Edge of Chaos

Agile Development Blog

Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Visualization, User Experience, IT Lifestyle

2010

Friday Digest #17 [UX, Chaos, Complexity]

UX

Touch interfaces are a logical replacement of point-and-click devices like mouse. Here is a great concept: Reinvent desktop human-computer interaction. I really like it, since it is quite easy to build and learn. It looks like an advanced touch-pad and some gestures are already implemented in MacBook. Also it utilizes Zooming user interface ideas, which is cool. Hope we will have something similar in laptops really soon!

Chaos

Outstanding and very interesting BBC movie The Secret Life of Chaos. It shows unexpected relations in nature and chaos theory and explains some fundamental principles of the complexity science like Butterfly Effect, Feedback, Simple Rules. I promise you will enjoy it :)

Changes

Decent article about changes Understanding How To Respond To Change. “Isn’t it odd that so many companies fight change instead of embracing it?”. I especially like this phrase “The good thing is, that the people who change, are the people who wins. The problem with change is trying to make it stop, or trying to catch up to it.”

Complexity

Thought provoking posts by Rafe Furst. Here are some nice quotes:
1. Certain actions generate more future possibilities than others. In my experience, those actions tend to be the cooperative ones, ones that produce network effects: financial, social and otherwise.
2. By surrounding yourself with people who have the same vision as you do and want similar things as you do means that you will all have help in getting there.
3. When you are successful at something, others notice and their reactions to that noticing will make it easier for you to succeed in the future

Agile Tool Reviews: Trusted Content?

quality-content-backlinksYesterday Google alerted me about a review of TargetProcess  by Boris Gloger. I started reading this review and I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could Boris Gloger, such a respected Scrum trainer, overlook some important features of an agile tool he’s reviewing?

Writing reviews  is a very responsible task. It only seems that web can tolerate all. There’s no censorship, no security checks on whether the info in a review can be trusted or not. Reviews are about knowing all the facts. Only when you make sure that you know all of the subject matter, then you can write a review.  I’d never stand up as a guru and claim – my people, I’m your guru, I know all about this tool –  and then – ooops.. – I’ve got some essential flaws in my knowledge of this tool.

Now, let’s see what Boris Gloger overlooked. Comments on Boris’ page do not work(!!!), unfortunately.

Target Process is a tool created by Target Process Inc. to manage agile process. They can support Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean and others. The tool have a good set of features and some nice ideas to speed up the addition of data for your project. They also provide a Eclipse and Visual Studio add-in so each developer can see their to-do list right on the IDE. If you like to try it for yourself there’s a 30 day free trial available.

Ehm.  TargetProcess comes for free not only as a 30 days trial. It’s free for small agile teams up to 5 people. It’s our humble donation to the growing agile community. Boris, it’s a fully functional free copy with free updates and subscriptions for agile teams of 5.

The “Features” works like an Epic or Theme for your stories and if don’t care for that it can be totally skipped. If you’d like to use it’s possible to determine an estimation and priority for the features but it really doesn’t make much sense to me.

The Features DO work like Epic or Theme and you can rename Features to Epics or Themes or any other name of your choice. The names are completely customizable and it’s up to you which name to choose.

I’d prefer to see something simpler like tags for the stories.

What??? We’ve got tags for user stories and for all the other entities! We’ve got bundles of tags. Tags board. Tags are powerful tools for categorization and filtering, so if I were a certified Scrum Trainer I would have quadruple checked before making such a blunt statement about no tags in any agile tool.

We talk about estimating feature so, of course we can estimate stories also. That’s the first problem i think the tool have, it’s only possible to estimate using time units, ideal or not. That’s no mentions to story points at all, this miss, pushes Target Process to field of time tracking tools, which is not a good thing.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You missed the point with story points. They’re there, and you can choose between ideal time units and story points. This bold statement of no user story points in TargetProcess pushes you, Boris, to field of shallow reviewers that do not take enough time to study the agile tool they’re reviewing, and then spread this distorted knowledge to their students on Scrum trainings.

Target Process is supposed to work with different agile models, so they use the term iteration instead of sprint.

Foul and a miss. As I already mentioned, one can customize terms and rename the term “iteration” to “sprint” or whatever. TargetProcess is supposed to work with different agile models, so we’ve made our terms and processes completely customizable.

On the Taskboard there’s an awkward choice, there’s only two columns available Open and Done, where’s the WIP ? It’s on another tab Kanban Board, I really don’t understand why they went that way, but it’s no good at all.

Ugh. I really don’t understand how Boris could have overlooked such essential part of TargetProcess as customizable states and processes flow.  Two columns Open and Done on the task board are available for dummies. For advanced reviewers, all the states they want are available. Users can introduce as many states as they need to their development process, and they can give any names to those states. Kanban Board states are customizable as well. It’s no good at all that our honorable reviewer missed this..!

It’s hard to say what I think about Target Process, they had good ideas, like the shortcut flows, but really bad ones like the Kanban Board. Overall the tool is ok but not very intuitive, could be more polished on the user experience, and of course the common problem of too much focus on time tracking hurts a lot.

Boris, I promise you will not be that hurt as you take a closer look at TargetProcess. You seem to have some special inkling with too much focus on time tracking, that’s why you see it where there’s no special focus on it. Time tracking in TargetProcess is just in the right amount, no less, no more. IMHO, it’s rather less of it, than more.  As for user experience – draw the curtain… look in here :)

Minimalism, The New Innovative

There’s so much room for observations and analogies in the evolution of production trends. Analogies are not merely a candy for the brain. They bring along a deeper understanding of phenomena and ultimately are one of the greatest aides to align (or misalign) with mainstream.

If we look back, to the 18-19th century – mass production was a dream. The philosophy was: produce more.  Lavish architecture designs, garments, gardens – everything created by people was about going more massive and taking much space. Standards of innovation have been changing over the centuries  - what’s been innovative and massive, has been becoming obsolete. Minimalism is the new innovative. Is it because humans subconsciously feel they’ve taken too much terrain and sky on this planet for industrial experiments and now are trying to compensate for that by being minimalistic in everything? Or simply finding ways to fit in?

Hardware/software as well as visual designs and interfaces are meekly following the same trend. This just shows how subtly the “new innovative” standards are taking over. We remember huge PCs. Now we’ve got all kinds of minimalistic devices the names of which start with “i“. We remember waterfall. CMMI standards  with their tons of rigid rules, regulations, documented processes. Now we’re  going “lean” and “agile” – the same minimalistic tendency.

super-lean2

People have managed to stuff the overproduced artifacts not only all over the planet but all over themselves. Fatness is the problem. Again, what a shift in standards –  as late as in the beginning or even middle of the 20th century it was considered trendy to be fat. Well, not obese, but hearty fat. Now, we’re all about lean. Off with plump beauties. Straighten up now, lean is the philosophy of minimalism in production.

P.S. I truly believe that all the fat folks are hiding the “lean” insignia deeply inside them. It just takes some effort to peel off the layers :)

(fr)Agile Teams: Handle with Care

Recently I’ve read a very interesting post by Anna Forss called “Stupidity of the Team”.  While Anna concludes, that it’s healthy to introduce diverse opinions and invite opposing minds to dissolve the like-mindedness of homogeneous teams, I think there’s one important nuance that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Let’s think:  teams exist for some purpose. To resolve some goals. If it’s a small product development company – then this team exists to develop a product. Permanent rebels are not welcome in any group – because what they do with their rebels, argues, drawing attention to themselves – they blur the focus of the whole purpose why team exists. Of course, a team will naturally outcast this person.  Next, if a team is bombarded by controversial opinions and judgments, they will spend all their time evaluating and thinking if this is right or wrong. They will get busy sticking tags on new opinions instead of focusing on their work – and they will inevitably lose their focus.

15527-orange-person-stuck-in-the-middle-of-a-circle-of-caution-signs-clipart-illustration-image

Life in a small development team can be compared to living in a sheltered reality, with it’s particular culture. An isolated sheltered reality will not last for long if it’s completely isolated, so emerging on the surface for a gulp of fresh air is really needed.  As a member of a small team – can you remember when the opposed rebels and opinions really did help? When they triggered something that the team would not have thought by themselves? Well, of course, if someone comes up and says – “your UI is bad” – then another person comes up and says – “your UI is bad” – then you start thinking that it’s indeed something wrong with it. You’ve got this signal from outside world. You work on it. Basically, you know what you should work on. The outsider’s opinion has accomplished it’s task – the outsider’s opinion can now go, because you’re not interested in hearing variations of one and the same opinion.  You get to work, and you work to develop a nice new UI.

There’s no need to focus on outsider’s opinions and pay too much attention to them. Outsider’s opinion is just a trigger to team’s actions – it’s not something that the team should busy their brains with all the time. In a way, diversity of opinions may be even harmful. I guess that’s why we’ve got leaders – authorities who tell the crowd “THIS is your Holy Grail”.

My conclusion is: healthy vaccination with opinions opposing a team’s culture is  good. But don’t overdo with them. Too many opinions will not increase collective intelligence for this team’s specific purpose, they will blur it.

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