Developer barely estimates, refuses to commit.
- Hi, we have a developer here, here has been here five months, and raised an
issue at the last retrospective.
He claims that the nature of the source code, apart from trivial changes
and bug fixes, simply does not lend itself to commiting to anything.
He said he would prefer to know before hand roughly what needs to be done,
and where, but here he has to spend days stepping through the debugger,
making notes, before he even knows what to change, and how long it will
take. It claims the source code should help him, along with the PO, to
learn the domain, but here it blocks his domain understanding, and requires
understanding in and of its own sake before he can even think in domain
terms. He says the lack of predictability means he will not commit from now
on. He will do his best, but won't commit.
At the beginning we understood why he didn't take part in the estimating,
because he didn't know enough, and he started to estimate a few tasks
eventually, in areas he knew fairly well, and even started to guess in some
areas he knows vaguely. Now he refuses to estimate all but the trivialest
of changes. He says, give me an hour or two to look around first and I
might be able to estimate, but even then there is no predictable way to
know before hand what needs to be changed and how long it will take. He
claims most of the time that just by stumbling around and trying things
out, he can't say what needs to be done, or how long it will take until its
Any ideas? Is committment really that important, or is doing his best good
- Tobias,<<I'd be interested in talking more to you about this sometime. You'll likely have to step down to ground level for that conversation though... and I'll take off my scientific dress-up clothing ;-)>>Well, that's probably one of the side-effects of using scientific terms: a scientist may be listening and assume you're talking about science ;-) I'll consider this discussion over by now (and I do consider it's way off-topic for us to continue it on this list), and, should we ever have that discussion again in the future, be sure I'll try to do it in a less pedantic and over-the-top way.Regards,Pablo Emanuel2009/8/5 Tobias Mayer <scrum@...>
> The only way I can see the concept of chaos being used in this context is in a more metaphorical sense...
Yes, it is a metaphor. But through such application a term may take on new meaning -- as I believe is happening in this field. For an example of how the CAS/Strange attractor metaphor is being used in the domain of human systems (from my limited library) please see Strange Attractors and Human Interaction: Leading Complex Organizations through the Use of Metaphors.
The thing is, take these amazing ideas out of the domain of pure science theory, throw them to the masses and they allow people like me to see the world in entirely different ways. And that is a wonderful thing.
I'd be interested in talking more to you about this sometime. You'll likely have to step down to ground level for that conversation though... and I'll take off my scientific dress-up clothing ;-)
Pablo Emanuel wrote:Doug,I didn't intend to sound rude, I'm sorry if I did. I haven't read the book, and I have no reason to believe it doesn't get to valuable conclusions. My only point being that terms like Quantum, Chaos, Self-Organization and Complex Adaptive Systems are ways to make a theory sound scientific, even when the reasoning itself doesn't ever come close to the theories whose names are being used. For instance, the arguments:Self-organized teams are more efficient because self-organized systems like ants and ecosystems have proven to be efficient.orStrange attractors are not adaptive, but they they do cause a system to change, sometimes in unexpected ways, hence we need to embrace our fools.are just fallacies dressed in scientific terminology.IMO, the connection between Agility and Chaos is close to zero. Chaos requires exponential expansion (sensitivity to initial conditions), I can't see how it may happen in a SW dev team.The only way I can see the concept of chaos being used in this context is in a more metaphorical sense, of learning from dynamic systems that both too much regularity and too much chaos are too robust, and systems at the edge of chaos have better chance of adapting. But, to get to the same conclusion, we could use other analogies, such as the four elements (that's used, for instance, by Harrison Owen, the creator of Open Space Technology), with, IMO, more meaningful consequences (e.g. besides the Earth-Air axis - order X creativity, we have the Fire-Water axis - assertiveness X emotional safety).Regards,Pablo Emanuel2009/8/5 Doug McQuilken <dougmcq000@...>
I appreciate your candor.
I am far from an expert but having read this specifically to understand the purported Agile:Chaos "connection", I recommended it as a useful read for the purpose I described.
I would appreciate any other references in this area.
--- On Wed, 8/5/09, Pablo Emanuel <pablo.emanuel@...> wrote:Subject: Re: [off-topic] Re: [scrumdevelopment] CAS [was Developer barely estimates...]
From: Pablo Emanuel <pablo.emanuel@...>
Date: Wednesday, August 5, 2009, 5:32 PMDoug,judging only by the author's bio, I may be wrong, but my bulshit-o-meter is beeping. Not that the book's conclusions are necessarily wrong, but probably the mathematical concepts are being applied well beyond their original context and meaning. Chaos is one of the most abused terms these days, second only to quantum.Regards,Pablo Emanuel
2009/8/5 Doug McQuilken <dougmcq000@yahoo. com>
For those of us who wish to better understand chaos theory with respect to human systems, I highly recommend the quite readable:
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic Worldby Margaret J Wheatley
--- On Wed, 8/5/09, Pablo Emanuel <pablo.emanuel@ globo.com> wrote:
From: Pablo Emanuel <pablo.emanuel@ globo.com>
Subject: [off-topic] Re: [scrumdevelopment] CAS [was Developer barely estimates... ]
To: scrumdevelopment@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Wednesday, August 5, 2009, 4:31 PMTobias,I must infer from what you wrote that you're trying to apply concepts from one domain you know only superficially (dynamic systems) into another (team dynamics), and you're being mislead by some words that, although having ordinary meanings, are overloaded to mean very specific things on the specific domains (this is what the Jains call Sabdanaya - mistake one concept for another only because they have the same name). Since this domain is exactly the domain I've studied for 6+ years (my unfinished PhD thesis was about the formation of infinitely many attractors and persistent 0-Lyapounov exponents near high-codimension homoclinic bifurcations) , I felt obliged to clarify some of these misunderstandings.Strange (AKA chaotic) attractors do not "draw order to themselves". They're called attractors because nearby orbits (inside the attractor's basin) converge to the attactor (so, the only thing they "draw to themselves" are orbits), and they're called chaotic because, inside the attractor, orbits diverge exponentially (= positive Lyapounov exponents), which leads to the so-called butterfly effect (points that start very near end up being very far, exponentially fast). What's said about chaotic systems having order is mainly because of the fact that the exponentially expanding behaviour in terms of individual orbits implies that probability distributions converge exponentially to a Sinai-Ruelle- Bowen probability distribution. That is, if you start with an arbitrary distribution of probability (e.g. the same probability to be in any part of the space of events), and iterate it (i.e. given that a point had that given probability distribution in the beginnning, how probable is it to be in this certain portion of the space after a certain amount of time), it will converge to a specific probability. In other words, dynamic repulsion leads to ergodic convergence.Of course, I've only wrote all of this to give a hint on how much theory is there on the subject, and that chaos, order, strange attractors and other terms have well-defined meanings, and they have very little to do with the use you make of them. If you want to say something about high-creatitivy- low-organization individuals being necessary (or at least beneficial) to the team, please don't use terms that have nothing to do with it. I've proposed a more meaningful metaphore (the four elements) that is more in line with the intended use of the terms. If you describe your high-creatitivy- low-organization individual to an astrologer as a Airy person, he will understand it; if you describe him as a strange attractor to a dynamicist (such as myself), he will have a hard time trying to figure out what the heck you're trying to say.Regarding your statement about CAS, I definitely agree that human beings are CASs, which *does not imply* that systems composed of human beings are a fortiori CASs. Distributed organization does not equal self-organization. A system exhibits self-organization when the high-level order emerges *from the system itself*, not from his components. If the order is imposed to the system directly at the high-level, it's not self-organized. One example of a human system that *is* a CAS is the economic market - each economic agent, individual people or companies - is acting on very local objectives, but a high-level order (cyclic crises, etc) emerges from this multitude of individual acts. One example of a human system that *isn't* a CAS is a team of software developers. All the order in the system comes from people trying to impose order to it, regardless of it being one central organizer or several people, each one giving his individual contribution. It would be self-organized if each person decided to do something other than develop software in a team (e.g. type good-looking ASCII art, and show it to the greatest number of people) and somehow, those individual actions fitted together nicely to form a software development team.I could go on for hours on each of these topics, but I'll probably settle for including it on our list of things to discuss face-to-face over a couple of beers someday.Regards,Pablo Emanuel
2009/8/5 Tobias Mayer <scrum@agilethinking .net>
A strange attractor "draws order to itself out of seeming chaos". Strange attractors are not adaptive, but they they do cause a system to change, sometimes in unexpected ways. Chaotic systems need them if they are too converge towards any form of order at all -- and I am talking inherent order, not imposed order. A system with imposed order is no less chaotic (perhaps more) than one without, it is just buried.
You lost me a bit in your science and new-ageism, but I challenge the idea that software development teams have nothing to do with CAS. I'd argue that every system that includes humans is a CAS.
Pablo Emanuel wrote:Tobias,just an off-topic correction to your post - strange attractors are not "adaptive". They're dynamically robust, since all their Lyapunov exponents are non-zero (exponential repulsion inside the attractor and exponential attraction outside the attractor). Adaptation (in the sense of complex adaptive systems) require (stable) Lyapunov exponents equal 0. That's why complex adaptive systems are said to be "in the edge of chaos" (periodic non-chaotic attractors have all Lyapunov exponents negative, chaotic [strange] attractors have a mix of positive and negative exponents and adpative systems have one or more 0 exponents). I would also have to argue again that software development teams have nothing to do with Complex Adaptive Systems, but that would make this off-topic post way too long.Other than that, I patially agree with your post, and that has something to do with the blog post I wrote in response to Ilja. Poka-yoke, lean methods, Scrum, or any methodology whatsoever are related to the element Earth, whereas creativity is related to the element Air. Too much order is not desired when you need creativity to bloom (that's probably what Nietzsche had in mind when he wrote "One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star"). However, Air alone doesn't generate concrete results, so you do need Earth's methodology to transform Air's ideas into tangible outputs (put too much Earth too early, and you are too far away to chaos, put too little too late, and you're deep into chaos, in the right time and quantity, bingo, you're on the edge of chaos).Regards,Pablo Emanuel
2009/8/4 Tobias Mayer <scrum@agilethinking .net>
Thanks for that information Pablo.
This appears to be another example of a good manufacturing idea becoming a very bad idea when applied to a creative process. There is, and can be, no such thing as a fool-proof process in software development. Complex Adaptive Systems are full of fools -- they may be the strange attractors required by the system for growth and adaptivity, for evolution. Embrace your fools, let them loose! Please don't proof against them.
Pablo Emanuel wrote:Ilja,actually, the Lean concept of poka-yoke (http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Poka-yoke) is about the process *not allowing* people to make mistakes. Not in the sense that the process requires that people doesn't make mistakes, but that the process must help people not to make them. Examples of the application of this principle to SW development are Intellisense, TDD, Continuous Integration and automatic code generation. The process should prevent people from erring, and should they still err, must spot the error as soon as possible.From a root cause analysis point of view, the error has two main causes: people make mistakes, and the process let them do it. Both causes should be addressed - people must be trained (or replaced, when the availability of people that makes substantially less errors doesn't justify the cost of training), and the process must be made fool-proof.Regards,Pablo Emanuel
2009/8/4 Ilja Preuß <iljapreuss@googlema il.com>Hi Tobias,
I haven't read that book yet, but I would assume that Petri slightly
misrepresented the Poppendieck's position. I'd think it's much more
about a process needing to *allow* people to make mistakes. A process
that requires people to be perfect simply is flawed. (I'd also say
that a process should help people spot their mistakes and learn from
2009/8/4 Tobias Mayer <scrum@agilethinking .net>:>
> But that seems odd too. People do make mistakes -- all the time, and it is
> equally imbalanced to blame the process for "allowing the mistake". What I
> liked about your original post was that (I thought) I saw you taking that
> incident on its own merit, listening to the back story, and offering an
> alternative viewpoint. To generalize and say that people don't make
> mistakes seems that it might foster a different kind of blame culture, and a
> stunting of personal growth.
> My mistakes are mine, I may not like them, but I can choose to own them.
> Petri Heiramo wrote:
> Hi Tobias,
>> That is an interesting, and very humane analysis of the
>> situation. Thanks for offering this alternative viewpoint. I
>> think many of us could benefit from looking beyond the "problem
>> individual" towards the process that is causing that dysfunction.
>> New kinds of solutions then offer themselves.
> It's not actually my viewpoint :). I recently read the Implementing Lean
> Software Development by the Poppendiecks, and they very much spoke for
> people not making mistakes, but the process being faulty for allowing such a
> mistake to happen. I just applied it to the situation in question :).
> I sincerely recommend that book to everyone here.
> Yours, Petri
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