In-the-SPIN: Newsletter of the Boston@SPIN
 Issue 62 April 2010
Editor: Abby Fichtner 
In-the-SPIN brings tips from our presenters and facilitators to help us apply the great things they've shared with us at our Boston SPIN meetings.

In This Issue:

  Death March Projects in Today's Hard Times by Ed Yourdon
  Empowering Teams with Agile Games by Brian Bozzuto & Dan LeFebvre
  Congratulations, You Get to Manage Your Friends! by Eric Bloom
  Build your Personal Brand with Social Network Tools by Paul Geffen

We hope you're enjoying our presentations and roundtables as much as we are. Be sure to check out our upcoming meetings to meet others in the industry and learn new tips for developing great software. Want to get more involved? Why not facilitate a roundtable or blog about our meetings - both are great ways to get your name out there. Have ideas on how we can improve? Drop us a line and let us know what you'd like from your SPIN.

Signed, The Boston Spin Volunteers
Death March Projects in Today's Hard Times (Presentation)
Death March Projects in Today's Hard Times by Ed Yourdon
  Ed Yourdon   Death-march projects have been a common phenomenon since I entered the IT profession in the mid-1960s -- and probably even before that.† Because so many are caused by human foibles of naÔve optimism, politics, and poor planning, it would be reasonable to assume they'll continue to be part of our profession for the foreseeable future. But I'm concerned that these high-pressure, high-risk,

crisis-oriented projects filled with long periods of extreme overtime are likely to be exacerbated by the Great Recession we're currently suffering.

The most common aspects of such recession-oriented projects are familiar to us all: a constant pressure to reduce costs, cut budgets, postpone or eliminate capital investments in new technology, along with layoffs, reductions in administrative support, smaller teams, and more "fragmented" teams, with people juggling multiple projects.

One of the consequences is likely to be an increase in the demand for so-called "ugly" projects -- i.e., projects that may succeed in delivering results on time and under budget, but which also leave a lot of blood on the floor. In harsh economic times, managers may give lip service to the need for greater attention to peopleware concepts, but they also know that most employees have fewer opportunities to vote with their feet. If management launches a new death-march project, and announces there will be mandatory (unpaid) overtime, plus cancellation of vacations, itís a lot harder to say "no" if you have no other job opportunities available.

Upcoming Meetings
When It Just HAS to Work: Agile Development in Safety-Critical
Nancy Van Schooenderwoert Brian Shoemaker, 5/18

Agile Requirements:
Not an Oxymoron

Ellen Gottesdiener, 6/15
May Roundtables
Agile, QA, and The
Regulated Environment

Bill Tsen

Needs & Leads!
Networking & open discussion
Stay Connected
Connect with other members:
» LinkedIn Boston SPIN Group
» Twitter use #BostonSPIN

Got more to share?
Blog about our meetings and we'll link to you in In-the-Spin.
@ Email Us Your Blogs!
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Agile Boston Open 2010
Ken Schwaber, Amr Elssamadisy, Jean Tabaka, Steven List..., 4/28

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Jennifer Smith,
Boston WebsiteSpark, 4/29

Agile & Architecture:
Crossing the Great Divide

Nanette Brown,
Agile Bazaar 5/6

Day in the Life: Microsoft Tester
Urvashi Tyagi, SQGNE, 5/12

Deep Agile 2010: Agile Games
Tobias Mayer, Lyssa Adkins, Portia Tung & more, 5/15-16

Choosing What To Automate
Brian Le Suer, SQGNE, 6/9
On the other hand, the supply of IT professionals willing to work on death-march projects until they drop from exhaustion could actually decrease in the next few years: recent computer science and software engineering students may decide to abandon their dreams of IT careers if they canít get a job within a year or two of graduating, or if they believe that offshore outsourcing is inevitable, no matter how hard they work. Indeed, some university graduates appear to be avoiding all high-pressure "professional" careers, and taking lower-pressure jobs instead, while shifting their priorities to non-work-related areas. Consequently, budget-conscious corporate managers may try instead to get the cost savings they so desperately need by increasing the amount of work outsourced to lower-cost countries like India and China.

I seriously doubt that death-march projects will disappear, but I would be delighted if the recessionary economic climate had the perverse effect of reducing the frequency with which they occur.

» View Ed's Presentation
» Learn more on his blog: Yourdon Report

Empowering Teams with Agile Games (Roundtable)
Empowering Teams with Agile Games
by Brian Bozzuto and Dan LeFebvre

Lectures, while helpful, are no substitute for hands-on activity in learning new skills. Games, on the other hand, provide a fun and safe environment to experiment with alternative approaches and see concepts rapidly. Games like Planning Poker and Innovation Games®, which establish rules and then allow participants to innovate and interact within those parameters, can be invaluable learning tools for teams.
  Agile Games  

We got to play the Spec Writing Game at April's SPIN meeting. Teams were split into "developers" and "spec writers" and tasked with recreating a drawing. The two disciplines were physically separated and limited to communicating via written notes. Only the spec writers could view the original drawing.

In the first round, the spec writers spent half the time writing detailed specifications and then, after handing them to the developers, sat back down at their own tables and chatted -- leaving the developers confused with no additional guidance. This is a common behavior, showing how quickly collaboration can break down.

In the second round, after a retrospective to allow the teams to inspect and adapt, specs got turned over much faster. And, the writers stuck around to observe the developers, providing rapid updates as they identified misunderstandings. The results were significantly improved, clearly demonstrating the importance of face to face.

That's what's so powerful about games. You can espouse the merits of things like collocation, but many people just don't see it. They need to experience the difference. We completed two rounds and a debrief within 45 minutes. This allowed people to try one thing, reflect on it and try another in under an hour (as opposed to a real project, where these insights might not surface until the end of an the project, or - at least - the end of the iteration).

» Play games with agile thought leaders at Deep Agile 2010: Empowering Teams with Agile Games (5/15-16)

Becoming a Technology Manager (Presentation)
Eric Bloom   Congratulations, You Get to Manage Your Friends!
by Eric Bloom

Wow, the old manager left and they need a new one. You have the most experience, do great work and are viewed as a team leader. As a result, you're promoted to be the new manager. Congratulations!

First, the good news. Your pay will likely go up. Friends & family will congratulate you.
Now the bad. Your coworkers are going to start looking at you differently. The more junior will be happy because they see the company promotes from within. They'll hope you leave in a year or two so they can be next. The more senior will be jealous and resentful because they think they should have gotten the job. Those who think you like them (or, at least, like them more than the old boss did) will be happy - but happy for what it means for their own career, rather than yours. And then there may be a few who couldn't care less. They have no desire to be manager and just view you as a different guy (or gal) in a suit who will likely be gone in a year or two anyway.

Regardless, you are now the boss and they'll treat you differently for it knowing that their next raise, promotion, and paycheck is in your hands.

You'll also slowly change the way you speak to them. You now have to ask/tell them to do things and expect it will be done. They best way to understand this phenomenon is to think about how you treat your boss and understand that you are now being treated by your subordinates in a similar fashion. Good luck, these are exciting times ahead, but be sure to enter them with your eyes open.

» View Eric's Presentation on Becoming a Technical Manager
» Learn more about it in his book: Manager Mechanics: Tips & Advice for First Time Managers

Needs & Leads (Roundtable)
Build Your Personal & Professional Brand
with Social Networking Tools

by Paul Geffen

Your most basic piece of internet identity is you. Hereís an affordable way to create your own professional brand on the Internet...

Start with your own permanent, verifiable email address (not one from an employer).
  Paul Geffen

Use this to get an OpenID at and start using it on internet sites. Use it whenever you can because all the posts and comments you create with it will be tied together by the OpenID and so associated with you. Use your real name and use it the same way in all of your profiles, posts, and comments.

Get a personal domain, preferably in the .com top-level domain. Check if "" (or a close variation) is available at and reserve it at a registrar like You can register it (you donít need hosting) for about $10/year and then configure itís DNS to redirect to your blog.

Create a free blog at or Customize it's layout and use it to reflect your professional expertise. Start small and post often. If you're looking for work, write about the kind of work you want.

Finally, connect to your community. Find related blogs and comment on them, always signing your name and linking back to your own blog. Sign up for social networking sites: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, and anything related to your field. Put links to your domain on your profile pages on these sites and put as much information in those profiles as possible.

That's just the foundation. Where you go from here is up to you. Remember that the content you create is what attracts visitors. The more you create, the better your profile.

» View Paul's blog here
Software Engineering Institute | Carnegie Mellon
SPIN | Software Process Improvement Network
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