The Software Process and Measurement Cast 665 features our essay on the organizational aspects that impact teams. Teams don’t live in a vacuum, so when the word organization gets used it reflects the influence of all sorts of organizations. Organizations facilitate teams to a greater or lesser extent. In the workplace, the employer’s organization will have the most significant impact on how teams form and perform but it is not the totality. Other influences can affect the structure and performance of teams. 

We will also have a visit from Jon M Quigley who will bring his Alpha and Omega of Product Development column to the podcast. In this installment, Jon and I discussed the idea of making decisions at the last responsible moment. We decided on the topic just before we began recording (just kidding). 


This week we continue our re-read of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler with Chapter 3, Start With Heart.  This chapter begins to teach the reader “how” to dialog. The chapter is subtitled how to stay focused on what you really want. Start with heart means that we have to establish our goal before getting involved in a dialog. (more…)

Book Cover

Read the book!

Two things before we dive in this week.  

The next book in our Re-read Saturday Feature is Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler.  I have never read this book, I just ordered the book using the link (using the link helps support the blog and podcast). If you do not have a copy or have tossed it at someone during a crucial conversation, it is time to buy a copy. Please use the link above!  

Secondly,  Business Agility Conference (March 11 -12, 2020 in New York City) is sponsoring the Software Process and Measurement Podcast. If you are a friend on the podcast and blog and are shopping for a great business agility conference, this one I recommend. Check out the conference at, and use the special code “spamcast” to get a 20% discount!  

Chapter 36 of Thinking, Fast and Slow, is titled Life As A Story. This chapter focuses on two closely related biases that impact the stories we tell about our lives. Early in my career, the team I was working on had to do an install on a Friday evening just before midnight (retail organization and by midnight the stores were closed and settled).  We had been working on a piece of functionality for several months and tonight it was rolling out! We were psyched, it had been a great effort and we had done some very cool work. One weird thing had happened right after lunch, a team member had quit. He had just walked out. My memory of the project to that was stelling.  Telling the story after that night, it was different. We discovered the person who had walked out that day had written and committed a stub built to fool the tests about thirty minutes before the system was supposed to go live. A lot of coffee and 4 hours later we had coded the functionality and tested it. We were late and exhausted. This is just the kind of story that is illustrative of the points in this chapter. Afterward, none of the stories recognized the time before that fateful evening. Everyone of repackaged the events to tell the of our crazy evening. Kahneman calls the part of the person doing the remembering, the “remembering self.” People compose stories and keep them for future reference. The idea that stories are important is supported by how System 1 Thinking works. It connects ideas and memories to generate narratives.   (more…)

When I was in primary school I remember learning about herds of buffalo that were so vast that it would take hours for all of the animals to pass a specific point.  Herding behavior evokes visions of groups acting the same way. There is a special case that affects how work is accomplished. Self-herding affects how decisions are made based on how an initial event is tackled. Dan Ariely defines as  “our tendency to follow the same decisions we have made in the past (future decisions are influenced by previous decisions).” Self-herding is a form of cognitive bias in which an individual creates a heuristic for a specific decision, limiting the possible outcomes.  A classic example of self-herding is the rule many people develop that states that, all things being equal, given two restaurants the one with people is better. The origin of the rule many times in unknown and doesn’t get questioned. I believe I originally heard this guidance from my mother.  Even today I have difficulty going into restaurants that are empty. The first time I used my mother’s guidance the decisions translated into behavior that I rarely question even today. Restaurants might be one thing, but a decision about accepting work or using a specific framework should be a different matter but the answer is no.  (more…)

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In SPaMCAST 541 we discuss using guardrails in decision making. Guardrails are a tool to ensure alignment with the organization’s goals and objectives and to keep people on the right path. Well-formed guardrails conform to five attributes that help teams and individuals make decisions.

Our second segment features Jon M Quigley and his Alpha and Omega of Product Development column. Jon discusses reciprocal agreements and their impact of on teams and products. (more…)

The term guardrails is a polarizing term in some camps.  When I pinged Vasco Durarte on LinkedIn he said “I prefer the term “heuristics”: guides for action that are actionable, instead of abstract principles that need to be translated to action by everybody.” Rather than debating the nuances of implementation, we can all agree that in many cases having some form of guidance allows smart people to make decisions faster and with less risk. Less risk accrues to both to the person making the decision and to the organization. I will freely admit that I don’t like to be told what to do in many circumstances however I am not above being guided in others.  To test how many guardrails or decision heuristics I leverage in a typical day, I wrote down the guardrails that I encountered on Wednesday, March 20th (a fairly typical day). I categorized the guardrails into three categories. (more…)


No Guardrails Needed

Guardrails are a tool to ensure alignment with the organization’s goals and objectives and to keep people on the right path, but they are not effective in all circumstances. Three circumstances that lead guardrails to be less useful include: (more…)

Sometimes you might need a guardrail to make the right decision!

Guardrails are a tool to ensure alignment with the organization’s goals and objectives and to keep people on the right path.  Well-formed guardrails conform to five attributes that help teams and individuals make decisions. The power of guardrails lays in the fact that they shape decisions by defining boundaries. As a consultant, the first time a client asks a question, the answer almost always needs to be “it depends”. No boundaries or guardrails for the decision have been established. The four values stated in the Agile Manifesto establish a set of guardrails to guide decisions.  For example, the Manifesto states that “we have come to value working software over comprehensive documentation”. That value does not state that documentation is never a good idea but rather establishes a bias when deciding how much documentation the work requires. The value as stated in the manifesto provides a starting point for guiding behavior. Four common ways guardrails impact decision making include: (more…)

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SPaMCAST features our interview with Julia Wester.  Julia returns to the cast to discuss spectrum thinking.  Specturn thinking is an important tool in system thinking and required to address complexity.  Even though using binary thinking is rarely the most effective path, it is rare to use spectrum thinking to address problems. Julia provides a path to more effective decision making.

Julia’s Bio

Julia is a Co-Founder of Lagom Solutions and its Principal Consultant. Lagom Solutions is an outcome-focused consulting and product company. Julia leads the consulting side of Lagom Solutions. When working with customers, she leverages her 18 years of experience working in and managing high-performing teams at companies such as Turner Broadcasting, F5 Networks, and LeanKit. Julia is passionate about teaching others how to tame the chaos of everyday work by embracing transparency, continuous improvement, and a lagom mindset. She also loves talking about how management doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Julia blogs at and tweets at @everydaykanban.

Re-Read Saturday News
This week we continue our re-read of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In Chapter one, Gladwell suggests that there are three factors that impact whether an idea or product crosses a tipping point; they are the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. Chapter one introduces these concepts and presents real-life examples to illustrate the factors. Dust off your copy or buy a new copy.

Current entry:

Week 2 – The Three Rules of Epidemics (more…)

Pareto chart of Pokemon

Got to catch them all!

A Pareto analysis is based on the principle suggested by Joseph Juran (and named after Vilfredo Pareto) that 80% of the problems/issues are produced by 20% of the issues. This is the famous 80/20 rule, and this principle is sometimes summarized as the vital few versus the trivial many. Process improvement professionals use the Pareto principle to focus limited resources (time and money) on a limited number of items that produce the biggest benefit. (more…)