A Post-Agilist Concept: End Methodology Wars

One of the Post-Agile ideals I have witnessed and encourage is the breaking down of walls between methodology camps. When teams apply practices, processes, rituals and tools from Agile methodologies and create a fusion with other, compatible processes in order to create value, interesting things occur. In spite of apparent differences, many good ideas can be gleaned from dissimilar processes, and applied and adapted on your team with great effect. This paper:  Towards A Framework for Understanding the Relationships between Classical Software Engineering and Agile Methodologies expresses a Reagan-esque: “Mr. Process Zealot, tear down that wall!” ideal.

While I may not agree with all the details in the paper, it has some important concepts I want to point out. First of all, they describe the tension between Agile and phased or linear “waterfall” methodology pundits. They point out that this tension is sometimes referred to as a “methodology war” and say that this behavior is harmful to software development communities. They also find evidence of compatibilities between seemingly incompatible methodologies, and introduce an interesting analysis framework for analyzing software methodologies called “CHAPL.” (They get extra points for using a mnemonic, and for the “C” representing “contextual analysis”.)
An excerpt:

On one hand, [some] software engineers … dismiss agile methodologies and strongly advocate the value of classical [software engineering] practice, while others … insist that agile methodologies will replace Waterfall-like models and apply to all software projects. This heated debate is sometimes referred to as the “Methodology War” …
It appears that the typical characteristics of the debate are that the proponents of the conflicting methodologies:

  • describe each other in extreme and biased terms
  • devalue the opponents’ methodologies and/or practices
  • justify their own values through either experience-based explanation or inadequate comparisons between the methodologies.

We believe that this war is detrimental to [software engineering] practices. In order to end the Methodology War, some researchers have presented the similarities and compatibilities between the two methodologies.

Methodology wars are the inevitable outcome of process visionaries working against the grain to introduce new ideas, and the resistance they face from the more established process idealists. Sometimes radical behavior or extreme statements are an effective way to get attention for ideas that are dismissed. Now that Agilism has become as well known as other process communities, it’s time to stop fighting and find the areas where we agree, and try to improve how we all develop software. Instead of posturing over what process movement is “best”, let’s focus on the value we can create together.

The paper was published by APSO 2008: Scrutinizing Agile Practices, or “Shoot out at Process Corral”, In conjunction with 30th International Conference on Software Engineering, Leipzig, Germany, 10 – 18 May, 2008. Yes, I was on the program committee.