Everything-on-it pizza, plain pizza, and Agile - What do they have in common?

August 31, 2007 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I recently posted an announcement about my upcoming webinar on Design Patterns in an Agile Environment to the NW C++ User Group. It eventually led to over a dozen messages, many of them flaming, about how Agile is horrible. One in particular I found interesting:

Mainly, managers see it as a recipe for turning programmers into interchangeable parts (somewhat unrelated but explains why folks like myself like the so-called "cowboy style":

There were others about as strong (especially on consultants). Anyway, I have to admit, I believe that most of the flaming is due to people who think they've been on agile teams when in fact, they haven't been. I remember working on a team that said they were doing XP because they weren't doing all the things you don't do in XP (but they also weren't doing any of the things you do do in XP). Now, someone on that team who didn't know what XP was would have said - "boy, XP is a crock, you won't believe what they do on it!"

I am afraid there is a lot of misinformation about agile methods. Of course, I think the state of the art of Agile is still pretty dismal in that many Agilists out there think they know more than they do but that's another blog. Even at that, Agile done properly can definitely make people more effective.

So what does this have to do with Pizza?

Well, this all reminds me of a story my dad told me years ago. Now, to truly get this story, you have to know a little bit about my dad. He unfortunately passed away about 28 years ago from congestive heart failure. My dad really liked to eat and he was always a bit overweight (5'6" and about 200 lbs). Not obese, but heavy. Anyway, I remember when I was a teen several times he was in the hospital for observation, that after 2-3 days he couldn't take the hospital food anymore and he'd beg me (not kidding) to get him something tasty - like a hotdog! I hate to admit it, but I smuggled him in some food more than once. The point is, not too many people liked food better than my dad.

Anyway, he once told me how when he was in college, there was a time he hated pizza (or at least thought he did). This was a big shock to me, because pizza was one of my dad's favorite foods. Now, another thing you needed to know about him, is that although he eventually went on to be a great medical doctor, he was really a Georgia boy. When he started out at Emory U (in Atlanta) he was far from street smart. Anyways, he went out to eat and someone mentioned pizza. My dad had never had a pizza before. So he thought he'd do it right - get the best - get the one with everything on it - anchovies, peppers, who knows what else. So that's what he ordered and my dad hated it.

He went for months knowing he hated pizza. Yuuucchhh! All that crap on some cheese and bread. Then, one day, he's out with some buddies and someone says - "hey, let's get some pizza!" My dad says - "no, that's horrible, all that stuff on it." So my dad's friend says - well get a plain one! A plain one? (really, my dad was smart, just didn't have a lot of experience). So my dad orders a plain pizza and loves it. Now he thinks pizza is great.

What's my point? If you say you know what agile is, make sure you know what the agile you are talking about! Laughing

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.



        

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