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Allan Kelly has held just about every job in the software world, from sys admin to development manager. Today he provides training and coaching to teams in the use of Agile and Lean techniques. He is the author of "Changing Software Development: Learning to become Agile" (2008) and "Business Patterns for Software Developers" (2012) and a frequent conference speaker. Allan is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 80 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Own Version of Agile

02.23.2012
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I increasingly feel that the way I interpret Agile, the practices and the processes, if different to the rest of the world. Perhaps this is just self doubt, perhaps because I started doing Agile-like-things before reading about XP or Scrum, perhaps this is because my version has always been more informed by Lean, perhaps this is because I have never achieved Certified Scrum anything status, perhaps because I’ve never worked for ThoughtWorks, perhaps because I hold and MBA (and thus have an over inflated opinion of myself) or perhaps I’m just wrong.

Yet clients of mine report some success (I even have a couple of case studies). Perhaps this was despite me rather than because of me. In the past I’ve described two of my own Agile systems - Blue-White-Red and Xanpan, these are my attempts to describe how I see the development working without being constrained by other systems (sometimes I think of own-brand-cola methods.)



Here is where I feel I differ from the Agile mainstream, or perhaps, just Scrum:

  • I don’t believe it is wrong to carry work from one sprint/iteration to the next
  • I don’t believe in Scrum Masters; where Scrum Masters exists I think they are a kind-of Project Manager; and I believe Scrum Master Certification is a con (but I would, wouldn’t I?) that is potentially damaging the industry and Agile
  • I don’t believe team Commitment works, its too open to gaming
  • I don’t think Agile has cracked the requirements side of the business, we’re working on it, things are getting better
  • I don’t believe Agile has cracked relational database management system; but I think much of the problem lies with the DBMS vendors
  • I don’t believe Agile Coaching is different enough from Agile Consulting to justify the name
  • I don’t really believe in offshore-outsourcing; OK, it can work but the companies that use it seem to be those who shouldn’t and those who are equipped to use it don’t need to
  • I don’t believe you can tell how long a piece of work will take (or how much it will cost) until you start doing it. And I believe it is wrong to pretend you can.
  • I don’t believe Scrum (specifically) really understands the requirements side; and I believe the Scrum Product Owner is a pale shadow of Product Manager role which is (often) needed
  • I don’t believe in One Product Owner to Rule them all; on a large development effort the Product Owner role needs to be refactored (damn, I need to blog more about that)
  • I don’t believe all companies can, or will, make the transition to Agile; but that many of these companies will stagger on for years while more Agile competitors take their market
  • I don’t believe Agile will ever work in Cobol teams, or not Agile-as-we-know it; anyway, Cobol teams which still exists are highly adapted to their environment.
  • I believe Agile is a dirty word in some circles and has been used and abused; but I don’t believe there is an alternative (at least not right now)
  • I don’t believe the Dreyfus model of learning is the right model for Agile, I think it makes work for consultants and creates Learned Dependency, I prefer the Constructivism model

 

Its not all bad, there are some things I believe:
  • I believe Agile means “Better”
  • I believe the Agile Manifesto is a historic document like the US Constitution, and like the constitution we can read all sorts of meaning into it, depending on who you are you read different things. But there is no Supreme Court to arbitrate on whats-what. So Agile is “what I say it is” - or maybe, like “art is what artists do”, “Agile is what Agile advocates say it is”
  • I believe Agile is, and always has been about flow, some people might not get it, and the some in the Kanban crowd might have come to it late but its always been there
  • I believe in breaking User Stories down - I mean, I’d love it if teams didn’t have to break them down and I aim to take them there one day, but its a long journey
  • I believe the Product Owner role is far more important than the Scrum Master
  • I believe “Project” is an accountancy term that has wrongly become attached to development work
  • I believe in the Planning Fallacy
  • I believe Developers are the centre of the process, ‘Work Flows Inward’ as the Pattern says
  • I still believe in Story Points, or rather, the things I call Abstract Points
  • And I believe Abstract Points should be assigned to task; I don’t believe in using different currencies for tasks and stories (i.e. don’t use hours for tasks and story points for stories)
  • I believe planning meetings, work break down and assigning points is as much about design as it is about work scheduling
  • I believe engineering quality is essential to achieving Agility
  • I believe in Software Craftsmanship and don’t think Agile will ever work if quality isn’t fixed
  • I believe every organisation has to define its own version of “Agile” - you can’t take Scrum (or any other method) off the shelf
  • I believe too much advice and consultancy can stifle an organisation, I believe in light-touch consulting to help companies find their own path
  • I believe that in many companies - corporate IT departments specifically - the right approach is to “do things right, then do the right thing”
  • I believe when you apply Agile thinking outside of IT it is Lean
  • I believe speaking out against Scrum is bad for the reputation and the Scrum Mafia will come after you in a dark alley

 

Gee, this starts to sound like Allan’s manifesto! Anyone want to sign? :)
- OK, the last point was a bit of a joke :)

I’ve linked to some blogs and such where I have previously discussed these items, and I might expand on some in future. Many of the issues raised here are complex and I really don’t have the time to explain them right now, so next time you see me ask me to discuss.

Source: http://allankelly.blogspot.com/2012/02/heresy-my-warped-crazy-wrong-version-of.html

Published at DZone with permission of Allan Kelly, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Timo Lihtinen replied on Wed, 2012/03/14 - 11:35am

I believe this idea of projects was imposed upon software development by other parts of bsuiness. I did an incremental development workshop recently for non-developers in a business: finance, hr, etc. The feedback that I got from finance and HR was that they didn't believe this way of working is effective. They said that we don't have any control and the only way to get it is to plan a an entire project up front. I'm sure this works for us but generally doesn't work for creating software.

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