Agile DoD Part 2

I changed the title because the requirements changed…. Really.

I woke up this morning and grabbed that first cup of java, it was really good as usual.   My wife makes great coffee, she does it every day without fail.   We don’t even need to meet about it.   On that note, I grabbed the paper and read and article tied to meetings adversely impacting IQ( http://news.menshealth.com/how-meetings-make-you-stupid/2012/02/13/ ).

Still reading? Good because I will get to my point.   Agile is good BUT agile is good if there is balance as with everything else.  Let’s take apart the next piece of the Agile Principles.  Remember that my focus and context is related to the DoD.  Where you may have the ability to execute YOUR way 100% my opinions may not apply.

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

We follow these principles:Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.

Number 1 priority is customer satisfaction.  GREAT! Early delivery of software does not compute.  How about “on time” software delivery?  How about “highest quality” software delivery?  In the DoD, they don’t need early and often.  They need on time and stable.   Think not?  Continuous delivery of software means continuous software updates.   See http://diacap.org/ if you are interested in the implementation process for DoD Information Systems for certification and accreditation (C&A).   The most common answer I get from people who practice agile is… “oh that.. that has to change”  

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development.

Agile processes harness change for

the customer’s competitive advantage.

Competitive advantage has to do with beating someone in a commercial market position.   War is long, war is cold and war for the DoD is not a business.  I didn’t say war is not a business, I said for the DoD it isn’t a business.  Not in the same sense that you would talk about Apple or Microsoft, Google or Facebook.   Sure, there are places in the DoD that need this kind of aggressive process where you can change late in the game (dynamically) but for the most part, building software and systems in and for the DoD is a long process with reason.   When I was on board the USS Mount Whitney, they would push back ships movement for electronic updates and changes.   The reason is that software right out of the gate hardly ever does what it needs to do, it takes time and planning.  Even then there are great challenges, the problem here is that we need to be an agile defense force and that means we shouldn’t be held back because some developer forgot a line of code and needs to just do a quick update.   Remember early and often in the DoD results in confusion and delay.   Imagine for a minute that you plan a trip and that you are going to fly to your destination.  While aboard the plane the pilot informs you that you will be arriving early due to some great tail winds.    Even without any other changes, how many passengers were just adversely impacted?  Getting somewhere early isn’t always the right answer.   Changing up software or altering requirements late in the game need significant considerations when dealing with defense systems. 

Deliver working software frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.

I addressed this earlier with the DIACAP but what I can say is that this process can be made to work if we aren’t delivering software on that same schedule.  In other words, if the developers are way ahead in a development cycle, this can provide testers an opportunity to really put the software through very comprehensive and stringent testing.   That would work, as long as the production cycle was consistent. 

Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.

Yes and no, see my earlier comment on meetings.  I have been involved with agile project management in the DoD one way or another for a few years now, I haven’t seen a 10-15 minute meeting situation that is consistent.   Anyone that tells you otherwise, get me his or her number, we need to learn from them.  Also, who are business people?  Are developers just a bunch of hipsters hanging out smoking doobs and drinking energy drinks?  Are they spending 20 minutes coding and then heading to the gym for hours?  Developers ( a lot of them) are business people.    I think it is fair to say that   agile can learn a little from SOA concepts where they are more specific about who is working together on what and for what purpose. 

Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.

I LOVE this principle and it should be number 1!  TRUST is key.  

Trust is the foundation of every aspect of business any business end to end.  There is no other single more important factor.   Of course there are other things that are needed but without trust work cannot and will not succeed.   

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

That is so 2001.  Quote me. 

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is to develop, facilitate, nurture, maintain trusted relationships.  Provide the methods and tools required to access your trusted agents, and have faith in them.  Be available to them and provide them with clear “COMMANDERS INTENT”!

The paradox of war in the Information Age is one of managing massive amounts of information and resisting the temptation to overcontrol it. The competitive advantage is nullified when you try to run decisions up and down the chain of command. All platoons and tank crews have real-time information on what is going on around them, the location of the enemy, and the nature and targeting of the enemy’s weapons system. Once the commander’s intent is understood, decisions must be devolved to the lowest possible level to allow these front line soldiers to exploit the opportunities that develop. —General Gordon Sullivan, quoted in ‘Delivering Results’ by David Ulrich

You might say ….. WAIT A SECOND HOWIE!!!! What are you saying?  First you talk about all this DoD requirement mumbo jumbo then you say “Commanders Intent”!!!  Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Nope.  Commanders intent gives us the overall mission, vision, scope, objective and timelines.   It gives product owners, developers, management, leaders the ability to execute at their level.   Commanders intent isn’t a free for all but what it does is provide enough information to give groups leeway to make decisions as they need to in order to accomplish the greater goal with less frequent communication.  I can provide examples if needed but just off the hip look at Boeing manufacturing the 787.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Successful implementation and usage is the primary measure of progress. 

Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

While running a marathon or any other race for that matter is it usual that some fall back and cluster in groups and some pull ahead.   The thought process that everyone can keep up with everyone is mind-boggling.   I can barely keep up with my children! 

Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility.

Love it.. 

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.

Yeah I like maximizing stuff I haven’t done.  Called the “honey do list”  for some reason it continues to grow no matter what I do to attack it.  Wonder why? 

The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.

What happens when the team is forced to do something because a dumb ass is working in it?  Everyone works around Billy dee dumb ass? Not realistic.   The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from good leadership, good listening, clear direction, good followership  and people working together to fight “the dumb”! 

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.

At the beach! So.. I meet on Monday-Friday with you and both of us haven’t changed our behavior through any of those meetings but on some other regular interval we are going to come together and adjust?  How about constant feedback?  How about open honest dialogue?  How about trust?  

I am arguing that agile must be tempered by context.   I am arguing that it isn’t a panacea but a practice.  You know your doctor “practices medicine” and we still have the common cold.  

Software development and systems engineering include systems integration and goal oriented objectives.   Oh yeah, it is about PEOPLE !

Be agile and be realistic.

Scott makes some good points and has great references, I consider it part 1.75, we will get to part two. Problem is requirements keep changing. Maybe I should be more agile?

Scott's Blog

Send me your thoughts on the concept of using Agile in govement.

Here is a glimps of what we are doing at GLS: http://glsystems.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/greenline-systems-inc-helping-governments-use-agile-development/

Here are a few good reads:

1.  Agile development is a key feature of the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-point plan for improving IT management calls out “modular development”.   Here is an excerpt from the paper:

The following practices will help achieve the promises of modular development:

  • Ensuring each module aligns with overall program and business objectives and has clear quan­titative and qualitative outcome measures for success
  • Awarding contracts that incorporate clear business objectives and performance outcomes, a vision for future state architecture, and parameters for iterative design and development
  • Delivering new working functionality to users at least every 12 months, with no more than 3 months dedicated to creating detailed system specifications
  • Regularly capturing and incorporating user feedback through an iterative process that assesses…

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Agile part 1.5

The DoD works to be Agile

Agile (kinda) Why it is a challenge in the DoD. Part 1

How come everyone in the room is an old white dude?

If you haven’t read it, you probably should.  One thing I would like to is take it apart. My comments are in red.

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:


Individuals and interactions over processes and tools (Great but we can’t forget we need process and tools) I know what it goes on to say about how we value the things on the right but people use this as excuse to get away from process.   In the DoD, you have a requirement and responsibility to understand the process.  Telling me “that I don’t get it” won’t change that you have rules to follow and if you don’t follow them you won’t have a job.
Working software over comprehensive documentation

Got it, we need to spend time working on the software but once again that isn’t a reason to ignore your responsibility to have documentation.  

Bill:Hey, how did Jim set that up?   

George: I don’t know Jim quit last week, he won the lotto!


Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

I love collaboration and I love to know what my customers expectation is. This is something that we have to do in the DoD.
Responding to change over following a plan

We have to respond to change and the plan should be altered accordingly but as they say lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for me. 

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Kent Beck
Mike Beedle
Arie van Bennekum
Alistair Cockburn
Ward Cunningham
Martin Fowler
James Grenning
Jim Highsmith
Andrew Hunt
Ron Jeffries
Jon Kern
Brian Marick
Robert C. Martin
Steve Mellor
Ken Schwaber
Jeff Sutherland
Dave Thomas

We have seen agile in action long enough to know that we need to temper our desire to be religious.  In other words, the Agile Manifesto is not the bible and it doesn’t fit all situations holistically.  If you think it does and you try to act on it and apply this concept as if it were a “catch all” and you are working in the DoD, you will be frustrated.   Agile concepts need to be woven into the fabric of our work in small pieces.   While we value being able to get the job done efficiently we recognize that rules, process and people are in play and that we must figure out for our team individually what Agile means.   I am in favor of an “agile like” approach but I am not in favor of throwing out practically hundreds of years of engineering because developers aren’t patient.  

Read on.. next post I am going to talk to the principles relative to the DoD.

http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto

We follow these principles:Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.

Deliver working software frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.

Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.

Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.

The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility.

Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.

The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.


Business is personal.   I have written about this before but I find everyday that people don’t realize business is personal.    You can say I am wrong but it doesn’t matter the facts are simple.

busi·ness

(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/business)
[biz-nis]  Show IPA
noun

1. an occupation, profession, or trade: His business is poultry farming.
2. the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.
3. a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce,manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern.
4. volume of trade; patronage: Most of the store’s business comes from local families.
5.a building or site where commercial work is carried on, as a factory, store, or office; place of work: His business is on thecorner of Broadway and Elm Street.

 

Politicians and businessmen alike say “we care” as they want to convey that for some reason they do.   What would be the purpose of caring if there wasn’t a message to convey that they care about something related to you?    It is personal because it is about people.   If business wasn’t personal then it wouldn’t matter that children making clothing in China in sweat shops is wrong.  It is personal.  If it weren’t personal then it the BP disaster wouldn’t matter.   I am not writing about good business or bad business, good choices or bad choices, I am saying all that doesn’t matter, it is personal.  What you do as a business person will have an effect on others.   It will change their lives even if you are simply selling a small screw.   That small screw could fit in someones glasses or it could be something even more important.   What matters is that we as business people don’t say “It’s just business” because we have a responsibility to understand that business has cause and effect, the relationship of what you do as a business person to what the result is for someone as a customer must not be overlooked.    I think some of us put blinders on and we think we can do and say anything we want.  The media rewards some of this kind of behavior with shows like Hell’s Kitchen, we could name a others of course.   Just because they are defacing American morality doesn’t mean that we should allow this entertainment practice to seep into our daily routine.   Sure as long as business has existed there have been bad people doing bad things, shame on them and they will have to face their demons or maybe they have already  but that is no excuse for us.

 

I am seeing a moral decline and I don’t like it, I am hearing people say “it’s just business” and I don’t like it and I won’t practice business that way.   Taking things personally is something that should be addressed in business in that we must be able to have open and honest dialogue without repercussions, in other words no “ugly baby syndrome.”   Of course taking things personally is different from understanding that business itself is a personal.   Without more than one party to conduct a transaction there can be no exchange.   Exchange should benefit both parties, there are cases where it won’t but it should.   If you believe in “caveat emptor” I say that is fine but then again, that will only happen once and the person who was wronged was affected.   I will finish by saying it all boils down to the playground, everyone needs to be treated fairly, saying that actions are “just business” is an excuse for poor behavior.   Good business is knowing that business is personal but not taking business personally, it is a formula for good exchange, good commerce, good behavior, and great success.

Turning off the news and vote for a GenX’r

People have said to me throughout the years that it isn’t just my right to vote but it is my responsibility.  I have voted and I have listened and watched the political bologna go on and on.   I have come to think of politics as I think of cancer, it is there and no matter how many people try to deal with it there is no cure.   Today it is worse than ever, go on CNN, MSNBC or Fox it doesn’t matter and you will find talking heads discussing politics as if it were a sport.  You know the difference is that this is not a game and they are all making money on it like it is.  If you don’t know how elections work follow this link http://www.govspot.com/features/electionprocess.htm if you do know, don’t waste your time going there to read.

I know, you have probably heard enough about this stuff and you don’t need me telling you what to do.  I promise that isn’t my intent.  I simply want to point out that this 2012 election has a 8 Billion dollar price tag http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/election-cost-price-tag/2011/04/14/id/392926 and I don’t think that even deals with Anderson Coopers salary ya know (keeping them honest) and stuff.   All the media outlets are playing games with OUR lives and frankly I don’t feel as though I have a person that will represent me in this race.

You know what is funny though, I can find people with similar ideas and interests.  I grew up in the Bronx in a place called Coop City  it was a true melting pot which I think is a great representation of what is special about America.   To this day I have friends who have worked hard and become lawyers and doctors and I also I have friends that have worked hard who have become bus drivers, security guards, city workers and beyond.   I share their values and I don’t judge them for the size of their home or the choices they have made.   I think that is inherently a Generation X trait.   Now that the GenX’rs are grown ups we are the ones that need to step up to the plate to make a difference.   Currently I don’t know of anyone running for President that represents us.    But what better group is there?  We can after Martin Luther King and were raised with the idea that fairness for everyone is simply right.  Our grandparents fought in WWII and told us the stories of hardship in the 1920’s to 1930’s,  our fathers served in Vietnam and fought the war at home when they came back which not only changed them it became our fight.   We served in the Gulf war and we lived and worked through both political parties making horrible choices.   We watched the demise of Saturday morning cartoons and the rise of all day every day media (remember when there were only like 7 channels?)   Now we have children of our own who have more sugar in their diets than ever before.

We have watched our country turn into one big mall where everywhere you go is a Walmart with a Subway in it next to a Loews across the street from a Home Depot and don’t even get me started on what they did to Sears.   My point is our generation has watched America become defaced.   It was business that ruined Christmas and now every other holiday.   Once again, when I talk to my friends or people I grew up with, we still share the same values. SO, what is wrong?   Why are their movies like Brewster’s Millions or Dave?

What can I do about it?  I don’t know, probably not much.  I was dreaming in the early morning of having eloquent words to say that would convince people to do something.   I realized that I didn’t have something for them to do.  I know what I am going to do.   I am going to sit this election out, I am going to turn off the news and  I am not going to feed the media beast.   I am done.   They want to talk about all the things that they will never do and spend 8 Billion plus dollars on lying to us that is not on me because I will stand down and ignore it.

The days of kicking our children out of the house to play are over.  Saturday morning Smurfs have turned into The Regular Show or every Disney and Nick show having no parents around.  That wasn’t what we were raised on and frankly I think it’s gone.

So, here is my message to any of our presidential candidates  If you can show that you are taking all that money that you were getting to convince me to vote for you and do something good with it and prove that, maybe I will pay some attention. Otherwise you are over 8 Billion lies deep and you and I don’t have the same idea of what helping America is all about.   BTW http://www.ssa.gov/oact/TRSUM/index.html regardless of their bullshit arguments, 8 billion is a lot of money that can make a difference to the American people.