Some agile and lean people like to use the phrase ‘fail fast’. That slogan is usually a call to be brave and try new things that might not work out. Looking a little deeper, there is an encouragement to find what doesn’t work early rather than later when the stakes might be higher. I’ve never been a fan of the saying. Failing isn’t my idea of a good time whether is happens now, or later. And aside from that, I think it encourages the types of behavior that slow a company down instead of drive it forward.
Let’s take a closer look on what it means to fail.
Every time I have started a new job of the fully employed at a company type, one of the first things we do is go over the organizational chart. An HR person and maybe my new boss sit down with me point to the bottom of the page and say “See, you are right there. No, not there, further down. Yeah down there in the bottom corner.” And then tell about how other people in my position are now VPs of something or other.
I always hated those meetings. Careers aren’t linear, most people don’t go in a perfectly smooth path from junior to senior to management and whatever is after that. Even if progression was linear like that, the organization chart offers no help or suggestions for how to actually get there.
I want to talk about how I do it. My career is a work in progress, it will always be, but maybe this will be helpful for someone out there.
Did you hear about the woman who faked pregnancy in order to get financial support? She’s headed to prison for 18 months. The crime is larceny by trick: She convinced people to give her money based on a lie.
Back in IT, you don’t have to look far for a similar story; it might be as simple as the guy down the hall who claims a fake degree, a fake certification, or experiences he did not have on his resume in order to get a job.
Let’s start there. Specifically, someone who claims on LinkedIn to have the Project Manager Professional, or PMP designation, but doesn’t show up in the registry. Now it is possible the person’s registration expired, or he has the name spelled wrong. You want to be careful, so you contact the Project Management Institute Directly.
Then things get weird.
The damaging effects of multitasking in Software are no huge surprise; they’ve been covered by gurus like Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood. Atwood references the multitasking research of Gerald Weinberg, the consultant’s consultant. One common ‘fix’ to eliminate multitasking is to reduce Work In Progress, something we talk about at my company in presentations, in our courses, and yes, right here at Uncharted Waters.
So when I see a tweet like the one below, you can image it causes a strong reaction.
After a fair bit of back and forth with James, I have a bit of the context and I can at least agree that minimizing WIP can limit creativity for certain kinds of work, and could be toxic to certain kinds of creativity.
Let’s talk about what those might be, starting with my own work.
Most of our readers know about the Surfacebook, Microsoft’s latest attempt to capture new territory. As desktop operating system sales slump, they need something to continue to grow, which we discussed last time.
Today I’d like to talk about two more, perhaps less-known approaches: Microsoft’s investments in Office onsite as a service, and it’s nascent offerings of personal portable devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, or iOt.
This idea has been spinning around my brain the past week. This owes to the idea that we as a species are developing “extended cognition”, as in a part of our brain effort is now residing outside of ourselves. I owe this whole line of thought to Noah Sussman, who made an interesting challenge via Twitter that I cannot stop thinking about:
Two years ago, I could have said “sure, I can do that”. Back then, I had a feature phone, little in the way of frills. My phone was just a phone. Today? I have succumbed to the wiles of the smart phone app world, and truth be told, it has done some amazing things to reshape the way that I interact with the world around me. It has also been a major force for behavior change in me that I had never anticipated it could be. To this idea of extended cognition, I want to suggest that we can outsource other processes our brain controls, specifically motivation and willpower.
Between operating systems, office tools, and developer tools, Microsoft had a near-monopoly – 97% of computing devices at their peak in 2000. The world moved on from Windows, though, to tablets, MP3 players, phones, watches, and now the internet of things.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. In the 21st century, Microsoft continued the strategy that won them the 20th — work with partners to popularize a great idea. Those older ideas includes an operating system, word processor, and windowed operating systems, while the delivery partners were IBM and every clone-maker ever.
The 21st century hasn’t gone as well as the 20th. The Zune, the various PC Phones, and the Surface never rose to dominance. It wasn’t for lack of trying; Microsoft was too early into the tablet market (twice!) while a least one feature of the Surface, the cover-slash-keyboard, was considered an “innovation” when Apple added it to the iPad three years later.
But the race is over, Microsoft lost. Microsoft’s Surface has a 1% market share; the Windows phone hangs around 2.6%. The few friends I have who have windows devices tend to spend at least four hours a day in Visual Studio – that is, they are Microsoft Programmers. The few who actually talk about those devices, as if that is a normal thing, are all Microsoft MVPs — the award Microsoft gives for long-time supporters.
For the first time in history they face a reality that is not exponential growth, nor compelling reasons to upgrade. There is a computer on every desktop, and WindowsXP seems to be just fine, thank you.
Let’s look at another story of expansion gone to bust.
I do a lot of writing and have gotten to the point where I am passable, not terrible, but not outstanding. I enjoy writing, it gives time to be quiet and deliberate and think about a topic till the moment I’m ready to say something. Public speaking on the other hand, I am a complete novice at that. I have done 3 major conferences and a local meetup here and there.
One of those I completely bombed. It’s ok, I’m glad that is out of the way now. The other two were not bad. At this point, I know how to prepare for a talk and how to put together a slide deck that doesn’t suck. Preparation helps, but a talk isn’t preparation, it is a performance.
My aspirations aren’t in talking at conferences all over the world, but I do want to get more comfortable, and just plain better. Feedback is the next step, the next thing that will help me to do a better talk and performance on the next time around.
It was the best of trips, it was the worst of trips. Well, maybe not the worst, but it certainly could have gone better.
Last week I went to Boston (Framingham to be exact) to speak about domain expertise and hiring at STPCon. And, just last night, I got back home from a quarterly board meeting for a professional organization I sit on the board of.
These trips were drastically different, mostly due to the time I put into planning, preparation, and organization. Planning a business trip seems pretty simple at a high level. Book the flight, book the hotel, done. But there is a lot of minutia and nuance buried in there that can make the trip a pain. I want to share a few lessons and comparisons from these two trips and maybe you can avoid some of the mistakes I made.
Scrum is one of the most popular tools among companies claiming some sort of agileness. Every company I have worked for, or with, in the past decade has had an official daily scrum or at least some sort of daily status meeting that had very clear ties to the scrum format.
Despite the near complete saturation within software companies, most people have problems with the format. The meetings become a benign, no value add, aspect of daily life. Or, they create information overload when the team gets blasted by its own problems on a daily basis.
Is Scrum just a narrow tool that isn’t useful for most teams, or are most teams just plain bad at making use of it?
My colleagues, Matt Heusser and Markus Gärtner have been busy working together to publish a new book called Save Our Scrum.
Let’s see what they have to say.