Book Review: Making Work Visible

I was recommended Making Work Visible by a developer at Redgate Software. The book caught my eye as it seeks to ensure you can work more efficiently by watching out for some of the common things we do wrong in software development. It’s a DevOps related book, and many of the concepts of flow, work in progress, etc. that we talk about in DevOps are things that I saw in the book.

The overall message is that there are five main time thieves that cause you to work less efficiently than you or your team might otherwise function. These are:

  • Thief Too Much Work-in-Progress
  • Thief Unknown Dependencies
  • Thief Unplanned work
  • Thief Conflicting Priorities
  • Thief Neglected Work

The different issues are introduced early on, with each getting a few pages to describe them. Then later in the book, the author delves into more detail on the issues of this type of time thief, the impact, and ways you can think about working around the issues.

I read this book alone, but I might recommend you work in team here and do some of the exercises shown in the book. Each is really a physical activity, but I’m sure it would work with a virtual meeting these days.

The book is really built around Kanban boards, and there is a lot of detail on the ways to organize, or not organize, your board and team. I’ve seen some of the positives at Redgate, and some negatives as well, though I’ve seen more negatives at other companies.

There are suggestions for meetings, techniques for informing others of status and progress, and even some “beastly practices. There is lots of information supporting why something is good or bad, or really, more or less helpful.

I read most of this book in my Kindle app, but I did go through some in the cloud reader from Amazon. There are lots of images and illustrations, and lots of color, so I might recommend that you get the physical book, or if you like Kindle, read it online at times, especially with the examples and diagrams of the Kanban boards.

For me, personally, I get caught up in unplanned work at times, but often I have too much WIP and neglected work. I start things and don’t finish them quickly enough, or focus on getting them out of the way. One thing I took away from this book is to slow down and dedicate more blocks of time to knocking items off my list, rather than doing some things when I feel like it.

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The Silliness of a Group

Recently we had a quick online tutorial for Mural, a way of collaborating online with a group. It’s often used for design, but it can be used for brainstorming and more. There are templates for standups, business models, roadmaps, and more.

Anyway, we had a designer showing a bunch of others how to do this. Some product developers, team leads, advocates, and more. During the session, as we were watching, we were in a live mural where we could add items. I added a post-it with “Steve’s Note” on it, just to get a feel. I also added a photo I’d taken. Before long, the group chimed in, especially when the host misidentified Phoebe the horse as a goat.

2020-11-19 09_23_58-Online Collaboration with Mural • Redgate

We had another part of the session dealing with voting and making choices. The demo was with ice cream, allowing each of us to vote on a set of choices. Next we went to a template where we could add our own choices and people had fun, including me.

2020-11-19 09_36_18-Online Collaboration with Mural • Redgate

All in all, I see Mural as an interesting tool that I could see different groups using this in a variety of ways to collaborate, with some sort of Zoom/audio call and then focusing on a virtual whiteboard, there’s a lot here.

I actually think this could be a neat way of posing questions, taking votes or polls, and sharing information in a group that can’t get together in person.

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Daily Coping 20 Nov 2020

I started to add a daily coping tip to the SQLServerCentral newsletter and to the Community Circle, which is helping me deal with the issues in the world. I’m adding my responses for each day here.

Today’s tip is to choose a different route and see what you notice on the way.

The pandemic has kept most of us at home. We drive less, go less places, do less. For me, while I still go a few places, I do less for sure.

When I saw this item pop up, I had to think about how I’d choose a new route. Walking from my house only gives me one route for a mile to get to the end of my street and out to a place where I can then go in a few directions. Driving around, it often doesn’t make sense to go a different way, but I thought this might be a good way to change my day.

I’m lucky in that my gym has been open since May, and while there are restrictions and limitations, I can go. My week usually has 3-4 trips, twice for yoga and 1-2 trips for weights. I’ve avoided most classes, though I may go back to a swim a week as well.

The route there is pretty simple, and while the facility is about 10mi away, I can take a separate route, wind through some neighborhoods slightly out of my way, and keep this to about 14mi.

I did that recently. I took the long way, which winds alongside E-470 in S Denver, but also has a small bridge over the highway. That leads to the back of the neighborhood where I used to live. I drove through, looking at houses where friends used to live, or I used to bike/walk/horseback ride through. It was a nice trip on which to reminisce.

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Speaking at DPS 2020

I was lucky enough to attend the Data Platform Summit a few years ago. One of my favorite speaking photos was from the event.Me on a massive stage, massive auditorium and huge screen.

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This year the event is virtual and I’m on the slate with a couple talks. I’m doing a blogging session and a DevOps session. Both are recorded, but I’ll be online for chat, and certainly available for questions later.

There are tons of sessions, with pre-cons, post-cons, and lots of sessions, running around the world. It’s inexpensive, so if you missed the PASS Summit or SQL Bits, join DPS. US$124.50 for the event and recordings. Pre/post cons are about $175.

Register today and I’ll see you there.

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