Agile BT Rants

Agile in the enterprise: don’t try to steer the supertanker

When people talk about large organisations making major changes to their core processes or values, sooner or later someone will compare the process to steering a supertanker – if you turn the wheel now, you’ll have travelled quite a distance before there’s any noticable change in course.

This analogy falls down when you’re trying to introduce agile software development. If you want to be agile, a supertanker just won’t do the job any more. It’s time for small teams to jump into the lifeboats and set off in their own directions, leaving the heavy old legacy systems to continue their progress on their predictable course. The lifeboats are far nimbler and can react much quicker to changing conditions. Of course (and that sound you hear is the analogy stretching close to breaking point) they would still be in radio contact with the captain, so you wouldn’t lose sight of the overall strategy.

Personally, the lifeboat I was in until Christmas now has a new crew and is sailing under a flag of convenience out of Mumbai. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the new year, or whether we’ll remain as a team, but at the moment it feels very much like we’re being dumped back on the supertanker, and while we’ve been off charting new territories, the ship’s only turned by a degree or two.

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Agile Java Ruby

Testing java code using rspec and jruby

Now that rspec runs under jruby, and with a few hours to spare, I thought I’d have a play.

[Update:] I’ve simplified the import of java.util.Date following a suggestion in a comment (from Charles Oliver Nutter, no less!). I also noticed that I wasn’t using rspec’s setup properly (or at all), so I’ve tweaked the samples a little. I haven’t got the code here to try out, so there may be typos.


Getting the most from scrums/stand-ups

Jeremy Stell-Smith’s says, in a post about Stand ups as Huddles:

I’m actually not a big fan of the traditional yesterday – today – issues format. I find that too often it becomes a status meeting – this is what I did yesterday, doing more of the same today, and no issues.

We’ve found the same thing, and tried (with limited success) to apply some of the traditional retrospective questions to the daily stand-up, so What did you do yesterday? should include What did you learn yesterday, and What’s holding you up? should include What’s still puzzling you?.

The other important thing is to jot down things you think of during the day that you want to mention at the stand-up, otherwise (particularly if you have a memory like mine) you end up going round the circle and waiting while everyone says “I’m sure I did something yesterday… let me think…”.

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More Google reader neatitude

A couple of other neat features that have made me glad I switched:

Shared items

You can mark individual items in your subscribed feeds as ‘shared’, and they become available on a public page. Like-minded people can then subscribe to your shared items feed, instead of you having to keep forwarding them links. I’ve added a link to my shared items over there on the left.

Starred items

Like many of you (I’m pretending here that people actually read this: humour me!), I keep a bookmark folder where I drop things that look interesting but that I don’t have time to read straight away. The problem is that it doesn’t help much when I see something at work that I want to read properly at home (or vice versa). Since most of them come from RSS feeds, all I need to do is click the star next to the item in Google reader, and it goes into a list that I can come back to later, rather than trying to remember which feed it was from. I guess many standalone RSS readers have a similar feature, but it comes into its own when you can access the list from anywhere.

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Google reader

Like several others, I’ve recently switched to Google Reader instead of a standalone RSS reader.


Agile is something you are, not something you do

A post by Perryn Fowler reminded me of something I’d been meaning to say for a while. Perryn says:

agile is an adjective, not a noun

Saying ‘Agile Practices’ makes about as much sense as saying ‘Fast Running Shoes’.

Saying ‘Agile Best Practice’ makes about as much sense as ‘Fastest Running Shoes’.

It seems quite common (and I’m sure I’ve done it myself) to say you’re ‘doing’ agile. I think you can ‘do’ XP, Scrum or your methodology of choice, but agile has to be something you are.

So, how do you know if you are agile? I think it’s down to whether you believe in the manifesto, and more importantly whether you follow the principles.

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Customer value of development team consistency

We’ve nearly completed the process of handing responsibility for the internal system we’ve developed to an outsourced team, and I found this comment from our customer/user representative interesting:

“I have to spend so much of my time discussing how everything should work now. With the old team, I could just describe what we needed and I knew you’d understand what I meant and come up with a good solution.”

Let’s hope there’s enough continuity in the new team for them to build up a similar relationship. Of course, turnover of people (and hence depth of domain knowledge) is one more thing that you lose control of when you outsource a project.

General nonsense

You say potato…

Why is it that in the US they say “math”, but we say “maths”, yet we say “Lego” and they say “Legos”?


It’s official: two generations out of date

Sun released JSE 6 today, and some of us (for reasons beyond our control!) are still using 1.4.

Still, an as-yet-unknown new project beckons in the new year, so who knows?

Agile General nonsense

Scrum for cats

For some reason Twiglet seems fascinated by Ken Schwaber’s Agile Quality talk.

Twiglet watching Ken Schwaber