The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.

Tom Cargill. Bell Labs.

It sounds a bit funny, yet so many times it’s true. The question is why?

The reason is what I call: “The Waterfall Trap.” Any project, at the moment it starts, uses logic, knowledge, experience and good practices to guess the future. That’s right the plan is at best a very good educated guess.

Waterfall methodologies for software development, or project management turn this guesses into stone. Stones usually called Milestones, Targets or Deadlines.

The funny thing is as time goes by, everyone can see the future more clearly, everyone can guess we won’t make it. But the Waterfall Trap includes a clause of Inflexibility, no target is ever revised, any revision is seen as a failure from the plan. So instead of improving the prediction, the team often goes to a land of overtime, where quality decreases, morale falters and even health suffers. Only when disaster strikes in these circumstances are plans revised, but usually under an unfair banner of targets missed.

The truth is, we can only guess-timate the future. Can you even predict you will be alive tomorrow for sure? Now you can’t! A car could hit you, you may slip down the stairs, etc. So if we can’t predict our own tomorrow, it’s no surprise projects where multiple resources and challenges are involved, are hard to predict. It’s actually rather remarkable that Waterfall projects, or any project with dates set on stone makes it within the 90-90 rule!

The Agile Way however, is quite different, it embraces chaos and unpredictability, through open, sincere communication, it prepares and adjusts for change, and for unexpected problems. It is not against planning, but rather as we move forward in a project it adjusts to reality on the ground.  As a consequence it allows the team, our “troops” to work hard, but with strong morale, and good pace, to deliver a quality product.

General Patton once said:

Make your plans to fit the circumstances.

It doesn’t get more Agile than that. Agile planning means intelligent decision making, every step of the way, including revising estimates, and moving the team to victory. An Agile Team should never live the 90-90 rule, they should be close to 100% every time, simply because they acknowledge reality, and plan for it.

Over 16 Years Ago an Ad Agency Imagined the Future for AT&T and It Came True

Albert Eistein said: “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.”

Few times has this quote been so true as shown by the amazing accuracy of these series of ads, entitled: You Will. Paid for by AT&T they feature the unmistakable voice of Tom Selleck, and with over 90% accuracy of the future, it really amazes me.

It is a future we live today! Tablet computers, iPhone like devices, Internet Tele-conferencing, super-fast Pay Tolls, and more.

As IT, and business people we tend to focus too much in the here and now, and forget the future. But if we could envision that future, we could help to shape it, and perhaps, even make a few dream come true. 

Kanban: Fly Different – An Introduction.

Several people have asked me to explain the basics of Kanban’s Agile approach to Software Development. This presentation is a simple, straight forward, fun way to get what Kanban is all about. Feel free to comment on it, or contribute for a future revision.

You can click above to see it, or get the full file here in iWork, I do recommend you use Safari or Firefox for best results.


More is Less: >=<

One key concept to grasp in any form of goal setting, project management, or actual effort in life is that we should strive to never do more than needed, but have a goal of simple elegance. We must realize that More is Less. 

Perhaps one of the best ways to illustrate this principle, it to quote Seth Godin with some comments added by yours truly: 

Good enough, for those that seek perfection, is what we call it when it’s sufficient to surpass the standards we’ve set. Anything beyond good enough [MEANING MORE] is called stalling and a waste of time.[ MEANING LESS]

Ultimately, when maturity arrives we will also discover that LESS is MORE. We will eventually notice that if we remove stuff from a project, product or service, and yet keep it elegant, and good, we will reach excellence. 

In book writing this comes from editing a 1000 page manuscript to 250 good pages. In software interfaces this means a beautiful, simple UI that even a kid can use. In projects it means simplicity over bloat. One side benefit of this philosophy is that you will have more time to enjoy life!

Image Credits.

Mobile Apps are definite Trend in the world today. Apple annouced this morning, Jan. 22nd. 2011 that they have reached 10 billion app downloads! 

Think about it, the App Store opened in July 2008, and in 2 and a half years they reached that milestone. It took the iTunes Music Store almost 7 years to reach that number! People are downloading and buying Apps at an unprecedented speed.

What can we learn from this? First that Apps are here to stay, And second Apps are the new normal, the standard way software will be delivered from now on. Now wonder Steve Jobs put an AppStore on Mac OS X, why? Over 10 billion reasons.

Note: iTunes Store opened in April 28, 2003, and reached 10 Billion songs downloaded on Feb 24 of 2010.

HKanban – A Holistic Approach to Getting Things Done

Punta Sal - Peru's North Coast

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREAT MEN

Like so many Project Managers and busy professionals I too have discovered that is not just enough to manage other people, or the work at hand, we have to manage our efforts in and out of the office, and daily life can be the biggest challenge of all.

The first author to show us ways to improve our productivity was David Allen, his Getting Things Done book was a landmark that I continue to browse occasionally. However I could not get the system to work for me. I wanted something simpler, but still effective.

Upon discovering the Kanban Method, and especially David J. Anderson’s book on the subject it became clear to me that the principles behind Kanban could be taken beyond software development, or manufacturing into our daily personal life.

Kanban is an Agile Software technique and set of tools that makes work visible by dividing it into individual tasks, and then those tasks are grouped into different stages in time. We have a backlog where all the inventory of stuff to be done is located. A Ready stage where we place the relevant tasks from the backlog, think of it as the list of tasks or projects we believe we can handle in a period of time, usually a week or a month. Secondly we have the Working area where we track the efforts we are doing now, and finally a Done area to archive our success.

Jim Benson, also noticed that Kanban’s division of effort into a logical work flow, from backlog to done, not only helps in software projects, it also helps regular people. It achieves this by reducing complexity, and making work visible. Our brains can not handle unlimited efforts; we have to limit those efforts in time, and in quantity. Kanban calls this Limiting Work in Progress (WIP.) When we limit WIP we suddenly see our work actually move from Ready, to Working to Done fast! We reduce complexity, and life starts to make more sense, we have this wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Jim has written extensively about this, so I won’t go into all the details, but I recommend you check his site: PersonalKanban.com, and yes he will have a book quite soon. By the way Jim, thanks so much for your comments on the first draft of this article.

THE H IN HKANBAN

As you have probably guessed it, the H in HKanban stands for Holistic. I would also call it humane, and human friendly.

HKanban goes beyond simply achieving goals, its main objective is to achieve goals but to do it while keeping your health and well being intact. What’s the point of achieving goals and dreams or being super effective, if we get a heart attack, lose our family or stop enjoying life?

A QUICK INTRODUCTION TO HKANBAN & THE HKANBAN EQUATIONS

After some reflection, I realized that our capacity to achieve meaningful work is limited by a series of factors. Effort being just one of them.

The Capacity Paradox

Capacity is the availability of time, well-being, strength and resources to make our dreams reality. The cheapest and most valuable resource is time and well-being. Well-being means you have good health, and a positive spirit.

There are many dreams we have, but only limited capacity. We must deal with capacity to succeed. But without health and well-being (the Holistic factor) our capacity tends to zero, therefore it is critical we achieve our objectives in a wholesome way.

Here are the main equations behind HKanban’s Theory:

HKANBAN CAPACITY EQUATIONS

PersonalCapacity = [WorkTimeAvailable * FocusedRatio] ^HolisticWellBeing
We can also express the above equation this way:

pCap= [WorkTA * FocusedR] ^H

Oversimplifying, let’s assume pCap refers to a specific dream or goal. We will call it pCap for x, or pCap(x), x being a specific goal or dream.

HKANBAN ACHIEVEMENT EQUATION

Given that:
pCap= [WorkTA * FocusedR] ^H

Achievement(x) = pCap(x) – HoursOfEffortRequired(x)
When Personal Capacity pCap(x) exceeds HoursOfEffortRequired(x) you get achievement!

Where:
pCap= Personal Capacity                     | WorkTA = WorkTimeAvailable
FocusedR= Focused Effort Ratio %    | H = HolisticWell-being

INTERPRETING THE EQUATIONS

A full explanation of the equations is beyond this brief introduction to HKanban, but here I would like to focus on the key factor. Notice that to achieve anything we must maximize our Personal Capacity or pCap.

Personal Kanban, GTD and so many other methods help people improve Personal Capacity, but they focus on the left side of the Personal Capacity equation, meaning the overall focused, effective effort. Even fewer methods go into the Achievement Equation. When you read that one, you realize how important that Holistic Well Being or the power of H is (^H.) Given that:

PersonalCapacity = [WorkTimeAvailable * FocusedRatio] ^HolisticWellBeing

If H is zero you deliver next to nothing and are probably on the quick way to a heart attack, if your H is equal to 1 meaning healthy you do fine, if you are super-healthy and with a good spirit, you can actually make H > 1, you will be incredibly productive. How much more productive? Probably up to twice normal, but the fact remains if you forget your well being everything collapses.

HKANBAN WHOLESOME PRINCIPLES

There is mounting medical evidence that you need to follow these principles to achieve meaningful, sustainable success:

1. The Rules of 8s. 8 hours of work, and 8 hours of sleep are fundamental for steady, reliable capacity. Study after study confirms the importance of sleep and you’d do well to follow that good advice. And just in case you wonder, those remaining 8 hours are yours! Live life!

2. Body Equilibrium. Not just eating healthy or doing exercise, but resting are key factors for sustainable effort. 

3. Spiritual Well-Being. Avoid situations where you feel hopeless, have a positive outlook in life, and have faith. All these hard to quantify elements are fundamental to keep you healthier inside, and maintain good spiritual well-being. Psychology and brain studies do show that it works, and surprisingly it seems that indeed we are wired for faith.

4. Avoid Loneliness. Friends, the ones that actually talk to you and help you out, are not only worth keeping, they are a key factor in your overall productivity in and out of the office. Cherish them, and treat them with respect. And be even more close, and grateful with your own family. Because after all, who’s got your back?

I hope these principles from HKanban and beyond help you. Reflect on the equations, challenge them if you wish. The more you do, the more you will realize you have the key to productivity staring you in the face. So what are you waiting for? Take the next step, and make it happen.