(2021-04-27) Hill On Agile Methods

GeePaw Hill: On Agile Methods. This muse is not really about SAFe for the most part, but about all of what the "methodology turn" in our trade produces

Every SAFe installation I’ve seen, and it has been quite a few of them, and I use the word "installation" advisedly, is deeply committed to a hierarchical command-and-control approach to optimizing software development. And my objection to SAFe is straightforward: you will not get optimum software development by emphasizing hierarchical command and control.

Let’s broaden the subject: What current method would I use? None of them.

Methodology is the study of methods. Methods are things like SAFe, Scrum, DAD, Prince2, XP

not even my beloved XP

First, these methods rely on what I call the Anna Karenina assumption: Tolstoy wrote, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

This idea morphs, in these methods, into "All high-performing software teams are alike." The notion is baked in quite deeply in most of them

Are all happy teams alike? The answer might even be yes, though it’s far from obvious. What is obvious is that they are not all alike at the level of analysis being used

Bringing us to the second reason these methods don’t reliably lead where we want: They focus their attention and their reasoning almost entirely around "process": structure, artifacts, rules, forms, procedures.

We observe that the method would work if our relationships weren’t broken. If we were otherwise healthy, stable, motivated, safe, close, trusting, and so on. But these methods don’t actually attend — for the most part — to achieving any of those things.

A favorite quote of mine: "You can’t organize your way into community." Yet, to the extent that I, personally, have seen the ways in which all high-performing teams are alike, they boil down almost entirely to "they are all communities". (product team, project community)

Third, these methods nearly always bundle the demands of customers, stockholders, and stakeholders, into a single abstract unity, but not only are those three separate categories with different goals, but each of the three contains within it multiple competing voices.

Fourth, tho each of these methods describes a City on the Hill, none of them sketch a sufficiently detailed and option-laden path for how we are going to get there.

They are marketed, sold, bought, and installed as big-bang switchovers.

Fifth, and perhaps most dauntingly, one can succeed, impressively so, at the method-selling business, regardless of the success or failure of one’s customers.

I said I wasn’t ready yet to propose a positive view, and I’m not. But. I can tell you what things I will demand of any future method before I even consider embracing it.

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