Remembering Jerry: Agile Impressions

It’s been five years since – sadly – Gerald M. “Jerry” Weinberg passed away. Ever since then, I struggled with some public mourning about him, until recently I had just the right idea. I already covered Jerry’s physical books in the past year. There are some gems left in some of the books he later published on Leanpub. This week, I will dive into Agile Impressions. (You can get most of the content of the physical books I reviewed on Leanpub as well – some might have a slightly different name.)

I recall that I read an early of this book when Jerry was writing it – providing him with feedback on aspects. I just realized I never came back to revisit the final version that he published.

That said, from his mere 60 years of experience in the technical industry, Jerry offers his perspective on the many things he finds in the Agile cosmos. Of course, he picks up on the Agile Manifesto, not only the values but also the principles. Beyond that, I recall a very critical view from Jerry on the Agile space.

But beyond that, Jerry offers what has served him well in his experience. Of course, there are those misunderstood concepts in the Agile sphere as well. You may call them Scrum-but, Water-Scrum-Fall, or Dark Agile, yet, they do exist in the field. Pretty much the same fallacies happened to structured programming, software engineering, yada, yada, yada. Jerry has been around to see most of the current fallacies happening before.

From this perspective, I started to think more critically about things happening in the Agile world. Some worries of mine turned out to become true – others not so much. In general, I think we would be wise not to disregard such warnings, yet, try to overcome them and incorporate those lessons stemming from 60 years of experience into our work.

I’m probably illusional, so I will stop my ill-fated illusions and dreaming ups of a better future for the time being.

Some personal gem

In 2015 I interviewed Jerry on a couple of questions for our agile review magazine. I asked him whether I could publish the whole English version on my blog as well. In the first question, I had to ask him about this book. Here’s the relevant excerpt from that interview:

Jerry, you have been around in software development for roughly the past 60 years. That’s a long time, and you certainly have seen one or another trend passing by in all these years. Recently you reflected on your personal impressions on Agile in a book that you called Agile Impressions. What are your thoughts about the recent up-rising of so called Agile methodologies?

My gut reaction is ” Another software development fad.” Then, after about ten seconds, my brain gets in gear, and I think, “Well, these periodic fads seem to be the way we advance the practice of software development, so let’s see what Agile has to offer.” Then I study the contents of the Agile approach and realize that most of it is good stuff I’ve been preaching about for those 60 years. I should pitch in an help spread the word.

As I observe teams that call themselves “Agile,” I see the same problems that other fads have experienced: people miss the point that Agile is a system. They adopt the practices selectively, omitting the ones that aren’t obvious to them. For instance, the team has a bit of trouble keeping in contact with their customer surrogate, so they slip back to the practice of guessing what the customers want. Or, they “save time” by not reviewing all parts of the product they’re building. Little by little, they slip into what they probably call “Agile-like” or “modified-Agile.” Then they report that “Agile doesn’t make all that much difference.”

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