The Agile Executive

Making Agile Work

Archive for the ‘The Agile Life’ Category

What Sony Showed at Their Shareholders Meeting

leave a comment »

Strictly speaking this video might not be considered an Agile topic. I would just say I had never seen as dramatic a demonstration of the importance of cadence as this artful “Did You Know?” video.

Many thanks to colleague Walter Bodwell for bringing this fascinating video to my attention.

Advertisements

Written by israelgat

November 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Posted in The Agile Life

Tagged with , ,

Predictability is Bad for Your Business

with 2 comments

I had the pleasure of meeting some old colleagues a few weeks ago. They work for a software company that pays a lot of attention to software engineering practices and invests heavily in software tools. Financial results, however, have not been great over the past few years.

Obviously, the disparity between the strength of the software engineering discipline and the relative weakness of the financial results is due to more than a single cause. One factor, however, was highlighted time and time again by my colleagues:

Predictability is killing us!

Paradoxical that this observation might seem, it is actually quite straightforward. Senior management in their company is really forceful about predictability. Hence, initiative, (affordable) experimentation and innovation have pretty much faded away. For most practical purposes it has become a check-the-box culture. All attempts to substitute reliable delivery for predictability seem to have failed so far.

One last “ingredient” to add to the story. This company is rich in talent. Generally speaking, the folks in the engineering trenches are gifted, knowledgeable, capable and dedicated.

How predictably poignant!

Written by israelgat

November 12, 2009 at 4:00 am

Technical Debt Goes Generic

with 3 comments

Rally’s Richard Leavitt mentioned “his” technical debt in a conversation the two of us had last evening. As Richard is the head of marketing for Rally, I was expecting to hear about some deficit in the functionality, design, coding or testing of one of the market and customer facing websites his department deploys. I was dead wrong.

Richard was actually using technical debt in a generic sense. Anything in his department that they had to rush through and now plan to go back to and revisit/improve/fix is categorized as technical debt. The term applies to (say) laying the foundations for a marketing campaign as much as it does to re-architecting an application in order to improve its performance.

I don’t really know how wide spread the use of “technical debt” in this generic sense is. I am, however, impressed: another term of art is starting to get into the English language! How appropriate that such use of the term starts at a company that applies Agile values and practice to most of its operational and business processes.

Written by israelgat

November 4, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I Should have Asked for Equity, Not for Cash

with 2 comments

In 2004 I was asked by the London Office of Apax Partners to conduct due diligence on a start-up name of Tideway. Flying all the way from Seattle to London was not something I was looking to. However, a promise to put me in The Hotel at the Chelsea Football Club proved irresistable. I packed my bags and went to London.

Apax paid me nicely for the due diligence – no complaints whatsoever. However, I woke up today to read the following news in The Register:

Systems management software maker BMC Software continues to snap up other software players as it bulks up to do battle with the likes of IBM, CA, Hewlett-Packard, and now EMC in its chosen market. Today, the company paid an undisclosed amount to acquire British software company and BMC-partner Tideway Systems.

I wonder whether I should have asked to be given equity instead of cash….

Written by israelgat

October 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Paulo Coelho’s Good Counsel to the Agile Champion

leave a comment »

I am already used to the way things are. Before you came, I was thinking about how much time I had wasted in the same place, while my friends have moved on, and either went bankrupt or did better than they had before. It made me very depressed. Now, I can see that it has not been too bad. The shop is exactly the side I wanted it to be. I don’t want to change anything, because I don’t know how to deal with change. I am used to the way I am.

This magnificent paragraph from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, captures the nature of the Agile transformation better than any Agile book, article or presentation I had ever read, seen or listened to.  The issue for the team the Agile champion works with is not objectify-ing Cobol, calculating Cyclomatic Complexity or learning how to play Planning Poker. The heart of the matter is members of the team struggle with the innermost feeling “I am used to the way I am.”

I very much doubt that I can summarize Coelho’s counsel on the subject. It would be like trying to capture the wisdom and charm of Saint-Exupery‘s The Little Prince in 500 words or in 140 characters . To fully grasp Coelho’s good counsel, you will need to read The Alchemist cover to cover.

Sign of the Times

leave a comment »

As I learned the hard way, the post Technical Debt on Your Balance Sheet missed an important risk associated with technical debt.

I got an email today advising me as follows:

Debt Con Expert is now following you on Twitter!

The good services provided by Debt Con Expert are debt consolidation loans, help with bad credit situations, how to tips on filing bankruptcy, etc.  As I do not owe a penny to anyone in this solar system, I am inclined to conclude I am being followed as a result of yesterday’s post on technical debt.

Please be prudent with technical debt. In addition to elevating the error feedback ratio of your software to an unacceptable level,  it might also lead to your mail box being flooded with debt consolidation offers.

Sigh.

Written by israelgat

September 30, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Don’t Take Your Boss to Lunch

leave a comment »

During my Agile 2006 presentation I made the following recommendation to the audience:

Don’t take your boss to lunch; take him/her to the daily stand-up meeting.

The point I was trying to get across is straightforward: there is no substitute to “touching” Agile and being touched by Agile. Instead of preaching the benefits of Agile, get your executive engaged in the Agile process.

Last week, colleagues Ken Collier, Jonathon Golden and I were on a Cutter Consortium consulting engagement. The CEO of the company we were consulting to immersed himseld  in the workshop. I would say he spent about 50% of his time in the three day workshop in which we worked with his team on Agile and refactoring.

This CEO certainly got it [Agile]. And, he took his CTO and us to lunch.

It might have been a breach of my own counsel don’t take your boss to lunch…

Written by israelgat

September 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm