How One Publisher Changed Its Approach to Online Development in 45 Days ADVENTURES IN AGILITY Larry M. Belmont Manager, On...
About AIP <ul><li>Founded in 1931 as a service organization … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Charter: to diffuse and advance the kn...
About me <ul><li>27 years in publishing, all at AIP … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 years in print journal production (most as a...
Our goals <ul><li>Increase development speed in order to meet customer and customer constituency demands, as well as our o...
The enemies of agility <ul><li>Project (micro)management </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of failure (culture of “that won’t work”) ...
Did anyone read a software manual? <ul><li>No. (Well, I didn’t anyway.) </li></ul><ul><li>I read and applied what I learne...
From many schools of agility … <ul><li>Observe – Orient   – Decide – Act (Boyd’s “OODA Loop”) </li></ul><ul><li>Observe – ...
…  we stewed an “agile approach”
Just what is agility? <ul><li>Richard Feynman (a physicist, BTW) once said: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You can know the name ...
Agility demands the right roles <ul><li>The  Agile “X Organization” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Leader, a/k/a “Big X” </li><...
What was our “Big X” like? <ul><li>Did not act like a certified project manager; more of an engager-resonator-cultivator-h...
Team attributes <ul><li>Highly motivated, highly skilled </li></ul><ul><li>Zen-like, intuitive understanding </li></ul><ul...
Team behaviors <ul><li>Highly verbal </li></ul><ul><li>No blame, no fear </li></ul><ul><li>No assumptions, projections, co...
Inspiration <ul><li>Agile project managers we admire … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prime Minister Winston Churchill </li></ul></...
Lessons in Agility I <ul><li>The Battle of Britain forced Churchill to turn England in May 1940 into an agile enterprise <...
Lessons in Agility II  <ul><li>The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 required Patton to completely change 3 rd  Army’s ...
Lessons in Agility III <ul><li>Korean War jet pilot Boyd believed the perfect fighter plane’s key characteristic was  agil...
What do aerial warfare and projects have in common? <ul><li>Shared “adversaries” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapid, unanticipate...
OODA, cheap DC comics version
OODA, expensive O’Reilly book version
Starting small <ul><li>Riddle me this … How do you eat an elephant? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer … One bite at a time </li></u...
Our 1 st  OODA loop Installed an agile “framework” (people, process, tools); planned a 1 st  iteration and an agile user t...
Here’s how it turned out 20 business days Plan and implement Version 1.6 8 business days Implement version 1.5 37 business...
How did we change our MO? Practice designer-centered design Practice user-centered design Run the project via meetings, e-...
Our obligatory process diagram
Keys to speed: paper <ul><li>Went “retro” for planning, design, and visualization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used index card bl...
Keys to speed: new “environments” <ul><li>Ergonomics, creature comforts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dual monitors </li></ul></ul...
Keys to speed: the “war room” <ul><li>Leveraged the social-ness inherent in teams </li></ul><ul><li>Provides an extremely ...
Keys to speed: optimized meetings <ul><li>Daily meetings of the action  team  (team leaders, developers, designers) </li><...
Keys to speed: eating the elephant <ul><li>To build is human; to iterate, divine </li></ul><ul><li>Build first out of nece...
Our agile “mythology” scorecard Plan-driven projects are always un-agile User stories and personae were critical to gettin...
How we plan to stay agile <ul><li>“ A good plan … executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week”  (Patton)...
It’s Alive! <ul><li>Project your agility – allow the public/users/potential partners to look behind the curtain at select ...
Thanks! <ul><li>AIP </li></ul><ul><li>Agility in Practice </li></ul><ul><li>Learn more at http://www.aip.org / </li></ul><...
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LONG VERSION - Adventures in Agility: How One Online Publisher Changed Their Approach to Online Development in 45 Days

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Presented on May 30, 2008 at the 2008 Meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

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LONG VERSION - Adventures in Agility: How One Online Publisher Changed Their Approach to Online Development in 45 Days

  1. 1. How One Publisher Changed Its Approach to Online Development in 45 Days ADVENTURES IN AGILITY Larry M. Belmont Manager, Online Development labelmo at aip dot org Society for Scholarly Publishing 30 th Annual Meeting, Boston, MA May 30, 2008
  2. 2. About AIP <ul><li>Founded in 1931 as a service organization … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Charter: to diffuse and advance the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Service mission: to supply economy-of-scale publishing services to Member Societies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Currently has 10 member societies, 23 affiliated societies, and several other organizations under its umbrella (most have a publishing program) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A publisher in its own right … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>10 journals, conference proceedings, database products </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Scitation … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>AIP’s online hosting platform; on the web since 1996 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aggregation of 180 publications for 25 publishing partners </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. About me <ul><li>27 years in publishing, all at AIP … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9 years in print journal production (most as a technical copy-editor) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3 years in desktop publication production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>15 years in electronic/online products (8 as a manager) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Currently an online product development manager in a business unit </li></ul><ul><li>Not a programmer; more of a technical projects manager/product manager </li></ul>
  4. 4. Our goals <ul><li>Increase development speed in order to meet customer and customer constituency demands, as well as our own needs to evolve our services more regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Position ourselves to innovate or deploy new features quickly in response to unpredictable “market conditions,” major paradigm shifts (like Web 2.0), or good ole competitive one-upsmanship </li></ul><ul><li>Create the atmosphere for sustained agility throughout the enterprise </li></ul>
  5. 5. The enemies of agility <ul><li>Project (micro)management </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of failure (culture of “that won’t work”) </li></ul><ul><li>Distributed decision-making </li></ul><ul><li>Fixed recipes; rigid, opaque processes; and “perfect-plan-ism” </li></ul><ul><li>Monolithic release mentality (anti-iterative) </li></ul><ul><li>Design by committee </li></ul><ul><li>Disconnect from users and customers at all but latest stages </li></ul><ul><li>Compartmentalization, thick-walled bizunit-bizunit and bizunit-IT silos </li></ul>
  6. 6. Did anyone read a software manual? <ul><li>No. (Well, I didn’t anyway.) </li></ul><ul><li>I read and applied what I learned from these books into a new way to approach projects: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Good to Great (Collins) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Starfish and the Spider (Brafman and Beckstrom) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Bossidy) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Coram) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Project Lessons from The Great Escape (Kozak-Holland) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Winston Churchill, the Agile Project Manager (Kozak-Holland) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Patton on Leadership (Axelrod) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. From many schools of agility … <ul><li>Observe – Orient – Decide – Act (Boyd’s “OODA Loop”) </li></ul><ul><li>Observe – Model – Test – Reflect (Kolb’s “Learning Model”) </li></ul><ul><li>Plan – Do – Check – Act (Shewhart’s “QC Cycle”) </li></ul>
  8. 8. … we stewed an “agile approach”
  9. 9. Just what is agility? <ul><li>Richard Feynman (a physicist, BTW) once said: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird … so let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So, at the end of the day, agility is still just a word. </li></ul><ul><li>But when we “observed the bird,” we saw agility was mostly about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Feeling it” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaboration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An enabling organizational climate (a “let’s try it” culture that understands that perfecting a product is a process, not an event) </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Agility demands the right roles <ul><li>The Agile “X Organization” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Leader, a/k/a “Big X” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Stakeholder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Timekeeper </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The User Advocate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Visualizer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Architect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Coder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Bulletproofer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Tester </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Gatekeeper </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. What was our “Big X” like? <ul><li>Did not act like a certified project manager; more of an engager-resonator-cultivator-harmonizer </li></ul><ul><li>Articulated clear intent/goal (co-signed “the contract of leadership” with the team) </li></ul><ul><li>Provided vision and focus </li></ul><ul><li>Asked the team to accomplish the goal, but did not tell them how to do it </li></ul><ul><li>A master of tasks, not a task-master </li></ul><ul><li>Served as “Solomon” when needed </li></ul><ul><li>Led with a light hand; inspired more peer-to-peer coaching </li></ul>
  12. 12. Team attributes <ul><li>Highly motivated, highly skilled </li></ul><ul><li>Zen-like, intuitive understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Mix of experienced hands, fresh POVs </li></ul><ul><li>Rank did not dictate leadership role(s) </li></ul><ul><li>Business-technology blend </li></ul><ul><li>Self-mobilizing at all levels </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-pollinating </li></ul><ul><li>Credibility, mutual respect, passion, trust </li></ul><ul><li>Subjugation of personal agendas </li></ul>
  13. 13. Team behaviors <ul><li>Highly verbal </li></ul><ul><li>No blame, no fear </li></ul><ul><li>No assumptions, projections, conceits </li></ul><ul><li>Dialogue over monologue </li></ul><ul><li>Sublimation of egos, but wide berth given to passionate POVs </li></ul><ul><li>Devil’s advocacy tempers evangelism </li></ul><ul><li>“ Reverse-mentoring” </li></ul><ul><li>Belief in user input and test-driven development as primary design driver </li></ul>
  14. 14. Inspiration <ul><li>Agile project managers we admire … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prime Minister Winston Churchill </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>General George S. Patton </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Colonel John R. Boyd </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Lessons in Agility I <ul><li>The Battle of Britain forced Churchill to turn England in May 1940 into an agile enterprise </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The essential requirement: defeat the enemy with little resourcing (600 British aircraft versus 2,500 German aircraft) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As project manager, Churchill ran the battle within an adaptive “solution-motivated” architecture (which in business can be applied at the enterprise, unit, or project level): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapid sensing and response to events (Chain-Home Radar, Observer Corps) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informed decision making in the moment (sector level dispatch) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Agile implementation (squadron level scramble) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Agile tools (the Supermarine Spitfire) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliver results that satisfy the “user community” (shoot down more aircraft than you lose – while keeping production going and preventing a German invasion of England) </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Lessons in Agility II <ul><li>The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 required Patton to completely change 3 rd Army’s axis of attack in 48 hours. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The essential requirement: Halt the eastward advance of three divisions in full attack (50,000 men, equipment), wheel them 90 degrees, and rush them 100 miles due north to attack again – ASAP </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As project manager, Patton ran the attack within a similar adaptive “solution-motivated” architecture: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapid sensing and response to events (driven by tactical planning being put in the hands of empowered frontline commanders) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informed decision-making in the moment (“humint” from high-speed advance recon) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Agile implementation (the ease of deploying smaller, self-contained “combat commands” versus entire divisions) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Agile tools: the Sherman tank </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliver results that satisfy the “user community” (reinforce the 101 st Airborne at Bastogne, and deny the Germans use of its key road network and prevent German reoccupation of liberated territory) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Lessons in Agility III <ul><li>Korean War jet pilot Boyd believed the perfect fighter plane’s key characteristic was agility – the ability to change its energy state rapidly to move from patrol to attack mode, and for a pilot to do the same mentally to gain advantage once engaged in a dog-fight </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pilot advantage hinged on highly intuitive Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) looping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The more agile pilot was the one who could change the situation more quickly than his opponent could update his orientation to it (“getting inside” the enemy’s OODA loop) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OODA grants us the ability to balance continuity and change (a pretty good definition of agility) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This not only has import for gaining competitive edge in business, but also for gaining control over projects </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. What do aerial warfare and projects have in common? <ul><li>Shared “adversaries” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rapid, unanticipated changes that lead to disorientation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An uncertain environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Constant threats to any initiative gained </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time itself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>OODA helps in dogfights and projects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allows us to control the environment (esp. change) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can help identify threats faster </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is iterative by design </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. OODA, cheap DC comics version
  20. 20. OODA, expensive O’Reilly book version
  21. 21. Starting small <ul><li>Riddle me this … How do you eat an elephant? </li></ul><ul><li>Answer … One bite at a time </li></ul><ul><li>On Sept. 6, 2007 we challenged ourselves to change the “abstract” views in AIP’s online journals by November 14, giving us 48 biz-days to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assemble the team; adopt new planning and implementation methods and tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redesign everything and add as much “catch-up” and Web 2.0 functionality as possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Prototype quickly; get stakeholders and users involved, giving input </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure we had a recipe we could repeat </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We wanted to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Go live and announce the deployment at our annual publishing partners meeting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Begin iterating the release in advance of rolling out the new abstract views platform-wide </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Our 1 st OODA loop Installed an agile “framework” (people, process, tools); planned a 1 st iteration and an agile user testing/feedback loop Decide Studied the competition, to see what they had on the abstract page that we didn’t, and what we could add quickly; ID’d customer and user wants and needs; increased Web 2.0 savvy; assigned values to deliverables Orient Noted that 46% of Scitation user sessions started on the abstract view; began cultivating a vision that our platform was made up of 2 million article homepages where the users engaged us and one another, and where we engaged them Observe Implemented the 1 st iteration Act What We Did OODA Component
  23. 23. Here’s how it turned out 20 business days Plan and implement Version 1.6 8 business days Implement version 1.5 37 business days Assemble the team; retool approach, applications, and presentation framework (GUI) to facilitate “working agile”; plan version 1.5 14 business days Plan and implement Version 1.7 10 business days Plan and implement Version 1.8 12 business days Plan and implement Version 1.9 How Long We Took What We Did
  24. 24. How did we change our MO? Practice designer-centered design Practice user-centered design Run the project via meetings, e-mail, and reference a 50-page “plan” and document it on the LAN Run the project on the web and reference a 1-2-page “roadmap” and document it on virtual writeboards Wait until everything is hard-wired together before alpha testing Test end-user functionality modularly as it’s built – and course-correct as we go Slow-cook requirements via multiple meetings, mockup reviews, documentation reviews Quick-cook requirements in social environments (wiki, basecamp) Produce exhaustive Visio wireframes and workflows Prototype on paper (easy to change) Wait until everything is changed and re-wired together before beta testing Engage key internal stakeholders and customers/users at every stage Declare work done and move onto next thing without reassessing value or need to modify/optimize behavior Never consider work really complete; continue evaluating feedback and surveying users to drive followup iterations What We Used to Do What We Do Now
  25. 25. Our obligatory process diagram
  26. 26. Keys to speed: paper <ul><li>Went “retro” for planning, design, and visualization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Used index card bleachers to organize the high-level project components </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User stories were literally story-boarded </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used presentation boards and Post-Its in multiple colors like Colorforms to arrange GUI elements – and wire-framed the results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used dozens of 3x5 index cards and Post-Its to map the deeper logic underlying screen flows </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Captured certain visualizations with a digital camera on the spot and posted them to the project Basecamp as a point of reference for the team </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Keys to speed: new “environments” <ul><li>Ergonomics, creature comforts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dual monitors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Development framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>AJAX </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apache Tiles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spry </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>XML </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Management framework (still playing with these) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Basecamp, JIRA (web-based project collaboration) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jabber (IM-like messaging and conferencing) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pbwiki, Confluence, Drupal (online documentation) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>surveymonkey (online user feedback collector-analyzer) </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Keys to speed: the “war room” <ul><li>Leveraged the social-ness inherent in teams </li></ul><ul><li>Provides an extremely high signal-to-noise ratio </li></ul>
  29. 29. Keys to speed: optimized meetings <ul><li>Daily meetings of the action team (team leaders, developers, designers) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>15 minutes or less </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Twice-weekly meetings of the entire team . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>30 minutes or less </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All other communication handled on the teamlet level, via short-burst online chat/IM or face-to-face </li></ul><ul><li>Collectively, this communication “style” quickens every circuit of the OODA loop </li></ul>
  30. 30. Keys to speed: eating the elephant <ul><li>To build is human; to iterate, divine </li></ul><ul><li>Build first out of necessity, and then iterate aggressively to grant user flexibility, comfort, and – if desired – luxury: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dirt track  single-lane cobblestone road  two-lane asphalt road  Autobahn </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Start with one “story,” and then … </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rewrite it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rewrite it again (embrace “change”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And (possibly) again </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Even perfection is a process </li></ul>
  31. 31. Our agile “mythology” scorecard Plan-driven projects are always un-agile User stories and personae were critical to getting at REAL functionality with VALUE Agility is a silver bullet “ Fail fast” or “fail early and often” is a speed-enhancing attribute; “gotta build it to break it” (best to break it sooner) Agility requires no discipline OODA worked (though no one explictly knew it was OODA) Agility is just for programmers People first, then ideas, then tools – the correct route from fragile to agile Agility means “perpetual beta” Some form of 80/20 analysis increases design speed and helps plan product iteration(s) “ Agile Myths” We Debunked “ Agile Myths” We Confirmed
  32. 32. How we plan to stay agile <ul><li>“ A good plan … executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” (Patton) </li></ul><ul><li>Use a Pareto-like principle to organize your iterations and focus on the important features (shoot to get 80% of the value in any release from 20% of your efforts) </li></ul><ul><li>Agility is learned behavior; therefore, we must educate and mentor staff relentlessly. Practice OODA until it becomes unconscious </li></ul><ul><li>Maintain the discipline and emphasis on quality that will allow us to repeat success consistently </li></ul>
  33. 33. It’s Alive! <ul><li>Project your agility – allow the public/users/potential partners to look behind the curtain at select products before launch </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Scitation Labs” – a proving ground for new, experimental, or evolving features </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Test Tubing” – introduce the new alongside the old, and let the users compare </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Thanks! <ul><li>AIP </li></ul><ul><li>Agility in Practice </li></ul><ul><li>Learn more at http://www.aip.org / </li></ul><ul><ul><li>CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Redrawn version of John Boyd's OODA Loop by Patrick E. Moran. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Agile Lifecycle and other diagrams, courtesy Scott W. Ambler, Javapolis. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A lifetime of project-management inspiration via http://www.lessons-from-history.com/ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other images and sound bytes from the Great Internet Hard Drive. </li></ul></ul>

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