Ryan’s Scrum Story

submitted by Ryan

I have worked with Agile on two occasions in my career. The first experience was a positive one over 10 years ago. We were a small development team and we introduced Agile ourselves. We studied the literature and various flavours of Agile and owned it. We had buy in from middle management and we got on with it. It served us.

My second experience of Agile was the complete opposite. This time it was brought in by Agile consultants. They came in with this self-righteous attitude of the keepers and protectors of the knowledge. Questions and critique were met with polite condescension. We were not the experts and it was great we were trying but please leave this to the people who know Agile and understand software development process.

I tried explaining that I started using Agile a decade earlier when they were still in secondary school, but it fell on deaf ears, I was an engineer. Engineers can be somewhat trusted with technical subjects but when it comes to process they cannot be trusted to understand it.

What makes me laugh is that they were so full of double-speak that I am surprised they didn’t burst. We were told that Agile creates self-managing teams and yet they continued to micro-manage every step of the process. They managed us, Agile managed us and we were left feeling unimportant and under-valued. Our productivity was a joke and we all recognised we had to move faster and it was us the engineers that had to pull it off. But could we change the process? Could we change any tiny detail of the precious meeting schedule, user story creation anything? No way!

May be this rings a bell with you, may be not. I recognise that we may have gotten really unlucky with these Agile consultants. Like the extreme end of idiocracy. The trouble is that management generally don’t know about how to develop software (why would they?) and half the programmers have under 5 years experience. It is an environment ripe for the taking and Agile consultants know how to sell.

Anyway, we managed 9 months and I was about to tell the boss that I was going to leave when they fired the Agile consultants. Even management saw the crazy situation for what it was, or at least they saw the nose dive in productivity.

So what did management do? They brought in new Agile consultants. This time they were explicitly told that we were not interested in Scrum zealots. We wanted a practical attitude that valued common sense over the religious following of Scrum to the letter of the law.

But I came away from my first conversation feeling as depressed as ever. They weren’t as bad as the last lot admittedly, may be it was just the warning about zealotry. But they truly believed that Agile was THE answer to everything. If we only followed Agile properly it would change everything. Agile, Agile, Agile, Agile, Agile, Agile. That is all they could fathom. It kind of shocked me that they would see software development through such a narrow lense. Technical practices did not come into it at all! These guys were not software developers, had never been software developers but were project managers who did consulting as Scrum Masters.

Suffice to say that I didn’t stick around to see how it went. So may be I got unlucky twice but reading the comment threads out there I think it is pretty common. The thing that is a little depressing is that I don’t see Agile dying off for quite some time and I really think it needs to die off. There are so many parasites now that even if there are quite a few teams out there having success, it comes at the cost to the rest of us.

Agile consultants have sunk their teeth deep into enterprise IT right now. I just hope that one day this madness can come to an end. I look at engineer led organisations like Google and I want that for the rest of us. I don’t want project managers to prescribe every last detail of how I should develop software. As far as I am concerned I am the expert at software development, not the project manager, Scrum Master or whatever it says on their phony certificate.

Here’s a thought though, may be I should get the Scrum Master certificate and use it against them. I spent four years studying at university for my Computer Science degree. Fifteen years of hard won experience in the trenches making software at work and at home. What is just three days for a Scrum Master certificate? I get to be a master after just three days! It’s kind of a joke that I can sell my services as an expert after a three day course but hey, that’s the world we live in.

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