Thursday, October 28, 2010


A couple of years ago I had the benefit of seeing agile contrasted against waterfall with the same development team on the same project. The team had recently delivered the 1.1 version of a global web application. The customer then took over the project by replacing the project manager and business analysts with people who had no agile experience.

Up until after the 1.1 release our highly productive team absolutely loved coming to work in the morning. We were eating up storing points with an insatiable appetite and pressure to perform came from inside the team. Frequently our roles would cross. Developers would help out Testers and BAs as needed and the Testers and BAs worked very closely together to document proper story acceptances.

When agile was dropped for a more traditional process, things deteriorated very quickly (teamicide). I noticed major negative consequences in user stories, project planning, management, and software development.


The agile team that was together from inception through release 1.1 benefited from testable stories with high value features. Developers worked with Business Analysts to identify tasks within a story that would require significant development time so that the Product Owner could make informed decisions on whether or not a particular feature provided enough business value to warrant the cost. The BAs also enjoyed lower cost alternatives provided by developers. Only minor changes to a story were allowed after a pair of developers started on it. Significant changes required a new story.

After release 1.1, pseudo-stories were created with many nice to have, but not critical requirements with no developer input. Story requirements changed throughout the iteration including after the story delivery.


The agile team assigned points to stories during the inception. The amount of points completed during an iteration determined the team's velocity. The average velocity over the last two iterations was used to predict release dates.

The new project manager on the post-1.1 team planned out the next four releases in Microsoft Project with no input from the developers. The releases had unrealistic delivery dates for features that were not yet defined. This is the classic "phony deadline" technique used by managers to (de)motivate developers.

Project Management

The agile project manager was deliberately inattentive to enable the team to self-organize. This resulted in very high morale because developers felt free to contribute ideas and felt a sense of project ownership. The agile project manager's primary role was to remove obstacles that would otherwise distract the team.

The new project manager micromanaged all aspects of the project. We continued to have a stand-up every morning, but as each person gave a status, the PM would ask further questions like "how much longer until the story is completed?".


Pre-teamicide, pairing time was protected, the velocity was high, the code quality was good. Pressure to perform came from other developers. All of this was achieved a sustainable pace with little or no overtime.

Post-teamicide, development time was highly fragmented through frequent meetings, phone calls, and IMs. The velocity was very low and pressure to perform came from the project manager who had set unreasonable deadlines. Large amounts of overtime were required, which led to many more bugs in design and code.


This project thoroughly convinced me of the effectiveness of the agile methodology. It was a great learning experience, but I hope it is not repeated!


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]