Thursday, January 20, 2011

For lunch - an agile story

The speaker list for PrairieDevCon 2011 was published today and I'm really looking forward to it. Some great speakers and talks are lined up and D'Arcy Lussier as always will arrange for some great food. But... let me tell you a story of what might have been at PrairieDevCon 2010.

In the spring of 2010, D'Arcy Lussier (the conference organizer) and I were talking about the conference and he confessed to me that he was trying to cut costs. We brainstormed some ideas and prioritized them using a risk assessment matrix. Just before D'Arcy brought out his MS Project gantt chart, I suggested a new idea - Why don't we make the food ourselves! Knowing my reputation as an accomplished food critic and noted chef, D'Arcy quickly agreed and called the hotel to cancel his lunch orders.

I took on the responsibility of planning the meal in advance; purchasing and delivering the ingredients from the finest markets in Regina. The morning of the first day of the conference, D'Arcy and I met in one of the unused conference rooms to prepare the meal. We knew that our gourmet Ham & Cheese sandwhiches would be a huge hit.

Here was our work break down structure (straight out of MS Project)
Task NameStartFinish
Setup 8 preparation tables8:15am 8:30am
Open 100 loaves of bread8:30am8:40am
Layout individual bread slices on the tables8:40am9:10am
Spread gourmet mayonaise on the even slices of bread9:10am9:30am
Spread garlic butter on the odd slices of bread9:30am9:50am
Put smoked ham on top of the even slices of bread9:50am10:10am
Put Trappist Monk Cheese on top of the even slices of bread10:10am10:30am
Put 3 slices of pre-smoked bacon on top of the even slices of bread10:30am10:50am
Put Emerald Frizz lettuce on top of the even slices of bread10:50am11:10am
Put the odd slices of bread on top of the even slices of bread to create each sandwhich11:10am11:30am
Put a toothpick topped with an olive through the middle of each sandwhich11:30am11:50am
Test the sandwhiches11:50am12:00pm

We proceeded and followed this plan to the tee (our project manager would have been proud!). As it turned out, our estimates were fantastic and we started the testing phase at exactly 11:50am. Both D'Arcy and I eagerly grabbed a sandwhich, took a few pictures to put on twitter and took a huge bite. It was... awful. It turns out that my mayonnaise supplier gave us some really rancid mayo. Each and every sandwhich was ruined.

Fortunately, when we sheepishly went to report this to the catering staff at the Delta, they kindly informed us that they were pretty sure we would fail and had prepared a wonderful lunch anyways. So, the attendees were spared, and D'Arcy and I graciously thanked the Delta for being such great hosts.

The lesson? If we wouldn't make lunch that way, why would we create software that way? Instead, shorten the distance between a possible problem and its resolution by frequently delivering working software and testing every day. First-Time-Right for the win.

Enjoy your lunch! Hope to see you at PrairieDevCon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to wrap a gift card (hint - it involves power tools)

Note: This post has nothing to do with agile, but hopefully it will add some excitement to your future gift card giving experiences.

This Christmas I was tasked with buying gifts for three of my nephews. I bought two gift cards from West 49 and another from Chapters. For some of you these may be fine gifts to give and you are happy to check off three more items on your list. However, my goal in giving any gift is to first give them what they want and second to try and surprise and delight them with something unexpected. A gift card is not surprising or particularly delightful.

So... what to do? For the first gift card, I took a typical approach and wrapped it in ever increasing sizes of boxes with lots of duct tape and topped it off with pretty ribbon and a bow. It was a very delightful looking gift. But, in the end I decided this was a little too typical and unwrapped it while I pondered other ideas.

It was while wandering through the garage that I received my inspiration - an old eight foot 2x6. Here are the steps that followed.

1. Using a circular saw, cut a slit about 3 inches deep and 6 inches long into the edge of the 2x6. After making the cut, make sure that the gift card will fit inside the slit.

2. Next, decide on a shape to create out of the wood (for this example I used a Christmas bell ornament) and cut the 2x6 into pieces accordingly and nail or screw the pieces together to form your masterpiece. Depending on the size of the gift card you may need to cut an additional slit in a second piece of the 2x6 so that the card will fit properly 'inside' your wooden ornament.

Before wrapping your ornament you may want to secure a ribbon to the top so that you can hang it up. At the top of the ornament, hammer in a nail half way. Now wrap a small piece of ribbon around the nail and then bend the nail over completely so that it holds the ribbon in place.

3. The finished and fully wrapped product!

4. Now repeat with other shapes as necessary until all your gift cards are wrapped. I created a Christmas bell, a Christmas tree, and a Christmas ball.

The reactions you get may vary, but my nephews used the words 'best' and 'ever' after opening their gift cards. Also, the look on their faces after they unwrapped their homemade 'ornaments' and before they realized there was more unwrapping to do was priceless.

Hopefully I can wrap more gift cards next year. My brother has already promised it will involve acetlyane torches.