"Assume that the cow is a sphere"

Anchor for this item  posted Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at 1:30 PM MST

*as usual, posting a new item makes the title of the previous item disappear. blogger.com is going to lose my blog ASAP; I'm sick of this crap*

"Assume that the cow is a sphere" sez the theoretical physicist; the punchline to a joke about how to optimize a dairy farm. But really, sometimes experts are like that. So, really, let's start at the beginning, yes?

"The value of following an agreed-upon process in software development is well-established. But what sort of process? How complex?"
--"Does process matter?" at 128.ibm.com/developerworks/

"What's missing from most of the Agile dialog that I find are methods for fixing, or working with, dysfunctional organizations. That's been the case so much that I've narrowed my interest in Agile to just that: how can you make Agile software development work in crappy situations, and/or when do you give up?"
--"Dysfunctional Agile, Agile-in-the-Large" (where I found the joke) at redmonk.com/cote/

"Imagine that we had a way of sending actors from Broadway to Hollywood that involved putting them in cars and driving them across the country. Some of these cars crashed, killing the poor actors. Sometimes the actors arrived in a different order than they had set out, because they all took different routes. Now imagine a new service called Hollywood Express, which delivered actors to Hollywood, guaranteeing that they would (a) arrive (b) in order (c) in perfect condition. The magic part is that Hollywood Express doesn't have any method of delivering the actors, other than the unreliable method of putting them in cars and driving them across the country. Hollywood Express works by checking that each actor arrives in perfect condition, and, if he doesn't, calling up the home office and requesting that the actor's identical twin be sent instead. If the actors arrive in the wrong order Hollywood Express rearranges them. If a large UFO on its way to Area 51 crashes on the highway in Nevada, rendering it impassable, all the actors that went that way are rerouted via Arizona and Hollywood Express doesn't even tell the movie directors in California what happened. To them, it just looks like the actors are arriving a little bit more slowly than usual, and they never even hear about the UFO crash.
That is, approximately, the magic of TCP."
--"The Law of Leaky Abstractions" at joelonsoftware.com

"But should just this one person truly check in, you think, the whole team will be moved to a better ground. Even if team members backslide, and all do, they won't forget this vivid instance of accountable behavior and the simple, unambiguous actions that supported it.
One self-respecting person, you reflect, with even a modest degree of personal engagement, is all it takes to start this team on the path toward much greater achievement. No permission is required for the pursuit of greatness, no consensus to improve your own results. All the orgs and re-orgs in the whole damn corporate universe, all the resources consumed and processes proceeding can't stop one honest person from making sure he spends his time wisely. And that's all that is needed to get the ball rolling.
Why not believe, you think. Pretend. OK. So from this one moment of surpassing individual and dawning team clarity, this whole group will quicken, will revive."
--"The Elements of Check In" at safari.oreilly.com

Last week I wrote a note to a friend talking about how closed and over-controlled some nominally OpenSource projects are. In effect ... because the self-identified elite core group keeps in touch back-channel, to maintain exclusivity i.e. excluding others. We can talk about "disruptive technologies" but essentially it's still a game of turf-control ... foundationally and primarily zero-sum. I was saying how my church-mouse siddha perspective keeps me zoned in on my goal: doing my bit to avoid Global Gulag, not contributing to dynamics that drive us in that direction.

I related to him how the big avionics R&D project I helped drag out of the ditch benefitted from informal morning meetings. (see ''ScrumDevelopment'' - YahooGroups) 5 or 7 key team leaders, early morning, as regularly as practicable ... just checking in ... lateral, non-linear ... anecdotes, complaints, questions from interest and curiosity ... in the end as good as any military SitRep. Fact was that we all of us cared about the project and we none of us were protecting turf. Is all. The only thing left was to actually do the work. But at least we had our feet on the ground.

To wrap this up:

"Ansu Sharma suggests that Enterprise 2.0 is same as Web 2.0. I disagree: [4 major points follow]"
--"Enterprise 2.0 ? Web 2.0: A Proof in Four Steps" at annezelenka.com


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