Friday, May 11, 2012

Maverick Software Development Model

(April 1, 2004)


The Maverick Development Model is concerned with identifying the best practices for a given situation. A model development process is one that produces the correct development process for the current situation and constraints.

A model of development differs from development methodologies (such as Waterfall, Spiral, or Agile) in that the goal or desired outcome is the driving force, ever present, and never forgotten. Methodologies are approaches to achieving goals, but to often the reason for the steps of the methodology have been forgotten and no one knows the reason things are done except that the method requires it.

There are many good practices that have been accepted over the years and some of them will be presented as well as personal insights and philosophies concerning the software development process and the roles that make it up.

It is time for software developers to become computer scientists. The computer scientist is a role that encompasses all of the responsibilities necessary to complete the tasks of software development.

It is time for managers to become leaders and to forgo the methods of management that do not improve the development process. The process exists to help the workers and not the other way around were the workers are there to satisfy the process. The tail should not wag the dog.


Since 1987 I have been participating in software development. I have watched the struggle between the programmers and product marketing, where the later sets the features and the delivery date and then complain about the quality, missed dates, or missing features. This struggle still exists and remains basically unchanged to this day.

I have witnessed the introduction of management to the software development process. This management consisted of processes with the idea of making the software development predictable, traceable, controllable, and manageable.

Several times over my career my various employers have trained me to perform formal reviews and in all of the roles of a review session. At each company, after the training and within a few short weeks, the review process ceased and the programmers went back to their old ways.

I have witnessed the acceptance and use of waterfall methodologies and their many variants. I have watched management follow the methodology with only the rigor that a true manager can attain. The requirements were gathered by product marketing and from that a design was made. This design became a hard and fast contract. However the design seemed to be used more as a defense exhibit (CYA) because every product date was always missed and development dragged on with no apparent end.

I have watched the release dates for the product set by the next occurrence of COMDEX and not by anything that actually pertains to the development of quality software. I have personally asked for requirements to be updated while in the development stage of the life cycle only to have management say that the waterfall method did not allow you to go back and change anything. I was flabbergasted! "The method doesn't allow" is a statement that just doesn't make sense. A method is not alive and does not make choices or demands. Management didn't allow the change because they didn't understand the goals the method was trying to reach. Management didn't allow the change because they can't change the process because they didn't understand the development process in the first place. As hard as I tried to indicate that changes were needed it was like talking to the wall. Where are we today? I feel we have made some evolutionary improvements that place us at a point to achieve revolutionary improvements. The idea is to recognize goals and create custom processes to achieve those goals for the current situation. One shoe does not fit all.

While working for the Department of Energy I struggled with the lack of contact the developers had with the customer. As a developer I felt completely out of touch. I had a written description of what they wanted. The description captured the letter of the law, but I had no feel for the spirit of the law. In 1992 I presented this analogy to my colleagues.

"Once there was a famous painter who was retained by the head of a European State. His time was so valuable that there was an assistant assigned to the artist. This assistant was to go out and find work for the artist and to gather the description of the desired painting. The assistant met with a wealthy merchant and convinced the merchant to commission a painting of his son. The assistant promised the painting finished in three weeks and returned to the artist. The assistant described the merchant's son to the artist and the artist painted a young boy in a silken blue suit holding in his hand a hat with beautiful plumage. The assistant took the painting to the merchant who agreed that the painting was exceptional but in reality it did not look anything like his son and that he wanted his son painted with is brother standing in a lane by a tree outside of their home. Needless to say the artist never delivered exactly what the merchant wanted. Each version became closer to the desired outcome but never just right."

My argument was that computer programming is only one small piece of the training received at the University. I hoped that we could be more than just a programmer; I hoped we could be a computer scientist. I wanted to apply what I had learned in requirements gathering, systems analysis, effort estimation, and design as well as write the code. However, my skills in writing code were expensive to acquire and my employer deemed my time too precious to be spent doing non-programming tasks that could be delegated to less expensive employees.

Also I have dealt with another extreme where managers that thought the developers where "prima donnas" that did not work hard, that waited until the project was well beyond the point of no return and then asked for raises and stock options and held the company hostage. Also the managers thought the engineers padded their dates so they could take it easy. There where managers that said they were sick of the attitudes of the developers and that if they were not happy then they should just leave because they are easy to replace.

If it wasn't enough to have managers without any real understanding of how to develop software I have watched developers dup management into believing heroics are required to develop software. Duped into believing that there is only a few that can develop the product and the rest of the developers are to take supportive roles. I have watched these clever developers build empires to protect themselves and become the very prima donnas that management complained about.

I have seen excellent developers black balled by these empire builders because the empire builders realized that this person was skilled enough to replace them. I have watched these empire builders wait for a power vacuum to occur and rush in and fill the gap. I have seen them target other developer's features that are late and secretly criticize the developer. Then, while the developer's reputation is in doubt, the hero works many late hours and rewrites the feature and presents it to management who in turn praises their effort and commitment to the company. The other developer is then regulated to a subservient position and is basically layoff fodder for the next round.

I have watched managers closely and found that very few managers excel at their task. Why? Leadership was the original goal, and management somehow was adopted. If a manager does not write code then what does he bring to the development effort? I have noticed that most managers consider their job to be reporting state in meetings. Therefore, they are only working when they are generating reports that capture the state of development and when they are in meetings presenting their reports. Managers are rewarded on their reporting skills and thus the amount of reporting grows beyond their ability to control. Then they assign the developers to help by making intermediate reports that will be used as sections in their master reports. Soon developers are spending one or two hours a day generating reports of the current state of the development effort. That state of the project has changed before the report is finished and the report captures only a ghostly representation.

In 1997 a friend gave me a copy of "Maverick: The success story behind the world's most unusual workplace. Ricardo Semler. Warner Books. 1993." I never read books on other people's success stories because I always figured that the revenue from their book was their success story. I reluctantly began to read the book and soon found a kindred spirit in Mr. Semler. Everything he said made sense to me, even though his business was in manufacturing. I could see benefits for software development. Eagerly I summarized his book and presented it to management. They laughed at the idea of publicly known salaries. When designing a new workspace for development I suggested that they give the developers a budget and let them pick their desk and chair. They responded that the furniture was an asset of the company and that the developers would pick a hodge podge arrangement that would look terrible. Wow, it was almost word for word from Semler's book when they were trying to select uniforms for their workers. I name my development model after his book, the Maverick Development Model. Mr. Semler has never met me, and the name does not mean to suggest he has supported this effort or endorses it in any way. It is my way of giving credit to one that has inspired and reinforced my ideas.

After being formally mocked for presenting the Maverick concept I went about my work trying to inject those ideas into the environment whenever the possibility presented itself. Needless to say, I was more often labeled radical, a loose cannon, and someone that had no idea of how real business works. After several years of frustration I decided it is easier to be quite and draw my paycheck. I lost all love for the software development process and kept my head low to avoid the laser-targeting sights of the layoff assassins.

Since I was unhappy with anything to do with the process I focused solely on object-oriented development and how to model systems in a way that the code was easy to maintain and be bug free. Before agile methodologies required unit test I had a personal policy of testing each piece of my code before introducing it in the system. My rationale was, if you don't have any confidence in you own code then how can you determine where a bug lies when you integrate your code with someone else's? I felt each piece of code had to be solid so that you can build upon it. You had to have confidence in some piece of the system; otherwise you will never know if you fixed a bug in the right place. For example, if the compiler is suspect, the third party libraries are suspect, the code from the rest of the team is suspect, and your code does not have some proven level of quality, then when the system fails where do you look for the problem? I have heard "compiler bug" cried probably a hundred times. In all of those, I have seen it to be the case only twice. Why do I share this? Because the evolutionary path that has led us to Agile process and Test Driven Development has be trodden by many of us.

This rationale of building on a solid foundation came from a few years of porting code. I have seen the memory manager rewritten too many times. You remember the guys that said, "You can't use alloc, it is inefficient. I read somewhere that you have to write your own to get any kind of performance from dynamic memory allocation." Always the reason was to improve performance. This piece of code then became a roadblock in the porting effort. Also, the code required the complete attention of a developer. I would say, "We are not in the operating system services business. We shouldn't be rewriting what the OS should provide. If the OS is not working, then develop to a better platform and quit supporting this garbage." They dismissed my comments as to hard-line. But I learned that we did not have a solid foundation because of all of the in-house developed services. The core service of memory management was now always a suspect. Many bugs were found in the memory manager. When something didn't work, were did you look for the problem? You had to go to the lowest layers and verify that the memory manager was not the source of the problem. Ironically the memory manager became the bane of the main platform as well. The system was taken to Intel to profile the product and suggest improvements. They pointed out that one of the trouble spots was the proprietary memory manager. It did not perform as well as the standard memory manager provided by the current version of the OS on the current hardware. The reason was that the OS people continued to develop and improve their services and to optimize their services for new hardware. The proprietary version, once debugged, was left "as is" and in a few short years become obsolete for the advances in hardware and operating systems. I relate this story because it is necessary to recognize the facets and subtle interplay in software development that the development process must recognize and support. If the memory manager would have had regression tests then it would not have been a suspect with every bug. If the developers would have delivered on the core business instead of optimizations of OS functionality they would have been better off in the long run. Agile has concisely described this as building the functionality that delivers value first, do it with the simpliest implemenation that meets the requirements, and use a test first design technique.

Since those times of which I described there have been some events that have occurred and set the stage for Maverick Development. One is the development of Java. The other is the acceptance of what is now termed Agile Methods.

Java has helped by reinforcing my idea that you shouldn't develop services that the OS should provide. This may be termed "don't reinvent the wheel" but it is much more than that. It is about letting others have their core business and trusting that they might be just as smart as you. It is amazing that the developers that were so concerned about performance and writing their own memory manager would ever accept Java.

Java was slow compared to anything we had seen for years. So, why did the same engineers that wrote their own memory manager embrace Java? Because, it was time to rewrite the system again or they wouldn't have a job! They had to sell management on another version of the product. They dropped the old buzzwords of web services, n-tier, peer-to-peer, and all the others. Regardless of the reasons the acceptance of Java has opened the door for me to try again to change the way software is developed. I have been quite for too many years. I love software development and it is time to present ideas and hopefully start meaningful discussions that lead to a revolutionary change in software development.

Agile methods have really helped in motivating me to gather my ideas and write this document. Honestly I am really shocked that agile methods have been accepted. The agile methods are addressing the same issues I have been concerned with for years. One of which is that of "the process doesn't allow us to go back and change the requirements." Finally in the name of agility you can go back and fix things that are wrong and work in a reasonable manner. But alas, as soon as you specify your ideas as a methodology, and there is some missing step for a specific situation, some manager that only knows the letter of the law will still say, "you can't do that, the process/methodology doesn't allow it." I have been doing research on XP for large teams and XP with Integration Testing. I have found many statements like, "XP doesn't do that" or "XP only does unit testing and Integration testing has to be added in a Waterfall fashion." Why do these managers "lock" XP down? I feel they lock it down because they do not understand the real problems and the appropriate solutions.

It reminds me of a 300 level fine arts class I had in college. Being a CS major and having artistic skills are not common and the application of logic to art is probably not something the Art Department was accustomed to. I remember learning of the masters, the great artists that had created a new style and had altered a norm and had become famous for their unique perspective and talent. Then in art class the instructor teaches you how to hold the brush in your hand, how to make the strokes, how to portray depth, how to do each and everything and then grade you on your conformance. If I painted just like Picasso then I would never be famous. I would be another painter that painted like Picasso. I had been taught what made a great artist and then told not to do the very things that made them great. I had been exposed to the model but taught to follow the method.

Why do I go into these past experiences? They form the foundation of my reasoning. I have always said, "It takes a village to make a village idiot." Without the foundation of understanding then methods are followed for the wrong reasons. I heard this story once.

A woman was cooking a ham. Her daughter-in-law notices that she cuts the ends off of the ham before baking it. She asks why. "Because it makes it taste better." Does it really make it taste better? After some investigation it was learned that the reason why she cut the ends off of the ham is because her mother did the same. The reason her mother did it was because she had seen it done by her mother. The reason the grandmother did it was because her baking pan was too small to hold the ham unless she cut off the ends.

Why do software development methodologies have the steps that they do? In the beginning the reason for the method was known. The key is that reason must not be lost and must be understood.

As computer scientists, instead of just developers, we have been trained to act in all the roles of software development. If your software process falls short in some area, we can fix it. We can have emergent processes if managers will get out of the way and if developers can wake up and become computer scientists and if we will work towards a goal and take whichever road gets us there. Life may be a journey and the road taken important, but software development is a destination. We have to lay down the pride, we have to give up the heroics, and work as a team. I guess this means we have to understand what work is. We have to understand why methods exist and what goals they are trying to achieve. We have to wake up and be thinking individuals that question everything and that do not want fame for anything.

Maverick Development is about goals and understanding. It is about accomplishing the goal the best way possible at that time. It is about changing anything and everything including the way you work, the way you think, and the way you interact with others. It is about removing dead end jobs. It is about real rewards. It is about trust and selflessness.


Work is something that we all know when we are doing it and we also know when we are not. However, to give a firm explanation of one's work is difficult. Work is physically described as a force applied through a distance. In creative processes there is no physical object to be moved. That is why effort is used to describe creative work. Distance is also a non-physical attribute of creative work. Progress is used to describe this aspect. So, with effort and progress we work.

In a methodology, work is anything that progresses from the current step to the next. In a model, work is anything that finishes some attribute or artifact of the goal. Thus said, work on a method is very different than work performed on a model.

Traditionally one of the tasks of management is to measure work. The measurement of work is an intrusive inspection that interferes with the work that is being measured. The benefits of measurement should out way the costs of acquiring the measurement. If measurement activities are not worth the effort to perform then why continue to measure in the same way? Think and change it. Make it worth the effort. I often wonder at what point thinking was disallowed. It sure seems like it has been disallowed.

Developers are smart and once they learn the rules of a game they try to win. When developers are monitored and their performance measured, they learn to perform by what is measured. If lines of code are measured, you will get lines of code. If number of bugs found is the measurement, they will find bugs. The problem is we have forgotten why methods measure these things. Management wanted to measure quality and then they created a process. Somewhere down the road we ran amuck.

The measurement process uses terms like defect discovery rate and whether or not it is decreasing. It was anticipated that if the defect discovery rate is decreasing then the quality of the product was increasing. There are a lot of assumptions here, especially that all bugs are created equal. If one thousand bugs where found and eliminated and the product ships with just one bug and that bug manifests itself you have a problem, especially if that one bug happens to loose and corrupt data.

Even algile processes are not perfect. Agile and iterative processes have the expectation of seeing the additions of new code into the product to be rather constant over the iteration. Instead we see that the last three days of the iteration the number of new or modified files in the system increase dramatically. Why? It could mean many things. Managers readily accept conclusions from journals and well-known experts instead learning the current reason behind the problem for themselves. Without the understanding of reasons the ability to correctly apply the lessons of these experts rarely happens. Simply said, "You can't rely on books, papers, and publications to solve your problems. You have to get in there and figure things out for your specific situation and this requires understanding of the process and how work gets done."

In reality the check-in rate could be the symptom of any number of problems. Maybe the iteration is to long or the build process is too painful. Maybe integration is too painful. It could be that the Use Cases where unclear and too much time was needed to design the code. Maybe it was dependencies on other modules such that coupling became a bottleneck. This list could go on and on. Most likely the reason is not simple, but is complex and there are many reasons that differ from each team and each person. There is no simple fix and there might not be a complex fix. It might be the fact that this is the way it is.

My point is that it takes more than methods and management to understand the development process and to identify when progress is being made and when work has been done.

In Maverick Development work is defined to be any task that moves things forward to the ultimate goal. Most processes do not measure time spent helping other team members. Traditionally if help has been given to a team member it is not unusual to label the person that needed help as a weak link. Being labeled a weak link is like putting strawberry jam in your pockets because in the next layoff you are toast. So, people will not ask for help. Is that what management wanted? I doubt it. This is what they get and often they cannot recognize the environment they have created. In Maverick Development helping another developer get work done is work. Helping the team move forward is work. It does not affect the person's task list in a negative way. If the person does not finish their tasks for the iteration yet they worked hard on unforeseen tasks then the person is still successful and considered a great worker.

When helping others is not rewarded you will see symptoms of it. You will hear developers say things like, "I didn't get anything done today because of interruptions" or the person that needs help will passively say "I hate to bother you right now for some help but I am stuck" or they will only ask for help through non-intrusive manners such as e-mail.

Work together and be concerned for others success. If managers are counting and measuring, then developers will only work on what is being counted. If there is no metric on how many others you helped to be successful today, then no one will help others. Maverick Development demands less measurement OR it demands management to truly measure work, which would be a very difficult task that most managers are not up to. Maverick development raises the bar on management.

Computer Scientist

The developer has to be more than just a code writer. The bar is raised on the developer. For lack of a better term I say the developer must become a computer scientist. I chose the term computer scientist because during my formal education as a computer science student I learned all the aspects of developing software. I learned about programming languages, algorithms, requirements gathering, quality assurance, effort estimation, software cost, motivating programmers, ...

The computer scientist is a leader in the area of software development. The computer scientist understands that heroic efforts can destroy teams and skew business perspectives into believing heroics are necessary. The computer scientist understands when to use multiple inheritance. A computer scientist understands runtime behavior as compared to static behavior. A computer scientist understands the costs of coupling and poor cohesion. The computer scientist understands activities that improve productivity and activities that slow things down.


First I need to define the type of manager to which I will refer. Historically developers have been promoted to team lead, then manager, then director, and on up the ladder. I have also noted there are two paths to manager. The other path comes from the business side of the company instead of the technical side. In the organizations I have experienced often the manager has a technical role. The manager reviews and approves designs and architectures. Also the manager choses the development methodology, the amount of reporting, the format for meetings and documents, coding styles, and other things that directly relate to the development process. In addition to these responsibilities these managers also perform reviews, do budgets, and report status. The manager often uses the position to inject their desire in one situation and delegate when they have no opinion. This inconsistent use of position is not helpful.

Management has to come to its own in the Maverick Development Model. What does this mean? They have to have clear understanding of all of the aspects of development. First they have to understand each individual. Why, because they are managing people, they are not managing skill sets and resources. Everyone communicates in different ways. Everyone expresses concern in different ways. Everyone is motivated in their own way. I would imagine that a good manager , like a good poker player, can read a person as well as listen to a person.

Managers have to understand why different methods and practices are available and know which practice to apply to a situation. Managers are too often like the ship's captain that knows nothing about sailing. As long as the wind blows the ship along the right course everything is fine. However, as soon as there is a problem that requires knowing how to control a ship the so-called captain is in trouble.

The skill set of a manager has to be greater than the average developer on the team. A manager in Maverick Development must become a leader. A leader is much more than a manager.

Patton was a military leader. He did not care if politicians were pleased with him. He did not care if people did not like him. The Vietnam conflict was managed. It was not lead. The difference is clear. The "feeling" about the situation is almost tangible. Vietnam was managed and the methods were political and had nothing to do with winning a war or fighting for values. The managers of the Vietnam War talked in statistics. How many shots fired. How many casualties. How many sorties. How much money had been spent and are we within our budget.

From Mr. Semler's book I paraphrase and quote a section concerning management.

"...Fernando was convinced that the Hobart plant lacked organization, ambition, and the necessary controls. He would arrive at 7:30 a.m., to find himself alone in the office until about 9:00 a.m. At 5:30 p.m. people would leave for home and Fernando would stay until 9, 10, and sometimes 11 p.m. This didn't please him and everyone knew it.

Many others worked long hours too, and their families were beginning to complain. They were convinced that the hours were temporary, until the company had digested its acquisitions. 'It took us almost a decade to learn that our stress was internally generated, the result of an immature organization and infantile goals.'

Fernando was firing people and changing things constantly.

'At the Hobart plant, and all over the new Semco, we could track with great precision virtually every aspect of our business, from sales quotes to.welding machines. We could generate all sorts of reports almost instantly with dazzling charts and graphs.. (I)t took us a while to realize that all those numbers weren't doing us much good. We thought we were more organized, more professional, more disciplined, more efficient. So,.how come our deliveries were constantly late.'

Work hard or get fired was the new motto. Everyone was being pushed forward instead of being self-propelled.

'During this time I often thought of a business parable. Three stone cutters were asked about their jobs. The first said he was paid to cut stones. The second replied that he used special techniques to shape stones in an exceptional way, and proceeded to demonstrate his skills. The third stone cutter just smiled and said: "I build cathedrals.'"


Maverick Development is based on leadership. Leadership is something above management. All leaders have management skills. The converse is not true. The bar has to be raised on managers. They have to be leaders.

Agile methodologies depend upon emergent processes. Managers cannot control this type of process because of its very nature. Maverick Development goes where ever is necessary to get the work done. When an unexpected situation arises we do not plod along the same path just because the directions say to go that way. Instead, in Maverick, we say, "Hmm, an unforeseen problem. What should we do? Go on? Go back? Go around? ... "

Leadership cannot be taught. Quoting Dr. Huge Nibley,

"At the present time, Captain Grace Hoper, that grand old lady of the Navy, is calling our attention to the contrasting and conflicting natures of management and leadership. No one, she says, ever managed men into battle, and she wants more emphasis on teaching leadership. But leadership can no more be taught than creativity or how to be a genius. The Generalstab tried desperately for a hundred years to train up a generation of leaders for the German army, but it never worked, because the men who delighted their superiors (the managers) got the high commands, while the men who delighted the lower ranks (the leaders) got reprimands. Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. Managers, on the other hand, are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organizational men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.

The leader, for example, has a passion for equality. We think of great generals from David and Alexander on down, sharing their beans or maza with their men, calling them by their first names, marching along with them in the heat, sleeping on the ground and being first over the wall. A famous ode by a long-suffering Greek soldier named Archilochus, reminds us that the men in the ranks are not fooled for an instant by the executive type who thinks he is a leader.

For the manager, on the other hand, the idea of equality is repugnant and indeed counterproductive. Where promotion, perks, privilege and power are the name of the game, awe and reverence for rank is everything and becomes the inspiration and motivation of all good men. Where would management be without the inflexible paper processing, dress standards, attention to proper social, political and religious affiliation, vigilant watch over habits and attitudes, etc., that gratify the stockholders and satisfy security? ... Managers do not promote individuals whose competence might threaten their own position, and so as the power of management spreads ever wider, the quality deteriorates, if that is possible. In short, while management shuns equality, if feeds on mediocrity... For the qualities of leadership are the same in all fields, the leader being simply the one who sets the highest example; and to do that and open the way to greater light and knowledge, the leader must break the mold. " A ship in port is safe," says Captain Hopper, speaking of management, 'but that is not what ships were built for," she adds, calling for leadership... True leaders are inspiring because they are inspired, caught up in a higher purpose, devoid of personal ambition, idealistic and incorruptible... So vast is the discrepancy between management and leadership that only a blind man would get them backwards... "

It is a common known practice when hiring and retaining software engineers to retain what is referred to as the 10x performers. Maverick Development requires the same from its Leadership. Managers that are leaders will be 10x performers.

Trust is the key and here is what Mr. Semler had to say,

"We simply do not believe our employees have an interest in coming in late, leaving early, and doing as little as possible for as much money as their union can wheedle out of us. After all, these are the same people that raise children, join the PTA, elect mayors, governors, senators, and presidents. They are adults. At Semco, we treat them like adults. We trust them. We don't make our employees ask permission to go to the bathroom, nor have security guards search them as they leave for the day. We get out of their way and let them do their jobs."

Performance Reviews

Maverick Development changes the traditional performance review process. The goal is to truly review the performance of the team and the individual. Each person's performance is reviewed by each member of the team and this includes the team leader. There is no protection because of hierarchy, title, or rank.

For more information read Maverick Reviews.


In Maverick Development, compensation is public knowledge within the company. Mr. Semler points out executives with high salaries should be proud of their salary and confident that they are worth it. If they are not confident they are worth their salary then they will be inclined to hide it.

For more information on compensation please read the section entitled "Compensation" in Maverick Hiring.


In Maverick Development all meetings are to have an agenda that is known before hand by all attendees. The agenda should be concise and if the meeting is to be one of discovery then state that fact.

I have attended to many meetings where some important and complex idea is briefly presented and management unexpectedly asks for opinions and if there aren't any they will move to the next topic. This unfair tactic does not produce the proposed desire of gathering more information. Prior to the presentation, management has taken as much time as they saw fit to discuss the matter and formulate their solution. Then they come to a meeting and blind side the entire team with a topic that is usually nontrivial. Do they really expect valid input? It is like they are saying, "Okay you have five minutes, be creative starting now!" Or is it a paternalistic approach and they are satisfied with the stupid looks and blank stares? This approach does not meet any goal and is not part of Maverick Development. Present a decision as just that, a decision. Present a proposal as that and give people time to prepare for suggestions.

In Maverick Development there is never a lunch meeting. Lunch meetings are rarely necessary. Downtime is essential, and if you want to have a lively mind for the afternoon then you may want to take a break at lunch. Do you ever feel that lunch meetings are used to squeeze and extra hour out of the day? How often have you attended a lunch meeting and then afterward you still take a lunch break? Any manager that calls a lunch meeting is to be gibbeted in an iron cage outside of the conference room for all to see just like what happened to Captain Kid.

The 15-minute standup from XP is sufficient to relay the current state of development. Details are not necessary. If there is a problem, then the details will be addressed by all those who can provide a solution to the problem. If things are on track, no one cares to hear about each item and how "on track" it is. State is the key, not details.

It seems that some managers only produce two things that are their work products. One is meetings, the other documentation. Maybe three things, the third being carbon dioxide. The documentation becomes the information presented in the meetings. These items include endless spreadsheets and huge step-by-step procedures on how the process is to be maintained. (Remember in the abstract the comment of the tail wagging the dog!) When a manager is in a meeting he is working. A developer is considered to be working when he is writing code. If a developer is in a meeting he is not working. If a developer is filling out some status report for management, he is not working. When they are doing these tasks, they are doing management's work.

The goal for a status meeting should be to determine the state of the project. Not to pour over minute details. The XPM methodology states:

"...meetings with the Product Manager and the Steering persons should be context not content. Have the success expectations changed? Is there any change to the scope/objectives? Have there been any changes in the stakeholders/related projects? Are the benefits and cost assumptions still relevant? Are benefits-realization plans still relevant? Has quality been changed? Are there changes to project risk or risk management issues? In other words, is the project still FOCUSED on the right business outcomes?"

This is a method of achieving the goal of reporting the state of the project. Since Maverick Development is goal oriented, and any method that achieves the goal is fine, then this or any other way to discover the state is within the Maverick model.

If there is not a goal, and there is not an agenda, then there is no meeting.

In Maverick Development meetings that deal with details instead of status are called by those who can do something with those details. Developers call meetings on details to discuss problems in detail with peers and individuals that can create a solution, not with people that conduct meetings. When managers attend these meetings they try to do the tricks of their trade such as injecting comments to stimulate thought and regulating the conversation to facilitate communication. Stimulate, regulate, and facilitate, and managers hate developers that can't produce tangibles. Go figure.

Managers interrogate to find the details of the state of the process. Leaders investigate and recognize on their own. Interrogation is intrusive. It takes to much time. It removes people from their real work.


One reason documentation exists is because someone was trying to meet the goal of communication. Documents are created so that things do not have to be said over and over. Documents state things that are fixed, wrote down, and locked in state, thus the term statement.

When documentation does not meet the goal of communication then the document should not exist. If the document is not read then it clearly has not communicated anything and it should not exist. How many of you have ever put some comment in your weekly report to see if anyone was actually reading them? I have and many times I have not received any response from my manager. Clearly that report was not necessary. When my manager is busy doing what he really thinks is important he is not reading fifty status reports. Since in Maverick Development reviews are not done solely from the top down it cannot be said that status reports are required for the review process.

One approach that achieves the goal of conveying weekly status is just these three statements: on target, concerned, in trouble.

If the state is anything but on target, managers will then ask the obvious question, "Are you taking the appropriate action to rectify the situation?" How many times have managers pointed out the obvious?

In Maverick development there is one place to report status. There is not a team dashboard, and a textual weekly report, and a management spreadsheet. There is only one of these items, or some other single reporting method. If someone wants to generate a new report including other items, then they are responsible for the format and media difficulties, they cannot make this an assignment to others. The tail can't be allowed to wag the dog.

For more information on documentation please read Maverick Documenation.

Release Dates

Release dates in Maverick Development are based on real goals and supported by development.

In Maverick Development there is no "release date by trade show". How many times have you had a release date for a product set by product marketing to be for the next trade show? Where is the basis on that choice? They will tell you that if you miss that date we will miss our window of opportunity. The ability to market and display a product at a trade show is advantageous. However it is not sufficient to require the release of a product based on date alone. If the original time estimation for the set of features places the release date beyond the trade show then the feature set must be changed to correspond with the shorter development time.

Release dates are based on budget, features, quality, and timing. Product management will always try to set the date for release, the number of features in the release and the quality for that release. Well, everyone knows they can only choose two of the three. The third is always a variable.

Maverick development says that there are only two choices that are variable and that third, quality, is fixed. You can pick the features or the release date, but not both. Quality is always set at high. That never changes. No one will accept low quality. If you relax quality then you have opened the door for your competition to take your market share by merely reproducing the same functionality with improved quality. You have to have high quality so that the purchase decision is based on such things as features and solutions.

In Maverick development a goal can be set to reach a certain point in the production by a certain date. Since Maverick is based on real work, and doing work right, then it really doesn't matter if the date is not met. Work has really occurred and real progress was made. Goals are essential for a target. If the goal is to far out there, it is hard to hit. Should we get down on ourselves if we miss it? No. Why not? Because Maverick Development produces real work every day. In reality software is done when it is done. The scope can be reduced and thus you can be done sooner. Maverick Development supports these simple facts. Motivating development to work hard every day is the responsibility of the leaders of the development team.


Since Maverick Development is goal driven, the goals for the development process are essential. If a goal for development is to respond quickly to changing requirements then an agile development methodology could meet this goal. If you were trying to get awarded a government contract then a process based on SW-CMM could be the means to the end. Now, one would say, Maverick development is really nothing. It doesn't tell me how to do anything. The point is, you should be a computer scientist and you should already know how to do something or have the ability to learn how to do something for your current situation.

Maverick development opens the door for leadership and for understanding why methods exist and the real issues the method addresses. I am currently working on a Maverick Development Methodology for Agile Development. Maverick Development Model means there is a goal to be reached. If the method is not the right one you are not stuck. If you are not progressing, or if there is something missing, or whatever the problem is, Maverick says you must do something about it. You must apply your skills as a computer scientist. You must apply your leadership capabilities. Maverick Development Model addresses the issue of people that live by the letter of the law and not the spirit. It is out of the box thinking, but it shows that you have to have skills, knowledge, and understanding to survive out of the box.

Maverick Development demands that people are worth their salt. Reviews are going to happen and you had better be ready. Managers are not protected and leadership is the goal. Managers cannot promote mediocrity in Maverick Development. Managers cannot protect themselves from the movers and shakers. They cannot create empires. They cannot reward those whom please them and remove those whom do not.

Unit Tests

Unit Tests

by Geoffrey Slinker
v1.2 March 24, 2006
v1.1 March 5, 2005
v1.2 April 15, 2005


How do you view unit tests? Is a unit test is simply a test to verify the code? But what is the purpose of having unit tests? Maybe unit testing is a design method. Maybe a unit test is a programmer test. Maybe unit testing is a diagnostic method. Maybe unit tests are a deliverable in a phase of development. The varied purposes and uses of unit tests lead to confusion during discussion.

Testing Definitions

Definitions are taken from : Emphasis added.
The definitions of integration tests are after Leung and White.
Note that the definitions of unit, component, integration, and integration testing are recursive:
Unit. The smallest compilable component. A unit typically is the work of one programmer (At least in principle). As defined, it does not include any called sub-components (for procedural languages) or communicating components in general.
Unit Testing: in unit testing called components (or communicating components) are replaced with stubs, simulators, or trusted components. Calling components are replaced with drivers or trusted super-components. The unit is tested in isolation.
Component: a unit is a component. The integration of one or more components is a component.
Note: The reason for "one or more" as contrasted to "Two or more" is to allow for components that call themselves recursively.
Component testing: the same as unit testing except that all stubs and simulators are replaced with the real thing.
Two components (actually one or more) are said to be integrated when:
  1. They have been compiled, linked, and loaded together.
  2. They have successfully passed the integration tests at the interface between them.
Thus, components A and B are integrated to create a new, larger, component (A,B). Note that this does not conflict with the idea of incremental integration -- it just means that A is a big component and B, the component added, is a small one.
Integration testing: carrying out integration tests.
Integration tests (After Leung and White) for procedural languages.
This is easily generalized for OO languages by using the equivalent constructs for message passing. In the following, the word "call" is to be understood in the most general sense of a data flow and is not restricted to just formal subroutine calls and returns -- for example, passage of data through global data structures and/or the use of pointers.
Let A and B be two components in which A calls B.
Let Ta be the component level tests of A
Let Tb be the component level tests of B
Tab: The tests in A's suite that cause A to call B.
Tbsa: The tests in B's suite for which it is possible to sensitize A -- the inputs are to A, not B.
Tbsa + Tab == the integration test suite (+ = union).
Note: Sensitize is a technical term. It means inputs that will cause a routine to go down a specified path. The inputs are to A. Not every input to A will cause A to traverse a path in which B is called. Tbsa is the set of tests which do cause A to follow a path in which B is called. The outcome of the test of B may or may not be affected.
There have been variations on these definitions, but the key point is that it is pretty darn formal and there's a goodly hunk of testing theory, especially as concerns integration testing, OO testing, and regression testing, based on them.
As to the difference between integration testing and system testing. System testing specifically goes after behaviors and bugs that are properties of the entire system as distinct from properties attributable to components (unless, of course, the component in question is the entire system). Examples of system testing issues: resource loss bugs, throughput bugs, performance, security, recovery, transaction synchronization bugs (often misnamed "timing bugs").

What are your Goals of Unit Testing

The obvious goal of unit testing is to deliver fewer bugs. But what type of bugs? Unit bugs? Maybe integration bugs? Possibly design bugs? Maybe it is not a bug hunt at all, maybe you want to use unit tests to show valid uses of a unit or maybe you are using unit tests to drive the desing process.
But maybe you have a non-obvious goal for your unit tests. If you do, then you must specify the goal when you discus unit testing or there will be confusion.
It is obvious that unit tests can uncover unit bugs. But can unit tests uncover integration bugs? If a unit test is ran in complete isolation it doesn't seem possible. Suppose in the system someone changes a method by removing a parameter. All of your unit tests will fail to compile. (Unit tests can fail at least two ways, 1. Compilation failure. 2. Runtime assertion) This is an opportunity to bring the people involved with the integration point to discuss the changes and their ramifications.

Are You Ready for Full Unit Testing

Let's repeat the definition of unit tests from above.
Unit Testing: in unit testing called components (or communicating components) are replaced with stubs, simulators, or trusted components. Calling components are replaced with drivers or trusted super-components. The unit is tested in isolation.
The development of stubs, simulators, trusted components, drivers, and super-components is not free. If unit testing is introduced midstream in a development process it can literally reroute the stream. Developers might lose the velocity they currently have on some feature and thus disrupt the flow. Introduction of unit tests midstream must be justified and accepted. To understand how difficult this may be take all of your current development projects and go to the Planning Committee and tell them that all of the predetermined dates are now invalid and the dates will need to be shifted "X" months into the future. Maybe you should have someone under you deliver the news to the Planning Committee! It's always nice to give a more junior person presentation experience!
Test data generation is an expense that many people do not realize goes with unit testing. Imagine all of the units in your software system. These units "live" at different layers. Because of these layers the data it takes to drive a high level unit is not the same as the data that it takes to drive a low level unit. In the system high level data flows through the system to the lower levels and during its trip it is mutated, manipulated, extended, and constrained along the path. All of these "versions" have to be statically captured at each level in order to "feed" the unit tests.
Test data that comes from or goes into a data base store present their own difficulties. Setting up the database with test data and then tearing down the database after the tests have completed are consuming tasks. If your unit of code writes to a database then it will not have the functionality to delete from the database. So, the tearing down of the database has to be done externally to the tests.

Can You Afford Not to Unit Test

Since unit testing is expensive then some might say it is not worth it to do. That statement is too general and not prudent. One should say, "Unit testing is expensive, but it is less expensive than ...". This means you have clear goals and expectations of unit testing. For example, suppose that it took you six weeks to finish changes that were needed because of bugs found when the Quality Assurance team tried to use your code. Suppose that these bugs were some of the simple types such as boundary conditions, invalid preconditions, and invalid post conditions. Six weeks might not seem that expensive but let's examine this further. During these six weeks QA was unable to continue testing beyond your code. After they get your code the finally get into another set of bugs that were "below" you. That developer is now six weeks removed from the development work and will have to get back into the "mindset" and drop whatever he was working on. Also, the precondition bugs you fix will cause exceptions to be caught upstream which will cause code changes by those that call your code which will mean that those "up stream" changes will now have to be retested. If the upstream changes actually change data that flows down to you it will affect those that you call with that "new" data and may cause changes to be made down stream. Is it sounding expensive not to do unit tests in this imagined scenario? It was supposed to!

Unit Testing as Clear (White) Box Testing

This is probably the oldest and most well known role of unit tests. Typically a person other than the author of the code writes tests to verify and validate the code. Verify that it does the right thing and validate that it does it in the right way. Often the right way is not specified and the tests are just simply verifiers. One of the driving principles behind clear box testing by another party is that the developer is so close to the code he can not see the errors and can not imagine alternative uses of the code. However, these alternative uses of the code is often met with a complaint from the developer saying, "Your test is invalid. The code works correctly for the uses that the system will require."

Unit Tests as Usage Examples

Another role that has been filled by unit tests is to provide an example of how to use the unit. Unit tests that show the proper usage and behavior of a unit are a verification activity. These unit tests might better be termed usage examples but are usually lumped into the term unit test. These usage examples will show how to call the unit and asserts the expected behavior. Both valid and invalid paths are shown. These usage examples are used to verify the old term "works as designed." This type of unit test will qualify many bugs found by the QA team as "works as designed." These tests do not validate the design but verifies the current implementation instance of the design.

Unit Tests as Diagnostic Tests

A unit test or set of unit tests are often used in the role of diagnostic tool. These tests are run after changes to the system to see if the verified uses of the system are still valid. If a change to the system causes a diagnostic unit test to fail it is clear that further investigation is needed. Maybe the change has altered the behavior of the system and the tests need to be updated to reflect this, or maybe the changes did not consider side effects and coupling and are flawed.

Unit Tests as Programmer/Developer Tests

More and more often unit tests fill a role in programmer tests. Programmer tests is a term that comes from the eXtreme Programming community. On the Wiki the following definition of Programmer tests is given:
(Programmer Tests) XP terminology, not quite synonymous with Unit Test. A Unit Test measures a unit of software, without specifying why. A Programmer Test assists programmers in development, without specifying how. Often a Programmer Test is better than a comment, to help us understand why a particular function is needed, to demonstrate how a function is called and what are the expected results are, and to document bugs in previous versions of the program that we want to make sure don't come back. Programmer Tests give us confidence that after we improve one facet of the program (adding a feature, or making it load faster, ...), we haven't made some other facet worse.
Because programmer tests demonstrate usage it fills some of the role of usage example. Also the programmer tests are used to make sure previous bugs do not come back which is part of the role of diagnostic tests.
These programmer tests rarely stand alone as I have described them. They are used in Test Driven Development.

Unit Tests as a Part of Test Driven Development

Unit tests are used in the Test Driven Development (TDD) methodology. This is not part of testing or part of quality assurance in the traditional sense usually defined along departmental boundaries. This is a design activity that uses unit tests to design (with code) the interfaces, objects, and results of a method call.
"By stating explicitly and objectively what the program is supposed to do, you give yourself a focus for your coding." Extreme Programming Explained, 2nd ed., Beck, p50.
By showing what what a program is supposed to do you have given a usage example.
"For a few years I've been using unit testing frameworks and test-driven development and encouraging others to do the same. The common predictable objections are "Writing unit tests takes too much time," or "How could I write tests first if I don’t know what it does yet?" And then there's the popular excuse: "Unit tests won't catch all the bugs." The sad misconception is that test-driven development is testing, which is understandable given the unfortunate name of the technique." Jeff Patton, StickyMinds Article.
TDD is about testing close to code changes. This provides a type of isolation (unit tests are performed in isolation) related to change. If you make hundreds of changes to your unit and then check it in and run your unit tests how do you know which change or changes caused the failure? Changes often have strong coupling and it makes it difficult to figure out which change is the problem. If you change one thing in the code and then run your tests you can diagnose any problems because they will be isolated to that change.

Adding Unit Tests to an Existing System

If you are working on existing code and you wish to start unit testing you are in a difficult spot. If you are going to test your code in isolation then creating drivers, stubs, and simulators to use with your unit tests could be overwhelming in an existing system. But as with everything, do some studies, some analysis and figure out what is the best approach for your situation. A divide and conquer approach will typically help out. Take small bites and chew slowly or you will never eat the entire elephant!
A typical approach is that any new code that is developed will have unit tests supplied with it as well. Some of the difficulty to this approach lies in the fact of which layer you unit exists. If you are a mid-tier unit then you have to create a driver for your unit. This driver may not be complicated but it must reflect some state of the real object that it proxies for. Also, you will have to create stubs for the lower level units that you call. The stubs could be standing in for existing units that have fairly sophisticated behavior with legacy coupling issues and known but painful side effects.
Any tier of code other than the top tier can get caught in a vicious "down stream" flood. Suppose you have developed a lower tier unit of code. You have created drivers for your unit which use test data that you have generated to feed to your unit. Suppose someone upstream adds three integers to the data object that drives your class. Just to test the conditions of the upper and lower bounds and one valid value you may have to add 27 data objects to your set of generated test data. Therefore, down stream situations must be considered.
If your unit calls several methods that manipulate the data in a pipeline fashion it increases the difficulty in creating stubs. For example if you call Method X with object A and it returns a modified object A which we will call A' and you pass A' into Method Y and it returns A'' and you pass A'' into Method Z and it returns an A''' then each hard coded stub for X, Y, and Z must behave correctly for all of the variations of A that is used in your test suite (note this is true for an existing system or for a newly developed system).
If you decide to use programmer tests as your definition of unit tests then you do not have to develop all of the drivers, stubs, and simulators that are required to test the code in isolation. In an exsiting system write some unit tests that state simply and explicitly how the system is currently behaves and then start to make changes (refactoring changes) to the existing code. When adding new units of code to the existing system you may take the TDD approach from this point moving forward. The choices are yours to make.
But enough doom and gloom. I think it is understood that this is not a trivial task. The issue is going to be on deciding how many unit tests are enough.

Issues After You Have Unit Tests

After you have unit tests in place there will be issues that arise because of their existence. What do you do when someone breaks someone else's unit tests? What do you do when QA finds a bug that could have been found if there had been more complete unit tests? What do you do when there is a system change that causes a chain reaction of changes in all of the test data?
These are all issues that easily escalate into the "blame game". That will not help team work or morale. Even though it is justifiable it is not wise to allow the team that works on the "core" technology push around the supporting teams. In those situations segragation of code begins to occur. Pretty soon you have the situation where no one wants to work with the "core" team and the "core" team doesn't want to call any one else's code and the problems begin to increase.
So, you have to decide how you will constructively handle the opportunities that will arise. For example, someone makes changes that break someone else's unit tests. This opportunity can be viewed as good. It is good in that the "breakage" has been found and has been found quickly. That is a good thing. It is good in that we know which persons are involved in resolving the issue, the breaker and the breakee. That is a good thing. The two involved can get together and figure out the best solution for the business. Best solutions are good things. So, in this example, many good things occurred.
If you do not take advantage of these opportunities it could go something like this. Joe broke Sally's unit tests. Sally goes to Joe and says, "These unit tests represent a usage contract. You have violated the contract. Change your code." Joe says, "Don't be ridiculous. Your code doesn't do what it should and your unit tests are bogus. Update your code to work in the new world!" Sally says, "I don't have time to deal with your inability to work within a team environment. You fix it." Joe says, "ME, ME not working as a team player. It is you! Gosh!" I think you get the picture.


Make it clear to your development team what definition of unit tests is being used. Understand that unit testing is not free and the expense increases with the amount of test data needed and the management of data bases that are involved. View failed unit tests as a good thing. The earlier you know a unit of code fails the cheaper it is to fix.
After you have defined your defintion and use for unit tests pick up a book on the subject, summarize it, and make it available to the people involved. Clear communication is always a problem (communication is a topic in every development methodology and business guide that I have studied) and getting people to agree on terms and usage will eliminate many wasted hours in meetings.

Develop Everything the Second Time First

Develop Everything the Second Time First

an Extreme Maverick Approach

by Geoffrey Slinker
v1.1 DRAFT March 2006
v1.0 DRAFT October 2004


Applying the Maverick approach using the Extreme premise that if something is good then we will do it all the time or do it to the extreme the idea of developing a software product the second time first came to mind.
If a piece of software is always better the second time we develop it then we will always develop the software the second time.


After studying the Extreme Programming methodology it inspired me to consider other things that can be taken to the extreme. Being a Maverick follower I said to my self, "Self, why aren't other good practices of development taken to the extreme?"
I have been a student of product estimations for many years. It seems commonly accepted that when estimating the cost and time of a project you must have prior experience that is directly applicable to the new task. Otherwise estimations can be off 300% in either direction.
After writing a new product if the development team was asked how long it would take to develop the product they just developed then they would be able to give you a very accurate estimate that excluded the mistakes of the original effort. Often I have heard, "If there was just time to write this code over again I could do it right." Right means a lot of things here but I feel it boils down to the fact that right means that the correct domain model has finally been recognized and it would be great if the team was allowed to refactor or re-implement the product.
So, if writing things the second time produce products that are truly superior than the original then the first thing we should do is write the product the second time!

Second Time all the Time

Since coding a project the second time can give great improvements in performance, coupling, cohesion, and overall domain model then why don't departments just plan on re-writing the product and only ship the second release? Because that sounds expensive. That sounds as if better planning had occurred we wouldn't want to re-write the system. That sounds as if we had hired better people they could have done it right the first time. That sounds like something went terribly wrong.
The truth is that it could be a sign of all of the things above and it could also be a sign of a product that had a scope that was not definable until some experiments had occurred.
Prototyping is the essence of this idea. I am not saying this is a new idea! But prototyping sounded expensive and since the company always wanted to ship the prototype rapid prototyping emerged. The term rapid was used to discourage the company from wanting to ship the prototype. Because of this desire to ship prototypes and the understanding from the development that prototypes were very useful the development team had to undermine the quality of the prototype (at least by name and often by quality) to keep the company from shipping the prototype.
In the past few years other terms have arisen that refer to the idea of writing something first so that the second version can be developed. Terms such as a "one off", "a thin thread", and "a spike". These obvious prototypes or experiments are tools that are commonly used. There names may exist to avoid the conversations with management to justify prototypes.

Unit Testing is Prototyping

As I considered the fact that development continued to prototype and experiment during software development I thought about how unit testing plays a role.
I propose this description of unit testing:
Unit testing is prototyping the interface and any stubbed or mocked components necessary to define the expected behavior. The unit tests are refactored until the desired behavior is represented and the interface is correct for the domain. Then you write code to get the tests to succeed.
Isn't that a form of prototyping? Isn't it a way of writing things the second time? Isn't that what Test-First-Design is all about? You are coding up the interfaces before they are implemented. You are thinking about those interfaces and changing them to meet the idea of a fluid design. You are running scenarios through your mind anticipating issues. Mocked objects maybe considered oversimplified prototypes. Stubbed methods are definitely simplified to the extreme.

The Future of Prototyping

The benefits of writing something first as an experiment and then writing it a second time for production have been known for many years. How can these benefits be used more efficiently? Ignoring the various names of current activities that are centered on the old term prototyping there should be more use of these activities without the fear of shipping the prototype. Maverick development is concerned with trust. Trust your engineers to know that a prototype, experiment, or spike is necessary and trust them to take the lessons learned and apply those to a truly production quality resultant.


If allowed to re-write a piece of software it is generally accepted that the second version is superior to the first in a myriad of ways.
Since writing software the second time is better, we will write the software the second time at first.
Prototypes, rapid-prototypes, one-offs, thin threads, experiments, spikes, and unit tests are all methods that address the idea of writing things the second time give better results.

Scouting and Reconnaissance in Software Development

Scouting and Reconnaissance in Software Development

by Geoffrey Slinker
v1.0 October 2004
v1.1 January 2005
v1.2, v1.3, v1.4 July 2005
v1.5 March 24, 2006
Maverick Development


Scouting and reconnaissance are two well known methods of discovery. By these means information and experience are gained when faced with the unknown. Experience is critical to writing good software. Experience allows you to correctly identify problems and address them. Scouting and recon for software development is a great way to gain experience and avoid the pitfalls of the unknown.


In the well known book ‘The Mythical Man-Month’ Frederick P Brooks states:
Where a new system concept or new technology is used, one has to build a system to throw away, for even the best planning is not so omniscient as to get it right the first time. Hence plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.
As the years passed and systems grew in size and complexity it became apparent that building a "throw away" as not the most efficient approach. In the 20th anniversary edition of his same book, Brooks states that developing a throwaway version is not as efficient as iterative approaches to software development.
In Extreme Programming Explained Second Edition, Kent Beck states:
"Defect Cost Increase is the second principle applied to XP to increase the cost-effectiveness of testing. DCI is one of the few empirically verified truths about software development: the sooner you find a defect, the cheaper it is to fix it."
Scouting and recon techniques are used to discover defects through experiments and to completely avoid the presence of the defect in the "real" software. These techniques work within phased or phasic development methodologies as well as within iterative methodologies and give knowledge and experience through their use.

Gaining Experience

There are many software development activities concerned with gaining experience. Some of these activities include creating proofs of concept, prototyping, and experimenting. I will refer to all of these activities as experiments.
How much effort should be placed in an experiment? Enough to gain the experience needed to get you to the next step.

Software Scouting

“Scouting” will be the metaphor. During the exploration of the American frontier, scouts were sent out ahead of the company to determine the safest path through unknown and hostile territory. Through software “scouting missions” one can save time and money, and reduce the risks to the company.

Brooks’ first statement concerning building a "throw away" is akin to exploring the entire route first and then moving the company. His revised statement concerning iterative development is akin to scouting out a few hours (or days) ahead and returning to guide the company. This pattern of short scouting trips would continually repeat, making the technique both iterative and incremental. Through the scouting metaphor you can gain a certain feel for why building a "throw away" version is more costly than iterative development.

Scouting Tools

There are many ways to explore the unknown. These activities have many similarities. One of the key differentiators is the stage of software development in which the activity occurs. Following various "tools" for scouting are defined and the stage in which they are typically used is specified.
A "Proof of Concept" occurs after a solution has been conceptualized. Investigation is needed to gain confidence and verify the viability of the solution.

A "Prototype" is made after a design has been made. Investigation is needed to validate that the result of the design solves the problem. In software prototyping development activities are scaled back. In engineering prototypes may be scaled functioning models. In software there is no physical dimension so development activities are scaled back which include minimal effort for robustness and usually only implementing the “happy path” of the functionality. Also techniques to reduce coupling are skipped and cohesion is ignored as much as possible (Even though these activities are skipped the experience of prototyping bring to light how the software components should be coupled and an overall domain definition emerges that allows for better cohesion).
Ed Mauldin explains prototyping as thus:
“Prototyping is probably the oldest method of design. It is typically defined as the use of a physical model of a design, as differentiated from an analytical or graphic model. It is used to test physically the essential aspects of a design before closing the design process (e.g., completion and release of drawings, beginning reliability testing, etc.). Prototypes may vary from static "mockups" of tape, cardboard, and styrofoam, which optimize physical interfaces with operators or other systems, to actual functioning machines or electronic devices. They may be full or sub-scale, depending on the particular element being evaluated. In all cases, prototypes are characterized by low investment in tooling and ease of change.”

An "Experiment" occurs after software modules have been developed. Investigation into their behavior under varied conditions is needed. An experiment is conducted to observe the behavior.
A "Mock Object" is created during software implementation. Components have been developed and investigation into their behavior needs to be done. To isolate these components from the effects of other components the other components are replaced with "mocks" that have simple and specific behavior.
A "Driver" is created during software implementation. Components have been developed and investigation into their interfaces and usability need to occur. A driver is developed to interface with and drive the component. The interfaces or entry points of the components are confirmed correct and the pre-conditions of the components are exercised. The driver can validate the post-conditions of the component as well.
A "Stub" is created during software implementation. Functionality has been developed and investigation of the code paths needs to occur. Called interfaces are developed with the simplest means in order to return specific results and exercise the code paths of the caller. These simple interface implementations are stubs.
A "Simulation" is typically created after the system is implemented. A deliverable needs to be tested in various environments and conditions. A simulation of an environment is developed and it is used for testing. Common examples are simulated users, simulated load, simulated outages, and such.

When to Scout

Remember, scouting activities address the issue of gaining experience in unknown territory. These activities are not necessary when experience is present. Simply said, “If you know how to do the job, then do it!”

When one is in unknown territory scout ahead for information, then come back and apply the knowledge gained. Have enough discipline not to get distracted by the sights along the way. Stay focused, travel light, and get back to camp as quickly as possible.

Can you afford not to scout ahead? The answer to this question only comes at the end of the journey. Did you make it to your destination or not?

Scouting for Phasic Methodologies

One reason that experiments work is because they address issues and concerns in context and as they occur. It is a "learn as you" go approach. Below are some scenarios in which scouting can be used in a traditional phased or phasic methodologies.

Phase 1: Analysis and Requirements.

• Paper prototypes of the user interface.
• Proof-of-concept of a requirement (i.e. the database must support 500 simultaneous connections).

Phase 2: Design.

• Refined paper prototypes of the user interface. Paper models of the architecture and model (i.e. UML).

Phase 3: Implementation.

• Develop an experiment for the “happy path” to discover boundaries and interfaces.
• Create prototypes ahead of implementing frameworks so that the framework's approach can be reviewed.

Phase 4: Testing.

• Create experiments to test scenarios.
• Create testing harnesses that allow for proxy users (a proxy user can be a user simulated by a computer program).
• Simulate extreme conditions such as system load.
(Testing is scouting ahead of the user to make sure the user’s experience will be a good one.)

Scouting for Iterative Methodologies

User Stories

  • Create a proof of concept to verify the User has conveyed their desires.

Project Planning

  • If the user story involves a User Interface, create paper prototypes of the interface to stimulate user input and direction.

Release Planning

  • Create a prototype to identify dependencies to facilitate iteration planning.

Iteration Planning

  • Create design prototypes using a modeling language such as UML.


  • Create stubs, drivers, and mock objects to increase confidence in the behavior of isolated units.
  • Create an experiment to observe object behavior.
  • Create a simulation to test things like performance under a heavy load.
This list is supposed to be thought provoking, not complete. The idea behind scouting is to perform some scouting activity when faced with the unknown. When doing experiments in conjunction with an iterative development methodology the experiments are "lighter" than they would be in a phasic development methodology if the customer/user is taking an active role. With the customer present one can prototype a user interface with a white board and some drawings. If the customer is not present then a prototype for a user interface is usually mocked up with some kind of computer aided drawing package or even a "quick and dirty" user interface is developed with a GUI building tool or scripting language.

Benefits of Scouting

  1. Scouting brings light to a situation. Through scouting activities estimations become more accurate. The accuracy comes from the application of the experience, not from an improved ability to predict the future.
  2. Scouting reduces coupling and improves cohesion. When writing software in the light of experience, the coupling between objects is reduced and the experience unifies the system's terms and metaphors which increase cohesion.
  3. Scouting builds trust and confidence by eliminating incorrect notions and avoiding drastic changes in design and implementation.

Risks of Software Scouting

  1. Is management mature enough to allow the proper use of an experiment and not try to “ship” the prototype and undermine the effort?
  2. Is development mature enough to refrain from features creeping into the product because the experiment revealed something interesting?

Project Management Ensures Adequate Software Recon

Project Management should scout and see if their development environment can support activities that rapidly gain experience. Probing questions include:
  • Are the software developers aware of all of the activities that can lead to experience?
  • Are the stakeholders aware of the benefits of prototypes and experiments?
  • Is everyone aware of the risks of not doing recon and the risks of doing recon? Remember, one of the risks of a prototype is that sometimes people try to ship it!
An interesting exercise would be to listen for concerns expressed by developers and ask them what activity would address their concern. Some concerns expressed by developers that can be addressed through recon are:
  • “If I just had time to write this right”
  • “I don’t think we know how difficult this is going to be”
  • “I really don’t have any idea how long this is going to take”
When a concern is expressed ask the developer what they would do to address it. Listen for solutions that bring experience and shed light.


Experience is key to writing good software. The sooner you discover a problem and correctly fix the problem the cheaper it is. Scouting ahead in software by using prototypes and experiments is a great way to discover the right path without risking the entire company to the unknown.

Reporting for Accountability

Reporting for Accountability

by Geoffrey Slinker
version 1.3
March 24, 2006
April 22, 2005
July 1, 2005


Reporting and accountability are essential for business processes. Without those budgets can not be calculated, resources can not be utilized efficiently, as well as many other issues. Reporting has come to a level where one can truly do "more with less." Daily stand-ups, end of cycle reporting, damage charts, dashboards, and burn charts accurately and concisely disseminate information.


Often the challenge of doing "more with less" is extended to teams as a catalyst for thought but many readily accept that generally the paradox is not possible. In the area of reporting of status and progress in software development the paradox is true. This is accomplished through the use of less technology than has previously been used and also the acceptance of new mediums for documenting and reporting.

The goal of reporting should be to accurately report the subject matter concisely and precisely. To facilitate that reporting is done often the mechanism should be easy to use.

The practices that will be used for reporting are project planning, release planning, iteration planning, 10 minute stand-ups, end of iteration reflections, end of release reflections, end of project reflections, and information radiators or dashboards.

The information radiators or dashboards include damage charts, burn charts, and project status charts.

Ten Minute Stand-Up

This meeting should be held early and it sets the tone for the day. The meeting should be held in proximity of the information radiators so that everyone can see what they are supposed to be doing.

Some questions that can drive the stand-up meeting are:
1. Have the expectations for success changed?
2. Has the scope of current tasks changed?
3. Have there been any changes in related or dependent projects?
4. Has the priority of any remaining tasks changed?
5. Are there changes to any risk factors?
6. Do you feel the project is focused on solving the right problems?

From these questions you should receive yes or no answers. Any no answers should be noted and addressed afterwards with the right set of people.

Project Planning

In the 20th anniversary edition of the Mythical Man Month Brooks states that iterative development has been shown to be more efficient than previous development approaches.

I will not go into the details and benefits of iterative development and will assume that it is generally understood to be superior to strict "phased" approaches. I have elaborated on this topic on the paper "Software Scouting and Recon".

At this point you begin the wheels turning as described in "Design By Use Development" (DBU). The project requirements are fed into the DBU process. DBU uses this information to identify subsystems and boundaries. This additional information helps in the organization and scheduling. The information from DBU is combined with the project requirements become "User Stories" which are organized for each sub-release of the project.

Release Planning

The user stories identified as part of the project are now divided into small related groups that will be developed during the iterations of each release. The user stories are fed into the next part of DBU and the usage examples are created. Notice that development starts early but with sufficient information to be headed down the correct path.

Each use case has a priority determined by dependencies, complexity, and an estimate for completion.

The use cases with their usage examples are fed into the iteration planning.

Iteration Planning

All of the use cases and usage examples for the release are taken and organized and placed into a particular iteration. When an item has been finished the actual time for completion is recorded next to the estimated time.

Completion means that the usage example runs without any errors and implies that the usage example truly represents correct usage and all contracts (pre and post conditions and invariants) have been satisfied, and that the completed item has been integrated with any piece that is completed and awaiting its use.

If this is not the first iteration then recommendations from the previous iteration reflection are considered.

End of Cycle Reports / End of Iteration Reflections

At the end of iteration comments and congratulations are given concerning the completed items. Any items there were not completed are discussed and dependencies and release schedules are update.

End of Release Reflection

At the end of release comments and congratulations are given concerning the completed releases. Any items there were not completed are discussed and dependencies and project schedules are update.

End of Project Reflection

At the end of the product comments and congratulations are given concerning the project. The key here is to celebrate the hard work and the finished product. If scope had to be changed or dates had to be altered for the project the information concerning those items should have been recorded in the end of iteration and end of release reflections. This is a time to take pride in the hard work so don't dampen any spirits. At the next Project Planning meeting the lessons learned can be discussed and improvement activities can be identified.

They say that each project fails one step at a time but also each success builds one step at a time. Let's take the positive look on things and remember to allow people to have success.

Information Radiators

Information radiators are placed where they can be easily seen by those who are concerned with the project's information.

Information radiators are low tech for a reason and that is ease of update. Information radiators should be very active and therefore necessitate easy change. They should be well organized and easily captured though the use of a high resolution digital camera. The digital photograph is the medium for recording. Remember if it wasn't recorded it didn't happen and notice how easy it is to record. That is like having your cake and eating it too!

There are certain types of charts or layouts that convey information rapidly that are considered essential for each project. A description of each type follows.

Damage Chart

The damage chart shows damage plotted against amount of planning. Some projects need lots of planning because the damage from insufficient planning could be devastating. Other projects need less planning. Just remember, all projects are not the same and one size does not fit all.

Alistair Cockburn described it to me at a users group meeting something like this: "In the web browser market the race between Netscape and I.E. was concerned with getting anything to market. The damage caused by not planning was not the concern. The key was getting anything into the market. Trying to make the best web browser didn't matter. Software concerning the space shuttle is completely different. The damage caused by insufficient planning could be extremely expensive and cost lives."

Other types of damage plots can be created. Damage for a missed "release window" could be plotted but this type of chart must be very accurate or you will not be able to motivate people after wolf has been cried too many times. Estimating the damage for missing a window of opportunity is similar to the inaccuracy in estimating when code will be finished. The similarities should cause development and marketing to appreciate the difficulty of each other's tasks and alleviate some of the bickering and finger pointing. Holding marketing to their estimates should be done with the same rigor that development is held to their estimates or in other words "play fair".

Burn Up and Burn Down Charts

These charts show progress. The key is determining the units for the Y-axis. There are many reports on these charts and one should study them to determine how you will do them. Here is an excellent reference:

In this example burn down chart it shows that the project estimated the completion of 100 features in 8 weeks. The chart shows that it took 10 weeks to complete the features. It also shows that the project was in trouble significant trouble at four weeks and that the team got the project back on schedule on the fifth week but was unable to maintain the velocity.

These charts should be updated and posted with any information radiator that is related to or concerned with this information.

Project Status Charts

These are those charts on butcher paper or white boards covered with sticky notes.

In this progress chart each line represents a developer and the use cases for this iteration. Each yellow box represents a sticky note that will have a short description of the use case and an estimate for completion. The sticky note moves from left to right showing the representing the percent completion. When the use case is finished it is placed on the right with the actual time for completion noted next to the estimate.

This progress chart shows the entire product. The thick line represents the product boundary. Every use case above the line will be included in the product. Every use case below the line are things that were considered but haven't made it into the product at this time.

The use cases labeled "Release Sets TO DO LIST" are the use cases grouped by release. The current iteration at the top shows the release set that is currently being developed and are in progress. The finished uses cases are those that were completed during the previous iterations. The green arrows show the flow from the left side or to do side to the current iteration and from the current iteration to the finished side.

Each use case has a time estimation and the total of all of the uses case estimations form the "to-do" area, the "in progress" area, and the "finished" area the total time to develop the product. If an item is moved from the "use cases not currently in the product" into a release set then an item from the release sets with an equal or greater estimation time must be removed to keep the project on schedule.


Reporting and accountability are crucial for business processes. The time has come that reporting can apply the paradox of "doing more with less". Planning meetings, daily stand-ups, end of cycle reporting, damage charts, dashboards, and burn charts accurately and concisely disseminate information. By using digital cameras in conjunction with information radiators the state can be documented as often as desired. Through these planning and reporting techniques the goals and state of a project is readily visible and easily reported.