Matt recently wrote a piece on how he predicts flow using yesterdays weather. This is a way to figure out how much work you will do tomorrow based on how much work you got done yesterday. Today I’d like to talk about how you might get a more accurate look at the weather using inventory control techniques.
Earlier in the week I introduced the idea of #NoEstimates, suggesting that estimates are not essential on technical projects and it could be possible to run projects without them. For example: early in my own career, I was assigned to a business unit for three months of work. The specific scope of work changed so often that instead of trying to do the original project, we split the work into index-card sized stories (at left), then had the customer order the cards. I met with the customer weekly, showed what was done, and allowed the customer to add new cards, change the priority, and, occasionally, tear them up.
Here’s the amazing thing: After two and a half months, the customer looked at what was left and agreed these things had low value. The project was done early!
Then again that was a single programmer for three months. Can #NoEstimates be done with multiple teams, on multiple projects? At the program and portfolio level? If so, how?
I believe the answers are “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes”, and “Let’s Talk.” Continued »
This blog post is for you. Continued »
Have you noticed how slow Netflix streaming has become? ISPs have (maybe for a while now) been throttling bandwidth from heavy consumers like Netflix. For me, this has made the service almost unusable. Trying to watch an episode of House of Cards that is maybe 45 minutes long in total when it stops at least 20 times to buffer was…frustrating. First world problems, I know. Having paid for bandwidth from my ISP and streaming from Netflix, I just expected things to work but it doesn’t. Why?
The timing of this slow down corresponds almost exactly with the end of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is based on the idea that all internet traffic should be treated the same way by an ISP, no preferential treatment for anyone. With Net Neutrality being struck down in January of 2014, this is no longer the case. An ISP can now control the flow of traffic as they please, and this is exactly what is being done with content providers like Netflix.
Google has a new offering that might help alleviate some of this pain.
Over the weekend my wife and I flew to New Orleans to meet my parents for a short family vacation. Even if you are not a party animal (I am decidedly not that), New Orleans is a great place to take in a little history, a little music, and a lot of food. While there we did the obligatory tourist stuff; walk to the river front, give a dollar to musicians busking in Jackson Square, and a stop at the legendary Cafe Du Monde.
While hanging out there having a coffee with my parents, watching people wiz by I realized this was the most perfect example of lean I have ever seen. I didn’t have to look hard to find an example where each type of waste (the Japanese term is muda) was eliminated.
The majority of my mornings start out the same. The night before I make plans at all the great things I will do – each seems reasonable. I plan the number of hours each ‘should’ take, and I’m certain to get five or six done by the end of the day, easily.
Then the alarm rings and I check my email.
A short time later, I look up from my monitor to my clock. It is 1:30PM; five hours have passed. I have not had lunch, and I am staring at a video of a cat playing with string. (No, wait, don’t click that link! )
Instead, let’s talk about how to plan and predict workload.
About two weeks ago I found myself driving to Dearborn Michigan, to the Adoba hotel to attend Agile and Beyond. I’ve always found the title a bit ironic; too many companies want to get to “beyond” without doing the heavy lifting. It was my third trek to the conference, and I didn’t expect a whole lot new.
Then I heard the opening keynote, by Joshua Kerievsky. It blew me away.
I’ve been reading a pretty neat book called On Looking over the past week or so. The main premise of the book is that all of your experiences cause you to look at the world in a completely different way from other people. You will ‘see’ things that others will not. One thing struck me in chapter 7.
The example that jumped out at me was Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) mentioning that something preventing a person from getting into a space could actually help groups of people move about faster. Think about the last time you were exiting a theater through double doors after a really big movie let out. That column in the middle of the double doors has an unconscious effect on people. Groups self-organize and things get real efficient real quick.
There are all kinds of bad bosses out there, but reading the Gervais Principle has warped my mind a little bit. I can’t help but see organizations in terms of this model now and it is sort of freaky. If you haven’t read this, I’ll give you enough for this article to make sense, but I highly recommend it.
The Gervais Principal is based on this sketch by Hugh McLeod which explains an organization in terms of three kinds of people. There are the losers at the bottom who have made a financial trade off for any number of reasons but usually it is stability, the clueless on top of that who are basically incompetent, and on top of that are the sociopaths of create their own ethic based on self-interest alone.
Really though, I wanted to talk about some of the ways you can deal with working with a person like this.
1) Quit your job and find something better. This is an immediate, albeit risky solution to your problem. There is some risk for this solution though, you might be jumping into another equally bad situation.
2) Become a low performing loser in your company doing just enough to get by and keep your job. If you choose this path, you’ll probably want to make an effort to continue developing your skills outside of work. Most tech jobs don’t last forever and sabotaging yourself isn’t a good thing.
3) Go independent, be a consultant. Michael Church added a fourth layer to the model, the technocrat. The technocrat is driven to good work and to serve. The goal of the technocrat is a mutually beneficial relationship, their life isn’t dependent on the failures of others. I think the independent / consultant tech worker can potentially fit nicely into this role.
4) Have you ever had one of those managers that liked to act as a shield from all the bad stuff that rolled down from management? Finding one of those might help you out. They can at least provide a layer between you and the sociopath. Maybe you can find one of these in your company and transfer under that person.
5) Learn the secret language of the sociopath, power talk. This might leave you feeling a bit icky, but at least you’ll will be armed to navigate the kind of conversations that surround you.
I think I know what I’d choose given these options, how about you?
Have you ever been to one of those meetings where the entire department is called in with four hours notice? If you have, then you know a bit of what I was feeling.
If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky.
There we sat, around the conference table, waiting for our newly promoted Senior Manager of Technology Delivery to tell us what was going on.
The room was silent, breathless almost.
Our boss told us the news, which was mixed. The greater organization was sending some extremely challenging project schedules down the pike, and we needed to drop all-non essential project work to focus on three company priorities. Our manager assured us that Technology Leadership was committed to sustainable pace. “Now is not the time”, he said “For us to be doing favors for other departments, to sneak in just one thing on the side. We have NO energy for other projects. Zero. If your request isn’t on this list, you don’t do it, even for a friend, even at night or on the weekend. We want to protect you.”
When we left the room, the general feeling was elation. Wow, people seemed to be thinking, Tech leadership really cares about me.
I wasn’t quite so sure. Continued »