Why I Pledge an Oath on Non-Allegiance

When building relationships we look for commonalities between ourselves and others. When we have things in common it makes us feel good, like we're not alone in the world. And the things we have in common become the basis for lasting relationships. Homogony in a group brings comfort, you know what everyone else is thinking, you can predict how the group will react to new ideas, and you become confident, even emboldened because you are surrounded by people who are similar to you. Let's face it, it feels great when you share a new idea to nodding heads of agreement and a strong show of support from your peer group.

Over time you'll find your niche, a great group of people who think like you and see value in the same things you do. The more time you spend together the closer you'll become and the more awesome your community will get. You'll feel supported and you'll give support to your peers. Together you'll build an exclusive community of trust, mutual respect, and consensus; one that feeds on itself with demonstrations of perpetual support free of criticism, negativity, and ridicule.

With a large enough group, it's possible to warp reality around yourself so that you are only exposed to the ideas and feelings produced by your group, the place where you feel safe, comforted, and welcome. With so much support it is easy to dismiss ideas created outside the group as "radical" or "stupid," and miss out on huge opportunities in the process.

This mentality is everywhere in the software world.

The software craftsmanship movement largely molded by Pete McBreen in his book pitted the enlightened craftsmen against the ignorant engineers. I strongly identify as a software engineer and was duly offended by this book. It wasn't until about mid-way through the book, when McBreen suggested that the Personal Software Process was one of the greatest processes a craftsman could use that I realized we agreed more than we disagreed. A line in the sand had been drawn and two groups formed but there was more overlap between these groups than anyone was willing to admit. As an engineer I don't want to "sweep the shop floor" as someone's apprentice but I recognize the importance of mentoring. Software Craftsmanship highly values the contributions of the individual but recognizes that teams must somehow be organized so projects can succeed. Software engineering (at least as I've always thought of it) and software craftsmanship are nearly identical ideas and McBreen's book reads as a jaded rant produced after an unfortunate project. Two communities with similar passion and ideals, divided by a label!

Agile and architecture are two other groups that (only until very recently) seem to ignore each other out of spite or perhaps ignorance. The main principle of the agile movement is a focus on delivering meaningful software that helps solve customers' problems: "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software." The Software Engineering Institute has spent the better part of two decades researching software architecture and how it affects a team's ability to deliver valuable software to customers. Software architecture is a communication and organization mechanism. The primary purpose is in helping teams deliver software effectively. It is a means to achieving the very same principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto. There's nothing wrong with documenting a design, writing down quality attribute scenarios in addition to user stories, or making a plan before your start laying down production-quality code. It is true that the wrong kinds of up front design will do more harm than good for all but the most trivial systems, but that doesn't make all architecture practices as bad as agile zealots will have you believe.

Is Kanban agile? Who cares?!? If the process works for your team then use it! The more important (and interesting) question we should be asking is – how do I know if my process is working?

As someone who regularly experiments and actively seeks innovation, I'll be the first to admit that I get things wrong often, but I pride myself on not allowing my likes and dislikes, my preconceived perception of my reality, to get in the way. While I don't enjoy leaving my comfort zone, I recognize that it is important both for personal growth and the growth of the communities in which I participate.

And when it comes to building software, I recognize that though I may have a preferred approach or process, and set of tools and languages I like, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and the most important thing is to use the best tools for the job at hand. While I may have strong beliefs they are weakly held, my one conviction is to always do what I think is best for the project and the people involved with it.

I promise not to exclude from consideration any idea based on its source, but to consider ideas across schools and heritages in order to find the ones that best suit the current situation.

oath of non-allecience logo


Popular posts from this blog

Dealing with Constraints in Software Architecture Design

If you aren't Agile… Then what are you?

Managing Multiple Ruby Versions with uru on Windows