Monday, January 12, 2015

Sorry Erik, Agile is not a cancer or clownish

Agile professionals are not clowns or a cancer.
I spend much of my time leading software developers and in my spare time working as a software developer for my home business.  It is my vocation of over fifteen years.  I know a few things about writing software.  Then a fellow by the name of Erik Meijer gets in front of an audience and talks about an alternative to agile software development.  In the discussion, which is very confrontational and funny he argues that Agile is not effective because we talk about code instead of writing it.

I am not going to be disrespectful to someone who helped author Microsoft’s C# and LINQ technologies but I am going to take issue with the dismissive nature of how he treats agile professionals.  He says that “Agile is a cancer that we have to eliminate from the industry.”  Being called a cancer is certainly a not good way to win friends and influence others particularly if you are proposing alternative method.

I would like to refute a few of his statements.

Agile is a Pyramid scheme – 

The Scrum Alliance became a professional way to track the skills of people who lead agile teams and practice agile development.  Microsoft has a similar program known as the MSDN program and when I was a junior developer I dreamed of becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer.  I had been practicing as a developer and scrum master for three years but it was not until I spent the money and became a Certified Scrum Master did I get attention from recruiters and companies wanting me to help their organizations.  I am currently a Certified Scrum Professional proving I have plenty of experience in the field and that I have taken continuing education to improve my skills.

So my master’s degree in management and my professional certification from the Scrum Alliance are part of a pyramid scheme.  No they are signposts for HR professionals, technologists, and other agile professionals to see that I know what I am talking about.  Just like other certifications in networking and development.  Anyone can practice medicine, however I would like to know the doctor setting my broken bone has gone to school and had a long internship learning how to do it properly.  That is not a pyramid scheme; it is licensing and having it ensures consistency of performance.

Agile is abusive –

Meijer also says the self-organization is a lie.  What he says it is abusive relationship between the management of the team.  Instead of giving orders, managers exert more control through encouraging co-dependent behavior between management and developers.  This is refuted by the eighth principle of agile which says, “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” So if you are practicing agile you should have a sustainable pace and the team, management, customers, and the business should all be working together for a common goal.  That is not abuse; it is teamwork and collaboration.

Agile is not measurable – 

Meijer also mocks the notion of Agile having metrics and not using empirical evidence to prove its claims.  He holds up Facebook and its “hacker way.”  In short, “Code wins arguments.”  Funny, the seventh principle of agile says, “Working software is the primary measure of progress,” which seems very similar to code winning arguments.

I am also learning that more members of the agile community are learning how to better put together metrics to track progress.  In particular, Michael Norton gave a great presentation to the Chicago ALM conference about how Groupon is using metrics to improve its performance.  Measurement matters and it is empirical measurement.  This trend is also arising from agile practitioners to address this criticism.

Erik Meijer, gave a funny presentation and said plenty of things that I agree.  I also happen to be a fan of the ZBGURESHPXRE movement he promotes.  Agile is not a joke.  Agile professionals are not clowns and we are serious about making business and software a little better.  Treating those of us doing the work in the agile community like charlatans and clowns when we could be useful partners with developers is counter-productive and to use Meijer’s words cannibalistic.

Until next time.