WOW! I just realised that it’s been a year since I did a blog post. I knew it had been a while, but I figured around 6 months max… Well, I suppose I needed it, and the good news is that I’M BACK!
I’m not going to go in to what has transpired over the past year since an agile adoption, as it’s quite involved and will come out in some successive posts, but will focus on where I am now and what my Posting Plans are.
Near the end of last year we started planning a return to Australia after almost a decade in the UK – what a BLAST! So many lovely experiences, people, places and new friends :-) Eventually though, it was time to return to Australia as it really is my home and although I may have a few gripes about it, Australia really is an amazing place and as the old cliche goes: I now really appreciate how lucky I am to live in this country after being away so long. That shot above is from my local beach which is 3 mins drive, and I can get in to the city (in the distance) in around 1/2h with a walk and public transport – that’s a pretty good lifestyle.
So what’s in the pipe? A much more varied mix than when I started out doing just “software stuff”:
- Reflections on life in the UK and Europe
- Observations on life in Australia now I’m back
- Reviews of gadgets
- Travelogues as I explore my own country – now I’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have of Australia, so it’s time to correct that
- Process – yes, I’m still on the agile path
- Architecture – looks like that will be my primary area of work still
- Software – which I’m gradually getting back in to, with the current focus being Clojure
- Probably the odd bit of music or photography to round things out
- Anything else anyone would like me to write about…
My approach to agile* adoptions is based quite a bit around Tai Chi and Taoist philosophy which I won’t go in to as you can search about that on the net. There are a few principles worth noting from these:
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders ~ Lao Tzu – 6th century, BCE
Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless. Like water. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend! ~ Bruce Lee, 1971**
which are a good philosophical summary of my approach to agile adoptions (well, actually life in general ;)
This series of posts is not directly about philosophy, it’s about the day-to-day progress of an agile adoption: The Good, The Bad and The Interesting.
So stay tuned, check back and drop in if you’re interested as this is just the beginning…
* In this series I’ll use the term agile with a lower-case ‘a’ to indicate “real ‘good’ agile” which I’ll explain as we go, compared to “Industrial Agile”, “Consulting Agile” and “Corrupted Agile” which start with an upper-case ‘A’
Note: If you think I’m some kind of “Apple Hater”, read My History with Apple at the bottom
Apple seems to be suffering an all-round lack of quality in their software and some would say hardware – what to do? Before we get in to this, let me tell you my tale of woe…
This post has been 6 months or more in the making, but has culminated with the problems I’ve been having with my iPad Air 2 over the past months. It all started so innocently – I was happily using iOS 7 and I’d installed a new App which said “In order to use this, you must use iOS8”. Fine, I thought – it’s been out for a while and there have been a few incremental updates (something like 8.0.3) so I upgraded. From memory, this one was OK, so when 8.1.2 or 3 came out I didn’t really think much and just upgraded, and that’s when my problems started.
It was a bit like a horror movie – you know, everything is fine, the sun is shining – living the good life (on iOS 8.0.3 :). Then, one day (some time in 8.1), something a bit out of place happened – I was finding it hard to close browser tabs – didn’t really think much of it. Unfortunately over the next few days, things got worse! Typing started either not getting the characters or doing multiple characters and it just got worse and Worse and WORSE! Basically, my iPad was bricked. “Luckily”, 8.2.2 had been out for a while so I upgraded, after checking the forums as some people reported it solving the problem.
Then, like a groundhog day, all started coming back with the same pathology – first, an error here or there and after a few days – bricked again. 8.2.3 came out so I went to this – same thing – worked for a while, then bricked. I was at the end of my tether and was at the stage of buying a cheap Android tablet to use at work until Apple fixed things on the iPad. Again, as luck would have it, 8.3 is out and I’ve just upgraded today. I’m not holding my breath though as I know that this bug can surface after days or weeks…
What’s the Problem?
My experience is not unique. In fact, I’m one of the “Lucky Ones” who didn’t have problems with iOS 7. Just Google “iOS problem” and you’ll find there are 194M pages!!! I know there are even more hits for Android (564M) and Windows Mobile problems (264M), but is that really something to compare to? Especially when both those platforms are on a wide range of uncontrolled hardware, whereas Apple is a “closed ecosystem” where they’ve designed every Apple Phone ever made. As a long-time (over 30 years – I started with an Apple II) Apple user I’ve seen an increase in the quality of their software, until the last few years. A bit like my touch problem, they surfaced occasionally, but were not of significance, but now we’re talking about many, releases with the same or worse problems – where will it end? Don’t think iOS 9 will necessarily fix everything as as iOS 8 was supposed to fix the problems of iOS 7!
What’s even worse, the “Crappy Quality Virus” seems to of infected the Mighty OS X. Touch wood and 3 Hail Mary’s I’m actually OK – running Yosemite 10.10.3 and no problems. Again, Googling “OS X problem” gives 264M hits – more than iOS! For both OS’s, there’s now a huge industry around documenting and fixing the various problems – all on platforms that Apple has total control over – THERE IS NO EXCUSE!
What’s the Solution?
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not an Apple Hater. In fact, I’m an Apple Lover – I used to have the attitude of buying Apple for anything personal. Unfortunately, I’m now in the situation where if this doesn’t improve I’ll be replacing my iMac with one of the many all-in-one PC’s, and my Tablet with an Android or Windows one. I already have an Android phone as I was about to get a 5, but the company I was working for got pre-release devices and they kept (physically) breaking.
To the solution: I believe this malaise set in with the passing of Steve Jobs. For all his faults, the amazing thing about Jobs was that he got understood the Business, Design, Hardware and Software of making “Insanely Great Products”.
What have we now? We have Tim Cook who’s background is in Sales and Manufacturing and Jony Ive, the reclusive yet internally influential and widely acknowledged design genius (although I do question the “new blue folders” on Yosemite and the Apple Watch). What’s missing?
Hardware & Software
Name the people associated with those… There’s a hardware guy who we see in their videos, but I can’t find him on Google. For software, there’s Craig Federighi and I must admit I thought Phil Schiller was until I looked up Google and found he’s VP of Marketing! Therein lies the problem – there’s no outstanding person across Hardware and Software. Although the ideal would of been to find another Jobs to replace them all, I don’t think that would ever happen. What is needed is someone responsible for “Integrated Design” who can work with Ive, ensure the highest standard of hardware and software is produced to go in to the Objects of Desire that Apple makes and has the same visibility as Cook and Ive.
Why did I write this?
Probably mostly to get all this off my chest and also as a warning of what may happen to Apple if they don’t get back on track. We’ve seen so many companies like IBM and Microsoft fall so far when they lost their way, it would be a pity to see the same happen with Apple…
Finally, I have the tiny hope that someone at Apple sees and relates to it – I’d love to continue the conversation…
As mentioned at the beginning, before anyone thinks of criticising this piece (which you’re free to do after you’ve read this :) here’s a brief history of my (hopefully ongoing) time with Apple products:
- Started with an Apple II
- Used a Lisa – a rich friend had one when I was in my senior school years
- Got caught up in the “PC Revolution”
- Shipped some of the early NeXTs* to Australia, did the Australian product launch, taught NeXT programming, created software for NeXT, attended most NeXTworlds and met Steve Jobs
- Got caught up in the “Java Revolution”
- Employed by a company in the 90’s who used Apple gear, got my own and went to a few WWDCs (before they were hip)
- Have continuously bought Apple products again since the 90’s
- Currently have an iMac, Mac Mini, iPad 2, iPad Air, two Apple iPods and an Apple TV
* For you young’ns, NeXT was what Jobs created after Apple fired him and NeXTstep was the operating system which became Cocoa – all those NS prefixed classes stand for NextStep
I’m currently looking for a contract (hint :) but today was not my normal day where I wake up, have a coffee, watch a bit of TV, then start looking for something… Because part of my start is checking out Social Media, where I came across this piece The only oil that goes with a Croatian bikini is olive! by teresafritschi via @JenniferSertl, one of the great global connectors. I’d encourage you to read the piece first, not only for the context of why I did this, but as to why you should be concerned that the oil industry and politicians will probably wreck the Adriatic in the next decade!
Now to the graphic – how did I do it and what is it’s validity? In short, I used PowerPoint to strip out backgrounds and scale things correctly so I could transpose the BP Oil Spill graphic (from One-fifth of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna killed by BP oil spill) on to Google Maps. All you have to do is “go” to New Orleans and adjust the scale on your Google Map so it’s the same scale as as the graphic’s one:
First, you use a clever little feature that PowerPoint has called “Remove Background”. Firstly, you use it on the Oil Spill to remove the “Background”, which PPT thinks is the faintest part, so on that graphic it’s the map – Voila!
There’s a bit of Art and Science in doing this – the key things I did for Croatia were align it with the coast and ‘reflect’ it so you have the same phenomena as on the top-right of the original Oil Spill because it’s in a sheltered area and so is the Adriatic. Just in case anyone questions this, I’ve been deliberately conservative as I actually think an oil spill could be even worse in the Adriatic as it’s effectively a confined space!
Once you have your underlay, how do you put it under the map? That’s where we go back to our friend from PPT, “Remove Background” – you’ll probably have to play about with it a bit this time (as the contrast between sea and land is not as obvious). You can now put together your final image as shown below by simply setting the layer order correctly.
All up, this probably took about an hour as it’s a bit of a fiddly process, but for a cause like Saving the Adriatic, it was well worthwhile.
Furthermore, if anyone’s drilling just off your coast, you can now do your own visualisation of what the impact may be on yourself and neighbouring countries ;-)
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted much, mainly due to a contract which requires me to drive on the M20 and M25 (aka “the carpark” for those outside the UK) and as a result, I just don’t seem to of had the time and energy…
I look forward to getting on something where someone else is doing the driving so I can use my time effectively
Amazingly, it seems like only 7% (4.5 Million) people in the UK use public transport. Given that nearly 1/3 (22 Million) live in the South-East, where transport is generally pretty good, that seems pretty low. No surprise given the number of people on the motorways – I’ll be happy to take one more off them next contract.
So what’s up for 2015 for me and this blog?
For one, I plan to start getting back in to a bit more of a rhythm, both with my posts and the associated (play) work (generally outside “real work”), and I will continue to post based on my experiences – recent and past…
- Lifestyle & Reviews
- Process & People & ScramJet
- Architecture, including Enterprise & SOA aspects
in no particular order. I won’t get in to specifics as much of it is not yet planned, or I’m working on it but don’t want to reveal it until I have enough meat on the the bones so I can be sure it will fly.
- Review of Bob Marshall’s “Thinking Different” happening last year
- Review of the: BMW i3 electric car; Samsung Galaxy Alpha
- Corporate Subversion – in a positive manner of course :-)
and that’s really just the “boring stuff” – there should be some very interesting posts coming as I hit my stride.
I hope you’ve all had a great XMas & New Year break and look forward to some great interactions in 2015!
After a finishing up my current contract, holidays and a bit of Bloggers Block, a chat with John Wenger about humanity and process a while ago has inspired me to do this post that I’ve had brewing for a while… Your first response may be a glib / tongue-in-cheek response “What, humanity and PMs, that’s an Oxymoron”. And therein lies the problem – I feel I almost need to point out that PMs are people too :-) Most of them are trying to do a good job in a probably difficult situation. They have families, lovers, pets: and they’re just at work like you – doing their best…
To tease this apart more, the first thing we need to do is separate the person from the role. With that, we can acknowledge that people are generally the same, so there should be no core difference between a PM and others in an org. Then we have the role – this is unfortunately where distortions can come in. Not only from the role, but the organisation and it’s view of that role which often puts them forward as “Managers”. I mostly see them as “Administrators”, though and I’m not saying this in a mean way – as an Architect (or any other core-IT role) I see them there to help me to build things for an organisation. Sure, they have their plans, but any good PM knows how to work the plan with the people and not the other way around.
In most of my engagements in large organisations, as a facilitator I’ve gotten along well with the PMs personally and professionally and they’ve always helped the project (well, there’s always the exception, but one can say that about almost anything). Strangely though, this seems to be the opposite of most of the “agile crowd” who seem to constantly complain about and want to get rid of PMs. What’s up? Have I just been lucky the last 15-20 years? I think not…
How would you feel if I came in to your work and told you I was a BoingBoing Master and that part of the BoingBoing Approach (tm :) I’d be replacing you, or if you were lucky would turn you in to a BoingBoing Apprentice where you’d have to start from the bottom again and work your way up?
Well that’s the attitude most agile people do! And then they wonder why PMs are so “difficult”…
As I touched on above, I acknowledge that while PM is not an essential role in agile, it can be accommodated. Part of this probably comes from my earlier work with (Iterative) RUP where PM is an acknowledged role. When I progressed to Scrum, it was using RUP Iterations, so again, the PMs were there – helping with Iteration and Project planning, while we ran the Scrums and handed most problems over to them to sort out.
This brings me to my current approach: As I mentioned, I view PMs as “skilled administrators” and “organisational facilitators” who are necessary in in large company. On that basis I help them understand how I can work with them as I’ll help the team focus on their work and maximising it, while they can help communicate this to the wider organisation and help remove obstacles that the team will be surfacing with them. This way, we both benefit, generally doing what we all enjoy.
Perfect? No, but it’s sure better than going in to a situation where you have exist with a powerful and combative “opponent” every day…
This approach also allows for what I’d call a “classic” Scrum/Kanban/… Facilitator, where this is not a full time job (which I can remember in the early days of agile and scrum). The rest of the time, I get to perform a team role (usually Architect, but it could really be any – e.g. (Business) Analyst, Developer, Tester, Infrastructure) which enables me to be deeply involved in the project and therefore not need “explanation sessions” where the team explains what they’re doing to someone who doesn’t really understand.
So is that it? Am I advocating we just sit back and not cause “too much trouble” for the entrenched system? NO! It’s quite the opposite as I’m suggest a campaign for Hearts and Minds conducted with Love and Compassion rather than the “Shock and Awe” campaigns that are often conducted by the Agile Extremists…
Before I get in to the guts of Skramjet, there was a final piece of philosophy that was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently whilst watching a brilliant PBS program The Buddha. One of the interesting facts I didn’t realise was how The Middle Way or Path was come up with – it was when he was attaining enlightenment.
After his initial life of total indulgence, then his Ascetic phase where he was almost dead (see right) that The Buddha realised that the way to enlightenment lay in between these two extremes:
Neither a life of self- indulgence, nor one of self-mortification can bring happiness. Only a middle path, avoiding these two extremes, leads to peace of mind, wisdom, and complete liberation from the dissatisfactions of life
An Agile Ascetic – well versed in Scrum, Kanban, TDD, BDD & NVC ;-)
THIS WAS THE MISSING LINK!
Most (if not all) agile processes, be they Lean, Scrum, Kanban or whatever assume usually quite a bit of discipline and adherenceto “the process” Don’t believe me? Try telling:
- A Lean / 6 Sigma adherent you won’t Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control
- A Scrum Master you’re not going to do the 3 questions or have a Product Owner
- A Kanban Kraftsperson you’re not going to limit WIP
In most cases, good luck with that… Does it have to be that way?
What is The Middle Way?
When I did my first official SDLC process training with Rational Unified Process, the 1st rule was “use the process to configure the process”. Unfortunately, many “agile people” don’t do this! They use a Waterfall process to configure an agile process. This, I suspect, is a key contributor to why many Agile adoptions fail. One of the lessons I learnt early on, after my first successful Scrum failure was to let the process emerge. My 2nd attempt was a dream run as we started with sticky notes and tasks – that’s all! No people against tasks and no estimates. The interesting thing is that the team added these two features in the next two retrospectives, which just shows that is you have faith and give control over to others in the “right context”, there shall be rewards.