Skip to main content

Tips, Habits, Customs and Agility

I was listening to a Planet Money Podcast about tipping recently. According to the story, the custom of tipping has persisted even though the reasons that the practice was established no longer apply. According to the Planet Money story both waiters and customers think that tipping is useful, evidence to the contrary aside. The discussion led me to think about practices some teams do in the name of following a process.

Habits and routines are useful because they free you to focus on the important tasks.  Rituals and processes take a somewhat irrelevant decisions out of your hands, and conventions make it easier for others to understand code and other artifacts.  And when you are starting a new approach to work, following the rules by rote can help you understand the method. But circumstances change, and when the reason for the ritual has changed, there are a few possibilities:

  • The practice is still useful, for reasons you didn't anticipate when you started it.
  • The practice adds less value, but it doesn't add any overhead so there is no harm in continuing.
  • The practice leads the team to spend energy addressing a problem that does not exist any more and causes waste.

To avoid instances of the last case that take up too much of you time, it is important to periodically reflect on why you are doing what you are doing, and it it still makes sense in your environment.  As your team adopts new tools, new practices, take time to think about whether what you are doing still makes sense. Periodic retrospectives are one way to capture this, so it's important to set aside time to review how you work. (And even to set aside time to review how you do retrospectives!)

Lots of teams (and individual) follow process  steps with good intentions, yet they end up causing unnecessary overhead. For example coding conventions that made perfect sense in the days of fixed length variable names, and text editors that add overhead when you have refactoring IDEs and follow clear naming conventions.

The podcast also reminded me of  one of of my favorite Gerry Weinberg quotes (which I referenced in Software Configuration Management Patterns):
 Survival Rules are not stupid; they are simply over-generalizations or rules we once needed for survival. We don't don't to simply throw them away. Survival rules can be transformed into less powerful forms so that we ca still use their wisdom without becoming incongruent
 (from Quality Software Management: First-Order Measurement)

Traditions and habits have their place. But if you are doing something simply out of habit you can benefit from acknowledging that fact.


Popular posts from this blog

Continuous Integration of Python Code with Unit Tests and Maven

My main development language is Java, but I also some work in Python for deployment and related tools. Being a big fan of unit testing I write unit tests in Python using PyUnit. Being a big fan of Maven and Continuous Integration, I really want the  Python unit tests to run as part of the build. I wanted to have a solution that met the following criteria:
Used commonly available pluginsKeep the maven structure of test and src files in the appropriate directories.Have the tests run in the test phase and fail the build when the tests fail.
The simplest approach I came up with to do this was to use the Exec Maven Plugin by adding the following configuration to your (python) project's POM.

<plugin> <groupId>org.codehaus.mojo</groupId> <artifactId>exec-maven-plugin</artifactId> <executions> <execution> <configuration> <executable>python</executable> <workingDirectory>src/test/python</workingDirect…

Displaying Build Numbers in Grails Apps

Being a fan of Continuous Delivery, identifiable builds, and Continuous Integration: I like to deploy web apps with a visible build number, or some other way of identifying the version. For example, having the build number on the login screen for example. In the Maven/Java world, this is straightforward. Or at least I know the idioms. I struggled with this a bit while working on a Grails app,  and wanted to share my solution. There may be other, better, solutions, but the ones I found approaches that didn't quite work they way that I'd hoped.

My requirements were:
To display a build number from my CI tool, where the number was passed in on the command line. In Bamboo, for example you might configure a grails build as
-Dbuild.number=${bamboo.buildNumber} warTo only change build artifacts and not any source files.To not misuse the app version, or change the names of any artifacts.To be simple and idiomatic.I realized that that Grails itself changes the application metadata (appl…

Motivation Visibility, and Unit Testing

I've always been interested in organizational patterns (such as those in Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development). I've recently found myself thinking a lot about motivation. I'm now reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and just finished Rob Austin's book on performance measurement. Being the parent of a three year old, I'm finding more and more that "because I said so, and I'm right" isn't too effective at home. My interests in motivation are closely related to my interest in writing software effectively. Writing software is partially a technical problem about frameworks, coding, and the like, but the harder (and perhaps more interesting) problem is how to get a group of people working together towards a common goal. Agile practices, both technical and organizational, build a framework which makes having the right amount of collaboration and feedback possible. But there's a bootstrapping process: How do yo…