50 Shades ofFAILPersonal insights and a summary of ideas from inspiringauthors, thought leaders, teachers and co-workersth...
Ulrika ParkScrumMaster, SmartBear SoftwareUlrika.Park@SmartBear.com@ulrikapark
“Success depends upon previouspreparation, and without suchpreparation there is sure to be failure.”  - ConfuciusLearn how...
System: Failure                                        1Systems thinkers say our behaviors are the result of thesurroundin...
Fail: IT                                               2Governments and businesses continue to throw billions ofdollars in...
Fail: Not Delivering                                   3At the moment the most famous IT failure in Sweden is the“One IT R...
Fail: Handoff                                            4A thorough analysis up front isn’t necessarily all that bad,and ...
Fail: Courage                                          5IT failures can continue for years due to cowardicemanagers, silen...
Fail: .com                                              6Most of us remember the .com bubble in the late-90s. Somany crazy...
Fail: Focus                                            7Why do all brilliant developers and technical workers puttheir tim...
Fail: Complexity                                       8Complexity in systems make systems thinking fail. Notnecessarly ba...
Fail: Test                                           9Some of the most common failures in softwaredevelopment are:• No usa...
Fail: Curiosity                                        10When you stop being curious, you’re as good as dead.Be curious ab...
Fail: Outside-In Thinking                            11Everyone talks about outside-in thinking, but how manyteams actuall...
Fail: Comfort Zone                                  12Do you fall into the same patterns over and over?Do you test the sam...
Fail: Ignorance                  13          Nothing to add here.
Fail: Discipline                                       14With discipline, you succeed. The more disciplined youare, the mo...
Fail: Groupthink                                   15This psychological phenomenon has lead to crashed spacecrafts, World ...
Fail: Blah, Blah, Blah…                             16Okay, let me be a bit more clear:Talking without a message.Writing w...
Fail: Documentation                                      17This could be either a lack of documentation or an overflowof d...
Fail: Communication                                 18Communication is the second largest cause of all systemsfailures.Man...
Fail: Constraints                                     19People work most productively under well-thought-outconstraints. E...
Fail: Trust in People                                20Do you trust your manager? If not, what would make youtrust them? T...
Fail: Trust in Technology                             21Do you trust your software? If not, what would help youtrust it?Mo...
Fail: Business Alignment                                   22Failures in IT projects are often a result of failure inbusin...
Fail: Requirements                                    23Failures in requirements are still one of the most commoncauses of...
Fail: Resources                                     24People are people. They are not resources. They are notcapital. They...
Fail: Opportunities                                    25I’m sure we miss business opportunities every day.Sometimes this ...
Fail: Plans                                            26Plans are nothing, planning is everythingA plan is just a hypothe...
Fail: Estimates                                      27How many times have you heard about, or worked offof, estimates tha...
Fail: Time                                               28“Time is not important, only life is important”– Mondoshawan, T...
Fail: Creativity                                       29When professional people come together to set goals anda vision f...
Fail: Objectives                                           30Pia Gideon and other friends have told me, “We usually put80%...
Fail: Measures                                            31Defining a measure will take your team, product ororganization...
Fail: Incentives                                               32So you want your team to act as a team?Are they measured ...
Fail: Capacity                                         33Do you have a grand initiative going on? A cross-organizational p...
Fail: Supplier-Client relations                              34The supplier wants to cheat you.The client wants to get eve...
Fail: Envy                                             35So much trouble is caused by envy. This is especially truein larg...
Fail: Silos                                                    36Does anyone today really believe we can succeed in busine...
Fail: Silos in Silos                                  37Editors doing editing.Web department doing website.Mobile departme...
Fail: Matrix Organizations                              38One idea that is popular is to have functional managersleading g...
Fail: Slack                                           39To achieve any kind of change, we need to give someslack. But how ...
Fail: Sticking to the Rules                          40“We have always done it this way,” shouldn’t be anargument, explana...
Fail: Be Embarrassed                                41Have you ever been on stage squirming in agony as youfail to hit tha...
Fail: Maps                                            42Some failures can send you in the wrong direction for along time.E...
Fail: Forms                                           43How many times have you filled out an extensiveform, pressed the w...
Fail: Design                                        44With design you steer actions.By design you can steer behaviors.By d...
Fail: Operations                                       45When our fancy project is delivered, the real action starts.At th...
Fail… To Fail                                                  46The worst thing you can do when trying to achievesomethin...
Fail… And Recover                                    47Great entrepreneurs often have a miserable history offailures, and ...
Fail: A Necessity                                        48How can you succeed if you don’t know what it means tofail? If ...
Fail: Fast                                                     49The sooner you fail, the sooner you recover.Since your pr...
Fail: Forward                                          50We can use failure as a tool, as with any other experience.Use it...
Some inspirations and sourcesStandish Group – Chaos Report          Friends & other thinkers:Authors:                     ...
Find more cool resources on our blog and onTwitter via @SmartBear
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50 Shades of Fail

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Personal insights from ScrumMaster Ulrika Park and a summary of ideas from other thought leaders in systems development and Agile leadership.

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50 Shades of Fail

  1. 50 Shades ofFAILPersonal insights and a summary of ideas from inspiringauthors, thought leaders, teachers and co-workersthrough years of Systems Development and AgileLeadership experience.
  2. Ulrika ParkScrumMaster, SmartBear SoftwareUlrika.Park@SmartBear.com@ulrikapark
  3. “Success depends upon previouspreparation, and without suchpreparation there is sure to be failure.” - ConfuciusLearn how you can succeed in the most common areas ofsystem fails. Here are 50 of the most common “fails” in softwaredevelopment and how you can learn from them.
  4. System: Failure 1Systems thinkers say our behaviors are the result of thesurrounding system, that errors made by people arecaused by the system.But the systems are created by people, and people are theonly ones who can change the system. So, what do you doto change the system?Get allies.
  5. Fail: IT 2Governments and businesses continue to throw billions ofdollars into IT black holes.That’s quite an oxymoron: So many failures in IT projects.Still, there has been an extra-ordinary development of ITservices the last 50 years.Do…… Waste money to explore, fail and learn.Stop….. Wasting money by ignorance
  6. Fail: Not Delivering 3At the moment the most famous IT failure in Sweden is the“One IT Road Map” project that one bank was working onfor several years. So many people spent so much moneyon this project, and in the end they didn’t deliver.This is the traditional Big Design Up Front (BDUF) concept.After analysis for too long time, requirements are outdatedat the time for practical work. Now, hopefully, they knowhow not to run IT projects.Do….. Share your failure! Others can learn from you.Stop….. Big Bang initiatives
  7. Fail: Handoff 4A thorough analysis up front isn’t necessarily all that bad,and the process of gathering facts, trying out concepts andanalyzing domain can take up a lot of time.The error often comes in the time for handoff. After doing allthis thinking and analyzing, one-way documentation ishanded off to the project team, which now has to do thethinking all over again.Do….. Keep your analysts, architects and designersthrough the whole developmentStop….. Handoffs
  8. Fail: Courage 5IT failures can continue for years due to cowardicemanagers, silent project managers or sheepish teams.On a similar note, IT failures can be stopped bycourageous managers, vocal project managers or confidentteams.Do….. Dare to say “No”Stop….. Keeping quiet
  9. Fail: .com 6Most of us remember the .com bubble in the late-90s. Somany crazy initiatives, crazy stories, no account for money.Seemingly simple problems were solved with amazinglylarge budgets.Thank you so much everyone who contributed to thebubble! Without you we wouldn’t have e-commerce, e-reading, mobile services, awesome navigations, socialnetworks and streaming media today.Do….. Stop thinking, innovate even if you end up losingStop…..Trying to innovate without being crazy
  10. Fail: Focus 7Why do all brilliant developers and technical workers puttheir time into new Facebook apps instead of, with the helpof technology, working on saving the world from climatecatastrophes, starving children and oppression?Do….. Focus on human developmentMaybe….. Stupid Facebook apps are the reason for thehuge spread of democratic media
  11. Fail: Complexity 8Complexity in systems make systems thinking fail. Notnecessarly bad, just less optimizable. Do you know if yoursystem is complex or not?Do…... Amplify and dampen behaviors in complex systemsStop….. Blaming the system when it’s complexity
  12. Fail: Test 9Some of the most common failures in softwaredevelopment are:• No usability testing• No behavior testing• No acceptance testing• No business testing• No unit testing• No performance testing• No security testingSeeing a theme? Services and products just work betterwith tests.Do….. Test now!Stop….. Waiting for code or extra time
  13. Fail: Curiosity 10When you stop being curious, you’re as good as dead.Be curious about your co-workers across the office.Be curious about your users.Be curious about customers.Be curious about your own limits.Curiosity is evolution.Do….. Look around youStop….. Looking inside yourself
  14. Fail: Outside-In Thinking 11Everyone talks about outside-in thinking, but how manyteams actually apply this idea?Do you apply?Do you go outside your tribe to find out?Do you go outside your office to talk with users?Do you let the outside world into your office?Do you admit you don’t know anything about the outside forevery minute you are not there?Do….. Go SeeStop….. Speculating
  15. Fail: Comfort Zone 12Do you fall into the same patterns over and over?Do you test the same way you’ve always tested?Do you analyze as you’ve always analyzed?Document as you’ve always done?How about your design?And decision making?Goals?Welcome to the comfort zone.Do….. Find and try a new techniqueStop….. Blindly repeating yourself
  16. Fail: Ignorance 13 Nothing to add here.
  17. Fail: Discipline 14With discipline, you succeed. The more disciplined youare, the more likely you’ll succeed in testing, in design, inanalysis, in leadership, in teamwork, in methods, in Agile.How do you gain discipline?Be relentless. Keep coming back to the practice whenyou stray from the path.Do….. Working agreementsStop….. Follow the crowd
  18. Fail: Groupthink 15This psychological phenomenon has lead to crashed spacecrafts, World Wars and, for us, failed IT services andinvestments.Do….. Aggregation of opinionsStop….. Continuous problem solving within closed groups
  19. Fail: Blah, Blah, Blah… 16Okay, let me be a bit more clear:Talking without a message.Writing without clarity.Setting goals without acting.Instructions without respect for the reader.Documentation without purpose, recipients or maintenance.Do….. Consider the recipient of your message, visualize,get feedback and act.Stop….. Writing heavy documents or fancy statements justto feel good about yourself
  20. Fail: Documentation 17This could be either a lack of documentation or an overflowof documentation. Neither is helpful, and documentationneeds to be helpful.Have you tested your documentation lately? If you’re notsure who to test it with, or don’t know the recipient, thenwhy did you bother writing it in the first place?Do…… Get to know the recipient of your documentation.Find out what she wants. Ask someone else to summarizethe core of your doc.Stop…… Document by habit and feel good about it
  21. Fail: Communication 18Communication is the second largest cause of all systemsfailures.Many research on project failures points to this.Do….. Find ways to have real conversationsStop….. Emailing
  22. Fail: Constraints 19People work most productively under well-thought-outconstraints. Empowerment without some frames and pillarsto hold on to will fail.Leadership is to find good balance in constraints.Do….. Decide on broad, clear constraints that allow yourteam to think and actStop….. Micromanaging or ignoring the need for rules
  23. Fail: Trust in People 20Do you trust your manager? If not, what would make youtrust them? Tell your manager.Do you trust your co-worker? If not, what would make youtrust them? Tell your co-worker.Do you trust your team? If not, what would make you trustthem? Tell your team.Do….. Make an effort to gain trustStop….. Believing people around you trust you by default
  24. Fail: Trust in Technology 21Do you trust your software? If not, what would help youtrust it?More tests?More information from your users?Shorter delivery cycles?Go get it. When you trust your software, your stakeholderswill trust you.Do….. Whatever it takes to improve trustStop….. Waiting for others to do it for you
  25. Fail: Business Alignment 22Failures in IT projects are often a result of failure inbusiness and IT communication.What have you done lately to bridge this gap?Do….. Take the first step. Invite the other side to your party(or just over to your desk).Stop….. Blaming the other side
  26. Fail: Requirements 23Failures in requirements are still one of the most commoncauses of failure in IT.Requirements = Communication between business and IT.Do….. Find ways to have continuous conversations withthe supplier or client.Stop…… Emailing
  27. Fail: Resources 24People are people. They are not resources. They are notcapital. They are humans.Do….. Treat people as thinking beingsStop….. Calling them resources
  28. Fail: Opportunities 25I’m sure we miss business opportunities every day.Sometimes this is unavoidable, but there’s no excuse forlack of focus or lack of courage to stop what we’re doing togo for the opportunity or take risks.Do….. Dare to stop the line when you see an opportunityStop….. Keeping your stakeholders comfortable
  29. Fail: Plans 26Plans are nothing, planning is everythingA plan is just a hypothesis of the future; treat it as ahypothesis. Test the plan and adjust it with new empiricaldata.Do….. Communicate a plan as what it is – an ideaStop….. Viewing a plan as fact
  30. Fail: Estimates 27How many times have you heard about, or worked offof, estimates that weren’t accurate?The latest story I heard: A project that was estimated totake two months turned out to be a 16-month project, whichactually succeeded in value.Do….. Continue to update and share estimates during theproject as you gain more informationStop….. Acting as if initial estimates are the truth
  31. Fail: Time 28“Time is not important, only life is important”– Mondoshawan, The Fifth ElementWhen time flies I stop and think, “What is reallyimportant, right now?” Without prioritization I’m for suregonna fail.Do….. What is really important right nowStop….. Multi-tasking
  32. Fail: Creativity 29When professional people come together to set goals anda vision for the future, they tend to schedule meetings toget things structured and completed quickly.You can’t schedule creativity. What you need is to get out ofthe office.Do….. Go on a boat and have dinner with colleaguesStop….. Filling your schedule with meetings
  33. Fail: Objectives 30Pia Gideon and other friends have told me, “We usually put80% of our time in defining vision, goals and targets; 20%to understand our current situation.”If you flip this around, true understanding and clearobjectives will appear by themselves.Do….. Put in a lot of time to map your current situationStop….. Putting a lot of time into defining the perfectobjectives
  34. Fail: Measures 31Defining a measure will take your team, product ororganization somewhere.Lack of measures will lead to a lack of clarity in direction.Still, you will get what you measure.Do….. Be carefulStop….. Counting money. Qualitative measures can takeyou further.
  35. Fail: Incentives 32So you want your team to act as a team?Are they measured as a team or as individuals? Can they statetheir incentives to work as a team, to get the slow member onboard, to let go of pride, to help the other team? Are there reallyincentives to do any of that?Do you get any reward for acting as a team? If not – tell aninfluencer.Do….. Reward the effort you wantStop….. Bullsh*tting about team work if individual performance iswhat really counts
  36. Fail: Capacity 33Do you have a grand initiative going on? A cross-organizational project? Nothing happens?Did they get the capacity or room to engage? Capacity iskey for action.Do….. Start with allocating capacity. Then initiate programsor projects.Stop….. Starting initiatives without capacity
  37. Fail: Supplier-Client relations 34The supplier wants to cheat you.The client wants to get everything for free.These are most common assumptions I have met aboutsuppliers and clients. Why on earth are you even workingtogether?Do….. Find a supplier or client that you actually like andtrust. Make them partnersStop….. Buying from or selling services to “counterparts”
  38. Fail: Envy 35So much trouble is caused by envy. This is especially truein large organizations. Envy will kill your position, yourteam, your organization and the sources of your success.Do….. Make an effort to stifle envy when you see it in yourworkplaceStop….. Waiting for someone else to stop it
  39. Fail: Silos 36Does anyone today really believe we can succeed in businessby continuing to work in isolated silos like “finance,” “marketing,”or “IT”?Well, it worked once before, so is it really a failure?Let your customers decide.Do….. Map and visualize your customers’ journey through thecompanyStop….. Acting as if customer experience ends at your doorstep
  40. Fail: Silos in Silos 37Editors doing editing.Web department doing website.Mobile department doing mobile.Back-end systems group doing back end.Customer service doing customer dialogue.All on their own.Do….. Cross silo teams. Yes, it’s hard and demands a lot ofslack and idle time, but the result will be worth it.Stop….. Creating even more silos
  41. Fail: Matrix Organizations 38One idea that is popular is to have functional managersleading groups of people with similar skill sets, then havingcross-functional projects lead by project managers.This idea sounds very appealing. The problem is, capacityis never there. Managers try to make deterministic plans ofresource allocation to address this, but these planscontinue to fail.Do….. Create long-term feature teams, product teams andprocess teams insteadStop….. Wishful thinking of deterministic resourceallocation
  42. Fail: Slack 39To achieve any kind of change, we need to give someslack. But how are you supposed to create that space ofslack without creating an organization full of slackers?Do….. Decide a time limit for slack (for example one day,two hours/week, etc.) and start from thereStop….. Assuming change will take place without changingconditions
  43. Fail: Sticking to the Rules 40“We have always done it this way,” shouldn’t be anargument, explanation or reason for anything.If everyone took that as an answer no evolution would haveever happened.Do….. Question the ones saying thatStop….. Do as we’ve always done
  44. Fail: Be Embarrassed 41Have you ever been on stage squirming in agony as youfail to hit that high note or nail the punch line?We have to make a fool of ourselves sometimes in order todevelop ourselves and our surroundings. That’s how wechange, how we grow.Do….. Step out of your comfort zone and make yourselflook stupid once in a whileStop….. Playing cool
  45. Fail: Maps 42Some failures can send you in the wrong direction for along time.Everyone expected an Apple failure after Steve Jobs, wasthis a self-fulfilling prophecy?How much can a single failure, in this case Apple Maps,damage a brand? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.Do….. Move on, learn from mistakes and deliver better stuffnext timeStop….. Releasing too poor quality stuff
  46. Fail: Forms 43How many times have you filled out an extensiveform, pressed the wrong button and lost an hour’s worth ofwork?How many times have you unknowingly been charged forsomething after pressing a button on a form?Nothing makes users as mad as forms.Do….. Usability test your forms!Stop….. Believing that users will follow happy path
  47. Fail: Design 44With design you steer actions.By design you can steer behaviors.By design you can change behaviors.By design you can cement behaviors.Do….. Hire a user experience designer to your team - Now!Stop….. Deprioritizing design work
  48. Fail: Operations 45When our fancy project is delivered, the real action starts.At this point, money is often running low and everyone hasmoved on to the next project.For successful business, you have to operate your serviceor product.Do….. Include operation in your designStop….. Believing any software release is ever over
  49. Fail… To Fail 46The worst thing you can do when trying to achievesomething great is to never fall. Could you have everlearned to ride a bike if you weren’t willing to fall first?You can’t excel without failures.Many great leaders have a miserable history of failures.Do….. Strive to failStop….. Hold too tight to the boundary
  50. Fail… And Recover 47Great entrepreneurs often have a miserable history offailures, and yet they keep coming back with new ideas -adjusted ideas.They brush the dust of the shoulders and go back to thearena.Do….. Instantly, get back up on your feetStop….. Believing it’s not your path
  51. Fail: A Necessity 48How can you succeed if you don’t know what it means tofail? If you’re on the top without failures in your luggage,expect something to happen.Failure is part of life and human development.Do….. FailStop….. Being arrogant
  52. Fail: Fast 49The sooner you fail, the sooner you recover.Since your product or service will inevitably fail in someway (bytarget, by quality or by design) it’s better to pinpoint the problemsearly so you have the chance to refactor, improve and adjust itbased on the new information.This is the point of short release cycles.Take a look back at the first versions of Google Docs. How goodwere those?Do….. Get it out!Stop…... Trying to be perfectly “safe”
  53. Fail: Forward 50We can use failure as a tool, as with any other experience.Use it as a stepping stone for success.By knowing failures will happen, we might even be able toavoid the worst ones.By standing tall, facing the storm and admitting when wefail, we will make a new and better delivery for our belovedcustomers.Have you ever been there?
  54. Some inspirations and sourcesStandish Group – Chaos Report Friends & other thinkers:Authors: Abraham LincolnJohn C. Maxwell Contra Mestre BoquinhaTom deMarco Anette Lovas @nettanisDan Roam Anders EklundMary & Tom Poppendieck Per Axbom @axbomW. Edwards Deming Arne Roock @arneroockGojko Adzic @gojkoadzic Agile Alliance Board MembersKimball Fischer Pia GideonDave Snowden @snowded Martin Persson #OutdoorFridayDavid J. Anderson @agilemanager EisenhowerEsther Derby, Diana LarsenJeff Patton @jeffpatton TheFunTheory.comCraig Larman Fifth Element movieJames Surowiecki Stockholm ImprovisationsteaterAnd many, many others… people I worked with, organizations & authors.
  55. Find more cool resources on our blog and onTwitter via @SmartBear

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