After Scrum

I like to play a game sometimes, it goes like this: Take a current hot and screwed-up software methodology and try to project what its replacement is going to be.

For instance, the shiny bits of Scrum are starting to wear off like the cheap paint from a fake idol, but there’s still time to dust off the crystal ball and toss some coins in the air. And based on what I’ve seen killed dead on the altar of Agile (and it ain’t been pretty) here’s what I think will happen next.

Remember all those burndown and velocity tracking applications The Powers That Be bought for Scrum? They’re not going to go to waste: Get ready for micrometrics.  Practically everything a team does will be measured, analyzed and acted upon by project managers. Going over checkins and having a thousand eyes on things is going to be horse and buggy stuff. We’re going to see utter exposure of everything that goes into the head and out of the fingers of developers, every cotton pickin’ thing will be timestamped, correlated to features, and graphed during reviews (which will happen in real-time).

In the new world of micrometrical software, no sparrow will fall without a burrowcrat getting on someone’s case about it.

How long did it take you to fix that bug this morning? What source code did you call up? How many steps did you take in the debugger, and what did you look at? What unit tests did you actually write and run?  Did Joe, the dev next to you, fix a similar bug in less time, with better quality? How much email went back and forth about the issue? Do you often mis-spell keywords? Do you hit backspace a lot, or change your mind about function names or parameters? Does it appear that you know exactly what you’re doing?

What percentage of your keystrokes and mouse clicks and minutes of your day can be mapped to a product feature?

My guess is there are shops already doing this, where fractal attention to detail has become a recursive ass-covering game, and everyone has forgotten why they started writing software for a living.

Has it been that long? When was the last time you enjoyed making a hunk of code work?

Please, have fun every day.

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9 Responses to After Scrum

  1. ECM says:

    Please, have fun every day.

    It’s going to be a bit harder after reading this, but I appreciate the (intentional?) irony.

  2. Viktor Basso says:

    I really love reading about SCRUM, we students get brainwashed to love it like Kim Il-sung himself.

  3. tmarthal says:

    if the management/SVP/Project Manager can leave us alone and just review our code checkin messages and unit tests, then we shouldn’t have to go to status or standup meetings. If they are technical enough, they will know the state of the development. I would relish this. However! If they are monitoring without understanding or ability to test/verify is when the problems with this methodology would happen, because they would be monitoring in real time then also not knowing what is really going on.

  4. PM Hut says:

    It’s amazing how perception on Scrum has changed in just one year. I remember that a year ago, I was publishing articles (on PM Hut) on how great Scrum is and how is it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Now more and more articles are about how non-standardized, ineffective/inefficient, and stressful Scrum is…

  5. You might be onto something here. Especially since every manager on the planet has now watched “Moneyball”.

    I bet someone is already setting up a consultancy promising Sabremetrics-style optimization for development teams.

  6. Fábio says:

    I’ve been reading about scrum (and using it a little bit) for some months by now. Well, I guess you are practically right. Once I read about a janitor who where so good at cleaning desks that he was very good appraised by his boss. Wanting to beat himself, he started taking measures about litter and all and, sometime later, he was making presentations about what people trhow out, with neat pie charts and the like. As a result of doing so much, he started to leave cleaning the desks a bit aside, then more, then a lot and finally he was no effective at all and got fired. I believe this is the future. Do you know the chore, right? We’re Golgafrinchans descendants, as Douglas Adams on The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has wrote about…

  7. Jody says:

    Well I had quite a lot of fun earlier this week.

    Working in a large company who’s official policy is agile (and by that scrum) I see a lot of SCRUM-but. That is, scrum, except for all the parts that aren’t scrum.

    When you come down to it scrum doesn’t actually say much, except define a framework for improving what you do and making it more visible to the outside. What you do in that framework is up to the people involved. And from what I have seen they don’t do much.

    Scrum is hard and it depends on people taking initiative and doing what is required (ie, a self organizing team). Lots of people seem to have difficulty getting anything done unless someone is giving orders. And that is damn depressing.

  8. Greg says:

    Interesting post. I have definitely seen this type of thing already in a larger company. However, as effective as the process was at monitoring work, it brought any innovation and creativity to a halt and the company had insidious morale problems. Developer turn-over was probably around 50% and then the organization swung too far the other way. The company didn’t know what to do with developers who were brought in to the company (which probably had to do with the high-turnover as well). “Sure, use the tracking system, don’t use it, whatever…” “We will audit you sometimes, and when we do, you will be sorry.” You’re hold existence boiled down to ‘micro-tasks’ measured by the minute. Nothing was built.

    In contrast, I’ve landed in a much smaller organization and the teams are EXTREMELY functional, not micro-managed. It’s great fun and for the first time in a few years I feel like I’m actually building something interesting and worthwhile. There is a strong sense of personal responsibility and while work isn’t “micro-measured” there is a strong culture of “building software” and people seem to want to deliver.

    In both cases the developers I worked with were top-notch. In the second case, however, there was a sense of trust. I firmly believe that trust goes completely out the window when you start “mirometricing” human behavior.

    I still can’t put my finger on what ultimately creates functional teams, but I have never seen the ‘clock watchers’ be anything but detrimental.

    Love the blog!

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