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Build the Right Thing

About the Book

Philosophy is applied language. It's critical to understand that concept if you want to build the right thing, whether an automated skyscraper or non-profit organization. We create useful domains of solutioning using conversations, process, and documentation based on our shared values using behavior as a deliminator. We make our lives better right now by learning what worked and didn't work in the past. Each action we take to build the right thing is better than countless other actions we take building things right.

Our team: Socrates, Wittgenstein, and Chomsky/Sapir-Whorf. Our tools: the dialectic, Structured Analysis, and UML.Our mission: moving beyond process books and using the secrets top Agile coaches use to set up and keep User Stories and other project information simple and constantly-aligned, delivering true value in fast-paced, highly-complex environments.

Learn how things like user stories, backlog refinement, emergent design, and story mapping work. Learn new concepts such as Test-Driven Analysis, Continuous Information Flow, the Analysis Canvas, and how to use an Analysis Compiler. Written in simple language and with quirky examples, this easy-to-understand book explains how to create value and delight your customers.

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About the Author

Daniel Markham
Daniel Markham

Daniel wrote his first contract program when he was 16 for a local bookkeeper using BASIC and an Apple IIe. Since then, he's spent his career at the intersection of what people need and teams that make good things happen. He ran a local software shop, consulted nationally as a programmer, and spoke at several conferences. As his consulting career continued, he moved from senior developer to tech lead, then architect, then architect team lead, then technical project manager, then release manager.

As an active coder and manager, for the last several years Daniel has spent time with clients as an Agile/XP Technical Coach, helping them rediscover how to discover and create value at speed. His clients include several Fortune 100 companies all over North America. He appears along with Uncle Bob in the Clean Coder F# Case Study.

Reader Testimonials

Simon Ouderkirk
Simon Ouderkirk

Data Analysis, Marketing,

We engage in a lot of project based work; the two-sided problem of considering information flow and information flow design for both our stakeholders and for the underlying data structures. Going into Info-Ops I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't your standard business book - it was relevant, had actionable advice, and was written by someone who had experience doing the kind of work that I do. For someone who reads their fair share of business books, this was a breath of fresh air!

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts


At first I thought you were a funny guy, but arrogant. After reading the beginning of this book, I realize you're not actually arrogant - just really fucking capable. This may be the best book about process analysis I've ever read. OK, this may be the only book about process analysis I've ever read, but damn. This stuff is truly fantastic. Very, very well-considered and thought-provoking. I find this roughly on par, in its level of thought-provocation, as Doug Hofstadter's work. Damned fine work

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

Network Management Consultant

If you want to be more agile you need to read this book. Daniel uses example information from real world stories to build a case for how to think differently about how your work gets accomplished. The first part identifies the importance of communication, experience, and understanding where you are in the scope of a thing. Focus on the heart of what needs to be done, keeping it simple, with just enough detail to cut across the skills of the team. A few good notes can be all it takes to begin.

Ola Ellnestam
Ola Ellnestam

Software Developer, Team Coach/Lead

My job is to balance software development with regards to process, delivery and collaboration. This book gave me a concrete way of looking at, understanding and managing the information that flows through a software development effort. It helped me understand underlying problems, gave me new ideas on how to work more pragmatically with semantics in software development. It will help you create a shared mental model in your team and beyond, and become the grease between business and tech.

Jarek Porwoł
Jarek Porwoł

Software Engineer

Parts of this book are stories, that, while being interesting on their own, help explain what information is, and how to extract and handle it. Other parts are about human interactions, doing the right thing and not just waving hammers. And about possums. And weasels. Very thought provoking. I read it once and it already is paying off. I'm using ideas Daniel put in easily digested form in my daily work with my team, and clients. Partially thanks to that book? I got a promotion at work!

Russ Lewis
Russ Lewis

Senior Partner, Storm Consulting

Teams ‘create mental models’ and ‘make analytical leaps’ as if those are real and not some kind of black art. A few great writers have tried to explain it. They haven't done very well. Daniel has a remarkable gift. He’s funny and entertaining, yet without realizing what’s happening, he has you thinking in his terms. Whilst you’re enjoying the metaphor of directing a scene in an alien invasion movie, he’s got your mind sorting and organizing. His gift is explaining how to perform the black magic.

Adam Beck
Adam Beck

Agile Coach

This book really helped me understand more deeply not only how people really communicate but also to learn HOW to ensure a company is building the right products and why that's important to survival. In listening to the wisdom of product development thought-leaders like Daniel Markham, it's easy to see how we can avoid career-and-company-destroying mistakes while enjoy the success that well-placed products in the right market can provide.

Table of Contents

    • Preface
      • What to Expect in this Book
  • Foundation
    • The Problem
      • Night
    • Stating The Goal Clearly
      • Socrates
    • Making Our Plan
      • Genres
    • Harnessing The Power Of Generalization
      • Plato’s Cave
      • Abstraction Levels
      • Parent-Child relationships
      • Abstract and Realized
      • The relationship between Business and System
    • Easily Moving From General To Specific
      • Behavior and Structure
      • Supplementals
    • Temporal Indicators
      • Temporal Indicators
    • Rapid-Fire Examples
      • Application
      • Movie Special Effects
      • Corporate Training Department
      • Dog House
      • Mars Colony Project Manager
  • Details
    • Capturing Minimal Behavior Details
      • Behavior Titles
      • Behavior Titles: Test Part
      • Behavior Details
      • A Note About Diagrams
      • Pieces of Behavior Diagrams
    • Capturing Minimal Structure Details
      • Structure Titles
      • Structure Details
      • A Word About Domain Model Ambiguity
    • Capturing Minimal Supplemental Detail
      • Supplemental Titles
      • Supplemental Details
      • Even-up Your Buckets
      • Where we are
    • Lots Of Value With Just A Little Work: Combination And Synchronization
      • Cross-References: The Magic Act Begins
      • We just discovered User Stories
      • Walking the Model
      • Synchronizing the model
    • Master Models
      • Master Models
      • Master Backlog
      • Master Supplemental Model
      • Master Domain Model
      • The Magic Act Explained
  • Test-Driven Analysis
    • Beethoven
      • Beethoven and the origami complexification factor
      • EasyAM
    • Introducing EasyAM
      • Downloading and Installing EasyAM
      • How Does EasyAM Work?
    • Beginning A Project Using EasyAM
      • Loading up EasyAM
      • EasyAM Round 2: We have questions
      • The Magic Act
      • Back Home
      • EasyAM Round 3: Details, Details, Details
      • EasyAM Round 4-7: Adding in all the details
    • Finishing A Project Using EasyAM
      • Links
      • Starting work
      • TO-DOS, WORKS
      • The Analysis Canvas
    • Beginning The Process Discussion
      • Analysis Paralysis
      • Humblebrag Story #17
      • Test-Driven Analysis (TDA)
      • The Detail Is In The Files
      • EasyAM Language Guide
      • Changes
    • Understanding Failures In User Stories And Backlogs
      • Backlogs
      • Your Model of how Work Happens is all Wrong
      • But I Know My Backlog Item Isn’t Behavior
      • Test-Driven Analysis Redux
    • Backlog Refinement (Grooming)
      • How NOT to do Backlog Grooming
      • Backlog grooming/refinement
      • User Stories and Story Splitting
    • Backlog Management Walk-Through
      • Analysis Affinity Mapping
      • Possum Piloting School Day 2
    • From Backlogs To Acceptance Tests
      • Making Up Stories
      • Initial backlog
      • I don’t want to organize like that.
      • Let’s Estimate
      • EasyAM Tags
      • Getting tags out
      • Grooming on-the-run
      • About UI
      • Story Mapping
      • ATDD
      • Getting to your Tests
      • EasyAM Compilation Report
      • Possum Pilots Postscript
    • Info-Ops With Other Agile/Scrum Meetings
      • Test-Driven Analysis Wheel
      • Wheel Trivia
      • The Dots
      • Moving Between the Dots.
      • Scale Invariance
      • Question Arcs
      • Sprint Planning/”Ready for Work”
      • Stand-up
      • Done/Demo/Showcase
      • Retrospectives Part 1
      • The Missing Meeting
    • Legacy Systems And Build Pipelines
      • Understanding Legacy Systems
      • Legacy Meta Models
      • Legacy Migration
      • Build Servers and Pipelines
    • What To Do When You’re Not Directly Creating Something
      • Managing Intangibles
      • Project Chartering/Vendor Management
    • Slicing And Dicing: Scripting, Automation, Importing And Exporting
      • Simple Single-Team Automation
      • Generic Pipelines Using Scripting
    • Recap: Info-Ops in Ten Minutes
    • Appendix A: Creating the Analysis Canvas
    • Preface To Info-Ops II And Invitation To Be A Beta Reader
    • About the Author
  • Notes

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