Death of Agile?

2022-04-11

I watched a relatively old talk by Allen Holub:

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The talk is nice. He says the scrum is not agile, and that it provides a very strict set of rules that has nothing to do with it.

Although I'm convinced that scrum isn't agile, I'm not convinced that we don't need processes or habits. One other talk he has is this:

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Basically, what agile boils down to self-managing teams composed of self-managing people, working in close collaboration with the customer. This requires an endless supply of motivation for development. If we assume the team is motivated as a given, that's certain that hindrances from processes don't make sense. For me, for Allan and many people this may be true, but my experience shows me that those who are really motivated to do development even for free is a minority. For the most folks out there, development is a job like another job. Their motivation supply is limited, and when we make them self-govern, they won't do any job, they'll just read and doodle and spend their budget to most useless stuff, and be bored and jump to another job.

In his second talk, he says we assume we're grown-ups. I'd like to assume that as well, and I assume this for me and I'd do development for my own time. Most of my development in the last 25 years was for basically free, without an explicit financial goal. However, when I managed projects, I saw that the real life doesn't make such an assumption. Software development is a lucrative profession. If we start with mainly financial motivations, self-governing becomes a bit of a dream. If I'll earn the same amount if I work today or not, then I'll probably skip the work and do another kind of joyful activity. That activity in my case is another kind of development but does it matter?

This doesn't mean Scrum is good and should be endorsed. I don't like it and don't used it much anyway. But the ideals Allen is talking about can't live by themselves. They need some way to supply motivation, some direction, some soft governing. Agile in the original sense looks like Anarchy, but Anarchy gives birth to some governance at some point. In the past there were people that had no hierarchical management, but when the latter was invented (or brought by others), hierarchies became more powerful.

We can continue to believe that developing like aboriginal tribes, in people over processes fashion leads to ultimate success. That may be true in certain scenarios, but in general those tribes can't maintain coherence after a certain size, and development teams, in my humble opinion are similar.