Agile for a new age
December 1, 2008 —
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Ask Jim York what it takes to master agile methods, and he points to the skill set of a team known for silliness, not software: Drew Carey and the ensemble cast of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
York, founder of Virginia-based agile training and consulting firm FoxHedge, runs improvisational-
theater-style seminars that teach developers to think on their feet. Like improv, he noted, agile development sets a few basic rules and then lets participants run with the project, summoning their creativity to flesh out the concept. In his classes, developers are assigned scenarios and must then work together to “act” their way out of them, much as the cast does on Carey’s TV show.
“Somebody sets the stage on that show, and then a bunch of performers get up and you have no idea what’s going to happen,” said York, who has more than 20 years of experience with agile as a developer, tester and analyst. “I kind of think of Drew Carey sitting back there as a Scrum master or even a product owner. He has that buzzer, and anytime things aren’t going well, he hits that buzzer and stops [the action].
“With a product owner, if a team is delivering something that he doesn’t want or it isn’t quite right, he should be stepping in there and actively getting the team to do something different.”
York’s proactive method is one of many approaches that agile experts and companies are formulating as agile development matures.
The Agile Manifesto was drafted back in February 2001 to foster collaborative approaches to software development. Its 12 principles preach, among other things, that people are more valuable than processes and that changes to the project are to be welcomed, not abhorred.
But seven years can be an era in the software industry, and ideas and work habits change fast. Since the manifesto was written, cloud computing has emerged and multicore has moved to the fore, and development managers hold varying views on agile’s applicability to those hot concepts.