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Re: [agile-usability] Article on Design and Agile on A list Apart

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  • Ron Jeffries
    Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you ... Huh? Value isn t a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects [can] /create/ value.
    Message 1 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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      Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
      wrote:

      > So, what is the value of those projects? Why wouldn't they just become
      > Agile and deliver something useful. The reason is that the real value
      > of those projects is in their ability to infuse large sums of money
      > into a large bureaucracy to fuel it's continued existence. Even if
      > they produce nothing they still keep people in jobs and money flowing
      > through the economy. If every project had to produce value we would
      > soon find that there wasn't enough value to be had to justify all of
      > these jobs.

      Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
      [can] /create/ value.

      Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
      would be of more value if it also built something useful.

      Ron Jeffries
      www.XProgramming.com
      www.xprogramming.com/blog
      The fact that we know more today, and are more capable today,
      is good news about today, not bad news about yesterday.
    • Adam Sroka
      On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Yes, but what compels them to do so? ... Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
      Message 2 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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        On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries
        <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
        > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
        > wrote:
        >
        >> So, what is the value of those projects? Why wouldn't they just become
        >> Agile and deliver something useful. The reason is that the real value
        >> of those projects is in their ability to infuse large sums of money
        >> into a large bureaucracy to fuel it's continued existence. Even if
        >> they produce nothing they still keep people in jobs and money flowing
        >> through the economy. If every project had to produce value we would
        >> soon find that there wasn't enough value to be had to justify all of
        >> these jobs.
        >
        > Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
        > [can] /create/ value.
        >

        Yes, but what compels them to do so?

        > Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
        > would be of more value if it also built something useful.
        >

        Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
        their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/? And, what
        if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
        value in the form of working software?
      • Adam Sroka
        P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more budget for software
        Message 3 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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          P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
          is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
          budget for software than it has need?

          On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:53 PM, Adam Sroka <adam.sroka@...> wrote:
          > On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 1:35 PM, Ron Jeffries
          > <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
          >> Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 3:37:25 PM, you
          >> wrote:
          >>
          >>> So, what is the value of those projects? Why wouldn't they just become
          >>> Agile and deliver something useful. The reason is that the real value
          >>> of those projects is in their ability to infuse large sums of money
          >>> into a large bureaucracy to fuel it's continued existence. Even if
          >>> they produce nothing they still keep people in jobs and money flowing
          >>> through the economy. If every project had to produce value we would
          >>> soon find that there wasn't enough value to be had to justify all of
          >>> these jobs.
          >>
          >> Huh? Value isn't a finite quantity that projects draw down. Projects
          >> [can] /create/ value.
          >>
          >
          > Yes, but what compels them to do so?
          >
          >> Any project whose sole value is that it is causing people to be paid
          >> would be of more value if it also built something useful.
          >>
          >
          > Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
          > their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/? And, what
          > if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
          > value in the form of working software?
          >
        • tmfspeck
          ... Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
          Message 4 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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            --- In agile-usability@yahoogroups.com, "Adam Sroka" <adam.sroka@...>
            wrote:
            >
            > P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
            > is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
            > budget for software than it has need?
            >

            Then your business needs to learn to better budget ;)
          • Ron Jeffries
            Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you ... Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or contract to do software
            Message 5 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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              Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you
              wrote:

              > P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
              > is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
              > budget for software than it has need?

              Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or
              contract to do software for someone else.

              Ron Jeffries
              www.XProgramming.com
              www.xprogramming.com/blog
              Accroche toi a ton reve. --ELO
            • Adam Sroka
              On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like this: The process of Undulation is very
              Message 6 of 16 , Dec 2, 2008
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                On Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Ron Jeffries
                <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:57:10 PM, you
                > wrote:
                >
                >> P.S. More to the point: much of the value in working software is that
                >> is satisfies some business need. What happens if my business has more
                >> budget for software than it has need?
                >
                > Never seen it happen but if that were true you could spend less or
                > contract to do software for someone else.
                >

                Where I have seen it, in the context of government, it looks like
                this: The process of Undulation is very expensive. It costs the
                taxpayer millions of dollars every quarter. We would like to develop
                the Super-new Obfuscated Undulator (SOU) so that we can increase the
                speed and reduce the amount of error in typical Undulations thus
                reducing costs. Congress has allotted umpteen million to this project
                and we have contracted Gratuitous Spending Corporation (GSC) to come
                up with a design. GSC has told us that they will spend the next two
                years designing the project after which we will return to Congress to
                ask for more money.

                A couple of things about this hypothetical project:

                1) The agency is quite capable of continuing to do "Undulation" the
                way they have always done it. It is expensive, but they have the money
                and will continue to get the money as long as they ask for it.

                2) The project is justified by the perception that it could reduce the
                cost of existing processes. Lower costs are good. Thus, it fills a
                real need and it is easy to justify the additional expense in terms of
                future value.

                3) The process is a black box. GSC walks away with the money and has
                very little to account for in terms of what happens to it. At most,
                they need to have a plan outlining how the money will be spent and
                they need to deliver some documents showing that someone spent some
                time thinking about a solution.

                4) The agency's continued funding depends on it's continued spending.
                It too is not very accountable for what happens to the money so long
                as it can outline a plan and deliver some documents saying what
                happened.

                5) All that anyone really cares is that the "Undulation" gets done
                regardless of how it gets done or how much money is wasted in the
                process. Thus, there is no force /compelling/ success. Regardless of
                the success or failure of the software project business will continue
                as usual. In fact, in the long run occasional failures produce greater
                revenues for the agency. So long as "Undulation" continues this is
                good for business.

                I won't get into specifics, but this is something I have seen first
                hand at more than one government office. It is also part of the reason
                that I used to live in DC and now live in Los Angeles :-)
              • Ron Jeffries
                Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you ... Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many create sufficient value.
                Message 7 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
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                  Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
                  wrote:

                  > Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                  > their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?

                  Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
                  create sufficient value.

                  > And, what
                  > if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                  > value in the form of working software?

                  Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
                  it?

                  Ron Jeffries
                  www.XProgramming.com
                  www.xprogramming.com/blog
                  The practices are not the knowing: they are a path to the knowing.
                • Adam Sroka
                  On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries ... Except that it is the Emperor s New Clothing. They have to believe we re selling something or we don t get
                  Message 8 of 16 , Dec 3, 2008
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                    On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM, Ron Jeffries
                    <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                    > Hello, Adam. On Tuesday, December 2, 2008, at 4:53:02 PM, you
                    > wrote:
                    >
                    >> Can it be that some projects create /sufficient/ value to justify
                    >> their own existence but not as much value as is /possible/?
                    >
                    > Of course. All projects create less value than is possible. Many
                    > create sufficient value.
                    >
                    >> And, what
                    >> if a project provides sufficient value (to someone) without providing
                    >> value in the form of working software?
                    >
                    > Then it wouldn't make much sense to have a software project would
                    > it?
                    >

                    Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                    we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                    thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                    magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                    expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

                    I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                    cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
                  • Ron Jeffries
                    Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you ... Well, to operate that way, wouldn t one have to be living a lie? ... Everyone with their
                    Message 9 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
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                      Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
                      wrote:

                      > Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                      > we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                      > thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                      > magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                      > expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)

                      Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?

                      > I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                      > cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.

                      Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
                      The question is what do you do next.

                      Ron Jeffries
                      www.XProgramming.com
                      www.xprogramming.com/blog
                      Find the simple path to what works and follow it,
                      always looking for a simpler path. -- Patrick D. Smith
                    • Adam Sroka
                      On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries ... More or less. It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something the less stake they have
                      Message 10 of 16 , Dec 4, 2008
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                        On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 6:15 AM, Ron Jeffries
                        <ronjeffries@...> wrote:
                        > Hello, Adam. On Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 12:02:31 AM, you
                        > wrote:
                        >
                        >> Except that it is the Emperor's New Clothing. They have to believe
                        >> we're selling something or we don't get paid. Software is the perfect
                        >> thing to be selling, because no one is quite sure what it is (The
                        >> magical stuff that the internet is made from.) And, everyone already
                        >> expects us to fail (After all it's /really hard/.)
                        >
                        > Well, to operate that way, wouldn't one have to be living a lie?
                        >

                        More or less.

                        It is a mob mentality. The more people you have working on something
                        the less stake they have individually. Add deep hierarchies and long,
                        slow feedback loops and you have an environment where no one has any
                        personal responsibility.

                        I think a lot of software people just want to build things. If the
                        "architect" comes and says, "I need a component that takes these
                        inputs and produces these outputs, and I need it in six weeks," they
                        are content to do that with little stake in how that relates to the
                        business and the success of the overall project.

                        I think the blame for mismanagement generally lies with such
                        "architects" and whoever is pulling their strings. Sometimes it is
                        malicious. Sometimes it is incompetence. Sometimes you have True
                        Believers who are sure that what they are doing is the Right Way to
                        develop software even though they've never personally seen it succeed.

                        >> I'm being cynical, and you don't have to join me. On the other hand,
                        >> cynics are people who have seen how screwed up the world can be.
                        >
                        > Everyone with their eyes open sees how screwed up the world can be.
                        > The question is what do you do next.
                        >

                        Personally, I make as much noise as I can and then try to get the next
                        gig lined up. At some point I'd like to settle down and take some
                        responsibility, but that hasn't been in the cards yet.
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