Sunday, December 4, 2016

Elevator going down...

The longer I’m an Agilist, the less tolerant I am to non-agile artifacts…
- Or, what could possibly go wrong with an elevator?! (be ready for an extra-long and frustrated post!)

I’ve been working in a brand-new high-rise building, with 5 elevators.

And man, I used to take elevators for granted so far!

These elevators seem like they were designed by an evil scientist!

1. Tap-dancing

It starts when you come to the building

Usually you are just standing in line for the elevators that go to your floor, right?
No! Here, the elevators MUST know where you are going!
And there is a great touch screen interface everyone must pass!

  • So there is a large touch-screen where you needs you to tap your two digits.
  • In case you are successful (*) the screen will tell you in advance (meaning - minutes before the elevator actually gets there!) and during 2 seconds (to keep you alert) which of the five elevator will serve you. (regardless whether it will be soon stuck on some floor for a minute or so, you’ll just have to wait)
  • It will not show you in advance if anyone reserved the same floor (so everyone must press the screen), since it can't use the space to show a list of floors and reserved elevators, and prevent this tapping. (after all - what's a touch screen if you are not obliged to touch it?!)
  • In case you were busy during this two seconds doing a victory dance, you have no f**ing clue which elevator to wait for, and to find out - you have to re-tap (and hope you didn’t miss it)

2. Mis-tap re-dance

However, there is a big chance you mis-tap it:
  • The touch screen is built for normal height, so tall people (like me) usually get the wrong number tapped, hence I have to bend and re-tap (and an elevator will go to a place no one wants…)
  • It also has small sensitive areas, so ‘normal’ people often miss-tap the number.
  • It is so bad, that there is someone whose job it actually is to tap the number for you and tell you what elevator to take (but only on ground floor, if you take the elevator TO the lobby - you are on your own)

3. The ride itself

The ride is characterized by:
  • Solidarity: The ride is actually fun, nothing brings people closer than a crowded elevator and a common frustration, so you can always start talking about the elevator!
  • Serenity: since you can’t choose your floor inside the elevator, you have to let go, which (depends on your personality) may be a growth incentive.
  • Stress: one thing the screen does display is the time, but a few minutes later than the actual time, so you may be stressed you are late for a meeting (though, since everyone uses the elevators, you are probably not alone)
Strangely, the elevator displays all the requested floors, but not the floors it will stop at if someone requested it on the fly.
The no smoking sign is appropriate, since it makes me want to take on smoking again...

And the great thing is that the elevator-making people (assuming they are people), are reluctant to handle it since:
  1. Its expensive to fix (see below how expensive it is not to fix)
  2. They use the same mechanism in other buildings (meaning - we should be less miserable knowing other people share our misfortune)

So, what’s the connection to Agile?

I’m sure the elevator is built like that because someone thought it is better than the usual interface:
  • Two buttons on the outside (or three)
  • 50 buttons on the inside
  • Occasionally, a division of elevators, some going to low floors, some to high floors

But before solving a hypothetical problem, one can validate the problem exists (see lean startup approach)

I’m sure not one of the designers spent a day inside one of the elevators they built, talking to users, measuring actual average time of wait, elevator charge, etc.

A lean-startup elevator would start by someone standing for a day in an elevator, pressing buttons according to an algorithm and validating it before implementation.

Or a random satisfaction survey of user.

Or something...

I’m sure no one calculated the cost of not fixing it! hence the cost of:
  • People coming late to meetings
  • People coming to work frustrated
  • Electricity of stopping in mis-pressed floors
  • People associating the brand name with defective products
  • People leaving work frustrated and taking it out on their surroundings

And that’s why non-agile projects make me sad (/ drive me mad).

Just as an anecdote, my current rush-hour strategy to get fast to the floor I have to go to is:
  • Take the first elevator that arrives, to a floor as close as possible to the one I need.
  • Get out, and reserve an elevator to the floor I need.
  • Or (once the stairs will be open) use the stairs for the rest.

The way to fight rigid elevators is to outsmart them!

What’s your non-agile project example?

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