Friday, January 29, 2010

Leading Lean Software Development Chi Feb 10-11

Also wanted to make a quick post about this course. Mary & Tom Poppendieck recently completed their new book (of basically the same title). They will be leading this course in Chicago on February 10-11.

They gave essentially the same course in Chicago last year just after Agile2009. Everyone was happy with it. The lean ideas are very important.

Hope you can join us.

See here:

Certified ScrumMaster course in Ottawa Feb 3-4

Just a quick post to mention this course. We were up in Ottawa recently and enjoyed it. (Although cold to a guy from NC.)

This should be a good course, and hope you can attend.

For details, see here:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paying for courses

I didn't know before, but apparently this is a complex subject.

This post is mainly for those who wish to pay for our LeanAgileTraining courses. But others are welcome to use it.

First, there are many ways to pay: check, cash, wire transfer, Intuit Payment Network, barter, etc. If you have a question about this, contact Taylor Young (

Second, the two "easy" ways to pay are PayPal and GoogleCheckout. We always have those "buy now" buttons on the course listing.

They seem easy...use your credit card or your bank account and the buttons take care of the details.

But, in lots of ways, only some of which I understand, it is complex.

First, sometimes one will get an error message.  And often a PayPal or Google Checkout error message is not very clear. Typically the problem is on the credit card company side (although this is not clear from the error message). It might seem it's about you, but typically their fraud sniffers are just going hyperactive.

Some of the key data they are sniffing includes: Name, address, card number, expiry date, and the special code. (Watch out for typos; you'll trip the wires!)

They are biased against first-time internet buyers.
They are biased against large amounts.

And, if you have a corporate card, your corporation may set special rules, and not tell you.

You probably know that each card has (kind of, at least) an overall limit. But there can be transaction limits and daily limits, etc. Amex seems to insist that certain transactions be done in USD (even though PayPal allows CAD or EUR, which may be fine if you use Visa or MasterCard or Discover).

PayPal says no single transaction can exceed USD10,000. (Google may say the same.)

There are probably more rules or exceptions; I just don't know them all yet.

It is true that you do not have to become a member of PayPal or GoogleCheckout to use the the buttons. But the screens may imply that to you.

If you have problems, we suggest these actions.

1. Don't feel forced to use PayPal or Google Checkout. There are almost always other options. For example, you can call us, and we can take your CC info over the phone. And, given enough time, we prefer a wire transfer or a check in USD.

2. Before using a credit card, take 5 minutes to call the number on the back of your card and tell them you are about to do an internet transaction of X amount. Ask them if they see any problem with that. Often the humans can actually force the fraud sniffer systems into reasonability.

3. If you try PayPal or GoogleCheckout and have any problems, please contact Taylor Young ( immediately. If she can't help you, I will try also.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Free Speech

One of the great themes of Agile is freedom.

There is no doubt that some take this idea in a wrong way, and what they get is more like anarchy, which is not freedom. But, from what I see, most people don't really understand freedom. Based on actions, they seem to think it means: "I am free to do whatever I want, and you are free to do a lot of the things I want you to do." In other words, they accept that others have some degree of autonomy, but "they still report to me", meaning they must mostly do what I say.

Well, perhaps I am putting too much attention on where freedom is abridged and not counting enough where it waves free, but the abridgment is where we need to be fighting.

I can accept that in business we must make some decisions, many decisions are difficult and are ones where full consensus is not possible, and so we must have some authority. But still managers forget too often Little's second law: People are remarkably good at doing what they want to do. Frankly, I forget it too, on a daily basis.

At least, managers should let people have their say. Each worker (for lack of a better word) doesn't require that the team do exactly what she says, but she can go with the group's decision more if she feels the group heard her. Take the time to listen. You can learn a lot just by listening. (Apologies Yogi.)

Which brings me to political correctness, which I see as mainly a corporate abrogation of our free speech rights. Yes, some of the -isms are evil at the extremes. But, IMO, the corporate "PC" codes have de facto gone way too far. Maybe what is written is ok, but the de facto effect is very very bad. At least where I see them.

Definition of Belief in Free Speech: You only believe in free speech if you are willing to defend a person whose speech you strongly disagree with. (This is a famous definition; I will later credit it.)

What the PC ethos does is cause people to lie and cover up and not tell the truth. Sometimes even to themselves. So all the "imperfections" that we all have come seeping out another way. Freud showed this. And all of your experience shows this. Or mine does.

We must accept that every person holds biases and generalizations. These can be useful, even life preserving, but equally they can be un-useful or hurtful or stupid or worse. But it is the nature of how our minds work that we generalize, and some become biases, prejudices, discriminations, etc. Any thinking person should examine his generalizations and expect a bunch of them to be stupid. Also, as Linda Rising famously (to me) summarized, it is the way our animal being works. We are pack animals, for example.

Free speech is not just for the non-stupid.

The effect of the PC "rules", however perfect they sounded on some stupid bureaucrat's desk, is that they create a culture where people withhold stupid thoughts. And it is only by putting stupid thoughts on the table that the team can examine them and correct them.

(I may like the person, but I hate the bureaucrat almost every time.)

Now, we do need some rules for extreme behavior. If a large majority (say, 95%) of people would say some behavior is wrong, we probably can safely issue a rule. (Example: This word ("<...>") is not acceptable in our offices. Or: Extended verbal harassment after x, y, z is unacceptable.) But they need to be very clear rules that close to 95% clearly support.

Words that merely hurt our feelings cannot be unacceptable. In business, we have to hurt feelings. A person might roughly say: "Oh, you suit, you guys never understand the technical stuff." A gross generalization, but until it is on the table, the team can't examine how true it might be.

A person might say: "Oh, geez, you're so like a chick with these concerns about emotions. Let's get on with it." Again, a gross generalization. Maybe that team needs to work on emotional IQ or not, but they can't deal with it until the issue is on the table.

A person might say: "Typical guy; gotta fidget with your tool endlessly. Bring your head up out of the screen, and consider the people just a bit. Dude!" Again, a gross generalization. But the PC impact is that these rough words don't get said.

Now for a fun example. Is the following video "acceptable" as a teaching tool to convey three ideas:
a. It is important to tell the truth. ("Hips don't lie")
b. Human beings, while they may occasionally be rational, are often not rational. Often like an animal.
c. You must feel the music of the values and principles of Agile in order to be better at dancing the specific practices of agile.

Here is a link to the YouTube:

So, is this video acceptable?

Or does it impinge too much on the religious or sexual-political sensitivities of others too much?
Does a corporation have a right to censor its use? By a non-employee? Or by an employee?
Your comments below please.

How quickly some of us show we care nothing for freedom. Shame.