Epiphany on Scrum

Recently, during my long and quiet morning drive to work, I got to thinking about a comment a co-worker had made the previous day. BenevolentEmployer is having us use the Scrum project life-cycle on our super secret project and some of the more recent arrivals had not gone through the week-long course that the rest of us did back in the summer. Co-worker in question had attended a two day version of the course and was wondering about the reason for some of the parts of Scrum. He was curious as to why the instructor had explained the reasoning behind some parts of Scrum very clearly, yet other parts were given no rationale beyond the fact that they were in the Scrum guide and therefore that’s what you did. This was unsatisfying for him.

His comments must have been churning away in the back of my head because the next morning, out popped the answer. More of a revelation or epiphany than an answer. I realized that Scrum is not for the developers, it’s for the business. Scrum is a product sold to companies. As such it has a physical product they can hold and read and follow. This is the Scrum Guide. The business has no idea what computer programmers do, but they want to manage it. Waterfall methodologies have never worked, so they are always looking for something. Scrum seems to fit the need well.

The business wants to know that their projects are proceeding and that they feel as if they have some input into the whole process without actually having to understand Information Technology. The programmers want to be allowed to work on their projects without heavy-handed oversight. Scrum sits between the two camps and facilitates a formal way for each to talk to the other. Scrum calls these ceremonies and there are just enough that the business feels connected, but not so many that the programmers feel hassled. In essence, Scrum is the API to the programming team through which the business accesses them.

And this is why some things do not make sense to the programmers because Scrum is for the business and it buys the programmers space and more autonomy than they ever had under waterfall methodologies.

Cover Song – I’ll Fly Away performed by Flatfoot 56

I have loved this hymn since I first heard it twenty years ago, when I came into the church. We always sang it in an up-tempo way, but many versions on YouTube are slow and warbling and kind of lame. Well, fear not … the boys of Flatfoot 56 (a Christian Celtic Punk band out of Chicago) have produced the most rocking version of I’ll Fly Away that I have ever heard. Enjoy!

The Real Definition of Job Security

(One from the archives. Written 25th February 2005. I think it still stands.)

While talking to a few of my co-workers, I mentioned my personal definition of job security and they liked it so much that I thought that I’d share it here as well, in the hope that it can equip someone else to be prepared for unexpected unemployment. The real definition of:

Job security is being able to get another job tomorrow, not still having the same job tomorrow.

It is an unfortunate fact that companies have an uncanny knack to get themselves in a pickle and then turn around and release workers to ease the cashflow. There’s nothing we can do about their tendencies, but we certainly can prepare for such a scenario. I feel that each of us bears a responsibility to be prepared for such an occasion.

As a geek, I take time (lots of time, actually) to keep my skills up to date with the latest and greatest techniques, platforms and programming languages. It doesn’t matter to me if the current instance of my Benevolent Employer doesn’t like technology A or programming language B. If I feel that they are worthwhile and that knowledge of it will benefit me, then I’m going to learn it. I did it with Java back in the 1.0 days, Struts in the 1.0 days and now I’m doing it with Ruby and Rails. None of these decisions have been guided by the ol’ Benevolent Employer, but they’re not responsible for my career anyway. I am responsible for my career, so I’ll choose what to learn and the timetable that I want to learn it in.

This is the price I choose to pay to be very good at what I do and, as a very useful by-product of that, to be very employable. I have no idea how many evenings I’ve stayed up late after the Queen of All She Surveys and the little princesses have gone to bed, or gotten up early on a Saturday morning when I’d much rather have enjoyed sleeping in, to learn new technologies. As a friend of mine used to say, “Do you want to be better or bitter?” I choose to seek to be better.

Men Don’t Have A Feminine Side

An interesting meme that gets thrown around frequently is that men need to be in touch with their feminine side. This is a feminist trope that is both wrong and unhelpful. The inference is that men are unbalanced when they are being manly and that it would be better if they would behave more like women. If this was true, would not it be logical for the same people to also direct women to get in touch with their masculine side? Of course it would, but you never hear this voiced to women. The entire responsibility is placed upon the men to behave more like women.

The reason that women are not told to get in touch with their masculine side is that women know that they don’t have a masculine side. It’s very simple. women know they don’t have one, so they know that it would be pointless to suggest such a thing to other women. And for the record, guys also know that women don’t have a masculine side so we know better than to suggest it. Besides, we like women being feminine, so why would we want to change that?

You never hear guys (manly ones, anyway) telling each other that they need to get in touch with their feminine side. This is because we know that we possess no such thing. Men don’t have a feminine side. And that’s alright, because the ladies don’t have a masculine side either. The good Lord made us men to be 100% masculine and that’s how we operate best. We are entirely unlike women once you get past the basic similarities of having the same number of arms and legs. We act and think in masculine patterns.

Certainly we have a few things that have become traditionally thought of as the prerogative of the females of our species. Men, contrary to rumor, do have emotions. We just like to keep them tucked away and distinctly dislike bring them out when there are witnesses to see them. Every couple of years we might retreat to a quiet place of solitude and dust off our emotions to check that they’re still there, but other than that, we’ll stick to logic thank you very much. Most guys are more sensitive than ladies suspect. Nah, just kidding. Well, sometimes we notice things, but we stay quiet about them until we figure out if the ladies in our lives are unhappy about them.

So, guys don’t have a feminine side and quite frankly we’re perfectly fine with that. To be fair, we’re also perfectly fine with you ladies not having a masculine side either. Let your husband keep being manly and you keep being ladylike and it’ll all work out fine.

Me And Uncle Bob

Me And Uncle Bob

Me And Uncle Bob

One of my enduring technical heroes is Robert C. Martin. Mr. Martin is one of the lucky few in the technology world who are instantly recognizable by either their initials or their first names. Robert C. Martin is known as “Uncle Bob”. I was fortunate to be able to meet Uncle Bob in the Chicago area at a one day free seminar given by ObjectMentor, back in 2001. At the end of the day, I asked if I could have my picture taken with him and he was very kind and generous and immediately said yes and even insisted that we be standing in front of their “Star Trek wall”.

Thank you Uncle Bob for your kindness to a young and star-struck fan. I continue to read your writings and still aspire to your level of software craftsmanship.