Theory and practice

James Dobson has a good post on compassion in agile transformations. Here was my comment.

Maybe it’s the humanist in me (and I mean w-a-y down inside and hard to find in me) that makes me agree that much of religion is not about high-faluting theory, but simple practice. Preaching agile to the masses can be fun, but we often forget that what people are doing right now works for them:

  • Waterfall works for the management dogmas in place right now (e.g. cost accounting)
  • Process-oriented project management (e.g. Prince 2) is a lot more effective than doing no management.
  • Focusing on local maxima like developer utilisation, or lines-of-code (excuse me while I clean my mouth out with soap) works for cost accounting driven management
  • Writing detailed plans 3 or 6 or 12 months in advance can be a lot more useful than not thinking about the future at all

I think to change a company you need to both change some of these cultural axioms and some of the behaviours, such as moving from measuring cost to measuring throughput and cost. When you do that, you need to give everyone in the organisation the props to do the job and to continually help them in doing it. For example, showing them how to simplify down to stories, story points and velocity (software development throughput), and showing them how much more enjoyable coding is when we do that.

It’s hard graft and it’s satisfying graft.

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