Black Hat / White Hat

Why We Strive

In early Hollywood depictions of the Western genre, a common trope was to subtly identify the ‘good guys’ by the color of their hat or their horse. The arrival of the wandering drifter atop his shining stallion almost always heralded that things were about to change. These days, the image of the masked rider coming to set things right, is replaced by the arrival of management consultants. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to judge the impending experience based on anything as simple as the color of the consultant’s hat.

At least that’s what I thought…

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Best Laid Plans…

I am one of the co-organizers of a local Agile Meetup group (APLN-Chicago).  Our monthly meetings are generally attended by folks in one of two camps:  The first, I’ll call the Agile Seekers — people who would not consider themselves experts, but are there to learn the what/why/how of Agile.  The second group I’ll call the Agile Explorers — people with practical experience in Agile, who are looking to test the edges of Agile and finding/sharing new ways of plying their craft.  On most nights, we manage to strike a pretty good balance between the different camps, finding ways to leverage the experience to feed the learning, and everyone walks away with something positive.  I wish I could say it always works that way, but last night it kind of got away from me. Continue reading “Best Laid Plans…”

Accentuate the Negative?

The instant message app chimed on my desktop. “How confident are you that we won’t find any more defects in testing?”, the department head asked. I glanced over at the task board, at the lone sticky note sitting in the “In Progress” section: “Architecture Review”, it read. I popped open the chat window, and responded, “100% sure. We are done with testing.” I watched the window for a moment as the message app informed me they were typing their reply. “Okay. Because I’m about to go report that to the senior managers.” “No problem,” I typed back. “See you at the demo, tomorrow.” Continue reading “Accentuate the Negative?”

All Hands on Deck

My wife and I sat in the family room, watching a recent episode of Deadliest Catch.  At this particular moment, the focus is on the Cornelia Marie the boat formerly run by Captain Phil Harris, who died several seasons ago.  Since that time, the Cornelia Marie had been off-camera, without owner or without anyone to serve as her captain.  Phil was survived by two sons, who were both taken in by the other captains in the fleet to teach them what it would take to run their father’s boat.  As the seasons passed, the younger son decided he wasn’t cut out to run a crab boat, and left.  The elder son, Josh crewed on the other boats, and then in a surprise this season, came back into the picture as the new “owner” of the Cornelia Marie.  Josh was far from ready to run the operation, so he hired Captain Casey McManus to run the boat, and teach him what he’d need to know to take over the wheelhouse in the future.  Throughout the season, we’ve watched Casey and Josh together in the wheelhouse, taking turns at running the boat.  A week or two before this, the fishing hadn’t been so hot for the Cornelia.  Time was running out on opie season, and in order to help hit their quota, Josh volunteered to join the rest of the crew on deck. Continue reading “All Hands on Deck”

What Would You Do?

The Sprint Retrospective had just ended and I was finishing up my notes from the session.  I looked up and found that Wayne and Garth (not their names) had hung back after everyone else left.  We started talking about the sprint, and that led to discussions of the project, and that led to questions of job satisfaction.  The question at hand was, “How do you know what you’re meant to do?”  For this question, Wayne had a way to cut through the noise.

Say you won the lottery.  Not the big lottery…but a few million dollars.  Enough that after taxes and the lump sum disbursement shake out, you have enough to invest and receive a tidy sum of about $200,000 per year for the rest of your life.  Not an excessive amount, but certainly enough to live comfortably on without having to actually work.  What would you do?

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Team Building: Five Dysfunctions and Four ‘Ormings

There are dozens of books out there on management and leadership styles.  There are dozens of books about Agile methods and the application of Agile principles.  There are probably hundreds of books on the psychology of groups.  In my opinion, there are not enough books that combine these concepts.  The interconnections and application are left as exercises of the reader. Continue reading “Team Building: Five Dysfunctions and Four ‘Ormings”

Sailing Metaphor for Agile

When I was in high school, my friend Scott and I took his father’s sailboat out on the lake where our families spent summer vacation.  We had each been sailing numerous times; always as crew, never at the helm.  We both knew the lingo; “Come about” and “Pull that jib in tighter!”.  I had taken a boat safety course, so I knew all about life jackets and right-of-way.  There was even a page in the safety manual that talked about sailboats and gave a handy chart for the points of sail.  We were set for adventure! Continue reading “Sailing Metaphor for Agile”