Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Agile Consultancy Scam

Luke Halliwell wrote a nice blog entry titled "The Agile Disease" as a reaction to some Scrum "Masters" trying to "agile enable" his (games) company.

he says "The games industry is rushing headlong to Agile development methodologies just now; it’s a great source of excitement for some, with conference sessions and magazine articles left, right and centre, and “evangelists” spreading the word.

I’m sick of it. I can’t wait for the day when everyone realises how much of a fad-diet, religious-cult-inspired, money-making exercise it is for a group of consultants."

Of course this brought all the usual suspects out of the woodwork, raining down hellfire and brimstone on poor Luke for daring to question their cult. (A similair thing happened when Alex Payne moved some backend components from Ruby to Scala because (surprise surprise) Ruby turned out to be an inappropriate choice for heavy duty infrastructure code - and the *ruby* fanboi crowd crawled out of the woodwork to defend their particular illusions, but that's a post for another day).

This post is a slightly reworded form of a comment I made on his blog so here goes and makes a different point than he does.

I've written before of the phenomenon by which people who can't code for nuts set themselves up as "gurus" who make their living telling other people how to code.

What's happening when so called "scrum masters" advise game companies is a variation on the same theme - the blind trying to lead the sighted.

*Most* of these so called agile "gurus", consultants, and "masters" of various stripes have experience only in enterprise software, and even there often don't write production code on a regular basis.

Of course, most of them (Kent Beck and Robert Martin being the exceptions) don't have any code we can look at to validate their claims of excellence. And yet these folks have no shame in selling their "wisdom" to game companies.

If I wanted to learn how to make good films, I would apprentice myself to or learn from the works of directors I consider *brilliant*. Why would I pay attention to people who've never made a movie in their lives (leave alone a path breaking or massively successful movie) but still prattle on on how to make one?

If I were running a games company and I wanted advice on how to (better) develop games I'd listen to people who can claim things like "I developed or led the team that developed , Doom/Quake/Unreal/WoW, EVEOnline, Baldur's Gate ... let me tell you how I did it", NOT those who say "well yeah, once upon a time I tried to write a sudoku program - I never could get it to work with my fancy methodology but I can teach you how if you give me lots of money to be a consultant or 'agile coach' ".

When John Carmack or Tim Sweeney or Warren Spector or Peter Molyneux credit "scrum" with their success, I'll listen. (Why do I think it will be a VERY long time before this happens? ;-)).

Any moron who sat through a 2 day conference and claims "mastery" therefrom (which is what a "Scrum Master" is - Scrum Certification is the most brazen con game in the *history* of software methodology snake oil schemes) and tells hard working developers how to organize their work should be smacked silly and booted out into the street pronto.

In another set of posts, Luke stomps the "software metrics" crowd. These people aren't as visible these days (or as deranged) as the Agile Sellers, but they do lurk in dark corners. But I'll let you read Luke's blog. He is a fine writer and knows what he's speaking about.

PS: If you are an Agile Consultant trying to defend your livelihood, first send me the urls to code you've written with your cool methodology and *then* comment. As evinced above I have no patience for "codeless wonders".

If you've written a best selling ground breaking game using Agile, iow if you are someone of the calibre of Carmack or Sweeney and have used agile, *then* we have the basis of a discussion. Thanks in advance.

Update: This thread is a perfect example of some agile "gurus" (keep reading down the thread, you'll recognize the names) make perfect asses of themselves talking to games programmers. I couldn't invent this if I tried :-)


SCUM Master said...

Why do you blame the Scrum Masters or any other XYZ Masters ? If there are folks out there to pay me for such nonsense, Hey ! why not take a break, make some money and get back to work when the honeymoon is over. Make hay while the sun shines !! I wouldn't mind filling my pocket if there are morons out there who have no idea how to wisely spend their money. Call me Scrum or Scum Master. This fad may not last long, so let me go and get a Scum Certficate.
A Wannabe Scum Master

Ravi said...

@"Scum MAster" ( :-) ) ,

you said "I wouldn't mind filling my pocket if there are morons out there who have no idea how to wisely spend their money"

Go for it ! At least you seem to know what you are doing :-)

Anonymous said...

Do these companies have any metrics to show the improved productivity /reduced defects ..etc that they have gained out of employing/engaging these "master" consultants ? I mean, how do they justify the investment in front of the senior Management ?