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Patterns not Practices

there are no best practices

Agile principles are sound, yet too often we end up in a forest of best practices that start as hopeful little saplings that quickly grow to become an end in themselves. It’s always good to be investing forward in building capabilities, but when the cultivation of practices begins to soak up serious resources at the expense of building and releasing software, then it might be time to fallback to a pragmatic attention to the actual circumstances of time and place.

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Everything you’ve always wanted to know about Maturity Models…

...but were afraid to ask

We might as well debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin as argue the merits of the SAFe Maturity Model; the principles are beyond reproach, but in practice it is often brought down to level of a “best practices” sales catalog. Agile has been reduced to a commodity that consultancies sell to enterprise, with the maturity model serving as a marketing tool created to provide a consistent buyer’s path.

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A Modest Proposal

predictability is the essence of the word “control”

The body of techniques commonly know as Statistical Process Control have been around for over 90 years. However, from the very beginning, and continuing down to the present, there as been considerable confusion about the nature and purpose of SPC. I believe this is because many have sought to reshape SPC according to their own background and experience.

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and the story of Phineas Guage

We started with the highest of hopes. We were destined for great things. We were going to plow that green field. We weren’t going to be bound to any rigid process. I’ll spare you the details, because if you stop and reflect for just a moment on your own experience with these sorts of things, you probably already known where we were headed.

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Understanding the Value Stream

learning from failure and persistence in making improvements

The Agile movement has its roots in Lean methodology. Lean focuses on identifying what creates value from a customer perspective, understanding the process that creates that value, and dogged persistence to continually improve on that process.

Energy and persistence conquer all things.

— Benjamin Franklin

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The Quixote Syndrome

they’ll come for wool and go back shorn

Action without observation is at the center of the story Cervantes gave us five centuries ago, and it’s at the core of why so many Agile initiatives fall short. Taking a windmill for a dragon, Don Quixote’s choice of lance and shield were ill-suited to the matter at hand. We don’t need better Agile methodologies so much as we need to pay attention to where our current practices are out of touch with the reality of the work at hand, and to leverage Agile principles to arrive at an appropriate response to the present challenge.

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Building the Right Thing

delivery is the gold standard

Agile flipped the conversation from one about locking down the specification, to one about building the right thing. In the old school, the cost of changing specification was identified as a major problem, and being able to deliver at all was the gold-standard of success. Agile pioneers sought to mitigate the risk attributable to specification change through a re-conception of the process, to accommodate rather than thwart change.

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Reasoning From First Principles

Heaven supports worthy aims

The first principle of the Agile Manifesto is “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” It serves as a sort of North Star for our a software product journey. That principle is the inspiration to a technical practice that goes by the name of “Continuous Delivery” which we can talk about implementing.

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People Over Processes

where's the fun

Frederick Winslow Taylor advocated each worker should be provided with “Detailed instruction and supervision in the performance of that worker’s discrete task”, and that “managers should apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks”. These ideas were the basis for the rise of industrial production such as the early Ford Motor company, and the dogged pursuit of these ideas ultimately led low quality products and workforce moral

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