Inverted wisdom

Posted by Chris on October 04, 2006

The agile community is full of words of wisdom. These often describe a lot more about the process than an article (or even books), at least if you understand the meaning behind them. The funny thing is that many of these are often kind of inverted wisdoms, negations if you wish. Here are some examples (in my own wording):

bq. If your user story does not fit on a card, get a smaller card!1

The reasoning for this is of course that you are not really writing user stories, you are writing something that is bigger (too big). The story should not include a lot of detail, that part is for the conversation [about the story]. By making sure that the stories are not too large you also make sure that you are not spending too much time gathering requirements and thinking too much about details.

bq. If a project is finished on time with all the specified requirements implemented, then chances are that it will not be considered a successful project after some time!2

If a project finishes all the specified requirements on time, then chances are you did not really ‘find’ all the requirements that the customer really wants to have. Project management is all about deciding which requirements that are to be implemented now, later or left behind. You should always have more stories than you have time for.

bq. If a project/team/company is completely dependent on one programmer, get rid of him!3

The longer you wait, the more dependent you become and the more of a bottleneck, or constraint, this programmer becomes. Note to ‘trigger-happy’ management: you do not really need to fire the programmer, there are “other ways to remove the constraint”:

If you have similar wisdoms then please post them in the comments.

fn1. This one I picked up in Mike Cohn’s book “User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development”:, but he further attributes it to Tom Poppendieck.

fn2. I am not quite sure where I first heard this, but I know Ron Jeffries has written about “similar issues”:

fn3. I am not sure if I have read this one specified in this way or just made it up myself, but in any case it is such a common idea that no one source can be attributed.


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