Posted by: guywinterbotham | September 13, 2015

The Mathematics of Agile Dysfunction

“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.” ~ Francis Bacon

In the movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio is a thief who steals corporate secrets by enter the a victim’s dreams. The plot follows his attempts at the inverse task of implanting an idea into the mind of a CEO. The problem with the technique is that the dreams can become so real that he no longer knows he is dreaming. His character uses a spinning top to know if he’s still in a dream state, or back in reality. If the top keeps spinning, Leo’s character is still dreaming. If it falls, he is awake. The top represents what Yuval Noah Harari refers to as part of an objective reality. It is something you can touch or feel or prove through mathematics in the case of the top’s physics. What is interesting is how much of human achievement is based on our imagination or subjective realities. Harari posits that what has allowed us to scale our collaboration globally is our unique ability as humans to create inter-subjective realities. Set of beliefs that are taken to be truths across entire communities of believers. Beliefs that can survive the comings and goings of individuals, sustained over time as well as distance. Working with clients using scaled Agile frameworks I find the same dynamics in play. What happens when you try and inject new scaled Agile memes into the existing corporate body of a culture? Will the body reject them, graft to them or be poisoned by them? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | September 5, 2015

On Turtle Time

For the past three years we have vacationed at Emerald Isle in North Carolina. Each year we wander the sandy miles in search of turtle nests ready to hatch. We then spend a few hours each night in the company of patient turtle patrol volunteers hoping we will see the nest hatch. We have never seen one hatch but spending moonlit evenings with the waves washing their soothing sounds ashore has it benefits. You get to see another other species demonstrating that too long at the top of the chain leaves them devoid of an understanding of the objective realities of Nature. They are the vacationers quizzing volunteers on the schedule and status of the reptilian release. Each time the answer is the same, when the turtles are ready, but the answer is never enough. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | June 21, 2015

Stitching Work and Play

“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do” – John Ruskin

A trip through southwest England made with no expectations surprised me with a bridge between the Ages of Guilds and what remains of a culture of craftsmanship. The Arts and Crafts Movement was a response to the mass production and commoditization of design that came with the industrial revolution. The the decline of guilds as the backbone of manufacturing was not the end but maybe the beginnings of a new stage of design centered thinking. Its leading lights may be less well known now but the threads of their influence remained interwoven in the architecture, furniture design and jewelry making well into the 20th Century. Where is that joy of crafting in work now? Are we moving to further separate work from craft and play or are we seeing the first signs of their reintegration? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | June 9, 2015

The Point of Play

Lap Pic

On our big crazy learning adventure of a government software project, we had returned so soon to plan a new release. Once again anointed to do a Fist of Five commitment exercise at the end, I had challenged myself to make it more playful than the last. After the flat out fun I was asked a pointed question: “What was the point of that exercise?”. Essentially, what was the point of play? The short answer may mean this is the last time I’m invited to invite others to play. There was no point. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | May 25, 2015

Pulling at the Roots of Culture

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s that time of year again when I have to make the executive decision. Extract a garden from the wilderness of the backyard or let nature continue its inevitable reclamation. As the house has emptied over time the requirement to do it as part of being a family has drained but never quite the enthusiasm. I have no authority over plants. They will grow as they see fit. I can do my bit to encourage plants that fill my need for a fresh veggie or two. I can make the conditions right for the needs of plants. Then I must let the seasonal symbiosis takes its path.

So why then must the focus be the dread of pulling at the roots? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | April 26, 2015

Wanted: Corporate Fool

Jester wanted. Must be mirthful and prepared to work summer weekends. Must have own outfit (with bells). Bladder on stick provided if required. ~ The Times, August, 5th, 2004

I’m lucky to be on a large crazy project. Large enough to have its own ways but with a leadership willing to step back and ask the question – “Who do we want to be in the future?”. Who are we now? A collaboration of contracting companies working on a large legacy government portal, heavily interconnected with other departments and agencies in such a convoluted way I lovingly refer to it as Conway’s Nightmare. The program director had gathered what amounted to the royal court of the project – the leadership team. I was invited to join. A facilitator led us through a pretty neat icebreaker that reminded us to be empathetic to our different management styles. Part of the introduction involved a description of our roles. I dutifully announced my current label from the 2-D Org Chart but on a whim decided to describe how I saw the part I played. I said I was the Project Jester and somehow it felt right. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | March 30, 2015

New Games of Old: In Search of the Well-Played Game

… of Old

I had won.

At the of eleven I had come first in a competition at the local high school fair. The goal was to decorate your ride. Atop the decorated spokes of my bespoke scooter, I took my rightful place at the head of the parade, itself the culmination of the day’s festivities. The adulation I awaited never came. I expected to be flanked by the bikes and other scooters I had conquered. As it turned out I was the only entrant. Playing to win didn’t feel like play at all.

As the parade formed the excitement seem to come from behind me. The crowd I expected to move towards me was in fact forming around what appeared to a giant ball decorated to look like the earth. Anything taller than me was by definition giant so a six foot diameter ball certainly qualified. The crowd jostled the ball. The crowd found play in keeping the huge ball aloft, moving in the direction the parade moved. I can remember that image to this day, decades later.

I can’t remember what I won. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | November 23, 2014

Flying Agile – Play and the Cost of Delay

My last post discussed the game of traveling non-rev to Brighton, UK. It triggered more thoughts about the my Agile software development analogy and valuing features. We often talk about delivering the highest value first. Figuring out what is valuable seems like a recurring challenge. I work on large clunky government projects using some vague approximation to Agile. With the pressures of politics and the absence of customers voting value with a purchase, it is difficult to groom a backlog. The trip back from Brighton to Richmond,VA had analogous issues with planning. There is a cost to the delays we suffer in commercial travel. Not surprisingly, looking at valuation using the Cost of Delay (CoD) can be a useful tool in valuing travel options. Sometimes it’s easier to think of what you would lose as an option expires as a proxy for value. The curve of that loss does not have to be as binary as an opportunity cost. It can change with time, making the timing of last responsible moment more complex. In these cases I find it useful to look at the situation as a portfolio of Real Options with the overall value changing over time. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | November 22, 2014

Flying Agile – Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

On  recent trip to Brighton in the UK I once again took the plunge of flying agile with my wife. On previous posts I have talked about the fun and games of flying non-rev, a benefit offered to employees of airlines, whereby you can fly cheaply but always on standby. I have referred to this as “Flying Agile” due to the parallel of being inserted into a standby list (backlog) and being prioritized against “seniority” parameters until you are applied to the limited resources (empty seats) hoping to be part of the release (flight).

In a previous post I talked about how Real Options thinking has helped me in the high uncertainty of non-rev flying. In hindsight, it doesn’t always result in the best travel experience. However it does make a game of it. One my wife noted that I take “pretty seriously”, just as good play should be. Real Options (think potential future choices) have value, do expire and you never commit early unless you know why to keep options open. I’ve covered the idea of creating options in traveling and I’ll do a bit here. I’ve looked at how deferring commitment helps with the high uncertainty. This trip to Brighton gave me pause to think about what the value of choices could be when monetary value is less important. Value is relative and transient. It is affected by the needs of those involved as well as the emotions they are feeling at the time close to commitment. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | October 8, 2014

Conflict as Drama

In his book Finite and Infinite Games James Carse talks about the nature of play as it relates to two forms of games. He see most of what we refer to as play as a form of finite game. In order to play in finite games we must veil ourselves of the reality that at any time we could leave the game. In order to remain serious about the game, we must enter the role and be able to convince ourselves that our freedoms are temporarily suspended in order to stay in that role. I see here an analogy with conflict and how we tend to enter and remain in conflict allowing ourselves to self-veil. As Carse notes playing these finite games of conflict then becomes theatrical. If so then what form of theater? Read More…

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