Agile Anti-Patterns, Part 1

Written on 9:16:00 PM by S. Potter

In the last 12 months I had the fortune to work at a client that calls themselves "agile". In fact they use marketing blurbs similar to "on the cutting edge of agile Ruby on Rails development" (I said *similar* because I didn't want to identify them uniquely). The problem is when I briefly worked on a project for them, the truth was very far from their marketing spiel. At a minimum I can say that this was the case on the particular project I briefly worked on, but more likely to have been much more wide spread in the firm since the consulting manager managed all the client projects from what I could tell. Why was I fortunate? Well first of all, it was a very brief encounter. I just couldn't bring myself to work in that environment for long (and thus you will not find it on my resume at all - nice try). Perhaps that says something about me too (I know it does - it is a liability, I realize this and plan to work on it, but on the other hand I feel as if I shouldn't have to compromise my professional values to the level of this case). Secondly, like I imagine is the case with most people, I learn more from bad experiences than good experiences. I would also like to say this is by no means the only company that likely falls into this "let's talk about agile so much we pretend that in itself is being agile" trap. I see 1,000s of job ads or consulting firm spiels saying agile-this, agile-that. Probably only 10-20% of the spiels are decently aligned with reality (of course, I have no way of knowing or measuring this, but it seems like a sensible guess to me;)). Now, is any agile team perfect? No. At least not in my experience. Maybe there are perfect teams and I am just a loser that has never experienced one, but since I have never met a perfect person ever, I imagine this to be improbable. The reason for my deduction is that since software agility is based on people and relationships NOT just tools, then only a team with perfect members could even dream of producing the perfect dynamic. The thing is, you don't need an agile team to be perfect. That is the premise of each agile practice I follow personally. If you think about it, agile practices assume people at their core are faulty some of the time in some way, because we are mere mortals, not software gods (though at times developers do get a God-complex, which is one of our many faults - I am guilty here too)! Ooops, tangent, but is serves a point here too. I do not ever wish to imply that following the letter of all the agile practice "rules" will make you truly and *perfectly* agile. I do not even think that is even the point. For me it comes down to Kaizen, which in short means, to iteratively eliminate waste from a process each time you repeat and to break those iterations down into bite size pieces so you can track and measure progress (actually that is a very coarse way to describe Kaizen, which is a word I love so much I tattooed it on my body somewhere - just kidding.....or am I?). Feel free to search the web for a better description (there are a few), but it is a word the more you read about (at least for me) the more you appreciate. Perhaps we will never be perfect agile developers. Perhaps we will never be perfect business analysts, coders, managers, deployers, system administrators, database administrators, etc. That to me is almost irrelevant. The idea is we just need to strive to simply "do better" each time and have the right attitude. This was really just the kick off piece (aka rant) for this "series" on anti-patterns relating to agile practices. I'll have concrete examples coming soon in part 2, 3, etc. Stay tuned. PS If you are searching for an "agile" development post, don't despair, there are some decently agile places out there. They may not be perfect, but hopefully better than the client project I will discuss.

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1 Comment

  1. Joseph |

    susan, you are right - its easier to use a popular word than to actually be it. Looking forward to your insights on what could have been different. Please tell us more...


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