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Julio Cortázar and software development methods

Nadie habrá dejado de observar que con frecuencia marcos del proceso se aplican mecánicamente.

Maybe Julio Cortázar, whose 100th birthday we celebrate this year, would have begun a set of instructions for implementing a process framework with similar words. No one will have failed to observe that many individuals, teams, and organizations are quite befuddled by the process framework they are trying to use. They struggle mightily to follow every “rule” the framework “requires,” even when their goals are ill served by those rules.

Indeed, it is typical for such individuals, teams, and organizations to lose sight of their original goals altogether in their attempts to satisfy the real or perceived “rules” of the process framework. No matter how haphazard their previous mode of work may have been, many conclude that the framework “doesn’t work,” and revert to their former methods.

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Is a spike a type of story?

Many teams that take an “agile” approach to software development define requirements in the form of “user stories.” Not all the work a team performs lends itself to this form. It seems that people have come up with definitions of various “types” of stories other than “user” stories so that they can deal with work items that do not represent vertical slices of functionality that can be demonstrated to a business stakeholder. That’s fine as long as it’s practical and helps teams deliver effectively.

One of these non-story stories is the so-called “spike story.” I keep running into this in my team coaching work, so I did a quick Google search and found the term “spike story” is used pretty consistently. Definitions published by the ScrumAlliance, Agile Learning Labs, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), SolutionsIQ and others all refer to spikes as a type of “story.”

Answers to a question about spikes on Stack Overflow are more encouraging, as they mention spikes are time-limited and at least two of the respondents refrain from calling them “stories.” Even so, the notion that a spike is a kind of story seems to have become a widespread infection.

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A modest proposal for restructuring enterprise IT

Submitted for your consideration: The simplest way to solve a problem is not to solve it at all, but to define it out of existence. Many of the challenges we face in corporate IT may be caused by traditional organizational structure. If it is true that structure begets function, then we may be able to define some of these challenges out of existence by changing the organizational structure.

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Using Mob Programming to jump-start development teams

With 7 technical coaches working with some 160 development teams, we find ourselves moving from team to team with little time for in-depth collaboration. I decided to try a different approach to introduce an effective work flow, encourage collaboration within and across roles, and provide direct experience with recommended technical practices in a short time. We have been running two-day intensive working sessions with one team at a time. We have done this with four teams so far. The experiences have been different, but the general results have been positive in all four cases.

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Using Lego to capture raw data for Cycle Time and Process Cycle Efficiency

 

Background

I’m one of six technical coaches engaged by a large bank to support an initiative to improve software delivery performance. The IT department is an established agile software development shop that uses the SAFe framework with Scrum at the team level. They are seeking to achieve continuous delivery, improve software quality, establish a developer-friendly working environment, and foster a culture of continual improvement.

We want to be able to show the effects of changes the teams make in their working practices. Improving delivery performance involves changing the way people work; therefore, we need measurements that aren’t dependent on doing the work in any particular way. Three metrics from the Lean school of thought are helpful: Throughput, Cycle Time, and Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE).
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Where are all the Agile success stories?

Daniel Mezick confronts the elephant in the “agile” room in his post, Deviation from the Norm: “If current approaches actually worked well, then by now, thousands of organizations would have reached a state of self-sustaining, “freestanding” agility. Clearly, that is not the case.”

Pondering the question, several possible reasons for this result (or lack of) occurred to me. These are speculative and based on my own experience and observations.

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40% to 99% of your team’s effort is wasted (give or take a bit)

Recently I noticed a post on Twitter that referred to this article by Eric Barker. Barker, in turn, shares information he learned in a conversation with Po Bronson, an author (with Ashley Merryman) of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing. Now, notwithstanding the word “science” in the title, this is a “pop science” book, not a science book. It’s based in part on the authors’ “research” (reading statistical studies and so forth) and in part on popular assumptions – what we might call “leprechauns” or “urban legends.”.

The article rubbed me the wrong way, so I’m going to indulge myself with a bit of a rant.

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