Friday, October 22, 2010

Tetris-shaped people

I am unsure who coined the term T-shaped people, but Tim Brown of Ideo gives the gist:
We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they're willing to try to do what you do. We call them "T-shaped people." They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T -- they're mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior...
T-shaped people tend to have the right stuff for cross-functional, self-organizing teams so prized in Agile organizations: we need individuals with some deep special skills, plus at least some broad general skills, and play well with others.

Tetris people!
Going further, I would like to generalize the from T-shaped people to Tetris-piece-shaped people, or Tetris-shaped people (for short).  Remember Tetris, the addictive game of falling blocks?   If you don't, go play it now, and come back when you're done.

Since individuals come with a mix of skills, we need different shapes that fit well together to assemble a great team -- just like the blocks in Tetris.

Also, remember how in Tetris you can rotate the blocks as they fall?  This corresponds to encouraging people to deploy their skills in different ways to help the team achieve its goals.

Take home messages:
  1. Recruit T-shaped -- or, better,  Tetris-piece-shaped -- people to your Agile team(s).
  2. People as cogs in a giant machine are out; people as Tetris-pieces are in.
  3. All that time playing Tetris was not wasted!

Finally, on a highly entertaining tangent, check out this hypnotic performance of Human Tetris from Project GAME OVER:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Have your cake, and eat it too!

You can try for the best of both worlds:

and hope to get Nimble Cascade, but I bet you'll get Half-Arsed Agile instead!

* * *

Here's the original Agile manifesto, plus Ron Jeffries' take on why it should not be updated.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Agile Triangle

Jim Highsmith gave a great opening keynote at the 2010 Agile Australia Conference.  One of his most striking visuals was a proposal to replace the traditional "iron triangle" -- cost, scope, schedule -- with an Agile upgrade:

Note that the original triangle has not gone away; rather it has been subsumed under Constraints.

The full slides of the talk are available, as are more extensive reports of the session from Craig Smith and my colleague Shane Hastie.

The Agile Triangle
  1. Value: releasable product
  2. Quality: reliable, adaptable product 
  3. Constraints: cost, schedule, scope
In other words, in Agile we're looking at a bigger picture: making software that organizations want, because
  • they deliver real Value now by addressing reals needs, even if these weren't well-captured at the start of the project, and
  • are of a Quality that will stand up now, and also and in the future when modifications are (inevitably) required, while 
  • smart choices are made to keep the Constraints under a reasonable level of control.