Root Cause Analysis: Problem identified between keyboard and the chair!

“No matter how technical it looks at first, it’s always a people problem”

is the famous quote of Gerald M. Weinberg, who noted that in computer science we tend to look at all problems as engineering problems.

What makes or breaks your project are process and people issues. We search for technical solutions, when we should be looking at the human factor! How you interact determines if your project will be a success.

We’re conditioned to be “nice” ever since we had our first disagreements on the playground. So when “people issues” arise, they come dressed as a ‘technical discussion’.

Agile methods put a refreshing focus on how humans interact and impact productivity and quality. Agile focuses on peoples interaction and less on inventing new tools to treat symptoms.

Agile isn’t easy because it asks deep, essential questions such as: “are you communicating?”. But if you face them and look at all layers of your company hierarchy (not just R&D), the rewards will be massive.

Slapping Agile concepts on top of your existing process is asking for trouble. Instead of adding something new, the first steps of Agile are simplification (= take things away). Nassim N. Taleb, is known for his ideas about Antifragility. He calls simplification “via negativa” and illustrates why simplification is usually missed:

The entire idea of *via negativa* is that *omission* does not have side effects and branching chains of unintended consequences -hence [make a system] robust. Big corporations and consultants cannot make money from removing; they only benefit from adding.

It’s a great idea to start with Martin Fowler’s original paper, and then pay a consultant to help you in the process. But keep in mind that there is no silver bullet and success comes from thinking for yourself. Investing in software tools which supports agile concepts may support your agile work-flow. But they’re neither mandatory nor make you agile (see also the Half Arsed Agile Manifesto).

Migrating 2000 telecoms engineers spread across the globe, is different than migrating a start-up. (as obvious as this seems, most arguments for/against agile stem from ignoring this). How old your company is and how your processes evolved over time too, plays a big role. How fast you move forward, and how long it will take until you reap the benefits will all depend on it.

So it doesn’t matter how complicated or technical your processes are. Those things you call “business entities” are in fact people! And as irrational or unpredictable they may be, humans perform better when having fun and feel respected!

Valbonne Consulting provides Research & Consulting for emerging technologies in Internet/Web of Things (WoT/IoT/M2M) and Emerging-Tech. We specialise in decentralisation, security and privacy. We work across a variety of traditional industry verticals (Telecommunications, Automotive, Energy, ...). We support Open Source and technologies built on open standards.

Joachim Bauernberger
Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.

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