Friday, August 13, 2004

You win...

Dear reader, Apologies for the rambling nature of this blog. I appear to have had a bit to get off my chest here. Probably something to do with freeing up my 'flow of thoughts'...

Have I mentioned what I do for a living? For the record, I am a long defunct physicist turned software engineer. This seems to be a common occurrence: I've met a number of people who migrated into the IT industry after studying something else. One could revise the old saw:
'Those who can, do.
Those who can't, program!'

Maybe I'm being too harsh here. I happen to think I'm pretty good at what I do (now, if only others would recognise this!!)

Have I mentioned why I've started this Blog? A number of reasons come to mind:
  • a way to jot down thoughts I have, and thereby clarify my thinking.
  • a way to free up my flow of thoughts: a useful exercise for an avowed introvert like moi. (You may have noticed the tightish editting so, not today)
  • a place to stand on a soapbox and howl abuse into the void.

Mostly though, the thing that got me going was boredom. I have been doing the same thing at work for months now. It's of some importance, I know. But it is also profoundly repetitive.
...and so boring!

OK! there is a reason for this preamble, and I'd better get to it before today's blog becomes too much of a couch session.
The devil finds work for idle hands, 'tis said. In my case, he found me some subversive literature to read.

Subversive? Ooh! do tell!

It was 'Agile Software Methodologies' by Alastair Cockburn. (check Amazon for more details)

Subversive? Oh, yeah! Inspired by what I found to be a lucid and wide ranging account of how one might run a software project with tight deadlines and moving goalposts, I offered to give a brief talk at one our in-house seminars, only to be told that it wouldn't be appropriate.

...The person who told me this is actually quite intelligent but, if you've ever worked in a large company (come to think of it, in most companies!) you will realise how insular and conservative middle management can get. Focussed as they are on budgets and project schedules, the introduction of any new idea is viewed as threatening (let alone the questioning of existing practices... but more on that some other time)

The ironic thing, of course, is that agile methodologies are intended to alleviate precisely the sort of pressures that middle management find themselves under. Of course, we're talking risk analysis here. People under pressure are going to stick with something they know will get them over the line. They won't take unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, it seems the habit tends to get ingrained, even between projects.

However, this story does have an upside. Some time later, when another manager was bewailing how all our projects were over time, over budget.. etc. etc. I raised the topic again, and this time got a nibble. I even managed to lend him my copy.

The other day, I asked how he was going with it. I fully expected him not to have got around to it but was pleasantly surprised to learn that he not only had been dipping into it (it's that sort of book) but was finding it as interesting as I had done.

So, here's hoping!

...Now, for some truly subversive literature, try 'The Seven Day Weekend' by Ricardo Semler...


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