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Burying Agile, The FBI, Harmful ScrumMasters, and More

August 25, 2009

Day two at Agile 2009 started off with the keynote address by Alistair Cockburn titled I Come to Bury Agile, Not to Praise It. He was led into the Grand Ballroom by a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace, and went into the eulogy speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, replacing references to Caesar with Agile.

His point being that Agile is no longer one way to do software development, but has now become integrated into the way we develop software in the 21st century. He made a good analogy of an iceberg in the ocean. When it melts, it hasn’t disappeared, but has become part of the ocean. His talk was highly entertaining, and his thoughts on where software development is heading were compelling.

Following the keynote I made my way to Justin Babuscio’s talk on Failing Fast: How the FBI Learned to Catch Bad Guys One Iteration at a Time. He informed us at the start of the session that the name had officially dropped the “failing fast” portion. Apparently the FBI instructed him to remove it insisting that the word failure not be associated with the FBI. Justin spoke about how his team integrated Agile software development practices into a reluctant FBI bureaucracy.

Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley were next on my schedule as they provided Top 10 Tips for Agile Coaches. They identified things such as, Step back and see the big picture, and Go with the energy of the team. They provided some good examples and real world situations, but there were no real surprises. I think most people had probably come across these tips in their personal experiences.

My next session was by Jurgen Appelo titled What (Else) Can Agile Learn from Complexity?. This session wasn’t high on my list to attend, but it was the only one that would work into my schedule and that sounded remotely interesting. The premise of the talk was how complex systems in the real world can be paralleled to software teams in an organization. The conclusion was that every process we create will be wrong, and we will just continue to come up with new ones….that too will be wrong.

Paul Hodgetts’ talk on ScrumMasters Considered Harmful – Where Did It Go Wrong? was my next stop.  As he admitted, the title was made tongue in cheek and really referred to how easy it is for a ScrumMaster to start going down the wrong path. His talk tried to identify the actual duties of a ScrumMaster and how making sure those duties were known throughout the organization. Ensuring that understanding is present, ScrumMasters can in fact be very useful to the team.

My final session of the day was Agile Project Metrics presented by Dave Nicolette. I was excited for this one since I am interested in this topic. I was a little disappointed since the focus of this meeting was on the Project Management level as opposed to the development level. Despite this there was some good discussion about which metrics not to track, and how the type of team and organization you are part of will lead you down different paths.

The day was jam-packed and it’s hard to believe that we’re only two days into the conference. It’s been a great experience hearing key industry people’s insights into the agile development world. I look forward to tomorrow when I have the opportunity to hear one of the architects of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland, speak.

By Hemant J. Naidu

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