How Producing Code Is Like Producing Music (and a Message for the Agile Evangelists): An Interview with David Hussman


DH: Totally. When I was in the band days, I got to go to all these concerts. One of the concerts I went to was Van Halen opening for Ted Nugent. This is the early days, and Nugent heard Van Halen’s guitar tone and was like, “Holy smack, what is that guy playing through?” And so, Nugent’s roadie tells me that Van Halen went off stage and—this is like having a date with someone’s girlfriend: to play through an amp without telling them—it’s not very cool. So Nugent plugged into Van Halen’s amp, and I said, “Wow! What did it sound like?” And [the roadie] said, “Sounds like Ted Nugent.”

I think the mistake is, “Let’s have everyone do Scrum. Therego, we’ll have success.” Based on what? What kind of science did you guys study at school. That’s not what I learned.

JV: When you’re coaching companies, how do you go about prescribing some of the different methodologies?

DH: I think a lot of my early success with agile and extreme programming was, by and large, due to happy accidents. I attributed my success to using a process, and then I had a couple projects blow up hard on me, and I thought, what happened? Then I realized that I didn’t map the process to the context, and I think that’s an essential part of coaching. Understanding how people work today, what they do well, what their real challenges are, and then what their motives, or motifs, are.

I do these series of interviews, and this is actually part of this video series that I did for the Pragmatic Programmers. The first of three videos is on assessments and interviews, the second one is on selecting and suggesting practices, and the third one is on planning to coach. These coaching plans that I’ve put together say, “Here’s what I heard you guys say in the interview, this is my understanding of your context. Therefore, I think these practices will help address the issues that I either discovered or you named.” They’re either going to help you amplify what you do well or they’re going to go right after the challenges you have. That’s what kind of bugs me about the agile evangelist people. It’s always like, “Have faith. It will be great.” Shut up and play your guitar.

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Leyton Collins's picture

I almost didn't read this article but glad I did. The din of the numerous agile snake oil hucksters out there is pushing the real message of 'agile' to the fringe, and that irritates me to no end. Especially because I like to use the label "Agilist" for myself. The gloss over substance promotions of 'use this and everything will be wonderful' attempts and at times successfully confounds their audiences into believing in magic bullets. As Dave said, "Shut up and play your guitar." The challenge doing that successfully though is the prevailence of organizations akin to a bunch of 13 year olds playing off key and off tempo from each other in some parent's garage and thinking they all sound like accomplished rock stars.

December 12, 2015 - 11:53am

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