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Book Review:: Agile Noir by Lancer Kind


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   and I'm envisioning a 1956 black and white film
Kartar is the metaphor of his project.



First, allow me to layout some ground rules and a touch of the backstory...

I'm not a professional book reviewer, nor paid in anyway to read.  But if I could get that gig... I'd be a happy camper.  I've never written a book, but I've hacked out some code, a few articles, some of which might be considered book reviews.  I've worked in the Agile industry for more than a decade (but who's counting), and so - I may be a little close to the topic to have proper literary impartial bias.  In fact let me just go ahead and be explicit - I've done this, been there, got the t-shirt; I shit you not - this shit is for real!

Agile Noir by Lancer Kind

Now the ground rules...  I think this review will be written ... what's the word... while I'm reading, at the same time, without much delay in the reading - writing phases....in situ.... iteratively... oh I give up...

So don't be surprised - dear reader - if I just drop off in the middle...
                       ... maybe check back every week until I finish
March 22,
I've studied the cover... quite a nice graphic - to bad the whole novel isn't a graphic novel; oh - maybe it would be too bloody,  I could see Agile Noir becoming a Tarantino film.  As I sat looking at my book to-do stack... I skipped a few levels down the stack and pulled out Lancer Kind's 2016 Agile Noir.  I have read some of his previous comics titled Scrum Noir (vol 1, 2, 3).  So maybe I know what to expect - should be a fun romp in the fast lane with lots of inside the industry puns, innuendo and metaphors.

Well the damn dedication just reeks of an Agile Coach - Servant Leader (puke, barf.... moving on).

The High Cost of Schedule Slip
Now you may not find the situation Kartar finds himself in funny...  allow me to add some overtones of irony....  I'm going to go out on a racist limb and suggest that Kartar is an Indian.  That he is working in the heart of the Indian nation (Los Wages, NV), perhaps on a job for an Italian crime boss.  And none of these circumstances have anything to do with one of the world of science's biggest failures - Columbus's discover of the New World - which the thought was India, and named it's inhabitants there by creating the confusion we will have to deal with evermore.  Now Columbus was of course searching for a way to reduce the schedule required for shipping spices.

Kartar appears to be very emerged in planning and the art/science/pesdo-truth of planning and predicting the future of projects.  And he may be a master with the Gantt chart (which is footnoted on page 18).

This is all ringing just too true ... and I'm envisioning it in the style of a 1956 black and white film...

Kartar is the metaphor of his project... it seems that it's not quite on schedule... he's late to a just announced meeting with some superior and is driving at break neck speed on loose sand in the Vegas out skirts creating over bumps and ditches in his car with the accelerator pinned to the floor - because some people in a van might be trying to kill him.  Happens ALL - THE - TIME.

April 4th
Finished chapter 1.  That Bastard.  He killed off our hero Kartar.  oh - OPPS - SPOILERS!
I truly don't know if I should throw the book in the garbage bin or keep reading... going to bed.

April 6th
OK - that was quite the trick, Chapter 2, Rowing over a better Waterfall is a twist... but now it's getting interesting and our hero is back, yet I fear not quite in control of his project.

April 10th
The chapter Death by Documentation is just that... a death march, I almost quit.  The chapter is worth skipping if you have ever been on one of these classic projects - then you already know enough to thumb to page 89 and restart.  However if your not in IT or project management work of any type (Record Scratch: then how in the heck did you find my blog - and why are you reading this book?) you might enjoy the chapter as it will explain how all of your companies IT project fall behind schedule and never deliver what you want.  Read it - little bells of enlightenment will chime in your head.

The introduction of the IT Mechanic is quite fun.  He's almost a stalker... yeah, he's definitely a PM stalker.  This character is going to be fun.  He's reminding me of someone I've met... and someone from my youthful days of reading Carlos Castaneda.  The character's name is "J" could it stand for Jaun (as in don Jaun Matus)?  He's got an interesting calling card with no numbers or email addresses.  I'd recommend he try Moo - best printing house in the business.  J has some psyc skills and quite a few trick up his sleeves (he is living in the land of Penn & Teller after all).

I really enjoyed this chapter, but then almost any thing would be great after that death slog of documentation hell.

April 12th 
Sprinting is the right word for the next chapter... it's a dash by Usain Bolt.  In Sprinting with a Bollywood Autobot Kartar learns to write user stories and mix drinks of analysis, design, requirement, and development.  He attempts to negotiate on delivery with the owner and in the end crosses the third rail of the PMI tracks in a Lovers quarrel.  Oh - damn, that's not at all what happens.  But it's a lot of fun and went by really fast.  Don't know if we can sustain this pace for the rest of the book.

April 19th
Scrumming in a Waterfall - nice visual, great chapter.  I'm pulling for Kartar, he's doing all the right behaviors, making mistakes and learning each step of the way.  One day he's going to land this project in the success column of management's spreadsheet.  It appears that's how interested the big boss is in the project (affectionally called "Winner").  It's right when Kartar is about got the dirty little secret of Scrum figured out in this iteration that the Lovers, Sis & Lex show up and we cycle under the pressure of the waterfall, tumbling and gasping for air.  

How do you explain water to a fish?  I'm thinking that Kartar is learning all kinds of things in this iteration.  He's gotten lesson at the firing range, upgrade his tiny pistol to an arsenal that Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice) would be proud of - maybe she'd invite Kartar to show her his car trunk.

But by the end of this chapter - we are back in the rabbit hole with Alice and late, we're late, for an important date.

April 23rd
I've come to understand something about "new new product development" in the software world... it requires great Product Vision and this chapter illustrates a wonderful secret of the process.  This is a wonderful view of the typical company move to the Agile mindset.  Place yourself in Kartar's view and you may believe you have the system figured out.  But is there something missing?  All the teams are scrumming and getting along, produce working software.  It's a happy time on the project.  I'm left wondering what could possibly happen next (hint its not near enough to the end of the book).

April 30th
The next two chapters are great... I couldn't put down the book, had to see Kartar's fate - could he ship the Winner, or would the PMI high priestess Lex & Sis reclaim their underling that has gone astray?  Yes (SPOILERS), of course he get's his team doing Scrum, and the the other's join in the game to ship working software... but what stresses might this cause within this Vegas eco-system?

Well, you may make a guess - but it might surprise you how this project to produce the mobile gambling game-boy turns out.  And if there is a hero... I'm sure it's not Kartar, but he doesn't disappoint.

Addendum ~=  Moral of the Story
The last two chapters, are really addendum, or afterward, for those of you who wish to go beyond the story and understand the underlying moral.

So at this departure point, allow me to confess.  I enjoined this task of reading Agile Noir to answer one personal question:  Would reading a fictional story of a character going through the mental transformation of becoming Agile, be as powerful as a two day workshop that results in a certification, and the beginning of a lifetime's journey to agility, and JOY in the workplace?

This is a difficult question to answer from my current perspective - I would love your (dear reader) answer - it may be much more realistic than my answer.  I believe (I want to believe - me and Muller) that this could be as powerful to a ready open minded person, as an introductory 2 day class.  So my answer to the primary question: YES!

Now one might want to know WHY?
I have an idea why this technique may be just as powerful - maybe better scalability, and in general better ROI.  Come back after this idea bakes a few days...

Table of Contents:
  1. The High Cost of Schedule Slip
  2. Rowing over a better Waterfall
  3. Death by Documentation
  4. The IT Mechanic
  5. Sprinting with a Bollywood Autobot
  6. Scrumming in a Waterfall
  7. Product Vision
  8. Sustainable Pace
  9. Liberation and Libations
Addendum:
  1. Agile Development is about having FUN!
  2. Why Let Your Framework Limit You?



See Also:
Scrum Noir - several volumes of graphic novel about scrum masters and the projects they encounter - also by Lancer Kind
I will have a Double Expresso - Amazon review of Scrum Noir.
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