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Agile consultant and coach.
Winning Teams Defeat Technical Debt
In this session, we'll play a game about technical debt, designed to impart some important lessons. Each group will play the role of an Agile team burdened with a significant amount of technical debt. Every sprint, the team faces a choice: Do we forge ahead on the current plan? Or do we invest in reducing technical debt, to make us a more effective team?
The game takes approximately 30 minutes to explain and play. The important part of the session is the discussion afterwards:
- What did we learn from this exercise about the importance of dealing with technical debt?
- How do you explain the business value of technical debt reduction?
- What obstacles do you face in your organization in dealing with technical debt?
- How do you deal with these obstacles?
Note: This game is part of a collection materials that the Agile Alliance has developed to help software professionals deal with technical debt. For more details, see https://www.agilealliance.org/resources/initiatives/technical-debt/.
The Agile middle management muddle
Agile makes middle managers very uncomfortable. Why does the team not need me anymore? Do they secretly hate me? Will I have a job next year?
While some of this anxiety is justified, a lot of it is not. Middle managers need to accept a different role in an Agile organization, but it can be an extremely important one. Be warned, the new job is not for everyone. For managers who embrace this new role, the job can be far more fulfilling than what they were doing before.
During this talk, we will take a Lean perspective on the role of managers. The discussion will center on the tasks and responsibility in the new role, as well as the type of mindset, experiences, and personalities needed to thrive in it. We'll be honest about what challenges middle managers face. Finally, we’ll discuss a way to assess the manager’s positive contribution to Agile teams and the larger value stream.
Technical Debt Is A Systemic Problem, Not A Personal Failing
You often hear technical debt described as a personal failing. Why didn't you code with greater rigor? By creating technical debt, how could you have made life harder on people working in the code? More often than not, technical debt is the result of bigger, systemic problems.
Chances are, you're not a bad person. You didn't want this to happen. It's the system, not you, that's chiefly responsible.
In this talk, we will present some of the conclusions from the Agile Alliance's technical debt working group, which has looked into the systemic causes and consequences of technical debt. While marginal amounts of technical debt will always accrue, that does not explain why substantial technical debt is a widespread phenomenon. The organization in which software development teams work is the much bigger culprit. Many systemic causes, such as deadline pressures, under-investment in skills, and even the unwillingness to measure technical debt, conspire to create a growing burden on software professionals, who would otherwise choose not to create this problem if given the opportunity.
Just as technical debt has systemic causes, the real cost of technical debt lies at the system level. The increasing drag on software innovation has effects not just on individual and team productivity, but on the software value stream, the portfolio, and the organization as a whole. Sometimes, the cost is obvious, such as the valuation of a start-up company's code; other times, the consequences are far more subtle and insidious.
During this session, we will use the language and methods of systems theory to better come to grips with the causes and consequences of technical debt. Don't worry if systems thinking is unfamiliar — we will cover the basics during the talk. We will also do an exercise in which you will create a simple systems model of your own challenges with technical debt, and discuss how this model should help you shape a plan of action for dealing with technical debt.
Ultimately, the goal of this session is to give you the tools to better deal with technical debt. Rather than blaming individual developers, you will be able to show the systemic sources of technical debt, and assess the relative value of addressing each of them. Rather than depending on technical measures to convey the costs of technical debt, we will help you to put the costs of technical debt in stark business terms.
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