Start with Skepticism

by Krishna on February 4, 2009

ideasI have started wondering recently whether Agile is going the same way as CMMi. If you have read the CMMi software model, you would probably agree that the general philosophy is reasonably sound. But many implementations get mired in bureaucracy and inefficient processes. So, more companies are now moving towards Agile. But the same bureaucrats are now part of the Agile crowd and they bring the same old thinking to the fresh principles of Agile.

Nowadays, we see Agile certifications and consultants. It has truly become a big business in its own right. While CMMi provided an incremental model towards organizational improvement, Agile proponents advocate an all-or-nothing model. Either you do it all or you fail. And this reeks of dogma and a lack of evidence-based management.

Unfortunately, the software industry seems to go through these cycles of trying to find the silver bullet that will take care of deadlines, quality, and costs, all at the same time. Managers (at every level) hear some interesting idea that becomes their mantra for a few months until the next gospel comes along. They start with completely trusting a concept or idea and then when it doesn’t yield the results that they were looking for, go through the classic Kübler-Ross model stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Then they go and start believing in something different, which lets them down yet again. How do we break out of the cycle?

  1. First, grow a mind. Instead of simply relying on industry leaders to guide you, spend time analyzing your company, people, and processes to understand what works and does not work for you. Use the benefit of company history and results.
  2. Learn to recognize hype when you hear or read it. Remember what your mother said: If something strikes you as too good to be true, it ALWAYS is too good to be true.
  3. If you read about something that strikes you as good, it may be okay to use it, but start with careful optimism instead of blind faith. Use results to understand the effects of the change. It is okay to give it some benefit of the doubt if there are initial failures, but don’t be in denial.
  4. Don’t ditch what you were doing and move over to the new idea completely. Start slowly – implement the idea in one project or one part of a project and measure results. If you do an immediate cutover without piloting the change, you will be making too many excuses for the idea not working. Yes, that is the definition of denial.
  5. Actively seek and read criticism of the methodology or change you are trying to implement. Don’t be a slave to any concept. Be ready to abandon long-held ideas when you are faced with true facts.

Finally, be your own biggest devil’s advocate. Keep questioning what you are doing. Such introspection will prevent you from falling too deep into something and will help you to make necessary course corrections.

[Photo licensed from cayusa]

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