Kent Beck and Software G Forces

At ScanDev 2010 last week, Kent Beck spoke about Software G Forces (slides from an earlier version of this talk are here. Observing that the move in our world is towards more and more frequent releases to users, Kent asked the question — what does this mean for our organisations? (agile in organisations this was the focus of the track - he said he’d tackled the implications for teams and team practices in earlier versions of the talk).

I came away (as always when listening to Kent) with a whole bunch of insights that have been settling in the days since. One thing that particularly struck most of us was the notion that as you move from monthly to weekly releases, you might lose the daily stand-up meeting, that touchstone of agile practice. To some this sounded like heresy, but Kent’s point was that if you’re going to do weekly releases you’d better all be aware all the time of what’s going on, not just once a day.

Some things falling out of this for me: regardless of structure, the nature and sizes of organisations that are truly capable of real weekly, daily, hourly delivery* has to be very different from what many of us are used to. The more frequently you release, the closer the decision-making about the product has to be to the team making the it, and the closer that team has to be to its users. This suggests to me that the organisations in which these teams work will be small (I’d add — or very decentralised — but I don’t see any of the large organisations I know being able to do this wholsesale decentralisation anytime soon). The more people in a group who need to know (or feel they need to know) about what’s going on, the more time and energy is spent on communication: I wonder whether this puts a limit on the size of organisations with respect to their frequency of delivery. Correspondingly, I think this is a common reason for the sort of friction agile teams in non-agile companies experience at their boundaries.

*”release to an internal production-like environment” is just pretending

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