Wednesday, November 15, 2017

On the point of the capitalist spear


Is your project on the point of the capitalist spear?
Probably; or should be.

Capitalist: One who invests the proceeds of business into R&D, new capabilities, and new production to make the pie bigger. (*)

Not-capitalist. One who invests proceeds in other than the above, having no discernible effect on making the pie bigger.  See: zero-sum economic stagnation (I gain by making you lose)
Conundrum: many capitalists make non-capitalist investments; many decidedly not-capitalists start businesses and make investments toward expanding the pie.

Pre-capitalist, zero-sum

Before about the time of Adam Smith, say 17th century and earlier:
  • There was no conviction that the future could be better than the past, and 
  • Saving was a better deal than investing
  • Investing in R&D, process improvement, etc wasn't really on anybody's to-do list
  • There was no concept that economy could grow any faster than the demographics
  • The best use of "profits" was to put them in the mattress, or indulge one's self, leading to enormous wealth disparity, but also leading to a near-desert of new ideas that would expand the economy
Since then
Nearly all who will read this posting believe the future can be better; the pie can be larger meaning the sum is >0; the economy is more likely to be driven by invention and innovation than demographics.

And, thus we arrive at project management and the balance sheet of business:
  • Business assets are entrusted to PM to execute on invention, innovation, and business effectiveness
  • Assets are financed by -- that is, provided by -- lenders and those that work for the project for future payment; and by investors and owners. These are "holders of liabilities" against the business
  • Happiness is a balance: holders of liabilities are happy with the work of the asset managers
Trust
Trust in the future is the lubricant to make all these wheels turn. Trust that the future is a better thing motivates investors (to be investors, rather than savers) and allows for work for future payment rather than "pay me now" .... in other words, credit. 
  • Without a credit system there can be no projects of any scale
  • Without trust -- backed up by rules and regulation -- there can be no banks or contracts
  • Without banks, there can be no credit
  • Repeat
So, deliver!
To keep the creditors happy there have to be favorable outcomes. And, that more less closes the circle on project management: Successful delivery begets more or repeated credit which finances more projects, the objective of which is to expand the economy leading to even more availability of credit and a greater economy.

______________________
(*) See: Adam Smith, author, economist, and philosopher, and "The Wealth of Nations"


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tools for testing



Tools linked to process, and process linked to tools, are always grist for debate in the agile space. Defect tracking is one of those processes that begs the question: to engage with a tool or not? Many say:
  • Put the defect on a card, 
  • Put the card on a wall in the war room, and
  • Work it into the backlog as a form of requirement that is commonly labeled "technical debt".

For sure, that's one way to handle it. Of course, the cards are perishable. Many say: so what? Once fixed, there's no need to clutter things up with a bunch of resolved fixes.

Lisa Crispin and Janey Gregory, writing in their book "Agile testing: A practical guide for testers and Agile teams", have a few other ideas. From their experience, there are these reasons to use an automated tool to capture and retain trouble reports:

  • Convenience: "If you are relying only on cards, you also need conversation. But with conversation, details get lost, and sometimes a tester forgets exactly what was done—especially if the bug was found a few days prior to the programmer tackling the issue.If you are relying only on cards, you also need conversation. But with conversation, details get lost, and sometimes a tester forgets exactly what was done—especially if the bug was found a few days prior to the programmer tackling the issue."

  • Knowledge base: Probably the only reason to keep a knowledge base is for the intermittent problems that may take a long time and  a lot of context to work out. The tracker can keep notes about observations and test conditions

  • Large or distributed teams: It's all about accurate communications. A large or distributed team can not use a physical war room that's in one place

  • Customer support: If a customer reports the defect, they're going to expect to be able to get accurate status. Hard to do with a card hanging on the wall if the customer isn't physically present. 

  • Metrics: Agile depends on benchmarks to keep current and up to date team velocity.

  • Traceability: It's always nice to know if a particular test case led to a lot of defects. Obviously, many defects will not come from a specific test; they'll be found by users. But it never hurts to know.

Of course, there a few reasons to be wary of a database-driven DTS tool.  Number one on my list is probably one that makes everyone's list:

  • Communications: It's not a good idea to communicate via notes in the DTS. Communications belongs first face-to-face, and then in email or text if a record is needed. DTS is for logging, not for a substitute for getting up and talking to the counter-party.

  • Lean: All tools have a bit of overhead that does not contribute directly to output. Thus, maximum lean may mean minimum tooling.

Bottom line: Use the tool! I've always had good results using tracking tools. It just take a bit of discipline to make them almost transparent day-to-day



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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Principles and conviction and blocking


" [He] was a man with principles but no convictions; a man whose sensitive and intelligent gifts were accompanied by no positive agenda. He was ... content to let others take the lead"
Arthur Herman
Historian

With no agenda, "He was ... content to let others take the lead". I add this: only content insofar as principles are not compromised. Thus, many, but not all options are on the table.

All things changeable
The hazard here is, of course, the last one he hears is likely the one he goes with. And, the further hazard is whatever he decides, it is not "sticky". That is: decisions are subject to change, unless there is a stubbornness.

All things blocked
Then you get a principled stubbornness with no particular agenda to be stubborn about!

And that is really frustrating: Someone gets dug in, gets in a blocking position, simply because it's the first thing they decided and now they don't want to change. The classic definition of a blocker! ("It's the principle of the thing .... !)

Unblock
Now, I would never argue against having principles but I would argue for "emotional intelligence" to know when you are the child in the room. Perhaps you should listen to the adults .....



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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Living forward


I wrote a few days ago about the hazards of history as a predictor for the future.

And, then this shows up from herdingcats:
Life can only be understood backwards but you have to live it forward.

You can only do that by stepping into uncertainty and by trying, within this uncertainty, to create your own islands ....
Charles Handy
I like the theme about not living in the past, and I think I like the idea that it takes time and space to get a proper perspective on how we got here from there. The present understanding is usually only a first draft on history, etc.

But, as I wrote a few days ago, history is hazardous to the future ... it may be a stroke of good fortune never to repeat; or, bad things happen to only a few good people so most unwittingly avoid the pitfall.
 


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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Project history -- valuable?


Is keeping project history valuable? Doesn't every project office have at least cost history? Isn't all parametric pricing based on history?

Yes, to all of the above! Would there be statistics without history? No!

Ooops, perhaps everyone does not agree:
"History can not be explained deterministically and it can not be predicted because it is chaotic.

So many forces are at work and their interactions are so complex that extremely small variations in the strength of forces and the way they interact predict huge differences in outcomes....

Not only that, but history is what is called a level two chaotic system. ...  Level two chaos is chaos that reacts to predictions about it, and therefore can never be predicted accurately"
Yuval Harari

And, so the take away on this is what? That history is useless for predicting an outcome based on that history? Or, that one historical outcome could easily have been another, quite different, except for some favorable interactions -- thus, who knows what might happen the next time around?

Or, even more intriguing is the last point: a prediction actually changes the predicted outcome. Somewhat like the oft encountered conundrum that a measurement or observation changes that which is measured or observed.

And, of course, there is the timeless nemesis: causation vs correlation vs coincidence.
  • Causation: A causes C
  • Correlation: A causes some reaction in B which causes some reaction in C (correlation has a third party in most cases, though B may be hidden and hard to discern)
  • Coincidence: Stuff happens
Ultimate take away: history is problematic, even if it is very instructive. Predictor be aware!



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