20 September 2010

A Survival Guide for New Agile Coaches - The Picky Eater

My daughter is, um, picky when it comes to eating. There doesn't seem to be any specific pattern to what she will and won't eat, except perhaps with colour - her food must be as beige as possible. Of course, candy and chocolate are completely exempt from exclusion from her diet.

In the end, we try to ensure that our children eat a balanced diet so that they'll be healthy. We care about them, of course, and sometimes need to be rather firm about getting them to eat good foods. If we just allowed them to eat what they wanted, broccoli and spinach would likely become extinct within a generation, and I'd be rich owing to my massive investment in the stock of companies that make chocolate products.

Coaching Point

Agile Software Development isn't easy. It's quite common for teams to pick and choose the practices that they want to use. It's not unusual for them to choose the chocolate over the broccoli. Why would developers used to testing their code after it has been written use Test-Driven Development? Why would they even want to write microtests in the first place? Why would people used to their own private cubicles move to a team room where, gasp, they have to work with other people? Why would development teams used to receiving requirements over one wall and throwing their software over another actually start to collaborate with the people on each side?

The practices that come from Scrum and XP are there for a reason - they provide value on their own, but together they support one another in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Just like having your child eat a balanced diet, you have to ensure that your team isn't picking and choosing only the practices they want to use. If your child ate nothing but candy, they would get sick. If your team only uses the 'easy' practices, or what they perceive to be easy practices, they will see only limited benefits. They may even believe that Agile doesn't work for them.

Of course, all of that's easy for me to say - I like both broccoli and spinach!

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