Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brining Balance to the Force

I read Martin Fowler's contribution to the craftsmanship thread with interest.  He spoke of the so-called "crevasse" between developers and customers.  He reiterated Dan North's fear that the craftsmanship movement could widen this crevasse.

We are programmers.  We need to talk about programming from time to time. We need time and space to focus on our primary discipline: programming.  That discussion, and that focus, is a very positive thing.  It means we care about what we do.  But have we gone too far?  Are we too technical?  Is the Software Craftsmanship movement a movement only about techical practice and details?  Have we forgotten the customer?

The Software Craftsmanship Manifesto's fourth statement: "We value not only customer collaboration but also productive partnerships" should be enough to quell those fears. Software Craftsmanship is a movement dedicated to partnering with customers.  That means taking on the customer's problems as our own.  That means putting ourselves in the position of our customers.  Their pain becomes our pain, their problems our problems, their victories, our victories.  That's craftsmanship!  That's what we want.  We want to be able to do our job with professionalism and skill, and to partner with our customers to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Software Craftsmanship is not, as Martin said: "A place where programming can be front and central again."  It is not a movement that "underplays the vital role of customer communication".  After all, those of us in the Software Craftsmanship movement have not abandoned Agile.  We still read the Agile papers.  We still follow the Agile threads.  We still go to the Agile conferences.  We are still part of the Agile community.  So we are steeped in "the vial role of customer communication."  So much so that we amplified that role to one of partnership

No, the Software Craftmanship movement is not overplaying the technical role; rather it is trying to recapture the balance that the Agile movement has lost. 

Martin made an amazing point about this in his article.  He said that the craftsmanship movement was spawned as a reaction to the rise of non-programming topics within agile.  I completely agree.  Indeed, I made exactly that point just a week ago while attending an Agile Coach Camp in Norway.  I, for one, consider the agile movement to have been inundated by a vocal and enthusiastic cohort of project managers, waving their scrum-master certificates, or their Lean and Kanban books.  They have overwhelmed the original movement and changed it into something new.   Agile is no longer about a balance between the technical and non-technical parts of development.  Rather it has become a discussion almost entirely dedicated to non-technical issues.  Agile is no longer about healing the divide, or closing the crevasse.  The agile movement now represents one side of the crevasse

The argument has been made that the technical issues are the simple part.  That the real hard parts of software development are the people issues. So therefore we should focus on the people issues, on the customers and employers, and keep quiet about the technical stuff.  If we talk too loudly about the technical stuff, then the customers may feel that we're not paying due attention to them.

Bollocks!  Bollocks I say!  Yes, the people part is hard.  The people part is complicated.  The people part needs lots of work.  We should be talking a lot about the people part.  But anybody who thinks the technical stuff isn't just as hard, and just as worthy of conversation, is misguided.  We need both.  And we need both sides to listen to each other and to trust each other.  We need balance! 

The imbalance is the crevasse!  One side thinks their issues are more important that the other's.  One side thinks their issues should dominate.  And when the other side tries to talk about their issues, they are told to shush because they might alienate the other side and "widen the crevasse". 

But neither side is more important than the other.  Neither side should dominate.  Neither side's issues should be toned down.  Neither side should be told to shush for fear of what the other side might say.  The only way to bring the crevasse together is to realize that both sides need each other, and need each other to be skilled and professional.  Each side should be glad that the other is talking about their own issues.  And each side should be willing to listen to the other side's issues. Each side must respect the other side's desire to increase their skill and professionalism.  If we do that enough, maybe we'll realize that there's actually only one side. 

So the next time you see some programmers talking about code retreats or koans or katas or TDD or some other deeply techincal topic, congratulate them for giving due dilligence to their practice.  The next time you see an agile coach talking about Kanban, or Lean, or Iteration length, or story points, congratulate them for their dedication to their discipline.  Remember, these are your team-mates.  You want them to be able to play their positions with skill and professionalism.  You want them to be good at their jobs.  And, if you want them to repect your role,  you must first respect theirs.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Software Craftsmanship: What it's all about.


I've gone from Dan North's post, to Gil Zilberfeld's to Michael Feather's to Jason Gorman's and back. And I'm at a loss.

Why is there a software craftsmanship movement?  What motivated it?  What drives it now?  One thing; and one thing only. 

We are tired of writing crap.

That's it.  The fat lady sang.  Good nite Gracy. Over and out. 

We're tired of writing crap. We are tired of embarrassing ourselves and our employers by delivering lousy software.  We have had enough of telling our customers to reboot at midnight.  We don't want bug lists that are a thousand pages long.  We don't want code that grows more tangled and corrupt with every passing day.  We're tired of doing a bad job.  We want to start doing a good job. 

That's ... what ... this ... is ... about.  Nothing else.

What we are not doing:

  • We are not putting code at the center of everything.
  • We are not turning inward and ignoring the business and the customer.
  • We are not inspecting our navels.
  • We are not offering cheap certifications. 
  • We are not forgetting that our job is to delight our customers. 

What we will not do anymore:

  • We will not make messes in order to meet a schedule.
  • We will not accept the stupid old lie about cleaning things up later.  
  • We will not believe the claim that quick means dirty.
  • We will not accept the option to do it wrong.
  • We will not allow anyone to force us to behave unprofessionally. 

What we will do from now on:

  • We will meet our schedules by knowing that the only way to go fast is to go well.
  • We will delight our customers by writing the best code we can.
  • We will honor our employers by creating the best designs we can.
  • We will honor our team by testing everything that can be tested.
  • We will be humble enough to write those tests first.
  • We will practice so that we become better at our craft.  

We will remember what our grandmothers and grandfathers told us:

  • Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Measure twice cut once.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.

I suppose that some people might look askance at our code katas and our code retreats, and our practice sessions.  They might think that we're turning inwards and abandoning our customers.  They might think that we've given up on the real world and have yielded to the temptation to entertain ourselves.  I can see how someone might come to that conclusion.

But they are as wrong as the day is long.  We are doing this because we care about the customer.  We are dedicating time and effort to being the best that we can be so that our employers will get the best possible value out of us. 

Do you think the only time musicians play their instruments is when they are on stage?  Do you think the only time that batters hit balls is during games?  Do you think the only time lawyers give a closing is at trial?  Of course not.  These people are professionals; and professionals practice!  Professionals study the minutia of their disciplines.  Professionals know all the little tricks and quirks.  They know the history, the theories, the anecdotes.  They know techniques and methods.  They know good options and bad options and how to tell them apart.  And they know all this stuff because they practice, practice practice.

So when you see someone wearing a green wrist-band that says "Clean Code" or "Test First" or "Test Obsessed", it's not because they've joined a movement, or signed a manifesto, or that they somehow feel superior to everyone else.  They aren't participants in a holy war.  They aren't trying to join a tribe and huddle around a campfire.  The green band is a personal thing.  It's a promise made to one's self:  "I will do a good job.  I will not rush.  I will write tests.  I will go fast by going well.  I will not write crap. And I will practice, practice practice so that I can be a professional."



STUB5: Prolog, Midje, and Test Specifications.

Download now or watch on posterous (85043 KB)

Fascinating equivalence of Midje and Prolog.