Archive for the ‘Alistair Cockburn’ Category

Field notes from SEPG-NA 2009 – Wednesday

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

IMGP0705-400San Jose, CA.  Behold: Alistair Cockburn.  At the end of SEPG-Europe 2008, I was in a conversation with SEPG program chair, Dr. Caroline Graettinger.  We were discussing the theme of the 2009 series of SEPG conferences on Next Generation of process.  I immediately thought of and fired off an email to Alistair.  Intrigued, he said that he’s working on a very similar sounding set of ideas calling them, Software Development in the 21st Century, and accepted shortly thereafter.

This ideas are based in metaphors to help really manage software development the way software is really developed.  Cooperative Games, Craft, and Lean.  The details of this talk are on Alistair’s web site.IMGP0719-400

Alistair was poignant (despite mentioning me by name) and funny and fielded questions from the audience.  Kudos my friend.

Another Jim as Sr. Director for Software Quality, Jim Sartain, currently at Adobe, came next.  Previously at Intuit and before then HP.  Leading with the fact that TSP goes where he goes.  (See more later.)  He showed the same slide from yesterday’s Intuit presentation showing "most admired companies" where Intuit is #1 and Adobe is #2.

ANOTHER "quality" person with a REAL personality!  A clean-sweep for great SEPG speakers!  Too bad the economy kept more people from experiencing them!IMGP0720-400

Jim spoke about giving engineers the tools and work-life balance that can double their productivity and morale. Note: research this when there’s time.  And while I’m at it, research why it’s the commercial companies of the world who truly embrace quality culture and the government-oriented ones don’t.  (Never mind, that’s rhetorical.)

Wanna "get" how serious they are?  They frakking flew Watts Humphrey in to San Jose to launch TSP and brought as many engineers from around the world in to hear it.  But since their operations in India are so significant, they did it again in India!

Their results with TSP are beyond quality improvements, but work-life balance, team commitment, team self-direction, senior leadership buy-in (removing IMGP0723-400obstacles).  TSP provided a means of measuring the effort and using that data to negotiate better expectations.  (Both Alistair and Jim noted the importance of metrics to transparency and improvement.)  Jim also took questions including why to wrap TSP in Scrum.  Reasons: (1) Product owner, and (2) defined "done" at each iteration.  It turns out that TSP came to Adobe, not because of Jim bringing it rather because people at Adobe heard the great TSP stories coming from Intuit and "want sum’dat!"

IMGP0727-400 A first for SEPG, was the inclusion of time between the morning’s keynotes and lunch for very user-group-esque "peer to peer" sessions.  Conference participants self-selected into table-top discussions driven by other attendees, not selected by the conference program.  In fact, attendees put up topics and volunteered to lead them — or put up topics in hopes of someone else showing up to lead and play subject-matter-expert.  To no-one’s surprise, David Anderson signed up for agile and lean discussions.  (David’s in the ruddy color left of center in the image.)  And, again, to no-one’s surprise, there were more people interested in this topic than room at any one table, so the conference logisticians moved the crowd to its own room where, as can be seen in the photo, numbered several dozen people.  Subsequent to this image, more arrived and were standing around the seated area.  One might sense a trend of growing interest in this population for the last few years whenever the terms "CMMI" and "Agile" are put together, eh?  As it turns out, of the several simultaneous peer-to-peer sessions, the two with the most participants were the Agile-related one and the TSP one.

(Well, super insider’s double-hush secret preview scoop of things to come: expect Agile, Lean, and TSP to start showing more prominently both at SEPG and throughout the work being done at SEI.)

David lead Achieving High Maturity with Kanban mini-tutorial.  His talk was mostly about the culture necessary to achieve high IMGP0728-400maturity and how Kanban can facilitate it that.  But describing it that way makes it sound like it was a commercial for Kanban.  It wasn’t.  It was about culture’s and measurement’s roles in maturity of development, productivity, quality and production management.  How the data drives the actions of the teams and these actions can be demonstrably linked to things that can actually be managed.  One way to summarize is in how he said, that "level 5" results are achievable by setting expectations of level 5 behavior as a matter of culture.  It’s telling that David’s session spanned 2 normal sessions.  People had the opportunity to leave mid-way and go to other sessions.  Despite other session opportunities, there was a net gain of attendees in David’s session.

imageAfter that, came me.

The CMMI Guide to the Perplexed.

Well-attended, many friendly faces and most people seemed to enjoy it.  Lots of positive feedback… of course, detractors seldom tell you to your face, do they!  You can get the presentation here.

Field notes from SEPG-NA 2009 – Monday

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

San Jose, CA.  I’m at (no surprise) SEI’s annual big deal conference, SEPG-NA.  As might be expected, attendance is way down due to the economy.  SEI had to scale back a lot of the more splashy touches — no-frills tote bag, nixed VIP socials mixers bare bones staff.

kanban_ladas I arrived in time to teach a CMMI-SVC Supplement course for the SEI on Sunday — scheduled to coincide with SEPG for the convenience of travel — that evening I shared conversation and a bottle of really nice California Merlot with Alistair Cockburn, Tami Zemel and Steve Masters.  Earlier in the day Alistair listened in on my class from the corridor and over cheese and fruit bluntly reported that the content made his ears bleed.  Unfortunately, he’s right.  Despite the mostly very positive feedback, there’s only so much charisma can do for certain SEI materials.

Alistair challenged me to explain CMMI to him in 5 minutes or less or he’d fall asleep.  I believe I succeeded.  He Tweeted as much at least.  As it turns out, not to either of our surprise, whether using agile terms or traditional terms, if you’re working to improve the experience and situation of "development", you have the same goals and face the same challenges.  With that settled we called it a night and met this morning over breakfast to joke about travel anecdotes and strategize our individual plans for the day.

image With other obligations on my plate for this week, this morning I only sat in on half of a half-day tutorial this morning on the excellent topic of The Role of Organizational Culture in Process Improvement.  Rather than a bunch of finger-wagging (which, from other presenters, such a topic title might devolve into), anthropologists, Palma Buttles and Fred Valdez, and process improvement uber-guru Judah Mogilensky gave a very well-informed, thoroughly enjoyable, interactive and insightful tutorial on several very specific attributes of culture that affect how to introduce, address and implement process improvement, and the challenges faced by consultants, appraisers and users alike due to culture.  Concepts on the perception of time, surface or hidden emotion/expression, stated vs. rewarded values, and so on.  During this session, David Anderson arrived.  We commiserated over the registration statistics and what it may imply for other large-scale conferences like Agile2009.

To round-out the day’s sessions I attended Corey Ladas’ mini-tutorial, Launching a Kanban System for Software Engineering.  He put up a slide depicting a "waterfall" life cycle which included a "stabilization" phase-gate to which he said, "I don’t think I’m saying anything anyone doesn’t already know will fail."  Someone in the audience stopped him to ask (with incredulous tone in her voice), "Are you trying to say that this approach doesn’t work?"  <<Snicker.>>

After the tutorial, I headed off to the exhibit area for the "grand opening" of the exhibit hall.  As part of the fanfare, a troupe was hired to march around the exhibit hall in oriental dragon costumes accompanied by drums and cymbals.  It was festive and lively.  Though it would have been more appropriate had they been asked to start things off, lead everyone into the hall, do a circuit around the hall, then be done.  Instead, they continued to perform for a lot longer than needed.  In addition to causing traffic problems (which wasn’t really a huge issue), they made it hard to speak while nearby.  That was an oversight.  After a break, they returned to continue, only playing softer.  Still, their initial display was too long and they didn’t have to come back.  It wasn’t that it was bad, it was merely unnecessary.  As for the exhibit hall… so sad… so many fewer, and each booth featured fewer people.  The student posters, were a refreshing new feature this year.  I was impressed with their efforts, both in terms of research and commitment.  First person I ran into was from, of all places, UMBC.  Yup, home turf.

Afterwards, David Anderson and his gf joined several of us for a wind-down at the Marriott’s concierge lounge.  Well, as I should expect, my increased visibility within SEI and within the CMMI-oriented market has also resulted in never having to sit alone if I didn’t want to.  Even then, I didn’t always succeed in getting long stretches of time on my own.

Lurking at Agile2007

Thursday, August 16th, 2007


So I’ve been down to the Agile2007 venue twice this week.

Unfortunately a host of converging factors prevented me from making it a priority to attend.  Leaving me to just lurk a bit on two occasions.  How can I simply lurk without attending?  Well, it’s being held in DC which is just miles down I-95 from Baltimore, my new base of operations since March 2006.

What conspire against my attending include primarily the fact that I will be "out of pocket" (that means away from my usual place of work or sleep) for the better part of 2 of the next 3 weeks. Adding a complete 4th week to that ratio would not be good for my family or my clients.

While I couldn’t attend during working hours, I’d had reason to swing through Monday and Wednesday evenings.  It was nice as I either met, ran into, or was otherwise introduced to a lot of neat folks.  Some whom I’d only corresponded with via email, and others whose works I’ve read.

Several groups and committees are taking advantage of the confluence of personages descending upon the conference to conduct some necessary face-to-face business.  One such committee met on Monday evening after the end of conference sessions, where I participated in a collective contributive effort to forge a document for IEEE.  The purpose of the document is to  facilitate  set expectations  establish relationship patterns … well… you can see that it’s still a bit fuzzy as of close of meeting on Monday.  But the doc has something to do with guiding people who want to acquire agile  software  development  engineering  services, and helping them be aware of what agile followers and buyers of agile services should consider in the transaction.

OK, so, that’s a really convoluted way of saying that it’s just supposed to help communication and understanding between (ostensibly) traditional-development oriented buyers (read: US Federal Government) and what they can expect when wanting to contract with technology developers using agile methods.  But saying that was just not gonna sit well with everyone on the committee.  All of whom were practitioners of Agile in some way and all but me and one other were attending the conference.

Among the IEEE doc crowd (all good people) was Scott Ambler, with whom I’d corresponded before, but never met in person.  He pretty much looks just like his picture.  I was bummed to not have more time chatting with him.  Outside of the group’s facilitator, I had never met or corresponded with any of the other folks, and don’t know much about their exploits.  Of Scott, I’d had occasion to volley on some lists in the past.

After the meeting a few of us were mulling about.  That’s where I saw Ken Pugh gliding by.  I’ve only known Ken for about a year when we met a consulting retreat.  Until then, I’d only been tangentially aware of his work in refactoring, actually called PREfactoring (emphasis mine).   Almost simultaneously, Clementino Mendonca of Microsoft found me and we chatted a bit about MSF for CMMI.  I told him about my fabulously easy experience conducting a "Gap Analysis" for CMMI at a client using the templates, and he insisted I write an experience article about it for him to add to their "learning" repository or somesuch.  Just a few weeks ago, I’d fielded a question on an MSF forum he moderates.  Gotta love timing.

Shortly afterwards I was heading the the direction of the WC when I heard my name being called in Scottish.  It was none other than David Anderson, with whom I’d been texting and Skyping on and off all day to figure out if/how/when we’d get together.  The plan was for later in the week, but we thought it would be nice if we could at least say "hello" while I was there.  Instead, he ushered me into the icebreaker event where I ran into Brian Lyons, CEO of NumberSix Software, of whom I blogged last month.

Wednesday evening was the APLN annual meeting.  I arrived with 30 minutes to spare, which was nice because to get to the meeting room you had to walk through the display area.  Also known as the "trade-show" floor.  I saw Ken Schwaber hanging out with the Scrum Alliance folks.  Though I’m considering becoming one of the only Lead Appraisers to also go through the Certified ScrumMaster training class (example), I didn’t want to interrupt him to just say, hello.  He doesn’t know me from Adam, as far as I know.

NumberSix had the booth closest to the room APLN was using and Brian Lyons decided to rib me about not being at the conference.

At the APLN meeting room I spoke some more with Clementino.  Only this time it was about Jeff Sutherland’s work (info here) with an organization achieving CMMI Maturity Level 5 while also using Scrum for development.  Clementino and I were agreeing about the boon to both camps that such a report could have.  In fact, I’d pointed out that the report had already caught the attention of the SEI and that the Lead Appraiser, Kent Johnson, is well-known and respected at the SEI and has been around CMM/CMMI for a while.  Here we go with timing again!

David Anderson had snuck in and sat behind my field of view and I didn’t know he was there until he spoke up about a topic of discussion.  I later learned that he’d been waiting for me outside in the lobby, concerned that I couldn’t get in to the meeting room because it was in a room in the conference area and I wasn’t properly badged for entry.  I guess all the qualified rent-a-cops were taken by DHS.

At the meeting was Alistair Cockburn, whom I really wanted to meet because he was probably the first Agile name to read my first published article and he said nice things about it.  My wife finds it fun to compare what people look like in person to what they look like in pictures, and even better, what they look like if you’ve never even seen them.  So for her, I note that Alistair is buff and was rather tan, in case anyone was wondering… but he bailed out before I could get a chance to meet him face-to-face.  Though seeing him "in action" was quite a treat.

After the APLN meeting, David and I went out for some DC culture.  The BrickSkeller (Don’t Google it.  Google returns their old, awful, site; don’t go there unless you don’t need your eyes).  I’m glad it wasn’t disappointing, in that despite having not been there in years, the kitchen was still slow but the beer was still plentiful and fabulous!  We both opted for a seasonal summer draught from Dogfish Head Brewery of Delaware that was absolutely perfect!  We munched, sipped and chatted about all things Agile/CMMI/Lean and related topics.  He then invited me to visit with some Microsoft buds (where he worked until about a year ago) who, it turned out, were dining at The Brickskeller’s sister pub, RFD.  Smaller beer selection, closer to the hotel, but nowhere near the character as it’s nestled in the newly revitalized China Town neighborhood (7th and F,G,H, I Streets, NW) of the District.  (As a complete aside, I must note how impressed I am with how effective and successful the re-vitalization of that area has worked!)

Many of these folks were also at the APLN meeting, but I didn’t know who they were at that time.  In fact, one is the current president of the organization.  One topic of conversation was a set of planning poker cards I picked up at one of the booths.  It was really pleasant to meet them and talk about agile ideas with a fun (and good-looking) group of people.  I’ve really gotta say a public "thank you" to David for is hospitality and generosity.  Not to mention his ideas.  He convinced me to write two books, like yesterday, and offered to co-author another with me.  What was that I was saying about timing?  Now, I just need to go find some more!

And well, that’s it.  I can’t exactly call it a "report" from Agile2007, but I hope to rectify that next year.  At least next year there won’t be a similar event like there is this year to get in my way of attending.