Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scrum Horror Stories

Today I talked with some fellow Scrum practitioners about failures. Failed projects and failed sprints. What some of them had to share was truly scarry. On person had his manager trying to play the product owner role. Yikes! IMHO that should never happen. It is a conflict of interest plain and simple. Another described how technical debt was accumulating because the product owner didn't care about the build-up of bugs. Talk about asleep at the wheel!

All this made me think there ought to be a 'You are not doing SCRUM - IF...' list that SCRUM coaches and trainers teach to the neophytes. Here's my 1st crack at this list:

Your are NOT doing Scrum IF....
- your manager is your 'Product Owner'
- your Sprint Backlog Tasks are consistently larger than 16 hours
- your product owner never participates in your sprint reviews
- your developers are spending all their time in meetings
- your product backlog was written on a napkin (sans priorities)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

525 Billion Dollars Per Year In Corporate Tax Dodging! Yeah!!!

As all American taxpayers know, yesterday was the day that income tax returns are normally due to the IRS.

This year you've got a couple extra days (Monday - the 18th of April).

Given the mountainous volumes of un-answered hot air about our budget deficit going on right now; I think this is an excellent time to share some of the intelligent discussions about our budget deficit that I've seen.

I've gathered some of the best internet video discussions on the topic below.

Here they are; enjoy!

Next time your hear someone talking about cutting benefits for Seniors, student loans benefits, etc... - share these links with them.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Essentials of Scrum: My Take-aways

Strange to say, but its been over a year now since I started doing SCRUM.

At my new job, recently I was asked to provide a brief overview of SCRUM
to a bunch of project managers. This got me thinking about what the most important parts of SCRUM actually are.

For me, it boils down to these 3 concepts;

1) Don't let the fox guard the hen-house. What that means is; your Scrum 'Product Owners' are there to represent the customer. If the project is an 'internal' project -- the recipient of the output of that product needs to be represented by your product owner. Many waterfall shops fail to understand that. They are used to managers automatically filling the product owner role. But if you put the manager of the group that receives the product in the Product Owner role; you are much more likely to get better results, than if the manager of the development team pretends to fill that role...

2) Insist on well defined (small) tasks in your Scrum Backlog! Early on this was something I simply got wrong. I had scrum tasks like 'update the database schema'. Later on I'd learn that there were several parts to this; and it really spanned several days/tasks. The DBA doing the task was constantly revising how much time was remaining on the task. Getting decent visibility into the progress depends on getting the tasking clear. Spending extra time on decomposing tasks is always worth the effort. More than 8 hours per task is probably a sign you're task needs to be split up into smaller ones. I like to see 2--to--4 hours task sizes.

3) Look forward to the problems/issues; Problems are Good (especially when you find them early)! For a lot of long-time waterfall shops; problems do not exist. Er; that is -- no one admits to them until it is too late to deal with them effectively. It takes a certain amount of courage on the part of developers to realize that in-the-light-of-day the problems they bring up aren't so bad after all. If you chose the right 'Product Owners' they are anticipating them already; and relish the chance to help tackle the next ones.

Anyhow; these are the 'essentials-of-scrum' to me. If you're a Scrum Master -- and wouldn't mind comparing notes -- post away!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Jokes That Didn't Make the Cut

Recently my 10-year-old son had to put together a comedy skit for his school's talent show. So he and his classmate decided to do a "Weekend-Update" style skit where they do 'joke' news.

In the process of helping them out I came up with a remix on some oldies-but-goodies that didn't quite meet the PG rating that is required of their venue.

Here's that section that got cut:
Just 2 Days after Wiki-Leaks announced their intent to leak church secrets;
the Catholic church this morning announced their secret formula for Holy Water.

You start with regular water: then you boil the hell out of it.

Not to be outdone, the Greek Orthodox Church announced their secret formula for extra-virgin olive oil.

Your start with regular olive oil: then you boil the F@#K out of it.


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I'm Not Waiting For Superman

The movie Waiting for Superman is very good, and definitely a must-see for parents with elementary school age kids.

Sadly, while they did present some wonderful teachers in that movie, they neglected to mention the man who is arguably the best public school teacher that ever lived. I mean, of course, Jaime Escalante, of Stand and Deliver fame (another movie I highly recommend).

They also neglected to mention the excellent work being done at the Khan Academy. Even Bill Gates uses that stuff with his kids.

For my own son, I'm looking to use quite a lot of the content that Salman Khan has put together. Best of all; its free!

So even when you are stuck with a crappy public school system, like my family is; there's still a lot you can do.

No need to wait for superman.

But see the movie anyway!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Federal Budget Deficit Could Be Closed Just By Eliminating Corporate Welfare Programs

According to the CBO the 2010 projected annual federal budget deficit is $ 800 billion dollars.

That means our government is spending 800 billion dollars more each year than it takes in in taxes....

I wonder if we can make that go away just by eliminating all the various corporate welfare programs we currently run....

First lets eliminate government subsidies for rich corporations (they don't need it anyway; and they're already subsidized through tax loop-holes)

Annual Savings: $ 200 Billion

Next, lets eliminate all the redundancies in DoD that are really just give-aways to large defense contractors....

Annual Savings: $ 150 Billion

Ok - so now lets put in place pooled-pricing negotiation for the Medicaid Prescription-Drug Benefit and all other health-benefits programs. All that stuff was just a massive give-away to the drug lobby anyway.

Annual Savings $ 200 Billion

Then we can really tackle pesky medical costs by fixing Medical Patents (eliminate corporation's ability to patent genes, stop the 21-year medical patent problem).

Annual Savings $ 100 Billion

And we should also close at-least half of the corporate tax loop-holes. Didja know that Exxon (the richest Corporation in history) paid no taxes last year? That's gotta stop.

Annual Savings $ 125 Billion

And let not forget to bring back the Estate Tax for the ultra-wealthy

Annual Savings $ 100 Billion

Lets see, now; How are we doing thus far?

Total Savings:

$ 875 Billion per year

Sweet; $75 billion extra. Let's just put that towards paying down the debt.

Damn, that was easy.

But nothing on the list above will be proposed by any democrats or republicans (not even the tea-partiers).

Lobbyist will make sure that never happens.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Definitions of Life and Cancer

There is an interesting slashdot discussion about how our definition of life and cancer may be about to change. That discussion inspired the observation below.

Life: The decision of about 4 billion cells to be 'you' for a while.

Cancer: The decision of some of those cells to form a 'tea party'.