Response to – Three things…..

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

I recently came across this post by Andy: Three Things I don’t like in agile community. I really understand and like his observations. Below is my commentary.

1. Dogmatism
Agile is about adaptive, creative approach to complex work yet amazingly average agilists are the most dogmatic people I know. If you read their blogs and follow their tweets you will soon see dogmas being proclaimed and anathemas being cast on heretics who don’t agree……..

I would agree with what Andy is saying here. More often than not I end up talking to someone that proclaims that such and such method(scrum, xp etc) is the solution to all the problems. I find that in most cases these individuals have not really worked in varying environments and worst still have not read enough. They have used one approach/practice/method that has worked and now they think this can be applied everywhere. What they don’t realize is that at the end of the day it is about delivering value and providing success (Organizational, technical and personal). To do this you have to change mindset and behaviour. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is about a state of mind. Coaches that are dogmatic suffer from “Ignorant Pattern Application”, which is what we see in software development, someone that has read GOF book and worked with a pattern wants to apply that pattern everywhere.

For example I have seen Scrum enthusiasts insist that a support team that is dealing with customer issues insist on committing a priority at the start of a 2-4 week sprint and then force the customers to wait or to adhere to this priority whilst the customer suffers.

For my part I have always maintained that there are no silver bullets. One has to be open and adaptive when dealing with challenges. I have always believed that there are basic practices in one’s toolset that come with experience and application of various practices and methods. What also comes with this experience is the understanding of what tools/practices work in what circumstances(where/when/what time frame). But alas there is a lack of agilistas that have this kind of built in experience.

2. Sectarianism
Kanban, Scrum, XP – everyone follows their own method, and basically says others are useless or at least not as good. It is like if we had separate sects, each following its guru or gurus – and shunning others. Again, this is in the face of core principles of agile…….

Again I have to agree with Andy. It is sad to see this happen. I work with clients and often find them saying that they are following scrum/xp etc and the coach they had before has told them this is the best solution to all there problems. Not just that sadly the coach before I arrived has brain washed them to the point that when I suggest a synergy the invariable response is “but the book(for practice x) does not say that”. More often than not I have to sigh! when I hear that. It seems we have an abundance of coaches like these that do not want to cross pollinate there knowledge. This is a function of the coach that has only worked in one kind of environment and thus feels every problem needs there one dimensional approach to finding a solution.

3. Domination by consultants

Most if not all agilists that write, teach and coach do only this and have not run a software project (or a business) hands on for quite a while. This is all natural, especially given how much money was there in it for those who were in the movement early enough. But it has some bad side effects – dogmatism and sectarianism are amongst them……

I work as a consultant and do see this often, no pun intended. For this very reason I believe that one has to be constantly involved for long periods. I am always conscious of this and thus make an effort to be involved from conception to at-least one delivery cycle if not more. Also I did not even think of becoming a consultant until I had at-least a decade of leading teams and finding what works and how teams evolve. And also I don’t believe I can remain a consultant for long if I don’t engage for long term efforts.

You can bring in consultants that have actually been involved in long term projects and will provide the value you seek. There are coaches that run workshops and they can be a good vehicle to learn concepts and understand basics. If you need more practical knowledge you can get a consultant that was involved in a large project before they come and help you. But yes the community does suffer from coaches that get involved for short periods or have not been part of a delivery effort recently. I think this is a trade-off.

Andy I understand your frustration but I can assure you that there are a select few of us that have been in large organizations or have run teams of various sizes and are talking based on experience. If you see a coach being dogmatic/sectarian/non-practical understand that you can still look around and not be bound by there one dimensional approach.


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