Thanks for sharing these articles. They were most interesting to me. As a
newly certified PSM and just having studied The Scrum Guide and now working
a Scrum team I found these articles really very enlightening. I would agree
with all of the comments Kevin talked about as I read the articles I had
many of the same thoughts. Please bear with my basic thoughts below and
these articles shed light on what hiccups I can run into or what more I
could do as a Scrum Master.
As I understand (please note that I am still learning) that Scrum is based
on the empiricism which means that knowledge comes from experience and
making decisions based on what is known. Three pillars (transparency,
inspection and adaptation) uphold every implementation. So in the first
article, it was interesting to read about the "one sided transparency"
since every Scrum event is based on those 3 pillars including transparency.
Scrum is about long term goals and short term planning. In the Sprint
review is where the Product owner should make it visible about the long
term goal and the assessment on the progress toward completing projected
work by the desired time for the goal.
I was surprised to read that the author felt that their creativity is
stifled if they have to explain themselves while working as from what I
understand Scrum's team model "is designed to optimize flexibility,
creativity and productivity." The reason behind the daily standup is a
short meeting related to the 3 pillars and inspecting and adapting and
making it transparent to the development team on how things are going
rather than waiting to the last minute or a weekly status meeting. In my
understanding the development team is responsible or committed for the
estimates of the user story and the "how" of implementing them. To be self
managed including having those "expertise or specialized" skills in the
development team to create the product increment. I would think that is how
teams are motivated and want to work or be is to have their autonomy,
mastery and purpose. In Scrum by being cross functional and self organizing
it should enable them to that end.
In regards to the engineering driven and "calling the shots" comments in
the article, as I understand the Product Owner is the sole person that owns
the product backlog and responsible for maximizing the value of the product
and the work of the Development Team. However "in the Sprint Review the
entire group collaborates on what to do next, so that it provides valuable
input input to the subsequent Sprint Planning." The basic "Scrum Value" of
"respect" of each person's role on the Scrum Team and what they bring needs
to be there. In an engineering driven organization just because the
engineer/developer called the shots does it mean they brought the most
value to the customer/marketplace or did something they thought was cool?
Again this also does not mean that there is no room for discussion which
takes "courage" and "openness" among the Scrum team members.
In regards to the "terminal juniority" I am not sure I understand the
argument as I think the best Development team is made of cross functional
team members which means all skill sets and levels. And that the senior
developers could be paired up with the junior ones as needed which could be
fulfilling for both and the entire team.
In regards to the comments about the sprint being an "emergency" or running
as fast as you can and "weeding out low performers" makes me feel like the
Scrum Master did not teach or coach on the Scrum Framework. The
Development team from what I have heard should be at 80% capacity so that
there is time for exploration and creativity and 10% of the current Sprint
should be for "backlog grooming" so there is not a constant looking ahead.
The statements at the end that "Agile" glorifies "emergency" and an
"aspiring demogague (scrum master)" is not how I view Scrum or my role as
Scrum Master. In fact as a servant leader and in an utopian (naive) world I
would work myself out of the job/role.
If you've read this far, thank you for your time and attention. Your
comments are welcome as I learn.
On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 1:46 PM, Kevin Smith <ksm...@wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Again, thanks Joaquin for sharing these.
> This (insanely long) email is in response to article:
> Here's my tl;dr of the article: He associates agile with aggressive
> management, hyper-focus on individual productivity, stifling developer
> creativity, poor code quality, and a lack of professional development.
> Here's my tl;dr of my response: Agile encourages humane management,
> de-emphasizes individual performance, enhances developer creativity,
> can/should improve code quality, and is neutral to positive regarding
> professional development.
> And with that, I invite you to marvel at my massive wall o' text....
> Disclaimer/context: I was a professional programmer for a decade before
> agile was invented. I have been a strong advocate for agile software
> development since 2001, but I remain agnostic about the specific
> implementation called Scrum.
> I disagree with much of what is in this article. I can see that the author
> has been in some highly dysfunctional environments, and he has my sympathy
> for that. He pins the blame on agile and scrum, where I see other causes.
> I’m afraid that much of my response is the dreaded “that’s not agile!”.
> But I will try to focus on my own experiences, and will try to comment on
> his statements which seem more refutable.
> Speaking as a developer, switching to “stories” and “iterations” greatly
> improved my sense of accomplishment, rather than stripping it away. Stories
> are written loosely enough that I would have to work closely with the
> customer (or proxy) to figure out what was really needed (and technically
> possible). Iterations allowed me to celebrate every couple weeks that we
> had made tangible progress. The typical pre-agile alternative was to futz
> around aimlessly for a few months, and then have a few months of all-out
> death march, before releasing something that was both late and unfinished
> at the same time.
> I tend to agree about the pitfalls of open-plan offices. But I was
> complaining about those in the 80’s, so I don’t see those as an agile
> problem. And if I have experienced “humiliating visibility” into my work,
> it was in non-agile environments.
> In agile, programmers should never be “jerked around or punished when
> things take longer than they ‘seem’ they should take.” If that’s happening,
> it’s not agile. Period.
> The distinction between business-driven and engineering-driven is a real
> thing, although there are some subtleties that I think the author
> overlooks. I have seen a lot of engineering-driven organizations make
> really bad choices: They can produce things nobody wanted; they can
> overproduce things to the point of bankruptcy; they can bounce from cool
> idea to cool idea without finishing anything. Basically, either approach
> can be done well or poorly. At least in theory, I believe that the business
> people (or more accurately the “product” people) can and should understand
> the customer, and from that they should be able to guide the team to
> satisfy those needs. If the business people ignore technical concerns
> raised by developers (including tech debt), then they’re not doing it
> right. This idea that code quality suffers under agile/scrum seems to be a
> recurring theme.
> The author claims that “Architecture and R&D and product development
> aren’t part of the programmer’s job, because those things don’t fit into
> atomized ‘user stories’ or two-week sprints.” Wow, I disagree so strongly
> with that. Especially with Test-Driven Development (of which I’m a huge
> fan), architecture is *always* a part of the programmer’s job. Architecture
> and code design are ongoing, and require constant attention. The developer
> is always expected to find (research?) the optimal design. And I’m not sure
> how “product development” could not be a part of software development.
> I agree that estimates are often misused/abused. But I disagree that they
> are useless or harmful. I wrote a lengthy email in an earlier thread on
> that topic.
> The author feels that agile methods put programmers in the role of
> children. Personally, I have experienced two kinds of non-agile
> environments: Those that are more structured (waterfall-ish), and those
> that are less structured (chaos/cowboy-ish). In the former, I have felt
> like a powerless child. In the latter, I have felt like an out-of-control
> teen. In agile environments, I have felt like a responsible adult.
> This might be a good place to mention that I strongly believe that
> programming is a craft. The output has to be functional, so it’s not an
> art. We’re generally not inventing entire new paradigms and ideas, so it’s
> not science. We’re usually not applying universal laws and heuristics, so
> it’s not engineering. As a craft, those who have the skills and knowledge
> should be respected, appreciated, and rewarded.
> I dispute the claim that “Agile is designed for and by consulting firms
> that are marginal”. Some of the biggest early proponents of agile were
> developing in-house systems for Chrysler. My friend and I had independently
> discovered several agile practices before the term “agile” was being used,
> while working for a company that built an operating system. The practices
> which just made sense to us included: Iterative development, automated
> testing, refactoring, and pair programming. I should also point out that
> Linux was developed agilely.
> The author claims “Under Agile, technical debt piles up”, and again, I’ll
> say that there is no reason that should happen in agile any more than in
> any other approach. Waterfall tends to lock designs in early, creating
> brittle code, and then rushing the product out the door with bugs.
> Chaotic/cowboy coding tends to result in vast piles of spaghetti code.
> Those problems aren’t inevitable in any process, but tech debt is *always*
> a risk.
> Through automated testing, heavy refactoring, pair programming and/or code
> review, and iterative development, agile provides the tools to reduce
> problems with tech debt. I worked on a Java application from 2001 through
> 2015, and despite all those years of purely agile development, the code
> remained relatively clean and maintainable. In 2014, we completely rewrote
> the UI to use a different framework, and it only took a few months. They
> are still adding significant new features to it, with relative ease.
> I find this statement curious: “Agile is just one mindless, near-sighted
> ‘sprint’ after another: no progress, no improvement, just ticket after
> ticket after ticket.” I agree that it is one sprint after another, and one
> ticket after another. However, for me it is the opposite of “no progress,
> no improvement”. It is visible progress with almost every ticket (because
> tickets, or stories, are user-centric). It is visible progress with every
> iteration, as opposed to other approaches where you can go 6 months between
> I’m not sure about the career development concern. The claim that “I was
> on a scrum team” shouldn’t be equal to “kick me”, and I doubt it is for
> most hiring managers. When you apply for a job, hopefully you can point out
> specific innovations you came up with, specific features you developed or
> improved, areas where your code reviews were vital, examples of mentoring,
> etc. Being a grunt on a waterfall team is certainly no better (and I would
> argue is worse because you couldn’t have been involved with design,
> requirements, etc.)
> The next claim by the author is ridiculous: “Scrum is sold as a process
> for ‘removing impediments’, which is a nice way of saying ‘spotting
> slackers’.” Speaking as one whose job it is to remove impediments, that is
> completely wrong. If that’s how your organization works, it is definitely
> not doing Scrum, nor agile. The author then goes on about “constant
> surveillance”, which makes me feel bad for how he has been treated. Again,
> if that’s happening, it’s neither scrum nor agile. Daily checkins are an
> opportunity to reach out for help; an opportunity to describe the cool
> thing you just finished; an opportunity to figure out what you should work
> on next.
> I agree with parts of the “whiskey goggles” effect, including that one
> goal of agile is to raise the performance of average developers. I think
> that generally in the industry, high-performing programmers are underpaid
> (and under-appreciated), and low-performing programmers are overpaid. But I
> also think that prima donna programmers are overpaid. Programming is a team
> sport, and anyone who doesn’t realize that is likely to cause problems for
> the team. I would rather have a bunch of 8’s on my team than a bunch of
> 4’s. But I’ll always take a 4 with a good attitude over a primadonna 8 who
> might refuse to teach the 4’s anything, or refuse to do some QA when the
> team is in a bind, or who refuses to believe that they might have anything
> left to learn.
> The author refers to scrummasters as “aspiring demagogues”, which I have
> trouble even understanding. Then he says that “Agile and Scrum glorify
> emergency”, which if anything is the opposite of my experiences. He tries
> to align agile with “scientific management”, when the truth is that agile
> is much closer to being a rebellion against scientific management.
> The author’s closing paragraph begins with “It’s time for this culture of
> terminal juniority, low autonomy, and aggressive management to die.” To
> which I say AMEN! Yes! And then I immediately claim that agile is, in fact,
> a remedy for terminal juniority, a complete cure for low autonomy, and is
> incompatible with aggressive management.
>  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman
> Kevin Smith
> Agile Coach, Wikimedia Foundation
> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 11:36 AM, Joaquin Oltra Hernandez <
> jhernan...@wikimedia.org> wrote:
>> Some time ago I found a couple of articles from engineers discussing
>> their opinion on scrum. At the time I found that many of their arguments
>> resonated with things I was feeling in our work.
>> Max saw the links and suggested chatting about them, so I've thought I'd
>> post them to tpg to try and spur some discussion.
>> As scrum masters and fans, it is going to be easy to feel attacked by
>> these articles, so if you know you're going to be affected, it is better to
>> not read them.
>> I am genuinely interested to learn when Scrum is not a good choice. As we
>> know in engineering, there is no silver bullet, and it is very important to
>> learn about the trade-offs and the adequacy of solutions to different
>> Without further ado:
>> Why “Agile” and especially Scrum are terrible – Michael O. Church
>> Why I'm not a big fan of Scrum
>> teampractices mailing list
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