Uncharted Waters

July 4, 2016  8:32 AM

Agile and Introversion

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, Office Setup

The software landscape has change, and somewhere along the way map designers messed things up for introverts.

I mean the literal landscape. Walk in a modern, with-it, software company and take a look around. Things are not like they were 10 years ago. Modern offices are built around forced, radical collaboration. The best examples of this are separate offices and cube farms being replaced by large rooms filled with long tables. Every one on the technical team now live and do their work in the same space.

This sounds like a productivity dream on the surface. Meetings disappear because everyone is already there, problems are solved fast because the people you need are just a table away. The reality is more like a dystopian future — noise, turf wars, and a general mess. Some people thrive on this, they like being around people and in the mix all of the time. Others though, people that are more introverted, tend to struggle because there is no refuge, nowhere to escape the constant murmur.

Let’s take a deeper look at why this new office topography may not last for every, and why it is hard for some people to work with.

Continued »

June 30, 2016  1:08 PM

Contexts for #NoEstimates

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Over the years I’ve done a fair amount of writing on #NoEstimates. Here on uncharted waters, then again, over at CIO.com, and again, and a few other places, here or there. I organized a couple of discussions at the Agile conference, one of them on the formal program.

Then, somewhere along there, I just … stopped. Perhaps it was because of the vitriol in the discussions. Two sides entrenched, not listening to each other, is not my idea of a fun time. Perhaps it was because of how little actual change I saw happening, the vast distance between the idyllic business novels and my clients. I saw some benefit to the predictive modeling work of Troy Magennis and Steve Rogalsky, and had some success myself in that area, but found myself slowly abandoning the hashtag.

After thinking deeply for a few years on the topic, and taking a couple years off, an idea or two has started to bubble in my mind.

I’d like to tell you about it. Continued »

June 27, 2016  8:46 AM

Giving (and getting) hard feedback

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Communication, community, Feedback

A friend of mine gave a keynote at a conference a few years ago. I was there, and really enjoyed it, most people I talked with felt the same way. But, as always there were a few people that weren’t into it. Give talk to a large enough crowd, and there will be a few people that aren’t super excited about it. The interesting part wasn’t so much that a few people didn’t like the talk, but the kind of feedback he got. When asked, one person said “It just wasn’t that good” and didn’t offer anything else.

I was surprised that someone would give feedback in that way. Why would someone be so dismissive?

I have had my fair share of “it’s just not that good” and have been thinking a lot about it. Vague feedback is poison, so let’s find a little antidote.

Continued »

June 14, 2016  9:53 PM

The DeepSpec Workshop

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman

In January I read a news report about the DeepSpec project that is being developed by a few universities through a NSF grant. The press release had some bold claims, specifically that this project might be the answer to many people’s dream of bug free software. I had as emotional reaction to that. Ever since software was a thing, people have been trying to make it bug free. But, no matter how detailed the specification is, or how much *DD the programmers use, or how good the testers are, there are bugs in prod. It’s just the way of the world.

Bug free software may not exist, but that doesn’t mean the DeepSpec research project isn’t interesting or potentially important. Princeton University in New Jersey announced a workshop on the project, so I put some skin in the game and went. Here is a little bit about what I found there.

Continued »

June 13, 2016  9:11 AM

Why Does the CTO role seem to go so badly, so quickly, so often?

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Businessman and business sketchFor years we have been told that tomorrow’s CIO role will not be able to be just a technologist; the role will also require business skills. Of course, most of those articles were written by journalists, executives, and others who were less technical — “people people.”

In other words, tomorrow’s CIO will be more like the authors of the articles.


I always found it odd that the rhetoric continued, even when Larry Page and Sergey Brin turned out to do just fine at Google, or when companies like MySpace and Yahoo were destroyed by “business people.”

Most of the literature focuses on how people need to have business and communications skills to be successful in those roles. Today I would like to suggest something a little different – that system forces tend to pick people with those attributes, regardless of whether or not those things make them successful. In particular, the CTO’s role, which was designed to be technical from the beginning, ends up tugging any CTO to turn into a businessperson.

That might be good. It might be bad. I suspect, at the very least, it is what it is.

Let’s talk about why. Continued »

June 6, 2016  1:10 PM

Startup Founder Culture in Silicon Valley

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

This morning I awoke to a notice that Justin Rohrman, my fellow writer on this blog, had posted a piece trying to explain where startup founders come from. Justin’s not “wrong”, in as far these things can be right and wrong – but as as a former worker at Socialtext, a once-silicon valley darling funded by DFJ, I thought my experiences might add a little flavor to the piece.

So here goes – Matt thoughts on where founders come from, and what that might mean for me, you, and society. Continued »

June 6, 2016  7:07 AM

Where Do Startup Founders Come From

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
founder, Startup

The American Dream is dead. But, only in the Princess Bride sense. The American Dream is mostly dead.

I have been spent the last year focusing on what it looks like to start a business and the question of where startup founders come from. The American dream says that anyone can come here with a buck and a dream and become a millionaire. There is also a cute saying that there are no poor people in America, only temporarily embarrassed millionaires. There is a touch of truth to both of those. If someone is ambitious enough, and not put off by risk, they might be able to take an idea and turn it into a business.

I am seeing a pattern in technology startups that is startling, though.

Continued »

May 31, 2016  2:53 PM

Winning the Bad Faith Negotiation

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

bad_faithLast time I introduced my negotiation strategy, which shifts the work from in the moment haggling to research. It works well when both sides are honest …

What do you do when the other side is not honest, hiding information at best or actively misleading you?

Let’s talk about it.

Continued »

May 25, 2016  7:46 PM

Automation In Real Life

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Automation, Business Process Automation

Are you ready for the impending robot takeover? I’m not.

Most of the automation I’ve seen slips into our frame of mind through simple business processes. Systems administrators make careers on this. When I first started working in technology, admins were automating as much as possible to make spare time for more important things, like DOOM. The rest of the business world caught wind of that and decided they wanted in. More automation, more productivity, more profits.

I recently wrote about the deskilling effect automation has on trades. Today I’m going to take a slightly different angle. I want to talk about the reality of technology and automation, and how that changes the work. The tasks we perform every day.

Continued »

May 23, 2016  1:34 PM

Heusser Negotiation Strategy

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

negotiationMost of us in technology hate to negotiate, which means we take what we can get. That puts someone else in charge of a zero-sum deal.

What if there were a different way? It would have to allow you to close a deal within seconds, that puts you in charge without any deception or shenanigans. More than that, the person at the other end of the table will appreciate you for it.

Over the years I have found only one method that meets this standard. There may be others, but today I would like to talk to you about my favorite.

Continued »

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