Does XP/Scrum Violate the “Agile Manifesto”?

In this article we will examine whether XP/Scrum is consistent with the Agile Manfiesto and also look at whether Agile processes depersonalize and disempower the individual, making them mere tools of the collective State.

The first stanza of  the second chapter of the “Agile Manifesto” (Ch.2 V.1) states that they value:

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”

But is that really true?

Let us consider a team of around 7 developers, some of whom are senior, some junior, some who are pro XP, some anti XP, some pro pair programming, some anti; all of them enjoy programming in a way that maximizes their “flow”, but like any creative process, some members are more productive in an office, some at home, some at late hours, some in cubicles.

All of the team members are valuable and they all get along well so far.

Now, let us consider that the manager decides to implement Scrum/XP.

Scrum/XP requires everyone to be onsite at the same time, to pair program, to have “collective ownership” of all code and all successes the team has, etc, etc.

Now, some of the team members are not in favor of these restrictions and threaten to leave the project if XP/Agile is imposed on them.

Does the Manager: A) Respect the individuals and abandon XP in favor of keeping their team and all of it’s individuals that they value and trust or

B) Fire the XP holdouts and attempt to hire replacements for the ones who were frog marched?

I would suspect that most XP advocates would say to to  do B; but that is directly putting the Process (XP) ABOVE the Individual, something that violates the Agile Manifesto

(BTW A is the only correct answer that respects the Agile Manifesto, and the Individual, so I hope all real life Managers would choose A and not let the Zealots get the best of them).

So what do they really value, the process, or the individual? So far it appears to be the process; let’s delve deeper.

Just when you thought Communes and Communism was dead, along with the collective farms and the Company song, XP is here to tell the proletariat how to live every minute of their lives.

For starters, there is “collective ownership” of code. No longer does an individual control a class or module, all of the code is collectively owned, just like a collective farm in Stalins Russia.  There is no individual property or module ownership.

Since there is no individual property, there is no right to privacy; anyone can modify “your” code any time, with or without “your” approval.

How many DBA’s or HTML designers would want random team members modifying “their” database structure or stylesheets without their input? Well, that’s how it is on the Agile communal farm, since everyone is an equal and all the code is communally owned.

“These Accountants Will Make Wonderful Farmers”

Think it’s a good idea for SQL experts to write HTML code and vice versa? Stalin did — he moved the population out of cities and onto collective farms causing the starvation of millions. This is what happens when you ask a generalist to do a specialist (farming) task. Imagine what it can do for your code today!

There is no right to ego either; everyone is viewed as equally capable on a project and no individual takes credit for any of their contributions. It’s all about the team.

No longer are team members allowed to program at night, at home, or not in pairs.  All must toil on the collective farm together, with as little privacy as possible (shared room).

Like members of a breeding experiment gone awry, programmers must pair with others whether they desire to or not, and must pair with all the members of the commune even if they prefer certain members. A “group marriage” if you will, and I haven’t heard that term much since the 70’s. 

Then of course there is the daily stand up Scrum, which is like a confessional except that everyone here’s everyone’s confessions, and the Scrum Master keeps track of each team members every move on a daily basis, reinforcing the concept that the group members (it would be hard to call them individuals at this point since they are not) are too inept to effectively manage their own time.

Whether or not someone answered A or B above, this author has amply (though not exhaustively) demonstrated that XP/Scrum invokes many of the tenets of Communism and Communal behavior, and makes the individual a tool and completely subservient to the group (State) interest, while minimizing the role of the individual ego to the maximum extent, and disempowering the individual by stripping away their privacy, intellectual property, real estate (private office) and “pairing” rights.

This may be great for the DPRK; for those of us living in Democracies that really do respect individual rights, this is just another example of not only how inconsistent XP/Agile/Scrum is, but how out of touch with reality it is in terms of respecting the rights of the individual.

The only thing they haven’t mandated is a Che Guevera emblazoned Burqa.

“Give me Liberty, or get me the heck off this project…..”


About Software Maestro

Long time OOP Software Architect
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12 Responses to Does XP/Scrum Violate the “Agile Manifesto”?

  1. Me again!

    I think you might benefit from using a Pirates of the Caribbean philosophy here Maestro …

    Using my best Captain Barbosa voice “The code (software development process) is not a hard and fast rule it’s more like guidelines.”

    Your SD Process is just that “Yours” … tailor it because at the end of the day it is you and your team that have to live it.

    I have found the biggest XP holdout will gladly accept some help over his or her shoulder when they are huffing and puffing at some code problem. (think Jedi mind trick … this WAS the programming paradigm you wanted to try!)



  2. Software Maestro says:

    Hi Dan… Well Agile as Jellyfish is a topic for another blog entry. It becomes impossible to “refute” agile since everyone “morphs” it into what they want it to be; I am sticking to the “classical/canonical XP 2nd edition (which allows for “some” documentation).
    By holdout I mean they would threaten to quit not that they are holding out by grudgingly acquiescing which seems to be the situation you describe…
    A or B question was just the hook for this story; the meat is in the second half where I show many cases of Agile as communal and anti individual but without the hippie girls and patchouli oil…
    As far as Mind Trick I’m sure that the Jedi mind trick will only work on junior programmers; Senior one’s have more Mind Resistance
    Also attempting to Mind Trick the team members is just another instance of Scrum Lord Binks trying to control the proletariat by imposing their will using supernatural powers, further ignoring and eroding the rights of the individual; at that point they are just a clone to be bent according to the will of the State. And finally I dont think occasional help over the shoulder is pair programming; that’s just normal working shoulder to shoulder something that’s been along for a long time

  3. Mm … Wouldn’t all Agile processes benefit from the Hippie girls and patchouli oil! I’d check out Scott Ambler’s writings; off the sidebar of my blog. His assertion that Agile is just a mindset is one that I agree with. (His articles have some fantastic content too!)

    Please keep up the fine work … I am enjoying your blog a great deal.


  4. Software Maestro says:

    You’re falling into the pattern of labeling everything “good” as Agile; that’s just wordplay; check out “Rhetorical Anti-Patterns in XP”
    If you like my blog feel free to share the links etc… 🙂

  5. hlarledge says:

    Scrum is all about the team and self-management by the team. The process merely provides guidelines to help the team communicate better. I suggest that you research Scrum more before bashing it.

  6. Software Maestro says:

    Hello Hrladge;
    This page is about agile and the loss of individuality, not scrum. You might want to post your comment on the Scrum Master Jar Jar page which is probably what you meant to do.
    Self management of the team is another questionable idea that will be dealt with in another blog entry at some point.

    Appreciate your comments
    Software Maestro

  7. Pingback: Agile Advice - Working With Agile Methods (Scrum, XP, Lean) » Blog Archive » Agile is Not Communism

  8. Bolla says:

    Just a small correction. Stalin did not move the population out of the cities and to the collectivised farms. Mao did. Stalin collectivised farms because he needed the support of the millions of propertyless farmers (living under more or less slave like conditions) in the support in the war during the later stages of the revolution. Most of the land was owned by rich kulaks and the collectivisation was hugely popular in the beginning for farmers without any property. They secured him victory. Due to mismanagement, lack of competence or by nature of collectivism (called the tragedy of the commons) the failure of harvest caused massive hunger. It was also intentionally incited in Ukraine because Stalins nationalistic internal war.

    The problem here is that the codes are not means of production (they are not the farm) they are the product (the produce of the farm, milk, wheat or whatever) The minds and the competence of the programmers are the means of production.
    Secondly, if you work in a company where the owners call all the shots, you do not live in a democracy, but in a dictatorship. Luckily, they have to treat us nice, because we are the real owners to the means of production. But as soon as they can find someone from China or India, we learn to understand how valuable asset that is.

    • Software Maestro says:

      Hi Bolla

      It seems like you are mostly agreeing with me here but disagreeing over the minutiae.

      Whether it’s Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc, may regimes have tried this move.

      I never said the code was a mean of production; I’m talking about generalists doing specialized tasks (the labor aspect, in terms of creating product, not the building or farm they exist on) and the substitution of one command and control structure for a different command and control structure, which is rarely an improvement.

      Software Maestro

  9. Pingback: Is Agile Communist? « Twingle

  10. Pingback: Is Agile Communist? « Twingle | Agile Development

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