Agile Insider reality bytes…


Dusting off Rework

My current contract ends in a few more days so I'm taking the opportunity to dust off my worn copy of Rework by 37 signals.  I have to make a long overdue thanks to Craig Davidson, an outstanding agile developer I encountered in a previous engagement.

It's not a traditional agile book by any means, but the facts that are presented within the book resonate strongly with my agile values and I find it has helped me immensely to keep grounding myself between contracts.  I am now constantly surprised just how many paper-cuts I have personally accepted at each engagement and am equally surprised at my own personal level of intolerance now.  I'm actually thinking of requesting a discount from the authors since I now use this book as a gift I give almost routinely...

I challenge anyone not to find the book invaluable at challenging their own current view of the world.

So, once more, and I must apologise profusely for the tardiness, thank you so much Craig...


Ten Commandments of Agile

I've posted a few entries now about my unease with the fuzziness surrounding Agile and how I feel it needs some clarity so I thought I'd have a quick stab at it.

The following commandments would be my first stab at such a list which would apply to any person who is part of or interacts with an Agile team.

  1. Thou shalt not negotiate quality
  2. Thou shalt not prophesize without proof
  3. Thou shalt not falsify the facts
  4. Thou shalt not force thy wishes on others
  5. Thou shalt not discourage those around you
  6. Thou shalt not disparage the actions of others
  7. Thou shalt not work without committment
  8. Thou shalt not focus on more than a singular item
  9. Thou shalt not demonstrate incomplete work
  10. Thou shalt not act in isolation

Of course, this is just a bit of fun on my part, but I fail to see why there can't be a set of golden rules of Agile? This is also a very quick list, so who knows, I may revisit this at some time to refine it...

Also, please note, I'm not being remotely fuzzy about this...  I'm not saying

"I value not negotiating quality over allowing any old crap in the code..."


Slack Is Important

I'm a very strong advocate for slack. I believe introducing slack as a policy improves the overall quality produced during productive hours compared with the traditional approach of applying constant pressure. Just like pair programming, it is actually very difficult to get managers to understand the real benefits of having 'slack'.

For me, slack is just another way to improve the transparency of an agile project and is also the ideal vehicle for introducing diversity, continuous learning and continuous improvement. Given slack, developers will naturally use this to either improve their own networks, improve their understanding on a topic they found difficult or explore new technologies. Any of these will ultimately add significant value to your project.


Simple isn’t Easy

After 2 days coaching on test first development within a legacy code-base (lots and lots of refactoring) it really hit home just how difficult it can be to do something simple. The English language doesn't help, because simple implies it should be easy, but in reality simplicity is extremely challenging.  I suspect this holds true in many fields (physics springs to mind, how long did it take for e=mc²).

I'm left wondering whether it is something inherent in human nature that leads us to strive complexity or whether it is actually the way we are educated.  Certainly, with regards to software engineering the majority of the agile techniques and practises appear to contradict what is being taught in universities.  The comment I hear most often when coaching Test First Development is that the difficulty is in thinking backwards, suggesting that the practise itself isn't difficult per se, but it's the way we think that needs rewired.

Of course, not knowing what the problem is makes it difficult to formulate a solution - now there''s a real challenge for agile 😉