The never-ending renovation, and what I learned… so far

I live in an old stone house which was built between 1839 and 1849. In the 1970’s, an addition was added on, extending the original house with a large family room, extra bedrooms, a rec room, and two extra bathrooms. Over the past three weeks during my vacation, we’ve been working on upgrading the dated interior. This included:

  1. Updating two bathrooms. These were stripped to bare walls and redone. The demolition had been done before the vacation, so all that was left was to repair floors, install tiled flooring, new tub, shower, vanity, toilets, and associated fixtures. Plumbing is not my favorite thing, and my plumber, like me, was on vacation, so I ended up doing it. The pipes are circa 1970, and waste pipes are all copper or cast iron. None of the sizes seemed to match the modern brass or PVC / ABS pipes so that created some adaptation problems. Continue reading

Mature Scrum

This is a follow-up post to Dinner with Jeff Sutherland, where Jeff talked about Systematic and the two LEAN metrics for driving improvements; 1) Process Efficiency, and 2) Fix time after failed builds. More details are now available in a paper titled Mature Scrum at Systematic.

Systematic combined a LEAN operating model, SCRUM as the project management framework allowing for flexibility and adaptability, and CMMI to institutionalize these elements into the culture of the organization, driving discipline and measurability. More information as well on how User Stories are prepared to a READY-READY state before being allowed to enter the Sprint. The grooming of the backlog and preparing User Stories is done in parallel to the Sprint.

LEAN Thinking

Becoming Agile is about changing the way we think and act. Many organizations train their people to operate in a “command and control” environment, where the decision making and control lies with the managers. Design managers, test managers, project managers, program managers…etc. What is built and how it is built is defined by the business teams and architecture teams. The size, scope, feature content, overall structure of the solution is defined with estimates provided not necessarily by the people doing the work. The work is then carved up into pieces and distributed across the different functions to be implemented, which amounts to a structural decomposition of the product is mapped to the structure of the organization that will do the work of building the product.

These organizations measure performance and progress of functional groups discretely. They optimize within teams, within organizations, within the boxes they work. Incentives are awarded on the basis of these optimizations. This is the traditional method of operating for many enterprises. Agile methods and Lean thinking demonstrate that this creates waste and slows development velocity. Wasted time, resources, and knowledge (e.g. knowledge lost during handoffs between teams).

Lean Thinking
Lean Thinking is at the heart of Agile. Lean Thinking is all about looking at the path from quote to cash and eliminating anything that does not provide value to the customer. One question of Lean Thinking is:

“If a customer was in front of me, would he/she gladly pay me for what I am doing at this moment?”

Every step in the process should create value. To achieve this, management control shifts from controlling the work, to controlling the process. The development teams self-organize around the work. In this way, the organization is built around the work to be done, rather than organizing the work to fit the organization.

Lean is about excellence in processes and process control. But Lean Thinking comes from manufacturing. How do we translate Lean thinking into the world of software development? A white paper from Mary Poppendieck, called “Principles of Lean Thinking” maps the ideas of Lean Thinking to the world of software. You can find it here.

March 29 2010 – Dinner with Jeff Sutherland

Monday, March 29, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jeff Sutherland and other RTP leaders. The dinner was a fundraiser for CITCON, which came to RTP in April. This was an opportunity for Agile practitioners and experts to have an informal chat about the challenges and opportunities of using Agile in the world of work.

I was interested in learning more about Systematic, a CMMI level 5 company that implemented Scrum across its entire business. One thing that sets Systematic apart from other companies is that it has really good data to prove that Scrum works, and it is a software company that can execute perfect waterfalls every time. Systematic created hyper-productive teams, and by Jeff’s definition, they are at least 4 times more productive than industry average. They cut TTM in half and the development costs by the same as well.

Continue reading

Action and learning, valued above all

I love this quote from Fujio Cho, President of the the Toyota Motor Corporation, 2002.

We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action. There are many things one doesn’t understand and therefore, we ask them why don’t you just go ahead and take action; try to do something? You realize how little you know and you face your own failures and you simply can correct those failures and redo it again and at the second trial you realize another mistake or another thing you didn’t like so you can redo it once again. So by constant improvement, or, should I say, the improvement based upon action, one can rise to the higher level of practice and knowledge.

Great Books on Culture, Agile, LEAN and Organizational Transformation

Over the past years I have collected some excellent books on Organizational Change, Culture, LEAN and Agile. Here is some of my reading list. It’s by no means exhaustive, but a good start. I’ll be adding more books soon.  Click on each list item for more information.

Deep learning and application of knowledge is the only way to truly transform yourself and your organization.


Organizational Change and Business Culture:


Moving Firewood

I live on a farm. I have a machine shed in which I store firewood for the winter. The shed is located about 400 feet behind my house. Every Sunday, I start the little Case IH tractor and load the bucket with firewood, and drive it to the front door of the house where I move it from the bucket to the wood box. That process takes one Pomodoro. About 25 minutes.

Unloading the wood from the bucket to the wood box is a highly variable activity depending on who is there to help. Continue reading