Monthly Archives: July 2009

Agile Coach: Balancing Knowledge and Practice

In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice they aren’t. — Yogi Berra

There are two kinds of teams and developers in the world: those that are heavily into knowledge and those that are heavily into practice. Both lead to poor performance.

The first kind has read all of the books. Perhaps they’ve attended some seminars or conferences. They’re excited about various ideas they’ve heard and want to try them out. Discussions about how practical something might be are regarded as counter-productive, or foot-dragging. These teams are knowledge-heavy. Outsiders really admire how smart these people are, but secretly are afraid of letting them around sharp objects, i.e., they don’t really trust them.

The second kind isn’t much into book-reading. They’re just there to execute — to deliver something. They’re focused on the end-results and getting there as quickly as possible. Discussions around new ways of doing things are regarded as frivolous. These teams are practice-heavy. Outsiders are really excited over all the results these people get, but secretly are afraid that the mess and compromises that are being made that are going to cause a lot of problems later, i.e., they don’t really trust them.

So — how to balance knowledge and practice? I apply these principles in order:

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Agile Project Management: Estimating Project Size

When coaching for agile project management, I have led a lot of teams estimating and delivering technology. in addition, I’ve been asked by several clients to advise them on how to estimate a project. Plus as a hands-on guy, I’ve had to create estimates and live (or die) by them in real-world teams. Estimation seems like magic to some people. How can you know how big the project is before you even start?

As part of this work, I get asked the same questions over and over again. Here they are, with my answers:

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What’s Your Work Area Look Like? (Agile Coach Version)

I’m finishing up working for a large client next week, and I’m also playing around with the new SnagIt version screen capture widget, so I thought it would be neat to combine the two together and capture what my current work area looks like.

Note: you need Flash to be able to see this correctly.

Since this is my first shot at this, if you’re having problems with the display please let me know. Hey — works fine on my machine.

So what’s your workspace look like?

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DGE Review 1: “Why I Became an Atheist”, by John W. Loftus

(This is the first in my “Does God Exist” series of reviews. There will be six or seven books on whether God exists or not. I’ll read them for you, give a recap here, and then try to draw it all into some conclusions at the end. This is not meant as a religious discussion, more of an examination of the way smart people argue about really tough subjects.)

John Loftus is a passionate guy. You have to be a passionate guy to spend so much of your time preaching and arguing about God. As a former minister, Loftus spent a lot of time being a Christian Apologist. (An apologist is not somebody who apologizes, although the root words are the same. An apologist is somebody who defends something)

John just knew that God existed, and he was willing to tell and argue with anybody that he was right. He went through all of the classic pro-God and anti-God argument points.

Then John lost his faith. Don’t ask me why, that’s a question for him, but best as I can gather, people in the church let him down (severely!) and he had a big problem with why God would allow evil and suffering in the world. So he decided to become an atheist. And, as a result, decided to write this book.

Which is where we begin.

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Summer Smackdown: Battle For God Intensifies

Wanted some kind of fun project this summer while I am finishing up this big contract, and I thought it would be cool to do a “Battle for God” series of reading.

The rules are simple: Select 7 or 8 books. Some books will support belief in the existence of God. Some will not. Each author gets between 8 and 12 hours of my time to make their case. At the end, I’ll recap my conclusions for the entire series.

In a way this is kind of a rigged game for me, since I’m of the belief that God as the Great Unknowable is real. Now God as some specific version of some dogma is another thing entirely. But I’ll try to keep an open mind about the entire thing. If nothing else it will be an interesting insight into how people think about infinity.

What are the books, you ask?

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Blue-Sky Startup Ideas: Socratic Linking

How many times have you visited a blog or read an article and wanted to reply or comment but didn’t because of these issues:

  • There was no facility to comment
  • You were confused and had a question and wasn’t sure anybody would respond
  • You didn’t want to go through the hassle of having to subscribe or revisit the site all the time just because you were interested in one article
  • All the existing comments were jokes or one-liners that added no value, and you had something serious to say
  • You really wanted to start a conversation about a topic that was related to the article, but a little different, and was afraid nobody else would be interested
  • There were obvious flaws in certain parts of the article, although some parts were good, and you didn’t want to have to take the time to point out which parts were good and which parts you agreed with
  • The tone of the board/article is very serious, and you thought of a great joke that nobody would appreciate, but it’d be a shame not to share it
  • The traffic on the site is so low that any contribution you make really won’t get many readers, making it worth much of your time

How about this idea as a response to these problems?

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Precision Flying is about Energy, Timing, Control

When you’re flying aerobatics, it’s the little things that matter.

Here’s a guy well into his low-level routine. He does a loop, some gyroscopic work, and eventually pulls up into a hammer-head. Coming out of the hammer-head, he does a nice elevator-up spin. Problem is, he waits about 3/10ths of a second too long before recovering from the spin.

It’s a tiny mistake — the kind of thing most of us do all of the time. We hesitate a bit when the light turns green, or we do a double take while driving and seeing an attractive person. But when you’re flying like this, micro-seconds matter.

Result? He impacts the ground. Worse than that, he hits a parked car with three people inside.

The good news is that nobody was hurt! That’s one luck guy. Next time he should be a little more careful. I love aerobatics, I love biplanes, and I love flying. Hitting cars with people in them? Not so much.

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Great Speeches

I have a bit of a reading assignment, for those of you interested in really good reading.

Today as part of a training class I’m creating I’m searching for good speeches. It’s all part of helping people take political or vague talk (like we’d get from a product owner) and translate these into workable user stories.

So I’ve been touring great speeches of the past.

I only have one thing to say — wow.

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Morals, Manners, Ethics, and the Law

After chatting with somebody online the other day, it appears to me like a lot of people are confused between ethics, manners, morality, and the law.

I’m not sure if this is deliberate or not. Perhaps it’s just ignorance. I don’t know. But I thought I would go over my working definitions for each of these.

These definitions may or may not agree with the dictionary. Quite frankly, I could care less. They work for me, and they help me deal with complex issues. Perhaps they’ll be useful to you as well.

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