have been formed - fences made and maintained - but for what purpose? 
There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
-- Robert Frost, Mending Wall
I'm beginning to think that location done so poorly as to not allow effective navigation is not location in it's meta meaning at all.  It is more of a boundary - a barrier.  Interesting how poor location information mutated into a boundary that must be crossed for navigation to continue and arrive at destination - the purpose of both.

Good Fences & Good Neighbors

I'm always amazed at people who quote "Good fences make good neighbors" and don't know that they should be doing so with irony in their voice.  Had they studied the poem, rather than the cliff notes, they would likely have gotten that irony is required when quoting Mr Frost's Mending Wall.

An asside on the Roman God Terminus - the god of boundaries.

The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated in Rome and in the country on the 23rd of February.  The neighbors on either side of any boundary gathered around the landmark [the stones which marked boundaries], with their wives, children, and servants; and crowned it, each on his own side, with garlands, and offered cakes and, bloodless sacrifices. In later times, however, a lamb, or sucking pig, was sometimes slain, and the stone sprinkled with the blood. Lastly, the whole neighborhood joined in a general feast.



Related Post:  To build fences or to irragate.

To build Fences - or to Irragate

I love driving from the east coast to Denver, CO.  Interstate 70 ("The I70" if you live in LA - or are an actor playing a southerner in a drama on TV) is a great study in differences.  Think about the saying - "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" as you drive the interstate through Missouri, then Kansas, and enter Colorado.  At the bordor of Colorado (a fence of an abstract nature) there is a sign that reads "Welcome to Colorful Colorado."

It is a very colorful state - they just don't use Green in their palette very often.  Not that Kansas at this point is much greener.  It is windier.  Although it's not that Kansas is windy, it's that Missouri sucks (rim shot please).

There is a point at which the farmers have to start irrigation just to make grass grow - this point is somewhere behind you, when you're traveling west and see the Colorful Colorado sign. John Wesley Powel tells us it's the 100th Meridian. Did you notice that point, that line, it is a fence of sorts.  A fence that the weather patterns know about.  A barrier to dry air. Or is it a barrier that when clouds get beyond they feel free to open up a bit - let some moisture out?

Sometimes it is an obvious point, rarely so obvious as below.  But the point is that it's not about where the grass is greener - but what you are searching for and what one is nurturing.  A good friend of mind (who lives in Colorful Colorado) said to me - and it stuck - "The grass is always greener, ... where you water it."

Always Greener - by Thomas Parks

Pearls of wisdom on: The Nature of Government

My father-in-law just sent this - I don't know who compiled the list but it is a wonderful list.  Lot's of Twain.  Are you going to read his recently published autobiography (posthumously published 100 years)?  And that Anonymous guy is witty.

I found it funny that Amazon was advertising "The Autobiography of Mark Twain (Perennial Classics)." How did the book get into that category so quickly?

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress. 
-- John Adams
 
2. If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
-- Mark Twain
 
3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But, then, I repeat myself. 
  -- Mark Twain 
 
4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and
trying to lift himself up by the handle.
  -- Winston Churchill
 
 5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
-- George Bernard Shaw
 
 
6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man;  which he proposes to pay off with your money.
  -- G. Gordon Liddy

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
  -- James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)
 
8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
  -- Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University
 
9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian
 
 
10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. 
 -- Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)
 
11. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:  If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  And, if it stops moving, subsidize it.
 -- Ronald Reagan (1986)
 
 
12. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
 -- Will Rogers

 
13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!
-- P.J. O'Rourke

 
14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
 - Voltaire (1764)
 

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
 -- Pericles (430 B.C.)

 
16. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
 -- Mark Twain (1866)

 
17. Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it.
 -- Anonymous 
 
18. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
-- Ronald Reagan
 
 
19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
-- Winston Churchill

 
20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
  -- Mark Twain

 
21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)
 
 
22. There is no distinctly native American criminal class ... save, Congress.
--  Anonymous

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.
  -- Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995) 
 
24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
  -- Thomas Jefferson


Interesting how the nature of goverenment hasn't changed much in 3000 years from the perspective  of social commentaries.

What competes with an iPad?

Well it's that time of year again,  Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas time, where all the companies roll out their iPad killers (circa 2010 & 2011).  If it were circa 2008 the theme would be iPhone killers, but we have progressed as a society.

One great quote I read on the web was from Steve Martin in reference to CES - "Saw large wooden device that can fling boulders over castle walls. iPad killer."


There are great minds trying to help companies unseat the Great and Powerful Oz ... uh Jobs, but even they are missing the silver slippers (that got ruby-ized for the Technicolor movie).  Note dear reader that I have a personal misconception that all allegories in America stem from the Wizard of Oz and I subscribe to the Monitery reform allegory of Frank Braum.
I have gone so far as to require people on my teams to watch the movie and eat popcorn in order to better understand the idioms of their village idiot.

Quick Toto, into the twister (worm hole) and back to the CES, where the theme repeats like an album at the end of the track.  For you digital natives - in old school tech, just after the steam punk tech died out and we got the 1950s good nuke generation (power so inexpensive it would not be cost effective to meter it) the music player of the day was a turn table and we had several media file formats 45s, 78s or the LP (that means long playing, about an hour).  Oh - wait, wrong exit, back into the twister... 2010... no 2011 is our exit.  It is not the iPod killer CES we wish to see, its the iPad CES we are looking for, pod, pad, "you say potato, I say patato - let's call the whole thing off".

Back at the 2011 CES the theme is iPad killers - or slate computers.  A whole new industry just materialized in front of Steve Jobs' in 2010 as he waved his magical wand (with an Apple logo at the tip) and created the elusive new market segment that couldn't be successful. Yet here we are one year later and it appears that the segment is successful.  Apple stock has continued to rise.  The yellow brick road leads to Cupertino.

Andy Ihnatko gives us Lessons at CES - how your tablet can compete with iPad. He list over 10 lessons to help competitors run to catch up with the wizard.  However I think he misses the key.

Great lessons in the play book to create an iSomething product killer. But there is a repeating meme here. I keep hearing the melody repeat but at a different pitch. Oh... I think we are in a fugue! So what is the subject of this fugue, the beginning point, the pattern's purpose?

It can be traced back to 2001, when the Great Oz stepped out from behind the curtain and presented the eHub strategy. The key to understanding the whole formation of the Land of Oz. It is the one thing that all other companies creating their iSomething replacement keep missing. It is the key to happiness that Dorthy is looking for.  The key she finds it in her own backyard. It is what makes the grass in Kansas greener than in Colorado. (An aside - the grass is always greener where you water it.) Its virtue is simplicity itself.

The eHub strategy is about creating an eco-system. Not one product. Not one device. An interconnected, interdependent, well integrated ecosystem of many products and services and a holistic land where not just one wizard was capable of printing money - but a land where many people could work and play. A land that gives people Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (thanks Dan Pink). A land that maximizes Happiness (my core value).

The 2001 MacWorld keynote where the wizard in black turtel neck sweater steps from behind the curtain to describe the land.






  Related Post:  Bashing the iPad - But will you purchase?


Friday, January 7, 2011

Some fun videos about Agile & Scrum

Just a lose collection of fun/funny and sometime informative videos about Agile / Scrum and software development.
Halloween's MVP (minimal viable pumpkin)

An Agile Law Commercial about how to handle crying in a retrospective.
Agile Law - no crying in retro

Developer abuse.

Automatic build process.

Hit and Run build Breaker.


High Moon Studios – An Agile Game Developer What is Scrum? A group of self-anointed experts on Scrum in game development do their best to avoid answering the question.

Impediment Monkey. Hey, I think I know the impediment monkey!


An Agilist meets a Waterfaller.


Mingle from ThoughtWorks Studios on a Nintendo Wii

Try another way.


5-Steps to Project Success (Seriously!)



Don't know what you don't know An excerpt from a software development speech that Jim McCarthy gave to Microsoft Consulting when he was in charge of C++ (now Visual Studio).

What's the name of the project?

In this movie "I want to run an agile project" we follow the experiences of one such brave project leader, Luke, as he has many different encounters throughout the enterprise, working to establish and deliver his Agile project.

41 Agile Jokes - not that funny but... well look at the material comedians have to work with.

More serious videos about learning Scrum

An Intro to Scrum by animated Michael James - watch this 7 times and you can skip the 2 day Scrum Master course.

Scrum in 7 minutes. Learn the basics of the scrum development framework in just 7 minutes! By the end of this video you'll be ready to take the first steps towards implementing scrum practices on your development team!

ScrumMaster in under 10 minutes.  Learn the Scrum software development methodology in less than 10 minutes. By the end of this fast-paced video, you'll practically be a scrum master. You'll know about burn-down charts, team roles, product backlogs, sprints, daily scrums and more.