Agile world’s a stage

Jeff Feinman
February 1, 2009 —  (Page 1 of 4)
Laughing. Overcoming embarrassment. Out-and-out goofy behavior. These are not normally the skills managers seek in their developers. But some agile development advocates believe these skills are critical for successful software projects.

A growing number of artistically inclined corporate trainers are promoting the principles of the Agile Manifesto with techniques from acting, improvisation and other art forms. Such exercises attempt to prepare software developers for changing requirements and other unexpected occurrences throughout the agile development process. Developers learn better ways to work together and how to put the team before the individual.

These trainers assist software teams in interactive workshops to learn how to get the most out of their abilities. They “act” their way out of scenarios, participate in team-building games, make art projects and do other exercises to build concentration and innovation.

“Any artist that’s ever completed anything will tell you that an empty feeling always precedes success,” said Matt Smith, a Seattle-based corporate trainer who teaches improvisational theater principles. “You have to break through something to get to the other side, and the breaking through involves what can be perceived as pain, and we’re trained in life to avoid that pain at all costs. But if we’re going to do Scrum and agile, we have to come to terms with that feeling and stop perceiving it as something to run from.”

Smith got into acting when he was 30 years old after trying his hand at being a writer and a standup comedian. Improvisational theater changed how he communicated with people, and it made him a better person to his friends and family, he said.

Utilizing his improvisational skills, Smith travels the country, conducting keynote speeches and workshops to build team skills and teach mind-expanding exercises. Naturally, many professionals will be suspicious about the relevance of theatrical techniques and how they pertain to their job, and Smith said he is sensitive to that. However, others take to the workshops easily and happily get involved.

Related Search Term(s): agile programming, professional development

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