28 February 2006

Techno-thriller and change management

The oath is broken. I wanted to add a new entry in this blog at least every 15 days, and failed miserably for one month.

Let's compensate that with 2 light subjects in one entry.

What if we were trapped in the energy shortage?

Michael Crichton has just released (at least in France) a new book where some eco-warriors are triggering massive natural catastrophies in order to make the world join their cause. I don't feel very inclined to what appear to be M. Crichton views on the climate (from what I know), however there is an issue I have been thinking of, that would be interesting to be written as a novel,... or maybe to be taken more seriously!

In 2 or 3 or 4 decades, we'll be short of petrol. In 60 years or so, we'll be short of gas. Uranium won't last much longer.

Ok, let's develop new technologies, new energies,... But how do we do science, research, technology? With computers, labs, cyclotrons,... All of these are pretty much energy intensive (and water, but that's another debate). What if 60 or 80 years were not enough time to find any viable solution to the energy crisis? Our scientists would be back to wood and stones to find the new super energy of the future? But how could they do that in a world that would certainly be a complete mess? You got it.

This could be interesting as a novel, but I would personnally prefer having a public announcement in the next 10 years saying that a major breakthrough has occurred in cold fusion,... Otherwise, how the hell would I be computing until my fingers are crippled? I really plan on living 60 more years!

You can't change the world alone

I am currently learning an interesting lesson. Since my arrival in my current company, I have introduced several practises, either for development or for management:
  • TDD
  • pair-programming
  • features driven iterations
  • more participation from the group to development decisions (let people decide what they want to do, as long as what need to be done is done)
So far, there have been some successes and some areas could really be improved. For instance, our java team had a moderate consciousness of the absolute need of a permanent green light for unit tests:
  • we had in one month 426 builds (99 OK / 327 KO). Maximum OK in a row = 12, maximum KO builds in a row = 126
  • the whole "unit" test suite takes 1 hour to run (for 1800 tests)
Those 2 examples are clear signs that true TDD is not practised around here. Among the many causes of that, I would register my lack of success at making people change their practises.

The white knight

We recently hired one of the best developers I ever met, in order that he could take some, if not all, my activities as a tech project leader. I had a second objective in hiring him. I knew that he would be good at reinforcing the messages that I had been somehow unsucessful to convey. He was my white knight,...

I really needed him: 2 is better than one, and a newcomer, with a different background is even better. We know software development from different shops. This guy and me are much stronger at convincing -together- that there are good practises that should become mandatory.

And we feel that this is not enough. The "planning game" can also be improved. So we are hiring a "agile consultant" to help us start the new release the right way. One of my personal objectives for this year is to get a perfect consistency of our roadmap, our iterations and our day-to-day development. This is a difficult task. So we need our "white knight",...

Feel it with your guts

Having a white knight is great to trigger change. It can give legitimity to your ideas, better ways of introducing them. But if you want good development practises to survive your presence (something I have been missing this past months), you need to make people feel them with their guts. They should suffer from atrocious aches in their stomach, each time they develop a piece of code without any test for it for instance.

How would you do that? We plan to introduce Dôjô (now I know why there are '^' on the 'o' thanks to my japonese lessons,...) to make people practise TDD the extreme way. If the drug is good enough, they should be hooked on forever.

[ah, good to be back at work after a really pleasant vacation week ;-)]

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