Thursday, May 1, 2014

Agile smells


“In computer programming, code smell is any symptom in the source code of a program that possibly indicates a deeper problem.” – Wikipedia

Agile way of working provides for a lot of flexibility.  Agile values and frameworks come with significant freedom for all participants, letting teams and stake-holders design their own implementations of Agile. And with the freedoms come the risks, and the smells.

Agile smell, similarly to code smell, is not necessarily a problem by itself, but rather a likely indicator of a serious problem with the team’s way of work.  Smells can be caused by following the letter, but not the spirit, of the Agile framework, gaming or cheating the system, or simply lack of understanding the reasons behind the framework rules.

Does your team’s Agile implementation smell?  

Smells “We do not really work together” 

  • Team members are routinely late to or even skip daily Scrum. Those who come to Scrum deliver short statuses: “Everything is good. My work is on track.”
  • Immediately after the daily Scrum meeting is over, team members retreat to their private spaces to work on their tasks. Or put on headphones. Or display in some other way that talking is over, and "real" work has began.
  • Scrum board is out of date. Online tracking tool is hardly used for anything, but reporting.
Daily Scrum, visual board and knowing how the Spring work for the entire team is progressing are important to facilitate team members working together to get work done. When a Scrum meeting or a Scrum board do not bring forward interesting and relevant information about the minutiae of team’s work, this is an Agile smell of the team not working together.  

 Smells “Agile is something we do when we are not too busy with real work”

  • Agile framework meetings are regularly rescheduled or cancelled to make time and space for technical and product meetings.
  • There are permanent roles on the team, that are not Agile roles.
  • During the retrospective the team reflects on the iteration behind, but hardly anything happens based on that discussion.

Agile framework may look like a game, but every role, ceremony and artifact are there for a reason.  Doing just bits and pieces that fit into the schedule does not make a team Agile.  It just makes people busy.  

Smells “We are not as self-organizing and empowered as Agile tells us to be”

  • The conversation in meetings revolves around the manager or Scrum Master, with each team member talking to that person, rather than the entire team.
  • The work is prepared, researched and even assigned by the manager or one senior team member.  That person coordinates all interactions with other teams. 
  • All or most communication between team members is facilitated by the manager.

Agile approach is built around a strong, motivated, powerful team with a servant leader working to serve the team.  Many groups struggle with becoming that team, especially when coming from the traditional model where the manager is above and in charge of the team. These smells are an indicator that the team is operating in the command-and-control structure, rather than following Agile principles.  


No comments:

Post a Comment