First of all, Mr. Dalmijn, thank you for your courteous and detailed response. I appreciate your civility and will of course respond in kind and though I do have some disagreements I will phrase them respectfully.

And in detail.

I find your article so bitter it makes me sad.

Well I’m bitter about a lot of the changes in our business. I am self-taught as in so many things and I was at Microsoft in 1989 and saw its last year of greatness evaporate before my eyes. I love writing software, I love solving problems, and for me the whole industry has turned to Güllen. That’s a Swiss German word (From Dürrenmatt’s Der Besuch der Alten Dame) that expresses exactly what I want. Words are very important to me and always have been, but I won’t jump that gun.

The team decides the time of the Daily Scrum. The fact you did not change it or your team did not allow to move it to accomodate your commute is very odd and telling. In my team we would have moved it the second you raised this point.

I hope you don’t think I didn’t bring it up; if I didn’t hesitate to express my disgust with “stories” I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to complain that the standup meeting added two hours to my commute, though I was able to mitigate the ride home by going to the gym after work, even so you haven’t seen awful traffic till you’ve lived in Seattle. An extra two hours that I couldn’t bill.

Both teams gave me shocked expressions and both told me that in “true agile” it’s a morning standup and That’s The Way It Is. They didn’t threaten me with termination (I was a contractor at both jobs) and in fact extended my contract at one of them even though half the company was laid off while I was there. There was however no flexibility.

User Stories are optional in Agile and Scrum. So is planning poker.

The change from scenarios to “stories” made me angry, and I remain angry about it a decade later, having to use TFS where the word is inescapable. I see it as humiliating, infantilizing; adults read short stories or novellas or novels; the unadorned word is for children. I’m not a child, I’m an adult and I saw the use of this word, aside from its wanton inaccuracy, as like supermarket checkout workers forced to wear humiliating and dehumanizing costumes to promote some sale or for some holiday. I was 55 years old at the time and in any case there was no reason whatsoever not to go on using “scenarios.”

II am sorry you had this experience. I can tell you that things do not have to be this way but I doubt I can convince you.
Scrum, as an agile framework, provides a canvas that needs to be filled in. Using Scrum is not enough, you need to decide the process as a team. In your case this did not happen.
If nothing changes you are not doing Scrum. The whole point is to provide just a canvas. It is called a process framework and not a process to empower people to decide their own working process.

The “scrum master” used the word “empower” a lot too, and others like “relationships” and it all sounded like more of those pop neologisms. I certainly got no empowerment. I finally raised my hand and had to ask him what the hell he was talking about because nothing he said mapped to any activity or process I could identify. It reminded me of postmodernism where words were invented on the fly; phallocentrism, heteronormativity, eurocentrism. A canary makes more sense than those scrum introductions.

You lose around 4 hours per week on meetings, which includes:
Daily Scrum

A daily meeting is a daily interruption, breaking my Flow, if I could get to Flow at all trying to contain my anger at the nomenclature changes. There was nothing in the daily scrum (that’s eight meetings per week, which is seven more than I needed on my last job where the servers comprising the revenue stream were my responsibility). Fewer meetings are always better.

And the daily scrum was almost always

  1. developers wearily saying they were working on the same thing they were working on in yesterday’s meeting. For this I drove an extra hour?
  2. program managers (who I knew for a fact played games on Facebook all day while making insane delivery promises to management) spritzing buzzwords to put on a show of sounding “engaged.” For this I drove an extra hour?

These leave lasting impressions, you know. ALL of this could have been in email. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to have a meeting at all, and we never had the other three you mentioned.

The phoniness of the whole thing was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was like unit tests or threat models at Microsoft; untethered to reality and going through the motions, when I was trying to, you know, get some freaking work done.

In short, I understand you are frustrated. But you are somebody that does not enjoy wine even though you never drank wine. You just had some cheap watered down grape juice.

This takes me back to my opening sentence. Ask three people about agile and you will get three mutually exclusive descriptions. It seems like everyone has a different idea of its purity, like Social Justice Warriors arguing about pronouns and insisting on using “they” as a singular. Before agile there was Waterfall, another imposition of phony structure on a process where the ability to concentrate correlates directly with productivity and where superfluous “process” breaks that concentration. Of course nothing beat Vista for process; we were lucky to get four hours of work done in a 70 hour week, I could hear sobbing behind closed doors and entire hallways resigned in disgust.

I don’t want you to think I was a troublemaker at these jobs. In fact the gig where I expressed my distaste for “stories” was one of the best I ever worked in, there wasn’t a single asshole on the team, my manager was great, I got along with everyone and did some work I’m proud of. I Owned their game installer and was working in a weird language called Lua and achieved a few miracles for them, like internationalizing the installer despite an ASCII-only language.

Edit: I don’t know anyone over 45 who doesn’t regard agile as a foppish waste of time. Younger people have grown up with this and know nothing else; I do. It’s like my younger gay friends who nonchalantly refer to themselves as “queer,” which I will never get used to.

And I would rather have grape juice than wine. I don’t drink alcohol, tried it in my teens and hated it.

Respectfully (I hope I have been so)

Chris Fox

Can Tho, Vietnam

American Software Developer living in Vietnam. Classical musician (guitar, woodwinds), weightlifter, multilingual, misanthrope • XY

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