Sunday, April 05, 2009

LARubyConf 2009 - Danny Blitz - "Herding Tigers: Software Development and the Art of War"

I had no idea what I was about to experience at Los Angeles Ruby Conference 2009 (LARubyConf) when Danny Blitz took the podium as the next presenter. I had seen him hanging out with his distinctive pompadour, tattoos, and leather jacket. He is a big guy, and hard to miss. But he had been pretty quiet till then, which was about to change radically.

Herding Cats is a term commonly used when describing the management of software teams. But when Danny Blitz says cats, he means big cats aka tigers. So who is this guy? He has done TONS of stuff, from DOD to Dell, to the DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge. Very cool stuff.

Get Agility?

"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week" - Patton

Q. Why is software so difficult?
A. We don't want to face the truth

Q. Why don't we want to face the truth?
A. We're afraid

Q. What are we afraid of?
A. We're afraid we do not know anything about end result

Q. How can we deal with this?
A. Admit the truth

A tiger team is a small self improving team.

What can you expect from a tiger team?
Their first project was scheduled to take 5 weeks - took 5 days


QA is part of tiger team

Tigers show leadership

Tigers self-improve

Almost no meetings on a tiger team

QA and test automation are the tip of the spear

QA should be there from very beginning

Shared psychology and intelligence

Winning, boldness, excellence

Not afraid of the dark

Who is on team?
- all staff needed to deliver product
- leader, 4 devs, 1 automation engineer, 1 Q, product staff m,ember
- in addition, architecture, system admins, any other support staff

why warfare?
- business is battle

There are two kinds of warfare: attrition and maneuver

Attrition warefare
- traditional, tactical
- clashing head-on

Maneuver warfare
- internet space
- rapid modern violent
- unexpected movements

- it is a competitive weapon
- undeniable advantage in business

Speed mitigates risk
- not a guarantee
- damage is contained by quickly compensating

Speed improves the team

Speed adds to job satisfaction

Speed allows agile to function properly
- max iteration length (usually 30 days)

Speed builds credibility
- shows a lot of work in short order

Cows and tigers
- cow is bigger, but who wins?

Disease: using agile terms to describe non-agile project

Corporate animal kingdom
- Tiger
cautious, calculating, looks to win

- Cow
not known to be original
afraid of risk

- Bear
big, usually mellow
awesome battle skills
live and let live attitude

- Leopard
truly wild
will attack at any time

- Elephant
huge and tough
best to avoid battle

- Hyena
steals food

"Tiger teams are like Hell's Programmers" - Danny Blitz

this is what makes or breaks
success belongs to the team
failure belongs to the leader
buck stops here
listener and learner
outside influences
internally too
team members themselves

US marine management techniques
- manage by end state and intent
- reward failure
- demand to be questoned
- glorify the lower levels of organization

Politeness and professionalism
- that or poison

Agile is not a methodology, it is a mindset, it is inevitable

Danny says he is working on the book called "Herding Tigers". He has also started a blog at All I can say is, he is a very dynamic and exciting speaker. Everyone was captivated, myself included. I'm still not sure how I took these notes.

Rock on, Danny!

1 comment:

Danny Blitz said...

Hey Ron,

Thank you SO MUCH for you kind words. I've made leadership my life's work, and I am so very honored you would write such a wonderful blog about my Herding Tigers talk!

Danny the War Tiger