Friday, November 28, 2008

Early Chapters Now Stable

My book on Software Project Cultures now seems to be taking shape. Still lots to do, but the first few chapters (including a couple of meaty ones) are now pretty solid. Later chapters are still a bit wobbly, and I have hundreds of pages not published yet that still rewrite major rework.

Still, there is enough there now for folks to see where it is all going, and to understand what the book is all about. It is probably the first version that is worth looking at to be honest.

Feedback much appreciated!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Several New Book Chapters

My book on software development metaphors now has several new chapters, including chapters on changing cultures, and a chapter on Dijkstra and the gradual fall of his "software development is mathematics" metaphor. In addition, a number of current chapters have been improved considerably thank to helpful feedback from early reviewers.

The latest version of the book is here:

Please give me feedback if you have some: anthony [at] anthonylauder [dot] com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Chapters

The book I have been working on (and published on the web) has mutated into something very different. The Agile Leadership stuff is now only part of the book. In response to feedback from a several readers, the main focus has shifted, and I have published new intro chapters exploring this shift.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

From Management to Leadership

We hear a lot about Project Management, but Agile works best with Project Leadership.

To help me explain this, for the past couple of weeks, I have been digging deeply into the difference between management and leadership.

This has helped a few new book chapters take shape, and one of these is now published (in draft form) here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Before Agile

I have now added a few more chapters to the book, most recently an overview of methodologies before Agile

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Agile Practices are Classic Management Practices

I have now published rough versions of the first three chapters of my book.

A lot of folks have said that Agile is just grounded in common sense. The problem is that common sense isn't that common until you have heard it and applied it. A lot of "common sense" goes against the tugs of human nature. Agile gives you a small number of principles and practices that keep you on the straight and narrow - they stop natural tendencies from pulling you in the wrong direction.

It turns out that a lot of the principles and practices of Agile are not new at all - we just lost track of them by sticking to ivory tower methodologies which looked good in theory but, not surprisingly, didn't actually work in practice.

If we forget the fancy theories, we can turn back to the management classics. These proved themselves time and again in the real world. A great example is the classic books on Time Management, which say "Do the highest priority things first!".

My book relates Agile methodologies back to these classics, and pulls out the essence of why and how they work.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book Writing

For the past few months I have been working for a large and very well known ".com" to help them "go Agile".

The folks on the ground - doing the actual project work - were really enthusiastic, and took to many of the practices quickly.

Unfortunately, my attempts to get senior management "buy in" were a dismal failure. In short, they said they wanted to "go Agile" to make development faster and more predictable, but without altering their own measurements and processes.

After three months of banging my head against the wall, I left the company. Senior management was surprised - whereas the actual teams were not.

Here, then, was my major revelation: Without senior management buy-in you are never going to be fully effective with the introduction of Agile practices. Sure, you can work "under the radar" with some of the practices (e.g. much of XP), but to really get the benefits you need commitment from the very top.

How do we get that commitment? Well, this is what I am figuring out now. One problem I have seen (and not just at the famous ".com") is that you can talk about the benefits of Agile approaches until you are blue in the face, but if it conflicts with the senior management's world view you aren't going to get their commitment. Top management doesn't care about unit tests, or sprints, or product backlog, but about results, about predictability, about beating the competition and grabbing market-share.

The closest I have seen to expressing things this way is Scrum - it cuts down much of the geek-speak and focuses on business benefits. However, it still assumes you already have the buy in you need. Lean Software Development is pretty good too in focusing on the benefits rather than the techniques, but the only response I got to that was "there is no waste in our organization!". There is also David Anderson's excellent book on Agile Management, but that is more about how to apply modern management theories to software development, rather than how to convince senior management to make a culture shift.

My aim is to push these things even further: To understand how geeks like me can be persuasive at the top levels in big firms. At the ripe old age of 43 I have now quit my job and am completely focused on understanding how big bosses think. What are their fears and desires? What compels them to make huge shifts in their world-view and and commit to major corporate change.

In short, I am re-thinking the whole Agile perspective in terms that have meaning to senior executives. My mission is to unravel how to get executive buy in.

Hopefully, this will be interesting to others too. I will be writing up my progress in uncovering this stuff on this blog, and also on my website:

Feedback would be very welcome. In fact, without feedback, I fear my investigations will drift off into theory. Your feedback will keep me grounded in reality - keeping my head out of the clouds and my feet firmly on the ground.

Ultimately, I would like to produce a book: firstly because I am deeply passionate about this topic, and secondly because I feel this is an area where there hasn't been much written so far (let me know if I am wrong!). That, however, is secondary to uncovering and sharing the knowledge itself.

This is how to contact me: anthony [at]