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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Decline and Fall of Agile

Jim Shore recently wrote a thoughtful piece "The Decline And Fall of Agile." There is a good point-counterpoint discussion on

This isn't a big shock to me; I wrote "Has Agile Jumped the Shark" Part One and Two in December of 2006; it even got a little write up on back then.

But I thought I might add my $0.02 to today's article, and share them here:
It might be better to paraphrase deming than to quote him:

"A good person, working in a system that incents him to bad behavior, will become a bad person eventually."

Example: Measure me by lines of code and bugs fixed and see what happens.

My experience with crappy agile is with companies that live in areas that lack a world-class CS school, that hire off the street, don't pay well, and provide a cubical-like existence with heavyweight policies and procedures. In this envrionment, it is very hard to attract and retain high-quality talent. What's worse, in some bureaucratic organizations, the incentives are more to be political than to excel at programming. It's no great surprise that these organizations struggled before, so they 'Adopt Agile', or "Go Agile", or whatever, but only take the easy pieces, and often insist on still having everything planned and scheduled up front. After a few projects, the business has seen a marginal productivity improvement and the programmers say things like "My job sucks less."

As always, the work you get out of it is a function of what you put in. For the work the people are willing to put into it, that's actually a decent return.

In other words, crappy Agile is a management problem. And while issuing nice Herman Miller chairs, a decent laptop, and paying just ever-so-slightly above market rates might not solve the problem - it sure will go a long way to help.

I've worked with organizations where management made a real effort to provide collaboration, choice, and some sense of appreciation for it's staff - and to work hard to make sure the organization was consistent - that it rewarded the right thing. I've worked with a few that didn't. It makes a world of difference.

1 comment:

Jurgen Appelo said...

I wrote my own reply to all agilists who are preaching that certain agile practices are required to be called 'agile':

The Decline and Fall of Agilists