Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Intro #1: What School Are You?

I always like when there is some introductory material on a blog- it gives you a sense of where someone's coming from and can help you understand their perspective. I'll have a couple of these posts- I have one from my former company's blog and I'll copy it here. Not because it is so valuable it needs to be reprinted :), but I'm not sure how long Borland's "Agile Transformation" blog will remain up now that they've been bought by Micro Focus. And I think it does a pretty good job of presenting where I'm coming from on process issues. So, here is "What School Are You?" (originally published at: :

"I kicked around several ideas for an introductory post, trying to balance giving some personal background with something of broader interest....Trying to balance answering "Who am I?" for you, without being vain enough for you to instead ask "Who does this guy think he is?" Asking the question in the title gives me a good balance.

One of the ideas that has really helped me on understanding "Agile Transformations", both in myself and in teams that I see and work with is the concept of "shuhari", which defines the stages of mastering Japanese martial arts. Shu is the level when you start and are loyal to the "school" you are learning from- you're following the practices by the book. Ha is when you are understanding more of the principles behind the practices so you can go beyond the practices you learned in your school- how to extend them to situations not originally envisioned or what to do when a practice used to work or what ideas from another school you'd like to mix in. I get these two, but Ri? Ri is defined as transcendence when all moves are natural. I'll let you know if I experience this transcendence! In my book, it's not too terribly important where you start since people around you will get to the point that they're pulling in ideas from other schools. Or they'll be dogmatically stuck to the starting school and you won't want to hang around them.

So, what "school" are you when it comes to development and how to improve? For me, I started out seeing many different approaches to doing things better- some measurement driven, some from a maturity model, some from a vendor. It wasn't until we started using Scrum inside Borland that I saw something that I really believed in - the other results I saw from the others were just too mixed. Sure, Scrum's results are mixed but the experiences I've seen are much more on the positive side of the ledger. So, would I say I'm of the Scrum school? Or even the Schwaber Scrum school since that is the first book I had? Or the Mike Cohn Scrum school since he was the trainer in my first ScrumMaster training?

Nope. None of the above. While appreciating Scrum, serving as a ScrumMaster and seeing the way it benefits teams, I was exploring other areas of the Agile world and finding other approaches that resonate more with me. I haven't done hardcore XP. I'd like to say I'm of the Real Options school, but I'm not sure I could pass the entrance exam. The area that resonates the most for me is Lean, whether described by the Poppendiecks, David Anderson or Corey Ladas and crew. My personal exploration and experience with these schools of thought will be one of the many areas I cover in this blog.

So I'm interested to know, what school are you? "

(Originally p

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