Monthly Archives: March 2008

Burke and the Agile 400

Do Agile teams need experts? If an expert says “We need to have a structured conversation that looks like this” — is that continuing self-directed emergent behavior? Shouldn’t we value having really smart people over having a really open and emergent process? After all, would an agile team of bus drivers be able to build a spaceship?

On the other hand, isn’t the point of agile all about putting the process of team discovery and organization above the individual? Aren’t we all tired of the days where cloistered groups of experts created perfect requirements, test, and other docs and then handed them off to one another? Less smart people can accomplish more in an agile environment because the team is always adapting the product to the needs of the business owner. Agile processes are always providing feedback, enabling organic growth. Agile teams beat smart teams with too much structure easily, right? Experts and rigid expert ways of doing things are most times too rigid for optimal success, right?

This is an argument that has a long pedigree. It touches philosophy and politics, and — you know me — let’s take a look at part of the discussion.

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Saying “Thank You”

I’ve started a new habit in my weekly flights home: I make sure I tell a soldier “thank you”

It started out simply enough: I was sitting in O’Hare a month ago waiting on a flight that was delayed. Across the aisle from me a young soldier was on his way home.

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Meeeting the Mucky-Mucks

Von Neumann, great scientist, and Ralph Kramden, fictional everyman bus driver
It’s good to know whether you are
designing the nuclear power plant or driving the technicians to the site

I have kind of a weird job. While I help large organizations run their software teams a lot faster, I’m also not much of a self-promoter. I don’t have any books I’ve written (although I’ve authored quite a bit of other stuff), I don’t do seminars or conferences. And when I say “I don’t do conferences”, I mean I don’t do them at all. I’ve never found much use for them and I don’t see much reason to start now. Instead I like reading a lot of authors and comparing notes. To me, it gives me a much better feel for where the industry is and where I’d like to help out.

But I’m right on the cusp. For instance, one of my clients is a boutique consulting company. This past week some of the big players from there came out to the site to see how our work with this huge client was going.

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Catchy Nuclear Songs

What do you get when you put a bunch of nuclear scientists together for a conference? Well — either you get one very boring conference or somebody tries to liven things up. That’s what happened back in 2002 when the American Nuclear Society held a contest for sing-a-long songs dealing with nuclear technology.

I know what you’re thinking — surely everybody knows dozens of sing-a-long nuclear songs – but alas, it was tough sledding.

Fortunately, a team that included my mother-in-law won that year with a knock-off of “Yankee Doodle” that was called “Neutron Doodle”

What can I say? I like it! Hopefully you will too.

Here’s more on the backstory. Enjoy.

In the same topic, GQ had a great rundown a few days ago about nuclear power. Why we aren’t reprocessing spent fuel is beyond me.

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It’s not the Code, Stupid (Part 2)

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Couldn’t there just once be a bikini model who was also a philosopher?
Seems like we always get guys like this.

Things are never what you think they are.

Take developing software. We call it that because — duh! — at the end of the day software is supposed to come out. When we work with teams, we always talk about our goals in terms of how the software is supposed to make the user’s life easier.

But that’s just a lie.

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Abrupt Climate Changing. Political Argument Dynamics Unchanging

Sometimes I wonder how I will feel if my actions make the world 5 degrees warmer on average by the end of the century.

Then I slap myself around and sober up. Looks like the argument around global warming is still in the tank.

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Explaining Modeling

I have been talking to some friends who are more into Agile with a big A than I am over the past couple of weeks. One of the topics was the purpose and use of modeling in developing software.

On one hand, people say its all emergent — put a bunch of really smart people in a room with the Product Owner and fixed time-boxes and the conversation and code will follow along naturally. I don’t think there is any denying that it’s a true statement that software can emerge from shared conversations about problems.

On the other hand, there’s the role of modeling in software development. Diagrams seem to help people understand and talk about things better, so couldn’t they be part of a conversation as well?

I’ve been struggling with this, especially as a software and enterprise architect. Seems like people believe that modeling is part of the mindset of waterfall: that is, all the analysis happens, then all of the design, then all of the coding. In this worldview, modeling and modeling tools are just tools to control everything from the top down. It’s a world where the “good” programmers control things for the “average” programmers. And when you model, you’re not exactly doing one thing a time, are you? It’s not like you’re buying a story and going to make something of value happen for the Product Owner.

How to reconcile the good of modeling with the good of agile?

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