Johanna Rothman's Foreword for RRD

Johanna Rothman is one of my Agile heroes. Her books are superb. Her blogs are always eyeopening and informative. Plus, she's a downright lovely person. Can imagine my delight when she agreed to write the foreword for Rolling Rocks Downhill?  

You’ve seen this movie before. You’re on a project. You’ve been told to work faster, better, and cheaper. No more “pick two out of three.” No. You need to deliver all three out of three. Especially the faster part.

Maybe one of your teammates or someone in management has the bright idea that maybe transitioning to agile or lean will help. Maybe it does in some small way. But, it’s not enough. You’re on a death march, iteration by iteration. Or, with your board, you can see that you are making progress, but you’re not working “fast enough.”

Or, you’re not delivering what your customers need. You’re still trying to “do it all.” Why? Because it takes you forever to release anything.

You know there’s another piece to this. You just don’t know what.

You need to read Clarke Ching’s Rolling Rocks Downhill.

Clarke delivers the goods with this business novel. You can see how Steve, our hero, learns about small batches, reducing work in progress, and bottlenecks. You can see how management’s typical “motivations,” such as management by objectives, doesn’t work in a team-based complex adaptive system, such as a software project.

Learn how Steve, a middle manager, who is part of the dysfunctional system, learns about small batch sizes, work in progress, and bottlenecks. He slowly learns what they do wrong. He makes changes slowly—just as you would in real life. The teams learn how to change slowly, just as they would in real life.

His management doesn’t understand what’s going on. They alternately threaten and reinforce his efforts. I see this occur all the time. The teams are so tired of working the old way, they are ready to try anything, because they can’t stand the idea of another death march project and being blamed for failure.

And, because you see all of this, you will root for the team’s success, as I did. You’ll understand the mutiny, when the project manager pushes the team one too many times. And, if you have not seen the magic of how agile, lean and Theory of Constraints can actually work in organizations, you might be surprised when the team pulls off the “impossible.”

You might think this is impossible, or because it’s a business novel, this is fiction. It’s not. I’ve seen and coached normal people, on normal teams, working normal hours, as they transition to working in this way, complete projects again and again. Clarke shows you the secret sauce.

Do you want a way out of your insanity? Is it time for you to learn how to take control of your projects, and learn how you can release a product your customers want, when you want to release it, a product that works?

You can. Read Clarke’s Rolling Rocks Downhill. You will have many “aha” moments. You will say, “Now I get it!” This book will change how you look at projects and what you think you can do about the predicament you are in.

Use the ideas here. Don’t start another death march project. If you find yourself in another impossible project, where your management wants it “faster, better, cheaper,” use this book. You will limit your work in progress, make your chunks of work small, and find your bottlenecks (to name just three of the tools) to make your project possible, instead of impossible. You don’t need to be extraordinary. You need to be diligent.

Have fun reading. I did.

Johanna Rothman, author of Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management

Arlington, Massachusetts

clarke chingComment