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Showing posts from March, 2012

Patterns and The Storytelling Animal

I had the good fortune to be involved in the early days of the Software Patterns.  In brief, patterns are about capturing solutions that people have developed organically over time, which have proven to be the best ones for the context at hand. What's interesting about patterns to those who are used to more academic approaches to learning about software,  is that a good pattern isn't novel. If you've been working in a domain for a time you are likely  to recognize solutions you have used before. If you've struggled with the problem in the past, you are likely to appreciate that the "common solution" is now documented.

By writing patterns, and hanging around people who studied and and worked with patterns, I learned to appreciate that the value of context: it's not enough to have a toolbox of solutions; you need to understand which solution makes sense given the specifics of your problem. In that way, Patterns fit into a set that includes agile engineering…

Have the Orders Changed?

One of the great things about being a parent is that you have an excuse to re-read some classic books. My five year old and I have been reading The Little Prince, and the story of the Lamp Lighter reminded me of a common problem teams have with organizational inertia when trying to transition to agile software development.

For those who haven't read the story, or who don't recall the details, the Little Prince relates the story of his journey to various planets. One one planet he encounters a Lamp Lighter who lights and extinguishes a lamp every minute, not having any time to rest. When the Little Prince asks how this absurd situation came to be, the Lamp Lighter discussed this with the Little Prince:
"Orders are orders..." "It's a terrible job I have. It used to be reasonable enough. I put the lamp out mornings, and lit it after dark. I had the rest of the day for my own affairs and the rest of the night for sleeping."  "And since then orders hav…

Paper v Electronic Dashboards: Goals and Values

It's almost a matter of dogma that, for agile teams, low tech project tracking tools and artifacts are superior to electronic ones. The usual reason you might hear for preferring a physical task board to an electronic issue system are are that a physical task board is more visible and encourages communication and collaboration. I appreciate this, and have seen it, but I've also seen teams do well with issue tracking systems. From time to time I see a discussion of this "physical v electronic  tracking" issue and I find myself frustrated by it, but not sure why.

Reading Scott Kirshner's article Incubating ideas from the rank-and-file in the March 4, 2012 Boston Globe led me to think more about this. The article is about the value of listening to people in your organization when seeking ways to work better. This in itself seems aligned with agile values. In particular, this quote caught my eye:
Many of the ideas presented were dazzling. And almost every one sprang …