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VersionOne Agile2011 Speakeasy Party!

August 10th, 2011 1 comment

See what happened at this incredible party held at one of the most magnificent mansions in Utah. It was like taking a step back in time to the Golden Age of the roaring 20′s. Thanks to VersionOne for putting together this great event and an even bigger thanks for providing me a ticket.

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Agile2011 Ice Breaker Walkthrough

August 9th, 2011 2 comments

Did you miss out on the ice breaker last night? Were you there but can’t remember it? Watch this video and you’ll be up to speed.

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10 Minute Training: Agile Documentation – What Do We Need To Keep?

July 23rd, 2011 2 comments

This is my second 10 Minute Training session in a series. In this episode I dive into how to identify what documentation we should keep and how we might be able to determine what documentation we may be able to get rid of. Hope you enjoy and would love your feedback or questions.

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10 Min. Training: 3 Ingredients for a GREAT Product Owner

May 20th, 2011 4 comments

Starting something new, something a little more dynamic than just a written blog.  Take a few minutes, watch my very first 10 Minute Training segment on which ingredients are required for in order to have a GREAT Agile product owner.

(Hint: You might want to maximize the screen in order to see the elements of the slides I display.)

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The Apoptosis of a Waterfall Approach

December 1st, 2010 3 comments

Upon its birth it was already destined to die.  Much like every other living creature on this planet, there was only a finite amount of time this being would be allowed to create its imprint upon the world.  Some like him are blessed with longer lives, while others are condemned from birth to have even shorter lives than his own.  Although seemingly dismal, it is all part of the plan.  It is part of life’s grand scheme to allow for this death in an effort to spawn rebirth.  Each of us are comprised with billions of these single minded mission suicide operatives that seek a solitary purpose before experiencing a pre-programmed death.  These creatures are inhabitants within each of us, they are our cells, and each of our cells live a life pre-programmed for death.  This design, this beautiful design, is called cell apoptosis.  It is nature’s plan to allow for functioning cells to serve a purpose before allowing younger cells to take their place.  It is the cycle of natural life.  And it seems many things imitate this natural cycle.

In the 1970′s, as projects grew larger and larger in scope, there was a concerted push to ensure that costly changes late in a project cycle were avoided at all costs.  These “defects” of process were identified as common enemies to a successful project lifecycle, and were one of the primary motivations to move to a more structured approach of project and product management.  Out of this effort grew what would become known as the “Waterfall Model” of product development.  This approach called for all planning, extremely detailed planning, to be conducted up-front, before any actual development work was started.  The thought, very rational at the time, was that any time spent up-front in initial planning was an investment that would pay dividends compared to a lack of detailed initial planning that could ultimately yield many costly changes late in the cycle.

Times were different then.  At that time there was a need to ensure that every last detail was known before beginning an expensive development effort.  Most of the projects that employed this methodology during this period were of a non-complex nature.  In simpler terms, they were more closely aligned with construction types of efforts as opposed to the complex nature of software development, especially considering the software development done today.  Why would I refer to construction efforts/projects on a non-complex nature?  Because back then success was generally a product of how closely the execution of the plan matched the plan.  It was thought that the final product of these efforts should match the original plan precisely, and any major deviations from the plan were categorized simply as defects.  And rightly so.  Construction can take this approach.  In fact, construction types of projects should take this approach.  These types of projects should not evolve over their construction efforts, as this may yield a poorly delivered product or a deliverable that does not match the expectations that were set during the planning efforts.

Software is different.  Software is knowledge work.  What we are building is generally based on a description from our customer of a product that does not exist.  When utilizing a waterfall approach to project management, our attempt to capture this description of an imagined product from our customer takes the form of a detailed specification.  And in our effort to reduce the perceived risk of change, we capture that all important signature to ensure that we discourage change along the way.  Even for software, this approach once worked, and worked well.  But as software became more complex, more innovative, and as product refresh cycles shrank, the need to be increasingly more responsive was seen as a compelling competing force working against efforts to guard against mid-stream product specification change.  As markets shifted, as companies competed, the waterfall model was quickly becoming a dinosaur in a world that no longer favored the large, lumbering behemoth that waterfall represented.  The pre-programmed death of a once useful approach was being triggered.

Waterfall, although not dead, is laboring through what seems to me to be a labored death march.  And although this is an agile blog, you are not going to hear me herald agile as the final, ultimate victor.  Perhaps if it were only a match between the two development approaches, but it is not.  The lifespan of the development lifecycle will go on and new players will emerge based our learning and understanding that has evolved along the way.  And as waterfall dwindles in effectiveness when applied to software development projects, agile is gaining a foothold.  Agile exploits today’s realities, just as waterfall did when it was king.  Waterfall is a victim of its own apoptosis.  It was destined, although not designed, to be obsolete, preordained to die the moment Winston Royce inadvertently wrote it into being.  Agile’s birth benefits from the pain that has been caused by utilizing waterfall in world that cannot wait for the long cycles that waterfall requires.  Death is always spurned by, and simultaneously allows for, rebirth.

Welcome to the world Agile. You have been around for awhile now.  You are becoming more and more well known.  You success has been widely documented.  You are past the dreaded chasm that many new beings are never able to cross.  You are now mainstream.  You are in your prime.  It is possible that your best years lie ahead of you.  It is possible that your best years are behind you.  But make no mistake, your own clock is ticking.  But that is the beauty of nature, every apoptotic cycle not involves the death of one being, it provides the energy for the creation of another.

I make my living providing agile training and coaching.  I am extremely passionate about the type of change that an agile transformation can mean to a company.  I have seen incredible results from the principled based approach that agile represents.  I hope that agile stays around for a long time.  But not longer than its usefulness.  And that is one of the great tenets of agile.  In the DNA of these agile principles is the idea that our organisms, our teams, our approach, our methodology, our framework, our everything should always be evolving as we learn more, as we experience more, as we become more.

It is truly a beautiful aspect of agile that from it’s own birth it recognizes that in its current form it had already predicted its own death.  But this is what makes agile a distinguished and impressive approach to product development and delivery.  Agile, I am your biggest fan, but I will not cry when you are gone, for your existence supplied the knowledge and energy for whatever is coming next.

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A Letter To My Daughter Gwen

September 5th, 2010 5 comments

This blog is typically about all things Agile, but I am taking a slight detour on this post in anticipation of my very first child’s birth.  Gwendolyn Reece Gaiennie is due to be born on October 7, 2010 and I wanted to share with her future self some things I have learned as I myself grew into adulthood.  And if you think that this has nothing to do with business, then you might need to read this yourself.

Hi Beautiful,

I may not always be there for you, in fact, no one will.  Sad, I know, but you already know this.  But you will always be with you, and because I know you are an intelligent young lady, I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have learned, have been taught, or have picked up along the way.  Take these with you as you travel your path through life and look for bits of wisdom you can add so that someday you might also take the opportunity to pass along what you have learned to your own children.

Lead your life based on your values. By the time you read this you can trust that your values are there, you just may not know what they are yet.  That’s ok, so long as you place importance in identifying them as you venture into adulthood. Search for them, be relentless.  Know what you will stand for, and invest your spirit in knowing what you will not stand for.  Never seek to please another person in a quest to satisfy their values, for when you do, you will likely do so while sacrificing your own.  It took your father too may years to realize that a life lived based on anything other than your values is one spent in a futile attempt to gain acceptance from another person in an effort to validate yourself.  You don’t need to do this, it is momentarily satisfying and ultimately vacuous.  You matter, because you are you.

All existing means to your desired end are wrong. Another person’s path is not yours.  And only your path is right.  For you.  Cherish your originality.  Too much stock is put into fitting in, but the truly great ones among us seek to standup in the current, they choose to stand rather than simply float along with the drift.  I know the pressures to be accepted can be overwhelming, but never believe that simply doing what others do is the ultimate value to be had.  What do you truly seek in life Gwen?  It is a big question, but one worth asking.  And asking again.  I allowed too many years to pass before realizing that there is more to life than what can be bought with money.  Find what you seek and be open that what you want may not be easy or even immediately possible, but don’t allow that to sap you of energy.  This is the only life you get, spend it wisely.

There are no shortcuts in life. I wish this weren’t the case, but it is.  It just is.  The truly amazing things to be had on this earth are gained through hard work, driven by experiences, checkered with failures, but ultimately realized through perseverance.  There will be those that try to sell you the easy way out of your problems or the quick path to your goals, and they will be persuasive, but they will be selling you something that simply doesn’t exist.  Life is not meant to only provide enjoyable experiences, but also suffering, hardships, and pain as well.  But this is no mistake, it is by design.  A beautiful design.  These challenging experiences need to be valued as highly as your achievements, for without these you would not appreciate the magnificence of your triumphs.  Always remember that you cannot appreciate the mountains if you never experience the valleys.

Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside. As you grow up, you will be bombarded with the message that your value is contingent upon your compliance with another’s definition of acceptable.  I can only beg of you to not fall for this, it only ends in pain, anguish, and a feeling of being inadequate.  You are amazing, so long as you live your life based on the values that you define.  Nothing is so important as knowing which principles are worth standing for.

Avoid the boring people. Those people that like to play it safe have nothing to offer you, don’t waste your time trying to get them to feel your passion.  These folks value complacency and sameness as a means for security but in exchange must sacrifice the possibility of something better.  The possibility.  What beautiful words!  In fact, new rule, if you ever find someone that is perpetually afraid to do something different simply for the fact that it is different, share your view that there is beauty in risk, but don’t dwell on it.  If they can’t see it, move on.  Quickly.

Never do anything solely on the assumption that you will be rewarded for it. Your dad is still trying to learn this very valuable lesson.  When we act only motivated by the reward given by another, we give away all of our creative power to someone else.  Do what you believe is right.  And remember, the more talented, the more gifted, the more self-motivated a person is, the less they need the props from someone else.  You may be your biggest critic, but remember that you also must be your biggest cheerleader.   You will never need someone else to complete you.  You are already whole.

The most important lesson I could ever leave for you would be this…

You are responsible for your own experience. Gwen, I have seen too many people waste years believing that someone else is responsible for their happiness.  That someone else is responsible for causing their struggle.  These people have missed out on the opportunity to experience the beauty, and the challenge, of life.  All of the power on this earth exists in you at this very moment and it is unlocked by a simple decision.  The decision to take responsibility for your experience of life, for you.  Others might seem to upset you in life, but as you experience this pain realize that this is your decision.  No one can hurt you without your permission.  No one can ruin your day without your permission.  No one can make you happy without your permission.  I am not asking you to live your life without emotion, in fact quite the opposite; live your life through your emotional experience, but never allow emotion to have absolute meaning without you getting a chance to contribute to the internal discussion.  Never, ever give up this right to create the association of an emotion with a meaning that supports you and your values.  This is a powerful gift that the vast majority of people you will have in your life will have chosen to relinquish.   You are responsible for your own experience. This understanding is the greatest gift I could ever leave to another person, I hope you cherish it as much as I do.

There are many more things I am sure I will leave you, but these are good pillars on which to build a values-based approach to life.  And although you are not here yet, I look forward to all of the wonderful life lessons you will be teaching me.  I love you Gwen.  Always.  -Dad.

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