Pragmatism and Idealism in Agile

A request was sent round work for anyone interested in an Agile Coaching stint. “Probably requires a convincing pragmatist,” it said.

I’m trying to become an Agile Coach. I found the email confusing at first, because I’ve always thought I’ll make a good Agile Coach one day through the right mix of idealism and enthusiasm. I’m definitely an idealist, not a pragmatist. I don’t have enough experience to do the job, but I could see myself taking the role in the future; convincing the customer that there’s business value to be found in Agile practices, and matching the customer needs to past examples of Agile meeting them. I have imaginary conversations in my head like this:

“There’s no documentation,” says the customer. “How can my in-house team maintain the code once you lot have left, if there’s no documentation?”

“Well,” say I, “we’ll pair with your in-house team, so our knowledge will be passed on to them. Also, because we’re pairing, the code will be reviewed as it’s written. We find this leads to a cleaner, more legible, more maintainable code base. We’ll write tests for everything as we go along, so your in-house team will be able to change the code and still have confidence that they haven’t broken any existing functionality.”

So I’m not exactly an expert at matching business value to Agile practices, but I reckon I’ve got the right idea. If the customer needs to maintain the code after we’ve left, then we’ll take his people on board, even though they might not be experienced developers. I’ve never thought of myself as pragmatic, though. Wanting all practices to deliver business value to the customer is idealism, not pragmatism. If a particular Agile practice isn’t going to help the customer in any way, then I don’t think there’s any point in doing it. Changing ideal Agile practices to match customer needs… actually, that is pretty pragmatic, isn’t it?

Here’s a theory. Pragmatism is just idealism with the right ideals.

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4 Responses to Pragmatism and Idealism in Agile

  1. entropyjim says:

    Have to say, if I were a customer I would stipulate that you left me documentation. I wouldn’t buy services from a company that didn’t 😉

  2. sirenian says:

    See the next blog post, which basically says, “Why do you want documentation?”

  3. anonymous says:

    Here’s another theory. Fundamentalism is just idealism with the right ideals.

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