Would you like to know a little more about who I am, and how my successes and setbacks shaped me into someone who is so passionate about doing less at one time, and embracing uncertainty as part of a lean software development mindset? Today I’d like to share part 3 of my software development journey with you.
Agile Theater: Alive And Well
What my consulting experience had shown me so far, was that many companies still struggle to do agile development. They use some of the technologies and processes, but they have a difficult time transforming the minds of leadership and key players to support true agility.
First Startup: Social Network / Time Tracking For Home Schoolers
I got the idea for and began building a social network for home schoolers about 6 years ago. The product was built in ruby on rails for speed to market, and being a Father of 3 home schooled children myself, my wife and I knew some of what we thought others would want. Unfortunately, I fell into the classic “Subject Matter Expert” trap! I had a “knowing / doing gap” where I could help OTHERS do lean software development, but when it came to MY ideas, I was just as stubborn! In the end I stopped working on the product as I had built too many things that were not useful to my customer, and market analysis had me wanting to pursue a different market.
Becoming (Unwillingly) A Firefighter
Around this time my day job in consulting began sending me in to help fix issues at projects with our clients that were in trouble. I got good at this, but it began to burn me out as I started seeing the same quality issues from both our consultancy and the client. The root problem was that the way we engaged with our clients did not embrace agility, and so when things changed or we learned we’d failed in some way, it was costly and slow to adapt.
Resistance To The Shift Towards Lean
I began to put together a set of content and team that would have the skills at my consultancy to start delivering in a more lean fashion, but the leadership did not yet have the courage to support me even after numerous presentations, discussions, and wins. By the time they began to invest, it was too late – our competition had a several year lead on us.
Second Startup: Public Health Data Analysis
A friend of mine whom I’d worked with for many years brought an idea to me for a product and was gracious enough to ask me to be involved. There were a number of problems as we began building the company though. First, we both had day jobs and children, and the personal investment was too high to be sustainable for our initial offering. Second, we weren’t clear on our lines of responsibility and so our relationship was taxed.
Third, the technology landscape around the “big data” tools we were using were too immature, and there was too much rework we needed to do to deliver the minimum viable product (MVP). Lastly, we failed to deliver small enough ideas before getting feedback, and fell again into the “Subject Matter Expert” trap by overbuilding.
A Burning Desire To Be Lean
I finally read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries and it opened my eyes to some of the things I had been doing wrong. As I began trying to apply these techniques with clients, I came up against confusion created by vendors in the industry who focus on technology that is “lean” or “agile” but don’t help companies truly adopt the lean mindset. Battling this became the current focus of my career.
Using Small Batches To Improve Product Management
I wanted to help the people driving the direction of the product to learn whether they failed or not with less investment, and faster, so they wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did. To do this however requires creating the psychological safety necessary for failure and learning. And to get support for transforming the culture to support this safety, consulting skills are necessary.
Supporting Your Lean Transformation
Eventually, I started a membership program to help mentor software professionals to get the support for consulting and lean skills necessary to help them transform their company’s culture, or use lean techniques for their own startup ideas. I am focused on helping people use the scientific method, as described in the Lean startup; relationship skills and personal development to become a better communicator and persuader; and Continuous Delivery technologies such as the cloud and automation technologies – all in an effort to be more successful.
Watch How To Win Trust here.
Watch How To Fail Faster here.
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Also published on Medium.