Breaking The Wheel

Management

A picture of Dwight Eisenhower, a man who understood the paradox of planning all too well

The Paradox of Planning

One of my favorite quotes revolves around planning.  It came from Helmuth Von Moltke, a 19th century German Field Marshall: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”1. The implication here is simple enough: the plan that makes total sense on paper quickly falls apart when confronting the entropy of reality. And yet planning is essential for getting a team moving in the right direction. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “I have found that plans are useless but planning is everything.” And thus we arrive at what I like to call the paradox of planning: planning is the act of creating something that is simultaneously infinitely valuable and completely worthless.

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A photo of John Boyd, author of Destruction and Creation

Destruction and Creation: John Boyd’s Analysis and Synthesis Loop

Here’s a question for you: is dog-fighting (the airplane variety, not the literal kind) an art or a science? It’s obviously an art, right? Two pilots, and a wide-open sky – the possibilities for maneuvers and counters are positively endless. Endless, that is, except for this funny thing called “physics”. Far from being limitless, a pilot’s options are severely restricted by his altitude, speed, weapon load, and aerodynamic characteristics. The man the world has to thank for codifying this realization is one of the history’s great iconoclasts: United States Air Force pilot John Boyd. But Boyd’s gifts to the universe were not limited to the military, and one of his last major labors before he died was a paper and presentation he called “Analysis and Synthesis” or, alternatively, “Destruction and Creation.”

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A picture of a yin-yang, the embodiment of trade-offs

Guest Post: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

My friends at Black Shell Media were kinda enough to host another of my scribblings, this time on the ever-present and ever-important notion of trade-offs: how to think about them, traps to avoid when dealing with them, and why it’s so important to know yourself when faced with them. Click here to read on: On The Subject of Trade-Offs

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A picture of a factory, which are parts of institutions, which sometimes create conflict of interest. Also, scrum.

Conflict of Interest: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I talked about the functional issues of scrum. In this post, I want to talk about the larger, economic problem with scrum. Namely, what was once an idea designed to support other industries has become an industry unto itself. And with that comes what economists would call a “conflict of interest.”

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Waves crashing because churn is bad. Christ, I hate alt text.

The Higher Order Consequences of Sprints: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 2

In the Part 1 of “The Fancy Mess of Scrum”, I talked about the flawed intuition behind sprints: how they batch work, obfuscate inefficiencies, and are superfluous in terms of extrinsic motivation. In this post I want to delve deeper into higher order negative externalities that sprints spawn – the consequences of the consequences.

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A rocket ship lifting off

A Comprehensive Guide to Indie Game Pre-Launch Campaigns

In a day and age where new titles hit the market on a daily basis, being able to stand out from the crowd is super important. In 2016, 4,207 games launched on Steam. Steam doesn’t let you launch games on weekends, so that’s approximately 16 games per day. How do you differentiate yourself from the 15 other games launching at the same time as yours?

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An image of Bruce Lee who, to my knowledge never used scrum or experienced the flawed logic of sprints

The Flawed Logic of Sprints: The Fancy Mess of Scrum, Part 1

Back in the heady days of 2010, I was a newly minted scrum master, fresh off my training seminar. I was excited by scrum’s potential, but I also took care to maintain some agnosticism. I always told people that scrum was the best production framework I’d seen, but that I would happily kick it to the curb as soon as I found something better. With several more years of experience under my belt, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, better ways of managing development. And with that understanding came the further realization that I want to leave scrum behind.

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A screen grab from one of Justin's GDC17 sessions

GDC17 Feedback and Responses

GDC 2017 was my first GDC ever. So, I figured “Why not be an asshole about it?” and signed up to give two presentations. 6’ish months later I found myself at GDC, sweating bullets and shitting bricks. I should also mention that the longest presentation I’d ever given was about 10 minutes, and had signed up for a total of 90 minutes of speaking time. Anyhoo, both presentations went well and nobody died. And then, a month and half’ish later, my compiled speaker feedback arrived. It was largely positive. But, of course, there were a few people (4 in each session, based on the reviews) who took umbrage with ol’ Justy. And some of the negative comments bothered me. Not because people disagreed with me (that’s to be expected, after all) but because I couldn’t respond. But then I realized that not only could I respond (having a blog and[…]

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A picture of a bottleneck, because auteurs bottleneck stuff

Bottlenecks and Hindsight: Why Auteurs Make Horrible Economists

This post is about an empirical issue: the economic cost of being an auteur. When I originally posted this entry on Gamasutra back in 2014 it was not without its detractors. David Jaffe even dropped a line on it, saying he thought it was neat, while simultaneously implying that I was full of shit. Nonetheless, in retrospect, I still feel this idea is worth considering in an industry like ours, one that consists of both public personas and massive-team-based endeavors.

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A scientist looks at some fluid in a beaker because root cause analysis

Root Cause Analysis: The Five Whys – Game Planning With Science! Part 15

On January 28th, 1986, seven astronauts boarded the Challenger for its tenth launch into space. Its previous missions had included the first space walk and, at various times, the first American woman, African-American, Canadian and Dutchman in space. 73 seconds after lift-off, the Challenger broke apart, killing the entire crew. Why? Because the fuel tank exploded. So, the solution, of course, is to send the next shuttle up with a fuel tank that doesn’t explode, right? Only if you assume that the exploding fuel tank was a 100% isolated incident, completely unrelated to any other events. If that sounds fishy to you, it should. And this is where root cause analysis comes into play, a practice colloquially known as “the five whys”.

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