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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 Agile's focus on working software over documentation as the right priority for a product team. Any product team will feel like they're driving value into their company when they're able to respond to change rather than merely follow a plan. Benefits abound for teams who want 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 haven't 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 team's adoption of Agile is real - even if a transformation is well funded and supported with coaches & experts.

But wait, there's more - all this agility must happen in the context of delivering software and driving results for a business. Chances are there's 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

09/28/2009  — 

Story of a Surfboard: SF Green Ten-Footer

Like all my boards, this one came to me via Craigslist. Unlike the rest, this green 10-footer is a magic board. The 'magic board' is a special match-up between the traits of a surfboard and the style/strength of its surfer. Swaylocks is loaded with posts about magic boards.

I found the ad on CL while I was travelling. A quick email and call to a friend arranged a pickup. J & J completed the transaction for me. They met the seller at his house in SF who told them that he had used the board for tandem surfing. He was leaving SF and didn't want to bring the board along. J & J squeezed it into their hatchback (somehow) and brought it over when I got back to town.

The brand is SF, a small board-making operation and surfshop in San Francisco. It's a sweet-looking board: Nice green tint, 10' x 23" x3.5", triple-stringer, big fin in the finbox. Big, round rails and lots of volume. Kinda heavy though: lots of glass. When it gets into a wave, it really screams down the line. I've taken it to Linda Mar on small days, Ocean Beach on big days: the board works amazingly well in all conditions. Magic.

A few years back, I experienced a mishap. I paddled out at Linda Mar for a rare midweek after-work session. The waves had some energy and the paddle out took timing and paddle-energy. One incoming wave brought a surprising payload toward me: some hairy dude mis-timed his duck dive and ended up catching the wave backwards. The dude's fin jammed into and cut through the nose of my board. Sure, better the board than my shoulder or neck -- still I had a hole about 'that big' in my heart. Would this kill the magic?

I took the board up to the SF surf shop for repairs. Let John Schultze the board's maker fix it and it'll be good as new. John did a great job with it. When I picked up the board, he remembered making it. We talked about it a bit:

John: "Have you tried it in Bolinas? I made it for that wave."

Me: "Why yes, I have. In fact this board seems to really sing on the waves at Bolinas. It's a perfect match."

Me: "Can you make me an EXACT replica? 3-stringers, single-fin, resin tint? that and the magic. Don't leave out the magic. Oh yeah -- and a tail-block."

John: "Nope. Can't work with giant blanks like that anymore."

Me: gasp! "Then I better take care of this thing."

Today, the board is mostly watertight. Lots of little dings and spider-cracks put this thing at risk for getting waterlogged and eventually destroying it (not to mention hairy dudes who can't duckdive). Each year around my birthday I wax this thing up and drag it up to Bolinas for some magic.

Bottom and tail
Bottom
Deck
Detail of the scar on the nose
More scar
Dimensions

I meant to post a rocker-shot too, I'll do this later.

The deck has the dimensions and says 'For Scott at Ocean Beach'. Who is Scott? Why did he sell the board? What's he surfing now?

04/09/2008  — 

SF's fleaflicker works, crowds duped

Somehow it worked out. The people fell for it.

The plan was to run the Olympic Torch through a gauntlet of protesters along the embarcadero. The pro-tibet and pro-chinese folks were robed in flags and ready to meet for a chant-off. The two groups met, temperatures rose, men with shaved heads pleaded for nonviolence...

Then someone said that the torch was heading up Townsend St. The crowded headed off the Embarcadero.

Then someone said that the torch was being taken from McCovey Cove to the Ferry Building by boat, then a runner would run toward Bay St. The crowds turned and headed toward the Ferry Building.

THEN it turns out that the torch was whisked toward Van Ness by bus. The runner jogged unnoticed into a convenience store, bought a pack of cigarettes and jogged on. All the protesters (and the unfortunate few who just wanted to see the torch) fell for it.

Paige & David got all the good shots.

Some fun things noticed along the way:

  • When in doubt, follow the police choppers
  • How did the flashmob fail?
  • Lots of cameras everywhere
  • The Darfur folks all in green
  • The guys chanting for the Golden State Warriors
  • We missed our chance for millions: should have rented a hotdog stand for the day to sell 'doggie lamas'

02/07/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 4,5,6:

I offer a few recordings tonight: Sing the wolf song is to the lyrics that eve wrote me the other day. Apologies in advance if you listen with dogs in earshot. I added a few more tonight since Eve & I were sitting around with the mic on. We recorded " Always on the Sunnyside" which is something she sings at school, you're supposed to tell some kind of joke in the breaks... something I screwed up of course. This led us toward the ban ana knock-knock, which I also screwed up horribly.

Last night's tune 'i had nothing' was recorded at a rehearsal space with my bandmates (weekly jam-mates?). I basically said, "When I hit record, just start playing." woomp! there it is.

Thanks a bunch for all the notes you've sent me on these things.

Finally, I updated that web page. It's a klunker, but:

  • you can get to everything without digging through directories
  • you can listen to everything through the doodad.
  • the feeds will let you get a ping if there's a new tune.

I think I'm somewhat caught up on the listening now.

Bruce-

Seth-

  • Thanks for putting that itunes doodad together today, if the RSS thing I responded with won't work to pull in the latestgreatest, let me know and I'll cook up a dynamical version of your xml file.
  • t he biggest risk is great. I like the way the energy kind of goes from 0- 60 in the prechorus. Also, nice organ moment, I missed that first time around.
  • eve had a comment on decelerating repetition: 'that's not funny' when I played it for her right before bedtime.
  • free from me is so nice. isn't it amazing how just an additional vocal track can kick up a demo recording?
  • Also, sweet & flavorful AND i n my right time AND the plan in the same upload pile? wow. send more, what are you waiting for?

Peter-

  • I'm in touch with your blog. I enjoy catching the recording detailz over there. I'm not really making too much of an effort to engineer any of my recordings. I'll start to pay a little more attention to this and put some factoids together.
  • Lyudmila works! Is that a love song about this betty?
  • I enjoyed stat ement of too. It comes across as very thought-out and deliberate.

Derek-

  • It's been a treat to hear these gems. I mentioned this to you in an IM the other day, but I'll mention it here for the groop: Your recordings are so hi-fi! In a rush, I downloaded baker sfield to my phone while I was on the bart. I listened to it on the .5 inch speaker and wow... I heard all the backup vocals even...
  • dow n the hole- I love it. It's serious! I don't think I've heard you open up like that before! Beautiful.

02/05/2008  — 

29 Songs: Day 3: More To Come

So I flaked out a little tonight. I was under a schedule crunch today... so I dealt with it through some guitar crunch: partial rock, maybe I'll finish off Drums & Vox along with another song on another day. Here's something... zvex nano head in the house! Mo re to Come

A few other notes on the recent gems:

01/10/2008  — 

Tuesday night covers