Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Don't let routine make you fragile

Jurgen Appelo has some decent advice in his blog post "Don't let Scrum make you fragile". Of course, Appelo's taking some of Nassim Taleb's philosophy, as expressed in his new book "Antifragile", and porting it to the Scum domain. But that's ok. I agree, that's a valid porting.

Here's the main point, in Appelo's words, but really driven by Taleb's recent expressions (some of which Appelo quotes in his blog posting):

Every regular practice works, until it doesn’t. Are the daily standups losing value? Try daily water cooler talks. Are people getting too comfortable sitting together? Move them around. Are the retrospectives not working? Buy them some drinks at Starbucks. Is a team too dependent on its task board? Hide it in the kitchen. Force people to do Scrum not by the book, and change things unexpectedly without notice. As I wrote before, ScrumButs are the best part of Scrum.
A complex system that gets too comfortable with certain behaviors runs the risk of becoming complacent, stagnant, and fragile.
Jurgen Appello
You can try this at home
Now, for my own part, I experiment regularly with driving different routes to get somewhere. With my trusty GPS mapping app I no longer get lost, though I do sometimes wonder why I'm wandering about where I am. Nevertheless, it's stood me in good stead: when there's a traffic disaster, I'm equipped to not follow the herd.

In all aspects of life we experience the effects of getting stale from repetition, and we unwittingly risk the hazard of not knowing or experiencing alternatives, especially before there are needed on short notice. That's the essence of antifragile: to be able to absorb shock -- up to a point -- without structural failure.