Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Future of Agile according to Uncle Bob Martin

The Future of Agile (If Any) - "Uncle" Bob Martin

Thank you to everyone at Skills Matter who put on a really nice free session with "Uncle" Bob Martin at DigitasLBi in London last night. And of course to Bob for giving his time for this!

I've never been up to any Skills Matter events or training before, but after the conversations last night I'll be looking for opportunities. Also the venue was excellent - relaxed, convenient and informal, for a group of (my guess) over 100 attendees to learn and discuss the seemingly "eternal" problems of software development.

This wasn't an event on the Agile South Coast calendar, but there were at least two of us up there. I know that when he's been speaking in London previously the Dev South Coast crew have managed to tempt Uncle Bob as far as Southampton for speaking, and the delights of the Cowherds pub. Maybe we missed a trick in not asking him down on this visit - let's keep an eye on his diary!

Uncle Bob Martin describes the Agile Software Development Process in Rings

Serious Flaimbait?

I guess the title of the talk fits nicely in to the series of recent on-line debates that I've been learning from recently like "Agile is dead, long live agility", and the more contentious "TDD is dead". Last night Bob reminded us that the problems that the original authors of the Agile Manifesto set out to solve are still hurting us in many of our software projects, and that software is invading (or supporting) our lives in more diverse, and more serious, ways.

Bob's first-hand history of the Agile movement and stream of challenging and forceful statements in support of XP practices kept it lively.

My views were challenged from many directions, but walking away I can't find much that I'd argue against. Perhaps just one thing - Bob warned us that Scrum has no interest in technical practices, and is weaker because of that: it is too easy for a software team to claim to be Scrum but not follow important software development practices. I think that Scrum is open and deliberate about this:
Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and development practices so that you can improve. 
The Scrum Guide, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland

In my experience, when a team starts work towards creating releasable increments at the end of every regular iteration they will need to reach out for the practices to support that.

However, Bob called out an unintended consequence of splitting out the technical practices from Scrum: it has become a tool for project managers. And because Scrum has become synonymous with "Agile" in many peoples' heads, the Agile conferences and discussions are dominated by Project Managers. Perhaps as a reaction to that, developers have re-grouped in to the Software Craftmanship movement. Two groups with the same aim are now divided by discipline.

The original "Lightweight Processes" that banded together under the Agile umbrella have offered us solutions to enable trust and communication between the business and the development teams. Are we building up that divide again? Good practices and effective understanding of business requirements have become more important than ever because software impacts so many aspects of our lives. Will there reach a point where software is implicated in some disaster so horrendous that the whole world will look to software professionals and ask "How could you let that happen?" How would we respond?

Hopefully not with manual test plans that look like this :)
The hands of a QA Manager: "Which half of the plan should I skip?"
I really enjoyed the session, and if you ever get the chance to hear Bob Martin speak I'd grab it - very engaging, just be ready for the pattern interrupt at the beginning ;)

All done

It was great to be able to head out to the session with a diverse range of my NewVoiceMedia work colleagues (2 developers, and  *no* project managers in this case).
Agile South Coast's Clive Skipper spotted me at the end of the session and we headed home with a fellow attendee, keeping the agile thinking going on the train. Awesome evening.

I missed the train home but discovered Mi Casa at Waterloo. Every cloud...

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