Agile Purists beware: The following post may cause uncontrolled vomiting, convulsions, gnashing of teeth or “soap box”-style ranting to anyone who will listen.
Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about that headline!
First, Some Context…
At work, I’ve just started working on a small three-person project to build a relatively simple Windows application. Two of us on the team serve the roles of project manager/ScrumMaster, Business Analyst and Developer. The third serves as our customer/acceptance tester.
Last week was our first week of our first two-week iteration. Our “customer” was on vacation for part of the week, but we held our planning meeting ahead of time so that the other two could move forward and have something to show our third when she returned. We implemented daily scrum meetings, but found them to be a bit excessive for just two people. So, for part of the week, we held our scrums over an Instant Messager.
Doesn’t This Go Against the Agile Manifesto?
I asked myself this question at first. One of the tenets of the Manifesto is the idea of “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools”, with the implicit supporting argument that face-to-face communication is the preferred approach. However, remember that these ideas are not absolute. We do not have to promote individuals and interactions by sacrificing our ability to take advantage of technologies and tools. Instead, we should take advantage of tools and processes where it is beneficial to do so.
In our case, myself and the other developer sit on different floors. Rather than walking to a separate floor for a 2-3 minute meeting every day, it made more sense to take advantage of a tool, like a phone or instant messager.
Why This is Not a Good Practice in General
Now, I’m under no illusions that this is a good practice in general, nor that it should become a recommended practice at large. While there were some benefits in our specific case, this practice would quickly become unweildy as soon as we start adding more people to the daily scrums. Even with three people, I feel like more could be accomplished more efficiently if we met face-to-face (or, at the least, over the phone).
The point I want to get across is that we need to remain pragmatic in our approach to software/solution development, and not fall into the trap of following any manifesto, principle or practice so blindly that it becomes detrimental to the team. It’s up to us to decide what makes the most sense for our specific situations.