The Language Divide

divide-by-zeroIn my last post, I warned against the dangers of the craftsmanship movement to itself. The main premise behind this warning  is that business and developers don’t speak the same language. And since business has the upper hand, role power, money – business always wins.

Martin Fowler’s post, Craftsmanship and the Crevasse, looks at the origins of this struggle, and how the craftsmanship movement evolved from there. Martin talks about the divide between developers and customers. Agile was intended to help bridge the divide. However, something happened on the way to paradise.

Developer practices lost to the management processes. Uncle Bob Martin goes even further to say: agile was left on one side of crevasse, while the project managers were on the other side.  Why did scrum win? It’s easier to understand and sell to managers. Agile values are described in their language.

Once scrum won, the next step was, of course, certification. Just as scrum makes sense to managers, in terms of practices, certification makes sense as well – that’s how we rated and hired people for years. It worked so well in the past, and it’s doing pretty well now.

The lean and kanban methodologies are rising in the ranks. Certifications already appear in the wild. They don’t look like the SCT program. Yet. But like I said last time – give it  a couple of years. The evolution already started.

While certification doesn’t make sense to developers it doesn’t mean there’s no certification waiting for them in the future. Have you taken a look at  Ken Schwaber’s endeavor – Professional Scrum Developer Certification? With Microsoft’s backing it just might work!


When budgets are ready, you can bet developers will invest in it, and managers will send their developers to these quick courses. Because until managers learn a different language,  or developers will take on business roles (which means that they will speak another language) that’s how business people continue to talk, hire, manage and make decisions.

Let’s summarize.

We started from the split between developers and customers. Developers then split between into XP and scrum. Now there’s the craftsmen and the anti-craftsmen. On the other side, there are the tribes of certification and anti-certificationists. We really have come along way in ten years.

This post is not about the failure of agile. Agile is a good idea. But we’re apparently doing it wrong. Instead of building the bridge, we’re grouping and regrouping with different flags, missing the point.

Uncle Bob says that each side should congratulate the other side on doing a good job building the bridge. I say: Let’s start by understanding the language and motivation of the other side.

It’s much easier to build the bridge when everyone talking the same language.

Gil Zilberfeld

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