Rediscovering the Obvious

…stumbling in the footsteps of greatness

Archive for February, 2010

Punch card teams

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My very talented and experienced colleague Ira was sharing his stories about the good old days ™, and inspired me to reflect on how very far we’ve come as an industry over a very sort time. Back in the day, this is how things worked.

You just had to get a good programming book, spend a few hours planning, organizing, and punching, and submitting the code, then you go away, wait two days, and come back to see the results.

We have come a very long way since then. Our languages are stronger, our tooling is better, the systems are more powerful. Everything we do has changed since then. In fact, you no longer have to be a programmer to get the code written! This is how it works now:

You just have to get a good Scrum team together, spend a few hours to planning, organizing, and clarifying the work, and then you can go away, wait two weeks, and come back to see the results.

Wait a second… didn’t I just say that?

What’s next?

Written by erwilleke

February 7th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Retrospective Prime Directive

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Anybody who’s worked with agile teams for a while has likely come across the prime directive in one form or another. The copy I use in retrospectives is below [1]:

Regardless of what we discover,
we understand and truly believe
that everyone did the best job they could,
given what they knew at the time,
their skills and abilities,
the resources available,
and the situation at hand.

At the end of a project everyone knows so much more.
Naturally we will discover decisions and actions
we wish we could do over.
This is wisdom to be celebrated,
not judgment used to embarrass.

Here’s the thing: I was building a deck to support a more “formal” retrospective and realized that I had internalized the directive in a very different form than it was actually written and it took some friendly advice from Liz to find it because I was looking in the entirely wrong place. Somehow I came to the belief that it was actually the “Facilitator’s Manifesto” and that it was written entirely in the present tense. Talking about the idea and my perspective further, I thought I’d go ahead and write up my version for the community. Here’s what I think and believe, and what I informally tended to coach and share in many team contexts:

Regardless of what is done,
we understand and truly believe
that everyone does the best job they can,
given what they know,
their skills and abilities,
the resources available,
and the situation at hand.

Throughout a project everyone learns so much more.
Naturally we will discover decisions and actions
we wish we could do over.
This is wisdom to be celebrated,
not judgment used to embarrass.

The differences are fairly subtle and the sentiment is largely similar, but the differences in practice are large [2]. The retrospective directive creates a zone of safety around the moment of the retrospective itself. The present tense makes this a creed to be respected and valued continually throughout a project. Directing attention to the statement on a regular basis has a value that can spill beyond the immediate team to infect an organization with respect for people.

 

[1] I owe somebody a reference for this one, I’m not sure how it got into my slide deck without a reference. If it’s yours, comment and I’ll put it in my decks. If not, I’ll find it when I’m not on a plane and have a few minutes :)

[2] I have no doubt that the majority of good agile teams (and good people, regardless of environment) create a safe environment and respect these perspectives all the time. Addressing the disjoint language is important to me.

Written by erwilleke

February 7th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who am I?

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My personal biography [1] bothers me. Each time I needed to update it, I found myself disliking it more and more, putting off the edits. I dreaded it the same way I dreaded updating my resume. Maybe it’s because they were the same document, presented slightly differently. Introduce my name, present what I’m good at, provide a bit of experience to prove it. Make sure I use all the right keywords. Sell myself.

Enough of that.

I’ve decided it’s time for my bio to tell people who I am. [2] Tell them what I’m passionate about. Give them a fair chance at engaging me in an interesting conversation that’s not about agile, or about the latest technology. Here’s my draft, what do you think? [3]

My life is learning, applying, and teaching.

I am a broad generalist who loves watching my team surpass me. I am a creative technologist specializing in the brilliance of others. I apply new technologies quickly and effectively while planting the seeds of world changing applications in others. I passionately _do_, yet I live to enable.

I am a pathfinder. I contribute on technical teams by seeking new approaches to accomplish our goals, and then amplify by helping my entire team gain the same capabilities. I explore ways to work faster and more effectively, and then I engage those around me in learning and expanding those methods. I passionately learn and improve myself, and then I joyously share the learning moments of my peers. My work, my love, my passion, and my career are in the people; the technology is just a context in which I work.

The context changes often, highlighting how similar the people and the desires of those people are across contexts. My peers as a C++ & .NET developer led me to technical leadership and imparting a systemic perception to the people I’m with. My teams during architecture and project leadership roles inspired a need for broader, more abstract communication and guidance. Working in a large consultancy enabled a split in the nature of my sharing and behavior as I coach both client teams and inspire change within my organization. This continual shift across layers exposed me to a number of risk environments, regulatory frameworks, process environments, management structures, technical platforms, and architectural approaches. These differences offer challenges even as they teach me how to see the consistent patterns within our industries.

Hence, my strengths: I learn, and I teach.

Thank you.

[1] My wife just pointed out a brilliant observation: why do we tend to call it a personal biography, when it’s almost always an autobiography?

[2] I recently found myself describing my current project. After doing what essentially amounted to a technology and market brief I realized (and was challenged on) how empty-sounding that was to somebody who wasn’t involved with the value. With a moment’s reflection I was able to express my work in terms of the child-like joy of the first snowflakes experienced by a team member fresh from India, the rekindled passion in the eyes of an experienced, cynical senior engineer due to the new approaches and technologies, the transformation from “resource (aka machine)” to “person” made by a team member, the appreciation in a peer’s voice when I transformed his need to write a multiple-page requirements document to an agreement with the client to share two bullet points and two photos of the whiteboard instead. This is the work I do, the technology is just context.

[3] I’d like to thank the individuals who provided their thoughts and opinions on the early drafts of this. Several of the better turns of phrase are due to their time and energy.

Written by erwilleke

February 7th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized