I suspect most of us working in IT today use agile methodologies such as Kanban, Scrum and Safe. We also strive to keep up to date with the latest developments in languages, libraries, patterns, architectures etc.

All of this is with the intent of improving the delivery speed, quality, efficiency, maintainability and the cost effectiveness of the systems we build – oh, and whilst improving our CVs at the same time.

Care though is needed to ensure we don’t get distracted by these tools from delivering the solutions they were employed for. This often isn’t through any specific fault with the methods and tools themselves but how we set about using them. 

There can often be a blinkered tendency to maniacally focus on the tools and methods themselves and in doing so fail to deliver most effectively on actual requirements and customer needs. If all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.

Worse still, the job can become about servicing the tools used to do the work rather than the product of the work itself.

Furthermore these tools are often barely distinguishable from each other and for most use cases it doesn’t much matter if you use one or another; Java or .NET, AWS or GCP, Scrum or Kanban. Use what works for your team and be the master of tools, not a slave to them.

The product of your creativity is that which you build, value is derived from how your customers use the product.

Focus on the product and value it gives to your customers. Produce working solutions first and foremost – functionally and non-functionally – as efficiently as can be.

Over time we learn new methods and tools that improve delivery and optimise value for the customer but we need always be mindful that tools and methods are only a means to an end and not an end in themselves.

A Years Worth

A few Christmases ago I was messing about creating bubble maps – no doubt in some mince pie and port induced state of inebriation (quality of code is consequently as you’d expect).

I’d long forgotten about this until Kent Becks recent post on about trying to understand A Year’s Worth of effort.

This looked familiar and so with a little manipulation here’s a simple utility to convert priority ordered stories into a visual bubble map.

SAFe Shite!

SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework – for which I will not provide the link because they don’t deserve it) is worthless shite!

It’s just a bunch of practices developed elsewhere, rebranded by a cabal of consultants to cream money out of large organisations. The only additions it brings are there to placate management by helping mascarade traditional waterfall processes and hierarchical structures as “agile” – it does little to nothing new to actually change the org!

Save your money and go open source with your processes. SAFe is bollocks!

Capabilities and Responsibilities

According to TFD, “capabilities” are:

  1. The quality of being capable; ability.
  2. A talent or ability that has potential for development or use: student of great capabilities.
  3. The capacity to be used, treated, or developed for a specific purpose: nuclear capability.
Whereas “responsibilities” are:
  1. The state, quality, or fact of being responsible.
  2. Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden.

The words “developed for a specific purpose” indicate; at least to some extent, a degree of responsibility. All too often whether we are responsible for some function or ability is forgotten in the enthusiasm to build it. Blinded by the simple fact that we have the ability or potential we charge ahead regardless of whether it’s really our responsibility.

It’s not necessarily wrong – if no-one else takes responsibility or you want to compete in some capability then so be it – but in a larger enterprise you could just be in-fighting, duplicating effort or neglecting your true responsibilities. Something start-ups may not suffer from (or end up dying silently from in the cacophony of the market)…

Having the ability to do something does not make it the right thing to do. We talk a lot about capability, we need to talk more about responsibility. After all, what would the world be like if we all chose to exercise our (amateur) nuclear capabilities?