Monthly Archives: February 2009

As Agile as the Next Guy

I’ve been thinking a lot about agile, whether I want to or not lately.

As an agile coach, my “day” job is training and helping teams get started using agile techniques. Many times these teams come from waterfall backgrounds with lots of paperwork and heavy process. So it’s no wonder that agile has taken off in certain spots. When you’re taking 2 years to do the same thing other teams can do in 4 months, agile looks like a ray of hope.

Process is all about risk: you do something because you’re afraid by not doing it something worse will happen. Everybody has process: it’s however your team works — that’s your process.

The problem comes when the entire organization feels like that every team should worry about the same thing. Then we get formalized process, which basically means other people telling you what you should be worried about. (and then making you do stuff that they think will reduce the risk)

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Who Was I Again?

Sexting, or using cell phones to send pornographic images to each other

Wonder what’s interesting on the phone today?

If you go back far enough, fragments are all you have.

That isn’t bad if you used to dress like a penis.

Take the epic of Gilgamesh, for example, or rather the epics of Gilgamesh. There are at least ten versions, all from different cities and different times. None are complete. Some contradict. We speak of an epic of Gilgamesh, but like everything else in life, you get different answers depending on who you ask.

Like our personal lives, the story of Gilgamesh, among other things, is a story of friendship and a search for immortality. Gilgamesh is a great king who meets and fights Enkidu, then they become fast friends. Enkidu is a wild man, born in the fields, who eats grass, is hairy, howls at the moon, and probably forgets to wear underarm deodorant most days.

“The whole of his body was hairy and his (uncut) locks were like a woman’s or the hair of the goddess of grain. Moreover, he knew nothing of settled fields or human beings and was clothed (in skins) like a deity of flocks.”

Gilgamesh sends him a prostitute. That seems to settle him down. She has sex with him for a few days, then convinces him to try some wine. After downing the ancient equivalent of a case of beer, Enkidu begins singing and allows himself to be shaved and bathed. He gets a haircut, picks up his sword, and is ready to go out and fight.

As far back as we can look, people were hooking up with hookers, getting loaded, having sex, and doing other stupid things. In Gilgamesh such activities were considered an essential part of becoming civilized. Nothing like a little sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll to knock the edge off.

I was thinking about Gilgamesh when I read an article about how kids were sending pornographic pictures of themselves by cell phone to each other. It’s called “sexting.” The kids are being arrested and held for felony charges — child pornography and distribution of child pornography. This is strange because the “children” in question are the kids themselves. The victims are also the perpetrators.

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The Airlines are Trying to Make People Deaf

Jet Landing

Easy now, big fella

Have you flown lately? I have to head out tomorrow for my regular flight home. If so, did it occur to you just how noisy commercial air travel is?

I have read somewhere that modern commercial jets were left somewhat noisy on purpose — it keeps down the chit-chat. Pardon the pun, but I think we’ve gone way overboard here. The flight attendants are turning up the P.A. system on some of these flights to the level that will blow your ears off.

It gets no better in the terminal. Try making a cell call in Atlanta on a busy afternoon. Wherever you sit, you can hear multiple gates all competing with each other in some kind of sonic warfare in which people who aren’t flying are easily given up as collateral damage. These guys are as bad as the flight attendants: continuing to turn up and up the P.A. systems in a futile effort to — do what? Raise the dead? Make announcements to deaf people by means of building vibrations? Practice for the annual Swiss yodeling competition?

I used to wear hearing protection just on flights. Now I’m finding it makes sense to wear it at the terminal as well. Earplugs aren’t enough — if you want real peace you have to use earplugs plus some kind of ANR (Active Noise Reduction) headsets.

what is probably happening is that some of these folks are inadvertently slowly going deaf from many years of using a public address system, and are going to take the rest of us with them, like it or not. I smell class action lawsuit here.

BTW, topping this off are the pilots who come on way too low in the cabin and make some kind of announcement that sounds like a mix between The Oracle and a Listerine Commercial. It usually goes something like “Ladies and Gentlemen (garble) (garble) leaving (garble)(garble) in about 15 miles(garble)(garble) who we always called ‘Old Spanky’ (garble) (garble) (garble) until the weather changes. Thank you”

Maybe being deaf isn’t so bad.

If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.

Winnie the Pooh Eats Small Children

Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh is currently owned by
Walt Disney Corporation, causers of global warming

The above title is a test.

Don’t worry — it’s not linkbait. Or if it is, it’s a linkbait experiment. Something really strange has happened over the past few years of blogging and I want to see if I can make it happen again.

Winnie the Pooh

After a while, honey gets old.
Wonder what would go well with honey?

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Technology is Heroin

In 1850 people didn’t know how their favorite symphony sounded.

Bottle of Heroin from the 1900s produced by Bayer

Back then, it was common for musicians to work hectic schedules and perform multiple shows in a row. Instruments were frequently out of tune and good, consistent timing was fairly new. In addition, going to the symphony was a big deal: you dressed up, you hitched up the horses, you went into town.

You might only hear your favorite symphony 5 or 6 times in your life. Each time it was probably slightly in a different key, with a slightly different tempo, played with slightly different instruments, and each time you actively strained to hear and remember how it all sounded.

You would sit very attentively, absorbing each and every note and drumbeat of the symphony. It was a play, a painting, an imaginary world come to life, and you were living in it. It was magic.

Want some fun diversion? That was different too. You could read, which required an above average education and concentration. The more you read, however, the more you could read, so it was a self-reinforcing pastime. You could perform music, which also took years of study and was self-reinforcing. Then there were games, which mostly either involved physical exercise or concentration.

Everything back then took work and time. In rural America, it wasn’t unusual to walk five miles to a friend’s house to play a few games of checkers. Life was monotonous and physically challenging. In the countryside there was no plumbing and electricity hadn’t been invented yet. You spent a lot of time hauling around water, chopping firewood, planting and tending crops. It took nearly continuous physical activity. Leisure was no different: it took time, work, and active minds.

Want to socialize, hang out with the buds? It was a big deal, a special day. You’d either walk a ways or get on your horse and ride. If it were a really big day, like election, you’d hitch the wagon up to the plow team. It was a lot of work and hassle, but eventually you’d end up at the dance, the election, the church, the pub, or wherever. There would be drinking and story-telling ugoing on for hours on end. Hey — these were your friends and it took a lot of hassle to spend time with them. For instance, when the American Colonies were formed, Ben Franklin and a few other delegates threw a kegger before everybody else arrived that went on for several days.

The chemical diversion for the vast majority of people was alcohol. Who can forget Franklin’s famous quote about wine?

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

It wasn’t an ideal life by any means, but by contrast within 50 years the devil himself paid a visit to western society and it made those days look like a picnic.

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Tell me What I Know

Right now I’ve got about 16 teams that I am coaching to some degree. Some I attend weekly meetings. Some I watch the team emails. Some I attend showcases. Some I am helping get started and setting up a backlog.

As part of my coaching job, I also do daily stand-ups with the other coaches and listen in on how another 50 or so teams are doing with adopting Agile.

I’ve been doing this for a year or two.

So what lessons have I learned over that time?

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If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.