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Agile book review team lead

Book Review: Agile Software Engineering

Agile Software Engineering by Orit Hazzan and Yael Dubinsky works largely as an undergraduate textbook, dealing a lot with how to teach and educate Agile methodologies in a learning environment. The book is broken up into progressively more involved steps with each chapter ending with a summary and reflective questions. There are also breakdowns of running an agile workshop and dealing with planning, time estimation, reflection. As a whole, the book is quite useful as a beginner-intermediate approach to agile, and would likely work well for teachers & students, as a lot of the structure of the book is related to setting up and teaching agile in a classroom.

One of the more unique parts of the book is how the book references different aspects of agile using the HOT (Human, Organizational and Technological) perspectives. I found that looking at different agile concepts through these filters a useful way to see how agile works on many different levels. The book is also good at giving examples regarding globalization and how organizational culture can be dealt with in projects that deal with outsourced or contracted work, and how agile attempts to address these issues by providing additional transparency and interactions. The HOT perspectives I found were especially pertinent in those areas.

My favorite example, however, was on the the chapter on Trust using elements of game theory, and where the Prisoners Dilemma is applied to a work environment. This was applied specifically to where developers choose to cooperate or compete with one another and results in three possible scenarios:

1. If both developers cooperate they will be more likely to succeed.
2. If only one developer attempts to cooperate (by learning the others code, helping the other etc.) there may be a success of the project, but potentially the one developer that choose to cooperate may not receive as much recognition (since time was spent cooperating instead of competing).
3. If both developers compete (do not help each other, do not learn each others code) there will be no integration of efforts and the project will likely fail.

Obviously the ideal scenario is where both developers cooperate with one another and are awarded equally. As a lead or manager it is important to recognize when and where this type of scenario presents itself, and attempt to foster cooperation over competition.

The book also points to a link to code of ethics at the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and while I was not able to find the original link provided in the book at http://info.acm.org/server/se/code.htm I was able to find a similar document on the same site at http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics

Please allow me to delve into a small tangent here: while I personally prefer to not have to mention ethics directly to my team (in hopes that everyone plays nice), there is often a significant amount of emotion that developers have for their work, and some developers can be very defensive about there work, to the point of being difficult to deal with. This attitude is unfortunate as every piece of code can be improved, every single piece of code! There is no such thing as perfect code, just as there is no such thing as a perfect poem, or a perfect painting or anything else that requires design. Things like structure, patterns, organization of the code, variable names, comments, formatting, optimization and more, are all subject to interpretation of what is good and thus can vary greatly from developer to developer. As a team lead, I need the developers to cooperate on the coding standards, but even then there can be a significant amount of hubris in some developers which can cause internal clashes. I have been lucky in my attempts to be like “lukewarm water” between “fire” and “ice”, but through my experience feel like a code of ethics may also be a necessity, especially in larger teams.

Overall, the book definitely fits the niche well of being a good learning tool for those interested in Agile methodologies, and is probably best suited in a group environment as many of the reflective questions would likely garner some very interesting responses.

Until next time, I remain,
Michael Hubbard
https://michaelhubbard.ca

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