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My opinion after one year of scrum experience  RSS feed

 
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Junilu Lacar wrote:How the heck did I let myself get dragged into this conversation on a Friday?


Hey man, you've got a simple solution: Turn your computer OFF.

I, however, have nothing better to do on a Friday night at my age...

Winston
 
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Honestly, Winston, I made the same mistake in 2006. I was hired to start an Agile practice on our team. My manager (the one who hired me and who moved on to another group recently) was really keen on the ideas that I had planted in her brain two years prior when she hired me for a brief stint with the team as a contractor. We had a very different set of people back then. My enthusiasm—ok, people called it "religious fervor" and me a Zealot with a capital Z, sometimes allcaps even—did cause a lot of friction and frustration. After a while though, when we started developing a good track record despite slips and stumbles, people started coming around. People who just weren't fitting in were offered a chance to go on rotation with other teams. Some did and moved on from there. Some left on their own accord. We never fired anyone. Some people did get laid off but that was part of a company-wide "restructuring". When business was up, I got to hire the people who I felt would fit. We kept going and that's how we are where we are today, being the "Gem of Ohio".

Like you said, it takes years to get there. I don't even consider ourselves "there" yet. I don't think that will ever happen. There's just so much to learn. Having a black belt just means that you're ready to really start learning, not that you're an expert.

On that note I'll say, have a great weekend!
 
Junilu Lacar
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:

Junilu Lacar wrote:There's a common thing that the best senseis I've met in Aikido dojos do when they instruct and guide students. They always say "Good, good! But here's how you can do this better." It's not that they're trying to be condescending either. They're right. Whatever seems to work for the student is really fine. But if the student wants to learn at improve their Aikido, they also need to open their mind and observe what sensei shows them.


And I doubt that your sensei would dispute this: You learn what is good by learning what is bad. I actually rather like the Chinese idea of "yin" and "yang" all being part of a universal truth combined in a single symbol (of course this could just be my Western misinterpretation of it).

In a martial art, you need to be taught what is good, because the penalties for learning what is bad are severe; but in programming there is no such restriction. You can fail as many times as you like, and computers don't judge - and it's the business of failing (assuming we learn from it, and are happy to continue) that makes us better.


Absolutely agree, 100% with you here.


However, that does NOT apply to systems or methodologies; only to people.


Gah, but you keep saying these things though!

What I like about the agile mindset is that it is precisely about accepting our fallibility as people and having a better way to deal with it. Instead of spending months of up front analysis and design and striving to "get it right the first time," Agile approaches like ATDD, BDD, and TDD encourage you to make as many mistakes as you can now so that you can learn how your software works as you build it incrementally and iteratively. The agile mindset helps you accept the fact that you can't get it right the first time but it also gives you a way to do what needs to be done to get it right in the end. Scrum and Agile in general reveal to you what's wrong with your process and provides a framework and feedback cycle to make continuous improvements. When used properly, those mechanisms are very effective.

It just baffles me when people interpret things like that as "Oh, so that's the only way to do it now, the Agile way" (dripping heavily with cynicism and sarcasm). No, of course it's not the only way, but it certainly looks like it's a better way. Whether it's Agile, Lean, Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, I don't really care, as long as it's a better way than how we know it's not, I'm all for doing it.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Junilu Lacar wrote:
In a martial art, you need to be taught what is good, because the penalties for learning what is bad are severe; but in programming there is no such restriction. You can fail as many times as you like, and computers don't judge - and it's the business of failing (assuming we learn from it, and are happy to continue) that makes us better.


Ok, maybe I don't agree 100% with that last part. We all know the penalties when people only learn and apply what is bad in programming. And computers may not judge but the software we write is judged, by our customers and users, and our professionalism and success is often judged from how happy they are and how valuable our software is to them. If we fail to satisfy our customers and bring value to them via their use of our software, that can have serious and sometimes catastrophic consequences.

So yes, we are in the business of failing and learning from our mistakes but we're also in the business of writing and delivering useful software. One feeds into the other and if we fall short on the former, we fall even shorter on the latter.
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:Because I didn't ask to "be part of an Agile team". Somebody - and probably someone with very little experience of programming (if any) - imposed that on me.

Did we all start out our lives as "Scrum team participants"? Did programming stop, or was it much worse, simply because nobody knew about Scrum or Agile? Are companies that DON'T use Agile prominent by their demise on any of the major Stock Exchanges?

NO.

It's one way to attack a problem, and it may well have many good points in its favour; but you're not going to convince a hoary old sceptic like me that it's a "philosophy", nor that I need to buy in to any "social" BS that surrounds it, in order to be a better programmer than I was already.

Winston


That describes too much of my own experience with Badgile. I'm happy to accept Junilu's positive view of Agile based on his experience of it. But many of us have not been blessed with the same experience. Instead, what we experience is an Agile cargo-cult imposed on us by managers who understand nothing about software development but who buy into the cultists' marketing that "Agile is the answer, now what's your problem?". This has been happening in my own organisation for several years now. The Agile cult leaders are often people who were Dilbert-principled out of development years ago, but who now have the time and authority to re-badge themselves as SCRUM Masters or Agile Coaches and run around telling the rest of us how to do our jobs. When things go wrong, it's always the developer's fault for not being true to the Agile Shari'a as preached by these people. Likewise, anybody who questions any of this Agile stuff is accused of failing to "be Agile" with sufficient enthusiasm. Yet every Badgile project I've worked on has been run into the ground, not by poor development practices, but by Badgile bureaucracy (stand-ups with 40 people in them that waste several man-days for every meeting) and the common Badgile failing of trying to skip the hard thinking that is vital to any software development process.

There is a profoundly unhealthy cult around Agile, which actually detracts from whatever benefits a genuine understanding of Agile approaches might deliver. There is certainly good stuff in there, but most of the Agile preachers I've encountered can't tell the good from the bad, or indeed their a*ses from their elbows. And because of the cultish way many of the preachers promote Agile in the workplace, it really is the case that sceptics are treated like heretics and criticised or sidelined for questioning the poor advice and practices imposed by the Agile theocracy.

Right now the UK government is heavily promoting the use of Agile methods for government IT projects, which may well be an excellent idea. But the poster-child project they chose for this is one that turned into a colossal failure:

http://central-government.governmentcomputing.com/news/nao-review-critical-of-defra-and-gds-over-cap-programme-4740462

Now, there were many reasons for this failure, not just their approach to Agile, but that's my point: you can run a project well or badly with/without Agile, so it's time to stop pretending otherwise. Blaming the poor bloody infantry for insufficient Agile enthusiasm is simply not good enough. If you come to me and say "Hey - let me show you a great new way to work and I'll lead by example!", I'm open to trying it out to see if it works. But come to me with your Agile scriptures and your freshly printed SCRUM Master certificate saying "Thou shalt comply with these Badgile Commandments, regardless of whether they work or not, or be cast into the outer darkness!", and you can **** off, because my job is delivering working software, not jumping through arbitrary hoops while the project falls apart around me.

And no, I know that's not what you're saying, Junilu. But too many of the Agile crowd in my workplace are indeed saying exactly that, and it's not helping us to succeed in any way. As long as that's how Agile is being promoted, you can't really blame people for being sceptical of its benefits, because they don't see any. So maybe it's time for the Agile movement to clean its own house and get rid of the cultists, before preaching to the rest of us: we need an Agile Reformation.
 
Junilu Lacar
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chris webster wrote:So maybe it's time for the Agile movement to clean its own house and get rid of the cultists, before preaching to the rest of us: we need an Agile Reformation.


You're going to make me cry, Chris. Seriously. I feel for you guys because I've been there.

Our former manager cried multiple times on the phone as she explained to us why she was moving on and leaving her awesome team. It was a sad moment for all of us but I think we've learned enough these past 10 years of doing this that we've actually succeeded in making her so effective as a leader that she's no longer irreplaceable. I think we have more or less achieved the kind of empowerment we had been preaching about all along. She's doing well in her new role and we're happy for her even as we pick up from where we parted ways and continued to forge intrepidly ahead.

I like that, an "Agile Reformation". I used to think that it could be done by going back to Agile's roots in XP and developers who were applying lessons learned from years of failure and frustration. But no, we developers can't do it by ourselves. We need the help of people from the "dark side", from enlightened managers like the ones I've been very fortunate indeed to have worked with. The ones who themselves have adopted an agile mindset and committed themselves to being servant leaders in the true spirit of the term.

 
chris webster
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Junilu Lacar wrote:

chris webster wrote:So maybe it's time for the Agile movement to clean its own house and get rid of the cultists, before preaching to the rest of us: we need an Agile Reformation.


You're going to make me cry, Chris. Seriously. I feel for you guys because I've been there.


Aww... don't cry, Junilu: have a beer instead - it's Friday, after all!
 
Junilu Lacar
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chris webster wrote:
Right now the UK government is heavily promoting the use of Agile methods for government IT projects, which may well be an excellent idea. But the poster-child project they chose for this is one that turned into a colossal failure:

http://central-government.governmentcomputing.com/news/nao-review-critical-of-defra-and-gds-over-cap-programme-4740462


Yeah, stories like this both annoy and sadden me to the Nth degree. It reminds me of our own group's Scaled Agile Framework for the Enterprise implementation that's going nowhere fast. Well, I know where it's going fast, but it ain't anywhere good: to Hell in a handbasket.

And that just exemplifies the converse of Winston's point: That ANY reasonable methodology will FAIL if you don't have the right people and experience with that methodology. And in most cases, they fail spectacularly. "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" couldn't be more apt for the kind of failures you'll see.

 
Winston Gutkowski
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chris webster wrote:Instead, what we experience is an Agile cargo-cult imposed on us by managers who understand nothing about software development but who buy into the cultists' marketing that "Agile is the answer, now what's your problem?".


Thank you chris (I was starting to feel a bit lonely here ), and I wish I could bookmark the rest of that paragraph for the disciples who believe that there's a shining path to good programming and/or good systems design.

Because my thirty years in the biz tells me that it simply ain't so.

And anyone - or more specifically, any company - that tells you otherwise is either lying or selling - and possibly both.

Winston
 
chris webster
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Cargo Cult Software Engineering is worth reading in this context.

I'm totally persuaded by Junilu that I would find his team's version of Agile very productive (and probably challenging) as well as enjoyable. But it took him 10 years to get there, and it sounds like he has a very supportive working environment with a carefully selected team and the freedom to adapt their process to meet their needs. I suspect he and his team would be successful even without their version of Agile.

Sadly, most of us don't seem to be experiencing Junilu's Agile, but we get the cultists' shabby knock-off version instead, like a flea-market Rolex clone that is still being sold to us at top dollar genuine Rolex prices. And we don't have the freedom, the time or the resources to sift through all the BS to find the nuggets of gold that may be hidden within.

I really think it's time for the Agile movement to deal with all that Badgile crap that gets sold under the "Agile" banner, because the rest of us are drowning in it.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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chris webster wrote:Cargo Cult Software Engineering is worth reading in this context.


Bookmarked, with thanks.

I'm totally persuaded by Junilu that I would find his team's version of Agile very productive...


Me too, and I have no doubt that it has a lot to offer - just like (or possibly better than) the other dozen management or programming "methodologies" I've been taught - or had sold to me - in my career.
And furthermore, Junilu has plainly made it WORK, because he is a good professional in all the ways that I respect.

Maybe I'm just too old and ornery...

Winston
 
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chris webster wrote:Right now the UK government is heavily promoting the use of Agile methods for government IT projects, which may well be an excellent idea. But the poster-child project they chose for this is one that turned into a colossal failure:



I think that any time you try to rewrite an old system, you have an excellent chance of failure. The old system will be full of requirements which nobody remembers why they exist, and then the people who are responsible for describing what the system is supposed to do will be in over their heads. And then you've got the new requirements, i.e. the maintenance backlog of the old system. You hear about this with large government systems because government works in public, but I'm sure that private enterprise has its graveyard of skeletons in the closet.

I'm sure that bad process helps to produce failure, but I'm not sure that good process is sufficient to prevent it. It's just a hard problem.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Paul Clapham wrote:You hear about this with large government systems because government works in public, but I'm sure that private enterprise has its graveyard of skeletons in the closet.

I'm sure that bad process helps to produce failure, but I'm not sure that good process is sufficient to prevent it. It's just a hard problem.


Yeah, nobody ever said that creating enterprise-scale software systems was easy. At least not anybody who was sane, not joking, or not selling something.

Did I already mention the $36M 5-year project failure that I was on when I first landed back here in the US in late 1997?

I was on that project until early 2000, right around the time that I was reading Kent Beck's and Martin Fowler's books and had my "epiphany" of what kind of developer I wanted to be when I grew up. A few months after I joined the project, they broke ground on what was to be a 24-story-or-so, 2nd leaf of a planned 4-leaf clover headquarters building of the major financial corporation that was footing the bill for the project.

By the time I left the "big rewrite" project two years later, it was going into its final death throes, with schedule pressure ramping up, managers getting reshuffled and "reassigned" left and right, developers sensing trouble and jumping ship, and faint, ominous writing appearing on the walls behind all the Dilbert clippings.

Meanwhile, construction on the brand new $32M 2nd leaf of the headquarters building was just finishing up and they were getting ready to do a big ribbon cutting ceremony, which they did right around the time the rewrite project got shuttered and the consulting company that I had worked for got their pants sued off. It was not pretty. I'm just glad I wasn't around to see the carnage.

That wasn't an Agile project, obviously since this was circa 2000 and the Agile Manifesto wouldn't be signed until a year later. However, I doubt Agile would have done any good for that project either.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
And furthermore, Junilu has plainly made it WORK, because he is a good professional in all the ways that I respect.

Maybe I'm just too old and ornery...


Well, thanks for those very kind words. That's a great way to wind this discussion down on a nice Friday evening.

And Winston, I don't think we'd have you any other way!

One last time: Have a great weekend, my friends!
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Paul Clapham wrote:I'm sure that bad process helps to produce failure, but I'm not sure that good process is sufficient to prevent it...


Agreed. I just wonder if we shouldn't start an "Emperor's New Clothes" thread to discover all the companies selling products or "methodologies" or systems or courses that claim they can tell us the "good process",

IT only, of course.

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:Agreed. I just wonder if we shouldn't start an "Emperor's New Clothes" thread to discover all the companies selling products or "methodologies" or systems or courses that claim they can tell us the "good process"


I'm guessing that's in reference to C.A.R. Hoare's 1980 Turing Award lecture? Good choice.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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Junilu Lacar wrote:I'm guessing that's in reference to C.A.R. Hoare's 1980 Turing Award lecture? Good choice.


Not really. It's just a very fine tale by Hans Christian Anderson that many people seem to have forgotten...

And have a great weekend yourself!

Winston
 
Junilu Lacar
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I mis-remembered. C.A.R. Hoare's Turing Award lecture was "The Emperor's Old Clothes" which has a twist on the classic Andersen tale that revolves around the kind of consultants you were talking about earlier. It's a good read and I often cite quotes from it.
 
chris webster
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Paul Clapham wrote:I think that any time you try to rewrite an old system, you have an excellent chance of failure. The old system will be full of requirements which nobody remembers why they exist, and then the people who are responsible for describing what the system is supposed to do will be in over their heads. And then you've got the new requirements, i.e. the maintenance backlog of the old system. You hear about this with large government systems because government works in public, but I'm sure that private enterprise has its graveyard of skeletons in the closet.

I'm sure that bad process helps to produce failure, but I'm not sure that good process is sufficient to prevent it. It's just a hard problem.


A lot of truth in that. And a good process also won't help if your Agile project leaders are a bunch of halfwits.

In this case the old system was also a famous government IT disaster back in 2006. It was supposed to process farmers' applications for EU subsidy payments, but when they implemented the system it cost more to process each farmer's application than was being paid on average to each farmer. I think they shut it down and went back to paper in the end, as they did this time around too. So you'd think they might have been wary of creating another mess, given the problems last time. Yet for all the high profile Agile flag-waving around this project (which is still being promoted as an Agile exemplar on UK government training courses), it looks like nothing in their version of Agile methodology was sufficient to stop them ignoring all the lessons of the past. Maybe we should get Jeanne to explain the concept of "retrospectives" to them? In crayon perhaps.

As I've ranted above, I just can't see any benefit from all this Badgile propaganda in situations like this. Waterfall might actually have been better here, as at least they'd never have got to the point of delivering a system that would screw up real people's farming livelihoods.
 
Winston Gutkowski
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chris webster wrote:As I've ranted above, I just can't see any benefit from all this Badgile propaganda in situations like this.


Sounds like your experience of "methodologies" is similar to mine.

And one major problem IMO is the way they're taught: I don't know what your (collective) experiences of training courses for things like this are, but mine is that, with a very few prominent exceptions - one being a series of lectures given by Professor Codd that I was lucky enough to be invited to when I was a contractor - they are part sales pitch, part evangelical meeting, and only partly training. They also, in my experience:
  • Spend far too much time telling you what you need to do, without explaining why.
  • Almost never allow enough time for questions or debate - and many actively discourage it.
  • Require you to learn a whole new pile of acronyms and psycho-babble.
  • Are not given by teachers.

  • Other than the Codd lectures, I've only been on ONE course - a Progress one for advanced techniques - where the speaker was actually a qualified teacher; and I learned more on that in three days than in six months on the job.

    Winston
     
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    I found this topic tremendously interesting and I'd like to take part with my opinion too.

    If I may use a programming simile here, management frameworks (Scrum, RUP, Open UP, "Waterfall") are just like Java frameworks (Struts, JSF, Hibernate, Eclipselink, Velocity, Freemarker). Firstly you have to pick one or various for the software that you are about to start projecting. Secondly you must to define how each of the frameworks will be used in your software, defining patterns, roles, boundaries and eventually bring another frameworks (or tiny parts of) to take care of certain aspects of your application. In short, you must understand very well each framework, and how you are going to use it (there are lots of ways to use jsf for instance). In order to deliberate about the frameworks you must to take into account factors like the team's experience, the application's functional and non functional requirements, the prices, the infra and etc. Last but not least, you have to be open to change, if anything isn't working as you expected, you must to be able to rethink your previous decisions.

    As far as I'm concern, Scrum must be adapted according to many factors, as well as Java frameworks. The problem is that many people apply Scrum without the analysis part, they do not know very well what to do and follow blindly some book or tutorial. As Scrum claims that you have to let your team free to produce and decide about how the things have to be done, Scrum sometimes may be used as an excuse to an incompetent manager to state a two weeks sprint, and let the team members battle among themselves to death.

    Overall, Scrum is powerful, but has to be used with wisdom and sensibility, it comes to add or to summarize practices, but never to substitute. Because proximity to customers, fragmented deliveries, iterative process, were here long before Scrum come into play.
     
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    Antonio Rafael Rodrigues wrote: As Scrum claims that you have to let your team free to produce and decide about how the things have to be done, Scrum sometimes may be used as an excuse to an incompetent manager to state a two weeks sprint, and let the team members battle among themselves to death.

    Overall, Scrum is powerful, but has to be used with wisdom and sensibility, it comes to add or to summarize practices, but never to substitute. Because proximity to customers, fragmented deliveries, iterative process, were here long before Scrum come into play.


    Well said. I've given you a cow for your positive contribution and the 100th post in this thread!

    I think a key point is to try/understand something before changing it. Rather than just doing something else and claiming Scrum says to.
     
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    Junilu Lacar, in my years of programming I have noticed one thing, when it comes down to noise, the one man's perception of it, is totally different then another man's perception. I think what you call hum for me is an irritating noise. Now I manage wit scrum, my year review was good, I pay my mortgage. But I don't like it, and I will never will, I know for sure. Scrum in my view assumes a programmer that hates to read, is not distracted by noise, and works on short assigments. I like to read, I am distracted by noise, I like to go in deep and analyze. And I like to have some time on my own, in peace for that. In scrum, that seems to be a capital crime. On your own, not in the team...: Bring on the tarring and feathering! Burn the witch! So maybe my personal properties are not that qualified for this magical golden enlighted path to programming glory. I won't be defiant towards it, and adapt to it. I have to pay that mortgage. Last thing I say about it!
     
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    Jan de Boer wrote:In the Kent book there was interview. If people do not want to pair program, fire them.
    And I cannot concentrate with too much noise.



    By the way, I found that book in the library, and will quote it. Reading this, was a decisive moment to 'strongly dislike' agile.

    Q: XP can't have been easy for you.
    A: No. At first, a third of the people are skeptical, a third buy in quickly, and a third wait and see. Eventually, 80, 90% buy in, 10-20% use XP grudgingly, and 3-5% never buy in. If programmers won't pair or if they insist on owning code, have the courage to fire them.

    Values. Sure....
     
    Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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