Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, June 11, 2018

No Estimates have a spot at the Campfire

Lots of debate around the campfire.
One of the best things about being a member of the Agile community is the smart and enthusiastic people you encounter online and in person.  It is refreshing and challenging to be around people who have a shared vision of making business faster, sustainable, and more intelligent.  The commitment to the goals of agile does not mean we are ideologically unified and dogmatic.  Like any healthy practice, we disagree with each other about basic principles, ways to spread adoption, and innovations.  The creative tension is essential.  I want to add my two cents to an on-going debate which a colleague Ryan Ripley brought to my attention from the sober and restrained convention floor of the #BetterSoftwareCon in Las Vegas. 

The #NoEstimates movement has become a very vocal camp in the agile reformation.  If you follow the debate, it is easy to see why.  The estimation process at many companies is farcical and corrupt.  Story points were created to provide the benefits of estimation without the obvious drawbacks.  The #NoEstimates crowd take this to a logical conclusion and say estimating is a waste of time and energy.

I do not feel very strongly about #NoEstimates.  What makes it interesting is it provides a different perspective to authoring software.  Neil Killick then posted a white paper this week showing some qualitative measurements which show a no estimates approach works just as well as a story point approach.  

I was skeptical but, I decided to give the article the benefit of the doubt.  Killick uses T-Shirt sizes to measure ambiguity and difficulty.  Using arithmetic and charts, he shows how he can forecast project completion.  The approach is well thought out and clear.  It is also story points dressed up to look like #NoEstimates.  It requires the product owners to spend time doing arithmetic instead of writing stories and working with customers and developers.  Personally, I struggle getting product owners to perform the basics of their duties.  Thus, using Killick’s approach may work for a different agile implementation but not for mine. 

I genuinely dislike debates which generate more heat than light.  Killick provides a good approach for a more mature agile team.  I am glad I had a chance to learn about it and will keep it in my chest of tools if I feel it worth trying.  The agile manifesto says, “Individuals and interactions over, processes and tools.” I believe that Killick’s approach is a process which might work with a particular set of individuals.  I also think that discussion of #NoEstimates is good for the agile movement.  People try out ideas, test them, and they are adopted or rejected over time.  It sounds mighty agile to me.

Until next time. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Break out of your rut!

I have been thinking about my craft.  A scrum master is a coach, therapist, and advocate for their team.  We have emotional ups and downs in the profession.  We are also fortunate enough to make a difference in the organizations we work.  It is rewarding but filled with the trade-offs professionals are confronted.  This week wanted to discuss a constant force in the life of a scrum master continuous improvement.

As a professional, it is easy to get into a rut.  Decision fatigue sets in and so you order the same thing for lunch or manage how you deliver software.  Routine and inertia are comfortable because it provides a false sense of security in an uncertain world.  Your heart could stop from a simple blob of cholesterol of the company share price could crumble overnight, but thanks to the routine we ignore these catastrophes.  Inertia is safe and secure.  It is also the enemy of continuous improvement and agility.  It is why scrum requires retrospectives.  The feedback allows everyone evaluate how to improve. Development includes the product owners and the scrum master.

I was doing a product increment planning meeting for the product owners to coordinate releases and plan for the future.  On a whim, I decided to include a retrospective of the last quarter to get a sense of where we are and where we are going.  A tense hour later a few lessons were learned.  Using a four “L” retrospective, I wanted to understand how as a product development team we were doing.  The answer was unambiguous.  Some things which we could control had to change.  The retrospective included passive aggressive conduct, and a few choice criticisms pointed at me.  It was worth it.

Based on what I learned, I am going to conduct retrospectives differently with the development teams.  I am going to work with the product owners more closely to help them manage their work more closely.   Finally, I am going to try and break out of my decision fatigue.  Continuous improvement matters, and if you expect it of others, then you should expect it of yourself.

Until next time.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Scrum does not have too many meetings

Each reform in society is confronted with a backlash.  The Protestant Reformation spawned the Inquisition.  It is natural that those threatened by it would oppose progress.  It is happening in businesses across the nation with the Agile reformation.  A common objection many have toward agile or scrum is there are too many meetings.  This week I want to discuss agile and meetings.

According to the scrum guide there are four events in scrum, they are:

  • Sprint planning
  • Daily Scrum or Stand-Up
  • Sprint review 
  • Sprint retrospective.


In the span of a work week, these meetings should be brief and informative.  A stand-up meeting should take approximately fifteen to thirty minutes.  If it takes longer, you should review how you are facilitating this meeting.  A sprint review is a demonstration to the business users and should take no longer than an hour.  Retrospectives allow a team to inspect and adapt their process.  Typically, this meeting is about sixty to ninety minutes in length.  Finally, there is sprint planning where the development team estimates stories and plans the next race.  Sprint planning can take as little as an hour and as much as six.

Based on this rough estimate we can determine how many hours the agile team is spending in meetings.  Based on a three-week sprint where is how it break down.


  • Typical work week 40 x 3 = 120 hrs.
  • Standup meeting – 0:15 x 15 = 3:45 hrs.
  • Sprint Planning – 6 x 1 = 6 hrs.
  • Sprint Review – 1 x 1 = 1 hrs.
  • Retrospective – 1 x 1:30 = 1:30 hrs.
  • Total Time budgeted in meetings = 12:15 hours of a 120 hrs. sprint.


Thus, a developer at worse case scenario spends just over ten percent of their time in meetings.  The remainder of the time is devoted to writing software and creating value for customers.  It is significantly less than in the world of waterfall project management with its numerous meetings to cover everything from architecture to problem-solving.

The scrum master and product owner spend their time in meetings, but it is to protect the team from being distracted from delivering value.  It is why I attend meetings about I.T. governance or architecture so that my team does not have to.  It is why the product owner is answering customer inquiries and meeting management.  We attend the meetings so the development team can concentrate on what is important which is shipping code.

It is why I find the argument that agile has too many meetings disingenuous.  People who are opposed to agile are not opposed to the meetings they are opposed to the routine nature of the meetings and the expectation to ship working code at the end of each sprint.  Transparency of this nature quickly exposes the unwilling, incompetent, or invisible people in an organization who do not deliver value.  When we discover these individuals, it creates a backlash in the organization.

So, scrum and agile does not spend too much time in meetings; it concentrated on what is essential.  An agile team’s first and foremost duty is to deliver value to the business; anything else is waste.  I am looking forward to hearing from you and knowing what you have to say.

Until next time.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Story Points for the Misinformed

It is all about planning poker.
Last week, I wrote a harsh critique of how project estimation is done at many organizations.  I do not like using the words farce and tragedy lightly, but in my experience, many projects devolve into these realms.  This week, I want to talk about story points and how they solve some of the problems I discussed how estimation is broken.

I have written two essential blog posts on story points.  The first was my reappraisal of story points as measurements of difficulty and ambiguity.  The other blog post illustrated how story points could be used to meet deadlines.  Reviewing those blogs, I think they are a clear explanation of the advanced uses of story points.  For those new, to story points, this blog is for you.

Last week I said traditional forms of project management rest on the mistaken notion that time and money equal the same thing.  It means when a project manager or developer gives an estimate and executive treats it like a quotation of work.  The experience is similar to going to an automotive mechanic receiving an estimate for $300 of work and getting a bill for $3,000.  As a consumer, you were expecting and budgeting for a $300 bill.  When confronted with an invoice ten times larger than expected, a person usually falls into a spiral of rage.

Story points defeat this situation.  First, the team members are playing planning poker and are collectively deciding how many points it takes to complete a unit of work.  It is not the opinion of one person be a consensus of numerous technical professionals.  Next, story points are the sum of ambiguity and difficulty of a unit of work.  There is no meaningful way to convert a story point into money or measure of time.  The only things that are certain is a team can complete a specific number of story points in a sprint time box.  The average number of story points completed over at least three sprints is called velocity.  I illustrated in an earlier blog velocity allows executives, scrum masters, and developers a means to forecast deadlines.  Finally, story points allow for severe discussions about scope, resources, and time without having to discuss dollars and cents.

My colleague, Steve Sether, points out story points are not a silver bullet for poorly managed projects.  Story points can be inflated to create the illusion of increasing velocity. Accountants attempt to put a dollar figure to story points and executives often ignore them to make promises without consulting the development teams.

For me, telling an executive, we have 213 story points in a software backlog is much more informative than claiming we can hit an arbitrary deadline.  We can take some action and make more informed decisions rather than rely on gut instincts.  Project estimation should not be farce or tragedy; with story points, a development team and a scrum master have a better way of estimating work and delivering to the business.

Until next time.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Understanding Estimation for the Misinformed

When I speak with business professionals, they often struggle to understand the basics of the agile reformation.  For example, when I hold someone accountable for not doing work, they are shocked I am expecting results.  Many times, I feel like am discussing a round planet with people who still think the earth is flat.  These kinds of misunderstandings often lead to dramatic blow-ups as the agile coach expects one result and the business a different outcome.  This week and over the next few weeks I will try to explain some of the basic ideas agile practitioners use.  Today, an overview of why the agilest use story points.

One of the most controversial activities in business is project estimation.  The reason why is many estimates for creative projects is a lie.  The company is lying to itself about what it wants and how much it is willing to pay for it.  The creative team usually lies about how long it is going to take to complete the work.  To any objective person outside this process, it looks like madness.  Everyone is lying, money is getting spent, and nothing gets into production. 

Project Estimation is farce and tragedy.
The agile manifesto came into being with the twelve principles of agile because the failure of major projects in the business world was becoming unsustainable. The firm spends too much money for too little return on investment; something had to change.  The first thing the agile reformation addressed was estimation. 

A traditional project begins with executives looking at the corporate budget.  After the debt is serviced, shareholders compensated, and payroll met a portion of the money is left over.  Managers then submit requests to spend this leftover money on capital improvements and technology projects.  Based on profitability and political clout, this money is doled out.  For the attentive, you will notice the business executives do not experience the same reality of the front line consumers or employees.  Thus, a software project begins with a pile of money.

The managers and directors once they receive this money then have to figure out how to spend it.  The money comes with plenty of strings.  The project has to meet a deadline which may or may not be grounded in reality.  The plan must work with current technology at the firm.  Finally, the manager must have people who understand how to take that pile of money and turn it into working software. 

What happens next is something resembling a demented game of “Name that Tune.”  The manager goes to consulting companies and internal development teams asking how much time it will take them to satisfy the project requirements. The consulting company will bid a price to earn the business.  The internal developers will offer an amount to remain employed.  It goes on until the bidding ends and the project begins.  The costs are not grounded in reality, and neither are the estimates.

What happens next is both farce and tragedy.  The workers with the limited budget and impossible timeline fail to deliver.  Making matters worse developers are expected to incorporate changes mid-stream and the deadline does not change.  Eventually, the deadlines are missed.  The budget is used up, and cost overruns are rampant.  Finally, people quit because they are burnt out for working numerous hours of overtime to deliver a flawed product.  Quality suffers, money is wasted, and this approach ruins reputations. 

The primary cause for this kind of disaster is many managers equate time with money.  So, if you have $40,000 and it takes 1,000 hours to do something, this means it will cost $400 an hour.  Now suppose you have a consultant who will do the work for $200 an hour.  You can do twice as much work.  It depends on both of the people having the same skills and ability which is not the case. 

Story points for estimates came into being because time does not equal money for complicated projects.  Those projects also feature tremendous uncertainty and are often resistant to automation.  Instead of telling a manager that the team will be able to do the work in 1,000 hours at $400 an hour, a scrum master or product owner will say the team can do fifty story points a sprint and there are roughly 213 story points of work.  The ridiculous game of name that tune goes away and people can start having realistic discussions of time and money. 

Next week I will show you how that works.

Until next time.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Choose a Growth Mindset

Growth is not easy in this business.
One of the major features of agile is its emphasis on continuous improvement.  Teams, people, and processes can always get better.  If you do a 1% improvement each sprint and perform three-week sprints over the course of a year that equals a 17% improvement by the team.  Many times, small improvements are equivalent to significant increases over the long term.  What works with software development teams also works for scrum masters.  A scrum master should consider continuous growth to be a personal goal in their practice of agile.

I am currently working on becoming a Certified Team Coach.  It has been a time-consuming process with me logging hours and filling out forms.  I reviewed the five dysfunctions of a team and practiced SOLID code development.  I was about to file the first part of my two-part application when someone suggested that I get a pre-screen.  I was deeply disappointed by what happened next.  My screener said the first part of my application would be accepted, but I would ultimately be rejected in the second round because I did not have a “coaching mindset.”  I was disappointed.  It was as if the last five years of blogging, coding and being a scrum master were an empty exercise.  I was given a verbal pat on the head and sent on my way.

After doing some reflection, I went over my notes, and there were some suggestions for graduate-level courses in coaching.  I also spotted a class from the Harvard Business Review on coaching for leaders.  The pre-screener was even kind enough to recommend some graduate-level course in coaching which was local.

Maybe I was not ready.  During this time of reflection, I was exposed to the work of Stanford University professor Carol Dweck.  Her most influential idea is people to be successful need to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.  This very positive idea is one which postulated that everyone is capable of growth and improvement.  Having a growth mindset means that development only happens if people actively seek improvement.  Traditional command and control methods of leadership are less effective than asking questions and having people find solutions rather than having them provided for them.  As I said, it is optimistic.  Professor Dweck can fail students who do not turn in the homework.  Me, I am stuck with product owners who will not write user stories.

I can see a few scrum masters and executives shaking their heads.  Authoring user stories is a fundamental part of being a product owner.  A leader with a fixed-mindset would take disciplinary action or try to teach that product owner to write stories promptly.  A growth mindset leader would ask questions, guide mindset, and follow up with the product owner to get them to improve on their own.  It is touchy-feely and genuinely optimistic.  It also runs counter to how I learned in the field of media and technology.

I was skeptical, but I decided to give it a try.  What happened next was a surprise.  A person responded positively.  They got better at what they did.  They did not improve as quickly as I would have liked, but they did enhance so after four weeks I noticed a difference.  Furthermore, when the person did things which usually triggered in the past, I saw a different motivation.  Now, instead of seeing them attempting to undermine my credibility or authority; I saw them checking for understanding and holding others accountable.  The situation is not entirely sunshine and rainbows, but it is improving.  I should embrace improvement over stagnation.

So here I am attempting to adopt a growth-mindset and continuously improve one small step at a time. Taking a growth-mindset is the next step in my agile journey.

Until next time.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Machiavelli knows agile.

Machiavelli, knows some things about agile.
The agile reformation is all about satisfying customer needs, improving product quality, moving quickly and maintaining a sustainable pace of work.  These differing prerogatives require changing the way we think about work and looking at problems differently.  It means for agile to be successful a scrum master or coach must lead change.

Many times, I feel like Don Quixote jousting at windmills around the office. During a down period, one of my product owners pointed out a quotation from Machiavelli.
“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” 
Leave it to the prince of political manipulation to provide me with some fodder for my blog.
Change is hard because people prefer to have routine and ritual in their lives.  Also, people who benefit from the way things are will resist change because they might lose authority, money or status.  It is easy for individuals to see reform as a zero-sum game with a gain for someone else equal to a personal loss.  It is a pathology which I see in both technical and business professionals.

On the business side, it is a huge culture shock to work side by side with technical professionals.  Now they discover the systems and technology they take for granted is not the result of magic.  They collaborate on the authoring of requirements, and they have “skin in the game,” when it comes to the success or failure of an initiative.  No longer will the alibi of, “…it is technology’s fault,” work in an organization behaving in an agile fashion.

The rapid feedback is a benefit to both the business people and technology staff.  It avoids “death march” projects.  The days of building software which does not drive value to the business disappear with each iteration.  A software project can quickly pivot to new regulatory or market needs.  Finally, the CFO will see a reduction in cost overruns and failing projects.

Agile not only changes the business professionals who practice it; agile changes technology professional who follow it.  Developers begin to understand the challenges the business faces.  An engineer sees business partners as equals and worthy of respect. Writing unit test and performing automated deployments build trust with business partners as bugs and defects decrease.  The arrogance of software professionals being the smartest people in the room gives way to the humility of helping others succeed.  The hacker ethos of development gives way to a more professional perspective.

Agile is not perfect.  The reformation is only eighteen years old, but it is growing and improving.  It is starting to become the de-facto technique of doing new software development, and it is spreading to other areas of business.  Change is perilous.  Getting knocked off your horse is not fun, but nothing worth doing is easy.  The reformation is not going to stop and you either lead, follow or get out of its way.

Until next time.

Monday, April 9, 2018

This reformation may take a while

Progress takes time.
  Image courtesy of Pawel Jonca.
The history of progress and social change is rocky.  The first feminists from the Seneca Falls convention did not live to see the passage of the women’s suffrage.  Women would continue to struggle for equal rights and acceptance outside the home and today women in technology face the soft misanthropy of “Brogramer” culture.  It is discouraging that each step forward leads to another pushback from people who feel threatened by that change.  It has been on my mind as I see businesses struggle with accepting the agile reformation sweeping business. 

Like many technology professionals, I receive e-mail messages daily from recruiters.   These individuals want me to sell my home and relocate to remote parts of the country for six to twelve-month contracts.  I ignore these messages politely or reply that I am not interested in relocation.  This week I receive a notice for a “scrum-project manager.”  I was intrigued.  I glanced at the requirements, and this is what I found. 


  • Two to three years’ experience in SCRUM
  • Two to three years’ experience as a BA/Project manager.
  • One or more years of Experience in JIRA.
  • Great Communicator.
  • Organized.
  • Salary 50k to 75K


I did a double take and then attempted to unpack this request.  According to the Scrum guide, there are only three roles; developers, a product owner, and scrum master.  There is no mention of a project manager.  Agile and Scrum according to the manifesto put, “Individuals and interactions over process and tools.”  I appreciate the author of the job post understands that communication skills and organization are not optional for a scrum master.  Finally, the salary requirements are laughable and way below the $100,000 national median compensation stated in LinkedIn.  For a company attempting to adopt agile, this is not a credible offer.

The person who wrote this job requirement should be embarrassed.  The salary is in the lowest percentile quarter of prevailing wages.  The author does not understand the role of a scrum master, and they confuse agile experience with project management.  Anyone who is thinking about this role should reconsider.  It will stunt your career growth, and the company appears to be paying lip service to Agile.

It is my hope businesses will do a better job writing these requirements and recruiting proper agile talent.  Unfortunately, this means executives and human resources professionals still have a long way to go before they understand agile and what it takes to be a twenty-first-century company.  Just like the feminists of Seneca Falls, after seeing job requirements like this, I am afraid that I may not live to see that change.

Until next time.

Monday, April 2, 2018

A sweet and sour career

The stuff of life.
It is the Christian holiday of Easter.  I am spending time with my family and friends.  I am also taking a look back at the start of the year.  It seems like only yesterday, I was counting down to midnight and wearing silly hats.  Now, I am wrapping up the first quarter.  I am unsure where the time goes.  This week, I would like to do a little reflection on the ebb and flow of being a scrum master.

I have repeatedly said on this blog being a scrum master is a calling.  It takes devotion and a touch of insanity to lead software developers and organizational change. I spend my days helping people ship software and then my evenings learning how to be better at my profession.  Someone I respect very much calls it the “sweet and sour” of a career.  Experiencing hardship makes accomplishment more meaningful.

This week I discovered I would be presenting at the Agile 2018 conference in San Diego.  I will be talking about the Cobra effect and how you can fight it.  It is a pretty significant accomplishment, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity.  It also encourages me that I am not some voice in the wilderness.  I have spent nine years as an agilest, and it is profoundly satisfying that people are interested in the insights I have picked up along the way.  It is a lovely feeling.

The sour is the daily grind of putting out software.  I take calls from India each day.  I work with product owners to help them be successful.  I have created close bonds with my development partners because the pressures of shipping software are enormous.  It is early mornings and late nights.  It is cold coffee and petty arguments.  It is what must be done to create value for the business.

I accept the sour to appreciate the sweet.  Family, friends, and loved ones talk me through the sour times and help me celebrate the sweet.  It is not glamorous or pretty, but I have found meaning in the Agile reformation.  My life is a mixture of sweet and sour.

Until next time.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A lack of skin in the game for employees

From the blog: ON ART AND AESTHETICS
Last week I talked about three types of cultural factors which can make an agile implementation challenging.  I also spent some time catching up with some of my contemporaries discussing the application of Agile at different firms.  It was a disappointing discussion.  This week I want to talk about agile and the lack of follow through in many organizations.

I started thinking about the inability for the organization to improve their agile maturity when fellow agilest David Koontz posted an article from the Harvard Business review about the failure of digital transformation at many firms. It opened my eyes.  I then noticed a new book published by the author Nassim Nicholas Taleb called “Skin in the Game,” about the uneven relationships we create in the labor market.  The most telling passage was the following.

“True, a contractor has a downside, a financial penalty that can be built into the contract, in addition to reputational costs. But consider that an employee will always have more risk. And conditional on someone being an employee, such a person will be risk-averse. By being employees they signal a certain type of domestication.”

In short, being an employee of a large company creates people afraid of risk and rocking the boat. The company through its leadership and culture incentivizes particular behavior.  The employee trades their skills and dependability in exchange for a paycheck.  It creates situations where conscientious people tolerate ignorance and inefficiency because they say, “…that is how we have always done it.” Thanks to this submissiveness large firms stagnate and die.

It also explains to me why agile coaches are contractors.  In the words of Ken Schwaber, agile holds a mirror up to an organization.  Many organizations are not equipped professionally or psychologically to look at that reflection because they would see the incentives they have created are perverse and the services they offer are not meeting customer needs.  It is like being in the Jean-Paul Sartre novel “Nausea.”  The world we know crumbles away, and we see the disorienting reality of how things are working. Confronted with this we have three choices:
  1. Wallow in despair and impotence
  2. Ignore the truth and pretend nothing has happened
  3. Take action and try to make change

The modern corporation incentivizes employees to make the first two choices.  Those who choose the third option either quit or the company fires them.

So as a scrum master or agile coach we are stuck making a change at the margins and moving on when we cannot do anymore.  The global economy continues to spin, and nothing seems to change. It is easy to get discouraged, but the size and diversity of the agile reformation continue to grow.  According to Scrum.org, over 100,000 people are trained at Scrum.  Figures from the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance are harder to come by, but eighteen years ago the manifesto began with fifteen people in a ski lodge.   The growth of the movement has been increasing and today’s consultants and practitioners will become tomorrow’s managers, directors, and executives.  It is a matter of time, and the Agile reformation will be driving reform inside the business establishment.

So perverse incentives prevent businesses from being more innovative and agile. The good news is the agile reformation is growing and with this growth will come increasing acceptance.  It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Until next time.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Three types of failure in an organization.

When it all goes wrong
I have been spending plenty of time looking at best practices and patterns in software development.  The more I learn, the more I discover knowledge in the field is growing logarithmically.   Thanks to the web, developers and scrum masters can share hard-won wisdom.  Sharing this knowledge makes everyone better at what they do.  We can also gain understanding taking a look at bad practices and seeing how they hurt an organization. 

A maxim in the agile reformation is everyone should be allowed to fail early and often.  Failure is an early building block for future success and innovation.  I see failure as an excellent teaching instrument.  It means an agile practitioner should take a fair and empathetic view of failure and see what we can discover.  Agile practitioners need to call out what works and what does not.  Reviewing bad practices and business failure educates in ways success cannot.

The Cargo Cult

A cargo cult comes into being when individuals create totems and rituals to mimic success without understanding how to achieve that success.  I have blogged about this topic, and it came from South Pacific tribe who built faux airports and vending machines in the hope cargo planes, and Coca-Cola would return.  I see it with businesses who begin a digital transformation but do not want to change their command and control structure.  The open office movement is another excellent example where business leaders hope to improve collaboration and instead ruin employee morale.  The lesson is to discover the “why” and “how” something works before implementing anything in your organization.

Cultural Inertia

If you work at an organization where people introduce themselves by how many years they work for the organization instead of what they do for the firm you are dealing with cultural inertia.  The term inertia comes from the field of physics. An object can remain still or in motion as long as outside forces do not act on that object.  Complex business organizations exhibit this trait.  These organizations get accustomed to doing things a particular way.  These organizations hire and promote specific people.  Thus, when confronted with change they treat is like heresy or deviance.  Managers or executives kill ground-up initiatives.  Digital transformations fail because line employees have no buy-in.  As a coach or scrum master, inertia is going to be your biggest obstacle.

Software Samurai

Software development is a human activity which resists automation.  So far, no Artificial Intelligence can write C# code or take vague business requirements and turn them into working software.  Human beings are messy, complicated creatures.  Smart and talented people are messier than standard employees. Making matters worse is the glorification of the “Hacker,” or “Brogrammer” culture of software development.  It is a worldview which is misanthropic and sexist.  The glorification of a software developer as a disruptor, visionary, alpha-male, shaman and deity has a few consequences.  It creates a toxic stew of smart people who are smug and contemptuous of business partners.  It also makes developers behave like lonely samurai willing to show off their skills only to other developers in battles for supremacy.  By following “the way of the samurai,” these developers ship poor quality code which does not meet business needs and impossible to maintain.  When called out for this conduct a samurai will say, “If they were good enough a developer they could maintain that code.”  Samurai coders are why agile fails at the team level, and it is up to a coach and scrum master to help these individuals reform their ways.

So here are three ways agile can fail in an organization; cargo cults, cultural inertia, and software samurai.  Each of these situations spells doom for your agile maturity.  Be on the lookout for these examples of failure. 

Until next time.

Monday, March 12, 2018

XML Substitutions in Visual Studio Team Services.

One of the biggest challenges as a software professional is staying on top of the latest development practices.  I have been fortunate to be part of the Chicago Application Lifecycle Management group and know people like Donovan Brown who have shown me the power of continuous integration, dynamic releases, and using Visual Studio Team Services to reduce deployment time to a matter of minutes.

Today, I want to share with you a technical blog on how the management of configuration files is a breeze in Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS).

The first thing a rookie developer learns when they start working is NEVER HARD CODE ANYTHING in an application.  It is a significant anti-pattern, and it will make your professional life miserable.  To avoid this anti-pattern, .NET developers use App.Config and Web.Config files to save file paths, database connection strings, and variables which change sporadically.  When a Vice President or network administrator needs a change, the development team can correct the file without having to recompile the code.  Afterward, everyone involved can get back to business.  It was a great approach if you have one environment and one file to change, but many firms have multiple settings for development, testing, and production.

A developer has three options:
  1. Keep three separate files and maintain each of the files separately which is prone to error.
  2. User XML transformations in Visual Studio which is less prone to error.
  3. User XML replacements in VSTS or Team Foundation Server.

The first option is a recipe for disaster because you have to maintain three files and have an obsessive attention to detail.  I have lost numerous hours of sleep making file comparisons to find a configuration error.  The second option works, and I include a link how to do this from Microsoft.  The drawback is a developer must build the application three times; once for each environment.  It could create a situation where code may have the correct configuration file, but the compiled code may not match it.  The final option is the best because we perform one build and the configuration files change based on where the code is deployed.  The rest of this article will focus on how to use this approach successfully.

This example is a simple MVC 5 application which I am deploying to a staging/UAT environment.  Treat this as a “Hello World!” example of how you can do this in your organization.










In the web.config file create a variable which will change depending on the deployment environment.




Next, write a scrap of code to display that information in your MVC application.  Note: this code will break a unit test do not use this approach in professional code: see this link for more information. 



This next step is where the magic happens.  My network administrator installed the agent on servers and created development groups.  Navigate to the library tab and create a variable group by selecting the button labeled “+ Variable Group.”  Once you have done this, give the variable group a meaningful name.  In this example, I use “Development_Variables.” After providing a detailed description of the group, select the “+Add” link.  When you select the button, an inline form will appear; provide a name and then a value.  It is a key value pair which makes it possible to match the values in the Web.Config file.  Make sure the name of the variable matches exactly the spelling and case sensitivity in the Web.Config file, otherwise the transformation will not work.  Repeat this process and name the other variable group “UAT_Testing_Variables.”

Now that we have variable groups for each environment add them to a release pipeline; select the release tab in VSTS and select the “+” sign; “choose “Create Release Definition.”



You should see a screen similar to the one above.  For this example, I used a simple IIS Website deployment.  I add the build to the artifacts section then I create a deployment process.



The important part is in the IIS web deploy task.  Make sure the checkbox XML variable substitution is selected.  Select the variable tab in the pipeline chose the link “variable group,” button then pick a variable group you created in the earlier process.  Make sure the scope is “Environments,” and then set to “Development.”



The variable tab should look like above and when all these settings are made you are ready to test; kick off a build in VSTS.  When the build is finished, the code will be deployed to the development environment.  Upon a successful deployment navigate to the website on the development server.  The variable on the front page should be the same as variable defined in the variable group.

Using this process, you can maintain variables in VSTS without having to worry about configuration files and the variable groups can be secured via active directory.  Finally, configuration changes can be deployed without having to recompile code.  Thanks to VSTS and XML substitutions you have a smooth and error-free way to speed up the development process.

Until next time.



Monday, March 5, 2018

Watching the changes roll by

Heraclitus would be pleased
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus has a special place in my heart.  He was one of the first thinkers to observe the importance of change, and he coined a slogan which business people use each day.  Heraclitus said, “The only constant in nature is change.” This maxim in philosophy and business got a bit of a work out this week as the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org announced two new training programs.  This week, I would like to talk about these new programs.

Scrum.org announced a new class and certification called Professional Scrum with Kanban.  My initial reaction was skepticism.  Kanban is widely discussed among agile practitioners and understanding how to do it properly is part of learning Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprise (SAFe).  I was confused.  With this wealth of information, why would anyone want or need a class on Kanban and scrum?  It occurred to me people learn in different ways.  Some individuals can handle self-directed learning on Kanban.  Other people, will benefit from classroom training and the guidance of an experienced trainer.  So, a course on Scrum and Kanban is not so strange or confusing. 

The next big news in the agile world is the scrum alliance announcing the Advanced Certified Scrum Master and the Advanced Certified Product Owner credential.  I was much less skeptical about this news.   I worked as an agile developer for four years before becoming a certified scrum master.  The credential gave me instant credibility with hiring professionals and with executive leadership.  What the training did not provide me were some of the soft skills I would need to be a more successful scrum master.  Abilities like active listening and creating a dialog with stakeholders were skills I would discover by trial and error.  The advanced program from the scrum alliance provides a solid background in the basics and the skills required to spread the use of agile to other parts of the business outside of technology.   As someone who has been a CSP for the last four years, I wish I had this training during the early portion of my career.  Now the scrum alliance is offering it, and it is a positive development for those who know the basics but wish to be more successful.

Any training and development from the agile community is a good thing for the people out in the field.  The sharing of knowledge and information between the different licensing bodies also creates a cross-pollination of ideas.  It prevents the practice of technology and project management from getting stagnant.  I use approaches from SAFe and scaling scrum with scrum side by side. I have to deal with waterfall budget processes and graft them to scrum teams.  Finally, I deal with business partners who think everything I do is magic.  I need all the training I can get to be successful and deal with those challenges.

Heraclitus was a teacher.  This founding father of change spent his time educating others about it.  If agile is to continue to grow and spread; its practitioners need more opportunities to improve their skills and gain knowledge.  It means these new courses are good news about the health of the Agile reformation.

Until next time.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Incomplete leadership is good leadership.

The world has plenty of leadership styles there are leaders who inspire fear and others who foster deep admiration.  The spectrum streams from the sublime to the ridiculous.  My thoughts on the subject have evolved over the years.  I have experienced many forms of leadership and what strikes me most is this notion of the “mask of command.”  According to this theory of leadership, a leader must create a persona of command which conceals weakness from people who they work. This week on the blog I would like to do a little unmasking.

I was an early proponent of the “mask of command.”  I would have an air of authority and credibility.  Anyone who has worked with engineers, creative professionals, and medical workers will quickly realize this is folly.  All of these groups are exceedingly smart, and all of them have been trained to be skeptical.  They know when you are putting on a mask and when you are inauthentic.  Once this lack of authenticity is detected, these kinds of professionals will tune out. 

Since professionals are not receptive to the mask of command, there has been a myth created around leadership.  Leaders of organizations must be “complete.”  They must have experience in the industry, work their way up the organization, and have the perfect mix of personal traits to succeed.  It has fostered a leadership style which discourages innovative thinking.  Bland and uninspiring leaders advance because they reflect the status quo of their organization.   They are not leaders but rather caretakers of their organizations.  The corner office and perks of executive leadership are enough to keep these individuals content.  If they are lucky, they will retire and let someone else do the necessary organizational change.  It is how organizations wither and die.

If the mask of command creates inauthentic leaders and the desire for perfect leaders creates uninspiring leaders what should a scrum master or agile coach aspire?  I have been thinking about this for some time.  It did not become clear to me until I read Deborah Ancona's essay in the Harvard Business Review, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader.”  In her essay, Ancona talks about the myth of a perfect or complete leader who in her words is a “…flawless person at the top who’s got it all figured out.”  Today, organizations with their inherent complexity and global reach require “incomplete,” leadership who can delegate their weaknesses and play up their strengths.  Leaders do not have to be the perfect fit instead they should be good enough to help the organization.  Instead of the emperor or general, a leader is more like a therapist or pastor to support the organization see a better way. 

Ancoma goes on to describe four leadership skills every person has in varying degrees: sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing.  Those traits overlap each other, but it is clear to me that if you are equally good at all four of these areas, you are not good at any individual area.  Steve Jobs was fantastic at visioning; he was lousy with people and relating.  George Patton had great sensemaking and scared the pants off the German generals.  He was also insubordinate and bad at relating with his troops or commanders.  Meg Whitman took the chaos at HP and used her sensemaking and relating skills to improve the organization.  Not any of the leaders, I cited were “perfect.”  They were flawed and human.  They were good at certain things and delegated everything else.  It is why I think Omar Bradley was the best thing to ever happen to Patton. 

As a leader and scrum master, we need to accept we are imperfect.  I excel at sensemaking and visioning.  I will admit my shortcomings. I struggle with relating and inventing.  Only by acknowledging these vulnerabilities can we build trust, and to succeed trust is essential.  We also need to accept that each leader is incomplete.  Some will hide behind the mask of command, and other leaders will feign equal competence in these four areas of leadership. 

I have a different vision of leadership.  It is one where the masks fall away, and smart people work together for a common goal with a sense of trust.  It may be a little touchy feely but if it is good enough for the Harvard Business Review it is good enough for me. 

Until next time.


Monday, February 19, 2018

It is worth it!

The work is worth it.
I have been doing plenty of reflection.  I blame the dispiriting winter season in my hometown of Chicago.  The cold winter nights force you to confront your past and ponder your purpose.  My friends and social media contacts are asking me plenty of questions about my weird profession.  These kinds of existential moments make me want to do a little explaining.

I joined the agile reformation in 2009.  I was working as a contractor for a family run medical supply company.  I was thoroughly miserable.  I had no job security and little hope. I spent each day grinding out code for capricious people who treated everyone not family as medieval peasants.   Family disputes would boil over on to the sales floor, and anyone caught in the crossfire could lose their job.  It was such a dispiriting place to work.  I witnessed the ten-year-old grandson of the founder tease a salesperson saying, “Daddy says you are fired.”

In the middle of this night of the soul, a project manager decided the team should try “agile.”  It began with daily stand-ups and doing releases in two-week chunks.  It ended with unemployment.  The project manager left for a better job.  The IT Director realized I had more credentials than he did so I was a threat, and it made me expendable.

Between job searches, I did research and the more I learned about Agile, the more I realized it was a better way to lead software projects.  I also realized that the concepts while simple to explain were hard to implement.  Thanks to the Agile Manifesto and the early proponents of the scrum, there was a way to perform technology work without abusing people and providing better value to the business.  I would spend the next four years as a developer spreading the word about this new approach.

Things finally came to a head when I left my last role as a senior developer and became a scrum master full time.  I was no longer some developer mentoring others.  I was leading other teams and setting an example.  I thought I was ready.  I was wrong.  Over the last five years, I have been tested and challenge in numerous ways.  I have succeeded in public ways and failed in equally public fashion.  I am not the scrum master I was five years ago.  Everything I have learned along the way has made me better.

I keep thinking about a quotation from Dave Burgess I tweeted out last week.


The last nine years of my agile journey have been challenging, but it has been worth it.  I am a better leader.  I am a better developer.  The software is getting shipped on time, and the office is a little less capricious.  I do not have entitled ten-year old’s threatening to fire me, and the business community seems to be catching up to my way of thinking. 

This hard journey is probably worth it, and I am proud to be sharing it with you.

Until next time.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Flying my Pirate Flag

I am letting my pirate flag fly.
Being a full-time scrum master or agile coach is a labor of love.  An agile coach needs devotion.  The successful scrum master needs to do more than manage the version control system.  At times, they need to act like Don Quixote jousting at windmills.  All the time, they are they misfits in the organization attempting to get it to improve when inertia governs the corporate culture.  It is very lonely, and it requires reservoirs of passion which many people do not possess.  This week, I talk about the passion for being a scrum master.

It takes a unique individual to get up before the sunrise and make a phone call with a group of developers half a world away.  Additionally, that person spends hours to coordinate product owners and executives so that those developers can work efficiently.  A scrum master handles this responsibility with no authority, everyone involved has the right to say no; It takes a particular kind of person to lead and facilitate this type of activity.  It requires passion.

Being human beings, we are creatures guided by emotions and reason. The modern business has toxic emotional situations and pressures to perform.  Over time, it leads to burn out and passive-aggressive behavior.  A person does not give it their all because it will not make a difference to our bosses or the organization.  Only the application of passion can get someone through the day.

Currently, I am reading a fantastic book by Dave Burgess entitled “Teach Like a Pirate.”  Using techniques he has developed over his career as a teacher, Burgess talks about how to be a better teacher using techniques to build a passion for the subject, build rapport with students, and create situations where enthusiasm can triumph.

What is refreshing is Burgess, knows the difficulty of teaching and how high school students can be the most terrible room for any professional.  What is interesting, is that one of the first things he talks about is the need for passion.  He is also brave enough to admit that he cannot be brimming with passion every day.  He calls people who do freaks.

So unless they are all freaks, how is it that outstanding teachers can maintain a passion for what they do?  Burgess gives a simple answer, and that is to ask questions about what inspires passion in a person. The first question is what subject areas in your field of expertise excite you?  For me, it is metrics and measurement of continuous improvement.  Nothing is more satisfying than putting an easy to understand chart on the wall explaining the team is improving.

The next question is what part of your job is the most satisfactory?  It is the reason you keep doing it.  I have written about this for years.  When software ships and the team feels like they have done a good job is what keeps me taking the call from India each day.  The final question is about personal passions.  For me, it is board games, family, friends, craft cocktails, and good food.  Those things provide me with inspiration and love for what I do.

So in the lonely world of a scrum master or agile coach, it helps to find your passion daily.  With Dave Burgess and “Teach Like a Pirate,” I might have seen a means to do that.

Until next time.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Five simple steps.

Constraints matter.
I have been involved with Agile for nine years.  One of the greatest discoveries of my agile journey is the realization that I am learning new things and continuously improving the way I conduct my servant leadership.  I was encouraged to read Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s, “The Goal,” and it exposed me to the theory of constraints.  Now that I have finished the book I have a few thoughts on the subject.

I have written about the theory of constraints in the past.  The main gist of the book is to identify bottleneck or limitations in an organization.  Once you find a restriction, work can be done to mitigate the effects of that obstacle.  It seems common sense, but in the rush and frustration of our daily jobs, we often miss these common sense approaches.

Goldratt shows his most revealing insight. The mitigation of constraints follows a clear and easy to reproduce the process. The process is as follows:
  1. Identify the system's constraint.
  2. Decide how to exploit the system constraint
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decisions
  4. Elevate the system constraint
  5. If in the previous steps a constraint have been broken return to step 1, but do not allow inertia to cause a system constraint.
Five steps and it does not matter if you are working in a machine shop or managing a bunch of creative professionals, a person can improve the efficiency of a process.

I have been struggling with the notion of exploiting and subordinating a constraint.  Fortunately, the theory of constraints has plenty of academic support and an excellent blog about these five steps.  I look forward to using them at my firm.

Until next time.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Empathetic relations come before education

As an agile coach and scrum master, I find myself in a peculiar place.  I have been with one organization for five years, and I am unable to increase their agile maturity.  We are stuck.  We are going through the motions of agile but work is not sustainable, and dysfunction exists between the business partners and the development team.  This week, I face an agile implementation which is stagnating.

As an agile coach and scrum master, you need to take a hard look at yourself and how you do your job.  It is lonely and unforgiving.  You need to evaluate how you can improve and how you help others.  In many respects, you are acting like a teacher, therapist and camp counselor. 

Where do teachers go for support?  How do therapists deal with human suffering without being crushed by its weight?  What does a camp counselor do when they cannot be enthusiastic?  The answer to all of these questions is they depend on the support of peers and more experienced professionals.  There is an entire branch of therapists who treat other therapists.  Teachers have support groups and working teams.  Camp counselors rely on directors and adult leaders for support.

Scrum masters are very alone and are misfits in many organizations.  They belong to a company, but they spend a majority of their time fighting the corporate culture to meet goals.  Their managers misunderstand them and because they do not have any real authority often ignored by others.   For me, I depend on the support of others from the agile coaches’ symposium in Chicago.  I count on my immediate manager and interact with other coaches on LinkedIn. 

I depend on these people like a drowning person clings to piece of driftwood. Leading organizational change requires the stamina of an Olympic athlete, the patience of Job, and the self-esteem of Rod Blagojevich.  Few people have all three of these traits.  It is why I have to depend on the coaching of others.  It is a both a means to improve and receive the support I need to get through the day. 

Currently, I am dealing with exceptional levels of toxicity from business partners.  The situation has deteriorated so much one product owner will not speak to me directly but will tell someone else to convey information to me.  It may be acceptable behavior for mean girls in high school but is outrageous for a business person to act in such a fashion.  All I can do it take responsibility for this professional failure and make the best of the situation. 

Someone I respect said, “Empathetic relations come before education.”  This week that message clobbered me like a sixteen-ton weight.  Crushed by this new knowledge and experience, it occurs to me that I can not just attempt to teach others the skills of agile with the power dynamic of a teacher to a student.  For greater agile maturity at an organization, the coach needs to relate to the business partners as peers. 

If agile is going to grow then, people must want to be open, committed, focused, courageous, and respectful.  It is now clear to me I cannot use the coaching style of a movie director or drill sergeant.  I cannot be a teacher at this stage.  My knowledge needs to be offered as a friend.  If not, then agile will stagnate and not mature at an organization. 

A failure is a useful tool.  It educates more than any success possibly could.  This week, I experienced a failure I might not recover from at my current firm.  Whatever the future might bring, the lessons are going to stick with me the rest of my career.

Until next time.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Social Compact of Agile

If you don't set priorities your office could be like this.
From the Iron Mitten web site.  
One of the biggest challenges in technology is there are not enough people to do all the necessary work.  Only about 18.5 million people in the world of 7.4 Billion people can maintain software and modern computer networks.  That means that less than .05% of the world have the skills to keep the global economy spinning. It would not happen without dedicated project professionals and smart technologists holding everything together.  Without prioritization, the gears of the industry would grind to a halt, and that is what I want to talk about this week.

When Thomas Hobbes wrote “The Leviathan,” in the aftermath of the English Civil War; he spoke about something called the social contract.  The social contract to Hobbes was an unwritten set of rules where individuals traded their liberty with the state in exchange for safety and protection.  Ignore the social contract, and society would collapse, and philosophers and social scientists still use the idea of a social contract to explain how communities work.

In the world of business, we also have social contracts.  People who have more authority have offices instead of cubicles, so they meet with people in private.  When it is time to distribute profits, shareholders receive preference over employees.  Finally, no one gives human resources any trouble because they have the authority to hire and fire anyone.  None of these rules are written down, but we all know they exist.

In agile, there is one social compact.  The product owner sets the priorities, and the development team says how long it is going to take to do the work.  The developers may disagree with the preferences, but they have to accept them.  The product owners may not like how long it will take to do the work, but they have to agree with them.  It is the trade-off which makes agile work.  If neither the developers nor the product owner respects this setup, then the implementation will fail.

It is well and good if you have only one project and one team.  What happens when you have multiple projects and not enough teams to do the work?  It is when prioritization becomes more critical.  Business leaders need to be part of the process, and they need to know what is being worked on and when.

There are plenty of processes to set priorities.  The most significant challenge for me is the mindset of the business of professionals.  Sales and marketing professionals are trained to think each “no” is one less objection to “yes.”  It is admirable for a sales professional; it is madness for a large organization as self-interested and selfish people scratch and claw to “yes.”  Projects hopscotch up and down in priority as developers struggle to stay ahead of the shifting needs of the organization.  Unclean code is released to production because someone needed a feature released “today.” I continue to struggle with this challenge.

So as a scrum master or agile coach, you need to enforce the social contract of agile.  That social contract is product owners set priorities and developers say how long it is going to take to do those priorities.  If you can do this, you just might succeed.

Until next time.



Monday, January 15, 2018

Smoke detectors explain technical debt

Should have checked the smoke detectors.
Since the holidays, I have made a point to spend time with people outside the technology field.  This experience has been beneficial because I spend my time explaining what a scrum master does and how we do it.  This review of the basics is allowing me to reflect on work and how to make it better.  It is a fresh perspective which has allowed me to look at old concepts in a different light.  This week I want to revisit technical debt.

I own my own home.  Since I am a homeowner, I have smoke detectors.  These little battery powered devices warn me when there is a fire or when I am burning a roast on the stove.  So smoke detectors offer protection to a homeowner so they can escape the house quickly and call the fire department.  Smoke detectors are so useful you receive a discount on your home insurance if you have one, and, in some municipalities, you are required to have at least one in your home.

Smoke detectors have one significant drawback; they are battery operated.  When the batteries run out, and a fire breaks out you are helpless.  The smoke detector companies fix this by forcing the alarms to “chirp” which is a friendly reminder to change the batteries.  This week, I awoke to my smoke detector “chirping” at 2 AM in the morning.  Like many men my age, I attempted to roll over in bed and ignore the situation.  Ninety minutes of insomnia later, I wandered the house searching for batteries to replace the faulty one in the “chirping” detector.

The next morning over an extra cup of coffee, it occurred to me that I treated my smoke detector like many organizations treat technical debt.  I do not change batteries until I have to and usually it is at an inconvenient time.  Fortunately, being a former boy scout, I was prepared with batteries in an easy to find location.  I swapped out the batteries and went back to bed. 

If you are a homeowner, you have four strategies to deal with smoke detectors.

  1. Change all the batteries at once typically during daylight savings time.
  2. Change individual batteries when they run out of charge and begin chirping.
  3. Ignore chirping smoke detectors until you get fed up and change the battery.
  4. Remove and disconnect all the smoke detectors and hope you never have to deal with a fire.

As a homeowner, I use strategy two and three.  I know others who use the other two approaches.  Swap out smoke detectors and batteries, and you have the four classic strategies companies use to address technical debt.

The most efficient way to deal with technical debt is to follow the first strategy by changing batteries and updating systems on a regular basis.  By doing this, you reduce expected outages.  Agile and scrum encourage this approach.

Many CIO’s and managers I know consider this madness because there is a not enough time, money or people to keep updating systems.  It means they rely on strategies two and three.  It may be suitable for a chirping smoke detector on a cold night but is lunacy for a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  It creates situations where firms could lose millions of dollars while they wait to bring systems back.   

So the next time someone looks are you funny when you talk about technical debt just explain it to them like changing the batteries in a smoke detector.

Until next time.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Eat up

I feel like a shark!  "Chomp!"
Social movements and organizational change are difficult to measure, and it is particularly hard to do in the world of business.  The business press concentrates on investing and accounting.  Since the beginning of the agile reformation, those of us involved in the change have openly wondered if we are making an actual difference.  As 2018 begins, it looks like agile is becoming mainstream and successful.

In 2011 a famous editorial appeared in the Wall Street Journal, It was titled, “Software is eating the World.”  The principal thesis was for companies to succeed they have to behave more like software companies.  It was a daring argument.   The seven years which followed have vindicated that notion.  Google, Tesla, Amazon and a funny project called Bitcoin are dominating headlines and the business community.

Tesla is still struggling to meet its production commitments and Bitcoin, to me, feels like a blue sky stock but what all of these firms have in common is a willingness to innovate, iterate, and move fast to satisfy customer demand.  Even companies who lost their way are embracing blockchain technologies, cloud computing, and rapid software development. 

It is satisfying to know that my career choices have mirrored changes in the business.  While business is changing business leadership is struggling to keep up.  Organizations charts still matter in many places.  Command and control measures which existed for years are difficult to discard, and inertia prevents most organizational change.

It has created a quandary and spawned an entire industry of coaching and consultants, who are attempting to show others how to do business with the agile paradigm.  What these coaches discover, is a business is a social construct along with a business entity.  The ego of a director may be more important than the needs of the company.  Board members excuse a lousy quarter because they golf with executives.  Whole industries condoned sexual harassment and assault as long as the abusers generated revenue.  

Which is why I find the turnaround at Microsoft so fascinating.  They went from a sales culture under Steve Balmer to an engineering culture under Satya Nadella.  After product failures like Zune, Vista, and Windows Phone, the organization decided to place its future in the hands of a software engineer who felt building better products was the path to commercial success.  It is a gamble which has paid off handsomely.

Microsoft has embraced Agile, and it is paying enormous dividends.  That is why this week an article appeared in Forbes called, “Agile is eating the World.”  The reformation is growing, and the success is getting noticed.  It is a satisfying development to me.  I am no longer a lonely missionary in the wilderness, but a professional at the table is making a difference.  It is nice to see the times change.

Until next time.