Wednesday April 15th, 2009
Three-Hour Daily Meetings and MtG
This week marks the beginning of my fourth week at ARM. Everything is great as I'm back to doing what I like to do, and I'm very happy with work. The ARM office in Olympia owns just a small section of a two-story office building in West Olympia. There are about 13 of us in the office. Paul is temporarily visiting for several months from the UK, David is temporarily in Olympia originally working in TX, Richard is only in the office occasionally as he normally works in San Jose, and Ian who is normally full time in Olymia is currently in China. Nonetheless, there are only about a dozen people in the office, which is totally different from what I am used to.

From a work perspective, the main difference is the process. I'm no longer writing useless documents that nobody reads and that are unmaintainable, no longer going to pointless two or three-hour meetings, no longer spending hours on code inspections fixing cosmetic issues, no longer running klocwork code analysis, no longer spending time filling in statistics about the code (number of lines changed, development phase in which the bug was introduced, and, this one I really like, explaining why not enough bugs were found if it was less than the statistical average based on the number of lines of code changed), and the list goes on. The process at Motorola is heavyweight, the engineers hate it but the managers demand it, mostly because it does have benefits. It slows things down, but it also helps maintain quality. So, although it does have benefits, it's not how I like to work. What's even worse is that there are other companies with even worse processes, e.g. defense companies have a reputation of being very heavyweight. However, there are different process models that I believe are much better yet still retain the necessary quality of the end product. This process being the agile process, which is used at ARM, and I'm really digging it. Instead of getting into a lot of detail, talking about pigs and chickens, sprints, extreme programming, and rude scrum mastering, I'll just touch on some points that I like. It's well documented on wikipedia for those interested. When I first heard the new process involved daily meetings, horrors of 3-hour daily meetings from Motorola filled my thoughts (by the way, I'm not exageratting; we had a daily meeting from 4pm-7pm and during the final month near the ship date, we also met on Saturdays and Sundays). However, the scrum daily meeting is no more than 15 minutes. Sure, I've heard that before - it was very common for the 1 hour meeting to turn into a 1 1/2 or 2 hour meeting. Nope, that's the job of the scrum master and at least in our group, if we go over 15 minutes, it's usually only by a couple minutes, and we often finish early. We do a good job of meeting that 15 minute goal. And that's the idea. If you think about it, every minute used in that meeting is using up every single person's time. And that's the reasoning behind the 15 minute limit. It's logical, common sense, and it makes for good process. So, the purpose of the meeting has several goals. First, it keeps people productive as everyone must show progress every day. If no progress was made, you must have a reason, which leads to the second point of the meeting, and that's to make public any blockers or hang-ups that people are encountering. The idea is to keep the communication active and don't be bogged down by a single problem for multiple days without at least letting someone know about it. And lastly, the process is meant and built around being agile. If requirements change, no problem, every month a new sprint begins and these changes are taken into account.

So, I talked a bit more about the process than I wanted. Actually, I didn't even mention the subversion source control, use of eclipse, the lack of code inspections, etc. To get away from all the technical stuff, I wanted to touch on the non-work part of work. In the center of the office is the breakroom. It's home to the fridge full of soda (and wow does this office go through a lot of soda!), coffee, tea, chips, snacks, cup-o-noodle, all paid for by ARM. There's a continuously on-going game of chess where anyone (and everyone) can make a move. We have a Wii with a large flatscreen television (but no guitar hero ... yet). Every Wednesday is game day where we take an hour or two away from work for team-building non-work socialization; this is where Magic the Gathering comes in, although I've yet to play it and have no idea what it's about. Really. I'm serious. No, really. I don't know about anything it. Come on now...I wouldn't lie.

Yes, really. I'm not lying. The kird ape for the win. No, no, I just heard that somewhere. I really have no idea what it's about. Serious.

Don't be hatin' MtG
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Wednesday April 15th, 2009

Wade says:

The drama at Motorola continues.

Wednesday April 15th, 2009

Mary Burleson says:

Wade, Good info. I enjoy reading your posts. I read Wikipedia about the Agile process. Interesting. It's fun to stay up with what's happening with you. I also like your company's non-work happenings. How cool is that? Aunt Mary B.