Watch this space

I’ve been taking a few weeks of semi-vacation in South Africa and I’m in a reflective mood, so please forgive the indulgent tone of this post. I’ve been thinking about what an awesome industry I work in, and some of the people who have been moving it forward over the last few years, at least for me. I wanted to take a moment to appreciate them. If you haven’t come across any of the following topics  I encourage you to explore further. At the very least you should be following these folks on Twitter.

Continuous Delivery has taken process automation to the next level. Jez Humble and Dave Farley wrote a fantastic book applying all the automation smarts they had learned in development into the world of operations and deployment. Then Gene Kim came out with the wonderful Phoenix Project, which wraps it all up in a Goldratt-like fable. Chris Read’s understated insight into all things DevOps has been inspiring. He balances the rigour of Ops with the “Ship it” mentality of Dev, and has just the right mix of discipline and irreverence to really get things done. He makes me a better driver.

TDD is one of those techniques that it’s really easy to get badly wrong, even if you think you’re doing it right. Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided by Tests, aka the GOOS book, by Nat Pryce and Steve Freeman, is the most practical and accessible treatment of  the technical XP practices I think I’ve seen. It’s also a bloody good book about software design. You should read it.

Real Options turns project management on its head. Instead of a plan you work with a portfolio of decisions you haven’t yet taken, and think about the impact and value of those decisions. Chris Matts and Olav Maassen have spent most of the last decade developing and popularising this, culminating in their graphic novel, Commitment, which is a cracking read. Whilst I’m thinking about methodology, Gojko Adzic has been busy morphing BDD into Specification by Example, and his recent work on Impact Mapping has had a profound effect on a number of organisations that I know of. Also Aslak Hellesøy and David Chelimsky have worked tirelessly to build a vibrant community around Cucumber and RSpec respectively. I admire that tremendously.

My own work with Accelerated Agile has been about trying to map the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto to the 21st century. Most of the current agile methods were developed in the 1990s, when organisations, and especially technology, were in a very different place. Half day compile times were not uncommon, hardware was expensive and procurement was a multi-month project in its own right. Now we have servers-on-demand, languages that compile behind your fingers as you type, and a build of more than a few minutes is considered a hindrance. Methods like Scrum have slashed delivery times from years to months and even weeks. Now it’s time to think in hours or minutes. Dan Worthington-Bodart raised the stakes for me with his obsession with a ten second build, but Accelerated Agile owes its existence to the staggeringly talented Joe Walnes and Neil Dunn, who along with the remarkable Phil Dawes taught me how to program again. I’m just trying to explain how those guys build software.

The other big shift for me has been in organisational design. The Cynefin framework is a simple-looking yet subtly powerful model for complexity thinking developed by Dave Snowden. As well as being one of my favourite people, Liz Keogh has been tirelessly writing about and promoting this over the last year or two, and it’s really helped my understanding of Complexity Theory and Systems Thinking. The thing that really blew my mind, though, was Don Reinertsen’s Principles of Product Development Flow. It makes a lot of current Lean thinking seem like banging rocks together. He’s also very generous with his time and his knowledge. I really appreciate that.

My former CIO Seth Thomson and head of Software Engineering Derek Groothuis at DRW Trading are both inspirational leaders and I appreciate Seth letting me loose with his IT organisation. That was the single most rewarding transformation of my career to date. Seth is also a fantastic coach and mentor. and DRW is one of the most open-minded and progressive organisations I’ve ever come across, never mind worked in.  Since leaving there I’ve been working with the formidable talents of Gordon Weir and Lee Nicholls, among others, at Bank of America, who refuse to take no for an answer and are convinced you can make a supertanker handle like a sports car. I’ve never had more fun.

The last few years have seen some enormous advances in software development, methodology and organisational thinking. I think sometimes it’s appropriate to pause and say Thank You. Watch this space - these people are doing some really interesting things.