Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Manifesto of Second Best Alternatives

The Yahoo! XP mailing list recently had a discussion about whether or not Agile was attainable by any team or whether it was really only for 1337 developers.  There was a suggestion on the list that some in the community should collaborate on a second manifesto (or, as Bill Caputo put it with tongue in cheek, a "less-than-agile manifesto") designed for those developers of "average skill" or who are part of lower-cost, commodity labor markets (i.e. off-shore).  Ron Jeffries, co-creator of XP, responded with the following "viciously sarcastic" draft which I found very entertaining. I should make it clear that Ron's angle here was humour and not attack.

A MANIFESTO OF SECOND BEST ALTERNATIVES

We intentionally hire incompetent individuals who will not stay
with us long, and organize across geography so that their
interactions are few and hampered. We try to compensate for these
irreparable errors by using Draconian processes and expensive
tools.

Our developers cannot really build software on their own, because
we hire them that way to save money. They do not stay with us long
enough to justify training them. We try to compensate for their
almost complete inability to perform, using large documents
describing, mostly in a language our workers understand only
imperfectly, how to use our massive tools and how to follow our
rigid process.

We position our incompetent developers as far as possible from the
people who know what we need. We cannot get together with them
often, because travel is expensive and no one wants to go there
anyway. Since we cannot collaborate effectively, we try to
compensate by writing strict definitions of what we need for our
incompetent developers to follow. We fail to notice that if we
knew that accurately what we want, we could just write it down in
Java and be done. In any case, our incompetent developers may not
be able to follow these strict contracts, and we will have a good
case for recovery of damages.

In the absence of competence, and with collaboration being
essentially impossible as well as undesirable, we will not be able
to accommodate many changes, despite the many mistakes that will
inevitably be made in planning and communication. Nonetheless, we
will insist on rigorously following our plans in every detail.

By doing all four of these things, each of which is at best half
as good as doing the right thing, we will guarantee that we will
be at least one-sixteenth (one-half to the fourth power) as
effective as we would be if we actually followed the Agile
Manifesto.

But this way we get a manifesto of our very own.

7 comments:

Tim Lesher said...

In the original post, Ron was far more understanding than you've made him sound.

It seems to me that, by excerpting the post so closely, you've made this "manifesto" sound far more vicious than it was written.

Isn't that the definition of "quoted out of context"?

Peter Scheyen said...

I certainly don't like anyone thinking that I'm being manipulative. Here's the portion of the thread above the sarcastic manifesto. As I said in my post, Ron's aim was humour and not attack.

> Thus the basis for my desire to collaborate on a 'Manifesto' focused on
> 'players' of average skill in a commodity-based world of transient
> (preferably low-cost) labor. If someone has a stable team that can produce
> "the best architectures and designs" on their own great. However, for those
> of us that live in another place some guidance in the form of 'principles'
> might be appreciated.

Do not read any further. If you do, remember that we are friends.

I do agree that you need to do something different if you are to
continue to play in an arena of incompetent developers who cannot
learn and are not convenient to hand.

The following is viciously sarcastic. I recommend that you do not
read it. But you will. So please remember that it is not about you
personally, but it is a pretty accurate view of what seems to be
going on with the organization you describe.

You do not need a manifesto. Here's why. If you had one, it would go
like this:

Tim Lesher said...

I didn't think you were being intentionally manipulative there, or intended to change the tone of Ron's manifesto.

I apologize if it sounded that way.

Marvin Toll said...

Are you willing to update this post as we 'mature' the manifesto? My preference would be to not publish this initial draft.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Agile approaches an answer to many of the noted problems all too common in the software development world, and maybe in another decade we might improve upon it some more. But amongst the positives, it occurs to me that Agile robs us of specialization, making all developers fit a ridiculous mold that only a handful can actually aspire to fit, hence the consensus that there is some need for "less than agile" methods. It's great to be able to learn new things and do so at light speed, but that is not every developer trying to make a living. So all you do is reflect back your own smugness when you talk about these so-called "incompetent individuals." Beware that label: One day you, too, will reach age 50 and the youth getting by on 1/3 of your pay will undercut you because they are 80% as good as you.

Another observation I have about Agile gets right to the heart of why nothing attempted by the Agile community matters, and that is: Agile fails to address the evils of management. It doesn't matter how well you estimate something, management will always demand twice as much no matter how much realistic evidence you present to them. Management sees Agile only through the lens of "how can I make these assholes produce more and whip themselves in the process?" And so we have reopened the doors to the sweatshop. Information Sharecropper has a real nice ring to it, though, right?

You want a fix? How about making software development a profession equal in status to doctors and lawyers. That will solve 99% of the problems. Doctors don't let non-doctors manage them, it simply is unacceptable.

What I'm looking for is that holistic manifesto--the one that gets the job done, gets me paid, and doesn't leave me feeling completely played the way I have been for over decade now. Anything else is just blather. Smart people in America are just easy marks.

Kimota94 aka Matt aka AgileMan said...

Boy, I'll bet this drove your traffic stats through the roof, Pete! Always a fun debate, no matter how many times we have it.

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