Agile Smells: Don't Let This Happen To You!

| by Amr Elssamadisy Follow 0 Followers on Jun 20, 2008. Estimated reading time: 1 minute |

In the now classic book by Martin Fowler, Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code, Kent Beck co-wrote a chapter on smells that begins with this quote:

If it stinks, change it.  Grandma Beck, discussing child-rearing philosophy.

There is something very attractive about seeing symptoms of something going wrong as a smell.  The idea has since caught on and been used to describe more than design problems; it has been incorporated into our notion of Agile practices - and what happens when things go wrong.

Mark Levison wrote an interesting blog summarizing some of the work that has been done to catalog Agile smells.  Here are some smells you might recognize:

  • Talking Chickens: This happens when non-team members  - external stakeholders - over-participate in Daily Stand Up meetings.  This action severely limits the self-organization of the team and their ability to act independently to meet their iteration goals.
  • Is It Really Done? : Does the team have a definition of Done and keep to it?  What happens if they don't?
  • We're Not Acting Like A Team : If we're not acting a self-organizing team, then many of the benefits of all the remaining Agile practices will be diminished.

There are many other smells listed, and they vary in quality/style by author.  This is a mark of maturity in our community as we look back and learn from our years of experience. 

Some related works to Smells are Patterns.  Jason Yip has written about Stand Up Meetings as a pattern format, Mike Cohn has written about Patterns of Agile Adoption, and Amr Elssamadisy has written Patterns of Agile Practice Adoption: The Technical Cluster (which is available for download here on InfoQ) and Agile Adoption Patterns: A Roadmap to Organizational Success.  The work on patterns, similar to those on smells, builds on our communities experiences by bringing us common ways that teams have succeeded AND common ways they have failed.

As our community grows, documenting our years of experience for others that are adopting Agile practices will be increasingly important.  Smells and Patterns are great ways of doing so.

Rate this Article

Adoption Stage

Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Tell us what you think

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

Work in Progress, your help requested by Mark Levison

Thanks writing about this work Amr. In my mind these are very much a work in progress and will need a lot of help from the community to take them to the next level. To edit the wiki you need the 'invite' aka password which is 'agile'. I look forward to seeing the contributions.

Mark Levison

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Email me replies to any of my messages in this thread

1 Discuss

Login to InfoQ to interact with what matters most to you.

Recover your password...


Follow your favorite topics and editors

Quick overview of most important highlights in the industry and on the site.


More signal, less noise

Build your own feed by choosing topics you want to read about and editors you want to hear from.


Stay up-to-date

Set up your notifications and don't miss out on content that matters to you