What can we learn from Dr. Peter Venkman about the Agile development process? Itâ€
Egon and Ray focused on arcane reference books and ecoplasmic gadgets. It was Venkman first used their technology to get results in the marketplaceâ€”or at least meet girls. Venkman was usually critical of Egonâ€
Perhaps Ghost Busters is not a textbook example of product management in action but itâ€
For all his faults Venkman obeyed the 4th principle in the Agile Manifesto:
Business people and developers must work â€¨together daily throughout the project.
Venkman did not separate himself from his team:
- He lived in the Ghost Busters HQ (Hook and Ladder 8 ) with Egon and Ray.
- He took his turn driving the ambulance that served as the Ectomobile (Ecto-1).
- He even wore the overalls and shouldered a Proton Pack.
Clearly Venkman, Egon, and Ray worked together daily as equals on each project, whether it was ridding a fancy hotel of a noisy poltergeist or cleaning ectoplasm off a hapless victim.
Too often in semi-Agile development processes product management (the business people) function as the boss. They make the decisions. They are the â€œdecider guysâ€ stepping into the problem space for a moment, asking for the summary, and making a quick decision without context or technical expertise (like Walter Peck from Environmental Protection who demands that the Ghost Busters shutdown their â€œstorage facilityâ€ and inadvertently releases hundreds of ghosts into Manhattan).
The problem here is that software development is a complex, subtle, and sophisticated problem. It doesnâ€
To ensure the cats and dogs are living together I recommend the following four â€œMake Suresâ€ (as usual based on the bitter pill of experience):
- Make sure the product owners (product managers, business people, what ever you call them) sit with the engineers. Itâ€
s good if they eat lunch with them and go out for beers once a week.
- Make sure the product owners and engineers understand that they are all pigs. The product owners are not â€œmanagementâ€ and the engineers are not â€œlaborâ€. This means product owners must participate in the development process in real time.
- Make sure the roles and responsibilities of the product owners and development leads are clear. POâ€
s own the backlog and priority. DLs own the sprint backlog and technical strategy.
- Make sure the team makes all decisions though rigorous debate. There is always a business trade off and a technical trade off that has to be resolvedâ€”If not youâ€
re not innovating. Software development is not a democracy and everyone does not have to agree. But the best path, not the most obvious one, has be discovered.