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50 Shades of Fail

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50 Shades of Fail

  1. 50 Shades of FAIL Personal insights and a summary of ideas from inspiring authors, thought leaders, teachers and co-workers through years of Systems Development and Agile Leadership experience.
  2. Ulrika Park ScrumMaster, SmartBear Software Ulrika.Park@SmartBear.com @ulrikapark
  3. “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” - Confucius Learn how you can succeed in the most common areas of system fails. Here are 50 of the most common “fails” in software development and how you can learn from them.
  4. System: Failure 1 Systems thinkers say our behaviors are the result of the surrounding system, that errors made by people are caused by the system. But the systems are created by people, and people are the only ones who can change the system. So, what do you do to change the system? Get allies.
  5. Fail: IT 2 Governments and businesses continue to throw billions of dollars into IT black holes. That’s quite an oxymoron: So many failures in IT projects. Still, there has been an extra-ordinary development of IT services the last 50 years. Do…… Waste money to explore, fail and learn. Stop….. Wasting money by ignorance
  6. Fail: Not Delivering 3 At the moment the most famous IT failure in Sweden is the “One IT Road Map” project that one bank was working on for several years. So many people spent so much money on 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 After analysis for too long time, requirements are outdated at the time for practical work. Now, hopefully, they know how not to run IT projects. Do….. Share your failure! Others can learn from you. Stop….. Big Bang initiatives
  7. Fail: Handoff 4 A thorough analysis up front isn’t necessarily all that bad, and the process of gathering facts, trying out concepts and analyzing domain can take up a lot of time. The error often comes in the time for handoff. After doing all this thinking and analyzing, one-way documentation is handed off to the project team, which now has to do the thinking all over again. Do….. Keep your analysts, architects and designers through the whole development Stop….. Handoffs
  8. Fail: Courage 5 IT failures can continue for years due to cowardice managers, silent project managers or sheepish teams. On a similar note, IT failures can be stopped by courageous managers, vocal project managers or confident teams. Do….. Dare to say “No” Stop….. Keeping quiet
  9. Fail: .com 6 Most of us remember the .com bubble in the late-90s. So many crazy initiatives, crazy stories, no account for money. Seemingly simple problems were solved with amazingly large budgets. Thank you so much everyone who contributed to the bubble! Without you we wouldn’t have e-commerce, e- reading, mobile services, awesome navigations, social networks and streaming media today. Do….. Stop thinking, innovate even if you end up losing Stop…..Trying to innovate without being crazy
  10. Fail: Focus 7 Why do all brilliant developers and technical workers put their time into new Facebook apps instead of, with the help of technology, working on saving the world from climate catastrophes, starving children and oppression? Do….. Focus on human development Maybe….. Stupid Facebook apps are the reason for the huge spread of democratic media
  11. Fail: Complexity 8 Complexity in systems make systems thinking fail. Not necessarly bad, just less optimizable. Do you know if your system is complex or not? Do…... Amplify and dampen behaviors in complex systems Stop….. Blaming the system when it’s complexity
  12. Fail: Test 9 Some of the most common failures in software development are: • No usability testing • No behavior testing • No acceptance testing • No business testing • No unit testing • No performance testing • No security testing Seeing a theme? Services and products just work better with tests. Do….. Test now! Stop….. Waiting for code or extra time
  13. Fail: Curiosity 10 When 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 you Stop….. Looking inside yourself
  14. Fail: Outside-In Thinking 11 Everyone talks about outside-in thinking, but how many teams 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 for every minute you are not there? Do….. Go See Stop….. Speculating
  15. Fail: Comfort Zone 12 Do 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 technique Stop….. Blindly repeating yourself
  16. Fail: Ignorance 13 Nothing to add here.
  17. Fail: Discipline 14 With discipline, you succeed. The more disciplined you are, the more likely you’ll succeed in testing, in design, in analysis, in leadership, in teamwork, in methods, in Agile. How do you gain discipline? Be relentless. Keep coming back to the practice when you stray from the path. Do….. Working agreements Stop….. Follow the crowd
  18. Fail: Groupthink 15 This psychological phenomenon has lead to crashed space crafts, World Wars and, for us, failed IT services and investments. Do….. Aggregation of opinions Stop….. Continuous problem solving within closed groups
  19. Fail: Blah, Blah, Blah… 16 Okay, 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 just to feel good about yourself
  20. Fail: Documentation 17 This could be either a lack of documentation or an overflow of documentation. Neither is helpful, and documentation needs to be helpful. Have you tested your documentation lately? If you’re not sure who to test it with, or don’t know the recipient, then why 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 summarize the core of your doc. Stop…… Document by habit and feel good about it
  21. Fail: Communication 18 Communication is the second largest cause of all systems failures. Many research on project failures points to this. Do….. Find ways to have real conversations Stop….. Emailing
  22. Fail: Constraints 19 People work most productively under well-thought-out constraints. Empowerment without some frames and pillars to hold on to will fail. Leadership is to find good balance in constraints. Do….. Decide on broad, clear constraints that allow your team to think and act Stop….. Micromanaging or ignoring the need for rules
  23. Fail: Trust in People 20 Do you trust your manager? If not, what would make you trust them? Tell your manager. Do you trust your co-worker? If not, what would make you trust them? Tell your co-worker. Do you trust your team? If not, what would make you trust them? Tell your team. Do….. Make an effort to gain trust Stop….. Believing people around you trust you by default
  24. Fail: Trust in Technology 21 Do you trust your software? If not, what would help you trust it? More tests? More information from your users? Shorter delivery cycles? Go get it. When you trust your software, your stakeholders will trust you. Do….. Whatever it takes to improve trust Stop….. Waiting for others to do it for you
  25. Fail: Business Alignment 22 Failures in IT projects are often a result of failure in business 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 23 Failures in requirements are still one of the most common causes of failure in IT. Requirements = Communication between business and IT. Do….. Find ways to have continuous conversations with the supplier or client. Stop…… Emailing
  27. Fail: Resources 24 People are people. They are not resources. They are not capital. They are humans. Do….. Treat people as thinking beings Stop….. Calling them resources
  28. Fail: Opportunities 25 I’m sure we miss business opportunities every day. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but there’s no excuse for lack of focus or lack of courage to stop what we’re doing to go for the opportunity or take risks. Do….. Dare to stop the line when you see an opportunity Stop….. Keeping your stakeholders comfortable
  29. Fail: Plans 26 Plans are nothing, planning is everything A plan is just a hypothesis of the future; treat it as a hypothesis. Test the plan and adjust it with new empirical data. Do….. Communicate a plan as what it is – an idea Stop….. Viewing a plan as fact
  30. Fail: Estimates 27 How many times have you heard about, or worked off of, estimates that weren’t accurate? The latest story I heard: A project that was estimated to take two months turned out to be a 16-month project, which actually succeeded in value. Do….. Continue to update and share estimates during the project as you gain more information Stop….. Acting as if initial estimates are the truth
  31. Fail: Time 28 “Time is not important, only life is important” – Mondoshawan, The Fifth Element When time flies I stop and think, “What is really important, right now?” Without prioritization I’m for sure gonna fail. Do….. What is really important right now Stop….. Multi-tasking
  32. Fail: Creativity 29 When professional people come together to set goals and a vision for the future, they tend to schedule meetings to get things structured and completed quickly. You can’t schedule creativity. What you need is to get out of the office. Do….. Go on a boat and have dinner with colleagues Stop….. Filling your schedule with meetings
  33. Fail: Objectives 30 Pia Gideon and other friends have told me, “We usually put 80% of our time in defining vision, goals and targets; 20% to understand our current situation.” If you flip this around, true understanding and clear objectives will appear by themselves. Do….. Put in a lot of time to map your current situation Stop….. Putting a lot of time into defining the perfect objectives
  34. Fail: Measures 31 Defining a measure will take your team, product or organization somewhere. Lack of measures will lead to a lack of clarity in direction. Still, you will get what you measure. Do….. Be careful Stop….. Counting money. Qualitative measures can take you further.
  35. Fail: Incentives 32 So you want your team to act as a team? Are they measured as a team or as individuals? Can they state their incentives to work as a team, to get the slow member on board, to let go of pride, to help the other team? Are there really incentives to do any of that? Do you get any reward for acting as a team? If not – tell an influencer. Do….. Reward the effort you want Stop….. Bullsh*tting about team work if individual performance is what really counts
  36. Fail: Capacity 33 Do you have a grand initiative going on? A cross- organizational project? Nothing happens? Did they get the capacity or room to engage? Capacity is key for action. Do….. Start with allocating capacity. Then initiate programs or projects. Stop….. Starting initiatives without capacity
  37. Fail: Supplier-Client relations 34 The supplier wants to cheat you. The client wants to get everything for free. These are most common assumptions I have met about suppliers and clients. Why on earth are you even working together? Do….. Find a supplier or client that you actually like and trust. Make them partners Stop….. Buying from or selling services to “counterparts”
  38. Fail: Envy 35 So much trouble is caused by envy. This is especially true in large organizations. Envy will kill your position, your team, your organization and the sources of your success. Do….. Make an effort to stifle envy when you see it in your workplace Stop….. Waiting for someone else to stop it
  39. Fail: Silos 36 Does anyone today really believe we can succeed in business by 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 the company Stop….. Acting as if customer experience ends at your doorstep
  40. Fail: Silos in Silos 37 Editors 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 of slack and idle time, but the result will be worth it. Stop….. Creating even more silos
  41. Fail: Matrix Organizations 38 One idea that is popular is to have functional managers leading groups of people with similar skill sets, then having cross-functional projects lead by project managers. This idea sounds very appealing. The problem is, capacity is never there. Managers try to make deterministic plans of resource allocation to address this, but these plans continue to fail. Do….. Create long-term feature teams, product teams and process teams instead Stop….. Wishful thinking of deterministic resource allocation
  42. Fail: Slack 39 To achieve any kind of change, we need to give some slack. But how are you supposed to create that space of slack 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 there Stop….. Assuming change will take place without changing conditions
  43. Fail: Sticking to the Rules 40 “We have always done it this way,” shouldn’t be an argument, explanation or reason for anything. If everyone took that as an answer no evolution would have ever happened. Do….. Question the ones saying that Stop….. Do as we’ve always done
  44. Fail: Be Embarrassed 41 Have you ever been on stage squirming in agony as you fail to hit that high note or nail the punch line? We have to make a fool of ourselves sometimes in order to develop ourselves and our surroundings. That’s how we change, how we grow. Do….. Step out of your comfort zone and make yourself look stupid once in a while Stop….. Playing cool
  45. Fail: Maps 42 Some failures can send you in the wrong direction for a long time. Everyone expected an Apple failure after Steve Jobs, was this 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 stuff next time Stop….. Releasing too poor quality stuff
  46. Fail: Forms 43 How many times have you filled out an extensive form, pressed the wrong button and lost an hour’s worth of work? How many times have you unknowingly been charged for something 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 44 With 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 45 When our fancy project is delivered, the real action starts. At this point, money is often running low and everyone has moved on to the next project. For successful business, you have to operate your service or product. Do….. Include operation in your design Stop….. Believing any software release is ever over
  49. Fail… To Fail 46 The worst thing you can do when trying to achieve something great is to never fall. Could you have ever learned 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 fail Stop….. Hold too tight to the boundary
  50. Fail… And Recover 47 Great entrepreneurs often have a miserable history of failures, and yet they keep coming back with new ideas - adjusted ideas. They brush the dust of the shoulders and go back to the arena. Do….. Instantly, get back up on your feet Stop….. Believing it’s not your path
  51. Fail: A Necessity 48 How can you succeed if you don’t know what it means to fail? If you’re on the top without failures in your luggage, expect something to happen. Failure is part of life and human development. Do….. Fail Stop….. Being arrogant
  52. Fail: Fast 49 The sooner you fail, the sooner you recover. Since your product or service will inevitably fail in someway (by target, by quality or by design) it’s better to pinpoint the problems early so you have the chance to refactor, improve and adjust it based on the new information. This is the point of short release cycles. Take a look back at the first versions of Google Docs. How good were those? Do….. Get it out! Stop…... Trying to be perfectly “safe”
  53. Fail: Forward 50 We 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 to avoid the worst ones. By standing tall, facing the storm and admitting when we fail, we will make a new and better delivery for our beloved customers. Have you ever been there?
  54. Some inspirations and sources Standish Group – Chaos Report Friends & other thinkers: Authors: Abraham Lincoln John C. Maxwell Contra Mestre Boquinha Tom deMarco Anette Lovas @nettanis Dan Roam Anders Eklund Mary & Tom Poppendieck Per Axbom @axbom W. Edwards Deming Arne Roock @arneroock Gojko Adzic @gojkoadzic Agile Alliance Board Members Kimball Fischer Pia Gideon Dave Snowden @snowded Martin Persson #OutdoorFriday David J. Anderson @agilemanager Eisenhower Esther Derby, Diana Larsen Jeff Patton @jeffpatton TheFunTheory.com Craig Larman Fifth Element movie James Surowiecki Stockholm Improvisationsteater And many, many others… people I worked with, organizations & authors.
  55. Find more cool resources on our blog and on Twitter via @SmartBear

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