Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Agile or just common sense?

A while back I was at a sort-of reunion with some people I used to work with at a previous company. Most of the people there had gone their separate ways and were doing new and exciting things.

One girl that was in my team had gone freelance and was working as the lone wolf on a project that sounded pretty cool.

"Much better than that agile s**t you were making us do".

How encouraging, nice to see I make a difference. I was intrigued, so I asked a little more about what she was doing.

She started by explaining how she worked with the customer.

Each week she had a regular meeting with the customer where she showed what they asked her to do last week.  They often took her work and played with for it for a bit, giving her some feedback on bugs or problems. If it did what they wanted then they would make it live and start using it.

Hmmm. That sounds familiar.

Then she explained how the customer would give her work based on what they wanted it to look like and a bit of background on what they were trying to achieve. She would then work out what she thought she could do in a week and agree it with them. She would talk about this at the same weekly meeting.

Hey, that sounds familiar too.

She said the work was a mix of front and backend work, essentially taking data out of a database and providing visualisations for that data. She was enjoying the mix of work and because it was just her it was easier to provide estimates or suggestions that she felt she could stick to.

That's spooky. I'm sure I've heard something like that before.

How about managing the work? Backlogs etc, how does that work:

"Nah, we talk about that stuff when we meet each week. They have a list of stuff they want to do but I just work on the one they are in a tizzy about."


So, I asked about the changes she was making. Where these big pieces of work - how does she fit these into each week? She focused on changing a specific bit based on what they said they wanted to achieve. Each weeks work didn't tackle the whole idea but just something specific that worked towards it.

I asked why she did it that way:

"I wanted to show progress so I wouldn't have problems when I charged them for my time each week. We agree what they are going to get and I show them that work a week later - I don't want any hassle and I work from home so this is great for me, I don't want to f**k it up!"

No arguing with that. These sound like the perfect customers! She was pretty quick to respond:

"God they are a pain! They change their minds all the time. Each week, we seem to go further and further away from what they said they wanted. Each week they have a new 'idea' that I have to work on!"

Definitely hitting a 9.0 on coincidence meter now. I'm sure I've heard this before.

Despite her previous remarks, if we ran a check list of the agile manifesto she would have been following the ideas of the manifesto 100%. As an 'agile hater', I pretty sure this was not her plan!

Each thing she did was to solve a problem for her customer. To her, the approach was just common sense. I wonder how many of us get tied up with the rules and doctrines and forget this too...

Common Sense? Yeah, I've heard of it....