i love Brussels

Mai 31, 2014

La soare pe balustrada orasuluiThis afternoon at Pl. Poelaert, Brussels

Anunțuri

For the past few days I pondered  on the fact whether I should keep my attention on the changes that are being gradually introduced at my work place or I should embrace (good) change as a principle of life. As with any change they do create a certain level of discomfort.

The management is introducing Agile Methodology and all teams will sooner or later be „affected”. For the readers which are not familiar with the concept of  agile working, the internet is already a good source of information and I will just say that it is an organic methodology to ultimately achieve increased productivity from the team of workers which it is being applied on. It is said to have its roots in Lean Manufacturing (also Fordism). Its strength is in the fact that it deals with changes very early in the project lifecycle and addresses them whilst concentrating on the results. The worker’s tasks should note take longer than 2 weeks to complete. This two weeks interval is called sprint. The completion of a project is achieved after a certain number of sprint iterations.

Four years ago we started the project with a small team of three and 16 months later, a fourth person joined the team to help us tie up loose ends before launch and to improve the response for any issues cropping up during the first weeks of life of our product. The launch was kept low profile and the web application we developed had a steady growth and continues to grow with new requirements coming. However I do not want to talk about the success of the project, I want instead to look at the dynamics of our almost self-managed team. We delivered on time and on budget a working product. Business got confident that we can deliver, the budget increased and today, four years on, we are a team of eight people. In the process some people left, some people came to replace them and there was a moment when the team seemed to have lost momentum and it looked like the project was beginning to drift in some unknown direction. These were actually times when we could invest in redesigning and improving parts of the application with self-taught knowledge or use these quieter times whilst the application was running on autopilot to look into new business opportunities. I prefer the latter but under the current contract this proves difficult. How does one grow if his time and presence are measured?

Agile method of working implies stand-ups, which in our project means we all stand up for at least 15 minutes every day and communicate (report) to everybody else what we are working on, how long we estimate it will take to complete and whether anything is preventing us from doing our work. Besides our project coordinator there is also an observer, a consultant, specialising in coaching Agile. I generally do not have a problem with these daily catch ups but when I am busy and focused on my work I find them an unnecessary interruption. It’s an interference with work in progress, when there is nothing new to report. Ok, I got it, this is not for me, it’s for the manager. Four years we managed our selves, our workload and our time. We worked in pairs, we interacted with each other as when and how we needed. Now this question bugs me: how has the management come to the conclusion that we need to be coached Agile?

It seems to be widely accepted that programming is a science but also an art. Do you see a bunch of artists reporting at regular intervals of time what they are working on or how long is going to take them to complete their work? I find this aspect of agile, and the aspect of obsessive meetings of any work method, quite demotivating.

If they asked me before introducing Agile what was really needed to make our work better and the team more efficient, I would have asked them to introduce hierarchy in the team. Instead of bringing  other senior developers, each of them eager to change what has already been done because his method is superior, a second senior developer would have been sufficient to balance the decisions of the first one and the rest should have been developers of medium experience in one skill (i.e front end development because this is the area were our team lacked strength) and junior level in the other area (back end) where he could learn from the more seniors. (I suppose in the current workforce market place I am too pretentious.) Having too many architects introduced the problem of inconsistency in our code. I would trade imperfection for consistency any time.. In fact, what the new developers did was to almost dismiss the existing work on the basis of self skill adulation. In the domain of building cities you do not have this luxury, you must work with what you have. Follow what you have to preserve consistency then have a strategic approach for re-factoring the product with minimum disruption of services.

I would have also suggested a dedicated tester person moved to our office to continually test and provide immediate feedback to us in order to quickly fix problems.

One other idea which could work for our team is to have a dedicated senior developer which could play the role of an assembler. What I mean is that he/she could be assigned less development work but perform more integration work, a sort of architect who requires pieces of working software from the other developers and then glues them together.

To my colleagues I would suggest each of us should try to make the life/work of other person easier by overlooking minor faults and not clinging on them. This way we will benefit from less friction in the work process.

I think this is what our team needs and I hope Agile is a step in the right direction and will put my observations into the light.

 

02.06.2014 update: Today we had our end-of-the-spring-assesment-meeting.

At the end of every 2 week sprint we meet to discuss what went well and what went not so well during the sprint. We list the good things and also the bad things. Sometimes an item shows on both lists like it happened today, the Daily stand-ups showed on both. :-) We propose solutions to each problem we identify and we bullet point those on a white board with maximum visibility to the team. We then vote. Each team member looks at the list of identified issues and votes according to his opinion and/or priorities which should be addressed in the new sprint. At the end of the voting, the more critical aspects will reveal themselves. We choose three of them and try to address them during the next sprint(s). I think I like Agile but I’m too old for sprints.

The coach said, in Agile we try to make everyone take ownership of the product (the code in our case).

03.06.2014 update: I am not yet convinced about the necessity of the daily stand-ups.

Sometimes they appear necessary but after yesterday’s stand-up and the 1 hour sprint review at the end of the day yesterday, I am really not looking forward to today’s stand-up. I feel demotivated and thoughts of leaving the project started to come back after some time in which I thought we found the right working formula. Do I again kill this miserable soul and go ahead fulfilling the role or do I go where I should have gone a long time ago, my way? Perhaps this is one of the purposes of Agile, to refresh the team with new blood.

Why do workers leave? (06.06.2014):  Because they are not the organisation. Because their will does not count too much and they are expected to leave when disagreements arise. There ore other reasons but they are not worth mentioning here.

11:4o am: working away, Beethoven concertos in my ears (). If you wanted to take the human factor into account, I could do without this meeting due in 5 minutes.

12:00pm: done. deadlines were reminded at the end of the stand-up. I don’t really care too much about those partly because I usually complete my work on time. It takes what it takes, however long is necessary to complete the work without anxiety and enough breaks to make it feel less like a toil. With the amount of work ahead of me I do not think I’ll make the deadline. The challenge is not to give in to this thought, stay serene, keep making my work interesting which means slowing down enough to be able to experiment new things and last but not the least, bogging about it.

 

04.06.2014 update: Could daily stand-ups be targeting introvert-ism?

05.06.2014 update:How long do you think this piece of work will take?

– I don’t know exactly. When you go to doctor do you ask him how long is going to take him to operate your appendix?

 

10.06.2014 update: Lunchtime inter-team work games was announced. The scope is to enhance the collaboration outside the scope of our project. I have the feeling I stayed beyond the point at which dignity is loosing its teeth. Agile is gently becoming aggressive. I feel the need to stick to my self preservation philosophy: I’m an old dog and I don’t want to be re-trained

Why these changes alienate me from my work? Because they are rather imposed on us as ‘good practice’ instead of coming as a necessity from within the team.

After today’s stand up more classical ensued..

And this launches me into strangely remote thought: Do you want to find out if Steve Mc’Queen made it to freedom when he answered his friend Does it matter?” and jumped into the ocean? There is only one way to find this out: I should jump out into the unknown too.

The scene of:

DH:” -Do you think it’ll work?”

SMcQ: „-Does it matter?”

 

 

12.06.2004 update: I did not want to attend the stand-up today. I felt the meeting and the presence of the consultant intrusive. Even more so as I am not an employee, I am a consultant myself. After four years life’s supposed to get better not worse.

Imagine you are at home enthralled in your favourite text and someone rings your bell, every day, at the same time. Except that I sit at my desk with enough work for the rest of the month, which by the way, I just managed to make it seem interesting, and the Outlook Daily Meeting reminder pops up. WTF!

I refused to make myself available for today stand-up and I left 5 min before it started. I returned half an hour later and I haven’t seen the manager or the coach. No one said anything, yet. they will probably bring it out in front of every one at the next stand up tomorrow. Do I give them the chance to do it or do I refuse the meeting again? I am thinking of attending it to see how they deal with my absence today.

 

13.06.2014 update: I spilled the beans. To avoid potential conflict I told the manager I am not happy with the fact that I need to work agile. The reaction was positive. He will raise it to superiors and asked me to wait to see what they will say. It is getting interesting. It will probably be the highway. They will also maybe thinking what they did wrong. Probably nothing. It is just me not wanting to work under current conditions. Not sure about the others but the feeling is that the daily stand-ups seem a bit too much. They do obey them though.

16.06.2014  – 10:35am update: Very early this morning I woke up and it occurred to me that the Agile could have an eavel effect – it turns the managers in control freaks and the developers into quiet puppets or just developers.

In today stand-up, which I attended, it has been announced that it has been realised this is indeed not the right time to have the lunchtime teams game. My reaction had some effect.

17.06.2014 update„I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses…” 

I think I ought to end this post and I think this is a good time. I refused the stand-up meeting today and I returned just in time to bump into the consultant which run it since the manager was not in. We had an amiable discussion standing by the building door. Nice chap which i think he understood my points. I am what I am and it takes what it takes. If they tolerated or liked my work for the past 4 years it’s for them to think about. Obviously not expecting him to stop doing what he is here to do. At least he’s also aware of my position and will not need to wonder in the next meeting if I’m in or not.

18.06.2014 update: Only if you could stop „the windmills of your mind”. I had to come back with this comment.

The team should not care if I care. Each one should care about his work getting done. Working in a group should not result in imposing the group upon the individual. I think this is what Agile is insidiously driving at. Eventually the individual will give in to the group.

Coach, what do you feel? And please don’t answer with the text book, just tell me what you feel Agile is doing. And if you’re not able to feel, it means to me you are applying Agile top-down, which is wrong

19.06.2014 update: Tomorrow stand-up has been cancelled.

Is the Agile gone? Should I call it a victory? Don’t think so. It will probably come back wearing a different hat when the heat of deadlines are way behind. Let’s see what next week will bring.

 

An analyst… more than a year in the project now. Have you come across a left handed communicator?  If we were to fence or box he would knock you out in the first round.

I need to find a way to communicate with him without getting frustrated after the initial verbal exchange. The challenge is to shorten my sentences to such extent so that he does not have time to interrupt.

One method is to wait and not speak until he exhausts his ammunition. Then throw at him the shortest sentence possible. Sometimes a single sound or an and is enough to get him started again. I do this a few times, each time adding an extra sound to bleed his words out. Then, maybe then, I could formulate one full sentence without being interrupted.

(How to make a work environment not laughable? It’s hard when the language does not sound right. (I hope I sound right.))

Very frustrating but I am getting better at it. I am not addressing him any more verbally. Instead, I  send an email and I ask him to write in plain English what he means and I quoted him this: „If you can’t write it, you can’t think it.” or something like this.  This had a positive effect in communication (not sure if for the project as well). At least it created less friction.

Crowds in City 2 Shopping Centre photographed from high up

Oameni la mall fotografiati de la etajul 2 (City 2 Shopping Centre, Bruxelles)

Aceleasi sentimente care m-au determinat sa scriu postul precedent m-au trimis ieri la librarie. Am observat ca in ultimul timp nu mai poposesc la rafturile cu pansamente si merg direct la ceva mai palpabil.

La sectiunea Arta am gasit ratacita o cartulie de nici o suta de pagini intitulata Useful Work versus Useless Toil (O comparatie intre munca utila si cea de uzura, lipsita de satisfactii) – o colectie de patru eseuri scurte scrise intre 1888 si 1896 si care se bucura de claritatea si pragmatismul scolii anglo-saxone. Primul dintre ele, care constituie si titlul cartuliei, mi-a atras cu precadere atentia avand in consideratie starea de „fara rost” nu foarte straina in care ma gaseam dupa luna de concediu. Dupa rasfoirea catorva pagini, n-am mai stat prea mult pe ganduri, am scos cei 8 euro 35 si am cumparat-o. Mergand spre casa, cateva cuvinte citite la intamplare pulsau exonerant(?), adica ma eliberau cumva de povara neputintei de a-mi explica starea.

„Here, you see, are two kinds of work – one good, the other bad; one not far removed from a blessing, a lightening o life; the other a mere curse, a burden to life.

What is the difference between them, then? This: one has hope in it, the other has not. It is manly to do the one kind of work, and manly also to refuse to do the other.

Vedeti aici, exista doua feluri de munca – unul bun si unul nociv; primul fel de munca e cel care vine ca o binecuvantare si care ne lumineaza vietile; celalalt fel este cel care inrobeste.

Care-i diferenta dintre ele atunci? Asta: o munca are speranta in ea iar cealalta nu are. Este demn sa faci acel gen de munca si este de asemenea demn sa-l refuzi pe celalalt.

Are speranta in ea… V-ati putut gandi la asa ceva? Mi-a placut aceasta idee.

Rog vizitatorii care citesc si in engleza sa fie ingaduitori cu traducerea libera pe care mi-am asumat-o cu cele mai bune intentii de a reda sensul spuselor autorului William Moris. Si nu neg ca cele traduse de mine nu poarta subiectivitatea sentimentelor vizavi de munca pe care o desfasor si viata pe care o duc. Descoperirea acestui text nu putea avea loc intr-un moment mai prielnic deci va imaginati frenezia care m-a cuprins cand mi-a picat pe mana.

Am parcurs deja primele opt pagini absorbind sensul fiecarui cuvant cu care autorul identifica si vorbeste despre natura sperantei care sta in munca ce ne lumineaza spiritul si ne usureaza vietile:

„What is the nature of the hope which, when it is present in work, makes it worth doing?

It is threefold, I think – hope of rest, hope of product, hope of pleasure in the work itself; and hope of these also in some abundance and of good quality; rest enough and good enough to be worth having; product worth having by one who is neither a fool nor an ascetic; pleasure enough for all for us to be conscious of it while we are at work; not a mere habit, the loss of which we shall feel as a fidgety man feels the loss of the bit of string he fidgets with.”

Care-i atunci substanta sperantei care face ca munca sa fie utila, sa aiba valoare?

Are trei aspecte: speranta de a beneficia de odihna, speranta de a produce ceva de pe urma ei si in cele din urma speranta ca exista dorinta si placerea ca omul sa exercite acea munca; de asemenea speranta ca acestea sa existe din abundenta si sa fie de calitate; odihna sa fie destula si de calitate; produsul muncii sa fie folositor si utilizabil nu doar de fraieri sau de cei fara pretentii; placerea de a efectua acea munca sa fie perceputa pe durata efectuarii ei; munca sa nu devina o rutina iar pierderea ei sa ne dea impresia ca ceva ne lipseste in viata de zi cu zi asa cum unuia caruia ii place sa se joace intre degete cu margelele insirate pe ata simte ca-i lipsesc atunci cand le rataceste.

Acum, chiar daca eram atat de inteligent sa produc singur aceasta gandire, tot nu era de ajuns. Faptul ca mai exista cineva care gandeste din acelasi unghi, imi da speranta, adica nu-s nici nebun, nici lenes, nici refractar. Ca el a gandit-o cu mai bine de un secol in urma ne spune ca prea multe nu s-au schimbat in bine, asa cum nici el nu era prea convins la randul sau ca pana la el multe se schimbasera in bine:

„Let us estimate the worthiness of the work we do, after so many thousand years of toil, so many promises of hope deferred, such boundless exultation over the progress of civilization and the gain of liberty.”

Haideti sa cantarim valoarea muncii pe care o prestam, dupa atatea mii de ani de munca grea insuficient platita, de sperante desarte in numele progresului civilizatiei si castigarea libertatii.

Daca am avut pornirea sa fac postarea asta poate asta ar trebui sa fie munca mea. O munca neplatita are valoare? Probabil ca da, atata timp cat foloseste cuiva la ceva.

Chiar daca de interes major, nu voi reproduce fiecare pasaj in care autorul identifica clasele sociale si evidentiaza rolul si functiile fiecareia (dat fiind anii in care a trait autorul nu ma surprinde ca si la Eminsescu am intalnit asemenea abordare) dar voi extrage cateva pasaje sau definitii care mi-au placut personal:

Wealth (Avuțiile unei natiuni sau persoane)

Besides masses  people who do not work, other masses of people „employed in making all those items of folly and luxury, the demand for which is the outcome of the existence of rich non-producing classes; things which people leading a manly and uncorrupted life would not ask for or dream of. These things, whoever may gainsay me, I will for ever refuse to call wealth: they are not wealth, but waste.

Wealth is what Nature gives us and what a reasonable man can make out of the gifts of Nature for his reasonable use. The sunlight, the fresh air, the unspoiled face of earth, food, raiment and housing necessary and decent; the storing up of knowledge of all kinds, and the power of disseminating it; means of free communication between man and man; works of art, the beauty which man creates when he is most a man, most aspiring and thoughtful – all things which serve the pleasure of people, free, manly and uncorrupted. This is wealth.”

Pe langa masele care nu muncesc, exista masele implicate in producerea acelor articole inutile, de lux, a caror cerinta este legata de existenta claselor non-producatoare; lucruri pe care un om de bun simt care traieste o viata sincera sincera si demna nu ar avea nesimtirea a le pretinde. Aceste produse, oricine m-ar contrazice, refuz sa le numesc avuții: ele nu reprezinta valori ci risipa.

Avuția e ceea ce ne da natura si ceea ce omul de bun simt poate face cu aceste daruri. Lumina soarelui, aerul curat, peisajul neintinat, mancarea, hainele, adapostul necesar si decent; acumularea si depozitarea de informatiilor utile de orice fel si capacitatea de le distribui; mijloacele de comunicare dintre oameni; lucrarile de arta, frumosul creat de om la care aspira cand e la psicul creatiei sale – intr-un cuvant toate lucrurile care serversc bunastarii oamenilor, gratuite, demne si oneste. Acestea sunt avuțiile.

 

Parasites of Property (Paraziti ai proprietatii)

„hangars-on” o clasa numeroasa care nu lucreaza pentru public ci pentru o clasa sociala privilegiata de proprietari cum ar fi uneori cazul unor avocati, doctori a caror meserie pare folositoare.

Iz de Socialism? Nu-i de mirare ca urmatorul eseu publicat prima oara in 1894 (1984!?) se intituleaza How I became a Socialist. Celelalte doua eseuri: Gothic Architecure (1893) si The Lesser Arts (1882).

Subiectul cred ca e demult fumat de catre aceia din domeniul stiintelor economice, sociale, politice etc. insa pentru unul ca mine cu pregatire tehnica, deci un incult, aceastea sunt revelatii „pansament”.

Despre Autor:

William Morris (1834 – 1896) – Visionary English Socialist and pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris argued that all work should be a source of pride and satisfaction, and  that everyone should be entitled to beautiful surroundings – no matter what their class.

Useful Work versus Useless toil by William Morris

Useful Work versus Useless toil by William Morris (Edit. Penguin)

 

frec menta. Ar trebui sa lucrez intens la colectia de poze pe care-am acumulat-o in timpul calatoriilor din ultima luna; ar trebui sa ma apuc de treaba pentru care sunt platit; ar trebui sa reincep sa fac sport. In schimb, nu fac nici una nici alta. Dupa o luna de „libertate” reajustarea la viata normala e dificila.  Am mai spus-o, chiar traumatizanta. Cum o fi dupa luna de miere? Acum am inteles de ce sistemul nu-ti prea da voie sa ratacesti atata timp. Te intorci la program ori puturos ori cu idei revolutionare. Oare cat timp liber as avea nevoie ca sa-mi fie dor de servici? De ce nu m-oi fi nascut in evul mediu? Culmea a facut ca alaltaieri seara sa se transmita filmul „In Time” pe care-l recomand cu tarie celor nemultumiti cu status-quo-ul alaturi de „Office Space”.

 

Colac de salvare la Marea BalticaLa Marea Baltica. Sopot, Polonia

 

La iarba verde de'ntai Maiu

Parinti in plimbare la Gheraesti

Fotograful

La Bacău.

Problema noastră nu cred că este atât lipsa, cât este dorinţa urmată de nereuşită.

Nici macar un gest de curtoazie? Nu gestul in sine dar nici măcar schiţarea lui.

Dacă nesimţirea etalată faţă de concitadini ar fi pusă în slujba perfecţionării unei atitudini mai detaşate faţă de propriile problemele, românii ar fi mai fericiţi.

Biserici multe, smerenie rară.

Neîncrederea – liantul care angrenează societatea românească.