Sunday, February 21, 2016

Don't neglect software craftsmanship

Even though the software craftsmanship manifesto doesn’t really stand on it's own (it just adds to each of the values from the first page of the agile manifesto) the general points made there are now more true than ever.

In Germany alone for example the number of people writing software doubles every 3 years. That means half of the people writing software in Germany have less than three years experience in doing so.

Three years is exactly the time it takes for a baker in Germany to get through his apprenticeship and become a “B√§ckergeselle” (a journeyman baker). Same for a carpenter.

In the kind of crafts where there still is an apprenticeship-period those three years are spend honing the relevant craftsmanship-skills – is the same true for software-developers?

How much time do you spend on honing your craftsmanship?

Books like “The pragmatic programmer” or “Clean Code” do a great job in explaining how software craftsmanship can be embodied – but how often do we take the time to follow their advice?

I don't know for sure about other countries, but at least in Germany there is the non-profit organization softwerkskammer which is dedicated to fostering software craftsmanship through activities outside work but focusing of professionalism in the area of software development.

And with an area that moves as fast as ours and with respect to the Japanese mindset of keeping “A Beginners Mind” all of your life, for me it pays off to be active or at least participate in such an organization.

So – have fun with your local chapter of the closest software craftsmanship organization.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Blocking it to get free

Product development can greatly benefit from the Kanban-practice of ‘managing flow’.

Let’s look into one aspect that seems counterintuitive, but helps a lot in managing flow – the option to mark ongoing work as blocked.

Even if only the first core property of Kanban – visualize the work – is implemented, the agreement to mark stuck items (items that can’t be worked on right now) in a highly visible manner sends a very recognizable message to anybody looking at the visualization.

Having a blocked Item in the system means that there ‘is a disturbance in the flow’ and thus work downstream – and upstream – of this blockage might be affected. When the disturbance is highlighted and openly visible, all parties involved can act in their own area of influence to handle this disturbance. They might decide to delay some work, swarm to get the blocked item unblocked, or find completely new ways to get rid of this blockage.

Therefore marking a work-item as blocked in a Kanban system is a powerful measure to get the system free again and get the ‘flow’ flowing – leading to less work in progress and thus to shorter lead times and effectively a shorter time to market.

How do you handle tasks you can't work on right now? How many people can really see that the flow is ‘impaired’?

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg