Friday, April 2, 2010

Life/Death/Agility 6: How Many Deaths Will it Take?

Milo passed this little gem on to me. It was published eight years ago and it makes just about every argument I've been making in this mini-series.  Why so long and still no change?

The passage quoted below may explain why "critical XP" still isn't happening:  a chicken-and-egg problem.  Read the whole thing for details on "Ron's project" and "the audit".

The theory of punctuated equilibrium holds that biological species are not likely to change over a long period of time because mutations are usually swamped by the genes of the existing population.  If a mutation occurs in an isolated spot away from the main population, it has a greater chance of surviving.  This is like saying that it is easier for a strange new fish to grow large in a small pond.  Similarly, disruptive technologies (new species of technologies) do not prosper in companies selling similar older technologies, nor are they initially aimed at the markets served by the older technologies.  Disruptive technologies are strange little fish, so they only grow big in a small pond. 

Ron’s project was being run under a military policy, even though it was a commercial project.  If the company policy had segmented off a commercial area for software development and explicitly allowed the team to develop its own process in that segment, then the auditor would have been satisfied.  He would not have seen a strange little fish swimming around in a big pond, looking different from all the other fish.  Instead he would have seen a new little fish swimming in its own, ‘official’ small pond.  There XP practices could have thrived and grown mature, at which time they might have invaded the larger pond of traditional practices.

But it was not to be.  The project was canceled, a victim not of the audit but of the economy and a distant corporate merger.  Today the thing managers remember about the project is that XP did not pass the audit.  The little fish did not survive in the big pond.


[in case you don't recognize How many deaths will it take...]

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