Sunday, November 12, 2006

Agile no more

Its amazing to see how developer friendly practices are perverted into management friendly practices as soon as a pack of managers are let loose on them.Right so lets begin at the beginning Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan (http://www.agilemanifesto.org)While we could quible over whether we collaborate with customers or negotiate with them , its fairly reasonable to assume that no software engineer is going to disagree with the spirit of what was said here.All of the above principles are developer friendly. No more follow that CMM level 5 process, No more according to my project plan we should have finished 53.23% percent of project. are we there yet?But look agile has crossed the chasm and what do we haveAgile consultants who have the "you must tailor agile to meet your needs" that means you need an agile coach or a scrum master whatnot because evidently if you tried to do it yourself your project would fail because you would do agile wrong.Oh look agile projects do need management. And it must be something new otherwise how would we consultants ever earn money?Heres a new management technique. Lets call it Scrum. We cant obviously have a position called Project Manager , lets call it scrum master. Lets not call it a requirements document, lets call it a product backlog. Lets not call it an iteration , lets call it a sprint. Oh yes how about burndown charts, yep sounds like something people would pay money to be taught what it is. Oh and wait we need to know what our teammates are upto every minute. Lets ask for status updates every day. Oh and we need to have data on the minutest of things. Hmm we cant call it a timesheet but we'll make them fill up the hours for every minute task and we'll make them constantly reestimate each task.Ok so thats an exaggeration.But think about it. Say the functionality on a website was show orders for a user. What would a developer say (lets assume the overall architecture and software and platforms have been decided). Mostly something like ok it would take about a week for me to do it. If you fell behind you 'd sit up for 2 hours more if you were ahead you'd quit and go home early. In about a week you'd be done if you were reasonably competent. Developer friendly? Id think so. if there were problem you'd escalate as soon as you knew of it. If the problem was technical you'd ask your peers at lunch or tea.But thats not what's being practised.1 week as a coarse estimate wont do any more. You have to provide finer tasks so that you know if you are in red. You have to track at an hour basis for the tasks. You have to give an update every day. You have to work uniformly for 8 hours every day because supposedly that increases productivity. Bah. Anyone who's coded knows that if the problem is interesting and you've started on it , you wont stop unless you've solved the problem Or atleast its that way for some people.Not all people are alike.And so we come to the original manifesto. For the agile projectsIs it individual and interactions over processes and tools ? Probably not. look around the debates in agile . To pair program or not to (process) , to TDD or not to (process), unit test all code (process), daily standup calls(process), use wiki for collaboration (tool), use junit(tool) etc etc
Working software over comprehensive documentation ? Product/Sprint Backlogs, Burn down charts, User stories (all documentation)
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation ? Ambiguous at best. And certainly i have yet to see any agile consultants who havent negotiated contracts.
Responding to change over following a plan? No more and no less than before, perhaps evidenced by the fact that the manifesto is signed in 2001 and 5 years hence there has been no change to it. Lessons learnt in the 5 years have definitely not caused the manifesto to change. Rather any failures are met with the standard "you arent doing it right"
Perhaps the problem is in the first item in the process. Individuals. And individuals are flawed and biased.

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