Pliant Software Development

Recently, I met Tim Beck, who is behind Pliant Software Development. I like his ideas, and I support what he’s doing.

When I came across this website, I liked what I saw, and when we got together in person, I really liked what I heard. Tim is thoughtful, principled, positive and forward-looking. He wants to see software development move ahead and continuously improve. Like me, he doesn’t think we have the final word on software development yet. I was also pleased to see in his work that he is also a contextualist. You won’t get any “one-true-way” marketing from him.

Here’s an excerpt from the Pliant About page:

Again, there is no right answer. Therefore, there is no point in trying to find one. What we must do is strive to adapt our processes so that we get better at developing software. As the definition at the top of this page implies, in order to be pliant, we must bend or fold our current process to fit the situation we are facing. Since the situation is constantly changing, we have to be constantly changing our process.

One comment Tim makes frequently is this:

Are we solving the real problem?

Inspired by his description of the company where he worked that coined this phrase, and hung it up on a banner, I had an idea. This question should be printed out on a large banner in software development companies, visible to all (executives included), particularly where process or tool zealotry is reaching a fever pitch. All too often we reach for a process/tool without looking at the real problem. In many cases, we then end up with our problems being compounded. Not only does the real problem remain unaddressed, but we end up with even more systems to maintain, distracting and robbing us of productive problem-solving time. We might get so distracted while working on the “solutions”, that we have even more fog preventing us from seeing the real root of the problem. Sure, it might be more fun to adopt an ambitious test automation project, or buy that shiny new tool we’ve been looking at, but if we don’t understand the real problem, we may create an even bigger one.

Check out Tim’s work. I find his posts thoughtful as well as thought-provoking. In an industry that seems prone to silver-bullet-itis, we need more thoughtful process skeptics like Tim, who genuinely want to see the world become a better place.