New agile methodologies are sometimes criticized for simply
re-labelling old practices and calling them 'new'. Scrum in particular
is critcized for rebranding things like iterations and stand ups as
"sprints" and "scrums". DZone spoke with Henrik Kniberg, an Agile
Coach at Crisp
, who believes that repackaging old ideas in different
configurations is a good thing. Kniberg thinks that new methodologies
keep appearing because industries tend to create tools that solve their
biggest problems. The emergence of eXtreme Programming, which
emphasizes frequent meetings and extensive code review, indicates that
software companies have primarily encountered problems with
communication and code quality. Kniberg quotes Gerald Weinberg who
said, "When you solve your biggest problem, you instantly promote your
second biggest problem." Kniberg thinks that industries tend to create
methods to solve their biggest problems. "What I've seen, for example,
when a team starts doing Scrum and XP together, they get pretty good at
at communicating and getting high quality code out the door quite
quickly," said Kniberg. "So we've solved our biggest problem, but that
means that our second biggest problem will now rear its ugly head."
That second problem could be slow software delivery or not knowing what
software the company should be building, Kniberg says. It could also
be a lack of streamlined customer collaboration or inadequate
synchronization between maintenance and new development. This is why
new methods keep appearing. However, their core principles, such as
communication and visualization, never really change.
If history repeats itself, the software development methodologies of
the future will include ideas that are rediscovered in older work
models. Today, many of the "new" methodologies consist of repackaged
and reconfigured elements from methods that were used a long time ago.
Scrum is a good example because it contains many core practices of from
agile, but renames many of them. Kniberg talked with Jeff Sutherland,
the co-creator of Scrum, who said there wasn't any commercial
motivation behind his rebranding of old ideas into a new methodology.
"He was just trying to find something to make his company work better,"
said Kniberg. "He looked at a whole bunch of case studies to find out
why projects fail or succeed - and he picked out the best bits."
Sutherland found out that projects usually succeed when they have daily
meetings and close contact with the customer. Putting these, and other
patterns together formed the basis of Scrum. Ken Schwaber, the other
founder of Scrum, believed that Sutherland's method could be configured
to work with other companies. The two founders named their methodology
"Scrum" and rebranded agile elements using Rugby terms to emphasize
"Packaging is important," says Kniberg. "Even though the ideas aren't
new, choosing the right subset of maybe hundreds of patterns seems to
have an immense power." Kniberg says the ideas behind Scrum and XP
aren't "new", but they've become very popular because they provide open
systems that generally work well for many organizations. "[Scrum or
XP] will bring any company from a dysfunctional state to a fairly
functional state, but it won't bring them to Nirvana," said Kniberg.
At some point, companies need to star thinking and configuring on their
own, but Kniberg says that Scrum and XP can boost them to a decent
level of process maturity. "In an ideal case, everyone would be smart
enough to just do whatever is right, and we wouldn't need any named
methods, but people aren't process experts. These packagings that are
well thought out help a lot." Now, Kniberg says, agile methods like
Scrum and XP have launched companies to a higher level of maturity, and
that might be what's causing new discussions about Lean/Kanban. "I
think people have made the same journey as me, and asked themselves,
'This seems to work, I wonder why?' And then they start digging and
they find these older sciences like Theory of Constraints, Lean
thinking, and queueing theory behind their method that explain why it
works," said Kniberg. Many tools have grown out of older principles
like the ones Kniberg mentioned. GTD (Getting Things Done), David
Allen's method for personal productivity is one tool, said Kniberg.
Another is Francesco Cirillo's Pomodoro Technique
for time management. Kniberg says that systems like Scrum
and XP exist as tools for applying proven, generic principles to a
practical work environment.
Kniberg believes that the regeneration of old ideas in the form of new
methodologies is a natural, never-ending process." I think we need to
stop expecting that things have to be new in order to be good, said
Kniberg. "It's okay to rediscover old knowledge - it happens all the
time. Software development boils down to communication and
communication is old."