Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fortune Cookies and Process Improvement

Yesterday I was at the Rational Comes To You Seminar that we hosted in Chicago. I presented a favorite topic of mine Agile Risk Management. The keynote speaker was Per Kroll. Per talked about the Agile Practice Library that the Eclipse Process Framework team are developing, an initiative that we are actively involved in. Dan Gilio and Frank Du Pont gave a presentation on Agility and Compliance and laid to to rest perceptions that agility and compliance are not polar opposites. After all, think about it, how does a waterfall process help with compliance? Great job Dan and Frank.

I was listening to NPR on the last leg of my journey home from Chicago. Michele Norris was interviewing Jennifer 8 Lee about her upcoming book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. Jennifer was born in America of Chinese parents and was perplexed why the food in the little white takeout boxes was so different from her mother's traditional Chinese dishes. Then when Jennifer was 13 she discovered fortune cookies weren't Chinese. "It was a disconcerting discovery, like I was adopted and there was no Santa Claus at the same time. In a way, I had bought into the myth of what is really 'Chinese,'" she says.

This led to an obsession that eventually led to her upcoming book. Jennifer's research yielded that an overwhelming majority of fortune-cookie "fortunes" originate from one of two sources: Wonton Food in New York City or Steven Yang, who works out of a warehouse in California where fortune writers craft bits of wisdom that meet an American audience's expectations. Amusingly these fortunes don't translate well in Asia where negative feedback is welcomed because it is seen as essential for improvement.

What an interesting day. It started out with Per talking about agile practices and expounding on lean methods and it ends up back at lean with a real-world Kaizen example. For those Fortune Cookie afficionados out there this blog would not be complete without me adding that shortly after listening to this story I ended up sound asleep "in bed".

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