Tag Archives: Leading & Following

Double test efficiency and build app dev culture at no charge

What if you could double the efficiency of your software testing process, and substantially reduce errors found during the test, deployment, and maintenance phases, without purchasing any tool or method? The November 28 InformationWeek offers just that in a reprint of a recent Dr. Dobbs article on formal inspections by Capers Jones and Olivier Bonsignour.  They call formal inspections the “defect removal tool of choice” and back up their claim with lots of hard evidence, but I think they are still selling short. Continue reading

Project managers: is yellow the new green?

I’ve never understood the obsession with “green” status among IT application development project managers, and the intense pressure put on them to “stay green” by the program management offices (PMOs) they report to. We would benefit from a cultural shift away from avoiding yellow status.

For those not in the field, it is in vogue to express IT project status using a stoplight analogy, where green means things are going well, yellow indicates some quality, schedule, or budget risk, and red means there’s imminent risk of failure.

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Thoughts after agile training: strengthening values, reducing the cost of honesty, and growing apps

I recently completed ScrumMaster training ably presented by Lyssa Adkins. Throughout the two-day class we appreciated Lyssa’s Zen-like, enabling, style. If her name is familiar, it’s because Ms. Adkins is the author of the book Coaching Agile Teams, one of the leading texts on the subject.

I’ve participated on agile projects, but so far only in a piggish/chickenish role, once in a three-week stint as a consulting architect and twice as the project manager serving as interface to the non-agile organization.

To me Ms. Adkins rocks at making students very introspective and critical of their past project experiences.  These lessons stand out:

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But is it art? Skills of the next generation BI professional

There’s a data explosion going on and perhaps the strangest result is that business intelligence analysts need to become more artistic.

Recently my friend Ben Harden directed my attention to a post from Steve Bennett of Oz Analytics on the future of BI. One challenge to analysts that Mr. Bennett cited was the unprecedented explosion in data quantity to “an almost inconceivable 35 trillion gigabytes” by 2020.  Part of the solution, according to the post, is “actionable insight”, as illustrated by Harry Beck when he created the now-iconic map of the London underground network from the previous rather spaghetti-ish version.  What Mr. Beck did was to distinguish significant from insignificant detail for the intended audience and present that detail in a clear and appealing way.

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Building a writing culture in application development

One of the key skills needed in today’s IT shop is communication, and one of the best ways to improve ability to communicate is to write blog posts and articles.

In spite of “IT guy” stereotypes, communication and analytical thinking about business are among the most important skills in application development. Developers, analysts, and managers require ability to interact effectively with business people, to conceptualize solutions that match business needs, critically evaluate those solutions, and effectively make the case for one of them. Of course this is true of the overall project business case, but more importantly it applies to the daily “IT guy” to business person conversations that happen throughout analysis, design, development, and testing. Continue reading

Followership III: Real projects for real people

I recently read a fascinating article in the New York times but I zoned out in the middle of it several times, as the article predicted. The article was Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind by John Tierney.  To sum it up, our minds wander about 30 percent of the time, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This kind of daydreaming is an essential skill for managing mundane tasks and keeping our eye on the ball while juggling complex agendas, and furthermore may be important to creativity. Our minds may keep cranking on complex creative challenges in the background while we’re peeling cucumbers or filling out status reports in the foreground. Continue reading

The Grateful Dead as strategic managers

The March 2010 issue of The Atlantic features an article called “Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead.” It’s a great read, especially the second half, which tells of the band’s innovations in organization, fan loyalty, and, perhaps counterintuitively, creating value by freely giving away their product. The success of these measures seems self evident: the Dead were “one of the most profitable bands of all time” and almost singlehandedly created an entire product category, jam bands. As a result, the article recounts, the Dead are replacing companies like Southwest Airlines and GE as management training examples of strategic innovators.

As good as it is, to me the article conjured an unlikely vision of the Dead as business men in hippie drag self-consciously making strategy decisions that altered the marketing landscape. I agree that the Dead took the actions cited on purpose, but I believe core product, not marketing strategy, consumed the band’s energies during its formative and peak years.   Could it be that their innovative market strategies grew organically from a quality product, where quality included the entire fan experience? Continue reading

Groupthink and the Agile Architect

Need uber-guru types who are willing to challenge the existing groupthink on design and architecture, especially on TDD and emergent design and pair programming anti-pattern” – job post at Monster.com 2/9/2010

I stumbled upon that quote following links on the role of the architect on an agile project. Maybe one important role of the architect is to help the team avoid groupthink. Continue reading

Followership II – Individualists, Enablers, & Subversives

In a previous post I posed this question: “more people are followers than leaders, so isn’t it more important to cultivate effective followership than effective leadership?”  In reality the distinction between leading and following isn’t very interesting.  The goal of each member of a group should be to contribute to individual and shared goals in a balanced manner and promote the dignity of group members.  In every group effort, whether business, charity, sports, or anything else, everyone leads and everyone follows.

I recently read Testimony, Solomon Volkov’s controversial publication of the memoirs of Dimitri Shostakovich, the great 20th century Russian composer.  There were three different individuals in the book who demonstrated three different ways of “leading”, or behaving with character within a group.  (See the note at the end of this post on the question of authenticity) Continue reading


Not everyone gets to be a leader, and most leaders are also followers in their own right.  The project manager follows instructions from the project sponsor, the CEO from the board, the politicians from the polls, and so on.

Followership is the yang to leadership’s yin, and according to many interesting sources following can be as fulfilling and important as leadership. For example, check out this site: http://www.exe-coach.com/followerPartnership.html.  Quoting: “When both the leader and follower are focused on the common purpose a new relationship between them arises. This new relationship is candid, respectful, supportive and challenging. It is a relationship that honors open communication, honesty and trust from both parties.”  The article argues that effective followership is the key to making today’s flat organizational models successful and mitigating risk of corporate malfeasance and scandal.

Think about it: more people are followers than leaders, so isn’t it more important to cultivate effective followership than effective leadership?