It Starts Here

A recent comment on (the now legacy) “4 signs that agile is declining”:

“Let me be clear: Every single failing or failed project I have seen in the last 35 years, regardless of development process, has had self-inflicted mortal wounds from execrable language skills and the resulting breakdown of communication. People nod their heads up and down when they don’t understand the question, and hope like hell they can figure it out before the client figures out just how pathologically, systematically clueless they are. Meanwhile, people who actually do know how to write code without putting every single module as a question on StackOverflow are "priced out of the market", because they’ve actually invested the time and money to stay current, and (rightly) expect a return on that investment.” (Jeff Dickey).

Most of  the time when I talk about the problems with how agile is perceived, I get back to me, to us. Since we’re the agile champions, it is our responsibility to make it work, in spite of everything else. When Jeff talks about the “priced out of the market” developers, he’s talking about us. We’re doing the learning not just for the money, but because of our professionalism.

The thing is, we don’t control everything. We don’t control stupid managers. We don’t control other developers who decided not to invest in their career, and wreck projects for a living. We don’t control the market, where outsourcing seems the cost effective way, over hiring professionals. We don’t control technology that seems to enable better product development, but tears down the effective communication pathways, along with trust.

We don’t control much really.

“Why Aren’t We Rich Yet?”

At Agile Testing Days, in his keynote, J.B. Rainsberger showed this quote from Kent Beck. It’s from 2003. If we know so much about the solution to the ailments of the software business, where’s our money?

That’s a very good question, and I have a couple of answers I’ll leave for another post. In this context, the answer is this: We’re a very small minority of professional, living in a huge system which is out of our control. It won’t take our advice (sometimes with good reason) and it continues to hurt itself continuously, without even knowing. It’s like watching business suicide in slow motion.

We do our best. We cause change, usually on a small scale. On larger scale, we don’t really know what the results are (and everyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something).

I believe that systems can change, with the right agents and conditions. But organizations need to be mature enough to understand how successful product actually work. Understand that value comes long term, and that it should be preferred over short-term cost saving. Understand that our reality is so complex, we need to embrace change, experiment and learn all the time.

This will take decades, if not more.

It doesn’t mean we should stop doing what we do.

But it does mean we need to start looking at agile in the context of holistic business. We need to continue educating. We need to  take over management positions and influence organizations from the inside. It’s our job to instill agile values in organizations.

Change starts here. It’s not just about software anymore.

2 comments on “It Starts Here”

  1. Anonymous Reply

    To the “Agile Community” agile is a big deal with a lot of technical and organization underpinnings.

    To the average developer forced to work in an “Agile shop”, its just a way to work developers harder and have them be more responsible for the clients’ lack of work/planning/communication.

    Let me tell you something, a few months a having a meeting every day first thing in the morning where you’re supposed to tell everyone what you did yesterday and what you are going to do today…. we are all sitting back waiting for Agile to die its certain death as the latest management fad.

  2. Gil Zilberfeld Reply

    Thanks for commenting!
    I’m usually the one spreading doom and gloom, but you outdid me.
    I’d try to convince you that agile is “the” way, and what you’re experiencing is agile done wrong, and you getting the short end of the stick.

    The thing is that if agile dies, there’ll be a new thing to replace it. Unless you take matters into your hands, learn and educate, you’ll be in the same place in ten years, only suffering from something similar with a different name.

    I know it’s not a happy message, but it is our reality.

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