Agile Developers Please Apply

Coming from a developer background, when I think of working in a high-performance-agile-environment, I want to work with the best and brightest developers and team around. Who wouldn’t want to work in a high-performing company with competitive pay, great benefits, and innovation as a foundation?

“Joel Spolsky once correctly explained that you’re generally looking for two things in an employee: Smart and Gets Things Done. (Academia is teeming with people who are the former but not the latter.) First, though, you have to establish something else: Not Completely Inept. You’d be amazed how many totally incompetent people show up for technical interviews.” – Jon Evans – TechCrunch

So what should a real interview consist of? Jon offers a humble proposal: don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever. Certificates and degrees are not accomplishments.

“There is no excuse for software developers who don’t have a site, app, or service they can point to and say, “I did this, all by myself!” in a world where Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services have free service tiers, and it costs all of $25 to register as an Android developer and publish an app on the Android Market.”

Where am I going with all of this?

Agile Developers

  • Would it be too harsh to say that there are people that naturally fit within an Agile environment and those that don’t?
  • Would I be wrong if I were to say that great Agile developers are naturally great communicators and great collaborators?
  • Would it be too rough to say that there are personalities that just don’t mesh with flexibility and agility?
  • Would I be too off-base to say that the best developers for Agile environments are those that are naturally entrepreneur-minded?
  • Would it be wrong of me to say that Agile developers need to be innovative?
  • Would it be crazy to say that only lazy developers hate Agile and Scrum?

What are your thoughts? When considering a transition to Agile, do the people matter?

[HT: Tech Crunch]

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17 Responses to “Agile Developers Please Apply”

  1. Colleen Voelschow
    June 23, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    Not harsh, it’s the truth! I don’t think all developers are comfortable with the visibility and accountability that agile processes bring and its usually because they are the ones NOT getting things done.

    • peter
      June 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Ouch. Tough words there Colleen!

    • Jordan
      June 24, 2011 at 3:54 am #

      Maybe they aren’t comfortable with all the inanity and churn that many so called “agile”/Scrum implementations bring?

      It’s a well trodden anti pattern to label everyone who is opposed to any aspect of Scrum as lazy or hiding.

      I routinely outperform most/all team members; I have no fear of visibility.

      Meanwhile, Yahoo! went through a whole sale scrum adoption starting in 2005 and go check the stock price from that point onward.

      Scrum didn’t seem to help Yahoo! too much. Or Myspace.

      Naturally anyone skeptical or resistant to inane practices is merely lazy as well as heretical.

      Jordan

      • David Bland
        June 24, 2011 at 9:28 am #

        Scrum won’t provide you with the right business model.

        That is partly the reason I’m fascinated with Customer Development & Business Model Generation.

        In addition to incremental delivery of course…

        • peter
          June 24, 2011 at 9:29 am #

          Any special articles on those topics you can suggest?

        • Jordan
          June 24, 2011 at 11:23 am #

          I agree that Scrum won’t provide you with the right business model.

          However if you read writings by Sutherland and Schwaber et al, they talk about how after adopting Scrum, the organization can “Swarm” and “overrun” their competition.

          Now, clearly that didn’t happen for Yahoo.

          Additionally there is so much focus on “the team” and “blaming the team for failure” and “the team succeeds of fails as a team”.

          Yet as we can plainly see, failure often lies many levels above the team, the team cannot be held responsible for it.

          What is the point of getting all this transparency into the team, when the non transparent business leaders and/or PO can blow the project by themselves, and let the team take the blame for it?

          There is too much myopic focus on getting visibility into the team, as if that makes all the difference, whereas getting visibility into marketing, finance, all that makes a lot more difference in the business world.

          Jordan

      • Colleen Voelschow
        June 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

        I do agree that the agile process can add more churn and in most cases developers are more productive working independently but the reason we choose to move to a team structure is to eliminate experts that can become bottlenecks and distribute working knowledge across the team.

        • Jordan
          June 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

          Well, I wish you the best of luck in operating a team with no experts.

          I don’t believe that a herd of the mediocre is going to outperform a team of experts.

          Especially, Scrum etc should not be infliced on a team in order to enforce some sort of communist ideal which is what it sounds like you have going on on.

          Now it’s blame the experts for causing bottlenecks…. it’s not my experience this occurs.

          But I’m not a communist…..

          I think it’s unfortunate that so much of this movement has spent it’s energy targeting the experts for destruction.

          Maybe that’s what happened at Yahoo? Did they fire all the experts and leave themselves with all the mediocre to stumble their way incrementally towards solutions that experts would have discovered immediately?

          Jordan

          Jordan

  2. Micaël
    June 23, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    I agree that it’s not everyone that have a personnality that fits agile.
    Although I seen people with less maturity to aquire it over time. And helping them aquire this maturity makes them recognize you as their employer and raise their motivation and loyalty.

    I personnaly had many little small projects before ending my university, that I didn’t need to present to get a job since I was always refered by someone who see me work. But I agree that thses side projects are demonstrating that you can achieve things by your own and make it work. Although I would not reject a junior developer that diN,t achieve such exploits if it’s personnality really fit the values of my organisation.

    And as you mention: communication, team spirit, autonomy, adaptability, ownership, leadership, innovation, desire to work, desire to lern and respect as essential qualities for good agile developers.

  3. Jordan
    June 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    What’s the point of this post and this less?

    To revisit negative stereo types?

    How about saying that pro agilists

    1) Don’t have the attention span to plan more than 2 weeks ahead

    2) Have a fear of reading even well written documentation

    3) Have poor analytical skills so they don’t want to architect anything but just mercilessly refactor

    4) Ad nauseum

    Jordan

    • Jordan
      June 23, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      That should be “this list” not this less.
      Jordan

    • peter
      June 23, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      Ooo… well said … interesting food for thought.

  4. Kurt Häusler
    June 24, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Agile is very much about teams, and delivering commercial software within a business context. I think it is a lot more relevant for the enterprise, and average developers than say the really great developers who are just getting things done.

    To me the agile community is mostly coaches, consultants and managers of developers who are perhaps technically good, but don’t tend to be the people writing apps on their own, getting into open source, and founding their own companies.

    The really good developers doing all that seem to consider agile a management fad. Have a look at Hacker News for example. A lot more great developers and founders there, and less coaches and managers, and almost no one is saying anything positive about agile. I suppose there is a sizable community forming around software craftsmanship which is I guess a more code focused retake of the old XP principles, but to the really good developers, actually doing things in open source or the startup community, software craftsmanship is not much more than navel gazing either.

    “Would it be too harsh to say that there are people that naturally fit within an Agile environment and those that don’t?”

    No I agree with that. Agile is a great middle of the road approach. It is less appropriate for developers at the low and high ends of the scale.

    “Would I be wrong if I were to say that great Agile developers are naturally great communicators and great collaborators?”

    No I agree with that too. To be collaboration and communication is one of the differences between a poor and an average developer.

    “Would it be too rough to say that there are personalities that just don’t mesh with flexibility and agility?”

    Sure, really good developers are probably too busy coding or founding companies to worry too much about how “agile” they are.

    “Would I be too off-base to say that the best developers for Agile environments are those that are naturally entrepreneur-minded?”

    This one I disagree with. There is a huge gap between the agile community and the entrepreneur community. Entrepreneurs see agility as a management fad for the enterprise. There seems to be a small overlap in the lean-startup community, but even they aren’t swallowing everything that agile coaches and consultants have to say.

    “Would it be wrong of me to say that Agile developers need to be innovative?”

    To a limited extent I guess. That innovation is pretty much restricted to implementing the cards that land on their task-board. Innovation requires more risk, and experimental information gathering than would be tolerated in most highly customer-value oriented agile approaches.

    “Would it be crazy to say that only lazy developers hate Agile and Scrum?”

    Not just the lazy. The very productive are likely to feel constrained by a lot of the agile management ceremony. But those in the middle love it I guess.

    Have a look at what developers on GitHub, StackOverflow, Hacker News etc are saying about agile to get some perspective on the high end.

    It is two totally different worlds.

    Heh, try asking about it on the linux-kernel mailing list. Have a read of “Coders at Work” and see how much “agile” gets mentioned there?

    How agile do you think Knuth and Norvig are?

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