October 2008

During the last Scrum Gathering Jeff Sutherland delivered a talk on hyper productive Scrum teams. One of his interesting points was that extreme data points (extremely well performing teams) are worth looking at, as people behind them must be doing something right. And that makes sense – if we are all to look for improvements in the way we do our projects we must look at those who make it better.

Another interesting thing Jeff described was how some companies – like Xebia – do Scrum with dispersed teams with productivity that is on par with co-located teams, which is quite an accomplishment. I found this very interesting, because for now we have whole our team in one office, but with time we might have to do something like this too and it is good to know how to do it well.

Luckily I don’t have to recount all that myself, as I just found that Jeff delivered the very same talk at Google a month earlier and they did put it on YouTube, so you can just enjoy the original.

So I’m at the Scrum Gathering in Stockholm right now.

Did my talk in the morning – it went reasonably well, did get some very good questions at the end. I think I could improve it now also after what I learned at another talk on the same subject. That talk itself wasn’t very inspiring but the discussion with other participants was very good and informative. Many companies now are thinking how to sell agile software development services, especially how to sway clients away from the fixed bid culture that is doing them no good. Another common problem is how to formulate “agile contracts” – that is contracts that are helping form this kind of relationship. I think we have pretty good standard agreement and model now, but I did pick up a few nice ideas from others that we could possibly use.

Jeff Sutherland had a very interesting lecture on “super-performing teams” that got me thinking seriously on how we could improve the way we measure our productivity. The thing he is saying – and many others have been for some time – that you can achieve more productivity while at the same time cutting the number of hours worked. Seems like impossibility, but from my own experience in agile I know this is true. I just wonder whether we did all we could in that area.

This was also my first time I could see Ken Schwaber in person. In the video from his talk at Google he comes across as a drill sergeant in civilian clothes – when you actually talk to the guy it turns out he is much nicer a person than that. Same with Jeff Sutherland, who also has this kind of military-”warrior”-like appearance – but at least Jeff was actually in the USAF once.

I’m overall positively surprised by the whole event, it will probably be much more valuable for me than Agile Development Practices was a year ago. I think I’ll seriously consider skipping this year edition of it.

As we all know (and if we don’t better get informed) a deep financial crisis is slowly engulfing our globalized economy and some countries start to sink. Iceland was doing what the bigger economies were – money-printing driven bubble pumping. Now a reality check came and Iceland’s PM went on national TV to announce the whole country might go bankrupt. Naturally, feeling the heat they turned for help to their traditionally allies, which we may safely assume included the US. But those allies refused having the very same problem on their hands. So Iceland turned to… Russia and Russia will give them €4bn loan.

Icelandic officials quickly denied that their “new friendship” with Russia includes any kind of military cooperation, for example giving Russians access to an airbase vacated by the US Air Force in 2006. Well, a 19th century Russian diplomat, prince Gorchakov used to say: “I don’t believe in news that are not officially denied” – and I think it very nicely applies here. Have a look on the map and see where Iceland is, how big it is and what resources it can offer. The fact is the only thing Iceland can offer is its strategic position. Except for some fish there is nothing there and I don’t think Russia is in particular need of Atlantic fish. But assuming Russians would get there it would allow them to control strategically important sea routes on the North Atlantic and would help them in their bid for control over the Arctic.

This just shows how wise Russia is playing its cards since Putin’s clique of ex-KGB officers took helm from the ailing Yeltsin. A very, very wise move on their part. And also very worrying for Europe, especially its eastern part.

The debate that occurred when I posted a few days ago about Google’s support for gay “marriages” was a surprise, especially because it largely concentrated on this particular issue, not on the point I was making. It has been, nevertheless, a good example of madness that is engulfing our supposedly rational civilization.

This madness boils down to belief that there is no objective truth, and therefore no laws governing human societies. Also, only truth accessible to man is the scientific “truth” – that is current theory backed by empiric verification. And since there is nothing besides what can be seen or measured then there is no purpose whatsoever to life other than pleasure and work to get means for more pleasure. Therefore there is no solid ground to base any moral or ethical reasoning on, so basically “anything goes”: all is good and should be respected if those involved in it like it and feel good about it.

This madness leads probably well-intentioned and passionate people to methodically dismantle our civilization’s foundations and cut off its roots.

Western civilization was built on the traditions of ancient Greece and Rome and was deeply rooted in Christianity. In fact it was Christianity that was shaping West’s values and morality for centuries, that was literally driving it. No surprise here – there was never in history a civilization that did not have a spiritual core and that was embracing absolutely everything. Also, there was no civilization in history that was not protecting family by ensuring its special social status and protecting marriage that creates it.

It looks, though, like we are finally getting one. Supposedly rational modern liberals want to built an utopian civilization with no dominant religion, no set of universally accepted moral values (and any reference to supernatural reduced to vague, easily dismissible “spirituality”) and no family as we know it. Reading some of the voices in this discussion it seems there is nothing they abhor more than Christianity and its values and they strive with great success to remove Christianity’s influence on Western societies.

Given the historical evidence it is very unlikely for this experiment to succeed, but it will have its consequences. The problem is those consequences are not immediately visible, but take decades to surface. Some we can see already, but those are the consequences of changes introduced long time ago. We’ll have to wait, maybe a few decades, for the results of what is being done now.

We see exactly same things happening with the economy, where current crisis is a consequence of a systemic error made decades ago in the US. Of course, few notice because only few are really interested in history. People don’t see real causes of today’s problems because for the most part they lie in the past when most of current population was not even living. Ideas tried before are not recognized as such, but rather welcomed as new – and re-applied perpetuating the problem (like the infamous $700bn bailout).

One commentator in the discussion here, Kevin, said that “the ground which humans have built on for thousands of years is eroding out from under our feet”. Cheer up, Kevin – it is eroding, but for the most part only under the Western Civilization. There are other civilizations – in fact if you look at the map of the world most people live in other civilizations. And all of those civilizations with no exception stick to their traditions and values, which incidentally all include protection of family as the basic unit of society. Of those the Muslim civilization is most visible in the West, because it is in fact slowly taking over Western Europe.

So, the brutal reality is that if our civilization wishes to commit a slow motion suicide the world will just shrug. There may be a crisis when it falls but others will fill the void. In fact many around the world can’t wait when it happens, because they hope it will be their civilization that will be more powerful and influential then. Christianity will survive West’s fall as well, just as it survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the passing of the Carolingian Empire and all the kings and emperors that threaded the Earth during those 2000 years since Our Lord has been here.

Nothing of this is news – I’m not discovering anything in this humble post. Wise men saw this coming long ago – like Pope Pius IX or Oswald Spengler to name just two writing decades ago – and many after them. So the problem now is not whether this is happening – the big question we should consider is: is this process inevitable? Can this be reversed? Can Western Civilization be resuscitated? And if yes – then how?

But even if it is not someone who thinks the biggest issue of our time is to push for mentally disturbed individuals to be allowed to “marry” each other and thus helps West’s “slow motion suicide” in his small way is well… a fool.

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