Tuesday, March 15, 2005

March 21 meeting: Programmers are People too - The Human Dimension of Software Development by Ali Law

I'm pleased to announce this months AgileScotland meeting will be on Monday, March 21st at 7:30 in the Currie and Brown offices (Ground Floor, No. 1 Osborne Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HG).

Alistair Law - director and practice leader of the VISION Consulting's Global Technology Practice here in Scotland - will be discussing the human element of software development, in particular the impact that TRUST - and lack of TRUST - between staff working on projects can have on productivity and quality.

Ali's talk is a bit of a coup for me. Partly, because (in the interests of full disclosure) I've recently started a contract working for Ali and it can't hurt to say kind things about my new boss in public, but more so because Vision practices the teachings of Chilian business guru Fernando Flores which I think are very complimentary to Agile Software development, but are little known.

I first heard of Flores, several years ago, from Hal Macomber from the Lean Construction Instution who was working to bring together the work of Flores and three of my hero's - Theory of Constraints guru Goldratt and Ohno & Shingo, fathers of the Toyota Production System - hoping to bring about a "transformation in how projects are delivered".

Unfortunately, there wasn't much out there about Flore's work apart from this Fast Company article which mentions that Flores is the former Chilean minister of finance, was a political prisoner under Pinochet's rule, that he often charged over a million dollars per engagement and that his approach seemed very, very direct (see the article for examples), maybe even frightening.

I couldn't find out any more about Flores until my second AgileScotland meeting when I got talking to our groups founder Hubert Smits. I still don't understand how, but somehow we ended up talking about Flores and Hubert mentioned that he had been trained in Flores' approach while working for Vision ... HERE IN SCOTLAND. He described the philosophy and some of the practices. They seemed to revolve around language and building Trust and Committment between people.

As I have talked more with Hubert over the last couple of years I have became more and more intrigued becasue Flores' approach seems so complimentary to Agile thinking. Where Agile techniques build trust (and value) by providing a software development system that allowed people to deliver on their committments; Flores approach helps deliver systems by building trust based on meeting committments.

So (sorry for the long preamble) at Huberts suggestion I met up with his old boss at Vision, Ali Law. We met a couple of times and exchanged books (I got a Flores, he got a Goldratt) and business cards. The more I learn about Flores work the more important I think it is, so when I took over from Hubert organising AgileScotland, I asked Ali if he would talk to us about Flores' approach.

I'm glad he said yes because despite his genius, Flore's books are hard reading and there's very little material available in the public domain.

Hope to see you on Monday,