2002-09-25 21:11:21 UTC
Your response has been wonderful, but I have to admit there's no way I can respond to all your postings individually. Rather than risk offending the majority of you by only responding to a minority, I'd like to restate my hope / objective for our discussion and, in doing so, to summarize where my understanding is based on the feedback / input you've given me as a group. I hope to capture the essence of what you've communicated. If I've missed it, please let me know. I hope you'll not be offended by this approach, but it's the best I can realistically shoot for. I think of it as an XP approach. There are just too many cards on my side of the pencil :-)
My concerns are about the business side of XP, not the technical side. I have to assume that I wasn't very clear on this either in the StickMinds column or in my postings to this forum since the majority of your postings / responses yesterday were oriented at educating me on the technical aspects / merits of XP. I have noted that quite a few of the postings today have begun to address the business side of things. I'm hoping this posting may accelerate that. When I talk about the business side of things, what I mean to talk about is change. Change to what? How can we make that change happen? What are the chief obstacles to the change we seek? These are questions that require business answers, not technicals answer. You'll note that, from my perspective, the problem is about effective communication.
--- Change to what? ---
I assume that the intent of this group is to see XP become mainstream practice. If that's an incorrect assumption, someone please tell me because, in that case, I'm wasting your time and mine. If that's not an incorrect assumption, they we need to start thinking about this as a marketing problem. When I say marketing, I mean communication. An effective "elevator speech" is a recognized prerequisite to getting more of an executive's time to continue the discussion about the need for any change. That elevator speech must get the mainstream listener's attention by talking about the benefits of change without raising red-flags in their mind about increased risk. XP lacks this today.
--- How can we make that change happen? ---
The most important rule of leading change, in my experience, is to make sure all the parties know and agree about all the relevant aspects of where things stand today. Without that agreement, there can never be agreement about what the first step should be or whether it's a step forward or not. XP addresses where things stand from the programmer's perspective very eloquently. But I've yet to see anything but a programmer's view of things. Back to management for a sec. We all know the waterfall / V model does not produce good results from a technical perspective. When I say all, I mean executives too. At least the ones I know, know. So my question is "what is it about that model that continues to provide value to the exec that the XP model lacks?" If there wasn't something "good" about it, they'd have dropped it long ago. It's no good to speculate. We need real data. Once we have it, we may not like the answer. I suspect they do not like it either. But until we a
sk the question and understand that answer, I can't forsee them accepting a change to XP on any scale.
--- What are the primary obstacles to the change we seek? ---
The world we work in today is dominated by intense scrutiny and legislation regarding the effectiveness of the CEO / CFO in their fiduciary oversight role. I can't imagine a CEO or CFO in any publicly-traded company today that isn't carefully examining every detail of how her company is being run for the possibility that it will get them into trouble (i.e., land them in jail). At the same time, XP is advocating practices that, at least by existing, generally accepted business practices, would be seen as reducing that oversight capability. I'm talking specifically about the card-based planning and reporting you've schooled me on. Anything that diminishes the exec's ability to fulfill her oversight responsibility, or makes it harder or more time consuming, is likely to get shot before it gets through the door.
XP's current overall argument, as I understand it after you've explained many of the details, still seems almost calculated to offend and alienate the entire management chain by making them, at best, ask for entrance and prove that they will provide value to the process above and beyond what programmers can do "on their own." It lacks an element of respect for our co-workers. While I don't remember addressing them specifically in our exchanges, let's take a sec to talk about project managers. They have a pretty widely recognized and valued role in the mainstream. XP takes the position that they're optional. XP seems to say to the project manager, we programmers can provide all the value you do with less overhead. And with no need for the training, etc. you've been through or for your experience. By virtue of that, it says to those managers, directors, VP's, etc. who have championed project management, project management certification, PMO's, etc. that they've wasted th
e company's time and money. It may not be what XP means to say, but it's what's coming across.
In addition, the hype that's been generated around XP is yielding who-knows-what conversations between programmers who want to do XP and their management? At the very least, I think the XP leadership needs to publish prominently, where execs would know about it and have ready access to it, a short list (not a book) of "here there be dragons." You need to give them a comfort level that they'll have the information they need when confronted with an enthusiastic, apparently knowledgeable, but wrong-headed employee who is liable, by your own estimation, to use XP in a way that will not likely yield good results. In short, you need to let them know you're not their enemy.
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to complete this to get it posted. One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes seems appropriate... "I'm sorry this note is so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter."
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