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The Fragile Manifesto

Ilja Preuss
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Recommended reading: The Fragile Manifesto
To counteract subversive agile rhetoric and restore a sensible foundation to software development, I've formulated four values more suitable for traditional development environments.


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Reid M. Pinchback
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Funny article, I've definitely seem more of this than I'd like. I will say that his comments about project management are largely infantile, reflecting more on the author's own lack of knowledge than on the discipline itself.


Reid - SCJP2 (April 2002)
Ilja Preuss
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Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
I will say that his comments about project management are largely infantile, reflecting more on the author's own lack of knowledge than on the discipline itself.

May I ask you to elaborate? Thanks!
Mapraputa Is
Leverager of our synergies
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Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
I will say that his comments about project management are largely infantile, reflecting more on the author's own lack of knowledge than on the discipline itself.

Whose comments? Have you read the end of the text, by the way?
----------------------
"What we have to do in order to resolve this paradox is to look carefully at what the sentences do in fact say."
J.N.Crossley, et al. "What is Mathematical Logic?"
Reid M. Pinchback
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Posts: 775
While there is a fair bit of education involved in being an effective (and certified) project manager, the tasks themselves are often straight-forward.
Project management in and of itself has nothing to do with freezing requirements. That is an issue of organizational style, something people would have done with or without a PM. A PM deals with changing requirements in much the same way that Scrum does. Scrum is an agile process, which is why I think his comments really indicate a dramatic lack of knowledge of PM on the part of the author. One of the things that sometimes ticks me off with some of the xp/agile authors is that they have a methodology partially based on snatching techniques from other disciplines. They claim them and rename them as their own, and then berate the very people who gave them their techniques via a great deal more hard work and expertise than the authors have in the same area.
Requirements aside, there are a lot of other things that a PM does to help keep developer's and customer's lives sane, but from his article I'd say the author seems to be equally unaware of those. For example, making sure that:
  • a key issue hasn't fallen through the cracks
  • the growth of new issues isn't outpacing the closure of old issues (at least, not without adjusting resources or schedule)
  • important players (e.g. operations and support) are kept engaged
  • developers aren't being sucked into useless meetings or given conflicting instructions
  • necessary resources (e.g. equipment) have been ordered and are on track to be delivered
  • he/she knows when people will be available to work (no point in saying something can be ready in two weeks when the developer is about to start a two-week vacation).
  • all the H/R stuff (e.g. performance reviews, hiring, bonuses, making sure people get paid, can take personal time, don't get overworked, get training opportunities, etc.)


  • PM is primarily a learning activity; with each project you find things you reasonably could have planned for, and you add them to your 'to do' list for the next project or project phase. Not having a capable PM for a non-trivial project is the equivalent of being unwilling to let the organization learn from its project experience. Projects are expensive and can have expensive failures, and not being willing to learn from those is, in my mind, the ultimate in abject incompetence.
    [ July 17, 2002: Message edited by: Reid M. Pinchback ]
    Reid M. Pinchback
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    Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

    Whose comments? Have you read the end of the text, by the way?

    Ilja pointed us at an article. Those are the comments I have been referring to. Yes, I read the end of the text. What point are you trying to raise?
    Ilja Preuss
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    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:

    Ilja pointed us at an article. Those are the comments I have been referring to. Yes, I read the end of the text. What point are you trying to raise?

    He probably just wondered wether you took the article a little bit *too* seriously...
    Ilja Preuss
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    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
    While there is a fair bit of education involved in being an effective (and certified) project manager, the tasks themselves are often straight-forward.

    Which part of the article is about project managers?
    One of the things that sometimes ticks me off with some of the xp/agile authors is that they have a methodology partially based on snatching techniques from other disciplines. They claim them and rename them as their own, and then berate the very people who gave them their techniques via a great deal more hard work and expertise than the authors have in the same area.

    I don't follow you. My impression is that most of the authors have an huge amount of expertise in the area they are talking about. They have worked a great part of their life by using "those other methodologies", reflecting about them and adapting them to their needs - that is how the agile processes came into being. Kent Beck openly admits in his first XP book that none of the practices are anything new. What is new is how they are "driven to the extremes" and combined to work together.
    Why do you feel berated?
    Not having a capable PM for a non-trivial project is the equivalent of being unwilling to let the organization learn from its project experience. Projects are expensive and can have expensive failures, and not being willing to learn from those is, in my mind, the ultimate in abject incompetence.

    In fact, learning shouldn't be limited to the PM - the whole team needs to learn constantly. There are voices in the XP community demanding to make Iteration Retrospectives an official practice of XP.
    I wonder from where you get it that Ambler would be recommending not having an experienced PM or limiting her to freezing requirements...
    [ July 17, 2002: Message edited by: Ilja Preuss ]
    Mark Herschberg
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    There is plenty of value in those traditional values, when applied correctly.
    Manifesto for Agile Software Development

    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

    Yeah, sure. Of course, given a team of experienced, competant developers, the process itself isn't very importantr, agile or otherwise. Any good, well employed process recognizes the value of the people. Nothing in non-agile processes inhibits people's capabilities.

    Manifesto for Agile Software Development

    Working software over comprehensive documentation

    At face value, well, duh. The point is to create software. Of course, I think agile methodologies don't emphasize documentation enough. I think we'll see some backlash in the next 2-5 years as early adopters find after most people have left the project and it's now large and ingrained it's confusing due to a lack of documentation.

    Manifesto for Agile Software Development

    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    Responding to change over following a plan

    This is orthogonal to all processes. At face value, it's moot. From what I've read, it means don't expect the initial contract to spell everything out, but work with the customer along the way. Again, short of the 1960's version of the waterfall process, all processes today, agile or not involve using customers. In fact, in all product development, in many industries outside of software, it's important to involve customers appropriately.

    Manifesto for Agile Software Development

    Responding to change over following a plan

    See above.

    These are all good and useful values. However, nothing in them leads to agile software methodologies such as XP.

    As Beck noted, nothing in XP is new. My view right now, is that taking these values, and executing existing methodologies with these in mind, is, in my mind, a better approach. But then, I'm still waiting to see the light--if there is one.

    --Mark
    Reid M. Pinchback
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    Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:
    Which part of the article is about project managers?

    Oh, maybe the two paragraphs beginning with the phrase "A professional project manager...". Funny how English can be interpreted in so many ways. I tend to figure that two paragraphs talking about project managers and their responsibilities are, well, about project managers. Perhaps other interpretations are possible?
    Mapraputa Is
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    Joined: Aug 26, 2000
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    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
    Yes, I read the end of the text. What point are you trying to raise?

    Recently I started to differ in opinion with just about everybody, just like Mark does , so I wondered if I am still sane...
    The whole article is intended as a joke, so I was puzzled by your words "I will say that his comments about project management are largely infantile, reflecting more on the author's own lack of knowledge than on the discipline itself."
    Not that ironically intended article cannot be seriously discussed, but I found it hard to make an opinion about author's knowledge based on his humoristic writings. In my understanding, the goal was to stress few issues in polemical manner rather than to provide balanced and thorough view.
    Ilja Preuss
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    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
    Oh, maybe the two paragraphs beginning with the phrase "A professional project manager...". Funny how English can be interpreted in so many ways. I tend to figure that two paragraphs talking about project managers and their responsibilities are, well, about project managers. Perhaps other interpretations are possible?

    Duh, sorry, and thanks for the pointer. I even used the browsers search facility and somehow did manage to miss it. I think I need to go to bed...
    One last point, though. I don't think that the paragraph is targeted against the notion of a project manager in general. It is targeted against managers who see their main value in organizing the project plan to the detail. (Yes, they exist, I have worked for one... )
    IMO, the main responsibility of the project manager is to make sure that all which needs to get communicated gets communicated (that is, developers know the priorities of what to develop, customer knows what to expect from the next (internal) release, stakeholders know about the state of the project, etc.) and to remove all obstacles from the environment. Well, as I take a look at your post again, we seem to agree on this. I don't think Ambler would have much to disagree...
    Reid M. Pinchback
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    Posts: 775
    Originally posted by Ilja Preuss:

    IMO, the main responsibility of the project manager is to make sure that all which needs to get communicated gets communicated ...

    That is a tool of the job, but only a modest part of it. For a more complete and standardized description of the responsibilities:
    Project Management Institute
    PMI Standards
    Or if you prefer patterns-based approaches to PM:
    AntiPatterns in Project Management
    Or the Gartner-derived approach for IT projects:
    IT Project+ Study Guide

    don't think Ambler would have much to disagree...

    While I definitely respect his expertise in database mapping topics, outside of that he tends to dabble in areas of which he seems to have limited competence. His co-authored book on java style, for example, is a mediocre re-write of materials better described elsewhere, and he completely misses important important challenges in the development and deployment of internal standards and best practices.
    I admit to a concern I have about some of the XP/Agile pundits, including Beck. They have very strong expertise in one or two areas, but lately seem to be making money by giving talks and selling books in other areas that don't seem to be to be their core strength. Their intentions are good, but even so ignorance is not a skill (although, amazingly, Bush managed to get elected on that basis - by his own admission).
    I'm not saying all of the players in this methodology have drifted into that trap; I definitely would not describe Cockburn that way. My point is just that having expertise in A does not imply expertise in B, even if you happened to have worked in places where other people were doing B. I'm really not convinced that Beck et al were skilled project managers or QA people. They miss too much of the well-established, well-known, and easy-to-do-and-succeed-at stuff, and seem to be sucking people in to believing in a false level of simplicity. It becomes increasingly hard for me to respect the degree of hand-waving over issues that goes on, because I've seen people do or myself have done much, much better.

    He probably just wondered wether you took the article a little bit *too* seriously...

    Actually, Ambler was engaging in a literary form known as satire, and from other threads on this board I suspect that Map is well educated enough for her to likely recognize satire when she sees it. The final paragraph is just a defensive escape clause by an author who lacked the conviction to take full credit for his product.
    Why do you feel berated?
    What is it about your psychological makeup that motivates you to try and move the discussion into the personal arena via a passive-aggressive verbal device? Since you posted the link, didn't you expect people to read it and weigh in with their opinions (hopefully informed ones, or at least energetic ones) on that material? Surely you could come up with a better basis for interesting discussion than dialog derived from Eliza.
    (See, right about now you are probably steaming from the ears and yelling 'rudeness!', which is exactly my point; what is served by heading a technical methodology conversation in such a negative and unproductive direction? Not much fun being on the receiving end of it, is it? I'll place nice if you will.)
    Mapraputa Is
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    Joined: Aug 26, 2000
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    Reid, I also was feeling that your reaction is a little too hostile (if there is such expression "a little too" ) and wondered why. I do not think Ilja's question was negative and unproductive, looks to me that he was trying to understand your position and perhaps bring the discussion to more comfortable emotional level. Of course, this my post can be considered unproductive also... Oh, well.
    Reid M. Pinchback
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    Not unproductive, although possibly unfocused. Try re-reading the thread from the beginning. Ilja posted a link. I made a nice, short simple comment. Ilja asked for an elaborated response, which I gave. In an open, honest style of communication among the participants there is no reason for an interesting give-and-take not to continue on that basis.
    Instead, my response - which was only made because he requested it - became the basis for him to move the discussion into what I considered an inappropriate direction. Ilja himself has gotten all hot under the collar in other discussions with a great deal less cause than what I provided as a simple description of the responsibilities of a project manager.
    To be honest, from threads I've read on this board I've noticed that it isn't all that unusual for you to head discussions with people into the emotional arena either, which is probably why you interpret his statements differently. To me exchanging opinions, impressions, facts, is neither emotional or unemotional - it is simply an exchange of information. Maybe it is one of those Mars vs Venus differences in viewpoint.
    Mapraputa Is
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    I wasn't sure whether to post my response here or to move the discussion into private media, but it seems the thread is already pretty much hijacked, so... God witness, I didn't want to. Hopefully it will be useful exchange...
    To be honest, from threads I've read on this board I've noticed that it isn't all that unusual for you to head discussions with people into the emotional arena either, which is probably why you interpret his statements differently. To me exchanging opinions, impressions, facts, is neither emotional or unemotional - it is simply an exchange of information.
    Interesting, I got the same idea when seeing your "negative and unproductive direction". I remember reading about difference in what people consider important in team work (do not have a book now to check my recollections ) . Some concentrate on "how to do the job" whatever it takes, some like to do it in most novice and unusual way, some are concerned with harmony in relationships so everybody would feel Ok. This test is a loose approximation. These are different system of values. I must admit I scored high on "emotional" part, and that's the only reason I jumped into this thread -- your "nice, short simple comment" didn't look nice to me at all (Unless your "nice" refers to the message itself, not its content). That's how our types get provoked. You can disagree with mr. Ambler but to call his comments "largely infantile" -- you could say it differently and there would be no problem.
    Then when I felt that Ilja was undeservedly attacked I couldn't help but make another post. In this sense it's typical for me "to head discussions with people into the emotional arena", yes. Perhaps your attitude bothered Ilja for similar reasons, this is only a guess made out of "economy of reasons", possible wrong. Anyway, what is "productive" or "unproductive" is relative, what seems "unproductive" for you can be... well, not "productive", but important for other. Some kind of a compromise should be found, now it seems that each "opposing party" is trying to make the other play by its own rules.
    [ July 18, 2002: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
    Mark Herschberg
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    Let me just chime in that I repsect the opinions of Ilja and Reid (and Map, too, of course, even if she should ever disagree with me ;-). I've found this thread more useful then not.

    This is not the start of World War Three
    No political ploys
    I think both your constitutions are terrific so
    Now you know -- be good boys

    Kudos to anyone who knows where this comes from.

    --Mark
    [ July 19, 2002: Message edited by: Mark Herschberg ]
    Ilja Preuss
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    Posts: 14112
    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
    Not unproductive, although possibly unfocused. Try re-reading the thread from the beginning. Ilja posted a link. I made a nice, short simple comment.

    As Map already suggested, I didn't find the comment to be nice. But as I know that it is very easy to misunderstand a forum-message, I wanted to know more about your notions before commenting on it. Seems I didn't find the best way to find out...
    Ilja asked for an elaborated response, which I gave.

    What I highly appreciate.
    In an open, honest style of communication among the participants there is no reason for an interesting give-and-take not to continue on that basis.
    Instead, my response - which was only made because he requested it - became the basis for him to move the discussion into what I considered an inappropriate direction.

    I am sorry - I wasn't aware of that. I certainly didn't want you to get uncomfortable - I gather that I should be more cautious with getting into a too personal style...

    Ilja himself has gotten all hot under the collar in other discussions with a great deal less cause than what I provided as a simple description of the responsibilities of a project manager.

    There must be a misunderstanding. If you are referring to the messages I partially considered to be rude - I never did take that personally and always felt rather even-tempered about them.
    Mhh, as I write this I realize the same might be true for you and you probably didn't felt as angry as it seemed to me from your messages... :roll:
    To me exchanging opinions, impressions, facts, is neither emotional or unemotional - it is simply an exchange of information.

    Honestly, I didn't want to get the thread emotional. It was my impression that your posting already was quite emotional and hoped to be able to discuss the reasons behind them in a rather rational way. It seems that I failed miserably in interpreting the situation...
    Maybe it is one of those Mars vs Venus differences in viewpoint.

    Maybe. Damn sure it is one of those misunderstandings which would be averted without any effort in a face to face discussion... <sigh>
    I hope you accept my apologies.
    Regards, Ilja
    Ilja Preuss
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    Originally posted by Reid M. Pinchback:
    That is a tool of the job, but only a modest part of it. For a more complete and standardized description of the responsibilities:

    Thank you for the links! I will need some time to work through them, I think...
    I certainly forgot to mention something like "caring for the team" (e.g. ordering pizza ) - shame on me...
    I really like the story in "Peopleware", where the project manager brings a hot cup of tea to a developer working for critical deadline while suffering from a serious cold. The developer expresses his admiration for the fact that the PM finds the time to care for him while having all these other important things to do. The PM answered something like "This *is* an important part of my job!"

    I admit to a concern I have about some of the XP/Agile pundits, including Beck. They have very strong expertise in one or two areas, but lately seem to be making money by giving talks and selling books in other areas that don't seem to be to be their core strength.

    With all due respect - does it seem to be this way to you because you know what they are typically working on, or because you tend to disagree...?

    They miss too much of the well-established, well-known, and easy-to-do-and-succeed-at stuff, and seem to be sucking people in to believing in a false level of simplicity. It becomes increasingly hard for me to respect the degree of hand-waving over issues that goes on, because I've seen people do or myself have done much, much better.

    Can you give a concrete example of such an issue?
    Actually, Ambler was engaging in a literary form known as satire, and from other threads on this board I suspect that Map is well educated enough for her to likely recognize satire when she sees it. The final paragraph is just a defensive escape clause by an author who lacked the conviction to take full credit for his product.

    Isn't he just asserting that it is meant as satire and explaining his motivation to write one?

    Why do you feel berated?
    [...]Surely you could come up with a better basis for interesting discussion than dialog derived from Eliza.

    Ouch, that hit the spot. I will try hard to better myself.
    I think part of my problem is that I find it to be rather exhausting to express my thoughts in a foreign language, so I certainly tend to be too shortspoken. I promise to work on it...
    what is served by heading a technical methodology conversation in such a negative and unproductive direction?

    I certainly didn't want to drive the conversation in such a direction. In fact, I don't understand what was negative or unproductive about my question.
    (My first gut reaction would have been to ask "Why do you feel it was heading in a negative and unproductive direction?" :roll: I hope my learning will hold on longer than for a few more messages...)
    [ July 19, 2002: Message edited by: Ilja Preuss ]
    Ilja Preuss
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    Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
    There is plenty of value in those traditional values, when applied correctly.

    Certainly - as the Agile Manifesto states: "That is, while there is value in the items on
    the right, we value the items on the left more."

    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    Yeah, sure. Of course, given a team of experienced, competant developers, the process itself isn't very important, agile or otherwise.

    IMO, what an inexperienced developer needs most is substantial feedback and an experienced mentor to learn from - not a heavy weight process. YMMV
    Any good, well employed process recognizes the value of the people. Nothing in non-agile processes inhibits people's capabilities.

    If those process is also employed according to the other parts of the manifesto, it *is* employed in an agile way. There are certainly agile instances of RUP, for example (Rational is even sponsoring the Agile Alliance). The goal of the Agile Alliance is not to foster a specific process, but to foster a specific style/philosophy of software development.

    OTOH it is staggering to see how often a process is applied exactly to make up for the lack of direct communication and trust in individuals.

    Of course, I think agile methodologies don't emphasize documentation enough. I think we'll see some backlash in the next 2-5 years as early adopters find after most people have left the project and it's now large and ingrained it's confusing due to a lack of documentation.

    We will see - would you like to bet?
    I would bet on the lack of a decent design because of refactoring being carelessly handled as the primary source for problems...

    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
    Responding to change over following a plan

    This is orthogonal to all processes.

    Does it have to be? Seems to me that XP (and SCRUM, afaik) are very explicit about how to involve the customer and how to organize changing requirements.
    Again, short of the 1960's version of the waterfall process, all processes today, agile or not involve using customers.

    Agile Development is not about only using the customer - it is about *integrating* the customer.

    These are all good and useful values. However, nothing in them leads to agile software methodologies such as XP.

    I disagree. For me, XP is all about building a strong team based on collaborating individuals, focussing on business value, integrating the customer and being able to respond to changes.

    As Beck noted, nothing in XP is new. My view right now, is that taking these values, and executing existing methodologies with these in mind, is, in my mind, a better approach. But then, I'm still waiting to see the light--if there is one.

    Well, even if there is some light, you probably won't see it by waiting for it to happen. You probably would have to actively try to experience it.
    [ July 23, 2002: Message edited by: Ilja Preuss ]
     
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