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…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | September 30, 2014

An Org Chart in Four Dimensions

There it is. Sitting in your inbox. Once a cycle a new Org Chart arrives. Maybe that cycle is once a year, a quarter or in my case each release. In some way it provides the comfort of imagined order. A belief that information flows gently down from some respected and inspiring parental entity, directing purpose towards some unknown end. In return the outcome of work rises to be judged in glowing terms to be followed by a reward. A world of possible relationships constrained to two dimensions.

I find 2-D Org Charts tend follow the accounting structure and reflect the need to track cost more that anything. People’s places are broken down and bucketed according to where they need to be poked. The analytical mind assuming an organization is the sum of its parts. People are seen as their roles like leaves hanging off an organizational tree, losing color as the seasons of their career pass by until they inevitably fall off.

If only it were that simple.Org

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Posted by: guywinterbotham | 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: guywinterbotham | 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: guywinterbotham | 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: guywinterbotham | 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: guywinterbotham | 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: guywinterbotham | 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…

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