Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | September 7, 2014

The Praxis Patch

Picture of vegetables

I didn’t bother planting my vegetable patch in Spring. Between the run up to becoming an empty nester and the theater of work, it never seemed to be worth the effort. Summer came and went with a linear life grating against the cycle of the seasons. Despite my disinterest in it, the patch grew. It became an ugly thatch of weeds. With the first weekend of staring at each other in the absence of children, cleaning up the thatch became a worthy reason to detach myself from the Internet.

As I pulled back the weeds, the unintended consequence of neglect revealed itself. The vegetable patch had taken it upon itself to make its best attempt to be something more than an eyesore. I spent the first hour discovering robust cucumbers and a myriad of tiny red gems in the form of cherry tomatoes pictured above. Despite the decay of diligence in my meager farming skills, my patch had inadvertently still produced something.

Then the inevitable questions. What if I had tried? What if I made made the effort to break out a portion of my day to attend to the patch? Had my focus on creating the perfect patch in prior years sapped the joy of having what the patch could offer? Had the desire to be recognized as a master craftsman of cucumbers detracted from the simple play of puzzling through planting and plucking? Most importantly, if I know I had lacked some form of discipline then what might a new discipline be?

It occurs to me that the same could be said of my own mind. That patch of thought buried in my skull has suffered equally from neglect. The gardens of Google and teaming terracotta tubs of Twitter have revealed a potpourri of ideas that have been growing for years if not decades. Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | July 16, 2014

Medieval SAFe

Before I start, I freely admit to it being ludicrous that we will ever be predict where a team will end up in terms of the practices it deems useful and the impact of the constraints of its context on how it operates. The same is likely true of organizations tackling a desire to scale their Agile practice. Despite Agile passing the 10 year mark it seems like we will never have a prescribed trajectory for the evolution of Agile teams and if we did wouldn’t that take the fun out of being on a team? Learning and growing in a way in which the mutual needs of the team members were attended to, as well as the needs of the folks the team was serving.

Agility of the Ages

I however can’t escape my fascination with the question of what part of our psychi Agile is feeding off when we look to it to satisfy needs as to how work is done in a team environment. If it encourages an environment where we can find our state of Flow, is it an echo of a time when we worked in small teams for so long that it became a part of us? Maybe Agile is not a new mindset but a return to how we had been building complex products successfully, but had forgotten.

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Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | June 2, 2014

A Slight Obsession with Build Monitors

A few years back I caught a couple of developers perusing the documentation for the CruiseControl continuous integration tool. It was a mainstay of our development environment. Their curiosity was piqued by an extension that integrated some home automation technology enabling mains power devices to be switched on and off. X-10 is low bandwidth power line protocol that has all but fallen off the map. Back then you could buy cheap X-10 devices by the bucket. Being an engineer at heart I had such a bucket and offered it up. So began a small obsession with build monitors.

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Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | May 3, 2014

The Missing Muse of Mastery

The Nice Muses

The Nine Muses

In Ancient Greek mythology, the Muses were goddesses who ruled over the arts and sciences. Although their mythology changed, a common retelling has them being the daughters of Zeus and the titan Mnemosyne. Being daughters of Zeus no doubt signified the importance ancient Greek culture placed on poetry, performance art and the sciences. Mnemosyne was the personification of memory which mattered greatly for preserving those elements of culture in a time of no books.

What if software development had been around in the times of classical Greece? Would it have been considered to be some form of art or maybe as it was when I studied it, a science. If it is neither, what is it and what difference does it make to those that practice it? Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | April 28, 2014

Agile Anthropology

I have always wondered if Agile is considered a better way of working, what is it relying on being within us to make it so?

“Every technological system functions within a social system and is therefore conditioned by it.”~ Leslie A. White

Many new to Agile tend to gravitate towards the reference implementations such as Scrum and associated prescribed rituals to get started. Some stories of Agile adoption tell of organizational transformations involving structured change and more elaborate rituals. Strict adherence to these these approaches alone would seem to stifle progression to towards a deeper sense of community and sustainable collaboration.

“A ritual is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects…designed to influence forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests”  ~ Victor Turner

What then drives groups find to active collaboration as a natural state of being? Once formed, what elements are involved in keeping the group evolving in a purposefully aligned manner? Where is the social science that may give a more holistic picture while groups move through the practical experience of Agility. How are their individual needs being met while collaborating towards some greater good? Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | April 21, 2014

The Problem with “Play”

Marshall Rosenberg suggests that we “don’t do anything that is not play”(1). He does so in the context of considering the nature of what we do with our relationships and why. He suggests that our purpose “is simply to do so to make life wonderful for others and ourselves, then even hard work has an element of play in it.” When I imagine the workplace and pronouncing purposeful  “play” I cringe. It has nothing to do with Rosenberg’s recommendation but with the word itself. Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | April 1, 2014

Kanbum: Announcing the New Best of Breed Agile Methodology

After ten years of spotty evolution, intermixed with bickering, it’s time to bring the Agile methodology wars to their ultimate conclusion. By distilling the best of all existing approaches, I have been able to achieve both synergy and simplicity. My key insight has been that Agile has been blind to the system models that our civilization has already created that point to the ultimate answer. After extensive analysis, driven by a search for the greatest examples of flow produced by civilization, I have come to the only model that truly encapsulates all that my experiments in Agile processes have taught me to date. So join me in a brief journey through this masterpiece.

Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | February 1, 2014

Flying Agile – Your Arrival is Optional

I recently finished reading “Commitment” by Olav Maassen, Chris Matts, and Chris Geary. Presented as a graphic novel, it makes short work of a new way to look to look at managing risk in software development. It centers on the notion of a real option. A real option has value, will expire under some condition for example date or a set of triggers, and should not be committed to early unless you know why. In the world of classic project management, the prevailing mode of decision making operates in reverse of this notion. Plan everything out, commit to the plan even though you are the most uncertain about a project when you commence. As a consequence more time is spent in explaining variances to the plan and how to plan to correct for those variances. With apologies to Monty Python, that degrades into endless sessions of plan, plan, plan, plan, baked beans and plan. The real options in the room would scream, “I don’t like PLANS!”

With “Commitment” the authors ask you to look more to the outcomes desired and trace the many paths that could arrive at that outcome but only to commit to the decisions along that only when no better paths exist. The decisions in the book vary from features in a product, responding to changes in how a project is run and more. I’ll avoid spoiling fun of reading something that is quite deep, yet presented in an alarming simple and effective way. Think, a business novel but with less distraction of having to build out an entire story, in a context that is familiar to those in the project and software delivery world.

Through the examples given, the point is subtly made that real options are not an Agile specific notion nor limited to software. The examples show that the idea is applicable to many spheres. To toss another example on the pile, I thought I would extend the story I started in Flying Agile to show how real options thinking affected how I look at flying non-rev. Non-rev flyers are folks with a relative in the airline business, who are offered almost free seats but with no assigned seat. If there is space on the plane you fly. If not, you wait. Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | October 26, 2013

Flying Agile

Airport Lounge Lizards

You may never notice them in the lounges of airport boarding gates, despite your being a seasoned traveler. Even if you did, you might find their vacant stare mildly disturbing. Even more disturbing is their apparent disdain for boarding announcements. As you board the plane, you pay no further attention until they reappear aboard minutes later. They are the last to board, seemly the cause of your late departure. You find their stupid grin as off-putting as their need to move you gear around in the overhead, extracting just enough space to jam in their horrid, worn out carry-on luggage.

There is story behind this odd breed, intent as they are on bucking the well-formed norms of the experienced traveler. Triangulate that vacant stare and you will find a singular focus on the large displays cycling through last minute seat assignments and remaining seat totals. Realize they have no seat and you can understand the normal boarding procedure holds no interest for them. For a lucky few the joy of a seat assignment brings a surge of adrenalin and smile that comes from knowing they have just won an unfair lottery. They can’t afford the risk that comes with checking in luggage. That bag now jammed in the overhead carries their survival kit.

They are non-revers, and they yet might get home tonight. Read More…

Posted by: Guy Winterbotham | November 6, 2011

Setting Sail

I am at heart a tinkerer. I play with ideas and electronics. I experiment with notions and cross pollinate them with experience. I have traveled far enough and wide enough in my field of engineering and software development that it is time I record my personal explorations. Not they they should alter the course of mankind but that some other seafaring software soul might adjust their course in kind to what I have found.

In my travels I have always enjoyed the purely practical and applied. I have struggled with the theoretical and unnecessarily abstract. I need ideas but must necessarily knead them, lest I see them as half baked theory.

So I will start with things that I have not read before or feel are heading towards becoming a nascent norm:

  • How I became an Accidental Coach but before I became an Agile Coach
  • How I found a home for hobby born of a career long lost
  • What I am tinkering with and where I think the hidden treasure is



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