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.