Monday, January 26, 2009

Permission is not needed!

Over the last few years momentum has increased around the agile movement. It goes by many names (Scrum, XP, Lean...) but they are basically pointing at the same core inspiration: allow the team to be part of the decision making, quality, and accountability chain.

Typically people on the bottom have felt abused by the old system and latch onto this new system. Some test it successfully, and others yearn for more time to learn. Either way, the secret eventually escapes about their activities.

And then the dirty question rises: How do we convince the business to let us keep doing this great thing that increases our morale, quality, and predictability but is not easily quantified in the old world of thinking.

This is where I get confused. Since when did developers lower themselves to a blue collar status. Your job isn't to punch widgets, or flip burgers and assume that every break is clocked and pre-approved. We are a college educated group of people that bring a disciplined skill to our environment. Nobody asks the artist to make the artwork in half the time... only the artist can dictate how long it will take to do their work. Why are developers different?

Alan Cooper's keynote at Agile 2008 spent a lot of time talking about how the software process is more like a trade or craft than an engineering process that can be tuned like a factory. This was his foundation to explaining why usability needs to be incorporated. Here's an expert telling us..."Own your work!"

Then one day later, Uncle Bob presented a keynote that clearly stated the same point again... "Own your work!" His initial summary was craftsmanship over crap and led to a standing ovation of 2000 people which are all leaders in the agile movement.

Today, Tim Ottinger talks about fear of refactoring, TDD, and doing it right and tries to answer the question yet again. He also reposted from the XP mailing list a quote from Jame Grenning :
There are two values to software
1) Business value delivered
2) Ease at which the next important feature can be delivered
There is a theme here folks... quit asking for permission and own your work.

I've always struggled with the existence of the permission question for two reasons:
  1. I started my career as a developer with a computer science degree and feel I can relate to the issues developers are going through today (though it has been 8 years since I wrote any real code)
  2. I spent more than 5 years as a usability engineer. This role forced me to constantly justify the time and science behind this craft to insure I was allowed to do my job correctly. I was fighting against the mentality of developers that user interfaces had to be built with intention and to the business that this process was cheaper than not doing it.
So, I've always had to defend my craft. I've always had to sell my worth. And because of it, I've been successful at reaching my career goals.

Once again, I find myself pointing to the keyboard and saying get back to work and do your job the way you know you need to. Stop letting them make you compromise so much. Prove to them why you are so valuable and stop marching according to their defined instruction. Be the expert at how to do your job and manage your craft!

Now, go forth and quit asking this silly question.

Note: before you take my advice, become a maverick , and get yourself fired you should probably read J.B. Rainsberger's paper from Agile 2007 about "My Greatest Misses: XP"

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