If you don’t know who Van Halen is (yeah I am sure there are some millennials going who the hell are they.. They may be the rock band that single handedly killed disco. And if you don’t know what disco is.. just stop reading right now. Van Halen’s debut album was release on Feb 10th 1978, and instantly in the middle of Saturday Night Fever the music world would never be the same. Rock was back, and what brought it back was a guitar Virtuoso named Eddie Van Halen. The songs were hard enough to bring out the rock enthusiasts, pop enough to be on the radio (no 21 minute Yes songs) and blew everyone away with their musicianship that was missing for a few year.

As the years went by Van Halen climbed the music ladder to be one of the best selling bands and performers. And on January 9th, 1984 with the release of the album titled “1984” the help of a MTV (when they played music) they were on top of the world. The band was known for crazy antics, lots of drugs and MTV was more the willing to let the world know what they were up to. Kurt Loder reported that backstage the band didn’t want any brown M&Ms in their bowl. People were laughing at the absurdity of it and how privileged they were. As a teen it was “in” to make fun of it, and also envious that they were so big that such a request could be made, and followed.

As you get older you actually understand why they did this, and the lesson learned by the genius behind the request. They wrote a long involved contract with over 150 different requests, some like food, some for safety, some for comfort etc. and buried in the list was one line about M&Ms with the Warning (in caps) No Brown M&Ms. Well for the band to know if the promoter/venue read and the contract they could just check the M&M bowl and they know all the other requests were followed. No need to check all of the items. If there were brown M&Ms, then they wonder what else did they not do. Amazingly simple way to check of someone read the contract and did what they asked.

What should we learn from this and how to apply it in life. In my early days of IT there were documents that were called Business Requirements Documents (BRDs) and they were often incredibly long. Large teams would have to read them and review to make sure they were accurate as often they took months/years to write and cost companies a lot to do. Well how do you know if someone read them, you sneak in a clause like “This document is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of the document or any of its pictures, descriptions, or accounts of this project without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.” Thus it was easy to figure out who read and didn’t read the document.

But now in the age of Agile how do you do it? (or in other things that are not long documents)

  • Hide a crazy User Story in the backlog – if the business really reviewed them and prioritized them they would get a good laugh.
  • Put acceptance criteria that does not make sense so your developer has read it
  • Make sure everyone in the room gets to speak. (Google about SNL and successful teams)
  • Send out the agenda with an easter egg in it (something to get a good laugh)
  • Get the idea? Be Creative….

Once people know things things are in there, they are listened to etc. it become a search for them to see who finds it first. Don’t make it so often that it becomes the only thing people look and care about, but enough to make sure people are doing their job. It is much better than having to sit behind people and watch them read documents one at a time.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.