Saturday, December 18, 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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

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.

Kato & Tyler


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 a vegetarian.  If you have dogs you know that they will share a dish, so this meant that Kato, (a full blooded lab - its a joke), became a vegetarian also.  We made beans & rice for these guys for years.  Tyler's seizures lessened from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to yearly.  Near the end of his life we couldn't remember the last time he had a seizure.

Once the seizures were under control (a relative term) we of course experimented with variations of the diet.  In years of experiments and reflections of what he had eaten just prior to a seizure we had plenty of empirical evidence supporting one theory of epilepsy, toxicity. 

Do you eat your own dogfood?

This phrase "eating your own dogfood" stems from a Loren Green TV commercial for Alpo ( IEEE article).  It is the concept that one uses what one produces, that your products are something that you yourself would consume.  Having eaten beens and rice and then given that to my dogs, I have done this.  It is slightly different than left-overs, when the intent of cooking beans and rice was to make dogfood.  Two active dogs can eat a lot of beans & rice, so we did get tired of beans, variety is important in life.

What does this have to do with a team building game?

I believe in the power of the Scrum Retrospective process.  I had just spent 2 weeks coaching this team in their first baby steps into the Agile world.  We did training, and workshops in Release Planning, in Sprint Planning and Scrum framework, in story creation splitting and sizing, in prioritization and had created a release plan for a minimal viable first release.  The retrospective that the Product Owner was facilitating was designed to deliver 3 things:  team building, feedback for the 2 week workshop, and an example of a retrospective.

By encouraging the PO to run the retrospective I wanted to foster that leadership role that he was taking, to build even more trust and understanding.  I saw a desire that he wanted to help the team gel.  Some portions of the team was from Bosnia and would return there in the afternoon.  I wanted our last face-to-face interactions to be positive and fun.  I also wanted feedback on the 2 week workshop, they will not have to do this again, but I will.  What will I strive to improve for next time?  They are the subject matter experts now - I needed their feedback.  Asking for feedback - shortening my feedback loop - reducing my cycle time - it is all about eating my own dogfood.

Related Post:  Dog Grooming Exercise a simulation in Agile Story Sizing using Affinity Estimation technique.

citations:
Warren Harrison, "Eating Your Own Dog Food," IEEE Software, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 5-7, May/June 2006, doi:10.1109/MS.2006.72

Friday, December 10, 2010

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 Phones
  • Web cams 
  • High end video conferences
  • Virtual rooms
  • Holodecks

Virtual Room at the Melbourne Museum


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 all the cables running out of it and carry it to the white board to show the remote team your architectural sketch?  The MacBook has a built-in camera and 10 hour battery life.  The last web cam conference I was in the PC had a USB camera, USB mouse, power supply & cat 5 network cable.  The battery wouldn't last the whole meeting; the user preferred a track ball over the poor track pad, the hotel's wifi wouldn't support video therefore a hardwire.  There was no portability of the laptop - the primary key feature of the device.

My experience is that web cams are better than a conference call alone, but what is the nature of the collaboration.  Does this promote and foster true dialog? Is their a replacement for two people moving an object like a marker and pointing at different areas of the drawing while saying - "we inject the widget here in the process flow".  "Oh, there, no here!"

The communication channel degrades to one person talking at a time, very slow exchange of information flow (people have to pause a lot to check keep from stepping on each other's words).  The web cam displays a little bit of body language and facial expressions, but they are typically time lagged, and rarely life sized.  Web cams require someone to take on the role of camera operator.  Don't expect your meeting facilitator to do both.

Tips & Techniques

Brad Swanson of Propero Solutions in Denver has a nice article on tips and techniques to help remote teams. To summarize Brad;  invest in infrastructure, hire coaches at both ends, practice XP, have a large travel budget, shift work days to overlap, learn about cultural preferences, keep an eye peeled for new and better tools.

Is it Truly Cost Effective?

While outsourcing appears to save the accountant money, the systems-thinker must ask if we have improved our customer's lives by having remote teams.  It is after all our customer that arbitrates the choice to buy our product or their best alternative (similar to BATNA).   Did the quality of the product increase?  Did our speed to market increase?  Did we deliver the right features, within budget, and in a timely manner to meet the customer's desires?

Scott Ambler's Agile Adoption Rate survey of 2008 found a 23% drop in success rates for remote teams (co-located success rate 83%; remote success rate 60%). I wonder if the accountant has that factored into the bottom line spreadsheet.

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 Whacks - it looks simple.  Many people believe it to be some new form of Rubik's Cube - it's not!  They grab it and twist.  Crash all the pieces flip and spin and the ball breaks into pieces.  "Oh, that's not what I thought it was."



The ball is made up of 30 golden ratio rhombic pyramids. With internal rare earth magnets that stick the pyramids together, these design blocks form a perfect 30-sided rhombic triacontahedron an interesting shape.  But the design allows one to make even more interesting shapes.



It is a creative tool and can be used individually or in a group game.  At one client's site I kept it on my desk and every few weeks it would disappear and show up in a new configuration, stay that way for a week or so and someone else would play with it a while to make a new shape.  Some were very creative.

This toy combines two of my favorite things, building blocks and magnets.  I'm a Lego fan from way back,  I once built a road grader from Legos.  But the genius of combining magnets with blocks is astounding.  I think magnets are fun because one can play with a fundamental force of nature that operates on a human scale.  One rarely gets the chance to play with a mysterious force of nature and not get hurt (gravity is fun but the stop at the bottom of the hill can break bones).

 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

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-wire in their brains.

So this is why I'm re-reading Emergent Design.  Is there something here that will help me in the dialogue with these Architects?  I've place my mental model of software as a creative process, a work of art, an activity of design where the building or construction phase takes about 20 milliseconds (incremental compilation of modern IDEs).  The test phase of software may require much longer up to 10 minutes (run a suite of automated user acceptance & behavioral test).  Then we destroy the completed product (delete the compiled executable) and go back to design with the knowledge gained from the tests.  This quick feedback loop is why software is not like the Sears Tower.

We could not build the Sears Tower and then check to see if the lights were in the preferred location on a sunny spring day to light the artwork on the executive suite wall; find that the lights needed to be relocated and then destroy the building.  Blow it up and start again.  Place the lights in a better location and now look at the electrical outlets, how do they work?  A little to the left - blow it up again.



So I have great hope that Scott Bain's book will turn-on a new connection in my brain pathways.

In the section on "What sort of activity is software development?" Scott notes that licensing and oversight by the state are aspects of a profession, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers.  He argues that "software should be conducted as a professional activity, but that it isn't yet."  I find it funny that even my barber is licensed and has oversight.  Yet many in the software industry believe they are professionals.



I wonder how many "professionals" that have say 5 - 10 years experience developing software do not know how to unit test their software adequately?  I heard of a test manager (UAT) reporting that he didn't want to waste his tester's time testing the application that was being delivered from the development group because it had only 7% code coverage by unit test.  In my opinion this is malpractice (accept that malpractice applies to a professional).  I assume that a hiring manager could go to the local university and hire a CS graduate that not only knew how to unit test - but also practiced TDD.  The company would be well served by hiring 2 - 3 college grads and putting them on the team, allowing them to train the old guys.  Learn the accepted practices of your profession or get out of the job.

I suppose if software was a construction site job, then the architect could design a wonderful application on paper then give it to a programmer to code.   The skills used would remain rather constant.  There would be little need to refresh knowledge or to keep current with the best practices.  Then the programmer would be much like a steel worker, highly skilled in a narrow focused specialized trade.  No need for a profession for the programmer.

But architects are licensed professionals aren't they?  Did you notice that we borrowed the construction industries labels for abstract roles.  That's too bad.  Anyone know the meaning of the word architect?  The word comes to English, from French, Italian, Latin, and originating in Greek as arkhitekton, arkhi - 'chief' + tekton - 'builder'.  It is not surprising that a word borrowed so many times has lost its original meaning.  One who knows how to build.  How many of your companies architects write code - build software?


-- 2010-12-19 reading Drive by Dan Pink

Behavioral scientist divide what we do into two categories: algorithimic and heuristic.  Building the Sears Tower is algorithmic (construction); designing the tower is heuristic.  We use the term build the widget application when we mean design the application.  Changing the terms changes the assumed behaviors that are required.  Changing the behaviors that are required changes the management system we wish to use to view progress and assess success.  The twentieth century was the age of algorithmic work.  We don't live in Frederick Taylor's world today.  It is a new world where the work is heuristic.  Look at Ford's assembly line; we have hired robots to work the line.  Thanks to Taylor's methods the robots are very good at their jobs.

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.
1983 Map of the early internet (ARPAnet)

But in the year 2010, I still find our technology lacking.  Dick Tracy had a great system in the 1960s, his wrist watch TV always worked never had glitches or dropped calls.  I believe FaceTime to be in keeping with that vision.  It is simple to use, but requires I stand in selected areas (wi-fi enabled zones of my environment).  It also is a proprietary system that like the first telephone system require pairing the two end points with the same device.  This was a problem with early systems in Greece (clepsydra - water clock).  Solving this requires standardization upon open protocols - it is a known solution and responsible for the success of the internet/web that you are now using.

The telephone networks in the USA were largely successful because of the monopoly that was granted to Ma Bell.  That had it's down-side also - stagnation of the industry.  If we were to pick a company today to be that monopoly holder with the hopes of unifying the industry and making all system work together (like the POTS - Plain Old Telephone System), who would it be?  I select Apple.  One of the largest 10 companies in the world (market capital) and one of the most innovative.  After we get our ubiquitous video phone on our wrist watches (ala Dick Tracy) and we are happy with the service we can break up Apple (like we did AT&T & Microsoft, etc).


Timeline:


Signal Fire - think prearranged and agreed message indicated by the lighting of a fire at the top of a mountain.  The fall of Troy was signaled by King Agamemnon to Queen Clytemnestra in Greece using this method.

490 BC the Expendable Runner-Messenger - think Pheidippides from a battlefield at Marathon, runs 26.2 miles to Athens to deliver the news "Niki!" ("victory"), then collapsed and died.  Before this innovation people just walked, but news traveled much slower.


Signal Flags - think ships at see with the Jolly Roger set in the mast.  Early use of this was shown to include mis-communication of the highest order.  On the Argonautic Expedition Theseus used colored sails to send messages to the fleet.  Forgetting to lower the black sail (signal of battle and of death) after the battle, his father Zgeus saw the black sail and interrupted the signal as the death of Theseus.  Grieving he jumped overboard to drown.  Opps - Theseus should have raised the red sail - a signal of victory.

So way back then we were challenged with low bandwidth and poor signal quality.


335 BC Bull Horn or stentorophonic tube.  Alexander the Great used one and could communicate 12 miles.

A clepsydra is a water clock which if paired with a similar device could be used to sends prearranged signals via light signals.  Yes this is the beginning of optic communication systems. Image that the device, a container was inscribed with messages at varying heights of water, the container had a hole & plug in the bottom.  Upon signaling the two water clocks would be unplugged at the same time (synchronized by the light signal) when the light was extinguished the hole would be plugged.  Given the same flow rates the water level would be identical and the height would indicate the message at that level.  Pure genius, but quite a lot of preparation work to send a signal of prearranged messages. And the cycle time was quite high - one had to refill the two containers with water.

This is not much different than current signaling technology.  The prearranged messages are now 1 or 0, on or off.  However the signaling rate is much higher (mega hertz) not to mention multiple channels of concurrent signals.

Compressing the timeline a bit - because the state of messages transmitted over distance didn't change much for thousands of years.

1790s Optical Telegraph - Napoleon used one innovated by the use of semaphore networks, he was able to communicate over much greater distances than his foes, and gained great advantage.

1830s Electromagnetic Telegraph - it took quite some time for innovation to make these devices useful.  Invented in 1804, and put into commercial use on Britain's Great Western Railway in 1839.  Morse developed his telegraph and the famous code in 1837 and drove the Pony Express out of business with a trans-continental telegraph line by 1861.


1843 Alexander Bain invented a device that could be considered the first facsimile machine - a recording telegraph.

1855 Giovanni Caselli created a telegraph that could transmit images. The "Pantelegraph" was successfully tested on a telegraph line between Paris and Lyon.  Note how long it will take to make this commercially available - why? See 1934 below for a hint.

1860 Pony Express - a fast mail courier service from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA it is well known for a failed business - it lasted just over one year (April 1860 - October 1861).  Messages required just 10 days from Atlantic to Pacific coast.

1876 Bell patents the Telephone - an innovation to the telegraph that allowed clear speech to be heard on the receiving end.  “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”  Bell didn't invent the phone.

1885 - Edison patents wireless radio.  Ten years later in 1895, Marconi builds a wireless system capable 1.5 mile distance.

1891 Alexander Graham Bell envisions the videophone  "...the day would come when the man at the telephone would be able to see the distant person to whom he was speaking."

1893 - Nikola Tesla demonstrates the fundamentals of radio.

1906 - AM radio - Oh Holy Night is broadcast in Massachusetts by Reginald Fessenden.

1920 - Radio News Broadcast -  Detroit, Michigan.  First sports broadcast

1920s First Video Phones -  technological precursor to the videophone was the teleostereograph machine developed by AT&T's Bell Labs. By 1927 AT&T had created its earliest electromechanical videophone, called an ikonophone.

1934 - Answering Machine - How Ma Bell Shelved the Future for 60 Years "In early 1934, Clarence Hickman, a Bell Labs engineer, had a secret machine, about six feet tall, standing in his office. It was a device without equal in the world, decades ahead of its time. If you called and there was no answer on the phone line to which Hickman's invention was connected, the machine would beep and a recording device would come on allowing the caller to leave a message."

1930s Dialing Phone network - the consumer could now self select the party to call (dial a number) and the network was powered by a central office rather than individuals local battery.

1943 - US Supreme Court awards Tesla patents on radio invalidating the fundamental Marconi patents. Tesla intended to use wireless to transmit electrical power - which has just now 2010, become commercialized.

1960s AT&T introduce Touch-Tone dialing.

1960s Cordless Phone - "The Carterphone, a crude device for interconnecting a two-way radio with the telephone, led to the reversal of the Federal Communications Commission ban on direct coupling of consumer equipment to phone lines (known as the 1968 landmark Carterphone decision) on June 26, 1968. The original cordless phones, like the Carterphone, were acoustically (not electrically) connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)." Not until the 1980s will this become a successful commercial product.

1964 Picturephone AT&T's product and service in the 1964 New York World's Fair

1964 Dick Tracy's wrist TV.  

1979 Cellular Telephone - first cell network in Tokyo. Five years later the NTT network covered the whole population of Japan.

1980s Cordless Phone commercial success.

1983 First Cell Phones in Chicago, US

1990s Satellite Phone - using low earth orbit (LEO) satellites it is possible to have global coverage - however both companies (Globalstar & Iridium) have gone bankrupt with this business plan's high cost of a constellation of many satellites (44 & 66).

1991 2G Cell Networks - "modern" digital 2G (second generation GSM standard) cellular technology was launched in Finland.

1996 US telecommunication companies petition the US Congress to ban Internet phone technology.

2000s VoIP - Internet Protocol for voice transmission becomes widespread.

2004 Commercial VoIP service providers.



2010 FaceTime - Apple's video phone technology for iPhone 4.

2010s Telephone companies switch from time to data as the unit of commerce.  AT&T plans for my iPhone start charging me for data (2 GB for about $40) rather than 10 cents per minute for calling someone in the USA.  In essence AT&T gives me calls for "free" if I pay for the data that the calls require (via the merging telecommunication networks; POTS & Internet).

2014 Eugene passes the Turning Test.
"An historic milestone in artificial intelligence set by Alan Turing – the father of modern computer science – has been achieved at an event organised by the University of Reading.  The 65 year-old iconic Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer Eugene Goostman during Turing Test 2014 held at the renowned Royal Society in London on Saturday 7th June.  ‘Eugene’, a computer programme that simulates  a 13 year old boy,  was developed in Saint Petersburg, Russia." RobotEnomics - Tracking the march of the robot economy, by Colin Lewis. 


See Also:

The Hummingbird Effect: How Galileo Invented Timekeeping and Forever Changed Modern Life
by Maria Popova.  How the invisible hand of the clock powered the Industrial Revolution and sparked the Information Age.

A Perspective on Time  by Visual.ly


All of Earth's history mapped to a 100 yard football field timeline.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

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).


What are some of the questions that needed resolving when estimating the grooming of each of these dogs?  Did you wonder about cutting the hair of the Komondor?  What was your Product Owner's response?  Did you ponder sizing one or two Boxers?  Did the temperament of the Yorkie matter to your team?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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 wish list from Marketing had these desires:
  • license codes easily generated & transmitted to customers
  • demo license & timed trial licenses expire
  • annual licenses managed & easily renewed
  • perpetual licenses
  • add-on product features individually licensed
The existing 1.0 licensing algorithms were hand made by the company and known to have  some defects.  It was a much simplified and last minute design that allowed simple on/off behavior based on some hash-key techniques.

We were not using Agile User Stories and we were not estimating in relative story points and deriving duration.  However, we had experienced developers working in a known domain.  We estimated the License Management feature to be about 2 man-months of work for the team.  We had the "What" of the story - the "How" was up to the team.

Doing some initial design investigation, there appeared to be significant risk in designing our own solution for this complex problem space.  I had previous experience with many product's license management tools, and recommended we investigate a buy vs. build decision.  Our 2 man month estimate gave us a starting point for the data going into the decision.  In rough terms that would be $200,000 of development time.  Along with the opportunity cost of not doing other core competency development on the satellite networking code.  What would our alternatives cost?

An alternative solution was FlexLM - a best of breed license management solution that ran on all of our target platforms, except one.  That one missing platform was in development and could be considered functional beta on Novell's Netware.  It provided all of the features desired by our marketing group and provided an easy to integrate API for the development team.  This solution was going to reduce our work load to a week, and cost and upfront investment with recurring annual fees.

Working on our BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) with the FlexLM company we expanded our offering by agreeing to use our core competency, Novell Netware development, to help them with their Novell beta of FlexLM in exchange for waving the initiation fees.  This required about a week of consultation time, sharing code bases and cross-compiling and debugging techniques on Netware, which was our forte.

Our solution then was to use the FlexLM product, integrate into our code base their simple API for license management and pay the annual fees, in exchange we consulted with their development team on their code port to Novell.

Application of User Story model
Given that this case study took place before the advent of Agile User Stories, one must make some assumptions to draw conclusion on the usefulness of User Stories to the Buy vs. Build decision.  The decision is an economic model based upon the scarcity of capital, and the trade-offs of opportunity cost.  The inputs for the decision are monetary amounts, however, Agile User Story units of Story Points for effort don't compute.

Can one derive the necessary dollar amounts from the Story Points on an Epic feature to use in a buy vs build decision.  Yes, using a team's known Velocity (Story Points completed per Sprint) and team cost per Sprint (typically about $100,000 for a 7 person team) the cost of a feature may be derived - do the math.  The assumption is that a known velocity is applicable to the domain.

In the case of the license management this might not be true.  There were known risk associated with developing outside the core competency of the team.  These risk would tend to increase (not decrease) the cost of in-house development.  In the case study these risk were mitigated by the purchase decision and the partnering agreement.



Futher reading:

Using Agile for Buy Vs. Build Decisions - IEEE Xplore Digital Library - Agile 2008 Conference


Sunday, November 21, 2010

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 living?" (a TED Video).

A quote from The Heart of Innovation blog "The Four Currents of a Culture of Innovation."
"If you can find a way to unlock the primal mojo of your workforce, you won't need to manage as much as you do. You won't need to rely so heavily on incentive plans, performance reviews, pep talks, frowns, and punishment. That stuff only exists because your workforce is disengaged. But when people are on fire with purpose, in touch with their own authentic desire to create, a culture of innovation will naturally evolve."
See Also:
Motivation & Herzberg Two-Factor Theory


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 ideas?

Here's an excellent article from the Heart of Innovation blog - 20 Reasons Why Creative People Work in Cafes


Networks of creative people require an environment that supports them, what are the properties of that environment?

Long Live the Web by Tim Berners-Lee

The Web is critical not merely to the digital revolution but to our continued prosperity—and even our liberty. Like democracy itself, it needs defending.
The principles underlying the success of the Web: Linked-data, Decentralization, Universality, Open Standards, Separation of Layers, etc.

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 disorganized, fighting lots of story "fires" but it could have been more focused.  We didn't plan out the stories very well.  A proposed solution is to Task the stories during planning meeting next sprint.  With a stacked team, that should be an easy consensus (Fist of Five) to change the teams process toward a more Agile (Scrum) process.  Or the team could experiment with limiting work in process and encourage swarming - a Lean technique.

These stacked teams transitioned to an Agile life style much more quickly than other teams without a stacked team.  Wonder why?  Is it because behavior that is described and modeled is easier to assimilate into our own behavior?  We are use to learning by example.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

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.

Processed Image           Original Image
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 many other tools on the App Store, which ones have you found useful? Please comment and let me know.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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 feedback, resolving issues, and managing changes to optimize project performance."



The goal, optimize project performance, appears very sound.  However when one examines the primary tool used to achieve optimization, that of tracking team member performance, one has to imagine some form of individual performance assessment.  Hasn't the world of management realized that the tool of bludgeoning the worker with performance reviews will only worsen the overall performance of the group?  Perhaps the PMI should read Vroom's Expectancy theory.

So is there added value in an Agile team leader to be a certified PMP?

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?

video


And here is the thumb through of "Life is a Verb".

video

So it would appear to me that creativity is not found in a handbook.  But I could be wrong - I didn't buy the handbook.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

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 networking in the Super Wi-Fi story.  Those computers are designed to work very well with low internet speeds or no internet, just peer networking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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 lines 3 feet apart.
•  Count out the paper and paper clips for each subgroup.
•  Separate the practice materials: 5 sheets of paper and 5 clips.

Brief:
•    Divide group into sub-groups of approximately 5 people.
•    Hand out the instructions and read though them with group; allow clarifying questions. •    After 14 minutes, remind the group they need to choose a leader and have that person report the plan to the comptroller in one minute (as per instruction sheet). Comptroller (facilitator) informs the leaders that they have been hired by a new company (they must switch groups). Their task is to ensure that their company (the new one now) builds the best, most cost effective bridge possible. As per instructions they have 5 minutes to finalize plans.
•    After 5 minutes: it is time for construction; each group gets a space at the river. Start stopwatch.
•    When a group is done building they inform you and you tell them how much time has elapsed on the stopwatch. From that number they can calculate their costs. You need to keep track of the 1 minute the bridge needs to stay standing, as well as call out times for other groups as they finish.
•    Once all groups are finished, they should calculate their costs and profit margins. Have each group announce their profit- you then announce the winner.


Common Debrief Question Focused on Leadership:
•    It is helpful to let each subgroup do their own mini-processing with suggested questions.
•    In your small groups, please answer the following questions:
     How was the original leader chosen?
     What criteria were used?
     What effect did the new leader have on the group?
     What are the characteristics of effective leadership?
•    Come back together in large group and have sub-groups share their thoughts.

--- page break ---


GOLDEN GATES

Contractor Guidelines

Your bridge-building company has been contracted to build a paper bridge over the 'river' which has been marked out in the middle of the room. The only materials you may use in this enterprise are the paper clips and scrap paper provided. You will be given a planning/ practice phase before construction begins.

The bridge must be:
•    capable of standing for 1 minute without any extra support (other than provided materials
•    at least 30 cm (12") above the river at its central point

Finances:

Your group will be paid $10,000.00 for a bridge built according to this briefing. From this you should deduct construction costs as follows:
•    $100 for every sheet of paper used (paper clips are free)
•    $2,000 for every support/stanchion which is built in the river
•    $100 for every 10 seconds (or part of 10 seconds) it takes you to build the bridge
•    Your profit is $10,000.00 minus your construction costs.

Time Frame:

     Phase I = Planning and Practice (15 minutes)
     Phase II = Group leader presents plans to comptroller
     Phase III = Final planning (5 minutes)
     Phase IV = Timed construction of bridge

Considerations:
•    During the initial planning phase you will be given only 10 sheets of paper and 5 paper clips with which to practice.
•    At the end of the initial planning phase, you must select a group leader who will present your plans (including projected costs) to the comptroller for approval.
•    You will be given a final 5 minutes planning before the construction phase begins.
•    During the construction phase each group may use up to 50 sheets of paper and up to 20 paper clips.
•    The 'river' is one meter wide
•    The group who makes the greatest profit, will be awarded the contract.

# Remember, you need to build a bridge quickly while using as little paper and as few supports as possible; and it must stand freely for one continuous minute.

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 don’t have puppy dogs any more so we took along some old friends, Pokey & Gumby. Here we are passing the Amazon dot COM building.
 
Because of this shot, we missed the I90 exit and had to make the first U-turn, there will be more of these I’m sure.

Tracy & I used a Scrum style task board to prepare for the trip.  To Do items on stickies on the left, In Progress in the middle, Done items on the right. The map has a highlighted proposed route from Seattle through upper ID into MT then to UT and finally to CO.

Day one we change the plan, based on weather reports, doesn’t look like Big Sky has any fresh snow in days... bummer.  We head straight to Utah - it is snowing there now, can we catch up?

 Deer Valley - the best snow grooming on the planet.  And a host told us where to find the deep stash in the woods.  The next day we went to Alta - Telemark HQ.
That is thigh deep power, quite a change from the Sierra Cement in WA.

The trip continues, and we end up finding power days all the way to Denver and back to Seattle.


 Maybe you cannot read the name of Tracy's skies but it sums up the trip "Work Stinx".  This is at Sundance - we use to live 12 miles from this little resort, and had to go back for a day.

This is the "Chasing the Snow" rig, our Starcraft pop-top camper on a F150.

On the boarder of Utah is a land that time forgot - Dinosaur National Monument, with a nice museum in Vernal, UT.
At the RV campground we try to find Wi-Fi to check email and do some image processing.


When we hit Denver, Tracy takes a vacation from the snow and goes on a cruise with her friend, Kelly.  I head to Winston-Salem, NC and visit family.  Then on our return we stop in at Yellowstone NP and took a winter tour to Old Faithful on the Snow Coach.