Agile Reflections?

>> Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome

I am starting this blog in an effort to share my thoughts (reflections or réflexions in French) on the agile phenomenon, on where it seems to be heading and where I think it should go. My hope is to contribute to the debate and to bring some refreshing and maybe provocative ideas on the whole matter. Being a rather practical and down to earth guy, I also want to share tricks of the trade and experiences that can be useful to others.

I have been an agile movement aficionado for quite some time. It dates back to when I was a Smalltalker and was attending conferences and seminars on the C3 project and its follow-ups. I have practiced agile in many situations and projects and have always tried to stay away from formal methodologies while maintaining a keen and acute preoccupation for development team productivity. As as sidebar, I have a real concern for productivity as a concept and I feel it fits very well with the agile one. As fa as I am concerned, productivity has everything to do with moving along at the highest velocity possible without compromising quality (however you measure such a thing).

Coming back to agile methodologies, I recently landed in the middle of a big project in a large organization that has officially adopted the Scrum/Agile methodology. While familiar with Scrum concepts, it was quite a shock for me to see to what extent it has been formalized and codified and made into something that really smells more and more like one of the traditional methodologies at least to the dimension of how prescriptive it is (or how people present it and apply it). We have Scrum rules and metrics embedded in tools, we have all sorts of scrum "ceremonies" (from daily scrums to sprint retrospectives), we have poker planning, full-time scrum masters, burndown charts etc.

Coming into this later project, my first "reflection" was: where there is buck to be made, there will be products sold and consultants to offer advice but that is my cynical side. My second thought was Gee! this organization is really happy to pay all these people to do this amount of talking and discussing. I can think of more boring things to do but are we really being productive? After a few months of this formal scrum regime I am sort of getting use to it and it not that bad. Nevertheless, I still think we could be more effective if the organization would spend more time assessing the why, what, who and how of any given meeting instance (a ceremony in Scrum parlance) instead of "going by the book". I will take the time to elaborate on this with details and examples in a follow-up article.

To close-off this initial article, I want to mention that I have been working (sometimes fighting) with Maven technology a lot lately. There are many interesting and useful things to write about Maven. It should take up a relatively large part of the bandwidth in the next few weeks.

So long,

Laurent

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