- the dictionary definition of "agile"
- how many times the word "agile" appears in the Scrum Guide
- how "lengthy" the Scrum Guide "seems"
- that Scrum is a process, so does not "sound Agile".
Ugh. How did this reach #1 on HN?
Then ppl came along and said that they were "too complicated" we need something Agile! In actual fact, those ppl didn't understand the process frameworks and just created a specific instance of one and they wondered why it didn't work for all projects, organizations, technologies, etc. And then they said those processes are "too simple" - what can we do? "Maybe we should create a way of generating a process?", they then said. And so it went...
Agile is a mindset.
Understand the mindset, absorb it, make it yours, and build the process that's working for you based on that mindset.
Stop complaining about Scrum, it's just a tool, and tools deprecate.
Since everyone is doing, or claims to be doing, agile, the whole notion is completely meaningless. Unless they are actively advertising to be doing some form of waterfall, you can safely assume there is some notion of iterations involved.
What matters more these days is whether the team is mature enough to have continuous deployment without process bureaucracy. Deployment fear is a good sign the process sucks. If you have a need for human gatekeepers, something is wrong with the test automation. Deploying often and with confidence is a good sign you are dealing with a smoothly running team.
ACM recently had a series of webinars by Ivar Jacobson on Essence. Essence was kind of confusing at first, but it is essentially a language to describe practices from the different processes. The idea is that you can build up a library of the various practices in your company and allow teams to pick their own and evolve their process by swapping out practices that just don't work out. Essence seems like an interesting idea, especially if it allows teams to create a development process that fits them.
> find what works for your team
For the combination of team and project. Different software projects need to take very different tradeoffs in how they managed. Use scrum in aerospace for flight control, and people will die. Use scrum for system software, and you'll have hard time delivering quality and performance, system software often requires non-trivial amount of engineering. Implement NASA's best practices when working on videogame or web app, and you'll blow budget.
This article is from 2002 but still good: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/05/06/five-worlds/
Every team at my workplace runs a different process. We’ve got a team developing new features who are running an iterative agile process, allowing them to react to changes ok requirements or unexpected issues with as little disruption as possible. We’ve also got a team doing B2B projects, essentially rebranding our mobile apps and platform for different companies, and that’s pretty traditional waterfall - I wouldn’t in a million years use waterfall for new features, but when you’re running through a set of well understood tasks that need delivering on schedule to coincide with work by third parties it gets the job done.
on the contrary: you have a PO in charge of communication and priorization of features and a dev team in charge of developing- no manager on top...at least in theory...
Is there anywhere this would be documented to explain -
a. How an agile process in initiated?
b. How an agile process is maintained?
I have been part of a team with mis-applied agile processes -
1. Requirements change frequently. And not due to users asking for them. More like the Project Managers asking for more configurablity.
2. Requirements are not thought through. Even the simplest cases.
3. Changes don't get vetted by users. Instead, we go through another round of requirements!
4. Every once in a while requirements (and teams) get re-organized, re-planned which puts all the developers off.
I have also been part of a team which focussed on deliveries. This team has been able to write tests and iterate over requirements fast. The satisfaction level of all the developers in the team as well as the project owners were high.
1. Requirements were phased.
2. Whatever was required to be done in each phase was thought through as far as possible. Anything that wasn't clear or was more complex to think out was sent back to the project owners / users for clarity.
3. Code and tests get written. Phase delivered.
Although this process was extremely successful, I don't know if I would call this Agile.
It's agile up to the point that it is broken, which happens often due to it's fragility. That it is easily broken is an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of its complexity, and common misunderstandings/misuses.
Scrum is complex because large software projects (large as in number of people, budget and expected velocity) are never simple to manage. Scrum is complex because correct usage can not be read from a book nor gained from a qualification - it requires experienced judgement to pick the optimal usage and apply it to a team and project.
Nothing can beat the effectiveness and efficiency of a single strong developer working on a stream of well considered backlog items. That is engineer nirvana! However many projects simply require more velocity than one person can manage. From here, there is a whole spectrum of processes that should be chosen depending on resources and needs. From my experience, full scrum kicks in once you have four or five engineers on the same system.
Product management is a key point of failure in Scrum, true also with other processes. But it's felt so much more when an entire team grinds to a halt and an iteration fails.
If Scrum doesn't feel agile then you are doing something wrong. This is exactly the question the team should be asking itself at retrospectives (doesn't need to be three questions!). What's changing in your process sprint to sprint? Scrum masters are there to facilitate incremental process changes driven by team members, not a system that doesn't result in agile software delivery.
SCRUM is meant to be owned by the developers - not management. Shame on companies that hijack and impose such process.
SCRUM gives dev teams rhythm with sprints. Allows them to deliver mini releases of functional software in 2-week increments (could be 1 to 4 weeks too - lenght should be decided during planning). The goal of a sprint is to be decided by the developer and doesn't have to be about the software. Can be about learning, improving as a team or helping team members to grow. Here are a few examples I've seen:
- Measure 5 metrics in Kibana
- Marie-Pier leads sprint review demo
- Try self-merging PR's and measure the results
- No more loose ends
Of course, in parallel the team builds and delivers an increment of functional software.
The planning, review and retro rituals are paramount. SCRUM can only work well if those are well planned and executed. The retrospective is particularly important to allow the team to improve themselves. Its an opportunity to change their own process (i.e. change the definition of done).
Contrary to wide belief, story points are not part of SCRUM. Its a mechanism that can be used to gauge the size of work - it should be up to the dev team to decide whether to use them or not. Again dev teams should own that process - should not be imposed by management.
These lessons I've learned in the past two years thanks to an awesome SCRUM evangelist we've hired. I'm proud to say its changed our lives for the better.
I hate artificial deadlines (i.e., sprints). Kanban let's you focus on the work without all the process distractions.
Meetings should only be between business / leads to get scope onto canvas.
If I'm blocked I'll seek out the person who can most help me. I can easily find 5-10 minutes to write out a summary, but on my terms when I'm not in coding mode.
Now, I'm freelancing, likely to be team lead for the company assuming they get financing - and I keep taking notes and reading ways to organize better. We have a ton of work to do, it's a financial mobile app that has 0 tests on the api (I'm single-handedly running the API development Laravel + vue (for some web views)). Money is tight so I'm the only dev on web side and we have 1 ios dev.
The hope is to be full-time at this by Christmas w/ a 6 figure salary (my first +6 figures).
From what I've seen, projects almost always start out in a requirements/analysis phase because management, stakeholders, etc., need the reassurance. I've yet to see any public-facing project of meaningful size start out releasing actual MVPs as opposed to "big bang" releases.
Design often happens first because engineers don't want to(and sometimes can't) begin coding away and then receive designs that are either counter to their existing work or are unworkable; management usually sides with design because, well, it looks cool.
Engineers eventually get coding, but non-automated testing doesn't really occur until later because it can be impractical to have people testing unfinished software. Then there's alpha testing, users break the software, engineers fix bugs, A/B testing of different versions of features, then beta testing, where users again break the software and the engineers fix more bugs.
The project continues to drag on because the first 80% of a project is always the easiest part, and management is always hesitant to release "unfinished" software.
Inevitably, there's a big bang release, by which point management has already gotten bored and has dreamt up other "big ideas" for the team to focus on, at which point the project is, for all intents and purposes, placed into maintenance limbo where bugs are fixed, junior developers place their awful code, and a new "feature" is added now and then to satisfy the marketing department.
Senior developers rationalize the waterfall-like nature of the project, so they opt for "continuous integration", but all that ends up translating to is maintenance limbo without versioning.
The actual next version of the software doesn't get built until after most if not all the original team left, and the original software became "legacy" enough that bugs keep popping up and the new engineers don't want to touch the old code. Management eventually gives in, for better or worse.
Am I wrong? This is what I've seen happen to the vast majority of software projects, all under companies that were either Scrum, Agile, or pretend "Agile". Maybe I've just had bad luck.
I wish more teams could pick and choose what methodologies to use for their purposes, rather than buy into MLM garbage.
However the article is not wrong, it's too easy to make SCRUM all about the process, without changing anything about interactions, developer empowerment and feedback cycles.
I think the SCRUM doesn't do a good job of putting limits on what is still agile SCRUM and what is not. Maybe because it's written in such a friendly language.
Unfortunately there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and when you emulate you necessarily incur overhead, which can be prohibitively large if you're emulating something powerful -- plus, if you have actual good programmers on your team, they will either quit or start emulating mediocre programmers to remain compatible with your mediocre-programmer process. Either way, you lose the benefits of having them.
TDD/yagni/refactoring allows you to keep your code base nimble. I can't imagine doing an iterative process by slamming features in one after another without refactoring the code as you go to handle what "you now know", or not having good test coverage to support the changes you need to make.
Refactoring also shouldn't be something the PO is aware of, it's not a story, or a 2 month break from feature development. It's part of the job as each story is implemented. Yes, sometimes you don't notice a good way of doing something until some time passes and that area of the code becomes a bigger refactor than usual, just have to deal with it as soon as possible.
It has good principles like backlog, sprint and daily meeting. If teams only pick one of those or anything else and that it help them, great! By the way holding solely Scrum accountable for failures is narrowing down the analysis to only one part of all things that can go wrong and have nothing to do with Scrum. That's a cognitive biases concentrate.
I wish there was a prescriptive way to successfully make and deliver software. I have seen very little evidence that there is.
Without that info, this just feels like buzzword bingo, a la "What should I write about to stir the pot today?"
Agree with the Software development priority queue part being good thing.
Long term planning was in the waterfall process which does not work that great either since it tends to over focus on planning.
How do you find a good balance between Agile and Waterfall?
I think it can also be different what process works well if you are a startup and need to deliver a MVP minimum viable product as soon as possible. Compared a bit to if you are a long term enterprise company and need to maintain your code base over time. Ie dealing with technical debt from short term solutions vs long term stable.
I think one should have experienced a successful scrum project before being able to criticise it.
Scrum is a tool: you may be Agile without using Scrum or you may find easier to be Agile using Scrum. Doing Scrum does not make you Agile.
Scrum is hard and implementing it takes different skills than those proven by individuals who can write code.
What's the better alternative? What have you been doing to make things better? The answers to these questions as much more interesting than endless complaining.
In my experience this seems to be an issue unique to enormous corporations. When I used to work at small / medium-sized companies this never happened.
This is a many times debunked myth about the Agile manifesto. Even the authors themselves explained that "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools" does not mean and shouldn't be taken as "no processes".
Also, agile is not about moving quickly but about being able to easily change direction any time, therefore dealing better with changing environment.
In the early 1990s, Ken Schwaber used what would become Scrum at his company, Advanced Development Methods; while Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna developed a similar approach at Easel Corporation, referring to it using the single word Scrum.
Scrum is a problem when it is mandated and imposed on functional organisations that do better and more fluid communication. This is often done as a way of flexing corporate power and does huge damage.
A key problem is that we do not have ways of auditing and measuring the performance of software teams no matter what methods they are using - until then this is all anecdote.
Of course we have ways of doing that - one is the code quality, another one is historical performance on agility.
1 - Some people said that this can be a failing of scrum and I 100% agree.
Some large orgs really work like that, where the approval of one ham-fisted iron-gripped executive is deemed more important than hundreds of thousands of dollars of engineering talent going to waste. I don't think this is very effective but alright then.
Everybody else should just be using Kanban boards with periodic review.
The TLDR of Scrum is simple: (product) management gets to set the priority of things every 2 or 3 weeks. After that, we see what got done and check to see if the priorities are still the same.
If the priorities are wrong, don't blame Scrum, blame management. If tech debt is increasing, don't blame Scrum, blame management.
There's no magic bullet to determine what is important, and certainly Scrum Master training won't help an incompetent manager a competent one.
Of all the people complaining about Scrum it doesn't sound like any of them have read the Scrum Guide. Symptoms of Scrum are not managers pressuring people at stand ups, squeezing 4 weeks of work into 2 and having a "team" of 20 people. These are symptoms of poor leadership.
The problem with Scrum is that it's usually (always?) implemented as serialized waterfall projects with completely arbitrary looking deadlines (i.e. the sprint's length). All too often things get sort of done but not done quite as well as everybody would be happy with. It's stressful for everyone involved and, insofar as I've seen it used, it makes accumulating technical debt even more likely than more traditional waterfall projects.
What a virtuous cycle
Speaks a lot bout what agile truly is and how scrum is a very large mismatch.
A.k.a. common sense :)
Usually it's hack together something and see if it sticks, which is awful.
But isn't that exactly what Scrum wants you to do? After every sprint, you spend some time to reflect, look at how you're working, look at the bigger picture, etc.
Scrum is by no means perfect; it's a tool, not the infallible silver bullet the author wants it to be. If you misuse the tool, you're still going to get wrong results, but that's the same with every other method.
The real question is: is there a better way to do it that can easily and reliably be implemented by large corporations? I think the popularity of Scrum is probably due to it being more successful than what was used before.
It might not be truly Agile, but for large corporations, being truly Agile may be a bit much to ask. They need reliability and reproduceability, and that means they're always going to need some focus on processes and procedures, and can't always rely on people who might leave or have something happen to them. Not that Scrum is always a good fit for those processes and procedures, but it does help make it appealing for large companies, and at least it puts a good part of the process in the hands of the people who will be using it.
tl;dr: Scrum is not perfect, but what is?
and, I never saw so much interpretation of what something should be as with Agile.
not everyone is entitled to say or mean something, that includes myself and this post.
If completing "the plan" is seen as success, then of course sticking to the plan is the best way to success. But if maximizing business/user value is the success, then "no plan survives first contact with the enemy." (I don't like "the enemy" concept, but this is a famous quote that gets across the concept).
And I think the reason why "agile" fails is because many actors in many organizations find they are effectively rewarded for "completing the plan" regardless of business/user value, indeed.
“Sticking to the plan” does not mean rigidly enforcing zero changes, but rather means keeping a commitment to the general scope and direction that was mapped out. Compromises should require extraordinary hard evidence before being accepted.
This is really why Agile as a general set of guidelines is so easy to subvert and ends up being a misused tool in most every situation where Agile is deployed (Scrum of otherwise).
Project management guidelines need to start out by specifying a way that quality is strictly disallowed from being subverted by competing interests that lobby for changing the plan.
If a set of software project management guidelines doesn’t start out with an unchallengeable quality-above-all-else mandate that creates policy barriers to the natural entropy of different interests trying to lobby for why their preferred change has to be made, then it’s doomed to just get politically subverted.
Doesn’t matter if it’s Agile, Waterfall, extreme programming, whatever.
“Sticking to the plan” in the sense of setting up preemptive, high-cost barriers to anti-quality modifications to what was agreed is _the_ thing.
Either way, harping on the idea of “but what if circumstances changed” is mostly just what corporate politicians do to subvert people demanding evidence for the requirement of changes.
It's not even software specific. Which is actually a strength.
Example, one common misconception is the daily standup is a status meeting. In fact you are supposed to replan in standup, it's a tiny planner. Not sure how you can call the ability to pivot every day not agile.
EDIT: Unpopular option, software quality is poor and it has nothing to do with scrum.
If you don't have that level of trust in your team members, sure, formal process makes sense. And I'm all for it if that's what's needed to deliver business results successfully. But you're then valuing processes and tools over individuals and interactions, following a plan of when and how you may respond to change over letting individuals figure it out, etc. Again, it's perfectly okay if it's not agile if it's what the business needs. But my assertion is it's not agile.
Agile is a subset of TPS (toyota production system)/Lean applied to software.
Kanban for example is another instance of the agile manifesto.