Fictions regarding software development

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Two good comments both true:

There is an insider story about how these methodologies comes about. So there are few groups of people whose sole job is to do consulting on failed/late/over budget projects. Mind you, they don’t write code but rather they observe how things are going and then prescribe process/management improvements (McKinsey style). Once in a while, these folks bump in to terrible projects and whatever they prescribed sometime works like a charm. In that case, they take that prescription on road and advertise the hell out in conferences, magazines, blog posts. Unlike regular developers, they have all the time in the world to do these activities. They write books and give interviews and by the media power of distributing information suddenly they pop out as process gods who knows how to fix any project. Eventually the new things starts to fad, people realize what works in project X didn’t worked in Y, speaker engagements starts drying out and then these folks need new thing to repeat the cycle.

The obvious problem is that these folks prescribing the development process are not active developers. They are not even part of any real project over any long duration. They are in job of inventing and selling processes and handing out management advice as consultants. Whatever they prescribe, might have worked only in specific context and for specific symptoms, usually with huge dose of luck. Next time when you see new process fad, look up the history of originator of this process, what company he is part of, how much code has he written, how he makes money. You will know what I’m talking about.

Which is all true, though this is also true:

I actually like vanilla Scrum and think often you need a formalized methodology for the team to follow. I’ve worked with a lot of different teams and there are a few things I’ve noticed being pretty common among developers (or sometimes being guilty of myself).

1. Not working on what you are supposed to be working on. Sometimes some developers feel that they should probably rewrite X or add Y and does so without consulting anyone first. Something it is good and sometimes it just takes time or adds regressions you did not need at the time.

2. Senior developers owning a piece of the code base. Often grabbing a huge chunk of work for themselves on it and then you don’t hear from them for a while when they hack away. Sometimes they do good work and sometimes not and if they are sick or away and no one knows how their code works.

3. Junior (or some senior) developers being stuck for a long while without asking for help.

4. Ignoring the customer and building what you think should be built.

None of those are automatically fixed with Scrum and I know some here will just say “Yeah, we have a professional team that actually talks with each other and does code reviews” so they don’t need it. And I get that but for a lot of those small teams building some CRUD application at a large enterprise the formalized communication ways are a god send in my experience.

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