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Opinion: Agile Forgets the Human Factor

Kevin Brady, self-declared Agile critic, has a problem with Agile (particularly Scrum, it seems):  he feels that while they look great on paper. they fail to work in reality because they forget the human factor.
Any paradigm, which has human interaction at its heart, will fail if human psychology is not understood and taken into account. The key aspects of human nature which IT development /project management methods have to take into account are no different to those at the heart of most modern economic theories:

People will always put their own interests ahead of the interests of the group.
People are self-interested
Commercial production decisions are based on rational expectations.
Karl Popper’s “First law of collective action”. You can never get more than 5 people to agree on anything.
Brady says that these methodologies "can from experience in the field turn ... already sickly IT departments into meltdown", and cites as examples the views of 3 people working in self-proclaimed Agile teams, including
  • The Project Managers / ScrumMasters turned themselves into Project Administrators.
  • The project teams had in almost all cases been taken over by strong personalities leading to mini dictatorships.
  • Knowledge Monopolies.
  • Resource Management had vanished.
  • Having had a taste of freedom the dictators were a hateful and aggressive bunch when asked about their managers / ScrumMasters.
  • Most of the talented young development staff were leaving.
  • Each of these organisations had differing development approaches and tools from project to project.
  • Clients fed up with never-ending, continuous involvement in IT projects.
In the conversation thread that follows the blog entry, Derek Gilmore picks up on the "already sickly IT department" aspect, adding:
SCRUM is not a magic bullet. It doesn’t fix dysfunctional toxic work environments. If you don’t have Software requirements in the form or clear use cases(user scenarios), configuration management, daily builds, database change management or unit testing your projects will be late and over budget.

To use Agile Development methodologies require a strong SCRUM Master with people skills to match. Putting in a chief Architect with poor people skills is a recipe for disaster.

Agile blogger Dave Nicolette takes up the gauntlet, noting that "[a number of] bullet points in your list frankly sound as if the people mis-applied agile practices. In particular, the project managers who behaved as you describe really didn’t 'get it.' "

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