Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Listen to your process feedback


Paraphrasing an overheard conversation,
"This agile process is creating all sorts of problems for us. We are finding all sorts of problems that we wouldn't normally find.
<pause>  
"Oh. Wait. They were always there, weren't they? We just never realised..."
All agile processes are designed around regular feedback. They try and touch all phases of delivery as soon as possible, forcing issues to the surface early before they become too damaging. The process is designed makes problems visible regardless of how uncomfortable this may be. They are an unforgiving mirror on the reality that we are often too close to see.

But visibility is only the beginning. Just because something is visible does not magically change it into something better - it just means that you know it is there. To change something requires a conscious effort. Your success or failure depends entirely on how you react to the information you are provided with. This reaction has very little to do with the process, and more to do with improving the way the team is working. Denial is not just a river in Egypt....

Or in other words, agile process is only as effective as the people using it. It is entirely dependent on your reactions to the feedback it provides. A failing agile process says much more about the adaptability, reactiveness and maturity of the organisation using it than the process itself. 

To put it yet another way, you will never be agile if you refuse to be agile.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Energized Work: No Bull


Those jolly fine people at Energized Work are at it again with their "No Bull" paper which provides us with Simon Baker's personal view of the state of software development 12 years(-ish) after the Agile Manifesto.

Now, I know Simon and Gus, the founders of Energized Work, well. I have worked with them extensively, and I have nothing but respect for what they have achieved - quality software development with integrity. I also agree with most of what they say and do. I also know the Energized Crew pretty well - a network of committed, high quality software experts who know exactly what they are doing. They have all embraced the whole "agile" way of working. The other thing notable about Energized Work is their well stocked beer fridge.

So it is no surprise that the paper resonates with my general views on the software industry today, and the opportunities for improvement that we are missing as an industry.

I would encourage everyone to read the paper for themselves, and draw their own conclusions. But for me, the key points are:

  • Agile works. Period. They are not talking about the artificial, watered down imitation "Agile" (capital 'A') that many companies pretend to adopt to protect their internal status quo. These cargo-cult counterfeits are doomed to mediocrity and failure. Simon is talking about the full on, full fat, doing it right Real Deal - a collocated, cross-skilled, engaged team, sitting with a business representative who knows what they want, working with a build pipeline providing fast feedback, all coupled with a flexible attitude. Or, in Simon's words, the difference between "Doing Agile" and "being agile".
  • Companies are prepared to tolerate huge amounts of failure as long as it is done traditionally, but they are fearful of even a single success that is achieved unconventionally. This is arguably the biggest barrier to software delivery today - blind adherence to failing traditional techniques and an inability to innovate.
  • We need to stop talking about "agile" as if it is a separate thing, and start talking about how we deliver software that is fit for purpose and delights customers. 

Read it. You know it makes sense!