Sunday, May 16, 2010

Efficiency and Trust

Haven't posted for a while because I've started a new contract.  The team is nominally Agile, the customer is nominally on board, but ... not really.   There's a lot of ceremony, no pairing or TDD expected (although we would not be punished for doing it),  a lot of micromanagement of time with JIRA (be sure to charge that 15-minute daily standup to the right task!).

And I finally made the connection....

What do you do when your team/company is all excited to be “agile”, while your customers want to operate in the traditional, heavy-weight, documentation-driven approach?  ...  In most cases it turns out that they don’t trust the software team and hence they want to push all the risk to the software development side.
-- I Say Agile, You Say Traditional, Document-Driven

Ceremony is the cost of doing business in an environment without trust.  Agile is efficient because trust allows us to eliminate ceremonies of security/CYA/blame/risk-shifting, which waste resources.

The word "ceremony" as used in Agile circles could almost be glossed as "institutionalized Muda (waste)".  As an anthropologist, I think of it from the perspective of Durkheim: He saw religion as a mechanism that shored up or protected a threatened social order. 

For example, estimates "cast in stone" are sympathetic magic, telling a highly structured story in the hope of imposing certainty on a situation involving major unknown risks.  Estimates in a traditional environment are not a tool but a prayer - or an oath.


I will not identify the customer or the consulting company I'm subcontracting through.   Not for any reasons of trade secrets or confidentiality, but because of this:

The customer's dress code is the new biz casual - i.e., jeans, polo shirts and sneakers are fine for everyone.  The consultancy requires us to wear the old biz casual - no jeans, no sneakers, dress shirts.  I was told this is because we want to impress the customer by being "a level above them".

Consistent so far.

But then - we have casual Fridays!   Not the customer - they're always casual. Just the "one-level up" consultants.


It's like

... but because we really care about all our ... uh ... development associates ... ,  no beatings on Friday.


I won't believe a consulting company is Agile as long as it carries the baggage of the Old Biz Religion.

[UPDATE: see the clarification.]

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