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The First Agile Slugout:
eXtreme Programming versus Freedom

Round 11
Face-to-face conversation

Howard: Round 11 is about to begin. Round 11 will be decided by best support for Agile Principle 11, Face-to-face conversation:

    The most efficient and effective method of
    conveying information to and within a development
    team is face-to-face conversation.

Don: Management related, Howard. Not good for Freedom.

Howard: You could be right, Don. Ok, here we go. Both contenders have entered the ring.

Don: They are circling each other. XP is opening up with his "Customer Is Always Available" jab.

Howard: Freedom isn't backing off on this one. He's responding with "Customer POC."

Don: Of course! Freedom requires that a customer representative, or Point of Contact, participate in development of the requirements. Freedom is fending off XP's opening punch with an equivalent one of his own.

Howard: XP sees he's getting nowhere with that one. Now he's shifted to "Pair Programming" punches. There's a lot of face-to-face conversation in pair programming.

Don: But Freedom is countering that too, Howard. He's striking back with "Pair requirements." Freedom's philosophy is that developing requirements in pairs is even more beneficial than developing code in pairs. One of the pair must be a customer POC, though, or someone knowledgeable about the customer's functionality needs.

Howard: Freedom is holding his own against XP for this management principle, Don. They are both getting smacks on the other. Nobody is backing down.

Don: Looks pretty evenly matched, Howard. Now XP is shifting again, looking for an edge. He's gone to his "Daily Stand Up Meeting" punch. There is obviously a lot of face-to-face conversation in meetings.

Howard: Freedom took that blow pretty hard, then glanced into his corner, Don.

Don: I think I know why, Howard. He's instinctively looking to his management methodology partner for support with things like meetings. Of course, Freedom isn't paired with a management methodology today. I don't think Freedom has a defense against XP's Stand Up Meetings.

Howard: Looks like you're right, Don. Freedom is taking some heavy hits now, and is backing up.

Don: Freedom is doing his best with his "Customer POC" and "Pair requirements" punches, but it's not enough. XP's got him, Howard.

Howard: The bell has just sounded ending round 11.

Don: The ref is about to announce the call. We know what's it's going to be.

Howard: Right. Round 11 to XP! Score is now XP 6, Freedom 4. A 2 point spread and one round to go.

Don: That's the match, Howard. No way Freedom can win. The last round is just a formality.

Howard: That's too bad. I was starting to like the looks of Freedom. He's extremely strong and agile technically. But he needs a management methodology partner to balance things out. XP's strengths are mostly in the management area, and that's showing here today. XP's management strengths have outmatched Freedom's technical advantages.

Don: Sorry to cut in Howard, but Peter has Freedom's coach aside for another statement. Switching over to you, Peter.

Peter: Thanks, Don. Freedom's coach is here, and has something to say. Coach?

Freedom Coach: I just want to say for the record that Principle 11 is another flawed Agile premise. Modern communications technologies such as chat rooms, instant messaging, wikis, and video conferencing make physical presence unimportant for many projects. For example, the entire Open Source Software movement is accomplished without any physical presence. Also, there are situations where face-to-face conversation is not the best alternative, such as complex or controversial topics which require substantial thought and analysis to properly formulate one's position. In such cases, remote communication such as email is more effective as it encourages "thought time" before responding, which reduces the risk of brash or ill-conceived pronouncements that often occur in face-to-face conversation. While face-to-face communication is certainly effective in some cases, it is not always the most efficient or effective as the principle states. Principle 11 is just plain false and should be dropped as an Agile Principle.

Peter: Coach, do you really think the Agile community will drop this principle?

Freedom Coach: They will if they are truly striving to improve software based on a rationale assessment of the world instead of stating principles and pronouncements that do not reflect reality. It's up to them.

Peter: Back to you, Don.

Don: Thanks, Peter. I detected sour grapes in the coach's statement, Howard.

Howard: That's to be expected under the circumstances, Don. Actually, I find it hard to read Freedom's mood at this point. He could be very despondent or boiling mad. The next round should show us which.

Copyright (C) 2003 LDJ Trust
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