[EDIT: There’s now also an XP version of this: XP Is Classic Rock]
I’ve had a number of occasions where people, usually working in a very strict, waterfall, environment, have voiced the opinion that ‘all that agile stuff’ is just an excuse to go ‘back to’ cowboy programming and rock ‘n’ roll development.
My normal response to this is something along the lines of ‘Au contraire! Working agile means you need to be more disciplined, not less!’ Which is true, of course, but not always quite in the same sense that they’re talking about.
Recently, though, it has occurred to me that in some ways, Agile really is Rock ‘n’ Roll! Let’s take a look at some examples:
Estimation and Planning
To quote the well respected experts on backlog prioritisation and de-scoping, Jagger and Richards: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you get what you need.";
[. This gets the customer what he needs, or as much of it as possible within the time frame.
Whether you’re more partial to the original Beatles version, or the Aerosmith cover, the message to ‘Come Together’ is fairly core to our agile values. And from the rest of the lyrics it seems fairly possible that they are talking about old-style hackers and agile coaches:-)
We have to remember that the reasons for choosing an Agile way of working is not always one of love at first sight. The choice is often the last one after many disappointing previous liaisons. As Freddie Mercury sings in the last of our Agile Playlist, “I want to break free from your lies, you’re so self-satisfied I don’t need you”;, right before he breaks the chains of his waterfall process.
But this same song also contains a warning: even if we deliver all we promise with new ways of working, the temptation to go back to the familiar ways of earlier days remains. And people still may ‘walk out the door’, because they ‘have to be sure’. Unfortunate, but unavoidable.
Take me to the other side
Not all songs are about happy things, though. It would of course be possible to note that Waterfall has some very nice tunes of its own. People would note the micro-management displayed in Every Breath You Take, and Walk This Way. They’ll point to the wishful planning complained about in Won’t Get Fooled Again. And Billy Joel’s Allentown, though written for a different industry, also deserves mention in this list. They might even mention Stairway to Heaven, which symbolically represents the Waterfall process' stairway like structure, and lyrically describes the results (“When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed with a word she can get what she came for”;, and “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west, And my spirit is crying for leaving.";)
For those people, it might be good to remember that there must be 50 ways to leave your waterfall project.