C-3P0 Timebox

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Standby Autograph with C-3PO

Standby Autograph with C-3POMy family and I recently went to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. My wife was extra excited because it was going to be “Star Wars” weekend at Hollywood Studios while we were there. Imagine parades filled with Star Wars characters, Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers everywhere…and the force being with us (or maybe not). My wife was very excited when she found out she had a chance to get a picture taken with and get an autograph from Anthony Daniels of C-3PO fame.

This is how it was to go down. When the park opened, a predefined amount of tickets would be given to those people standing in a line. Once those tickets were gone, there were 30 remaining “standby” tickets. There would be two autograph sessions, lasting one hour each. IF Mr. Daniels got through the “guaranteed” group of ticket holders in less than one hour, he would then start to greet the standby ticket holders in the order in which they arrived that morning. We were standby ticket holders #19, #20, and #21 (out of 30). Everyone was required to stand outside in the sun until their ticket number was called. They were then allowed into an air conditioned building to meet C-3PO. When they were done, the “beaming” fan exited the building.

Well, the morning session (in close to 90 degree heat) came and went. The first 10 or so standby ticket holders did get in. We were told to return in the afternoon. Upon returning in the afternoon, the guaranteed group came and went and as we watched the clock tick closer and closer to the one hour mark, they accepted standby after standby. We had convinced ourselves that certainly Mr. Daniels would understand that there were only a few people left in line and would stay the extra 5-10 minutes it would take to greet us and sign a quick autograph. Unfortunately, after #17, a representative walked outside and told us that Mr. Daniels had to leave for another scheduled engagement.

At first, I was pretty pissed. Seriously? He couldn’t accept just a few more people and get through 100% off ALL of the people standing in line? No, later I thought about it. He had a timebox. He had exactly two one-hour sessions. He was going to get through as many autographs as he could but he still had to leave after one hour, regardless. He agreed to sign a specific amount of autographs and he met that commitment… and he exceeded it.

Have you had that situation happen to you as either a ScrumMaster, Project Manager, or Stakeholder? As a stakeholder you feel ripped off because someone else got something delivered and you didn’t. As a ScrumMaster, you have to allow the team to commit to do the work. You can’t force work upon them. As a Project Manager, you have to explain to everyone that if you let the time constraint slip, you would be asked to do that every time there was a commitment. You’ve heard it before. Please, just one more thing. Please, just one more day.

Mr. Daniels, you did the right thing. You kept your commitment. If that gig as protocol droid doesn’t work out for you, I’d hire you.

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Theme Park Pull System

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Roller Coaster Line

Roller Coaster LineIf you’ve been to a theme park like Disney World’s Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, you will quickly notice the lines.  Depending on the time of year (or day) the line to a ride or attraction could be anywhere from nonexistent to 90+ minutes long.  As you approach an entrance, you’ll see a line marked on the grounds and a sign that reads “N minutes from this point”. You want the sign to read 5 minutes.  That’s the time it takes, with no wait line, to get to the actual attraction.  What you don’t see from the line on the ground is the maze of lines snaking their way through the building.  If the volume of people is low, everything except the direct line to the attraction is roped off.  The more the people, the more “side” lines are open.  The line outside the attractions are deceasing.  The real delays start after you cross that line marked on the ground and are committed.

I noticed that attractions usually lasted less than 5 minutes and people were divided into groups, just prior to onboarding some kind of transportation.  The transportation ran at a consistent rate of speed.  All these factors included, Disney World has to know the maximum throughput of a ride, before the line starts to back up. Why do you ask?  Well, to keep the customer happy by keeping them moving, of course.

When I saw all of this happening, I thought it was an excellent example of a pull system.  We went on a ride called “Star Tours”.  The vehicle capacity was 40 people and the ride duration was 4:30 minutes.  We noticed the sign said 90 minutes from this point.  Can you imagine doing that with a 5-year-old?

Star Tours
Capacity=40 people per load
Lead Time=90:00 minutes
Actual Duration=4:30 minutes

So, what does Disney do to help resolve the issue?  They call it the Fast Pass.  Yes, the golden ticket.  When you see the line at its worst, go up to a kiosk and get a Fast Pass.  It will tell you to return to the ride at a designated time.  In exchange for doing that, it will allow you to go to the head of the line, when that time comes.  I am assuming they are having you return at a predicted time of day in which the line will be shorter.  Regardless, it eliminated the bottleneck for us.  Whenever we saw a hellish line, we got a Fast Pass and came back later in the day.

To prevent the Fast Pass people from completely stopping the line, it appeared a certain percentage of seats per load were allocated for Fast Pass ticket holders.

I think this Fast Pass option may also work with non-theme park customers.  Let’s say you are working on an application development project.  After you have an optimum cycle time, if you reserve a little capacity, you could potentially negotiate with a stakeholder to postpone an activity to a date or time in which you know the workload will be less.  I’m not saying you are postponing adding the work to your backlog.  It’s still there.  But, you could agree to make it a lower priority until more of the backlog gets completed.  This could keep the rest of the work moving at an optimum pace and keep the customer happy.

Drawing by Pictofigo

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Walt Disney Quote

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As my family and I were walking through Disney World last week, we noticed a lot of construction going on.  Come to find out, Fantasyland is getting a big face-lift.  We could see what appeared to be another castle being built and some mammoth big top tents.  We were told that it will be completed in 2012.

But this post is not about Disney World construction, it’s about giving credit where credit is due.  As we were racing to get from one side of the Magic Kingdom to the other, my wife said she saw the perfect sign for me.  I’m sure I shot her some kind of momentary puzzled look without slowing my pace.  I was focused on getting from point A (Frontierland) to point B (Tomorrowland) in the shortest time possible.  It’s tragic that I was at the wonderful world of Disney’s Magic Kingdom and I couldn’t stop and soak in my surroundings.  Don’t worry, I got better as the day went on.  But let’s get back to this sign that my wife spotted.

Clearly my wife knew this sign was more important than getting to Tomorrowland in record time.  She was able to get me to look her right in the eye and this time she said “Honey, it talked about a project.”  I paused, processed the new information, did an about-face, and made a B-line for the sign.  Yep, she was absolutely right.  The sign was awesome.  Too many times I get my blog post ideas from my wife and I never give her credit for them.  The sign said

“When we go into that new
project, we believe in it all the
way.  We have confidence in our
ability to do it right.”

– Walt Disney

So, let it be known, my wife gets full credit for spotting the sign and inspiring this post. Without her, it wouldn’t have been.  If you’re leading a team or just a member of a team, don’t forget to listen to others.  You have to accept that some of the best ideas are going to come from them.  When those awesome ideas come your way, don’t forget to give them credit.

Back from Vacation

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Yes, I’m back from vacation.  I won’t go into great detail.  I’ll save that for future posts.  In short, I gathered up the family and took them to a resort in Florida.  I got an opportunity to meet some new people and make some new memories.  I even got to ride in a Space Shuttle simulator at NASA!

It was kind of poetic.  As we arrived in Florida, the sun was setting.  When we left to return home, the sun was just rising.  I can honestly say, I will miss the people I worked with for the last few years.  But the services I provided for them are in the past.  If they ever want Agile coaching, Agile consulting, or Agile training, I have the resources to help them.

As the sun rose today and I returned to Washington DC, a whole new future was on its way.

Be on the lookout for posts like “Disney Pull System” or “A quote from Walt Disney” or “C3PO Timebox ” or “A Disney Opportunity”.

Drawing by Pictofigo

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