Lean Thinking

Dave Martin  

Dave Martin

I am working with a team that has a great VMB. It's the first thing people say when they walk past and see a stand-up in progress - "what a fantastic VMB" they say. And it is indeed fantastic. It represents the team's work really well. It's clear and easy to understand. It shows obstacles and what the team is doing to overcome them. It really assists the team in their stand-ups. It facilitates discussions between the team and its stakeholders.

The next question people invariably ask is -"can we set up our board like that?" Of course they can. The VMB design isn't proprietary to the team. Anyone can use it. So they do. Copies of this fantastic board are springing up everywhere, but pretty soon they come back and say "there's something wrong. Our stand-ups don't flow as well as yours and the board just doesn't work. Have we copied something wrong?" Yes they have. They have copied the wrong thing entirely. The thing they haven't realized is that my team's fantastic board, and the fantastic stand-ups and discussions it facilitates, has nothing at all to do with the layout of the board, and everything to do with the performance of the team.

The responsibility trap is a very easy one to fall into. The symptoms are easy to spot - it's 11pm, you are sitting in an empty office, buried in work up to your eyeballs. Everyone else went home hours ago. Weekends are a myth. You haven't seen your family for days. The agile principle of sustainable pace applies to everyone on the team... except you. How did it happen? The trap is a really easy one to stumble into because it's insidious. You can wander in without realising you are inside, you won't notice until you are deep inside and by then it's too late. Try to leave and the trap will snap shut around you. While anyone can fall into the trap, it's particularly easy for people in expert, leadership or coaching roles to get stuck in it.

The trap is really simple, it works like this - the team needs something done. You, as "the expert" in the area, take it on and do it. The next time it needs doing, you do it again. Now, everyone just expects you to do it. Then something else comes up and, as "the expert", you step up and do it. And so on, until you are buried in a pile of work. Your intentions were good - the team needed something done, they were busy, it was urgent, you did it. What's wrong with that?

17 February 2015

The Measurement Fallacy

As soon as someone starts looking at the topic of metrics, the measurement fallacy pricks up its ears (I always imagine it looking somewhat rodent-like with mangy fur, evil eyes and sharp teeth) and gets ready to emerge from its hole behind the database server. When people start discussing what should be measured in order to keep track of a process, it gets ready to strike. Most people have fallen prey to it at one point or other. Mostly without ever knowing they have been bitten. The bite is painless. The only symptom is that the bitten suddenly assumes that because we can measure something, it must be important. More serious cases assume that the easier something is to measure, the more important it must be. This dreadful scourge is responsible for making Lines Of Code the primary measure of developer output for years.

It's a typical case of a severe bite - we can measure lines of code. Therefore it must be an important measurement. It's really easy to measure so it must be a really important measurement. Therefore we must measure it and use it to drive developer behaviour. Once it sets in, it's hard to shift. Despite the fact that the behaviour it drove - writing masses of wordy code to inflate your LOC counts and never, ever remove code - was completely counterproductive, the LOC (or KLOC) still hangs around to this day.

03 February 2015

I'm Writing A Book!

Hi Folks and Happy New Year.

At the end of last year I did kind of promise you some news when I started up again in the new year. Here it is - over the break I made a start on writing a book. It's about Enterprise Agility and how to achieve it through a set of patterns that can be applied to organisations.

In agile style, I will be writing this in small (hopefully) frequent iterations. The first iteration is up now through Leanpub as a free download (you can pay for it if you really want to but you might want to wait till I have some more written before making up your mind). https://leanpub.com/enterpriseagility

I have two hypotheses to test with this first MVP - 

  1. That I have an idea that is worth turning into a book
  2. That I can express it clearly and interestingly enough to make it into a good book.

I would love to get your feedback on the first iteration, either here on the blog or through the comments section on the book's Leanpub page.

Please have a read and leave me your comments. Help me prove (hopefully) or disprove (hopefully not) my hypotheses.

16 December 2014

Happy Holidays

Hi Guys

I'm taking a break over the holiday season so this is the last post for the year. Just wanted to wish all my readers a happy holiday - Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Festivus, Hogswatch, Yule, Hogmannay, Kwanzaa, Quaid-e-Azam's Day, Soyal, Yalda, Saturnalia, Krampusnacht, Bodhi Day...

Whichever holiday you subscribe to, have a happy one and I'll see you back again in February. Hopefully with some News...




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