Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What can Boeing learn from Agile methods ?

image Republishing  my Techwell article.  This article can be read on Techwell as well :  

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner’sgrounding issue is currently the talk of the town. Steve Denning’s article onForbes presents an interesting look at the news. The only problem with the article is that it only emphasizes one subject—offshoring—rather than addressing other issues in a holistic way.

I have been working on large, complex software projects in a distributed model for a long time. Over my career, I have come to realize that the issues plaguing product development—whether hardware- or software-related—are pretty much similar in nature. Most of the time, the issues are related to poor planning, estimation, and quality checks. At the end of the day, the Boeing 787 is a product; it may not be a software product, but it is a hardware one.

If you take a look at the list of issues that the 787s have encountered, you will find classic project management and quality errors.

Let me begin with the budget and delay issues. The first planes were delivered to Nippon Airways in 2011, years late and billions of dollars over budget. Surprise, surprise! Isn’t this a classic project planning and estimation issue? It has been proven through the ages that project managers should keep the Cone of Uncertainty (COU) in mind while planning. Quoting the COU link:

Estimates created at initial concept time can be inaccurate by a factor of 4 times on the high side, or 4 times on the low side. That means the total estimate range is a staggering 16 times at the time of initial concept! And believe it or not, that’s a best-case scenario.

Boeing should have taken the COU even more seriously during planning because of the new radical technology that the company wanted to implement on the Dreamliner.

Another issue that affected the 787 was an integration issue. As the Guardian reports, “The wing tips were made in Korea, the cabin lighting in Germany, cargo doors in Sweden, escape slides in New Jersey, etc. Parts never integrated properly.” The basic principle that we should integrate early and integrate often is what we agilists have been taught, and Boeing seems to have ignored it.

Boeing also suffered a poor-quality checking issue. Most of the time, quality is ignored due to time pressures. According to the Guardian, Boeing was able to get a waiver for the size, quantity, and manner of use for its lithium-ion batteries, which were not tested properly.

To conclude, I see that Boeing’s issues have less to do with a distributed way of working or offshoring and more to do with project development issues.

Do you think that Boeing has ignored some fundamental principles of product development?

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Which circle is Bigger ? Relativity in decision making

In my earlier post, I had raised a question, which one of the black circles in the pictures were bigger ?


Most people think it is  the left one  but the answer is, both are of same size.

The reason why people get illusioned to think the left  circle is because of the way humans think.   We always compare two similar things while making decisions. In the above scenario, each of the center circles are compared with the surrounding circles. The center circle on the left is compared with the surrounding small circles, and similarly the right center circle is compared with surrounding bigger ones.    

The relativity in decision making says that

  • People assign value to things by comparing one thing to another. People do not possess an innate value meter that determines absolute value.
  • People are constantly comparing and contrasting physical things, people, experiences, and ephemeral things such as emotions, attitudes, and points of view.

If I visit a TV shop and there is only one TV, say 20 inch with a price tag of 500$.  It is rare that I make a buying a decision as I don’t have anything to compare.
However, if the shop keeper keeps a decoy TV, say 40 inch with a price tag of 600$, then there are more chances that you make a decision, most probably towards buying 40 inch TV.  Isn’t this a great idea for the shop keeper to push sales of 40 inch TVs by keeping decoy TVs around it ?

Coming to the Agile world, now you know, why relative estimation is a natural way for the teams to do estimation.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Which circle is bigger ?

As one can see there are two black circles in the pictures below, which one of them is bigger, left or right one ?    Try to answer without googling :-)


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Day to day tools used in Agile projects

Here is the list of tools being used in an Agile environment as discussed in this forum. I have added some based on my previous experience as well.

(Updated on 8th Feb 2013)

Let me know if you are using any other tools, happy to add them here.  Above picture is a screen shot from my excel and feel free to Google it around to get more details about each of them, or Drop me an email and happy to share more details about the same.