Library

Back in 2006, I listed in a blog post the application I perceive as true killer applications. I am somehow proud that the list items have evolved as expected, including the still mission portfolio app.

Today I have to add another one to the list I was not aware of. We, I mean, we knowledge workers, need a library application.

I consume roughly one hundred books per anum. Besides, my milestone books and the all-time epics you lose control over a lot of valuable knowledge. Even outdated stuff is helpful, as you should put it in a basket labeled: outdated.

Last year I stumbled over a little know app I want to share here: Bookends. It evolved into one of my most valued apps, as I can finally have a full view of my library.

Tag Cloud from the books consumed in 2019 so far…

I want to share the 2019 and 2018 slice and the way I am sorting and categorizing my library, hoping for some valuable good ideas to add on top.

My Ontology has Realms, Domains, Themes, Topics, Media and Rating

The breakdown is, of course, a highly personal perspective. I would love to see other perspectives.

Realms

and this is the phantastic output you can generate with Bookends (the 2018 and 2019 slice from my library).

2018

Allweyer, T. (2015). BPMN 2.0 – Business Process Model and Notation: Einführung in den Standard für die Geschäftsprozessmodellierung (1 ed.). Books on Demand.

Bostrom, N. (2016). Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Reprint ed.). Oxford University Press.

Christian, B. G., Tom. (2017). Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions.

Christian, D. (2018). Origin Story: A Big History of Everything (Later Printing ed.). Little, Brown and Company.

Domingos, P. (2018). The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World (Reprint ed.). Basic Books.

Duke, A. (2018). Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts. Portfolio.

Ellenberg, J. (2015). How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking (Reprint ed.). Penguin Books.

Gharajedaghi, J. (2011). Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture (3 ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.

Hands, J. (2017). Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe (1 ed.). Harry N. Abrams.

Harari, Y. N. (2019). 21 Lektionen für das 21. Jahrhundert (9 ed.). C.H.Beck.

Kalbach, J. (2016). Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams (1 ed.). O’Reilly Media.

Knaster, R., & Leffingwell, D. (2017). SAFe 4.0 Distilled: Applying the Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Software and Systems Engineering (1 ed.). Addison-Wesley Professional.

Laloux, F. (2015). Reinventing Organizations: Ein Leitfaden zur Gestaltung sinnstiftender Formen der Zusammenarbeit (1 ed.). Vahlen.

Larman, C., & Vodde, B. (2016). Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)) (1 ed.). Addison-Wesley Professional.

Laughlin, R. B. (2006). A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down (New Ed ed.). Basic Books.

Leffingwell, D. (2011). Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise (Agile Software Development Series) (1 ed.). Addison-Wesley Professional.

Leffingwell, D. (2018). SAFe 4.5 Reference Guide: Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (2nd Edition) (2 ed.). Addison-Wesley Professional.

Mathis, C. (2017). SAFe – Das Scaled Agile Framework: Lean und Agile in großen Unternehmen skalieren (2., überarbeitete und aktualisierte ed.). dpunkt.verlag GmbH.

McChrystal, G. S., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (1 ed.). Portfolio.

Meyer, E. (2016). The Culture Map (INTL ED): Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done Across Cultures by Erin Meyer(2016-01-05). PublicAffairs.

Mezick, D. J., Pontes, D., Shinsato, H., Kold-Taylor, L., & Sheffield, M. (2015). The OpenSpace Agility Handbook (2 ed.). Freestanding Press.

Mintzberg, H. (2005). Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development., 480.

(2012). Prozessmanagement: Ein Leitfaden zur prozessorientierten Organisationsgestaltung (7., korr. und erw. Aufl. 2012 ed.). Springer Gabler.

Reinertsen, D. G. (2009). The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development (1 ed.). Celeritas Publishing.

Robertson, B. J. (2015). Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World. Henry Holt and Co.

Schwartz, M. (2016). The Art of Business Value. IT Revolution Press.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization (Revised & Updated ed.). Doubleday.

Simler, K., & Hanson, R. (2018). The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life (1 ed.). Oxford University Press.

Taleb, N. N. (2016). Incerto: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile (Box ed.). Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Taleb, N. N. (2018). Das Risiko und sein Preis – Skin in the Game. Penguin Verlag.

Tegmark, M. (2018). Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Reprint ed.). Vintage.

Voss, C., & Raz, T. (2016). Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (1 ed.). HarperBusiness.

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition) (1 ed.). St. Martin’s Press.

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2018). The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win. St. Martin’s Press.

Wolff, M. (2019). Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Large Print ed.). LARGE PRINT DISTRIBUTION.

Yakyma, A. (2016). The Rollout: A Novel about Leadership and Building a Lean-Agile Enterprise with SAFe® (1 ed.). Alex Yakyma.

Yudkowsky, E. (2017). Inadequate Equilibria: Where and How Civilizations Get Stuck. Machine Intelligence Research Institute.

2019

Balve, P. (2019). Management 4.0. Books on Demand.

Diamond, J. (2011). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition (Revised ed.). Penguin Books.

Diamond, J. (2019). Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change. Allen Lane.

Gothelf, J., & Seiden, J. (2016). Lean UX: Designing Great Products with Agile Teams (2 ed.). O’Reilly Media.

Marquet, L. D. (2013). Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders (1 ed.). Portfolio.

Müller, D. (2018). Machtbeben. Heyne Verlag.

Review, H. B., Porter, M. E., Kim, W. C., & Mauborgne, R. A. (2011). HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Strategy (1 ed.). Harvard Business Review Press.

Robinson, D. A. J. (2013). Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu James Robinson(2013-09-17). Currency.

Rock, D. (2009). Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. HarperBusiness.

Rumelt, R. (2017). Good Strategy / Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters (Main ed.). Profile Books.

Schmidt, E., & Rosenberg, J. (2015). Wie Google tickt – How Google Works (1 ed.). Campus Verlag.

Schuster, S. (2018). The Art Of Thinking In Systems: Improve Your Logic, Think More Critically, And Use Proven Systems To Solve Your Problems – Strategic Planning For Everyday Life. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Schwartz, M. (2017). A Seat at the Table. IT Revolution.

Schwartz, M. (2019). War and Peace and IT. IT Revolution.

Sterman, J. D. (2000). Business Dynamics. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Suarez, D. (2019). Delta-v., 448.

Time for some change

A fully controlled blog is a great playground to test out some essential web technologies and not only to speak or write about it. It is a great sandbox to set up your very own sand castle.

However, it takes time and to be honest to myself, I sank by far more time in updates and configuration compared to writing. My excuse is simple: after technological blog housekeeping, I feel I have done enough and move on to the thing on the task list. 🤓

Visible deliverables for others, besides the initial setup: little to none…

Visible impact on my banking account: well, it does not hurt, but it is evident, and I can think of many better ways to spend money.

Visible impact on my learning curve: gone, since the initial setup. Hosting and blogging have both evolved, and I am stuck with a technology stack I would not recommend today to my clients.

Last not least: who cares? This is not the appropriate channel even for the tiny microblog content I could have delivered.

Facebook is dead and was always private. I am still struggling with https://kydroon.com for fun or more private stuff, but!

…Photography has finally taken off, even though not here. I have now more than 27 million views through https://unsplash.com/@kydroon. 😎

my first picture of the day @unsplash

I enjoy reading https://medium.com and will try this sooner or later from the publishing side when I have no longer an excuse for technological blog housekeeping.

So here we go: this blog moves to blogger. Dead boring but stable, far less risky and free of additional charge. I can not preach MVPs and work only on bells and whistles when it comes to my stuff.

Have I mentioned less risky? It is incredible how much attacks you have to fend off, even for a web site with such a low visibility profile. I do not want to even think about being more successful with a fully self-controlled web site! 😱

TL;DR, actually this is just a hello world post to check the layout. Stay tuned at your own risk for more content. You have been warned. 😉

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero – Episode 3

Prologue

Dear reader, a friend of me and I are starting this story about Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero. It is a stage where we can hopefully can kick-off some not so mission critical but important trains of thoughts about our professional life.

For my whole life, I have seen, perhaps a little too much, the potential for innovation and smart growth. This has a local near term view where I see new money when the right things are done with the right technology in the right way. It is a painful role, as you are by definition, a minority and has a hard time to sell it and to get it done. The new word for this is Digital Evangelist. It has also a long-term view where we, or what can be considered as we after the singularity finally happened, are spread out through the galaxy and Mars is just one of the colonies in the solar system. This is my Mad Scientist hat. Keep this in mind, when you stumble over some sarcastic, fatalistic statements – it is just a self-protection mechanism.

However, in our professional life, I see an intensifying Filter Bubble that massively distracts us from the bright future and the work that has to be done to get there. Everywhere around us, we read the posts we want to read. This includes travel pics from friends on Facebook, great inventions, success stories on how smooth the digital transformation works in big companies and of course, as we are so uber-intellectual, spiced up with a well balanced media mix on political achievements, the permanent critical global threat level, the latest sport results and – weather!

I also see that Deep Work is buried in short term-ness and actionism, and people are still happy to pretend they are multi-tasking all the shit flying from all the fans around them. As research shows, this is simply wrong. As research also shows, this is linked to the skills we acquired in our recent near term history — the ability to build entirely virtual stories, to share those by language and to even believe those.

In this environment, or reality, I have a hard time to match the great success stories with my personal, professional experience and I know nobody, who does not admit the same, even though it may take one or more glasses of wine.

So, curtains for Mr. Waterfallon, Mr. Aguilero, and friends…

PS: The overuse of all current buzzwords is an excellent way to pass through most Filter Bubbles in my network neighborhood. I also apologize for overstressing the average attention period.

Episode 3

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero are fictitious freelancer project managers, agile coaches, and digital evangelists. Today they attend the kick-off meeting for a large-scale agile project for a big blue chip company.

The CIO Mr. Werewolf is giving a speech to his new digital transformation team. In the past, he was not a true agile fanboy. When he buys a story, he makes sure it will be his story. The crowd is assembled in the conference room on the top floor of the company headquarter skyscraper. The view of the sunset is gorgeous, but all eyes are on Mr. Werewolf. Everyone knows that Mr. Werewolf is not amused if you are not listening.

WEREWOLF

…and the Blockchain will be our new Internet for transactions. My IT-team will lead the transition to a bright future. With Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, IoT, and Big Data, we will build the software factory which will transform the whole business model and drive the digital revolution towards a smarter way to work.

Our agile approach is a vital part of this initiative and may become the new industry best practice.

The whole management is dedicated to take control and help wherever it is necessary. You all know, I hate surprises. However, bad news must travel fast. But I am confident, and there will be no bad news.

Mr. Werewolf makes a pause, smiles like Jack Nicholson in Shining, make eye contact with everyone in the audience, and concludes:

WEREWOLF

We will lead. We will manage. We will succeed. Thank you very much.

The crowd spends frenetic applause. Small talk. Cheap coffee. No one wants to leave the room first. Hand-shaking. Boot-licking.

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero shake hands with Mr. Werewolf, mumble some compliments about the visionary and encouraging speech, withdraw and take a seat in comfortable armchairs to see the breathtaking view of the setting sun.

AGUILERO

You see, it works. He gets the air time for an agile story which he fought against for years. Now he is capturing this agile story and turns it into his very own truth because he is the one controlling the storytelling channels. This truth is then the foundation for even more budget he is allowed to burn, also though it will have nothing to do with the agile mindset.

Mr. Aguilero rolls his eyes and throws up his hands in a gesture that reminds of worshipping ancients gods after an epic defeat.

WATERFALLON

Yeah, he is still the old one. He works on his dark dream of ultimate control in his software castle, why not just follow the alpha male?

AGUILERO

Look, he is just CIO, he is still having a hard time on the board of directors, as he is perceived as the tech guy, even though he has the best handicap. He is just looking to run the shop smoothly in an environment with less budget, less time to deliver, and higher operational pressure. In our days IT has little in common with innovation, which is my part, and you know I have a hard time to find sponsors for this. The real power is the CEO and strangely the COO. I see no reason why we need a COO and a CIO. Both run the company, and you can not isolate IT from the rest. It is again silo thinking, just agiler.

WATERFALLON

The agile manifesto has been digitally transformed, reinterpreted, demystified. You know why I am a fan of agile now! Because it gives us delivery managers the ultimate control over teams, to measure their inefficiency. It provides a wide selection of scapegoats if something fails. I love it, and as Mr. Werewolf, I can put nearly any story in the velocity or other KPIs my clients think are useful for them. They fake us, and I fake them.

AGUILERO

I am not contradicting you. The current agile hype is the greatest danger to the agile idea. The dark powers of dogmas and culture are about to engulf this fragile idea and ultimately kill it as they have done with so many in the past.

WATERFALLON

Backlog items in, product out, and some work accidents in between. A factory, right? In our modern agile world, we do not even need real blood or human sacrifice – it is OK to tell a story. You should be happy, in ancient times you would have been dead so many times!

AGUILERO

Why do you think we are here? Let me guess: you are confident to have mastered the software factory fake story, and you assume to be now immune to his tricks? Never forget you can only control what you measure, you should only measure what you can influence, and you can only affect the people around you. So your delivery job is one predefined story at the very end of a giant beast. Do you know his full agenda? I am confident, against better rational judgment, that I can contribute some few dents in the universe for a better future. In the past, this role has been often misused for propaganda. Future is innovation and requires change – a bad thing for the predominating conservative mindset on C-level.

Creating software has always been part of designing, building, and running organizations. A factory is a part just of the day-to-day operations. Creating and designing is full of risk and uncertainty. It’s for the entrepreneurs and visionaries. The action is for the bean-counting managers. It’s so absurd to organize the creative process of software design and development with an operations management approach.

WATERFALLON

But we are already doing this in oh-so agile projects. Sprints are just sections on the assembly line. WIP management, and this is what we still do. Well, the metaphor sucks, but you know what I mean, right?

AGUILERO

You are right. We do not expect an assembly line to come up with an invention, but that is precisely the dilemma software is facing. Maybe I have to go back in history, to make my point clear.

WATERFALLON

Please do not! Do not re-tell eons to explain why something failed yesterday. Please…

AGUILERO

It has always been a complex world, and it was hard enough to cope with it in the past. It was complex even in times when there was stability. Brick and mortar factories were built on best practices learned at a time before the industrialization started. Steam and electricity paved the first wave of corporate evolution.

WATERFALLON

In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, developers were real men coding machine language, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real little furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

AGUILERO

In the beginning, there was only one variable for business: the counter. It was much more important what to do than how to do. With scaling the denominator came into the game…

WATERFALLON

I am getting tired already. Please proceed!

AGUILERO

Those companies were built to last for decades if not centuries. Then, from the 50ies until Netscape was released, came the digitalization. Most like to call it computerization, and only the current topics digitalization, but it is just marketing. It is typical business lingo bullshit that sounds great and is as wrong as describing great inventions as a quantum leap. How ridiculous is a statement from a company like PwC claiming they are digital?

WATERFALLON

Yeah! We are playing bullshit bingo now! Bingo! Four in a row!

AGUILERO

Shut up and listen! I lost my train of thought. Ah! Digitalization was the next corporate evolution, still with the same mindset of WIP-management. Methods of operations research, which are OK, as long as applied to real-world problems and a set of over-simplifying methods from the not-so-scientific world of economics, rooted in linear models and a deep belief in rational decisions based on facts – the causality misassumption. Correlation is not the same as causality – read Wilmott and Taleb. You may learn stuff you could apply to your world. However, it helped us to integrate SCM, MRP, CRM, PIM, many other TLAs, and to get to the next level of optimized mass production. We were still building cars, incredibly more efficient, but what about effective? The damn vehicles again do not drive themselves or fly.

WATERFALLON

And now we integrate WTF and LOL. Aren’t cars close to autonomous driving? My kids turn into teenagers and may never need a driver’s license.

AGUILERO

Filter Bubble! Do you think that our automotive industry is willing to give up lessons to learn in the last century? Do you think our politicians can pave the way for the discussion on new laws that are necessary to make this happen?

In the last century, a business could be planned. When the plan did not fit, marketing mesmerized the masses to carve whatever was pushed into the markets. At the same time, messages were transported from top to bottom – and middle management jerks felt important in doing so. They learned the cooking receipts that worked at that time. Now they are in charge, and the cooking receipts are deeply embedded. Cooking receipts became routines, and routines became the culture – the hidden immune system in organizations. It assimilates all that fits and spits out the dead carcass of anything that is different. As it is so typical for most prominent companies, it also turned into dogmas, the dark matter version of culture, which is embedded in the society itself.

Other as biological entities that have an increased probability of dying, culture and dogmas have an increased likelihood of becoming immortal! This does not match very well with the typical project timelines I am facing.

WATERFALLON

Here we agree. If you say all that too loud, you will be spat out. Preferably from the top story of the corporate headquarter skyscraper. The setting sun will underline the dramatic message: Look at Mr. Aguilero. He denied the software factory. What a creep, but we knew it from the very beginning. We have both witnessed this ceremony many times, and Mr. Werewolf has always surprised us with a new level of unprecedented cruelty.

AGUILERO

Funny. But please do not behave as a goldfish and be patient! Here is the point: Complexity and speed have not just increased; it is growing exponentially – it is exploding! Still, our core brain is mostly reptile. 2% of our thinking is aware. We are mostly on autopilot and driven by the old fight or flight reflex. We are not rational beings, we do not act intelligent, and we have a hard time to assess facts in an objective, unbiased, non-emotional way.

WATERFALLON

I read Kahneman, too. Nice read. So what?

AGUILERO

We cannot assess risk and uncertainty, but we measure and plan on an incredible detail level. Software is soft…

WATERFALLON

so many of your arguments are…

AGUILERO

…but software supports real hardware and the emotional animal inside us, the ideas we try to articulate using a tool that is 50 thousand years old, and the culture of the tribes we live in. Hardware is less virtual and potentially better understandable – it can be engineered. Plumbing can be crafted. Engineering provides the method set for stuff that is already known. It can be planned as long as it is not a real innovation.

WATERFALLON

The software can also be engineered. In complex environments, there is hardly any alternative to do so.

AGUILERO

But then it fails to unveil its real power! As I said, the business has two sides: One side, the denominator part, is about optimizing existing business. It is close to engineering and can be planned. The other hand, the one that counts, when it comes to real substantial growth, requires innovation. This is more a form of art. It requires creativity, and it can not be planned. Large corporations miserably fail at innovation. So they have to buy it.

WATERFALLON

Yeah and please do not forget, they just brought us to create the illusion of a creative process while we’re squeezing the last drop of blood out of our scrum teams – all to meet Mr. Werewolf’s timelines. I am happy to deliver him precisely what he deserves, a sweet story with no link to reality, except my banking account…

AGUILERO

Again why are we part of this excellent transformation initiative? I can not tell why, but I have a terrible feeling. I have the awful sensation we are exceptional guests at a scarification ritual.

What is your actual influence on the package you should deliver? What are my possibilities for influencing the business behind the lighthouse projects we should work on? Why am I not allowed to talk to stakeholders directly? Why is the project site so far away from the HQ? Why is our contract just for the first four months and not longer? Why is he not working with one of his smart asses he is so proud of? What is his real agenda behind the shiny agile transformation story?

WATERFALLON

Ask this, Mr. Werewolf directly. But maybe you want to catch him in the basement of the building for safety reasons. Oh, I guess this sprint is over – without any shippable conclusion, too bad.

Suddenly Mr. Werewolf drops in to collect some more merits for his visionary speech and the two have to stop their debate. But don’t expect this conversion to be over yet.

To be continued…

Triage, Prioritization and the Extended Business Model Canvas

Agile development teams forge user journeys, personas, user stories, requirements, and features into backlogs.

Then some magic happens, and with the help of the product owner, some of those backlog items materialize into reality. A great job is done, and everybody is happy and moves on to the next job.

I want to take a more in-depth look at the somehow vague process of triage on the backlog of an MVP. I do not like the word Prioritization because it is too much linked to priorities (plural), and I think there is always one priority possible at the same time.

For a typical product manager triage translates to pain. We are permanently being torn apart between ideal product strategy and dead boring urgent quick wins from low hanging fruits. Triage or as far as I am concerned Prioritization is a tricky, painful task! I am also not a big friend of quantified approaches as the Prioritization Matrix from the Six Sigma world. When you torture data long enough, it will confess everything you need! 😉

We POs give our very best to get the maximum for everybody, but it is impossible to make everybody happy. Miraculously even though many are so glad, everybody agrees to blame us at the end.

It is, therefore, in our very interest to moderate and communicate this process in the best possible way to get extraordinary results, but also to lower our pain.

User stories, story points, and epics are just not enough to get a backlog that sustains some heavy fire from some stakeholders.

The weak point I would like to address is the somehow isolated, greenfield view on the importance that typically leads to triage.

The Business Value is a significant first step, but how is it defined and how was it derived and calculated?

The Business Model Canvas, which is quite popular in the startup scene, is a great way to estimate and communicate business value from a bird’s eye view, but what when you are not working in a startup on the runway?

Reporting the ratio between innovation, evolution, and maintenance is also an excellent foundation to assure a little more change and lift-off from the operational runway.

My proposal is a slightly enhanced Business Model Canvas, that assures even more room for innovation, especially in more settled organizations with an established reporting culture.

The Extended Business Model Canvas links backlogs better to corporate strategy, as it considers the organizational operation. It keeps everybody on the same boat, and it helps us PMs or POs to better communicate and is smooth.

One caveat to keep in mind! This is no snake oil for the not-so-seldom situation, where the top sponsor from the stakeholder community has his very own agenda to survive the next report period. But it will most probably make the difference between programs and corporate strategy more visible.

I usually like to report the following KPIs:

Current backlog (with business value as the difference between size/complexity and effort/costs)
Breakdown of innovation vs. evolution vs. maintenance
The Extended Business Model Canvas for epics selected user stories or low hanging fruits
…and, this is how it looks like:

Extended Business Model Canvas

It has two additional boxes with a significant impact:

Contribution to strategy
This is a great tool to clearly distinguish between low hanging fruits (those are so low that they rot on the ground – for a reason).
Technical Debt
This helps to document the hack-level, that amount of hacking and a good indicator for the instability that is about to be built into the system (after all every system should be rebuilt from time to time, and some hacks may help to get this done earlier).
Not every user story or backlog item has to be linked to the Extended Business Model Canvas. It is enough it introduces the two additional boxes to support your reporting.

You get an instrument to do stuff that is against the strategy. From time to time, it is good to have a tool to allow tactical considerations to overrule strategy. However, it is crucial to track how far you deviate from the strategy.

You get an instrument to document the dirty hack level that will materialize as technical debt in the future that you do not want to be accountable for.

I have used this tool with some success in the past and would like to get your feedback and ideas on it…

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Agilero – Episode 2

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Stage

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero recently met after years at a conference. They used to work together in the past. By chance, they are now again working together on a project.

Mr. Waterfallon is one of those seen-it-all been-there-done-it guys with lots of project experiences – good ones and bad ones. Mr. Aguilero is a hot-shot. He is the one who neither knew nor cared it was impossible and did it anyway.

Raise the curtain again for another round in the ring of deathmatch arguments on business, IT and all the rest.

Mr. Waterfallon

I must admit I converted to agile! Since we met the last time, I had the opportunity to be part of a large scale agile project. And you won’t believe it, and I am fully convinced now.

Mr. Aguilero

Somebody pinch me please, I must be dreaming. What happened? Did you read the agile manifesto for the first time?

Mr. Waterfallon

I knew the manifesto probably even before you did, but I believed it was about fairies and unicorns. Now I know it is the American Dream of the IT industry. Make the team believe in it, and they will accept any additional pressure. We did Scrum, and I learned to love it. It turned our team into slaves.
Full commitment, direct personal responsibility and accountability, daily stand-ups with full transparency of individual failures, and all the blame went to the product owner. It was wonderful. You know as in old times, and I know you are used to this, so let us do this in our project. Please be my product owner.

Mr. Agilero

A slave team? A scapegoat product owner? What the…?

Mr. Waterfallon

As said: it was great. I’ve never seen that kind of absurd control over a development team. Although a lot of time was wasted because the scrum master in charge, the product owner, and the developers were on different planets. Due to the pressure and transparency, all mistakes became public. The developers wanted to cover their errors and compensated by overtime, and the provider added extra staff no one was charged for. The customer did not have to search for an Achilles’ heel. It was served to him on a silver plate.

Mr. Agilero

I am speechless!

Mr. Waterfallon

And now comes the catch: There was even the choice whom to blame in each situation. Where there is Scrum, there are backlog items. Its the product owners responsibility to write them – and everyone knows the POs of the world are neither qualified nor do they have the time to do it. So one could choose whether to blame the developers or the product owners for screwing it up as I said: excellent!

Mr. Agilero

Well… The gods created the earth and hades. They also established an outpost of hades on earth to prepare some of us here on earth – I have no idea where I got that bad karma, but it is the way it is… They called this Fegefeuer Product Manager, Product Owner, and Business Analyst.

The pressure a team allows is within their control. It is the old prisoner’s dilemma they must overcome. This is where a scrum master, a real team player, can help. I somehow envy them because the various agile frameworks have some tools for them. It is also solely focused on the team itself, which lowers the overall complexity.

The product owner or business analyst approach is a different beast.

But please, be my scrum master, and I will tell you my plan to survive.

Mr. Waterfallon

You can call me your evil scrum master from hell. I can’t wait to heat the fire!

Mr. Agilero

So first of all, Agile is currently at the peak of the hype cycle. Your arguments are the best evidence for this.

Agile is not about controling. It is about collaboration. You can control a contract, but then you will need a plan that is carved in stone. You will get what you asked for, and each change will have a high price, as everything is predefined. Sticking an agile tag on this project perception and perceiving it as a tool to squeeze the last drop of blood out of the team is exactly what agile is trying to prevent. It responds to change, and the result is better as the initial plan since business, development, and users are working together to build the best solution.

The development team has to be perceived as part of the solution. Right now, in the best case, the development team is kept at arm’s length. This is contract thinking and not collaborative – therefore not agile from the very beginning! Most often, the development team is just a bunch of slaves, and the business expects execution only. I have seen this too many times: the senior management likes agile, as it is suitable for marketing but still asks at the end when all features (which they always can remember from the kick-off) are going to be delivered – of course at the same fixed price.

The architecture is an epic story for itself. It has to be in place as a solid foundation when we are talking about a service life cycle of more than two years, which should be hopefully the standard. I think we agreed on this last time we met. Today I see MVPs, and the architecture is just a documentation of a very early prototype – so the business and the development team is doomed by technical debt right from the start.

The development team should have a personal interest in building the right solution. Idealy they will use it for themselves. This knowledge is 20 years old and can be found in the famous cathedral vs. bazaar article from 1997. It is a good starting point for a product manager or product owner to sell the vision. This might not work for every solution, but at least for some aspects or components. It will require a leader and not a boss.

Last, not least, you need to cover more than just frontend, backend, and design. At the very beginning, there must be a strategy in place. You will need to understand your users truly, this is an ongoing process. Technology and implications must be outlined – this maps directly to the architecture. Production and operation must be thought out from the very beginning. The best frontend user journey is useless in terms of business value when the support tools suck. This links to an essay from Jesse James Garrett back in 2003. When those roles are in place, agile project management really kicks in and delivers.

Mr. Waterfallon

Nice sermon. You know too well that all these prerequisites have never been observed in corporate reality. So shall we heat hell now, or what?

Mr. Agilero

Damn it. Yeah, heat hell!

Mr. Waterfalon & Mr. Agilero – Episode 1

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Stage

Mr. Waterfallon and Mr. Aguilero meet again after years during a conference. They used to work together in the past. Mr. Waterfallon is one of those seen-it-all been-there-done-it guys with lots of project experiences – good ones and bad ones. Mr. Aguilero is a hot-shot. He is the one who did not know either cared it was impossible and did it anyway.

Raise the curtain for another round in the ring of deathmatch arguments on business, IT and all the rest…

Mr. Waterfallon

Mr. Aguilero! Nice to meet you again after all these years! Guess what: I still can not wait until agile is heading south on the hype cycle and stabilizing close to zero.
I am looking forward to us all getting back to work and get things done again!

Mr. Aguilero

Mr. Waterfallon! What a pleasure to see you again. I miss to work and debate with you, you know? Talking about the debate, what are you talking about?

We are all agile now! …and history loves to repeat as we know.

The method of war is over. Everybody I see today is agile. Even large organizations that are taking pride in ignoring any innovation and looking beyond the quarterly event horizon are now adopting agile.

We are so agile, even the definition of agile becomes agile leading to a funny infinite regression towards who cares at all!?

Mr. Waterfallon

That is Mr. Aguilero, I remember. Once you realize I have a point – you start throwing smoke grenades. I admit, agile eventually work in startups and small independent teams. But it fails to deliver in the large corporation. Adopting? Ha! The CTOs of the world just found out that it is easier to blame the business if you call them product owner. Shit hits the fan ever since.

With agile, the IT just turned the fan around!

Mr. Aguilero

Hmmm, why do I have a bad feeling about being again on the wrong side of that famous fan? However, Relax and let’s look at your statement: It works in small but not in large. Now please help me to understand what you mean.

What do you mean by works and what is the context of this?

For me, agile is just one step in the right direction to free visions from quarterly earnings.

Do you remember the five-year plans of the soviet union? The laughing stock for the free markets on the other side of the iron curtain?

Business planning of today is by far more ridiculous! Free markets? Bullshit! Take a look at the ratio of goods traded through free markets with real pricing system vs. corporate-wide internal accounting with fixed funny numbers.

I do not want to just optimize by some mere percents. I want to build new stuff! I want to generate new money! By definition, this can not be proved or planned, and because then it is already best practice or even worse, it became a commodity. Long term plans made to freeze innovation – spiced up with market research that may work for soap but not for software.

Mr. Waterfallon

Yes! This is the core question! What context are we talking about? New money is earned by new products. New products are bought by old companies as soon as there is no longer a risk. This is where agile – especially lean startup ideas kick in. Plan, build, verify, and adapt in short cycles. Build MVPs not the has-it-all-solution in the first place. This works fine for small projects. The team may be independent entrepreneurs or employees of a large corporation that protects them.

But whenever agile is sold as the solution to heal large scale project failures, I get headaches. Imagine they tried to build the Burj Khalifa using agile. This example is extreme, but the majority of IT projects and products require careful planning and architecture – you can not just leave it to an agile team making decisions on the go – while blaming the customer for delivering insufficient user stories.

Mr. Aguilero

This example painfully reminds me of Mr. Werewolf, our old boss. He overstressed civil engineering and machine scheduling as best practices for software development. Burj Khalifa is not as complicated as new software typically is. You have stories, and you have rooms. Both highly repetitive and please consider: humankind does this for some thousand years now. Burj Khalifa is an excellent cathedral, but the surrounding bazar that was required to build it was far more complex.

The user story is always the same: build many big rooms to impress all underlings. The epic story is staple stories to make the building visible from far away and impress all enemies.

However, when you take precisely the architecture example, you will see that it miserably fails when there are more complex epic stories behind. Hospitals get operation rooms that do not allow to push in beds, railway stations are big and impressive but have only one track for taxis to drop of their passengers and airports for capital cities never get finished even though those have been thoroughly planned.

Please do not get me wrong! I do not advocate no planning, I want to avoid the control illusion or cognitive bias the managerial caste sometimes suffers from when initiatives mutate into a project.

I agree that in IT and business buildings are built on top of wooden blockhouses and quite often a skyscraper is added on top of it.

Mr. Waterfallon

Sure the Burj Khalifa is just stapling rooms. That reminds me of some prepared statements I heard from a scrum coach lately who tried to manage complex IT projects with independent user stories. The complexity derives from dependencies. No method can remove the dependencies – only the architects can do that. So I agree if there is bad architecture, it doesn’t matter which project management method is used.

But hey what about that: let the architects do their homework and tell them to create great stuff with as few dependencies as possible. Then let’s develop plans that layout whom we need and when, and what needs to be done in which order to respect the remaining dependencies. And then – I almost refuse to believe me saying that – let’s use agile to manage the teams that are going to build it!

But guess who is the product owner then? Right! It’s the architect, not the customer! Or does this idea hurt your agile manifesto cortex?

Mr. Aguilero

I almost refuse to believe me saying that, too – Agreed! Just let me add – I need the last statement – this is even more important for business than IT:

The architect there is usually called Product Manager or Business Analyst. The poor guy that has to orbit at CEO level on visions and survive the pressure of the Mariana Trench of business and technical details.

However, the bravery of people willing to adequately care about the whole thing, visions, products, or solutions is something we should discuss next time. Feuding stakeholders and information overload let them shine bright as they quickly burn out.

Let us get some Gin-Gin Mules and share some gossip from our disrupted markets my old friend…

Mr. Waterfallon

I knew, at some point. You surrender to my arguments. And yes, let’s get the party started.

…to be continued…