Thursday, November 24, 2005

Agile Letter to The Guardian

I never really believed it was worth writing to newspapers, however, I was irritated by an article by Ed Hasted in the Technology Guardian sufficiently to respond. I got a call from Bernard Horan to tell me that they'd published an excerpt from it on the letters page!

So now I believe in writing letters to newspapers - look out Mr. Murdoch!

Pity they didn't put my contact info in, that would have been interesting...

Monday, November 21, 2005

XPDay and Buying a Beer

So XPDay is nearly upon us. Well worth going to if only for the social events on Monday and Tuesday! As per my previous blog entries I am a fan of the social event as a useful practice. If you study the programme closely you will notice that Finetix is sponsoring the drinks on Monday night - clearly I've managed to convince others of my view :-)

If you're going to XPDay please do come along, have a drink and start a discussion or argument of your choice. Myself and several of my colleagues including Matt Davey and Damian Guy will hopefully be coming along. So you've got time to prepare your attack....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Light Bulb Jokes

Now that Agile has hit "the big time" with a Dilbert cartoon we (some old OT/SPA cronies at lunch today) were trying to remember if we'd heard an Agile or rather XP Light Bulb Jokes. Failing to do this we decided to make one up:

How many XP developers does it take to change a light bulb?

What's the test for your use of the room? We cannot possibly estimate the amount of work or the resources required without understanding the "what". Why do you want light in the room? We can simplify the room by deleting the roof, walls and lightbulb so that you can get light at least 8 hours a day - of course you should only be doing 40 hours in there anyway. And you'll never need a new lightbulb! Which has tangible business value over the life of the system. We estimate it will take 2 developers 4 ideal days provided the roof doesn't cause injury if we refactor the floor first.

Maybe you had to be there. Any better ones?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Team Building Exercises? Bah! Humbug!

As the season is soon to be upon us I feel comfortable issuing a "Bah! Humbug!" opinion on the notion of Team Building Exercises.

I find the notion of Team Building Exercises such as Go-Karting, Karaoke, Party Games, Chicken Stuffing, whatever! as pointless. I have always had this sneaking suspicion that they are merely excuses for people to have fun at the company's expense. Bah! Humbug!

Now don't get me wrong! I believe in companies investing in social events for staff - but not disguising them as Team Building Exercises. The success of The Highgate Bar underneath Connextra will atest to this attitude.

I believe these Team Building Events do nothing to build the team when its outside of the context where the team forms to solve a problem. Teams are fluid and task oriented in my Extreme view of the world. They form and dissolve as necessary. Investing time, effort and money in making the environment and place that you actaully want the teams to form and execute is a much better investment. Don't spend your money on Go Karting, get rid of the cubicles and buy a decent kitchen table so people can sit at a table to share lunch with each other instead of sitting at their desks!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Do or Do Not Do. There is no Try.

Master Yoda may well be an Agile master. His sage advise came back to me again in a recent discussion with some colleagues about adopting a stand-up practice for the whole company.

Quite often I find that people try to adopt Agile practices a little at a time - in this case do it with a few people to see if it works rather than the whole team. The lets-try-it-and-see-if-it-works approach. The problem is you're not actually doing the real thing, but a prototype or a simulation. And the commitment is not there in this attitude. Furthermore the actual value is often found in doing-the-whole-thing-for-real and there is no middle ground that is informative.

Its a bit like saying your going to learn to dance but only committing your left leg to trying it.

I can appreciate the fears associated with adopting a new practice especially when transitioning to an Agile approach. However there is usually a fear of "doing the right thing" at the base of it. Is it right for us? How do you do it? What if its the wrong thing? Lets try it in the small and then if its wrong the damage will be less.

So by the dancing analogy this would amount to only committing your left leg because you're afraid that you might look silly, you don't really know how to do the dance, and you might hurt yourself if you tried the whole thing - but you're willing to risk a leg.

There is no right or wrong in practice based approaches, only more valuable or not - and you can't figure that out unless you really do the practice.

I believe the lets-do-it-and-restrospect-it-later approach is best. Do the thing which believe will give you the highest value. Commit to doing it 100%, unquestioning, non-analyzing, applying yourself, by-the-book, this-and-this-only. But agree at the start how long to do it for and when to retrospect upon the practice. So for example, agree to try the stand-up practice for a given team for four weeks and the retrospect on whether it is as valuable as you thought it might be and how you might change things to improve it. During the 4 weeks just do it. Don't discuss it, don't argue about it, don't try to optimize it. Then do a brief retrospective on it.

So this is like committing yourself to learning the dance, whole heartedly and with body and soul. But giving yourself a time limit when you decide whether your getting what you want from it.

This is one of the reasons why I often bang on about Agile being about discipline. It takes discipline to commit to something and not analyze whilst doing it, but then set aside time to reflect. This attitude in itself is a valuable part of being Agile, and especially being eXtreme.