Final Reflection

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

This is the final reflection for the course. This will first cover the topics that the last third of the book covered and then I’m talking about what I learned from the book as a whole. One of the first topics covered in the last part of the book is that some projects often skip the design process. Well, design will be done, but when implementation comes around, the programmers will just not look at the design and design as they code, which can lead to a high number of bugs. It’s also discussed that sometimes it’s better to just do design for a long time, try to get the best design possible and that design should be easily transferable to code. Then you can do last minute implementation and end up with few to no bugs. The problem with this in the context of the book is that the teams were overstaffed and design is a process which will not be sped up by adding more people, it might even slow down. When coding, more people can often reduce time. A dynamic team size throughout the project’s lifespan is the best way of doing it. Personally I think this is true, design is difficult to do with a lot of people, you have to communicate with many others when doing something that the time that you actually spend doing design decreases.

Another topic that is covered by the book is the size of meetings and the way meetings should be carried out. A meeting agenda must be defined beforehand. Not all meetings are relevant for all people, so having someone in a meeting that serves no purpose to them is only wasting their time. It’s also mentioned that there are some steps to take when starting a meeting. This

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Deadline, Chapter 23

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

The last chapter arrives. There’s a huge party in Morovia and it’s Tompkins’ last day in the country. Due to all the food and drinks Tompkins had a dream with Yordini the fortune teller. Yordini told Tompkins that he could tell Tompkins the future. Tompkisn asked away about the future of many things. The airport project for the Olympics was going to be finished by the deadline, although not perfectly and with some complications. As for Belinda, she will be a senator from the state of California. And finally, Belok, he will be many things: investment banker, captain of industry, special assistant in the White House, he will be at the Federal Prison at Danbury and, lastly, have his own radio talk show.

Tompkins was then interviewed by one of the ex-General’s managers, Alonzo. Alonzo asked Tompkisn about everything he did right and everything he did wrong during the whole time he was in Morovia, to which Tompkins answered by giving Alonzo his journal that he has been writing since day one. That journal had everything he had learned and would be a great help to managers around the world. Tompkins didn’t need it anymore, he had those teaching engraved in him and he wasn’t forgetting them any time soon.

And lastly, Tompkins was leaving Morovia, he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Lahksa. The plane is supposed to be heading to Boston while making a stop in Latvia prior to that. When he landed, he thought Latvia didn’t look like what he expected. He asked the taxi driver of the taxi he was in, and just as he suspected, he wasn’t in Latvia, he was in Bulgaria. He also learned that Bulgaria ha it’s own NNL, which he expected since Morovia’ NNL had told him that Latvia

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Deadline, Chapter 22

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

It’s ending at last, the projects are finishing one after the other, it won’t be long before all 6 of them are finished. What’s even better is that some of them finished before the unfair deadline that Belok had set up. NNL finally came back and called Tompkins to his office. NNL told him that Morovia was going public, the IPO was going to be held next week. An IPO means offering shares of a private company to the public, the company goes from private to public, this allows public investors to participate. Along with that, Tompkins gets a generous sum of money plus some extra for him to give to others. NNLwanted Tompkins to stay in Morovia since he did a great job, but Tompkins just wanted to go somewhere and spend his new fortune. Instead, Tompkins decided that Melissa Alber should take his place. Tompkins wasn’t the only one leaving, NNL wanted to go and buy out some other country. NNL intended for Belok to replace him, but since he was sick due to “mysterious reasons”, Tompkins suggested putting Gabriel Markov. These two were perfect for their new roles.

Everything was going perfectly until Tompkins received a call from Belok. Belok was making some insane requests, he wanted 4 buildings to be unoccupied for some tenants. Not only that, Belok wanted the employees to be squished into the remaining buildings and they were not able to bring their equipment. Belok called the “lean and mean”, this meant layoffs, salary cuts, smaller workspaces, etc. Tompkins, however, said that what they needed was “prosperous and caring”. Belok was quite angry, but Tompkins was having none of it. What the experiment showed was that being strict was not the way to go, employees needed a better working environment and loose schedule Continue reading "Deadline, Chapter 22"

Deadline, Chapters 20 and 21

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

Finally, some good news comes in chapter 20. Tompkins receives a letter from Lahksa telling that a consultant was going to visit him and that everything was going to be okay.

“And don’t worry about you, either. I’ll take care of everything as soon as I get back.”

It’s still a mystery what she means by this, but I can assume she has a plan in order for the projects to finish in time or for the deadline to be moved.

Tompkins meets with the consultant right away. The consultant is named Harry Winnipeg and he has written many books, so many that he has forgotten about many of them. Harry can tell right away that Tompkins has problems and that those problems are related to people. Harry decides to deal with the angry manager and ends up demoting him. Harry also mentions that PMill-A is already dead and there’s no reason to continue working on it. However, Tompkins needed to keep it alive because of politics. This is actually called a zombie project and Harry says that at least 10% projects fall in this category. I think it would be weird working on one of those, you basically have no chance of completing it.

Harry also says that meetings shouldn’t have too many people in them. Most likely than not, the whole meeting won’t be necessary for everyone to hear. He suggests dividing the meetings into smaller ones and creating an agenda with all the meetings and what they are about so you only go if you have to. He also mentioned the need for a ceremony with 5 steps. With the ceremony you choose someone and just make him leave, this someone has to be the person that will make the best use of that time.

Harry Continue reading "Deadline, Chapters 20 and 21"

Deadline, Chapter 19

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

This chapter kicks off with Tompkins talking with Kenoros. Kenoros told him that he had graded the design of every team, the quality of the design didn’t matter to him, what mattered was that there was a design at all. All A teams had an awful score. The reason was that these teams were overstaffed and design was not suited to a large group. Design was better done with a team of 5 or 6 people. When you have 20 or more people, you can’t just have do nothing, so the teams jumped straight to coding. With such a tight deadline, the teams needed to do a last minute implementation without bugs, but with no design that was going to be difficult. Skipping design can lead to some big consequences like the project deviating from its goal or reaching the goal in a non-convenient way.

You can try and divide a project when doing design, but most of the time that results in no design being done. Dividing a project at design time will result in a lot of interfaces between people which in return increase meeting times, interdependence and frustration.

Later, a manager from a smaller team came requesting more people to work under her. This was unexpected at first, since the reason why the team was doing so ewell was because of the small team size. However, they were mostly done with the design and when the implementation part came along, there would actually be work to do for 35 more people. Turns out that the optimal team size varies throughout the project’s lifespan.

“When the detailed, low-level modular design is done, opportunities for splitting up the work explode.”

Projects started with an aggressive deadline tend to take longer than those started with a reasonable deadline. Even

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Partial Reflection 2

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

For this second partial, we finally get into the main thing I had been waiting for, the actual experiment starts. There were some unexpected conditions by Belok, but thankfully everything worked out  at the end. The first problem Tompkins and his group faces is that Belok wants everyone to be on the same team. Overstaffed teams are a bad idea when it comes to software development, 2 people won’t write twice the lines of code than just one. As you start adding more people to the project you start seeing diminishing returns until you actually start losing productivity and money by adding more people. With more people conflicts will form more easily and in some cases there might not be enough work for everyone so you are paying people to do nothing and just wait until there is work for them.

The book also talks about function points, which are a way of measuring projects. However, Tompkins and his team realized that they didn’t really need function points, they could just have come up with an arbitrary unit of measurement that worked for their projects specifically. After that, we revisit the problem that you can’t increase productivity in the short term. Tompkins is demanded to follow the Capability Maturity Model which will only increase productivity in the long term and will actually increase the time it will take for the 6 projects to finish. We also learn about other ways that programs like CMM can be detrimental. For example, CMM sets such a strict set of rules that you are not allowed to stray from the path, even if you find a faster solution. In this case, since the 6 projects are copies of other projects, the managers wanted to use the documentation that was already done before and have Continue reading "Partial Reflection 2"

Deadline, Chapters 17, 18 and Interlude

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

Chapter 17 begins with Topmkins realizing that they need a way to solve conflict. I think this is obvious considering all the conflict that we have had in previous chapters, especially the Belok conflict. Conflict is everywhere at this point of the story. System development organizations in particular tend to have poor conflict resolution skills. They desperately need someone to help them with conflict resolution and Gabriel comes up with someone, he is a kindergarten teacher. The teacher is good at solving conflict since he has to deal with kids constantly, but it comes natural to him, he can’t really teach it. Because of this, he is going to help with the PMill-A project. Finally, Aristotle speaks up about Dr. Larry Boheme, this man can teach them about conflict solving so Tompkins goes to meet him.

Larry teaches Tompkins a lot about conflict resolution. He mentions how conflict will arise as long as there are 2 different parties involved in a project. These conflicts arise because of different interests, but just because they are different doesn’t mean that one of them is wrong. Both parties have their reasons so this is why you should approach conflict with respect instead of trying to suppress it. Conflict isn’t unprofessional and everyone’s conditions must be respected.

“Negotiation is hard; mediation is easy.”

That phrase means that when negotiating, if you want to win the other needs to lose in return. This is not the correct way to solve it. Instead, a mediator that is a neutral party can help by showing them that their interests may align more than they think. They may not align 100%, but maybe 80% or 90% of the interests line up and a better solution can be reached.

The next chapter focuses more on the kindergarten teacher

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Deadline, Chapter 16

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

Tompkins is now struggling with the air traffic control project in addition to the original 6 projects. Tompkins is relieved when some specs for existing radio systems are given to them hoping that they will aid in the making of their own radio system. Even as more work keeps piling up they stay positive and aim to do all of it.

“”We take on too much,” the voice said, “because we are terrified of too little.””

Meanwhile, Tompkins is informed that a manager for the PMill A team has been very strict lately. He goes to check on him. There, he meets with the product manager. Tompkins finds out that the reason why the manager is angry is probably because of the way Belok acts. Belok must have a reason for being this way, he isn’t doing any good by giving orders. Anyways, this goes to show how an aggressive boss can lead to an aggressive manager. The anger flows through the hierarchy. Also, while reading this part I came across the terms project manager and product manager, these are terms that I had heard before and I knew were different but I never gave it much thought. I looked into it and found that a product manager does things like talking to customers to find their insights and setting business objectives, while a project manager does resource planning and risk management.

Tompkins decides to read the radio system spec sheet and doesn’t really understand anything. He talks about it to the others, but he kind of pretends that he knows what it’s talking about, he just needs more time to read it. Belinda makes him admit that he didn’t understand a thing. They come to a conclusion that the spec doesn’t really specify, which is its main purpose. Continue reading "Deadline, Chapter 16"

Deadline, Chapter 15

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

This chapter begins with Tompkins meeting with my favourite character, Belok, and by favourite I mean least favourite. He does the usual Belok things and is super strict and assigns Tompkins even more work. He is supposed to help the airport deal with the 2000 olympics, asi if the impossible software projects weren’t enough. He also complains about the workers not doing enough overtime and that Tompkins needed to apply more pressure to the workers. Belok doesn’t have to be such a meanie, he doesn’t realize that his suggestions are not working, in fact they are probably doing exactly the opposite of working.

Tompkins and the team decide to analyze the effects of pressure on the time to deliver a project, they even used old projects with the help of Waldo. Belok’s model was that as you put more pressure you reduce the time to deliver. Before Waldo arrived, Belinda drew her own model of what she expected. The model told them that a bit of pressure will reduce the time to deliver, but more than that and the time to deliver would actually increase. They mention that short bursts of pressure can work really well, while long-term pressure doesn’t which aligns with what I found online. Small amounts of pressure can increase your momentum, but with more pressure the momentum is reduced, employees are immobilized by the stress and can have fear of taking one wrong step, which leads to no steps being taken at all.

[Image source]

When Waldo came back with the results it choked everyone that pressure will only lead at most to a 6% productivity increase. This is small compared with the 25% that Belinda had speculated. An even more surprising fact that they found was overtime hours do not decrease the time to deliver. Continue reading "Deadline, Chapter 15"

Deadline, Chapters 13 and 14

--Originally published at TI2011 – Miguel’s Blog

Tompkins finally got the results of the workers productivity and it wasn’t looking too bright. The PShop project needed at least 3 years to finish, but they had a little less than a year left. Then, hsi new assistant informed him that an audit was going to be performed on the project groups. Tompkins was told that every team needs to be in Capability Maturity Model level 3. This concept had already been mentioned in a previous chapter. It basically means to assign a level to the capability of a team for producing software. The higher the level the better.

There is a big problem, however, with the way Minister Belok wants things to be done. He wants the teams to undergo training in order to boost their productivity. However, we have already seen in a previous chapter that it isn’t possible to gain productivity in the short term. They may gain productivity in the futurem, but in the context of the current 6 projects the productivity increase will probably delay them since increasing the productivity will take time. The benefits will probably not show until after the deadline passes. And the worst part is that the whole organization is going to go through these changes, not only the 6 projects. This means that they will discover the secret teams B and C that are hidden away. Thankfully, Tompkins has some days before they are discovered.

There is a problem, one of the teams is not going to the process exactly as specified. Since they are copying products, they are using the requirements for the product they are copying. This will actually save time, but they are going against the level 2 requirements. In this case, I think he should be allowed to break the mold. If you always have

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