Follow the leader?

                                                              Follow the leader?

I had a conversation with Mauricio Aguiar of ti Metricas earlier this week discussing the cycle of change in software development.  In the end, there is only one absolute.  The person paying the bill wants value, always more value.  The Agile movement is just the current iteration cycle in the search for the tools to deliver more value. The movement marked and driven by the Agile Manifesto has had a great run.  Agile as a movement provided a new framework to think about how work should or could be approached. However, the movement driven by values and principles has faded to be replaced by a focus on frameworks and techniques.  This new focus is neither good nor bad, but rather an evolution and step towards the next big thing. There are four major factors that contributed to the end of Agile as movement:

  1. Method Lemmings – Just doing Agile, and therefore often doing Agile inappropriately.
  2. Proscriptive Norms – Defining boundaries around methods that reduce flexibility.
  3. A Brand Driven Eco-Systems – Splintering of schools of thought driven by economic competition. 
  4. A Lack of Systems Thinking/Management – A resurgence of managing people and steps rather than taking a systems view.

Every major trend in IT has been impacted these drivers.  Interestingly, they have tended to appear in the same order as each new movement has appeared and then evolved. 

Method Lemmings:

The idea of method lemmings was introduced to me by Larry Cooper, creator and force behind the Agility Series (interviewed on SPaMCAST 418).  Larry used to the term ‘method lemmings’ to describe the group of practitioners that have a need to be seen to be doing what the “cool” people are doing. Stated in a little less inflammatory manner, method lemmings are those in the classic product acceptance life cycle that in the early and late majority phase of the cycle are doing Agile because everyone else is doing Agile.


Any product or movement will ride the product adoption lifecycle.  The slope of the ascent (and probably the decent) will be a reflection of the degree the product or idea that catches the imagination of its target market.  The bigger the frenzy the more people that jump on the bandwagon because of the coolness factor.  These are the people Larry classified as method lemmings.  In Agile there has been a passionate discussion about the difference between doing Agile and being Agile. Those that are Agile embrace the principles and then fit practices to the work; those that do are more apt to apply techniques in rote or inappropriately.  For example, this morning a friend who owns a medium-sized consulting firm approached several firms to handle their standard payroll. We end discussed the bid from two the firms.  Both were equally prominent in the marketplace and had many years in the industry. One firm suggested that since they used Agile they would create a backlog for the conversion but could not commit to a price or date for the conversion. Another that also used Agile stated that a payroll conversion was a common project and that because they used Agile and Lean techniques they could quote a price and commit to being ready for a specific date.  I would suggest that the later was being Agiler (if that really is a word) than the former although both were probably using similar techniques. The later firm got the business because the first organization’s approach seemed to put techniques in front of delivering value. In this case, at the very least, just doing Agile techniques without understanding the principles, which are value focused,  did not appear to add value to the customer. Just following the pack over the cliff leads to problems and fails to deliver value to customers, which weakens the value of adopting Agile!

Planned essays in Post Agile Age Arc include:

  1. Post Agile Age: The Movement Is Dead
  2. Post Agile Age: Drivers of the End of the Agile Movement and Method Lemmings (Current)
  3. Proscriptive Norms
  4. A Brand Driven Eco
  5. A Lack of Systems Thinking/Management
  6. The Age of Aquarius (Something Better is Beginning)

Listen Now
Subscribe on iTunes
Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

The Software Process and Measurement Cast 420 features our interview with John Hunter.  John is a SPaMCAST alumni; John first appeared on SPaMCAST 226 to talk about why management matters.  In this podcast John returns to discuss building capability in the organization and  understanding the impact of  variation.  We also talked Deming and why people tack the word improvement on almost anything!   

John’s Bio

John Hunter has served as an information technology program manager for the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office, the White House Military Office and the American Society for Engineering Education.

In 2013, he published his first book – Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

John created and operates one of the first, and still one of the most popular, management resources on the internet.  He continues to aid managers in their efforts to improve their organizations with an emphasis on software development and leveraging the internet.  His blog is widely recognized as a valuable resource for leaders and managers with a focus on improving the practice of management in organizations.

Re-Read Saturday News

In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we tackle the sections titled Accountability, Individual Contributor, and The Talk.  We are getting close to the end of the novel portion of the book but over the next few weeks, we have a number of ideas to extract from the book before we review the model. (more…)

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we tackle the sections titled Accountability, Individual Contributor, and The Talk.  We are getting close to the end of the novel portion of the book, but over the next few weeks we have a number of ideas to extract from the book before we review the model.

(Remember to buy a copy and read along.)  We are well over halfway through this book and I am considering re-reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset next.  What are your thoughts?


The second off-site continued with a discussion immediately turned began with a review of progress toward the teams 18 deal (sales) goal.  Lencioni uses the 18 deal goal to illustrate developing a measurable goal and how the team holds itself accountable.  As a reminder, the four key drivers the team had agreed upon in the first off-site were: product demonstrations, competitive analysis, sales training, and product brochures.  Martin reported that product demonstrations were ahead of schedule partially becasue Carlos had pitched in to help Martin. Carlos’s chipping in had the unintended consequence  of contributing to the competitor analysis that Carlos was leading being behind schedule. The competitor analysis was also behind because Carlos had not gotten support from Nick’s people.  This detail is important to illustrate two issues.  The first is that Carlos had not gone to Nick to talk about the getting the needed support.  Carlos had not engaged to hold Nick accountable.  Secondly, no one had actually even challenged Carlos about the progress he was making on the competitor analysis. Carlos and the team had fallen down on accountability.

Lencioni (using Kathryn’s voice) states that there are three reasons it is difficult to hold people accountable.

  1.      Some people are just generally helpful,
  2.      Some get defensive, or
  3.      Some are intimidating.

There are probably other reasons it is difficult to hold or be held accountable.  Accountability is intertwined with the concept of trust.  Without accountability, it is difficult to trust.  Holding someone accountable does not represent a lack of trust, but rather a signal of a trust that team members push to make the team better.

As this section concludes, Mikey holds herself out as better than the team and only sarcastically goes along with the decision for everyone to attend sales training (note: once upon a time I might have been this person).

As a team, holding each other accountable for the actions and activities that we’ve agreed to do is critical for the health of the team.  Teams that don’t have enough trust to be willing to hold each other accountable means that it’s very difficult to make progress as a team.

Individual contributor

The fourth driver of DecsionTech’s 18 deal goals,  new product brochures, was the next topic. Mikey proudly produced mockups of the brochures from her bag and announced they were going to print next week. A train wreck ensued. Nick was uncomfortable because his people have been doing research and no one had talked to them. Mikey, as the marketing lead, had struck out on her own without consulting and interacting with a team.  Her opinion was more important than that of the team. BOOM.  Kathryn called for a long break and dismissed everyone except Mikey.

Individuals need participate and integrate into the team.  Attributes such as humility and working well in a team, the ability to accept criticism and then work in a manner that allows others to have input are required to work in a team.  While individual contributors are important they are generally not the right people for an effective team.

The Talk

Mikey did not seem to see the end coming.  Mikey was not aware of her impact on the team.  Mikey’s reaction to Kathryn’s comment “I don’t think you are fit for this team” indicated she did not understand her impact on the team.

Throughout the story, Lencioni paints a picture of Mikey as the person that cuts herself off, eye rolls when statements are made that she doesn’t believe without getting involved in the discussion and in generally acts as a motivation heatsink. Mikey only really respected herself.  As the talk progressed, Mikey turned to veiled threats to deflect Kathryn’s decision (a form of frustration on the Kubler-Ross change curve).  In the end though Kathryn felt that Mikey was coming to terms with the situation, but she was wrong.  Another Lencioni cliffhanger.

“Talks” like these are a form of negotiation.  In these circumstances, unless both parties see the event coming, one party will tend to have less information or power than the other.  When a similar situation occurred between Kathryn and Nick, Nick was successfully able to delay the decision so that he could reduce the stress of the situation and help even the power balance.  Saying yes immediately in this type of negotiations probably isn’t a good idea.  Let things sink in and then even if you can say yes immediately don’t. 

Three quick takeaways:

  • Team members hold other team members accountable.        
  • Be aware of how you affect the people around you or suffer the consequences!
  • Try to step back and reduce the stress when confronted by tough negotiations.

Previous Installments in the re-read of  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni:

Week 1 – Introduction through Observations

Week 2 – The Staff through the End Run

Week 3 – Drawing the Line though Pushing Back

Week 4 – Entering Danger though Rebound

Week 5 – Awareness through Goals

Week 6 – Deep Tissue through Exhibition

Week 7 – Film Noir through Application

Week 8 – On-site through Fireworks

Week 9 – Leaks through Plowing On

Don't get stuck.

Don’t get stuck.

In February 2001 the Agile Manifesto was signed by 17 people. The Manifesto is comprised of four values and 12 principles. The Manifesto acted as a lightning rod for what became the Agile movement.  It provided a new framework to think about how work should or could be approached. That framework challenged the standard thinking of how software should be developed, enhanced, and maintained. 2001 was a year of transition.  Even though most organizations were successful, the US economy was on the verge of a recession (the NERB tracked the 2001 recession from March 2001 to November 2001), many IT jobs were being outsourced, and the oft-quoted Chaos Reports suggested that software (and by extension hardware and systems) projects were late, over budget and did not deliver what was needed by the business.  Anyone who was related to the broad software development industry had numerous war stories about projects that were death marches or abject failures.  That said, all was not a wasteland. Most organizations were successful and most practitioners had also had success stories.  If everything was doom and gloom most have us would have left software development, because constant failure is debilitating.  Needless to say, the change was in the air in the late 90’s and early 00’s.  The Agile Movement caught fire. (more…)

How far is it?

Just because you can measure it, should you?

Over the last two weeks, we published three articles on vanity metrics:

Vanity Metrics in Software Organizations

Vanity Metrics? Maybe Not!

Vanity Metrics Have a Downside!

One of those articles elicited an interesting discussion on Twitter.   The discussion was predominately between @EtharUK (Ethar Alali) and @GregerWikstrand.  The discussion started by using the blog entry from 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures from OKCupid to illustrate vanity metrics, and then shifted to a discussion of whether vanity metrics can be recognized based on statistical validity.  The nice thing about Twitter is that responses are forced to be succinct.  See the whole conversation here. (more…)

Listen Now
Subscribe on iTunes
Check out the podcast on Google Play Music

The Software Process and Measurement Cast 419 features our essay on eight quick hints on dealing with stand-up meetings on distributed teams. Distributed Agile teams require a different level of care and feeding than a co-located team in order to ensure that they are as effective as possible. Remember an update on the old adage: distributed teams, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.  

We also have a column from the Software Sensei, Kim Pries.  In this installment, Kim talks about the  Fullan Change Model. In the Fullan Change Model, all change stems from a moral purpose.  Reach out to Kim on LinkedIn.

Jon M Quigley brings the next installment of his Alpha and Omega of Product Development to the podcast.  In this installment, Jon begins a 3 part series on configuration management.  Configuration management might not be glamorous but it is hugely important to getting work done with quality.  One of the places you can find Jon is at Value Transformation LLC.

Anchoring the cast this week is Jeremy Berriault and his QA Corner.  Jeremy explored exploratory testing in this installment of the QA Corner.  Also, Jeremy has a new blog!  Check out the QA Corner! (more…)


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Cover

The “Book” during unboxing!

In this week’s re-read of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team  by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, Copyright 2002, 33rd printing), we continue with the third section of the book.  This section begins the second off-site by wrestling with defining who their first team is.  The concept of the first team can be summarized as who a team member owes their ultimate work loyalty.  Any scenario that includes a hierarchy of teams faces this issue. (more…)