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Education

The Luna MBA 2014 Update

By | Agile, Development, Disruption, Education, Lean, Organisation | No Comments

Two topics remain consistently popular on our little LT site… Agile Workplaces and the Luna MBA.  Just as we encourage all our clients and friends to keep reading and learning so we do ourselves and so we present some new reccomended additions to the MBA… If you’ve finished the current list then consider this extra credit for your degree.

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure – Tim Hardford

A remarkable, if slightly repetitive set of stories showing us the unpredictable path to true innovation. He starts with the story of Palchinsky at the turn of the 20th century who may have just invented Agile approaches analysing the Russian ecconomy even before the ship building yards of the first world war; Of course he was exiled to Siberia for his efforts. He also explores our aversion to variation and experimentation – the tendency for governments and corporate bosses to love large and grandiose projects instead. As Hardford points out the proliferation of iPhone and Android apps has hidden the uncomfortable truth which is innovation is harder, slower and costlier than ever before. All the easy problems have already been solved. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book to inspire you to buy and read it.

‘Return on investment is simply not a useful way of thinking about new ideas and new technologies. It is impossible to estimate a percentage return on blue-sky research, and it is delusional even to try. Most new technologies fail completely. Most original ideas turnout either to be not original after all, or original for the very good reason that they are useless. And when a original idea does work, the returns can be too high to be sensibly measured.’ Read More

Inspired by Agile – A guest post from Avril Jean

By | Agile, Development, Education, People | One Comment

Avril is a talented artist and QA super star.  While we worked with her team she would always paint pictures to express what was going on.  In this very honest piece (re-posted from her own blog with permission) she shares the story of what it was like for her team to try Agile in words and pictures.


The department I work in (Technology) did a bit of an experiment last year to get agile software development going for a bit – that was a really interesting time to live through.

(If you want to bone up on Agile: wikipedia article is here)

We had two mentors, Nigel and James, who took us through the process – they took us out to the Lonely Planet (an interesting story of a company that went entirely agile in every team) to show us the workings, and they worked through our issues with us. I have nothing but praise for these guys, they know their stuff:

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I need to point out that this was not their actual heights or what they looked like. I rather think James was affronted by this picture! hehe.

This is their company website: Lunatractor

Basically agile is a way of an attempt to cut out the pointless crap around a project, allowing the teams to run themselves, giving everyone a say at allocating their own work, making the workflow obvious, and doing small, continuous releases of working software so that there are benefits straight up (releases every two weeks, known as a ‘sprint’).  This way you actually start to get the benefit of project immediately, not wait months for requirements, and every two weeks, a reassessment of the next most important bit of work comes in.

The way we ran it was a modified version of ‘scrum’: the work was assessd, broken down into small do-able units, written out onto cards, which were stuck on ‘the wall’. Each bit of work was a ‘story’, and the stories went through development, testing, etc cycle.

An example of a story: “As a member, all my leave without pay must be factored into my service”. Then we’d take that and break it down into the tasks we needed to do and how long they would take. The devs would develop it and i would come up with test cases and a way of testing it.

‘The Wall’ was the source of truth, and anyone could come and look at it and see the stories was we were working on. If you moved a bit of work on, you physically moved the card to the correct spot on the wall. It was a really good way of keeping track of who was doing what. If you worked on a card, you put your avatar on the card (we all were represented by a different picture).

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At the start of every day we had a 15 minute stand up, where we discussed what we would be doing that day. We used to run our stand ups sitting down cause we were all lazy.

All the team sat together and conversations happened all the time about the work.  Sometimes there was cake. My team appear to be obsessed with morning tea. This is not a bad thing.

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Work was nutted out on the whiteboard, lots of yelling and gesticulation happened, and everyone knew at all times what they were doing. We all leveled up in how to interact with the other people we worked with.

It was a great project to work on. Of course, not everyone liked this approach, and it did not suit everyone as it was very different in mental approach to very traditional software development (lots of specs and paperwork).

At the end of each sprint we did a retrospective : what we did well, what we should do better next time, what the problems were.  The first few sprints were hard, very very hard. There were a lot of arguments. We had some defections from the team. There were some bodies – we put their little avatars into the ‘graveyard’ bit of the wall when that happened. By the end we were churning out 8-10 fixes and enhancements every two weeks, which was an incredibly fast pace – and we got no return prod defects from our work. Something to be proud of.

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Also at the end of each sprint we invited all the stakeholders to come to a presentation, which was usually prepared with much hilarity that day – this is me and Nancy and Erica getting the powerpoint slides ready:

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This is Mick and Aaron doing their very amusing presentation to the stakeholders at the end of their sprint:

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I attempted to do a presentation once but my public speaking is ATROCIOUS. I actually forget what I’m talking about quite easily and I also say “fuck” a lot when I’m stressed. IT DID NOT GO DOWN WELL.

We did very well and we got the backlog of work done, we fixed defects we found on the way, it was an excellent process.

Ultimately though my company is not an agile based company, and the methodology was misunderstood and not adopted.  We hit a lot of problems working against the status quo – Prince II methodology (which to me seems to be just moving shit around spreadsheets but not actually producing anything at the end of it – PLEASE can someone tell me why I’m wrong if i am!).

There have been a few more projects that have been done agile methodology, also with success, but the value is not really recognized and i doubt there will be more.

This picture represents the fight of us against the status quo.

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I would not mind working for another company that does agile properly one day, though that being said, I’m aiming to get out of doing software and get into doing art full time. So back to what they call waterfall but what is actually V-model software development for me!

Such a pity!

Such inspiration, at any rate.


As a postscript since this was written Avril let me know she’s working on new agile project, and things are changing for the better.

Agile Encore – Workshop and Talk – Nov 14th 2013

By | Agile, Disruption, Education, Lean | No Comments

I talked about one of our favourite clients BAUM Cycles at Agile Australia 2013 in the middle of the year – It must have been popular because I’ve been invited back for the Agile Encore in Melbourne on the 14th.  I’m also running a workshop in the morning before the afternoon session – Here’s an insight into what you’ll get !

Afternoon Talk – Agile, Lean, Broken Ribs and a World Champion

Taiichi Ohno was reputed to take new graduates at Toyota to the factory floor and draw a circle on the ground. The graduate would then be told to stand there and observe; if upon his return they had not seen enough then he would tell them to observe for longer. While it might feel like something out of a Karate Kid movie Taiichi Ohno was really teaching a simple lesson. The only way to really understand a problem is to go to where it happens and see it.

Admiral Rickover (father of the nuclear submarine) understood this only too well and long before the Toyota Production Systems day he would force ships’ captains into boiler suits to crawl the bilge of their ships with him looking for problems on ships in for repair and refitting.

“What it takes to do a job will not be learned from management courses. It is principally a matter of experience, the proper attitude, and common sense – none of which can be taught in a classroom… Human experience shows that people, not organisations or management systems, get things done.” – Rickover

Genchi Genbutsu – Go and See.

How then do we do this when more than 90% of us are creating virtual things – intellectual property, software, design or products – not something you can drop on your foot?

One of Luna Tractor’s most interesting projects over the last year has been working with BAUM Cycles. Their bikes are widely regarded as the Ferraris of the bike world, ridden by world champions who pay their own money and line up like everyone else. In a small, sometimes hot, often cold and dirty factory on the North Shore of Geelong, they have been steadily shifting the operation of the entire business to an Agile and Lean process.

With a blue collar workforce, most factory language unprintable and the background noise a constant mixture of Triple M and machinery; some different approaches are required.  Hear real world lessons about Lean flow, physical stock management; Agile sales and customer service along with who ended up with the broken ribs.  Get a sneak peak into the new factory design that we are currently building also.

You can sign up and see the rest of the program here – www.agileencore.com/index.html

Morning Workshop

In addition I’m running a workshop in the morning covering a wide ranging background of  Agile, Lean and Systems Think as it can be applied across a whole organisation.  This session will be great for beginners and experience agilistas alike with a focus on the background, and philosophy of Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking as well as interactive discussions about how to practically start using these approaches right across your organisations – not just in IT.

Full Details and workshop sign up here – www.agileencore.com/workshops.html

PS: Use the code ENCORE-JAMES to save $100 on the workshop.

Agile Australia 2013 Reflections

By | Agile, Communication, Customers, Education, Lean, People | No Comments

It’s become a bit of a tradition for Nigel and I to write some reflections after the annual Agile Australia conference.  This year Nigel was stuck at home in Melbourne, so it’s just down to me.

I felt like the conversation was much more sophisticated this year.  Lots of people talking about Agile and Lean in the same sentence.  Lots of folks grappling with their whole end to end program, budget cycle and corporate cultures.  A recognition that iterative test and learn approaches are the future no matter what your size or market position.  After many years focusing on techniques, frameworks and patterns this year there was a new focus on values, culture and the human element.

5 years ago the conversation was basically: can this agile stuff even really work ? Now it feels like a whole new breed of people are wanting to understand and embrace Agile, and it feels much less cynical and defensive on their part this time. This is a promising evolution though it does mean I’m going to have to stop making jokes about a few companies like Telstra who have not only seen the light but are working bloody hard to change their course.

A couple of conference highlights for me:

Dave Snowdon – Cognitive Edge – Smart grouchy man; he hurt everyone’s brains… Understanding how we humans think and process information is really important.  Something Dave and his team are exploring is the idea of capturing what users want or are experiencing through micro narratives.  Stories.  If you want to know what your company is really like ask someone the story they would tell their best friend.

Ryan Martens – Rally Softare – An elegant and heartfelt call to action for engineers to think about how they can use their powers for good and not evil.  The world has many big and complex problems and if we can combine basic human empathy with our engineering chops and the scientific method, then maybe, just maybe we can make the world a better place.  Seeing an MRI machine turned into a pirate ship so that kids wouldn’t be so scared to go into it was a beautiful example of empathetic insight.

The reception for my own talk about applying Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking approaches to a small Australian high-end bike manufacturer was very gratifying too.  I’m not sure if the session was videoed, but I promise I’ll write about the story here soon for the people who missed it.  For anyone interested in seeing BAUM’s transformation in person just get in contact and I’m sure we can organise a field trip to Geelong.

Australia is training more personal trainers than IT professionals – really?

By | Education, People, Technology | 2 Comments

Michelle bridges not an itc careerI spoke at a conference this week where a CIO made this headline observation, noting that they had not been able to validate it in any way, but the horror of their claim was that it might be possible.

In true Luna Tractor fashion, and as the economist in residence, I felt the need to dig a little deeper.

The truth appears more like ‘Australia is training almost as many personal trainers as IT professionals‘ – around 14,000 ICT undergraduates in 2012; versus 10,000 studying personal training at private and public tertiary institutions in 2012.

The scarier statistic is that perhaps only 1/3 of those ICT undergraduates are coming into the workforce each year (3 year degrees on average); whereas MOST of those personal trainers (who do 1 year of study) are hitting the local gyms of Australia.

That means Australian employers get access to maybe 4500 ICT grads every year, whereas the Aussie fitness industry is over-run by 8,163 fresh grads every year.

There are twice as many personal trainers as ICT graduates entering the Australian workforce every year!

I won’t pass judgement on the state of Australia’s graduate developers versus passionate industry-trained coders (apparently we have about half-half, and I love them both equally); nor on the benefits that personal trainers bring our nation’s health. But Sam - the face of modern ICTsomething is NQR.

And for the record, IT is a way better job. Just ask this guy. What’s more, he’ll hack an award winning app with his team, and then school you on personal fitness at lunchtime for free.

My workings (for the inevitable statistical pseuds to comb through) are as follows. Note, I did not obtain the original ACS report on graduate numbers from 2012, as I am not a member. I relied on their press release.

a. How many Personal Fitness Students were there in Australia in 2012?

It’s a big and complicated industry – but there is this useful 2012 industry report by Deloitte Economics to consider, and in the executive summary (p3):

‘On the supply side, in 2011 the headcount for registered exercise professionals was 29,875 (24,875 registered with Fitness Australia and 5,000 registered with Physical Activity Australia), with average annual growth rate between 2005 and 2010 around 7.2% (Job Outlook, 2011). Approximately 56% of fitness professionals are female (16,749), and 44% male (13,126).’

This amounts to about 11,000 FTEs working in the industry (the full-time number diluted by so many part-timers). But how many are studying?

 A. Personal Fitness graduates from public RTOs in 2012: 2,768 graduates (with 65% completion) see p36 of the Deloitte report.

Suggests 4,258 total students studying – assuming it is a one year course, as the report concludes from research that there is an average time to completion of 1 year (page 35).

 B. Graduates in personal training from private RTOs in 2012: 5,395, with 90% completion (see p37)

Suggests a total of 5,995 students studying personal training in private RTOs every year.

The report was obtained here via this reference on Wikipedia.

Thus, in 2012, about 10,253 students were enrolled in Australian tertiary educational institutions studying personal fitness.

How many ITC students studying in Australia in 2012?

The Australian Computer Society suggest less than 3% of Australian tertiary undergraduates are enrolled in ICT courses in 2012. Half the number a decade ago!

The interweb handily reports on total undergraduate numbers in Australia, thanks to this emission from the government in 2011 = 480,000, so…

480,000 x 3% = 14,400 undergraduates studying ICT in Australia in 2012, across all the years of their courses. This of course ignores graduate study, which I am taking the economist’s stance on (ceteris paribus), and calling them relatively irrelevant for both professions (Deloitte certainly confirm that for Personal Trainers).

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