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Tuesday, May 23
 

15:45

Agile: Succeeding or Regressing

Agile: Succeeding or Regressing? Are We Learning as a Profession?

Steven Fraser – Panel Impresario

Software development practices have evolved over the past 70 years beginning with the first stored computer program which ran on “The Manchester Baby”.  Since then a variety of approaches to industrial-scale software development by teams of professionals have emerged.  In 1970, Royce advocated the creation of software products with a disciplined engineering “Waterfall” process.  This evolved to “Structured Design” (Yourdon, 1979) and “Object Oriented Design” practices (Booch, 1982) – which lead to the emergence of iterative “Agile” processes with publication of the “Agile Manifesto” in 2001.

Over the years, David Parnas, Steve McConnell, Bertrand Meyer, and others have discussed the evolution of software as a profession – and more recently, Agile has become the target of critical analysis.  For example, see Dave (Pragmatic) Thomas’s presentation on the “Death of Agile” (viewable on YouTube).  

This panel will discuss whether agile is succeeding or regressing – and what metrics should be used to assess progress (in either direction).

Andrea Goulet 

Before we can answer if we're succeeding, we need to first ask ourselves that all-important question: What does success look like? If we're judging success based on adoption and awareness, there's little doubt that we've succeeded. It seems that nearly every company that builds software, from small startups to large enterprises, is familiar with the term. Agile has even made its way into pop culture. I laughed so hard when a character on HBO's sitcom Silicon Valley whipped out a ready-made Scrum board that he kept on hand to motivate his development team. 

Of course, there are always areas for opportunity and growth, too. I see so many teams who are struggling and as a curious observer, I like to figure out what the challenge is. To me, I see three key areas where we can improve. 

  1. Getting back to the fundamentals laid out in the manifesto and principles and asking ourselves what really matters.
  2. Empowering teams to change and adapt based on their own unique situation.
  3. Selling the value of Agile up the leadership chain and getting executives to understand the value Agile brings across an entire organization and not just with the software group.


Avraham Poupko

In many areas we are certainly succeeding. We are able to create very complex systems and have fun while doing so. However there have been quite a few regressions along the way, some of them devastating.

Part of our regression can be attributed to the capitalization of the word “Agile”. Once agile became a “thing” we started evaluating software and process by how Agile it is and not by how agile it is. In other words, we sometimes evaluate ourselves based on conformance and not based on performance. Are we learning as a profession? A resounding yes.  Are we learning the right things, and are we learning as fast as we can. Not always. But we are an open minded community interested in improving itself, so there is cause to believe that over time we will improve.

Andrea Provaglio 

From my perspective, we are succeeding with agility and stagnating with Agile. What we call Agile today has evolved from what it was 16 years ago when the Manifesto was published. The fundamental values and principles are still valid, but they are now reaching a wider audience and what we see today are different approaches to “doing Agile" rather than “being Agile” — the latter being a mindset to operate in complexity. With the evolution of Agile “methods”, came also confusion and a dilution the original term (probably inevitable when something goes mainstream). Which is why I believe that for us, long-standing practitioners, one of the responsibilities is to help clarify what agility is to those who approach it.

Silvana Wasitova

The short answer is succeeding, but that is not the whole picture. The more interesting questions are: how are we succeeding, how fast, and is agile the silver bullet. Startups are inherently more aligned with agile, but what about the established companies? The reality is that transition to agile is still laborious process for many, and at times painfully pits old habits and entrenched processes against the agile philosophy and values. This is an area that agile does not address: how to transition, how to adapt and adopt. More specifically, when established players fear they have something to lose, then agile is not very attractive. This is the area where more work still needs to be done, even today, 16 years after the Agile Manifesto was coined.

Claes Wohlin

In my view, it is not really about agile succeeding or regressing! It is about our ability to engineer software, and hence it is not about plan-driven development versus more lightweight development. There is far too much focus on specific approaches, methods and tools; we should take a step back and look at the big picture. The key questions are more related to the second question in the title of the panel, i.e. “Are we learning as a profession?” And even more importantly, how can we ensure that we learn as a profession? If not learning, are we even a profession? 

The inception of agile and lean has been very important, since they have helped resurrecting the importance of the human aspects in software development. Furthermore, the focus on working code and customer involvement is very important. However, agile or lean is not a panacea for software development. So, what can we learn from the evolution of software engineering? After all, we turn 50 years in 2018. 

In my opinion, the success of engineering software depends on our ability to manage our intellectual capital. We must understand the needs for succeeding with a task, a project or any development activity resulting in a system, product or service. Plan-driven development is mostly focused on the organizational capital, while agile development is more focused on the human capital and the social capital. However, success is about an appropriate balance between the different types of capitals. How do we balance human, social and organizational capital in a specific situation to succeed? This is in my view the key question we need to address for the future.


Moderators
avatar for Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser

Impresario & Principal Consultant, Innoxec (Innovation Executive Services)
Steven Fraser is based in Silicon Valley and has served as an innovation catalyst with global influence for HP, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Nortel. In addition to a year as a Visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) consulting on domain engineering... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Andrea Goulet

Andrea Goulet

CEO, Corgibytes, LLC
Andrea Goulet is the CEO of Corgibytes, a software development shop dedicated to maintaining and modernizing software applications and has been named by LinkedIn as one of the Top 10 Professionals in Software Under 35. She’s the founder of LegacyCode.Rocks and hosts a podcast dedicated... Read More →
avatar for Avraham Poupko

Avraham Poupko

Senior System's Architect, L&T Technical Services
I am an Architect and leader of a group of Architects in L&T's Center of Excellence in Jerusalem. I am fascinated by the ways by which people get together to create software. The idea of minds joining to create something "abstract" such as software is one of the great wonders of... Read More →
avatar for Andrea Provaglio

Andrea Provaglio

Strategic IT Consultant, Agile Organizational Coach, andreaprovaglio.com
I help IT organizations to implement better ways of doing business; and I coach executives, managers and teams who want to improve technically and relationally. My main focus is on helping companies to transition to organizational and cultural models that are better suited to the... Read More →
avatar for Silvana Wasitova

Silvana Wasitova

Agile Coach, Wasitova
Silvana helps teams and companies achieve better results through applying Agile values and practices. A Scrum practitioner since 2005, Silvana lives and breathes the agile value of “People over Process” - and brings that to the forefront of her coaching approaches while still... Read More →
avatar for Claes Wohlin

Claes Wohlin

Professor and Dean, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Claes is a professor in software engineering and dean of the Faculty of Computing at Blekinge Institute of Technology. In 2011, he was elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. His main research interest include agile and lean software development, and evidence-based... Read More →


Tuesday May 23, 2017 15:45 - 16:45
Ballroom B 1st Floor
 
Wednesday, May 24
 

15:30

Agile: Cult or Culture?

Agile: Cult or Culture? 

Steven Fraser – Panel Impresario

Cults are small communities of individuals with a shared devotion to a person, idea, or thing – particularly when such devotion clashes with the beliefs of others.  In the context of emergent technology, a cult might be seen as an early phase in the adoption of a new practice with new shared norms and beliefs – ideas that are not yet in the mainstream but over time may gain widespread acceptance.

A culture is generally viewed as an achieved state of civilization with stable norms, beliefs, traditions, and practices that have been widely adopted (and accepted).

This panel will discuss whether agile ideas, practices, norms and beliefs have achieved sufficient momentum to evolve from cult of limited influence to a widely adopted culture.  Our discussion may touch on both the scale and scope of agile adoption as well as the degree of diminishing (growing) “ideological fragmentation” of agile values and practices.

Sallyann Freudenberg

Fourteen years or so ago, when I first encountered ‘agile’ the part that really appealed to me, the bit I loved the most, was the cultural transformation. I saw an evolution from an almost silent, stark, cubicled workplace where people communicated via written documents and email – to vibrant, open spaces full of life and conversation. Where plans went from being a Gantt chart hidden away in a manager’s PC to a living, collectively owned representation on a wall. I would ask people how their work was different now and they would say things like “we know each other’s names” and “people look up and say good morning to each other now”. It all felt so much more…human.

It is only in the last couple of years that I have come to realize that this pendulum swing has actually just replaced one mono-culture with another. The tech workplace has gone from one favoring introversion, solitary work and quiet careful thinking to one (perhaps inadvertently) designed for fast-thinking, extroverted verbalizers.   In truth we have (and need) all kinds of thinkers on our teams.  Whilst highly collaborative working practices work well for some, they disadvantage others. I see and speak to people all the time whose gifts and contributions are passed by or their brilliance stifled by the accommodations they have to make to fit in to the environments we have created. If we are to create truly innovative products and solve the very trickiest of problems we need all kinds of minds. So cult or culture? I feel like the culture has itself become the cult. One of our next big challenges as an industry is to understand how to support and leverage the different brains we have. Our diversity can become our competitive advantage if we can make our collaborations truly inclusive. 

Diana Larsen

Agile-as-a-culture began when the groups of people representing different “lightweight” methodologies met over several meetings in 1999-2001 and, ultimately seventeen of them wrote and signed the Agile Manifesto. They looked for the commonalities among their approaches to create the Agile umbrella. 

Almost immediately after, the schisms began as the groups that supported the different methodologies began promoting their “agile” as the right and best agile. As disciples climbed aboard we saw agile-as-a-cult emerge. We heard about “religious” wars, cargo cults, and “are you doing or being agile?” We heard much less about the joy of working together in discovery and how the teams that embraced these more productive, humane, and sustainable approaches to work created the best jobs ever for many team members. We heard high flying promises of high performing teams, but these promises were brought to earth with a thump as stories of “fragile,” “agile is dead”, and scaling-to-fit-our-existing-bureaucracy took center stage. 

Personally, I took refuge in the ideas of fluently agile teams, refocusing on creating teams of learners in productive, humane, sustainable workplaces. Looking toward agile that is neither cult nor culture, but a means to realizing the organization design principle of jointly optimizing the social, technical, and environmental systems.

Ken Power

Though I’m wary of labels, agile-as-a-cult has some implications that the teams and organizations in question are leaning towards a dogmatic, and perhaps poorly-informed, approach to agile. Agile-as-a-culture, on the other hand, has some implications that the teams and organizations in question are actively thinking about what it means to be a more agile organization, and actively embrace learning, experimentation, and continuous improvement. How do we tell the difference?

For the purpose of this panel, I will use four indicators that help distinguish agile-as-a-cult organizations from agile-as-a-culture organizations. The first indicator is the frequency of usage of the word “agile”. In recent years I have noticed an inverse correlation between the amount of times a group will use the word “agile”, and how agile they actually are. Agile-as-a-cult organizations start to label everything as agile-this, and agile-that, and create or hire “agile experts” to be the keepers of the definition. Agile-as-a-culture organizations get on with the business of delivering amazing products and services to their customers, and inherently focus on being agile to help them succeed. The second indicator is grammatical usage of the word “agile”. Agile-as-a-cult organizations use “agile” as a noun; agile-as-a-culture organizations use agile as a verb. This is summed up in the difference between doing agile versus being agile.  The third indicator is attitude to learning and experimentation. Recall the often-overlooked phrase in the agile manifesto – “we are uncovering better ways of developing software …” Agile-as-a-cult organizations want to quickly standardize everything, create playbooks that tell people what to do, and roll out “best practices”. Agile-as-a-culture organizations embody an approach to discovery, experimentation, adaptation, and continuous learning to improve conditions for people in their organization and how they deliver value to customers. The fourth indicator is the metaphors people use to describe their people and development process. Agile-as-a-cult organizations use metaphors that emphasize a desire for repetition and speed, such as factories, machines, or race cars. Agile-as-a-culture organizations use metaphors that emphasize growth, evolution, and emergence, such as gardening, driving, or ecosystems.

Patrick Kua

As an individual, I see agile mostly as culture – living with an agile culture means adopting its values, and principles and drawing on different practices to best suit the situation. An important facet of this culture is the relentless focus on continuous improvement which means adapting practices, and sometimes inventing new approaches. Adaptation and new practices often means stepping away from the norm.

As a consultant, I see many companies and communities suffer from agile-as-a-cult. Their focus explicitly means drawing boundaries about what is, and what is not, allowed according to their rules of the cult they identify with. Strict and non-negotiable boundaries constrain those innovators who truly adopt the agile culture. Companies and communities that adopt agile-as-a-cult prevent themselves from being truly agile.

Nancy Van Schooenderwoert 

Agile is not a cult - but that hardly matters if you are one of the people who has been steered away from Agile (maybe forever) by behaviors that refuse to deal honestly with problems around the use or introduction of Agile methods.  I see 3 common situations that lead to a perception that Agile is a cult:

  • Management has put their weight behind “Agilists” (of some definition) and employees are made to feel that they dare not say anything critical about it, even if true
  • Agile is being shoehorned into a situation where it is not the best approach but advocates will not hear any criticism
  • Overly-enthusiastic Agilists, pushing too hard: For those who believe, no proof is necessary; for those who do not, no proof is possible.

Each of these has the effect of being too one-way; of not being open to all the effects that the process changes are having.  It is a steam-roller pattern when what we need is a pattern that truly invites teams to bring their expertise and to continuously shape the rules they will operate by.  This has to be based on experimentation and honesty - on the scientific method.  The rules of Scrum and even the Agile Manifesto are merely a starting point, not an article of faith.

Credentialing has its place but 14 years of certification mania has taken a toll on the Agile movement. It’s time to balance that with real inquiry, experimentation, and peer review because Agile is not a finished static thing. We need to build a culture of exploration and listening.

...

Moderators
avatar for Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser

Impresario & Principal Consultant, Innoxec (Innovation Executive Services)
Steven Fraser is based in Silicon Valley and has served as an innovation catalyst with global influence for HP, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Nortel. In addition to a year as a Visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) consulting on domain engineering... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Sal Freudenberg

Sal Freudenberg

Independent
Sallyann is a neuro-diversity advocate and an Agile Coach, trainer and mentor with 25+ years in the IT industry, 14 of which have been firmly in the Agile and Lean space.She has a PhD in the Psychology of Collaborative Software Development.Along with Katherine Kirk, Sal is co-founder... Read More →
avatar for PATRICK KUA

PATRICK KUA

 CHIEF SCIENTIST, N26
Patrick Kua is the CTO of the mobile bank N26 (Berlin, Germany), where he is building the engineering group that will change modern retail banking for people like you and me. Formerly a Principal Technical Consultant at ThoughtWorks, he is the author of three books, The Retrospective... Read More →
avatar for Diana Larsen

Diana Larsen

founder, Agile Fluency Project LLC
An international authority in Agile software development, team leadership, and Agile transitions, Diana Larsen co-authored the books *Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great*; *Liftoff: Start and Sustain Successful Agile Teams*; and *The Five Rules of Accelerated Learning... Read More →
avatar for Ken Power

Ken Power

Software Engineering Leader, https://kenpower.dev/
Ken Power has held multiple positions in large technology organizations. His current responsibilities include leading global, large-scale engineering organization transformations. He has been working with agile and lean methods since 1999. He holds patents in virtualization and network... Read More →
avatar for Nancy Van Schooenderwoert

Nancy Van Schooenderwoert

President, Lean-Agile Partners, Inc.
Nancy was among the first to apply Agile methods to embedded systems development, as an engineer, manager, and consultant. She has led Agile change initiatives beyond software development in safety-critical, highly regulated industries, and teaches modern Agile approaches like Mob... Read More →


Wednesday May 24, 2017 15:30 - 17:00
Jan von Werth 1 12th Floor
 
Thursday, May 25
 

15:30

No Silver Bullet Reloaded: The Essence of Agile Essential and Accidental Complexity

No Silver Bullet Reloaded: The Essence of Agile Essential and Accidental Complexity

Steven Fraser – Panel Impresario

The classic 1986 paper by Frederick P. Brooks, “No Silver Bullet: Essence and Accidents in Software Engineering,” has influenced several generations of software developers.  Brooks emphasized the notions of essential complexity and accidental complexity, and he offered explanations on some of the most promising approaches to address complexity in the software development process.  Most of these promising approaches are linked to agile practices.  However, agile development itself not a “silver bullet”.  While many of the agile practices are aligned with the approaches advocated by Brooks, agile development must be done with discipline in order to avoid adding accidental complexity. 

This panel marks the 30th anniversary of Fred Brooks’ paper in the April 1987 issue of IEEE Computer – and the 10th anniversary of a similarly themed panel retrospective at ACM’s SPLASH in Montreal.  Panelists will discuss the impacts of agile on essential and accidental complexity in software development and offer predictions for the future.

Ademar Aguiar

Software development is a knowledge-intensive activity that requires a spiraling process of interactions between individuals, teams and organizations, who collectively share their explicit and tacit knowledge with one simple goal: to obtain programming language statements to be executed by a computer.

Software knowledge is invisible and unvisualizable, boundary-less and dynamic, and as a consequence is inherently complex. Due to its intrinsic tacit nature, software knowledge is a challenge to capture and record outside of individuals minds. This is especially relevant for knowledge related with “what” to build (requirements) and “how” to build (design) and validate (tests). Although the complete understanding of a software system is usually hard for one single mind, it is at the same time hindered by communication among several minds.

In the “No Silver Bullet”, Frederick Brooks suggests to reuse more, incrementally refine a system, and to invest in great software developers, if we want to reduce total development costs. Agile promotes all of these, through frequent releases, simple design, and intensive team collaboration, and thus helps to reduce both essential and accidental complexity but unfortunately not in an order of magnitude. Better support for software knowledge management, from creation and preservation to retrieval is crucial.

Andreas Schliep

Agile is at home in the complex domain. By definition, it is more than a simple process or even a single framework. At the edge of chaos, we seek orientation through patterns and principles. This leads to several challenges for people who have their roots in traditional project management – and adds to the overall complexity. In this case, organizations trying to force Agile – the noun – on their people turn out to be less agile – the adjective – than several organizations that might lack modern project management but demonstrate modern leadership values.

The infamous chasm, we have been trying to cross for several decades now, has not disappeared. It has mutated into a different kind of split, not between organizational roles but mental models, a divergence within departments, management groups, even teams. Addressing this, and facilitating reconciliation, requires a new level of support by coaches, consultants, trainers and agile champions. We need to rebuild bridges, construct new ones, to help mental models change and avoid or correct fake cultural shifts. A new level of responsibility appeared, and many of us might not yet be ready for it.

Hendrik Esser

When Brooks published “No Silver Bullet” in 1987 the SW development "eco-system" looked quite different to the one we face today. The past 30 years have brought us huge technological and social advancements e.g. in processing speed, storage density,  telecommunications, cloud computing, open source, 3D-printing, globalization, social networks, tele-working etc.  This had profound impacts on Software engineering. We can observe huge increases in productivity, thanks to the re-use of SW components and the ability to easily connect experts from different parts of the planet. Agile has helped us to grow SW organically, create rapid prototypes and obtain customer feedback.

A lot of things became much more simple (just think of using an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi to create new products fast).  At the same time the demand for ever more complex solutions has exploded. Today, almost no company can create a complex solution alone - we are living in a world of internationally distributed SW development using a network of colleagues, partners and suppliers. Everything is interconnected and there are huge dependencies. This has caused an enormous increase in accidental complexity as all this is coordinated and managed by a huge amount of engineers in management and coordination roles. It has also resulted in an impact on reliability, as no human being is alone able to oversee a complete solution.  We see a lot of issues around SW quality. As a consequence there is a lot of thinking, consultancy services and tooling to get a grip on the emerging accidental complexity - many of them being of questionable impact. So accidental complexity is a significant contributor to productivity, complexity and reliability and working on accidental complexity is of rising importance.

Are the recent advancements in AI giving us hope to find a silver bullet? I do not think so. Capturing requirements needs deep conversations and contextual sensitivity as well as creativity (sometimes the dialogue with the customer turns to a completely different product than what was initially asked for). Machines will for the foreseeable future not be able to do this - look at how far speech recognition systems done by Google and Apple have come.

Jutta Eckstein

My impression is that sometimes Agile is treated as a silver bullet. Some companies are going through this transformation with the hope that Agile will solve “all” their problems. This transformation includes at times the idea of making the whole company Agile. There you can then observe that e.g. management (or the board) is using a Kanban board and is having a standup meeting, yet the structure and strategy are left untouched.

Yet, as well Agile seems sometimes to promise the silver bullet – currently e.g. the various scaling frameworks. Those frameworks pretend that there is a direct relation between cause and effect –by implementing the framework the company becomes Agile– yet ignoring the differences in organizations, staff, clients, markets, competitors, etc.

In general, I observe that complexity is often ignored. Organizations tend to treat all kinds of changes as being either static or dynamic and plan in terms of milestones for implementing a particular change (see http://www.hsdinstitute.org/resources/three-kinds-of-change.html). Yet, often (especially if humans are involved) change is complex (aka dynamical) and thus you can’t address it via milestones (or even more detailed planning) but only via experiments and then inspecting and adapting (or in Cynefin terminology by probing, sensing, and then acting).

However, Agile in its core addresses essential complexity – on the one hand with one of the principles “Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential” and on the other hand with the practice of KISS.

Werner Wild

After more than 30 years since Fred Brook’s paper “No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accident in Software Engineering” was published, we still have not found a way to increase software development productivity tenfold in a decade. However, when using Agile and Lean, we are improving much faster than we did in the 1990s! If we would not, the rapidly increasing complexity of our current and future systems will kill us, figuratively (hopefully not literally).

Nowadays, a whole generation of software developers is entering the job market who were at least somewhat exposed to the principles and practices of the now - hopefully - well established way of development. Having trained a four-digit number of software engineers over the last 15 years I have a lot of hope that the new generation will avoid many potholes on the road to great software, but certainly Agile and Lean is not for everyone. I saw and still see many people struggling and feeling uncomfortable with uncertainty and change, which are core issues addressed by Agile/Lean. And, even for the ones who “get it”, Agile and Lean is - hopefully - no Silver Bullet automatically solving all their problems, but an invitation to adapt and adjust to the needs at hand, plus continuously improving the processes and - most important - themselves!

Currently a lot of interesting developments are happening when applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to software development, but so far I have not yet seen the serious breakthroughs required to satisfy the “tenfold increase

...

Moderators
avatar for Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser

Impresario & Principal Consultant, Innoxec (Innovation Executive Services)
Steven Fraser is based in Silicon Valley and has served as an innovation catalyst with global influence for HP, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Nortel. In addition to a year as a Visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI) consulting on domain engineering... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Ademar Aguiar

Ademar Aguiar

University of Porto
avatar for Jutta ECKSTEIN

Jutta ECKSTEIN

Independent Coach, consultant, trainer and speaker
Jutta works as an independent coach, consultant, trainer, author, and speaker. She has helped many teams and organizations worldwide to make an agile transition. She has a unique experience in applying agile processes within medium-sized to large distributed mission-critical projects... Read More →
avatar for Hendrik Esser

Hendrik Esser

Growing up in the 1980s I was a passionate computer game developer during my school and study times. After getting my diploma in Electrical engineering I started at Ericsson in 1994 as aSW developer. From 1996 I worked in project management roles. Since 2000 I am working as a manager... Read More →
avatar for Andreas Schliep

Andreas Schliep

Executive Partner, DasScrumTeam AG
I work with DasScrumTeam, a team of trainers and coaches based in Switzerland dedicated to helping organisations on their transformation from ugly waterfall larvae to beautiful agile butterflies. Or something in-between.
avatar for Werner Wild

Werner Wild

CEO, EVOLUTION COnsulting
Werner studied Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Innsbruck and currently teaches at the Free University of Bolzano and the University of Innsbruck. He currently consults to startups establishing and growing agile processes and teams, and develops high performance... Read More →


Thursday May 25, 2017 15:30 - 17:00
Jan von Werth 1 12th Floor