Thursday, October 21, 2010
Parable Of The Idiot Flowers
Now, goodness is as natural as a flower that grows. If a flower stopped when the sun was shining down upon it, however, and if it began to consider and said - "Wait! Should I grow to the left, or should I grow to the right? Is it good that the sun shines down on me, or is it too easy for me to grow in the light of the sun, and therefore should I attempt to grow instead in the darkness? Should I grow two inches to the right, or two inches to the left? I must strive to grow! I must develop an ego and an intellect, and I must try to reach that sun that is God and I must work hard to because if I do not strive, I shall not achieve - and I must achieve!"
But, beside our intellectual, conscientious flower is an idiot of a flower! And the idiot of a flower stands and feels the sun upon its face and opens up its leaves and says, "This is the sun, and it is good within me; it is the spirit of growth, and I'll follow it and give it freedom; and I care not whether I grow to the right or to the left, for in perfect trust with the spirit within me, I know I shall grow correctly."
And so it grows, our idiot flower, and it grows from within. And it is perfect and it is straight, but beside it is our intellectual and spiritual flower. And this flower says, "Again! Three o'clock in the afternoon, the shadows are coming and the shadows ore evil, and this sun is fading, and the night is coming, and the night is evil; and I must consider how best I can confound these adversaries ... and it is easy to fail and not use my abilities and not to grow!"
And lo and behold, in the morning the sun rises, and what do we find? Our idiot flower in full bloom in the morning sun and our other flower with one leaf drooped down like this, and one leaf curled up like this, and head down, still considering the nature of good and evil and not trusting the spirit of vitality which is within it; and therefore, not listening to the inner voice ... but questioning at every point and at every hour; "In which way shall I go? Shall I accept the sunlight or the rain? Or are these evil forces?" And telling itself over and over again that to grow is difficult and to die is easy. Telling itself over and over and over - in metaphysical terms - that to be good is difficult and to be evil is easy.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Does your enterprise promote discordant reward mechanisms...
Let's have the CIO send kudos to those who are successful in bringing together a team of people to finish a project as the delivery date nears. Let's also avoid acknowledging that the reasons things aren't getting done is because the time has been preoccupied with either useless meetings (under the banner of socialization) or simply slacking off. In the same voice, the CIO needs to forget those who are viewed as the Tortoise that move ahead slowly but surely and always hit their dates. Heroic efforts are the crack that every CIO smokes.
Rewarding people based on the number of problem statements they closed. This is problematic because some people will solve multiple problems with one problem statement, while others will open and solve as many problem statements as they can to inflate the number of problems solved. Or, someone may knowingly leave problems in a piece of work so that he can come back later and "solve" them. Even better, let's just close tickets without actually solving the problem at all. If it is important, someone will open up a new ticket. In the meantime, I get credit for the closed one.
The classic is surely rewarding programmers for lines of code produced. Using better methods of measuring the complexity or difficulty of a project doesn't always help; we don't want more complex or difficult programs.
The HR classic has to be at annual review time where HR pulls out the competitive compensation ratio which employers base salary on the average salary of people doing similar jobs in the same area. They of course forget that, if an employee has a 100% comp ratio, half of the other companies they could work for would pay him better. Shouldn't pay equate less with market surveys and more with how badly you want to keep someone?
Management regard developers who work 16 hours a day as inherently more valuable than those who put in 9 to 5. Working that hard usually is just a sign that you did a terrible job of estimation and planning up front, and that probably there is a great deal of code-rewriting going on. This mindset is especially encouraged by management that worked for a large insultancy where billable hours and facetime were more important than a successful business outcome. Business outcomes can always be addressed via change order.
Isnt it fascinating how HR determines compensation sometimes at the individual level while knowing even less about IT than the person's manager...
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Man Up: Thoughts on Bullying
This weekend, I took my two sons to Chuck E. Cheeses to have some fun. My older son (currently nine years old) who currently studies both traditional Japanese Jujutsu and Uechi-Ryu Karate was pushed by a bigger kid. Most parents would have intervened, but I decided to observe how my kids would react. My older son loves to spar and has been fortunate to not only spar with kids larger than himself (actually he has never sparred anyone his size nor smaller) but also has never lost. So, I really wasn't worried about whether he could handle himself, but something interesting happened. His younger brother (currently six years old) ran up to the bigger kid and put him in his place. This made me think very deeply about what values did I instill in them either intentionally or accidentally that other parents are not doing. There is a sense of serenity as a parent in knowing that my kids will never be bullied.
The funny thing is that this type of attitude isn't just something in the McGovern blood. For example, there was a scenario where a young girl I knew in Trinidad was raped (name intentionally withheld) where her rapist was attempting to elude police and made the mistake of running into the garage of a relative by marriage. The police sat idle while watching my relative beat the piss out this person. Imagine the thought process of a criminal when they victimized someone else go from being elusive to thinking that being in the hands of police is their best alternative.
So, is being a bully a societal problem? I think so, but not quite in the way current media is portraying things. In India, the police carry canes and can carry out justice in ways that American police can only dream off. We can label this practice barbaric through the American eyes, but one has to ask oneself, do other countries have a bullying problem and are these two things correlated?
My older son, is literally the second smallest kid in both height and weight in the entire fourth grade class yet he has also made friends with the kids who are also probably the toughest kids in the class through stereotypical lens (football players). What prevents parents of kids who are being bullied from seeing the benefit of encouraging their children to hang out with a different set of kids?
When I was in high school, I vividly remembered a fool who thought he could threaten me in front of the football team. At the time, I at some level had a little fear of starting something and loosing in front of my classmates and could have succumbed to being a mental loser, but something happened. This kid (Eric) decided he would throw the first blow. At the end of the day, Eric ended up having to have emergency eye surgery and nurse both a cracked jaw and rib. I did get suspended for a week and my parents had to come to school to meet with the principal along with Eric's parents but was this a valuable lesson for the both of us?
Many of the scenarios in the media surrounding bullying are highly correlated to the gender confusion of being gay. Independent of your thoughts on being gay and whether it is OK or just wrong, the challenge isn't to just teach people to become tolerant of another belief system but for people to stand for whatever it is they believe.
As a believer in martial arts, charity, open source and being a good parent, I have decided to create a mashup of these four concepts and am announcing the Man Up Project. Collectively, we all like to believe problems of bullying are for someone else and usually won't take a stand unless it affects us. I want to change the game, not by words on paper, but by taking deliberate action. So, if there is a kid in Bloomfield (where I live) or Windsor (where I work) that has been the victim of a bully and cannot afford to take martial arts training, I will pay for them to learn either traditional Japanese Jujutsu or Uechi-Ryu Karate...
Friday, October 15, 2010
Enterprise Architecture and Agile Operations
Have you ever heard of the innovation paradox? It is the phenomena that states that in operations, you want to remove as much deviation as possible. This is what helps bring consistency in service. Many IT operations folks have gravitated towards ITIL as a potential solution. The innovation paradox also says that in order to maintain business competitive advantage, an enterprise needs to do something different other than the status quo (aka current operations). Innovation requires increasing deviation while operations requires deviation to stabilize.
Do enterprise architecture teams ever ask themselves the exact opposite question where they explore what would happen if they periodically allowed operations folks to be well a little less operational in their thinking? Why are we constraining innovation to only a few stovepipes? Many EAs believe in Agile methods for software development and are champions of XP, Scrum and Kanban yet haven't put on their thinking caps as to how to bring innovation to operations. Well, since many EAs are blissfully ignorant towards operations, I figured I would throw out a few innovative ideas that can help enable an agile operations ecosystem.
I remember hallway conversations where I bought into an eye that I now believe was 100% wrong. It is way too easy to get caught in a conversation where IT operations folks desire to slow down the pace of innovation and encouraging releases of software to go slower instead of stepping up and figuring out how they can improve their own practices. In many shops, IT operations is even more sinister than information protection departments.
First and foremost, it seems as if pretty much every developer understands the value proposition of version control, yet the practice of being able to version operational aspects is lost on most shops. Enterprise architecture should mandate that a systems administrator not only version control all patches, but mandate that they have a clue as to how to roll them forward and back before release.
Second, if you ever needed to make a mass change to servers quickly, do you really need an enterprise class patch management tool? What would happen if you could borrow techniques already used on the Internet and do so for free? I am of the belief that the best way to distribute code to thousands of servers simultaneously would be to leverage BitTorrent software, you know the stuff that is blocked by those folks who think they are doing security but are really from the hygiene department?
Third, don't you find it even remotely curious why a large enterprise that has 8,000 servers requires almost 1,000 people in their infrastructure group yet the likes of Facebook can run 50,000 servers with only 60 people? Is it because the operations folks in Facebook are specializing generalists who are part of the same team as software developers?
What do you think happens when you not only co-locate business people with developers but also throw in a few operations folks as well? In this scenario, the operations folks may have a clue as to how an application actually works and may even know the developers who wrote the application personally and therefore have a better shot at faster resolution that the arduous crisis meetings I have witnessed where the blind is leading the blind towards a coordinated resolution.
The interesting thing about facebook is that they also haven't held onto the broken model of quality assurance as advertised by CMMI level 16 shops in India. Ask yourself why can't software developers when surrounded by and co-located with operations folks who have version control simply skip the QA cycle?
Maybe the challenge is that operations folks don't have a clue as to how to incrementally release software. For example, wouldn't it rock if your load balancers could route light traffic for a new applications to a few servers that are monitored by developers vs the big bang release done today?
There are of course a few flaws with the above idea. I think it means that a developer would need to see a release into production and not simply throw it over the wall to operations. Imagine if I couldn't go home at night until the release was completed successfully as tested not by QA but actual real users? Do you think both developers would right better QA and operations folks would have better confidence in the software they are given...
Anyway, some refinement is in order and I am even thinking about making this a blog series to release additional insight into agile operations. In the meantime, if you are a blogger, please write a response in your blog and link back to this entry. For others, please share your thoughts on Twitter regarding agile operations...