27 December 2008

False Advertising?

OK, time to stir the pot a little. In the blog posts Scrum is not Enough and Call It What It Is, I've been critical of the fact that Scrum by itself is inadequate for providing teams with a sustainable, long term approach to building software. I'm not alone in this opinion - Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber also teach the use of XP practices in addition to Scrum's:
Ron Jeffries on the XP Yahoo Group
Also Ron Jeffries on the XP Yahoo Group
Video of Jeff Sutherland presentation
Jeff Sutherland's Blog
Interview with Ken Schwaber
InformIT Article with Ken Schwaber and Kane Mar
At the same time, Certified ScrumMaster courses are booming and Scrum is becoming the de facto standard for Agile - when most people talk about "Agile", they are in fact referring just to Scrum.

I want to make it clear at this point that I do believe that there is tremendous value in Scrum and its practices. It will allow teams to improve their productivity. It forces more direct communication and more visibility into the development process. These aren't just good, they're great! Again, though, the long-term viability of the Scrum practices alone is questionable. Teams need to use engineering practices in addition to the Scrum management and team practices in order to be successful.

So, why don't I see this in the courses? Why are those, such as James Shore and Mary Poppendieck, who say that Scrum practices alone aren't enough being called out? Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that basic, out of the box Scrum is a very easy sell to management and teams.

Let's frame this as "Dave the Manager walks into the Software Development Process Big Box Store":

My team is thrashing and we need some help. What do you have?
"Hey, Scrum is fantastic! It will help you right away with communication, and prioritization. The best thing is that we're not going to tell you how to do your work! Your team is self-organizing!"
Nice. I'll buy that! CHA-CHING!!
"Oh, by the way - you'll need these few other practices to make sure it all works."
Huh? But I just bought Scrum?
"Sure, and it's great!! You just need to buy these few..."
But I don't have any money left to buy anything else!
"Oh. That's a problem. I guess you can get away with just Scrum, but those few other practices..."
You said that Scrum would help me!!!
"Of course it will. And these few other practices will help more..."
That's false advertising!!
"I BEG YOUR PARDON, SIR?!! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?! I told you that Scrum will help your team... you just need these few other practices to make sure it helps for a long time."
OK, so this is a bit over the top. However, can you see the point? If you're selling, teaching, promoting, or otherwise suggesting that someone use Scrum for software development and you aren't pointing out that the engineering practices must also be examined, then you are partaking in false advertising. I would imagine that in the vast majority of cases it's entirely unintended, but it's still false advertising.

Again, Scrum is good. It just doesn't provide enough in its own practices to sustain the level of improvement that can be achieved.

1 December 2008

Baby Blankets

I'm participating in a process review exercise at a client at the moment, reworking a painful, disconnected document-centric approach into something much more lean and collaborative. Our project sponsor, a VP, instructed the group that there were no sacred cows and that out of the box thinking was not only allowed, but encouraged.

"Cool!", I thought, "We can really make some changes here!"

However, after a number of half-days of wrangling, the process wasn't looking, smelling, feeling or sounding much different than that which it was to replace. That fact prompted one of the participants to opine:
Baby blankets. Some people just can't give up their baby blankets.
Nice... and very appropriate. Evidently I wasn't the only person who was at the point of gagging every time I heard the word "template". I'm tired of hearing that certain documentation must exist to satisfy external auditors without having those auditors in the room to clarify exactly what they need. I'm tired of hearing that dedicated project teams are impossible because there are too many concurrent projects at the moment (there's a hint in that sentence!!).

I'm tired of dealing with other people's baby blankets!!

These concepts/thoughts/artifacts only exist in their current form to provide comfort - they serve no other useful purpose, or at least that purpose has not been adequately explained.

Making any significant change to an organization is difficult, and forces people into areas of discomfort. When people are uncomfortable, the baby blankets come out. However, no meaningful change can occur if people don't accept that they may need to grow out of their blankets at some point, i.e. doing something different in order to obtain different results.