Dear Agile Friends: Please Stop It With The Pointless Bickering


Every couple of weeks, it’s more bickering.

Should teams co-locate? I don’t know, I don’t think there’s a universal answer for all teams, and I want to work from home but I can’t do that and do my job effectively. Does that stop us from arguing? Heck no! One bunch will line up saying co-location is the only thing that works, another bunch will line up and say co-location is 19th-century thinking about should be abolished.

And away we go.

Should TDD be used? Once again, no universal answer, I have my own view, and the way I’d like things to be and the way they are in my current work are different. So let’s all line up and start bickering over whether TDD is dead or not.

How about some of these new program-level Agile constructs, like SAFe? Same answers. Program-level Agility is just now getting some real traction and good anecdotal feedback from the field. Much too early to generalize, and who knows how much generalization would be useful anyway? But, we can go around the mulberry bush a few times on that.

What is it with the bickering? There’s a moderator on a popular LinkedIn Agile forum that decided that anybody who posted a blog link would have the post characterized as “promotions” and sent off to nobody-reads-it-land. I wasn’t crazy about that decision, made my case, then encouraged him to do what he thought was best.

That was over a month ago. He’s still on the same thread arguing about why his policy is the only sane one, and how we should all agree. Good grief!

Seems like a lot of us Agile guys are really good at arguing. Makes you wonder how much fun it would be working alongside them in a team.

Of all the Agile material I’ve consumed over the years, I like the Manifesto the most. The reason I like it was that there was a room full of guys who were all making money with various recipe books for making good software happen — and they managed to agree on what values should be important no matter what processes you were using. This was a moment of sanity.

Then many of them went out and created new branded recipe books and went back to bickering with each other. (I exaggerate, but only by a little. It’s more accurate to say their adherents did this. Many of the original gang have settled down. Not all.)

I know this drives people crazy, but after watching hundreds of teams doing every kind of futzed up process you can imagine, I only care about one thing: how well is the team evolving using the values as a guide?

I don’t care if they use tools, if they all have funny haircuts, if they wear uniforms and salute each other. Are they using a good system of values and changing up how they do things over time? If so, then they’ll be fine. If not, and this is important, even if they were doing the “right” things, I’d have little faith they knew what the hell they were doing.

A bunch of us yahoos coming in and bickering over whether story points should be normalized or not is not helpful — if we do it the wrong way. If we’re having some sort of “future of Agile” discussion, where the end times are upon us and we must turn back now and go back to the old ways? Probably not so useful. If, however, we’re sharing experiences and talking about why some things might work better than others, while acknowledging that many people do things many different ways? Probably much more useful.

We — and I mean me as much as anybody else — tend to make the internet some kind of drama-of-the-week contest. Everything is a disaster. We are all emoting. Well, I’ve got news for you: it’s not. Encourage using the values as a way to establish trust. Insist on teams continuing to try new things and learn. Have some humility about what we actually know as an industry and what we don’t. The rest will work itself out. I promise. 🙂

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May 7, 2014

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