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Showing posts from 2010

Dan Pink thinks my wife is Good-looking & Wise.

How cool is technology that connects an author with a fan on a personal level.  Perhaps this is just a simple marketing technique.  The author auto-searches the twitter stream for reference to their name or book, and then sends a personal reply to the originating person.  What does this personal attention from a respected author do for the person?  It creates a level of bonding that humans crave.

The result was more powerful than any advertising.  Now Dan Pink has recruited me to spread his message about his book.  Is this just a simple motivation trick - is he a Jedi Master with motivation mind tricks?  I'm telling all my friends that he thinks my wife is Good Looking and Wise.  Hey, that's a quote.


Buy it at Amazon.


Related Post:  It happened again. I enjoy being manipulated by Master Jedi

Dogfood David

I just tagged myself Dogfood David in a retrospective the other day.  Our Product Owner was running a few team building games.  We were playing an Agile word association name game, the ball was tossed to me, the pressure was on, I had to find an Agile word/concept that started with D.  Dogfood David just blurted out of me.

Why did this happen?

As it turns out I do believe in eating my own dogfood.  I have literally made and eaten dogfood.



My wife and I had two dogs when we were married.  After our honeymoon we moved to Salt Lake City and bought new unknown brand of dog food.  Our golden retriever, Tyler, had epilepsy and  he started having daily convulsions.  My wife spotted the pattern. She had been reading about controlling epilepsy in humans via diet.  She put two very temporal separate things together and decide that we had to change Tyler's diet.  More research turned up a book that recommended a vegetarian diet for dogs with epilepsy.

We started making dog food.  Tyler became…

What replaces co-location in Agile?

What replaces co-locations and face-to-face collaboration?

In the Agile Manifesto's 12 principles we see the requirement for collaboration, this one however requires co-location.  How else will we get face-to-face conversations?
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. There are many suggestions for the substitution or replacement of co-location, but none to date have been effective.
Conference PhonesWeb camsHigh end video conferencesVirtual roomsHolodecks
Web cams are a cheep (you get what you pay for) alternative.  If you are going this direction, my advice is to buy a MacBook ($1000). Buy one for both ends of your connection. I believe Apple will be a leader in the video conference/phone market place within 5 years (see timeline).  I can FaceTime with my iPhone and your MacBook, talk about portable!

PCs with USB cameras are a poor choice.  How effective will it be to pick up your laptop with a…

A Ball of Whacks

I broke out some of my toys in a training class the other day.  A brought out just a few at a time.  Its nice to keep a few surprises in the bag.  Toys add to the fun quotient.

One of the standard toys is a rubber chicken.  This is a fun item to have.  Most people are shocked that I have one and would actually bring it into the work place.  But after they get to play with it, the fear of having fun at work seems to dissipate.


I like the squishy rubber chicken - they come in all types of rubber, you can buy them online - but to get the kind that feel a bit icky (like cold chicken skin) you have to touch and feel them in a toy store.

The rubber chicken can be used for so many things in a training class or workshop.  A "talking token" - only if you have the chicken may you speak.  Or to transport the team forward in time, so that they can Remember the Future.  You've heard of the magic of  waving a dead chicken - right?

The chicken is fun - but the best toy is the Ball of W…

Myth of the Construction meme in Software

I'm reading Scott L. Bain's book Emergent Design - The Evolutionary nature of Professional Software Development.  I'm reading it because of the discussion in a work session on the nature of software just this week.  One person was describing why we software developers needed to think long and hard on our problems and design the best possible solution to deliver value to our customer.  He was advocating the BDUF philosophy.  I asked if he thought software could be grown, as a tree is grown from a seed into a seedling and then many years later a mighty oak tree.  He said software was more like the Sears Tower (a local to Chicago never refers to the building by it's current name - Willis Tower).

I'm constantly amazed by the power of a meme.  The ability of this construction based mental model to remain within our industry is astounding.  Discussing this with a colleague, we thought this one model to be one of the hardest for people in their transition to Agile to re-w…

Long Distance Communication Timeline

Wondering about improving the collaboration of a distributed Scrum team, I started thinking of the history of long distance communication.  I'm no expert but here's what I see in history, the trend, the current state, and the future.

History shows us that we humans have struggled with the problem of transmitting message over space.  Getting a signal to cross space is easy, attaching meaning to the signal has been much harder and insuring the veracity of the meaning is really tough.  None of that insures that meaning has been understood.  However we have studied this phenomenon and found that increasing the modes of message transmitted improves the understanding of the  received message.  That is; as we move along the modal continuum of written, verbal, visual, video messages we increase the chance for higher fidelity message understanding.

Lessons to be learned - use the highest bandwidth medium possible.

But in the year 2010, I still find our technology lacking.  Dick Tracy h…

Agile Story Estimation via Dog Grooming Exercise

Practice story estimation techniques with this exercise in dog grooming.

Related Post:
Affinity Estimating: A How-To by Sterling Barton.
Dogfood David why I feel like an expert in the concept of eating one's own dogfood.
   Slideshare:  Affinity Estimation - Size 60 Stories in about 20 Minutes.
For each dog below, estimate the work effort (size) required to groom the dog.  Assuming that you have the tools and experience to groom dogs.  Grooming includes washing, drying, combing, nail clipping, and hair triming in some cases.


Start with the ever popular:
Golden Retriever (22-24 in, 50-90 lbs).




The short haired Dachshund (15-28 lbs).



The Standard Poodle (15-18in, 40-80 lbs).




Bernese Mountain Dog (25-28 in., 65-120 lbs).




German Shepherd (23-26 in, 50-90 lbs).



Yorkshire terrier (5 in, <10 lbs).




Beagle (13-16 in, 18-35 lbs).



Boxer (26-31 in, 55-110 lbs).




Bulldog (40-55 lbs).





Labrador Retriever (21-25 in, 55-130 lbs).





Great Dane (28-38 in, 120-200 lbs).




Komondor (25-32 in, 90-130 lbs).


Buy vs. Build Decisions & User Stories

Where does the typical engineering Buy vs. Build decision making process happen within Agile software development?  How does Agile's User Stories help us with this decision making process?



Case Study
In the late 1990s I worked with a talented group of people creating a product to deliver high speed Internet service via satellite download links.  The version 1.0 product was done and functioning well, venture capital was secure for version 2.0.  There was a window of opportunity to release a 2.0 product into the market place and we were racing to that market place with a competitor.

Although we were not using any formal Agile process (the term had yet to be coined in Snowbird, UT), we were like many start-up companies using such a lightweight process that it had no name.  It is best to describe the development process as "just make good decision - and do it fast."

One of the features for the 2.0 version was greatly enhanced product licensing.  The new licensing feature wis…

Interesting Motivation links

For some crazy (but interesting) reason the most popular blog post on my site is about Motivation and the Hertzberg Two-Factor Theory. So in keeping with the concept that if that is what people are coming to see - then maybe that is a topic of concern - here are some interesting links and info on Motivation.
One of the best TED Videos on the topic: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation
If then rewards do not work! Example: If you perform at a high level - you will get this reward. Social science knows that this does not work in cognitive skilled areas. Did you know this?
See RSA's rendering of Dan Pink's speech.

From the author of "Flow". "Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfillment and the notion of "flow" -- a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work."

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth livi…

Where does your Creativity emerge?

A great boss knows that you do not schedule meetings during your work groups most creative portions of their day.  If you are a morning person - schedule meetings in the afternoon.  Bored, Lonely? - call a meeting.

I have great ideas for blog post in the morning, by the evening they have dissipated into just mediocre and the motivation to write them has gone.

What is required for those creative moments to produce fruit?

"People often credit their ideas to individual "Eureka!" moments. But Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story. His fascinating tour takes us from the "liquid networks" of London's coffee houses to Charles Darwin's long, slow hunch to today's high-velocity web."
TED Talk:  Where good ideas come from - Steven Johnson

Johnson relates the myth of Eureka moments vs the Slow Hunch - or the innovation process.  Why is the open forum (a network of people) where ideas are exchanged so important to the innovation of …

Do you know how to stack the deck?

You want to make an Agile transformation in your work group.  What one action could facilitate that Agile transformation?

I have a friend who's 5 year old son was learning to play card games. After learning a few games, she noticed that he had learned to stack the deck. No one had taught him, he discovered he could influence the outcome of the games if he ordered the cards in a "better" way. Shuffling is so old school.
Would it be cheating if you stacked the deck?

The most successful Agile transformations I've been a part of were rigged games.  The sponsors allowed the teams to hire new staff (programers, testers, team leads, coaches).  The staff they hired were not typical - they were Agilist.

All you need to transition a team to Agile is three developers.  A team is 7 +/-2.  If just 3 of those people are going to do the Agile thing given any problem - then the team is stacked.

Image a retrospective.  The team is trying to decide on a problem: Last sprint we were…

Agile tools for your iPhone/iPad

There is an App for that, but are they any good for helping with your Agile software team?

Here are a few iOS apps I have on my iPhone.  I'm not sure they are going to replace the sticky notes and a whiteboard.

Clock Pro - it has a multi-city world clock for visualizing timezone differences.  Great for those dis-located teams.


Agilely Timer - a clock timer for scrum meetings and round table discussions.


User Stories - a backlog management tool for user stories with estimates & priority.

Game Storming - a set of exercises (game if you wish) that create synergy in groups and discover knowledge.



Scrum Cards - estimation cards and cheat sheets for process.


LeanKit - a Kanban tool, integrates with the web tool LeanKit Kanban.


Whiteboard Capture Pro - whiteboard photo capture post processing.

Whiteboard Share - another photo processing tool - this one integrates with Evernote.

Microsoft's Photosynth - a spherical panorama capture tool which integrates with photosynth.net site.


There are…

Should I study for the PMP exam?

I've been considering studying for the PMP exam.  So today in the bookstore I browsed a few PMP exam prep books.   Having just finished a master's in organizational leadership that has quite a focus on teams, I decided to look for areas of overlap.  Places where the PMP aspects of building a team and helping the team perform would be an easy read for me given my recent experience in gradual school.

I found a few pages in the exam prep books - less than 10 total.  They briefly covered Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Tuckman's Stages of Group Development,  Vroom's Expectancy Theory of Motivation, etc.  All very good stuff.  Having spent a year studying this 10 pages or less, appeared rather brief for an exam guide that wishes to prepare a project manager to optimize a project's performance.

In one guide the process of Manage Project Team is defined:

"3.5.5 Manage Project Team

Manage Project Team is the process of tracking team member performance, providing feed…

Creativity - can you get it from a Handbook?

I enjoy reading about creativity, I hope that some of it rubs off on me.  Here's a new book I just bought, very creative, a colorful book, full of ideas and exercises.  I hope that I can work through some of the Actions & Movements discussed in the book in my next 37 days.


"Life is a Verb; 37 days to wake up, be mindful, and live intentionally" by Patti Digh

And while browsing the bookstore my wife found this book.  The title gets your attention.

"The International Handbook of Creativity" edited by James Kaufman & Robert Sternberg

However one has to wonder about the publisher, Cambridge, did they even read the book, did the editors read the chapters?  Is there one ounce of creativity in the lot of them?  Watch the video of the thumb through - then watch the video of Life is a Verb - which one would you buy? I did a video - but it got lost in the recycle bin of Google's blogger site.  So just cruise over to Amazon and check out each book...


And here …

Want "super Wi-Fi" - move to Korea

I've just read that the FCC chairman is claiming that 'Super Wi-Fi' is coming to the US.  This is great news.  But is it realistic?  Don't we currently have the fastest Internet around?  We are #1 - right?

No - recent facts are that the US ranks 16th globally in Internet speed.  (source: State of the Internet Q1 2010 report by Akamai).  Yes, South Korea is #1 (12 Mbps average speed).


While I welcome the new super Wi-Fi that is being proposed - the longer wavelengths will have much better penetration and reach.  I believe fast internet is important to our economy and I believe we could do better.  The examples are available, the data is known (read the Akamai report).  Obama’s stimulus package ($789 Billion) allocated $7.2 B for broadband funding.  I don't know if the money has been spent yet, but it would not show up in the Q1 2010 report.

On a side note - I find it ironic that CNN used a picture of kids holding up their OLPC XO laptops that use peer to peer netwo…

Golden Gates Paper Bridge - Group Initiative

The Golden Gates Paper Bridge Group Initiative

This group initiative is from the UNC-Charlotte's Venture Group Initiatives Manual.

I've used this initiative to discuss team work, leadership, followership, understanding the client and may other issues that arise during the debriefing.

In one training at SolutionsIQ the teams were given the requirements (build a bridge of 12" span - but when the customer acceptance was done the boat that had to pass under the bridge had towers and antenna that exceeded the specification height.  The teams had to negotiate with the Product Owner on the physical acceptance test - a toy boat passing under the bridge.

One team created their own "Unit-Test" - the box.

Golden Gates 

(Facilitator Info)

Materials:
60 sheets of paper per group, paper clips per group, approximately 60 feet of string, tape for the string, copies of rules (next page) for each group, a ruler, flip chart for debrief.

Set up:
•  Lay down string in two parallel lin…

Personal Agility - How we planned the Month of Chassing Snow.

In a blog post by Michele Sliger - Personal Agile she has asked her twitter base if people are using Agile techniques to manage their personal lives.  Does the Agile mind set creep into personal lives?  I would hope so, and expect it if the philosophy is sound.

Here is my experience.  Written about the trip my wife and I planned to take when the Banking Meltdown, had dried up most of the software projects back in the winter of 2009.  I walked into my director and suggested that I could take a month without pay and that might be a good thing.  He didn't bat an eye lash - yes, when would you like to leave, are you really coming back?  Yes, I did wish to come back, I enjoyed working for SolutionsIQ.  The timing was great, it was January, 2009 and there were no new projects coming into the pipeline, layoffs were looming and I wanted a sabbatical.  A chance to go ski the best snow between Seattle and Denver.


We have packed up the camper and headed out for a month long ski trip.  We do…