Category: Individuals and Interactions

What do you know?

A while back, I was working with a young and cocky software developer. He was a smart guy, and sure of his abilities. He had seven years of Java experience, he said, and he knew how to write code.

As he was a new member of the team, I described the strategy I’d planned for a bit of code. I showed him what I’d already written, and asked him to complete the functionality.

“But I can do it another way.” And he described a different technique. Read More

In praise of small conferences

I’m just back from XPDay Manhattan, one of those small conferences that Matt Heusser and I have praised before. This conference was a mix of prepared talks and open space. I think this is an excellent format. It provides material for those who haven’t yet identified a topic they want to discuss, and it also draws in active participation from the attendees. The participation was enthusiastic! Some people traveled a considerable distance to attend.

Coming up very shortly is the Simple Design and Testing Conference. This is an open space conference in York, PA starting Friday evening, November 30, at 5:00 PM and running through Sunday lunch, December 2. Last year’s was my first experience with the open space format. This year, Naresh Jain, the organizer, is asking people to submit a position paper with their registration application. This doesn’t have to be a big thing, and I don’t think anyone will be denied based on the content or position taken. The point of this exercise is to encourage participants to think ahead about the issues that are important to them.  It’s a small price to pay for a free conference. I hope this helps fan the flames of passion for the craft and career that you’ve chosen.

P.S. The slides from my prepared talk are available.

What does it look like from management’s side

Or the business customer?

As I talk with developers and team leads who are leading agile initiatives in mostly non-agile companies, I continue to hear comments about managers who “don’t get it,” and Product Owners who won’t participate, and other complaints that suggest that not everyone has reached the new status quo (per Satir’s Change Model). Sometimes communication issues seem to be delaying progress. Sometimes some of the participants don’t seem to be aligned with the goals of the agile team. At least, it appears that way from the developers’ point of view. In all honesty, perhaps the agile team is not yet aligned with the business needs.

I’m trying to get the point of view from the other side. When these problems arise, I want to know how the Managers and Product Owners feel about the way things are going. Surely they see things from a different vantage point, and have different insights. I’d like to know what those insights are.

I’m looking for real stories and feelings–not descriptions of the way things are supposed to work. I want to know what you see happening (or not happening) around you. I realize that such real-world stories may be a little too sensitive to post in public comments. If you’d like, email them to me at blog-response AT and I’ll keep them in confidence.

And if you’re not an upper manager or product owner, but you’re having difficulty with one. Please ask them how things look from their side and let me know. Or have them let me know. Or invite me to come and discuss it with both of you. I’m really interested!

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Categories: Individuals and Interactions


Pair Programming techniques

Pair programming has been widely touted as a effective means of generating excellent code in a cost-effective manner. It has also been widely reported as a waste of time or as uncomfortable. Many people reject pair programming without trying it. Others, however, still don’t like it after being forced to use trying it.

I’m convinced that there’s an art and a science to pair programming. I don’t think it comes naturally to most people. It’s sometimes easy to pick up by osmosis, but I’ve heard too many complaints about pairing to think that’s a common occurrence. I’d like to hear your real-life stories about pair-programming situations. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your story as a comment on this blog, send them to “pairprogramming at”. Read More

How to get people to do what you want

Back in March of last year, David Maister was interviewed by Wayne Turmel and he said some amazing things. I’ve been meaning to talk about this for some time, but the work of transcribing from audio has tempted me to put it off. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing.

David Maister is a business consultant, but what he says here is extraordinarily appropriate for most of us technical people, too. He describes starting out with the same vision of success that I had, and how completely wrong it was. Read More

Building Relationships

So much of life, even so much of software development, comes down to interaction with other people. And a big key (perhaps the big key) to this is building relationships. David Maister says some very interesting things on this topic–things that hit home with me. I’ve been meaning, for some time, to comment on an interview he gave on another site. While I’m waiting to get around to that, let me point you to this wonderful podcast (available in audio and video formats). Go watch it; I’ll wait. Read More


There’s been some discussion on the XP Yahoogroup about the practice of “blocking” in order to protect an Agile team in a non-agile corporation. I’d gotten rather behind in my reading, and came into the middle of the discussion. I’ve just now tracked this discussion back to a post by Scott Ambler, where he says,

This is a great example of something that I call blocking, where you produce the paperwork, attend the meetings, pretend to care, … to make it look as if you’re following the “official process”.

Scott is responding to a mention of the use of PERT on the Polaris submarine project. Scuttlebutt says that PERT was deemed a great success in managing the Polaris project, but in reality the PERT charts were reverse-engineered from more seat-of-the-pants management techniques. As the stories go, this “scientific” management technique wowed the Congressional oversight committees, and such techniques have been the backbone of government contracting oversight ever since. Read More