Last week’s Wednesday we (Henri, Tuuli, Sami and I) participated in Turku Agile Day. There were many great speakers whose presentations gave a lot to think about. The main theme of many presentations was Agile Manifesto’s first principal: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. I don’t know if this was intentional or just a coincidence.
One of the best presentations I participated in was Marcus Ahvne’s (some might consider a little rebellious) presentation about Taylorism and why it doesn’t work in software development (Taylorism and Massproduction – Why the Software Factory Fails). Taylorism’s main idea is to optimize employees’s work so that they are most efficient and evaluate efficiency constantly. Based on the evaluation management changes the way people work in order to make them most productive without letting the workers have anything to say about these changes. For me this way of working sounded weird and old fashioned but Marcus’s presentation contained real life examples proofs that Taylorism is still used. You may wonder why Taylorism doesn’t work in software development. Constant measuring and evaluation of people’s work leads to them beginning to improve only the areas which are being evaluated. For me it feels absurd that management could tell how their employees should work so that they could be most efficient. Marcus’s presentation didn’t give clear answer to how things should be done. Personally, after seeing the presentations I thought that agile methods aren’t based on optimizing individual work. They are based on the fact that intelligent individuals as a team can adjust their own ways of working to achieve the best possible outcome.
In my opinion the best presentation was Linda Rising’s presentation about Agile Mindset (The Power of Agile Mindset). Presentation introduced two mindsets. One, where people thought that their skills and intelligence were now as good as they could ever be. They were reluctant to take up challenges because they were afraid that by failing they would show themselves in bad light. The people possessing the other mindset embraced change and considered failures as an opportunity to learn something new. I recognized that I possess both mindsets. When I succeed it feeds my desire to learn new things, especially in situations where success couldn’t have been taken for granted. On the other hand situations where I must leave my comfort zone make me feel uneasy and I catch myself thinking a quotation by Homer Simpson: ”Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”
After this day I remembered that the main thing in Agile Development isn’t scrum, daily stand-ups and iterations, nor people getting cool titles like Scrum Master or Product Owner. As an engineer it’s easy to think that by improving processes and using better tools we would be more efficient. Agility comes from respecting individuals, the interaction between them, and their desire to change and improve their ways of working. Any change causes fear and doubt – even a change for better. Sometimes changes take time, money, and many attempts, but if these changes make us better, it is worth it.