Monthly Archives: August 2009

Test Manager – The movie

I recently found out that someone has finally made a movie about a test manager.  What could be more dramatic and poignant than testing on a high pressure projec?

Oddly though the movie is a comedy that is apparently based on fact.  “The Pentagon Wars”  is about the testing of the “Bradley fighting vehicle” and has a familiar plot to testers:

  • The PM wants to “smooth over” flaws during testing prior to going live.
  • The test manager wants to stop the product being shipped as a deathtrap.

The only quote I have is from the “PIR”.  Burton is the test manager being referred to and Partridge is the PM who is responding to questions.

  • Major General Partridge: Just because the tests didn’t turn out the way Colonel Burton thought they would, was no reason to suspect there was anything devious going on.
  • Madame Chairwoman: I ask you General, filling the fuel tanks with WATER before a test to check the combustibility of those tanks, that wasn’t devious?
  • Major General Partridge: If the tanks had been filled with fuel, there’s a good chance the vehicle would have exploded.
  • Congressman #1: Isn’t that the point?
  • Major General Partridge: If the vehicle had exploded, we wouldn’t be able to run additional tests!

Has anyone seen the movie, or found a similar one on BAs or project managers?

Posted by James King


Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Culture, Testing



Following on a from two very successful conferences SDC and STANZ 2009 (in both Wellington and Sydney), SDC 2010 has been annouced with the theme – Business Analysis gets agile. This will no doubt be a fantastic conference! Start planning to attend now!

See SDC 2010 for more details!

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Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Uncategorized


Leverage Differences

Another good day in Chicago, which feel more like Wellington every day – today it’s windy and raining.

This morning’s first session was Diana Larson and Sharon Buckmaster dealing with brain science, gender differences and working together effectively in teams. 

They presented an overview of current thinking in three areas:

  • Social Neuroscience
  • Positive Psychology
  • Imagine Science (and what it tells us about brain structures)

They started with a discussion of Social Intelligence (building on Daniel Gorman’s work on Emotional Intelligence) which focuses on intra-personal behaviour and group dynamics.  They then spoke about the importance of Mirror Neurons which are important in team motivation – we are more inclined to follow positive, happy leaders and why a cheerful disposition is contagious.  Positive Psychology or the “Science of Wellbeing” shows the importance of happiness and a sense of purpose to individual and team morale and measurable productivity improvements.

They pointed out the physiological and psychological differences between male and female brains and minds,  with a lengthy discussion of where the differences lie and the resultant behavioural patterns.

The discussions stressed that while there are very real differences in the workings of the male and female brain, there is no difference between the sexes in cognitive intelligence as measured by IQ.  Neither sex is “cleverer” than the other.

The results they presented were accompanied by the disclaimer that these are broad generalisations, and individual measures will vary immensely.

Some of the differences they identified include:

  • Male brains take regular breaks – men do sometimes really think about nothing; female brains are constantly working and don’t take these breaks.   When he responds to “what are you thinking about” with “nothing” he’s probably being truthful!
  • Men have 6 ½ times more grey matter than women, which is devoted to intense, focused thinking
  • Women have 10 times more white matter than men which provides connectivity between brain elements and enables multi-tasking.
  •  Women have two language processing centres, one on each side of the brain, whereas men have only one.
  • Men have a far less active hippocampus which results in less relationship between memory and emotions, women remember emotive content linked to events more effectively whereas men remember the facts of the event
  • Men have 20 times the testosterone which results in a worldview that can be described as “landscapes of challenge”
  • Women’s brains are flooded with oestrogen from birth which supports their multitasking ability
  • Women have 20% more blood flow in the brain, which results in the ability to more fully perceive context (emotion, body language, eye contact, tone of voice etc)
  • Men are more focused on content – facts, figures, diagrams and spatial experiences

The key message of the session was to understand the differences and be able to leverage an understanding of them to improve interpersonal and team communications.

Tomorrow I’ll post more about the other sessions.

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Agile 2009


An Agile Tuesday

Today was a good day at the conference. 

It started with the Keynote by Alistair Cockburn, in which he “came to bury Agile, not to praise it” – adapting Shakespear’s words to poignant effect.  The thrust of his talk is that it is time to get past Agile as a separate movement, the good practices that make up the various agile techniques are just that – good practices which form the craft of software engineering, and are largely the way our profession works today.

He made a strong point that the authors of the Agile manifesto did not invent these things, but cherrypicked a set of good ideas which had been around for a long time and put a brand around them.  The landscape today is more complex than that for which many of the practices were initially intended, and the challenge is how to make them scale beyond the “six people in a room building a product”. 

Once his talk is posted I’ll add the URL to this site.  There was a video camera recording his Shakespearian rendition and someone’s bound to post it online somewhere.

After that inspiring start I went to a session on scaling the adoption of Agile practices in organisations – “Crossing the Chasm”.  This looked at how organisations need to foster change to expand from pilot projects or gurella teams to full-scale organisation wide adoption.  Ahmed Sidky and Chris Sterling presented a useful change model which can help plan the organisational journey which is needed.

The afternoon was taken up with “First Kill all the Metrics” – looking at the evils that are perpetrated with inapropriate metrics and an investigation of what/when/how metrics can be useful in encouraging and supporting apropriate behaviour.

I ended the day with a session on Group Relations and Social Systems which looks at the dynamics of people on teams and how the unconcious “team survial” motive can result in disfunctional projects that continue when they should logically be closed down.  Quite a theoretical paper, but some very interesting stuff.

To show how far along the adoption curve Agile has come, tonight they are launching the PMI-Agile Community of Practice!

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 26, 2009 in Agile 2009


If it’s Monday this must be Chicago

Hi from the (other) Windy City.  I have had the weekend to recover from the travel shock (AKA jetlag) and see some of this great city.  Chicago is a really beautiful city – fascinating arcitecture and very friendly people.

To work you say – we don’t want to hear about your travels!

Day one of the Agile 2009 conference was great.  I attended two sessions:

Both were excellent. 

Mary related the fundamental principles of the Lean/KABAN approach as it applies to projects in general, linking the appoach to the way the Empire State Building was built in 1929/30.  She introduced the concept of Flow the theory of constraints, then linked it to the way work (should) flow through a software development project, focusing on keeping a steady pace of delivery and removing botlenecks.  This requres making sure that there is enough preparitory work done to ensure the team is able to start work as soon as the previous task is completed.

Elisabeth and Chris introduced the concepts behind simulation games, and over the afternoon each team we produced two usable games that can be used in the classroom to convey learning messages.

The attached photos show their key guilines. (Used with permission)

In addition to the conference sessions the evening was a networking goldfield.  It’s great to see how well regarded Software Education is in the Agile community.

Posted by Shane Hastie

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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Agile 2009


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“Agile” Is Much More Than a Software Development Process

I’m intrigued, bored, encouraged, and discouraged all at once: not to mention optimistic and sceptical.  How’s that for a confused and mixed up kid?

“Ok matey! So what the heck are you going on about?”

“Well it’s this agile, agility, Agile, Agility thing.”

“Okaaaay so what is it?”

“Blowed if I know!”

I’m not at all sure that I know what Agile / Agility is.  I think it has its roots in software development approaches including Extreme Programming, which I think I first heard about more than a decade ago.  Does anyone remember the even older RAD or RIP or JAD from the 1980s?  The idea, then, was to use a collaborative, non-bureaucratic, approach to quickly produce software that was seen as fit-for-purpose by its users. Well I think the present agile methods have their roots in that RADish JADish idea of getting software cheaper, quicker, and better by minimising the time and money consumed by the older stage and gate (often misnamed “waterfall”) methods.

From my standpoint, anything that reduces the power of bureaucrats has to be good — just so long as we avoid devolving into chaos.

That’s how I read Agile / Agility: it’s an antidote to toxic bureaucratitis.  It has become much larger than a software development method.  When the principles are applied organisation wide we can expect the following results:

  1. A significant reduction in the use of top down command and control management methods leading to a reduction in toxic bureaucracy
  2. The evolution of collaborative self-managed teams with a skilled project manager as the effort coordinator but not necessarily the commander:  the “commander” is the demands from the work that must be done
  3. More positive pushback through questioning the corporate worth of any project: the catch-cry is “Demonstrate that this idea will give an appropriate, measured, return on investment.”
  4. Through collaboration, the “Them versus Us” syndrome reduces
  5. Products will be fit-for-purpose rather than compliant with out-of-date prematurely frozen requirement specifications
  6. Silos will have holes blasted in their walls: collaboration kills silos and that is a very good thing.  The best way to encourage projecticide is to build silos: so avoid silos
  7. Improved Enterprise Architectures should result from less silo thinking and more integration.  An oft heard question will be “How does/should this product integrate with product x?”
  8. The possibility of continuous process improvement will increase.  Agility requires that we use retrospection: lots of reviews asking, “Is our process working?” as well as “Is the product (heading toward) fitness-for-purpose?”

The points above sound good to me.  In fact compared with the state of most organisations today the points sound positively utopian to the point of being fantasy.

So how do we achieve our utopia from our current dystopia?

Clearly two major factors apply: Cultural change and training. The whole organisation has to change and the staff members will have to become highly trained: not educated: trained.  Out of training comes increased discipline.  Without discipline Agile becomes Tragile.

Without cultural change and training Agile / Agility will remain forever Tragile / Tragility.

Where do we go to find the change agents and the trainers?  I know a terrific bunch of people who can help.  They all work with Software Education Associates Limited.

Posted by John Watson


Posted by on August 19, 2009 in Agile, Culture, Project Management, Quality, Testing


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Good luck to Shane at Agile 2009 Conference in Chicago

Our very best wishes go to Shane Hastie who flies off to Chicago in a few days to present at Agile2009 (

Shane has two very interesting talks lined up; one titled “A Business Value Focused Model for Story Identification & Prioritisation” and the other “Agile Attitudes Necessary for Business Survival in Today’s Economy”.

Shane has threatened/promised to keep us updated via this blog with how he gets on at the conference, and we wish him luck with his quest to win the “session with the longest title” award.

Posted by Tim Moore


Posted by on August 18, 2009 in Uncategorized