Ask the team about technical debt – the creeping doom graph

I was just talking about the sad state of affairs where some teams know they are making life harder by taking shortcuts or creating workarounds that will slow the team down in the future. In fact, my grandma had some pretty good advice on this: There never seems to be time to do things properly – but don’t worry, there will be time tomorrow to react to the crisis that resulted from  what you didn’t do properly today. To avoid this crisis management though, here is a simple way to measure the “technical debt” we are creating today. Put the following table up on … Continue reading Ask the team about technical debt – the creeping doom graph

Growth or reduction in technical debt – why not just ask the team

I just posted an article on measuring quality and maintainablity.  But I am waiting for my tea to boil so I thought I would start a new article. One of the things that often interests me is that teams feel like they need to cut corners this week to get their work done even though they know it will make life harder next week. Everyone in the team would say that what they are doing and yet everyone feels like they have to do it. So why do they keep making life harder for themselves (or for the team inheriting … Continue reading Growth or reduction in technical debt – why not just ask the team

Measuring quality and maintainability

We often say that we are focused on quality and yet only report on time and money when reviewing our projects.  Or we report on “the number of defects” but not on the actual “quality”, not “the ability to maintain this system when we go live”. I think this is because people often thing that measuring quality and maintainability is hard. But here is an easy (if not fully robust) approach to measuring quality. Each retrospective (or team meeting or implementation planning meeting) we can ask the team to report on their own perception of the quality of the work they are producing. But rather … Continue reading Measuring quality and maintainability

Estimating the impact of technical debt on stories – heat maps

I have been in several conversations recently about how we take refactoring and technical debt into account when estimating work on IT projects. For those not up with the jargon – refactoring involves improving or simplifying your code without changing the functionality.  This means that the code can run faster and more reliably, be better maintained etc. Technical debt is the concept that if I take short cuts to get a project into production then I am borrowing from the future – in other words someone in the future will need to do more work to make up for the … Continue reading Estimating the impact of technical debt on stories – heat maps

Questions for project audits – part two

When auditing a project (or taking over a project or even taking on a senior role in a team) I like to go and talk to everyone in the team. When I do, I generally ask them the same questions to get a better feel for what is going on. I really liked a set of questions I picked up from a book called “The First 90 Days”, so I use a modified set of them: What is your role? What does that mean? How would you explain it to my mother? How would others explain what you do? How … Continue reading Questions for project audits – part two

Questions for project audits – part one

I was talking to a colleague recently and promised to share some of the questions I ask when auditing a project (or taking one over). My first question is generally “what is the project about?” But that generally leads to a vague answer.  So I use my “question compass”: These are the questions I use to get a basic orientation when analyzing just about anything.  By way of explanation though, I don’t always use the exact wording shown. When asking “what do you mean” I use a technique that sounds really simple and is surprisingly effective – the “nouns and … Continue reading Questions for project audits – part one

Recent photos

I took some photos in a recent workshop and when I was emailing them I came across these ones on my phone. When I grew up in Western Australia we had corny number plates like “WA – the state of excitement”.  Similarly, in NSW we have the phrase “The premier state” on some number plates.  So I was quite impressed with the different approach they used to a number plate I saw in Brisbane recently. On a separate trip I came across the following plaque that had been placed in the footpath to highlight some local history: Not very business … Continue reading Recent photos