Agile: another word for unhappiness?

Reading about Neal Ford’s frustration when trying to explain Agile reminded me of this:

“The best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it.”
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I guess if the only thing you’ve ever experienced is Waterfall, the illusion of control that it gives can be comforting. Agile practices don’t do much good for illusions. So if brutal honesty isn’t your thing, you’re probably better off with the old way. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it’ll fail – but at least you’ll have the comfort of never quite knowing why.

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6 Responses to Agile: another word for unhappiness?

  1. anonymous says:

    Agile is an illusion. By that I mean part of why Agile inspires people is the story it tells and allows people to be a part of. Agile isn’t just about brutal reality. There is also the belief and confidence that together we will find a way to succeed. In a sense, that’s about illusion. Taken too far, it becomes delusion and it becomes as dangerous as a deluded Waterfall. But without a story, there is no hope.

  2. sirenian says:

    I think it’s possible to create illusions with Agile, certainly. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    I like the idea of Agile practices as a toolbox, rather than a set process which will always result in success. Most of the Agile practices are geared towards getting quick feedback, hence the “brutal honesty” thing. I know that the way we use it here means that we try to create business value in everything we do. Several times that’s resulted in us talking ourselves out of work, because an honest appraisal of a project has allowed the business to see that actually, there isn’t enough value in it to justify the cost.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that if there’s illusion in an Agile project, it’s probably not Agile enough. I have belief and confidence that in collusion with my team-mates I will stand the highest possible chance of discovering the truth – but that may not actually make me happy. It may certainly not make me (or my company) any money. But at least I’ll know as quickly as possible!

    Does that make any sense?

    (And who are you?)

  3. anonymous says:

    Hi Liz, I presented myself, I’m Juan Pablo Olguin, 34, Bachelor’s degree in computer Science, University of Buenos Aires, J2EE, Developer leader and XP practitioners (when my boss allowed it).

    First of all: I’m not a native speaker, so please forgive any gramatical mistake I ‘m gonna make.
    Second of all, this is not exactly a response to this thread, but the best way I could think of contacting you. I have been reading your blog and some of your post in the group for some time and I would like to thank you for the energy and joy that comes out of your words.
    You have given me energy to restart writing myself, and continue working towards and evangelizing Agility philosophy even though I often feel too (like Neal Fords comment) some frustation ’cause most of the developers I know don’t care about getting better at their jobs, they don’t study or read materials about their craft. They don’t even make the effort or give it a try.

    I feel really close with some of your thoughts even though we are really far and away (I’ in Argentina, Buenos Aires, “Google earth-ed” my city if you wish).

    Finally, your blogs name reminds me of this “Prologue to Bertrand Russell autobiography”, tha I use like a cornerstone of my life, I hope you like it (may be you already know it)

    What I Have Lived For

    Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
    I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.
    With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
    Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
    This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

    best wishes and thanks again,


  4. sirenian says:

    Hi Juan,

    Thank you. It’s wonderful to hear from someone else who mixes passion for life and work with the same breath.

    I read this comment after posting my latest thoughts on When people stop caring, and I think my conclusion is reinforced by your words: they really don’t, unless they think that no one else cares.

    The reason I don’t pay as much attention as I should to places such as Niger is because I don’t think that the government of Niger really cares as much as it should, and I feel that there’s not a lot I can do aside from give money – but actually, saying “I care about Niger” is still important. It makes other people keep caring. If enough of us care, maybe we can change the world. What do you think?

    Thank you for reminding me that I care – about Niger, Amnesty International, old people, animal welfare, my friends and country, the environment, the Earth… everything in my life. It’s good to know that you, too, care about many of the same things, and that you also love your life despite the bad things you see in it.



  5. anonymous says:

    Wow Liz, we are almost on-line!, I’d just written my commment.

    So, what do I think?, you are absolutely right, If enough of us care… who knows what we can achieve! sand is made of thounsands of little grains.

    I read your last comment “When people stop caring”, well I should reply there but I have to go back to work (here it’s 12:30 PM). I know what you are talking, those misundertundings are so common in my day to day work, when a situation like this happens to me it triggers some kind of suspicion that the team’s communication channels are not as fluid as they have to.

    Liz, your “courage!” make me think that my previous comment sound like I was in dispair or sad or frustated, you don’t have to be worry, because I am not, I ‘m really happy and I love the craft we are trying to master, Agile Software Development!

    However, I liked your “exortation”, Courage! isn’t one the XP principles, 😉

    back to work, I’ll write you soon,


  6. sirenian says:

    Both an exhortation – have courage – and a celebration that we do. Kind of like saying, “Cheers!” but with hope instead of beer. And a reminder to myself, more than anything, to keep having it (both hope and courage).

    Courage seems to solve a lot of problems – or at least, it paves the road to the solution.

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