"Wait a minute. This sounds like rock and/or roll."


Stairway to Scrum

​Learning Scrum is like learning to play Stairway to Heaven with tablature

stairwaytoheaven ScrumBook
It will get you here:


But most of us are trying to get here:

The difference involves tacit knowledge. It can’t be learned from a book but it can clearly be learned.  You learn it by doing it and consciously paying attention with intent to improve. In the agile world we have lots of names for this: retrospective, kaizen, PDCA, feedback loop, etc. In reality it is called “learning”. It is the single hardest thing for “agile” teams to incorporate. If learning was easy we would all play Stairway To Heaven like Jimmy.



Scrum vs. Agile vs. Kanban: A fight to the death

Scrum is not a multi-purpose tool to solve all problems at all times.

Scrum is NOT this

Scrum is a highly effective tool that is very useful for specific purposes in specific contexts.

Scrum is this

Agile is a fully stocked kitchen. Choose the appropriate tools for your context.

Agile is this

Kanban helps ensure your kitchen is run efficiently regardless of what tools and processes you use.

Kanban is this


How does your project plan compare?

I recently toured the Empire State Building and was struck by the project plan for its construction:

Empire State Building Gantt Chart

Empire State Building Project Plan

To put this in perspective here are a few facts about the project:

  1. Tallest building in the world at the time
  2. 410 days to complete
  3. 7,000,000 person-hours
  4. 3,400 concurrent workers at peak
  5. 5 deaths (considering the working conditions it’s amazing there weren’t more)
  6. $25M construction cost (in 1931 dollars)
  7. 47 tasks on the plan (66 if you include sub-tasks)
  8. Completed on time and under budget
  9. 83 years later it is still fully operational

Now think about the last project you worked on and ask yourself:

  1. Is this the first time something like this has ever been attempted?
  2. Does my project involve as many people?
  3. Does my project risk lives?
  4. Is my project budget (in today’s dollars) as large?
  5. Will the thing you are building be around in 83 years?

and finally, how does my project plan compare? I have personally seen a lot of project plans and every single one of them was substantially longer and more complicated, while the answer to all of the above questions was “no”.  How about you?




Merry Christmas FedEx

I was out for a ride this morning with four other riders from the First Strike Velo bike racing team on the north end of Seattle.  We were riding on a quiet rural road in a tight paceline when the last rider called out “CAR BACK!”. This is a group of very experienced bike racers so we quickly moved as far to the right as possible and maintained our tight paceline. Moments later a full size FedEx delivery truck buzzed us, no more than 12″ away, and probably traveling close to 45mph. This was along a straight stretch of road with clear visibility and no other vehicles in sight. Luckily since we are all experienced riders no one panicked and we stayed our course instead of bailing into the ditch, or worse into the the FedEx truck.

About a half mile up the road the driver pulled into a driveway of a house, so I snapped a few photos:

FedEx Truck #99419

FedEx Truck #99419

I guess driving a FedEx truck isn’t that fun of a job this time of year.  I’m sure the number of deliveries goes through the roof with the Christmas shopping season now in full swing. It’s no wonder some of these drivers get so angry!

FedEx Truck #99419

So Merry Christmas FedEx, and especially to you, the driver of truck #99419.


Typical dinner at the bachelor pad:

Pork Chop


Pan seared pork chop over sauteed chard with wine-poached pink lady apples

How to treat your customers if you want them to go away

Last Sunday I sat down for movie night with my family. I have lots of ways to watch movies these days: Comcast, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Redbox and iTunes to name a few. On this night I decided to use the Zune Video store since the kids were already playing Xbox and I have some “points” stored up I can pay with. Easy. We agree on a movie and get it started — it’s looking pretty good. About 5 minutes in it pauses as it buffers the content…it happens occasionally so no big deal, we wait it out.

After about 5 seconds of pause the movie resumes — but it keeps doing a freeze-frame during the action sequences. At first I think it might be some kind of nifty effect. But after a number of freeze frames in strange spots I begin to suspect something is wrong. Then more buffering — this is not good. Another 5 seconds and the movie starts again. A few minutes later an error message pops up: ” There was a connection error. Please try again later.” WTF! The kids are getting annoyed. We start the movie again, optimistically hoping it will work this time. But no such luck — buffering every couple of minutes followed by another error message.

After about 20 minutes of this we decide it’s been enough. It’s Family Movie Night, let’s not spend it wrestling with technology. Luckily we have choices — so I fire up the Sony BluRay player, connect to Amazon, rent the same movie (in 1080P no less) and we finish watching. Mission Accomplished.  Kids go off to bed.  I will send an email to Microsoft Customer Support in the morning and simply get a refund for the movie rental that we couldn’t watch.

The next day:  Send email to Customer Support.
Hmmm…which one do I click on?  Xbox?  Zune?  Billing Issues?Microsoft Help Website

I take a wild guess and go with XBox.

This is a simple problem and we’re talking about 360 “Points” (about $4.00) — no point in calling, this can be handled by email or chat.  I’ve had minor streaming issues with Comcast and Apple before and it’s no big deal, they refund the rental and you rent more.  I send an email to support explaining the situation and ask for a refund.  A day later I get my response:

XBox Email

“Steve, the email support channel cannot discuss on billing such as refund.”

“I recommend to contact the Xbox Support Specialists for it to be rectified as the email support channel has no access to the account for security purposes.”

Great.  Here we go.  OK, I’ll give them a call to see what happens — surely Microsoft values me as a customer and wants me to continue spending money on my XBox right?  So I call.  I call the local number with a 425 area code.  I get a guy who is actually pretty good.  He wants to help me troubleshoot my XBox (“did you reboot it?”, “did you clear the cache?”, “did you check for updates?”).  I explain that I am not in front of the console and that I will do those things later but that it was “Family Movie Night” and I wasn’t going to waste it fighting technology.  He understands — he reviews notes and informs me that Zune did, in fact, have some streaming issues on Sunday evening and I was due a refund.  FINALLY!  However…since he is part of “Xbox” he can’t give me a refund, I have to go to Zune.  Seriously???!!!  Fine.

“Can you transfer me?”

“Unfortuately I can’t but I can give you the number…stand by.”

By this point I am getting leary.

“What do I tell the Zune guys when I get them on the phone so they won’t send me back to you?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, I have made notes on your ticket.  Tell them you were having issues on Sunday night.  They know there were system problems on Sunday night and they will give you a refund.”

“Great thanks.  Goodbye”.

I’ve been on the phone for 30 minutes now.  My ear is tired.  I am starting to get really annoyed that Microsoft has not given me back my $4.00 yet.  I find the Live Chat option for Zune Support.  It didn’t take long for him to attempt to send me back to Xbox Support.

Zune Transcript

“Since this was done on the Xbox the Xbox support team will have to trouble shoot this with you.  If they determine that this was a technical issue they will be the ones to issue the refund.”

My favorite quote:

“…it would surely be in your best interested to make sure everything is in order so this does not continue to happen.”

I have [at least] five different ways to ensure this doesn’t happen again: Apple, Amazon, Comcast, Netflix and Hulu.  Why on earth would I ever spend money on my Xbox again?