Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Beam Me Up!

Australian Scientists Teleport a Beam of Light By Belinda Goldsmith

C A N B E R R A, June 17 — In a world breakthrough out of the realms of Star Trek, scientists in Australia have successfully teleported a laser beam of light from one spot to another in a split second but warn: don't sell the car yet.

A team of physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) announced today they had successfully disembodied a laser beam in one location and rebuilt it in a different spot about one meter away in the blink of an eye. Project leader Dr Ping Koy Lam said there was a close resemblance between what his team had achieved and the movement of people in the science fiction series Star Trek, but reality was still light years off beaming human beings between locations.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Agile Processes: Ken Schwaber's letter to IEEE Computer

I read with dismay “The Agile Methods Fray”, where two of the luminaries of software processes discuss traditional (defined) and agile approaches. The discussion was irrelevant to those attempting to understand the distinction. A sentence characterized the apparent purpose of the article, “ …found a sensible middle ground and identifying some baby to be saved and some bathwater to be replaced.”

There is no middle ground between traditional and agile processes. The practices of traditional software development processes are inadequate to control projects with complex technology and sophisticated requirements. Agile processes are based on empirical process control, a technique widely adapted by competitive manufacturing and development environments over the last twenty years. I quote from the bible of process control (Process Dynamics, Modeling, and Control, Ogunnaike and Ray, Oxford University Press, 1992), “It is typical to adopt the defined (theoretical) modeling approach when the underlying mechanisms by which a process operates are reasonably well understood. When the process is too complicated for the defined approach, the empirical approach is the appropriate choice.”

Empirical process control relies on frequent inspection and continuous adaptation to minimize risk and produce quality product. Agile processes implement empirical process control through iterations, frequent increments of working, tested functionality, emergence of requirements and architecture, self-organization of multiple small teams, and collaboration. These are not spot practices shared by defined and agile processes since the underlying theory is different … using a defined approach for a complex problem is like using algebra to solve complex, non-linear problems.

We indeed are in the middle of a revolution, as we shed traditionally weak and inadequate practices and adopt agile processes. The issue isn’t merging the two, but successfully managing the change. Those who wish to tinker with either to reach a middle ground tread a dangerous path toward misleading those who rely on them for informed advice.

Ken Schwaber
One of the developer of the Scrum agile process
One of the founders of the AgileAlliance

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

GE's take on SCRUM: Engines of Democracy

by Charles Fishman, Fast Company 28, p 174.

"Although engines go out the door of this plant at a rate of more than one per day, the air of calm is hardly its most unusual aspect. The plant is General Electric's aircraft-engine assembly facility in Durham, North Carolina. Even within Jack Welch's widely admired empire, the Durham facility is in its own league -- a quiet corner of a global giant, a place where the radical has become routine. GE/Durham has more than 170 employees but just one boss: the plant manager. Everyone in the place reports to her. Which means that on a day-to-day basis, the people who work here have no boss. They essentially run themselves.

"The jet engines are produced by nine teams of people -- teams that are given just one basic directive: the day that their next engine must be loaded onto a truck. All other decisions -- who does what work; how to balance training, vacations, overtime against work flow; how to make the manufacturing process more efficient; how to handle teammates who slack off -- all of that stays within the team."

SCRUM meetings: Good article by Linda Rising

Rising, Linda. Agile Meetings. STQE Magazine, May/Jun 2002.

"I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING: “OH, BOY, another article on meetings. Just what I need!” Believe me, I hate meetings as much as you do. In fact, I consider meetings the biggest time sink in organizations today. I can’t believe I’m writing an article about having more meetings. But please bear with me. Let me share some stories about how frequent, short meetings helped a few teams solve significant problems. Suspend judgment for just a bit..."