Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scrum is the "only sane, rational way to manage dynamic processes"

So... let me start with the setup. It was asked in the Agile Alliance LinkedIn Group whether the agile community is mature enough to coherently discuss a "maturity model". I was one of the first two to respond that answered down similar lines-
Mature enough, yes. Coherent, no.

Agile is a philosophy and culture. It is an umbrella term for a set of best practices... Scrum & XP being only two. I believe that getting everyone to agree on an AMM will either destroy the continuing evolution of the movement or marginalize non-core movements that are adding to it (think of Kanban/Lean in the last year).
The discussion continued on an interesting path including CMMi and other maturity models, the pro's and con's and various gut reactions to what this would mean. All good stuff.

But in the middle of this, Melvyn Pullen and I got on a tangent that started with him proposing an agile maturity model that was focused solely on Scrum for the first few steps. I questioned this since agile has many flavors, and enforcing Scrum as the first step seems limiting.
The problem I have with a maturity model defined this way is that it implies to all newcomers that it is the ONLY way. The manifesto was signed by 17 people of 7 methodologies/practices. They didn't identify Scrum as step 1 down that journey.
He responded with,
I believe that Scrum is the only sane, rational way to manage dynamic processes.
It is my opinion that Scrum is the only management technique that comes from the agile camp that could be used to introduce other agile processes.

Agile books to read...

A post was put up in the Agile Alliance requesting books to read to learn about agile. This was a pretty wide scope, and it resulted in a pretty broad list that continues to grow:
Authors and topics-
  • Kent Beck (XP, patterns)
  • Mike Beedle (Agile, scrum)
  • Arie van Bennekum (Agile, DSDM)
  • Alistair Cockburn (use cases, crystal, etc.)
  • Mike Cohn (agile, scrum, planning poker, etc.)
  • Ward Cunningham (XP, patterns)
  • Martin Fowler (enterprise design patterns, refactoring, uml, xp, etc.)
  • James Grenning (planning poker, etc.)
  • Jim Highsmith (time-boxing, agile development)
  • Andrew Hunt (pragmatic, incremental development)
  • Ron Jeffries (XP, etc)
  • Jon Kern (agile development and PM)
  • Craig Larman (Craig's been writing about IID/Agile for a long time)
  • Brian Marick (I think agile testing - but I'm not familiar with his work)
  • Robert C. Martin (Agile Principles, Practices and Patterns, etc.)
  • Steve Mellor (not familiar)
  • Mary Poppendieck (lean)
  • Ken Schwaber (co-founder of scrum, buy all of his books)
  • Alan Shalloway (design patterns, agile, lean+scrum, etc)
  • Jeff Sutherland (co-founder of scrum)
  • Dave Thomas (agile OOA/D)

Credit for this list goes to everyone that helped build it on the forum.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is Agile a more humane way of working?

This was the question asked in the Agile Alliance LinkedIn group, and the question was focused on agile vs. other methods. It questioned whether the manifesto itself was written with the human element in mind, or whether it was focused on efficiency and outcome only (the human element being a byproduct). Additional points mentioned the 40 hr work week (as opposed to more) and sustainability.

The first three responses dissappointed me since they were non-answers.
  1. I wasn't there, we can only guess (as if we've never heard the authors speak since then!)
  2. I'm not sure, but it is at least more natural
  3. Self direction creates a perception control and therefore happiness
Not being one to sit idly when there is an obvious answer, I had to state the following:

The 8th principle of the Manifesto - "Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely."

BTW, many mature XP teams will peak around 35 hours, not 40. Pairing and TDD is very intense. You get the most around 35 hours, and productivity can start decreasing between 35-40. But this productivity is higher than the prior 45-50 hr weeks. I've both seen this and heard about it from others.
Cesario Ramos chimed in also:
The lean and agile thoughts explicitly make human values to be the center. It promotes an environment where every individual can use its potential for developing itself and its company. An environment where people can be part of a team and can contribute to a higher objective.

So in my opinion, YES, it is a more humane way of working. Even if the intentions of the agile approach are just to make more money.
There is that caveat that every idea can be destroyed and that there are plenty of companies that use Agile to get more hours out of their people. But, when I see this, I tell those that are suffering that their pain is inflicted by people, not by trying agile (and they aren't doing agile)!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Overview of Agile Presentation (to a local PMI Chapter)

I was invited to give a talk about Agile to the Delaware Valley PMI Chapter on January 7th. The audience was going to be filled with local PMP's, some of which would be skeptics, and some of which would have been burned by bad agile implementations. I was worried about how to normalize their knowledge, and I had to do it in less than 45 minutes so there was room for Q&A.

Once I realized that I couldn't cram Scrum, XP, Lean training in along with a proven case study... I decided to go for the overview and provide them what they needed to find out more. I wanted the group to understand the Scrum is Agile, but Agile is more than Scrum.

As far as I can tell, the session was a success. I got positive feedback at the end, and I felt I made the most of our time.

If you want to get a copy of the slide deck, you can download it here. Since I'm not that popular of a guy yet, hopefully this won't overwhelm the daily bandwidth limits of my personal website traffic restrictions. If you get nothing, email me or put a comment on this post and try again tomorrow (and I'll have to move it to another host).

Having been through this experience, if there is anyone in the Philadelphia region that is interested in having me come talk about Agile or some specific piece of it... feel free to contact me. You can find many ways to reach me on my personal site.