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01/22/2020  — 

Why is Agile Popular?

Believe it or not- I've been trying to invest a little more time writing lately. Part of this motivation comes from working on stories highlighting capabilities and success that the Lab Zero team has had in working with our clients. The ice-age this-here personal blog has experienced will warm, maybe even thaw. I recently put a quick answer onto Quora and figured I'd capture it here too.

Question: Why is Agile So Popular?

Short answer: Agile is not popular.

My answer will focus on the software world but there are many other ways to tell this story without the software focus.

The promise of Agility is awfully alluring for roles close to the work in a typical org: product managers, designers, and engineers. The way Agile prefers 'individuals & interactions' over 'tools & process' breathes fresh air into a normally stifled environment. Many see Agiles focus on working software over documentation as the right priority for a product team. Any product team will feel like theyre driving value into their company when theyre able to respond to change rather than merely follow a plan. Benefits abound for teams who wants a sustainable pace of work and a high level of accountability. Benefits abound for organizations who want unstoppable, self-organizing teams to drive value.

There are of course real practical challenges in moving a team to a new way of working in companies that havent already made the leap into Agility. Most people in the software world have encountered these challenges at some point in their career: people get tripped-up on writing / sizing / accepting stories, overloading sprints, and so on and so on. The friction that slows and challenges a teams adoption of Agile is real - even if a transformation is well funded and supported with coaches & experts.

But wait, theres more - all this agility must happen in the context of delivering software and driving results for a business. Chances are theres someone in the PMO (not to pick on Program Management) who wants some predictability in planning a portfolio of work. They have genuine needs involving knowing when reliable work will be delivered. The predictability they seek is critical to the success of the business. Even though Agile programs can be predictable, many aren't at first. How patient can a business be before it sees results from an investment in agility? (spoiler: not very patient)

Here's where it gets tricky- unless someone brings the leadership along, the agile transformation will fail. The work of connecting a plan with a vision forces leadership to take what can feel like a trust-fall. If you've ever helped a leader through their 'trough of despair' in adopting new tricks, you've seen why many agile transformations fail. Investment that doesn't serve a business is waste. No leader can waste time or money in pursuit of agility if it's not showing a benefit.

Most agile transformations fail at one of these levels: team, portfolio planning, leadership. Transformations will fail because teams lack clear signals showing where to focus training. Teams need access to experts in product management, design, and engineering - not just coaches. They will fail because planners aren't supported in working with agile teams. They will fail because leaders haven't bought-into their role in an agile organization. They will fail because leaders haven't seen the benefit to the business.

Sounds pretty bleak, huh? Well that's why you're on Quora, right? When I say 'fail' here I mean that the promise or potential of Agile is never realized. Instead, an organization will settle for some blend of old and new. If they're lucky they can see some small benefit. But the story doesn't have to be this bleak. With access to expertise (from outside the organization) and commitment (within) to driving change, any company at any scale can reach it.

Agile is a rare, beautiful thing - and really totally invisible to the people within it when working its best. I suspect very few software professionals will ever encounter this in their careers. Agile is not popular, but it's worth pursuing.

Go see it in the wild: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Agile-so-popular/answer/Chris-Greacen

06/24/2009  — 

Allspaw talks at Velocity Conf.

John Allspaw put together some great slides about his experiences in an organization where Ops and Engineering work well together. John describes a dream environment -- flashes of which I experienced during peak periods of fun at Kodak and Meez, but never became as institutionalized as it seems to be at Flickr.

Here are the slides from his talk: "10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr" (video of the whole talk is coming soon):

More Velocity Conf action on Twitter. Some good stuff going on there! Worth checking out John Adams' talk about scaling Twitter too.

More vids and docs on the O'Reilly site.

02/13/2008  — 

Engineering... and lack of

Lots of new stuff to listen to on the 29 songs site, so get started! I won't link directly to songs, just go click on the player.

Bruce: what's your deal? You're getting incredible guitar tones. You're playing all over the place... hitting jan hammer, buckethead, and tbone burnett in the same week.

  • Black carpet fuzz - I loves me some fuzz. What are you using here?
  • Sunshine - really polished, nice build.
  • Smile - what am I listening to here? This sounds great.

Seth: You are cranking winners out at what, like 3 at at time? You'll have 2 years of material to refine by March at this pace.

  • you leaving - very catchy, I sang that one for a few days.
  • In fifths - fun!
  • Something on me - I love the Billy Joel vibe: "I got you right where..."
  • Simply meant... - I especially like the b section.
  • Valentine - nice, quiet, sweet lyrics... oh yeah, it's almost valentine's day isn't it.

Peter: You're in the week 2 doldrums but you can bust through!

  • This thing - you cranked that out on the fly? I love the woodwind arrangements.
  • Long Road - deep & dark.

Derek:

  • Bugs - I know 30 thousand people in india who will stand up in their cubicles and cheer when they hear that song
  • Bird - roolz of course. Props for playing to the ad-lib'd a-capella vocals. Exploit those kids!
  • Anne Hamburger - It's stuck in my mind now too.
  • Microphone - You can have it if you really want it.

Derek & I had a funny chat about engineering voodoo the other day:

Chriz Greacen: one final final factoid...

Derek: k

Chriz Greacen: I'm borrowing a drum kit from tornatore.

Chriz Greacen: it sounds AMAZING.

Chriz Greacen: it's just a really nice sounding kit. something custom

Derek: how do you record vocals?

Derek: where is the mic aimed?

Derek: distance?

Chriz Greacen: http://www.drumsolo.cc/index.html

Chriz Greacen: vocals: mic aimed at my mouth

Chriz Greacen: it's about 2 feet away

Chriz Greacen: I'm standing under a surfboard

Chriz Greacen: which is right at my head level

Chriz Greacen: and right near the mic

Derek: what color surfboard?

Chriz Greacen: I wonder if that has any effect.

Chriz Greacen: it's white

Chriz Greacen: but it's in a big silver bag

Derek: is that the secret?

Chriz Greacen: and it has wax on it.

Chriz Greacen: could be!

Derek: I've tried everything, from aiming the mic at my nostrils, mouth, forhead, pointing up, down and straight on, distant, not so distant, up close, etc

Derek: I can't get any midrange. Just irritating fizzy highs and muddy lows

Chriz Greacen: I'll give you the mic to try if you want.

Chriz Greacen: I just need to get my 'real' studio truly dusted off.

Derek: it's likely my voice, but everything records that way through the mic. Maybe I don't llike my mic.

I'm uniquely unsuited for handling engineering responsibilities of any complexity because of my short attention span, lack of familiarity with the physics of sound, and penchant for shortcuts. I'm not recording engineer, but I played one on the web:

Check out the Clubbo Website for more about the Lazarus project and learn how lazarus keeps rock legends alive.