Tag Archives: software for softies

Goals and alignment

This is the third part in a series of posts on goals, picturing a dreamplace and taking a direction. First part was mainly contemplations around the entire thought of goals and directions. The second part was an attempt to describe my utopia, to better understand why I take the actions I do and where they might lead. This post will mainly focus on where, as in area, to set goals and how I would try to formulate them in order to make them successful tools to work with.

When I started thinking about this whole thing it was a big pile of… undefined thoughts. But as I progressed and saw how for example the swedish party Socialdemokraterna had formulated their goals in the past I got an understanding and ideas of how to break it down. There isn’t just one big goal, there are several that makes up a whole picture. I think that we, within the IT industry have a few that are pretty well defined areas that would benefit greatly if we could picture it and get alignment around trying to achieve those goals.

Take USA for example in the fifties and sixties. They really wanted to win the cold war and the Space Race and went from zero to hero and landed a man on the moon within 10 years. That’s an pretty awesome achievement. So how do we win our own space race?

I think if we could start by identifying the different areas we have at hand that would be a start. In my mind we have technology, architecture, infrastructure, work process, environment (the physical space around us) and organization. Then we must picture what it would be like when it all comes together in perfect harmony. If we can’t picture it, who will believe in us? And how do we know what it will be like? And does it seem to match?

The reason I think we need all of these are because they are entangled and dependent on eachother. If one weighs too heavily it will tip over.

I would not formulate rules and guidelines about how to achieve any of these, because in a sense it’s all about the journey. Not the actual goal. Imposing too many rules, or creating a step-by-step guide will take away the fun of discovering. Then you would never know what you are missing out on. Remember, these are just goals, which are tools for improving and pointing out a direction.

What more to keep in mind is that you are not in this alone. There is probably a team and a whole organization behind you as well. This means that part of the goal with these goals, are to create something to gather around and gain momentum from the entire collective working together. This should suggest that you can’t set any of the goals on your own, you need to do it together. Would you buy someone elses dream? You can always describe your utopia, if it’s good and something that many agree on you should go. On the other hand, if there are worlds between dreams that might indicate that not everyone is meant for eachother.

I intentionally left economy and finance out of the goals, but not because it’s not important but rather because it should be part of everything you do. No money in, no money out to you. Simple. At the same time I can easily see that if you have passion and execute what you are doing extremely well I think there is money to be made.

So what about those goals? From where we are right now, I’d set a technology goal around webservices and moving towards RESTful API:s, mostly for their ability to express relations and inherent meaning as well as being technology agnostic for the consumer which opens up for flexibility. Architectural wise I’d aim for small (micro?) services deployed independently and communicating internally via some kind of bus which everything flows through. The teams would be more or less autonomous, and they’d decide between their members how many they see fit and what capabilities they need. The work process and environment are also up to the teams to decide. But when it comes to work processes, remember there are different types of work to be done and they might need different processes. On the topic of environment I’d love to see each employee be able to customize their work station, so just hand over a pile of cash and make them do their priorities of what is important. Same goes with each team, but what do I know? They might choose to work remotely?

All of this said and done. What if you reach the goal? Good job! But sorry to say, the goal should already have moved. You’re on a race to the stars…

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I have a dream…

This is a follow up on last post on goals and finding a utopia. This is my current vision of what I think would be a nice place to work. Not saying it is perfect or covers everything, but it gives me a direction of where I’d like to drive things.

Woke up at 0730 Monday morning by the largest hug from my daughter and a kiss from my wife. Sun is shining outside, it is -12 degrees and it has been snowing heavily outside, 60cm of fresh powder. Get out of bed and make a cup of mother beautiful coffee. Make some small talk with my family and play a few minutes with our little girl before going in to the office. I start up my computer, put the coffee down, put on The Doors on the HIFI and check in with my team mates.

Nancy is our HR and Finance specialist in our team. She keeps tracks of us, makes sure we get enough money in. We don’t measure cost in the traditional sense, but rather throughput and that we get more money in than we spend which includes our salaries and the tools we use. She knows as much about programming as I do about HR and finance, which produces good enough software. Always on her toes and likes early mornings, so she have most of the nights events covered when the rest of us drops in.

Adelaide has been around longer than any of us. She has been with the company for ages and have been to more companies than years I’ve been alive. As a business analyst she has the intel of what we are doing and knows most of what will happen when we discuss. Having been around for so long and holding so many positions during her career she knows her way around most programming paradigmes, writes code like a godess and has a capability of sharing her knowledge in just the right moment and amount to trigger one and make all of us better. Being a database junkie and seen stuff from the seventies and onwards means she knows what works when. On mostly her recommendations we run different stuff on graph, Hadoop and document stores. We even have some things in a relational database, but it is diminishing. It rarely fit the the needs.

Then we have Alex, our Product Specialist. His programming skills aren’t the best, but on the other hand he has ideas like noone else and a way of visualising and making them tangiable for the rest of us in ways we can only dream of. As a visionary and knowing our product inside out, he has a good way to point out our way forward and making sure the goal is always just out of reach, making it clear enough to know what to do next as well as pushing us to go further.

Pink is our DevOps awesome sauce maker. Always dresses in black and have been around computers and electronics since born. Pink can script anything and makes sure we always deliver in terms of keeping us with the greatest tools and platforms no money can buy, but only the hands of Pink. Though young in age and in the team, never stops to amaze and comes up with the craziest ideas and finds the most peculiar things to do with the strangest pieces of technology. We mainly run our stuff in the cloud, but also keeps some private servers on location with all of which Pink does what seems like magic to the rest of us.

Then there’s me. Happy to be here and blown away by all the fantastic people around making this place special. As a developer I bring general software knowledge to the table and work closely with Alex to realize visions and ideas, but also acting as generalist specialist. Me and Alex are the ones who mainly write “product code”. But we know we couldn’t do without the others. How else would we know if it performs? On what will it run? What do we do if…?

All we need to do is fulfill a “team contract” which means that the product must be deliverable by https, provide a stream of things happening for other teams to take part of, bring in more money than we spend and keep us up for as much as we can. If we experience downtime, we must do what it takes to get us up again ASAP. In a way you could say that we are like a company in the company and the company provides a platform for us to exist within our line of business.

When we work we collaborate on all we do, we just happen to be different kinds of specialists mostly based on our past experience and interests. We don’t do several things at a time. We do one thing at a time and we ship it. Usually shipping means a day or two, sometimes a week if it is something really large, but regardless of feature size we put things in production 4-5 times a day so we get the heads up if we’re about to hit a snag. Something might not turn out the way we thought, there might be something we can’t really solve in a good enough way or something else we didn’t foresee. But since we don’t buy in with more than a few days at a time, it is never a big loss. And if something new, The Thing Of The Day comes up, it is never far away, like a few days or so.

The way our team choose to work is that we don’t keep a backlog, just a well defined goal which we just can’t reach with this next feature. We try to keep two things in the pipeline at a time, one to work on and one coming up next. When it is time for getting something new in there we just brainstorm for 30mins or so, have a poll and take the one we agree on. Sometimes if something has resurfaced enough times we pick that one anyway because we’ve seen it so many times that there is something in there making it important for some reason.

After that we do some kind of design meeting for lack of a better description where we set some general guidelines on input and output, what to measure and how aswell as defining when it is done and what we must achieve in order to call it success. There’s not really any architecture to consider, most of it is in place already and the parts we put in production every two hours or so are so small they don’t need much architecturing in themselves. When it comes to tech decisions it is mostly a decision of what we see fit or if we want to try somethings new. Since the parts are small it is easy to write something in one language and if it turns out to be a bad idea it is mearly a couple of hours to replace it. During this meeting we also setup the basic contracts we will use and deploy them right away. That means we all know and understand why every propery exists and the purpose of every attribute.

If something, god forbid, would go down. We know the drill. We all drop what we are doing and collaborate on the issue. We usually keep a Skype call or Hangout open to discuss loud and clear, exactly what we are doing and looking at. Last time that happened was last month when a service went down because of a bug we had created. But it was minor and didn’t really effect anything but we treat them all equally. Those kind of things happen maybe once a month or every two months, while a real outage is extremely rare. We run on AWS and a new cloud player based in northern Sweden and can fall between them at any time. Usually we run a few days on one and then switching just to make sure the switch is seamless and that they run equally good. Sometimes we run on both at the same time, some services on one and some on the other just to see that they play nicely together.

We don’t have any QA in the team, yet. Simply because we haven’t seen the need in the common sense. We do testing ourselves in different manners. Unit testing, “firedrills” (we thought Amazon seemed to be doing quite well with the chaos monkey so we implemented one as well), and different integration testing through our endpoints and such. But mostly we rely on the dashboards that mostly Nancy, Adelaide and Pink have created which shows us in pretty much real time exactly what is going on with our product. Are orders declining after a release? Do we have any deviances? Are things running slow? Is there something not responding?

We are however thinking of getting another person on the team which would be some kind of UX specialist, or as we see it, an Experience specialist. This guy would know more about interactions and perception of things. Both of what we produce for external customers, but also for us and our tools as well which would make us even quicker and better.

But, today is monday and there is all this fresh powder outside! I tell the team I need today and tomorrow off since the skiing will be off the charts. Noone has any objections since there is always stuff to do and we are not dependent on one another really since everyone can do eveything more or less. Knowing this and that we have free vacation and just work under the “team contract” gives a special kind of freedom and easy to keep things in balance and feel we have enough time for what we hold dear too.

Though the company is based in Tokyo, this team is located in Europe. Adelaide is in the countryside of England, Pink doesn’t really live anywhere but travel around the world most of the time but use Amsterdam as a base, Nancy in Stockholm aswell as Alex. When I got this opportunity me and my family were in Stockholm but decided to relocate given the opportunity. So now we live in the french alpes just a couple of hours north of the french riviera. My wife took the opportunity to start a business where she can work with the environment.

We meet up with the team IRL about once a month, usually at someones home, but sometimes we decide on some resort or similar, we are like a family more or less. The company thinks that it is important to be able to, within the team, work together at the same time. So the same timezone is what we strive for. And it seems true, though with Pink travelling a lot we don’t see we couldn’t solve it should the problem arise. This has helped the company tremendously in recruiting, since we aren’t blocked to a location. And, we get the perk of all going to Japan about 3-4 times a year to meetup and share our thoughts and insights with the other teams.

I take our daughter to kindergarden and go off hiking to get some good lines. Knowing I can both have the cake and eat it.

I love my work. I love my family. I love life.

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What goal? Where are we going?

This year is election year in Sweden. That means a lot of promises from all involved. What comes out in the end we don’t know. But where will we actually be heading, as a society?

There was a great documentary on Swedish National television last week called “Politics without a goal“. This is not just something local for Sweden, it is something that is in effect all over the world.

For the past two election periods we have had the right wing ruling sweden after about 10 years of left wing ruling. To be honest I can barely see any difference in the direction they want to take. The nuances are so small and short sighted that either left or right sound so similar. But what is their goal? Where does either want to be in 30, 50 or 100 years from now? This was very clear in the past and got us to this point, but where do we go next? We have 8 hour work days, 40 hour work week, 4 consecutive weeks of vacation during summer month, common right to vote, we’re fairly equal even though we could get even better.

Is it all so good that we can’t envision what could be even better? We only look so far as for next election period to see what will happen to our own pockets in that time frame? From where we are today, what is our Utopia?

If we don’t have a vision, a Utopia, how do we know what to aim for? In politics it’s not hard for me to see why the far and ultra wings on either side are gaining ground. They have a clear picture of what they want which is easy to grasp for many people and identify with. The established parties and very much of the western world is nowadays very short sighted and focused on making money today. Is their, the established parties, path only visible through knowing their history? Even though they have a direction through history, do they know what they aim for? Or is it just shooting from the hip? What does their future Sweden, in this case, look like?

This short sightedness shows clearly in the environmental area where we are not making any substantial progress. The energy sector is also moving slowly. Work time and work load is almost going backwards. Equality both in gender and classes is also going backwards. It took less than a decade to put a man on the moon when they really wanted it, then what? Is everything so established around money and large corporations with their lobbies that we are moving back toward a world similar to pre WW1 where a few dictate the conditions for the rest of us?

What happened to our Utopia, no matter what it was? Where are we going now?

Do you know where you want to go or be? What can you do to either accelerate our current short sighted (my opinion) path or change it for [your own] better path?

Perhaps it is not the politicians who should nor can fix all of this, but you, by shaping your work place and surroundings. What is your Utopia?

What kind of work place do you dream of? How does work flow? What do you work on? Where do you work? For how long? How much vacation and when? How would you balance life? How equal is it? Or what are your values that you hold dear? What is your Utopia?

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Pondering, my thoughts on drafts. Or really – Think!

I love to ponder stuff. Just walk around in my own little bubble and think about things. Annoyances, happiness, problems to solve, how to approach things, and just stuff like that. A lot of soft subjects.

At the moment I have at least five drafts unpublished which will probably never make it out the door to the open world on these topics. They are named things like “Procrastination and me and you”, “Thinking processes part 1: what and why”, or “What is wonderful? [insert unicorn]“.


The first one being about how we procrastinate in different situations and what kind of work we have (or do not have) at hand. A lot circuling around focus and how we do it and get things done.

The second one, being the first in a series where there is also one about “conflict clouds” and another on “logical trees”, is more about how we can structure our thinking and come to better decisions. Perhaps not always try to combine two different ideas to satisfy all needs to a certain extent, it might be better to surface the underlying assumptions and see how they point toward the common goal. Or logically try to find out where we are, where we want to be, and how to transition from where we are to the new happy place. Among these things were also the bold claim I made on twitter about being able to prove that scrum is wrong, depending on your situation. Still believe in my idea, but perhaps a bit more nuanced now a couple of weeks later.

And the last one, about what makes things wonderful. This one I started thinking more about, in terms of wonderful, after my encounter with Woody Zuill. A wonderful person which I would just love to have had more time to spend with and talk about these kind of life events and stories. His warmth, passion and humbleness really shows that if we approach things in certain ways, things can be truly wonderful. To find out, we need to think about what makes wonderful for us and make sure we create that kind of environment all around us.

Not having finished any of these and probably never will have bummed me a bit. Why can’t I finish them? Why don’t I get them published? There is so much goodness in them!


But then it just hit me – to me they are important to just get as drafts, because that makes me Think about these topics. Thinking about them makes me consider my environment which in turn makes it possible to improve. IBM had an old company value, which I actually remember, that was simply “Think!”.

If we conciously thinks about what we do, what we have, and why we do things in a certain way in order to improve. Imagine what we can achieve and where we can be when we are 60.

So this is a shout out to me and you alike. Don’t be bummed about all the drafts just lying there; they are one of your tools to think more precisely about how to improve. If more get to share the thoughts, that’s even more awesome, but consider that a bonus.

Further reading

PS. If you are in my vicinities these are all available for borrowing :>

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