Things I didn’t learn

When I give a talk on Agile or Extreme Programming, there are two stereotypical answers I get from the participants:

  • That won’t work (where I work).
  • That’s just common sense. I’ve been doing that for years.

The first reaction is an ideal opening to ask the question: “You’re right. But… what’s the worst thing that’s holding you back?” That way you might discover their constraint.The second answer is a bit more tricky to deal with. Often, the answer indicates a lack of understanding of Agile software development: “I’ve been working without specs all my life. I was XP when you were still in diapers, son!“. If not, get their stories out and learn about their successes and failures.

I was like that, until a few years ago. Since then I’ve learned two things:

  • It has worked everywhere I worked for the past 5 years. In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve seen work in that time.
  • If it’s common sense, I must not have much common sense. Or any sense at all. I did things consistently as I had been taught them and was consistently unhappy with the results. Not that this made me change the way I worked; I just tried harder. Someday, it will work…

It’s not that I haven’t had many opportunities to learn. I just missed them all. I was probably trying too hard to notice the obvious solutions staring me right in the face.

So, let me tell you about some of these learning opportunities I missed…

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