1. The new frontier Seth’s Blog

    What, exactly, is wrong with the old frontier?

    When Google + launched, millions of formerly optimistic people became optimistic again. Maybe this was going to be the one, the social network with just the smart people and none of the lame stuff, none of the spam or the pitches or the people we’re trying to avoid.

    And the same thing is true when the pack runs to the new nightclub, the new technology, the new suburban subdivision. Maybe this will be the one…

    Of course, it rarely is. So much disappointment and so much bitterness. It’s never as great as you hoped it would be. Ennui and then, eventually, waiting for yet another new frontier.

    It’s the old frontier that actually presents the most interesting opportunities, because the shine has worn off. This is your platform for real innovation, innovation in a place or a market or a situation that truly is ready for it.

  2. When Not to Use Scrum The Scrum Crazy Blog

    Don’t get me wrong, people! I am CRAZY about Scrum. Just ask my wife(she gets sick of hearing about it sometimes)! I’m probably the biggest Scrum fan on the planet!

    However, I’ve encountered certain situations where it doesn’t seem like Scrum works well. They all pretty much boil down to two generic cases:

    • Applying Scrum to a problem domain it was not designed for, or
    • Applying Scrum where people or processes actively or passively work against Scrum principles.

    IMO, Scrum may not be the best fit for:

    1. Companies who will actively or passively work against Scrum and its major principles.
      • This includes companies that do Faux Scrum.
      • If the Company doesn’t care what process is used at the team level, and won’t constantly act against Scrum, then Scrum is fine at the team level.
    2. Companies who are expecting a lot of benefits from Scrum but cannot commit to doing Scrum in a good faith, holistic, way.
    3. Companies that like to matrix numerous people into numerous projects.
      • Matrixing at the Product Owner or ScrumMaster level *may* be ok(but probably not optimum) if the people are experienced/highly knowledgeable in those roles.
    4. Teams who cannot commit to a week of fairly fixed scope (say, where < ~70-80% of the scope is fixed for a week).
      • Examples of teams that sometimes cannot hold to this are generally interrupt driven type organizations, like network support, production support, software operation support, etc. A Kanban type of approach can be considered with such highly variable scope, but I’m not a fan of the Kanban movement yet because it is still incubating IMO.
      • Be careful on this one.  If your team experiences high scope churn, it may just be a really bad dysfunction that needs rectifying.  Look closely before discarding Scrum here.
    5. Teams where members and/or leaders will actively or passively work against Scrum and its major principles.
      • This includes companies that do Faux Scrum.
      • Stealth approaches are fine, but if there isn’t enough consensus to work within the Scrum framework(especially from team leaders), then results will probably be mediocre.
      • I have seen some team leads(or functional managers) who embrace the principle of self organization (always to a point, especially if the team lead has more command and control responsibility from above), and I have seen team leads who just can’t let go of the authority. In cases where a team leader cannot let go of the authority, Scrum may be a disaster, especially for those advocating for it. If you’re in one of these situations and you really love Scrum, find a new team or organization to work for that truly embraces Scrum.
    6. Something other than software development.
      • It’s my personal view that true Scrum is for software development. One can adapt Scrum to other domains, but then it’s not really Scrum any more. One can certainly use “adapted pseudo Scrum” effectively, but that’s only if the person guiding the adaptations is a Scrum and/or process expert. I strongly believe that many Scrum concepts can be “lifted out” and used very successfully elsewhere — but again, that’s not really Scrum any more IMO.

    Again, please don’t take this the wrong way and use these scenarios as an excuse to “give up on Scrum.” Scrum is about the “art of the possible,” and the only time it doesn’t work is when it is not ‘possible.’ I believe the situations above to be when Scrum *may* not be possible (or at least very difficult). In pretty much any other situations than the ones described above, I will defend Scrum heavily as possible and potentially highly beneficial.

    Below are some examples of interesting situations where I didn’t think Scrum was the best fit.

    Example #1

    I had a company call me once for advice on Scrum. In short, they were doing the typical consulting firm thing where everyone works on ~3+ projects at once, which meant ~3+ different teams for each team member. I told her they either need to re-org into teams that work as teams, or forget about Scrum and find something else. I love Scrum, but matrix hell is Scrumbut City and it won’t work.

    Example #2

    (in this one I didn’t recommend against Scrum per se)

    I interviewed to be a Scrum Coach(as a consultant) with a company. They had a couple of major Scrumbuts that they were unwilling to change, yet they expected to obtain significant productivity gains from using Scrum and wanted me to make that happen. An hour or so after the interview, I called the person who set up the interview and I told them I didn’t believe they would reap the benefits they sought because they weren’t really willing to embrace Scrum. As such, since I didn’t think it would be a successful engagement, I politely declined.

  3. Oct 7, 2011 - Ten Years Later Calamities of Nature
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  4. Open conversations (or close them) Seth’s Blog

    A guy walks into a shop that sells ties. He’s opened the conversation by walking in.

    Salesman says, “can I help you?”

    The conversation is now closed. The prospect can politely say, “no thanks, just looking.”

    Consider the alternative: “That’s a [insert adjective here] tie you’re wearing, sir. Where did you buy it?”

    Conversation is now open. Attention has been paid, a rapport can be built. They can talk about ties. And good taste.

    Or consider a patron at a fancy restaurant. He was served an old piece of fish, something hardly worth the place’s reputation. On the way out, he says to the chef,

    "It must be hard to get great fish on Mondays. I’m afraid the filet I was served had turned."

    If the chef says, “I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your meal…” then the conversation is over. The patron has been rebuffed, the feedback considered merely whining and a matter of personal perspective.

    What if the chef said instead, “what kind of fish was it?” What if the chef invited the patron back into the kitchen to take a look at the process and was asked for feedback?

    Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning… for both sides.

  5. Event Sourcing as a strategic advantage Jimmy Bogard’s Blog

    Very often you hear Domain-Driven Design recommended as an approach that should not be applied except in a few key strategic scenarios. The reasons for this are quite simple: DDD is expensive. Not in the time it takes to code the patterns (typing is cheap), but in the time it takes to build an understanding of the domain, form a model, and refine that model over time. The code is cheap, the conversations leading up to the code are expensive.

    That said, DDD is an effective approach when the system you’re building is part of the strategic advantage of the business. If the system is important to the company because its revenue depends on how well the system aligns with the company’s short- and long-term objectives, then it will probably (hopefully) receive enough investment to realize that strategic advantage.

    If you’re already going the DDD route, you’ll eventually come to a choice on what mechanism you’d like to use to model your domain. Currently, you have two major choices:

    • Persisting current state
    • Persisting as a stream of events

    The first approach is the “traditional” DDD approach, most thoroughly explained in the “Applying Domain-Driven Design and Patterns” book. This is where you’ll find technical discussions on entities, aggregates, repositories and so on.

    If you’ve already taken the plunge to “do DDD”, then Event Sourcing as a means of enhancing the strategic advantage that DDD brings is something that should be seriously considered.

    Strategic advantages of event sourcing

    Event sourcing is simply a mechanism of realizing state by capturing a stream of events. The final picture of state is available by replaying sequence of events that led to that final state.

    In television crime drama shows, the investigators walk into a crime scene, which represents the final state of a system. Then there’s some sort of flashback where the crime is replayed as the series of events that led to that final result. Without the television magic of replaying the events, it’s difficult to deduce why the current state is where it is. But if you’re trying to understand why the current state is what it is, the final state is not nearly as useful as the series of events that led to that endpoint.

    In critical business systems, state is often not nearly as important as the behavior that led to that current state. This behavior could be users purchasing items, orders being shipped, etc. These events are what reflect the health of the business, as they represent activities that actually result in revenue for the business.

    As a business matures, you often see that in order to promote growth of the business, their strategic advantage lies in how well they understand the why of where their revenue comes from. It’s not enough that we sold 10000 widgets. Why did we sell that many? How can we sell more? Events provide insight into how the system came to be in its current state. It’s replaying the crime scene to determine the guilty. Without replaying, we can only make an educational guess.

    Because businesses care so much about why the current state is what it is, explicitly modeling state as a stream of events aligns with the business’s goals.

    Event sourcing in the enterprise

    As the business grows, more and more areas want to react more quickly to changes happening in the system. Instead of being fed a daily feed of data, they want to be fed events. Don’t give me a feed of users every day, give me a list of new users, users who have moved, users who have cancelled their account. Don’t force me to reverse-engineer the crime scene, just tell me what happened.

    In order for ancillary services in the enterprise to most effectively react to changes, they need to be aware of the business-level events that have happened. Just having access to data doesn’t describe what has happened. With events, individual services can determine how they want to react to business-scoped events, like “UserRegistered” or “AccountCancelled”. A single feed that tries to capture all this information in a single stream then puts the burden on the consumer to try to figure out what actually happened.

    With event sourcing, our events are explicit in the system, and much more easily exposed to the enterprise. Furthermore, for historical purposes, it’s also much easier to perform data mining of business events when we capture events explicitly.

    Event sourcing as an investment

    Modeling state as a stream of events means you’re committing to capturing behavior explicitly, instead of capturing state. It’s an investment, not because it’s hard to capture events, but because of the conversations required to surface what the events and behavior should be. State is easy to figure out. Behavior is not.

    However, if the business isn’t making an investment in a system that you believe needs event sourcing/DDD, it’s likely because:

    • Ignorance of the strategic investment these approaches bring
    • Lack of capital to actually make the investment (cart before the horse scenario)
    • The system isn’t as important as you think it is

    Be careful that you’re not falling into the last one. Sometimes the system you’re working on just isn’t a part of the business’s strategic goals, and it’s just a tactical response. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of having a conversation with the business to see if they’re more interested in the current picture, or the sequence of events and behaviors that led to the current state. Current state is easy with event sourcing, it just matters if the business is interested in how they got there.

  6. Steve Jobs (1955-2011) Presentation Zen

    Steve_jobs Steve Jobs passed away today. He was just 56. Steve often talked about changing the world, and he did change the world in a huge way. His incredible dedication to detail and to simplicity and aesthetics raised the bar for technology, business, and design, and beyond. He even raised the bar for presentations. He was a true master. He was a true sensei. All his presentations were great, but my favorite one of Steve’s is not his usual Apple presentation, but rather a short 15-minute speech delivered from behind a lectern at Stanford University in the spring of 2005. There is nothing I can say that has not been said before about this legendary man. I have no words. I hope you’ll have a chance to listen to Steve’s Stanford speech once again. (日本語 version.)

    Steve’s words are inspiring. Steve Jobs was—and will long remain—an inspiration for so many. Good bye, Sensei. We miss you.

    "Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
                                                             — Steve Jobs

  7. Creativity Agile & Business
    A friend was reading Daniel Pink’s book called Drive. And so I started reading it.

    I had this series of thoughts.

    First, I have for a long time thought that the key thing about our jobs is creativity.  Takeuchi and Nonaka call it knowledge creation, but to me it remains essentially the same thing.  And it covers many domains: business, technical, people, customer, marketing, etc, etc.  We must be, as a team at least, creative in all these different domains. Innovative, inventive, combining things in a new and interesting way, just coming up with something that seems weird at first, seeing something new that is elegant.

    I find that there are, in overly simple terms, two types of people I run into.
    People who are ok with creativity and chaos, and people who are not.

    The people in that second group do not create much in the exercises we do in the Scrum classes.  They tend to want to ‘edit’ or restrict work too soon. They tend to both give and take restrictions on the ‘scope’ far too soon. They tend to ask me to restrict or define the exercise, as though they were afraid of chaos.

    And Daniel Pink’s book makes me think that they (those in the second group) have not realized how their own internal thoughts and feelings inhibit their creativity. They want to be too orderly, too soon.  They want to edit themselves before they have gotten a useful body of ideas out on the table to play with. They fear that play is not real work.  They worry much too soon about ‘are we on target’. They fear the subconscious, and want everything to be arrived at logically.

    In other words, they have told themselves a bunch of lies about their own motivation (to focus on the subject of Daniel Pink’s book).  They are not inherently less creative, at least according to this (my) hypothesis.  They just have ‘rewarded’ themselves so wrongly that less creativity comes out.

    Now, it may be that some teams are just less creative. Period.

    But before deciding that, let’s give them dance lessons.  Let’s have them play.  Let’s ask them to break their own mental boundaries in some meaningful way.  And see what they can really do once the blinders come off.

    If you run into a team that basically is in the second category, I would work with them to identify their ideas and concerns about creativity.  My hope is that by talking it through, they can start to allow themselves more chaos and creativity.  And also more fun!

    In closing, let me repeat here what Jeff Sutherland has often said: If they are not having more fun, then they are not playing Scrum the right way.

    I think he means this in two ways;
    - only by having fun will their best come out
    - fun, serious fun, is a value for human beings in and of itself.  It does not need to be justified in any other way.

    Note: I do not think Jeff would condone ‘trivial fun’.  My example of that might be: eating a whole bowl of candy on Halloween.  Fun in a certain use of the word, but not good for you.  I mean, and I think he means, fun that gives deeper satisfactions than that.

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  8. Crop Guidelines for Portrait Photography PetaPixel

    Here’s a helpful illustration that shows acceptable places to crop when shooting portraits. Cropping at green lines should be fine, while cropping at red lines might leave you with an awkward looking photograph.

    Image credit: Don’t Chop at the red by J. Southard Photography

  9. The forever recession (and the coming revolution) Seth’s Blog

    There are actually two recessions:

    The first is the cyclical one, the one that inevitably comes and then inevitably goes. There’s plenty of evidence that intervention can shorten it, and also indications that overdoing a response to it is a waste or even harmful.

    The other recession, though, the one with the loss of “good factory jobs” and systemic unemployment—I fear that this recession is here forever.

    Why do we believe that jobs where we are paid really good money to do work that can be systemized, written in a manual and/or exported are going to come back ever? The internet has squeezed inefficiencies out of many systems, and the ability to move work around, coordinate activity and digitize data all combine to eliminate a wide swath of the jobs the industrial age created.

    There’s a race to the bottom, one where communities fight to suspend labor and environmental rules in order to become the world’s cheapest supplier. The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win…

    Factories were at the center of the industrial age. Buildings where workers came together to efficiently craft cars, pottery, insurance policies and organ transplants—these are job-centric activities, places where local inefficiencies are trumped by the gains from mass production and interchangeable parts. If local labor costs the industrialist more, he has to pay it, because what choice does he have?

    No longer. If it can be systemized, it will be. If the pressured middleman can find a cheaper source, she will. If the unaffiliated consumer can save a nickel by clicking over here or over there, then that’s what’s going to happen.

    It was the inefficiency caused by geography that permitted local workers to earn a better wage, and it was the inefficiency of imperfect communication that allowed companies to charge higher prices.

    The industrial age, the one that started with the industrial revolution, is fading away. It is no longer the growth engine of the economy and it seems absurd to imagine that great pay for replaceable work is on the horizon.

    This represents a significant discontinuity, a life-changing disappointment for hard-working people who are hoping for stability but are unlikely to get it. It’s a recession, the recession of a hundred years of the growth of the industrial complex.

    I’m not a pessimist, though, because the new revolution, the revolution of connection, creates all sorts of new productivity and new opportunities. Not for repetitive factory work, though, not for the sort of thing ADP measures. Most of the wealth created by this revolution doesn’t look like a job, not a full time one anyway.

    When everyone has a laptop and connection to the world, then everyone owns a factory. Instead of coming together physically, we have the ability to come together virtually, to earn attention, to connect labor and resources, to deliver value.

    Stressful? Of course it is. No one is trained in how to do this, in how to initiate, to visualize, to solve interesting problems and then deliver. Some see the new work as a hodgepodge of little projects, a pale imitation of a ‘real’ job. Others realize that this is a platform for a kind of art, a far more level playing field in which owning a factory isn’t a birthright for a tiny minority but something that hundreds of millions of people have the chance to do.

    Gears are going to be shifted regardless. In one direction is lowered expectations and plenty of burger flipping… in the other is a race to the top, in which individuals who are awaiting instructions begin to give them instead.

    The future feels a lot more like marketing—it’s impromptu, it’s based on innovation and inspiration, and it involves connections between and among people—and a lot less like factory work, in which you do what you did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

    This means we may need to change our expectations, change our training and change how we engage with the future. Still, it’s better than fighting for a status quo that is no longer. The good news is clear: every forever recession is followed by a lifetime of growth from the next thing…

    Job creation is a false idol. The future is about gigs and assets and art and an ever-shifting series of partnerships and projects. It will change the fabric of our society along the way. No one is demanding that we like the change, but the sooner we see it and set out to become an irreplaceable linchpin, the faster the pain will fade, as we get down to the work that needs to be (and now can be) done.

    This revolution is at least as big as the last one, and the last one changed everything.

  10. What to do next Seth’s Blog

    This is the most important decision in your career (or even your day).

    It didn’t used to be. What next used to be a question answered by your boss or your clients.

    With so many opportunities and so many constraints, successfully picking what to do next is your moment of highest leverage. It deserves more time and attention than most people give it.

    If you’re not willing to face the abyss of choice, you will almost certainly not spend enough time dancing with opportunity.