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Rabid Dogma

Proposed approaches to building products, software or otherwise, will come and go. One thing that seems to be constant through all this change is that the voice of the latest and greatest is convinced that they have solved the problem once and for all.

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Building the Faith

A few months back, I wrote about the need to have faith in the process that was being used to build a product. This was recently reproduced in the Cutter E-mail Advisor, and generated a question about the diagnostic I referred to, and a question about how to build that faith that I alluded to in the article. Here are a few thoughts on the topic.

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Stargazing

I’m sure it happens in any industry, yet it never ceases to amaze me. Once someone gets a bit of prominence, once they have discovered the secret handshake, many people will stop questioning what comes out of their mouth (or fingertips if online), and take their missives as gospel. Crazy, but true, and costly in the technology field.

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Don't Spend, Invest

There is no shortage of indicators that we are in for in for a rough stretch ahead. While there are some that are still debating whether to call what we are going through a recession or a depression, it is clear to everyone that this is no time for frivolous spending. I would argue that we should always be aware of where we spend our money, and always spend with an understanding of the return we expect.

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Fatigue

 In many shops, big or small, software or otherwise, agile or traditional (as if that were a true dichotomy) we see fabulous energy in projects where people are committed to delivery. Unfortunately, in too many shops, we also see the down side of fatigue. Sometimes after the project completed (if you’re lucky), but often while the project is trying to progress to completion, the many symptoms of fatigue can have tremendous costs.

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When the Going Gets Tough

In many sectors, 2008 has been a tough year. There are very few people that expect that 2009 will be much better, and most indications are that the foreseeable future will be at least as challenging, if not worse. How people and organizations deal with these difficult times is a strong indicator of how well off they will be as the situation improves - or whether they are still around at all.

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Pair Everything, To a Point

Pair programming is one of the agile practices that has most polarized people on both sides of the fence: sitting two people down at the same screen and keyboard to develop a piece of code. Having experienced this practice over 25 years ago and finding it to be extremely productive, I'm in favor of it being applied more than it is now. In fact, I would advocate pairing up (or more) for almost any practice we apply in the process of building our products.

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Agile Too Early

Almost everyone is familiar with Dr. Bruce Tuckman's team model of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. This describes a sequence of stages that teams will naturally go through, whether this is consciously managed or not. Some teams never quite make it past Storming, and some seem to get through it relatively unscathed, only to lapse back later. As with many models, teams often exhibit traits of more than one of these stages at the same time, so its linear presentation may be a bit misleading. That stated, though, the model is a succinct and extremely applicable way of describing overall team growth. If we tie this model to a couple of others, though, we get a few more very interesting insights.

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The Down Side of Good Tools

Often, out of the sea of different opinions of how things should be done, there rises a few techniques that make it to the level of becoming a standard way of doing things. They can be codified in a Body of Knowledge, if such a thing exists for that discipline, or become generally accepted as a 'best practice', though we all know that these things are quite rare. Even when they are raised to that level, there is danger that they can become overused: while every technique has it's niche, no technique should be used too broadly. Such is the case with Work Breakdown Structures and Gantt charts.

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Are We a Software Company?

Particularly for small, startup organizations, it is important to come to grips with who you really are. From my perspective, too many startups see themselves as software companies, or end up accidentally becoming software companies, and this can get them into serious trouble.

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Two Analysis Schools

Over the years, I have seen two distinct analysis schools of thought. There is the 'let's get this over with so we can start doing the real work' school and the 'let's work through the tough problems now so that our implementation is straightforward' school. There appears to be a gradual migration from the first to the second in the industry, but the first continues to be fueled by a lack of appreciation for the value of effective analysis in the educational system.

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Trust Retention

When I let one of my kids know they've got 10 minutes before we need to be out the door for one of their activities, it's a safe bet that the response I will get is an "OK Dad." Unfortunately, it is also a pretty safe bet that we'll be getting out the door more than a few minutes late. It's a dance we have fallen into that happens all too often with technical teams as well. I can't trust them to be good to their word, and I have fallen into the trap of just letting that happen.

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