Necessary Friction

Agile the Agile 2010 conference, Mark Levison commented on Twitter how he felt that the Agile community was fragile. He believes that some of the current friction between the Kanban and Scrum communities and the people for and against certifications is bad, and current scorched earth activities are hurting Agile as a whole. I certainly agree that there is friction. There are indeed egos involved, mainly because this involves people, and when you have people you have to accept the good and not so good that comes with them.

If we look back at a time 10 years ago, in the summer of 2000, there were a number of "lightweight" software development methods in use, such as (in no particular order) Extreme Programming, Scrum, Adaptive Software Development, Crystal, DSDM, Feature Driven Development. Each of those methods had people who created it and "marketed" it, for lack of a better term. Each of those methods had, even in 2000, books written about them. Those books were written by people who were experts on the topic, and were (and in many cases still are) making money by selling their books and services for their particular method.

Let's face it - to be in the position of founding a software development method, write one or more books about it and to make a living selling consulting services for that method, you need to have a pretty healthy ego. You have to be pretty convinced that your particular process is better in some way from the other processes.

So, the lightweight method community was rather fractured at the time. Fortunately, all of the "owners" of these methods that a common goal - change the status quo of dysfunction that led directly to such things as Dilbert.

It was that common goal that brought 17 of those people together at Snowbird, Utah in February 2001. The result was the Agile Manifesto whose values and principles identified what was common among all of those development methods, and set the stage for the revolution we're seeing now almost 10 years later.

Would the manifesto have been published if there were no egos involved? If everyone agreed on a single process, would it have achieved what we are seeing now? I believe that the answer to both these questions is, "No". I believe that a certain amount of discord and friction is required to be able push a group of people to achieve the best result.

After all if we lived in a frictionless world, we wouldn't be able to stop a car safely. We wouldn't be able to walk, for that matter. Frictionless worlds only exist in physics classes (along with perfect vacuums).

So, to address Mark's concerns, I believe that some friction is necessary in order to further the Agile Software Development movement. It's easy to become complacent, especially when something is reasonably successful. New processes such as Kanban help to keep us from becoming too complacent. Are there egos involved? Are there people shaking the tree? Absolutely! If there weren't, new voices likely wouldn't be heard.

If there weren't some new voices shaking the tree 10 years ago, where would we be today?


Eric Laramée said…
- Friction
- Conflict
- Dissonance

Amazing things happen when these are channelled properly.

Great post!