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Showing posts from September, 2011

Eleven Improv Commandments for Agile Teams

Improvisational comedy techniques have been making their way into agile training discussions for some time.  The UK (and beyond) Agile Coaches Gathering devoted their 2009 autumn meeting to "Improvisation for Agile Coaches."  Planning for Failure's amazing Todd Charon did this wonderful lightning talk in 2010.  And this week, Lisa Crispin posted an enthusiastic review of Mike Sutton's half-day improv session for AgileCoachCamp US.

I've always felt happier belonging to the "yes-and" teams much more than the "no-but" ones, but and I wanted to see for myself how improv philosophies and techniques could provide a useful framework for agile/lean software development.  So, inspired by Lisa, here's what I found out.

Most inquiries into improv lead to Del Close, granddaddy of Chicago-style improvisational comedy, and co-author of Truth in Comedy:  The Manual of Improvisation.  Del famously bequeathed his skull to Chicago's Goodman Theater, to…

What do women (in technology) want?

I have the honor of serving on the ThoughtWorks North America "Women's Networking Board," WNB, which focuses on bringing more women into our company, particularly as developers, and supporting them well once they join us.  ThoughtWorks isn't alone in thinking about this issue.  The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has sponsored research on "Gender in Science and Engineering" (GSE) for more than a decade, and a google search on "women in STEM" (that's "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics") provides a large number of useful responses before it devolves into pyramid schemes and pornography.  As all searches tend to do.

As part of my WNB duties, I've been interviewing my female colleagues on what motivates them to work at ThoughtWorks, and what they would like to see the company do to attract more women.  These conversations have been fascinating.  As an academic I once knew liked to say, "facts are friendly.&…

Don't Be a Hero

Do any of these resonate with you?
Are you the lone sane person in your company at your level or higher?Do you "call BS when you see it," in the words of Jonathan Rasmussen, the Agile Samurai,  while everyone else is "just keeping their heads down" (er, "low")?Are you protecting your team, because without you, something bad will happen? Well, give it up.  I'm serious.  In a modern corporate enterprise, the way of the hero is the way of burnout, madness, and defeat, generally followed by a worrisome period of unemployment and perhaps an eventual new job in Oklahoma.  Joseph Campbell's monomyth may sketch this journey, but put me on record suggesting when you get the call to adventure, you should send it straight to voice mail, because the uphill slope on the left is a doozy.

Far be it from me to suck all the fun and adventure out of your work life, however.  There is an alternative to being a hero.  It's called "being diplomatic."  I…

Agile Purity

In 1998, Sun famously accused Microsoft of attempting "to kill cross-platform Java and grow the polluted Java market," a dispute which was settled out of court with Microsoft paying Sun $2B in damages.  About ten years later, in 2009, a scuffle ensued between Jeff Sutherland, original designer of Scrum, and the Scrum Alliance, which had begun issuing the "Certified Scrum Master" credential based on an outdated version of the Scrum guide.  Sutherland affirmed that "pure scrum" was defined and owned by himself and Ken Schwaber, even though the Alliance was issuing the certifications.

The attractive paradox in both cases is that a single party (Sun or Sutherland) claims to have cornered the market on NOT cornering the market (universal software language/universal software development methodology).  But despite the wonderful symmetry of the apparent paradox, in both cases, actual revenue dollars were attached to the outcome of the debate.  As is so often the c…