Monday 30 December 2013

The Lada Niva Paradox

So you have a product, or a feature, built as it was designed time ago.

This product of yours, has some known glitches, failures, known bugs or distortion of perceived reality, whatever you want to call it.

And when you try to work on a fix, it happens that you are limited by the original design, and because the product was built this way, the fix you want to do either is not possible or it would create collateral failures that you don't want to add to your product.

I like to call this the Lada Niva Paradox.

The Lada Niva is a 4x4 Off-road car designed and produced by the Russian manufacturer AvtoVAZ. They started producing it in 1979 but you can still get a brand new one as they are still being built somewhere. The product did evolve along this time, the front turning lights changed from round to square, the engine changed from a 1600 with carburettors to a 1500 with fuel injection, the steering went assisted, and the brakes now have ABS... Still no airbag,

But would you buy one? Well, I would not, because I don't need such a car, and there are plenty other models that have better features from my point of view.

Then, why do they still produce it? Because for somebody it is still useful and affordable enough to go and buy one.

But if your product, or feature, still looks like a Lada Niva... instead of waiting for some farmer from Gorodovikovo to come and buy you one, because (you like to think that) it is good enough.
Maybe you should think about why are you still producing Lada Nivas, and how deep is your incapability of evolving the product, and what do you want to do about it.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

6 Rules for a successful Bakery.

This morning, I went to a bakery just around the corner...

...and I got some breakfast to the office.

Just because it's Friday, and just because I like the stuff they produce, let me explain you why I think they do fine in 6 points.

- Making fresh bread is not a industrial process. It could be, it is for Bimbo bread, but they produce +30 kinds of bread and there is no machine that can do that. They don't either buy frozen dough because the quality is below their standards.

- Bread is done by people. In the bread making process there is the manual feel of how the dough is doing, taste to check if more salt is needed and then some automated process, like the heat of the oven that is required for the overall process.

- Balance between technical and commercial departments. They do the bread on a big back room, and then they sell it in a comfy shop. And they got a nice balance on the sizes of both, because they know how they are important for the business.

- Know good practices, search for quality. They travel to conferences and exhibitions to learn about the craft, the lady that runs the business once told me that the best bread is done in Germany, and how she would like to do so many kinds of bread as she has seen there, but since there is no demand, she has to stay to what the local customers want.

- Knowing that there is one kind of bread for one kind of customers. And they want each one of them to find the right kind.

- Be constant, get better, learn to do better. I been into this shop for about 7 years, and observed they have a quite low clerk rotation, I would guess to say that for a staff of 5, I have seen 1 shift every 2 years. low rotations are significant, because people that work there know that they are in better conditions that at other places, and choose to stay.

Now, if you change bread for software you have the talk that +Javier Garzás gave at the VLCTesting 2013, The points of this post came out of his talk, and I just wanted to share a good place I know to buy a croissant.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Cruise control

Last week I saw for the first time the new BMW GS 1250, An engineering masterpiece produced by BMW that looks like this:

I can't tell how it feels like riding, but it must be close to riding a Battle Horse.

I spent some minutes observing the bike, and one of the things that got my attention was that it has a cruise control button.

A cruise control is basically a device that you can set up to a certain speed, and once it's set it does not allow you to ride faster than that.

So, here is the paradox: BMW produced the most powerful boxer engine ever since 1896 and then they also put this little button so you can tell the bike that you really don't want to go faster, because you think that this way you will ride better.

Here in peertransfer we changed from scrum to kanban some time ago, and while this was a powerful change, we still had some trouble when the queues got more stories than we were feeling comfortable, so this week we added our own cruise control.

So we have set a Work In Progress Limitation for each queue, and quite a tight one!, and we will experiment to see how this works, what kind of problems we find and what kind of solutions we are able to come out with. But the idea is to prioritize developing better software, instead of delivering as much as possible.

Fun times, can't wait to tell how this goes.

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