I like presenting. I just love the fact that every time I deliver the presentation I find something new in there. It’s like having tiny epiphanies while you’re talking to a crowd. And I’m sure I wouldn’t have them if I didn’t overcome my fears and didn’t start speaking publicly.
A thing which hit me last time I was delivering my Kanban Story presentation was how fragile agile is in terms of people who don’t give a damn. In the summary of presentation I make a point that Kanban may not be for your team if you work with undisciplined engineers.
But what I realized while I was talking it is not only about lack of discipline. It’s about care. In Kanban people have to care about Kanban board. They have to move cards as they progress with features. They can’t abuse limits unless it is agreed among the team and team rules allow to. They should think how they could improve the board. They should keep the board up to date.
Why it is so important? Because the board is single most important information radiator in Kanban teams. If contents of Kanban board are random you spread random information about project among the team and outside the team. You pretty much misinform everyone around. And now the important thing:
In Kanban teams anyone can easily abuse Kanban board.
It’s enough someone doesn’t care. He doesn’t care to move cards through the board or put his marker on task he’s working on at the moment or ignore transition criteria or whatever. Suddenly you have random Kanban board and no systemic tools to deal with the issue. People versus Kanban 1:0 at halftime. If you want to know how the match ends, well, you’ll have to read the blog in future since it is a subject for another post.
It’s already half of A4 page and I haven’t really mentioned agile in general. Only Kanban. Kanban this and Kanban that. Don’t I have something else to say? Well, I do, thanks for bearing with me so far.
One of reasons why Kanban is so easily abused by people who don’t give a damn is the fact that Kanban prescribes close to nothing. But enough of K-word. Scrum is more formal. Actually Scrum is pretty formal approach if you ask me. How it deals with the problem?
A bit better. Stand-ups, time-boxing and planning meetings are all practices which help to deal with undisciplined team members. (I wanted to write “engineers” instead of “team members” but I’ve just recalled there are no roles in Scrum besides Scrum Master, Product Owner and Team Member and I prefer not to be killed by some Scrum extremist.) With these practices it is easier to make someone stick to convert folks who don’t care. If you work with Scrum you can’t work without time-boxing while the rest of the team has 2-week long sprints. You are asked the same questions as everyone else during stand-ups. There is more of a stick in Scrum than in Kanban. (Have I just said K-word?)
XP goes even further. Rules are surrounding you everywhere, my poor engineer. It almost tells you how to pee. Not in pairs. fortunately If you work with XP and you don’t give a damn you’re probably already fired.
But let’s face it – how many teams out there use eXtreme Programming religiously? Few. More of them follow just a couple of engineering techniques choosing Scrum as their process base. And even then we have whole variety of Scrumbuts, Scrumbans and Scrumwhatevers.
Average agile approach in real world, if there happen to be something like that, would cover a very limited number of rules. I’d say that there would be less of them than Scrum proposes. And even then rules are often softened or teams choose those which are less painful to adapt.
So we come back to the first point. The fewer constraints (aka enforced practices) we have in place the more easily our process can be abused by people who don’t give a damn. If your method base on a lot of common understanding instead of tons of process documentations and a number of strict rules buying all people in becomes crucial. Having few rules means that you give people power to create and adjust your software development/project management approach.
It also means you give them power to destroy and harm it.