alacrity in action

Before Christmas I wrote about a journey across Europe we were about to make. I was trying to apply some agile estimation techniques to plan our trip. We have now made the journey there and back and (hindsight is a beautiful thing) I can admit there is nothing that I could have planned, estimated or arranged that could have prepared us for the truly epic journey that we have had. First of all there was the snow and ice; it has caused serious disruptions on the roads in England, France and Germany. Therefore we set off on Friday night rather than Saturday morning to make first 200 miles ahead of schedule. Then, there was the eurostar incident that happened just before we were scheduled to go across the channel in the tunnel. This has added some 6 hours to our crossing (and only because of a very canning detour we have taken). Snow storms stopped us again in Germany so on Sunday we have only managed to drive from Cologne to Hanover. To add to the problems our daughter was not too well and ended up with a temperature of 40 C and bronchitis diagnosed by a German GP. Well, we got there in the end and this is how:

GPS trace of the trip

GPS trace of the trip

It took exactly 4 full days (we set off on Friday night rather than Saturday morning pre-empting some problems) and 2018 km (1254 mi).

UK-Poland-2009-trip-burndown-actual

I want to dedicate this story to one of our senior managers. There is currently one project high on everyone’s agenda which is in trouble. When I say in trouble what I mean is that there is too much work to be completed by the (somewhat arbitrary) deadline. This is nothing new, the whole project team (and a very good team I have to stress) knew this from day one – even before any work has begun. Never mind, someone, somewhere disregarded simple and straight facts presented by people who were to do the work and promised to the business work can be done. Today, it turned out, in yet another meeting attended by the team and the said manager (because it is a good idea to deliberate what needs to be done and who is to blames and drag people away from the code they want to be writing) discovered there is no gantt chart! This was an inexcusable crime against basic management principles and a total failure of the project team or at least the project manager.

Dear senior manager, may I humbly suggest that creating a detailed plan does not cause a late project to succeed. It is impossible to plan up front in every detail every single line of code that needs to be written to meet vague and fluid requirements for a brand new system using never-before tired technologies. It is not possible to plan a simple three day car journey, and one that has been made before as a matter of fact, with that precision and accuracy. To think that it can be achieved for a creative endeavour with more degrees of freedom than miles between Poland and UK is perhaps somewhat over optimistic.


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