The Paradox of Process
 An agile process creates plans as needed and allows teams to self organize directly around a problem. We must trust our process to keep our project on track, but there is a paradox associated with any process: If you don't use your process it can't help you; if your process doesn't help, you won't use it.
 I use a personal digital assistant (PDA) or handheld organizer as a metaphor. You want your PDA to alert you every time you have a meeting. But right out of the box that PDA won't alert you to anything. You must move all your appointments onto it. But even more than that your PDA comes with a hidden process:  You must constantly keep it up to date. You must enter every appointment with out fail.  If you don't it will fail to remind you.
 A PDA is a tool that helps implement the hidden process of writing down every appointment in one place and then checking for appointments regularly. You could use a pencil and a paper calendar to implement that process and get most of the benefit. It's that hidden process that's important, not the implementation. People have told me their software process is Rational Rose(TM). Rose is a UML tool, not a process. Installing an automated build tool instead of a real continuous integration process is another common mistake. Never confuse having a tool with actually having a process.
The Paradox of Process
 The obvious consequence of the paradox of process is that when you begin a new process it seems totally useless and a waste of time. You need to have faith and really use the process until it begins to return on your investment.
 Unit testing is a prime example. The graph
below shows the number of unit tests for the EarlyPay project at InStream Financial Services. It was a large system that didn't have unit tests yet. We added tests when we added new features and fixed bugs. After a year there were no bugs in production anymore. The big pay off came after two years when we had complete coverage and could confidently redesign the system. We simplified and removed about one third of the code while maintaining a perfect record of no production bugs.
 Many of the rules and practices of Agile processes seem like a waste of time when you start them. It takes time and patience to get to a point where they begin to help you in unexpected ways. Agile modeling XP guided tour
Number of tests in the EarlyPay project home | Models are Paintings | XP guided tour | About the Author

Copyright 2004, 2009 Don Wells all rights reserved. Rational Rose is a trademark of the IBM Corporation.