The Methodology Philosopher
Monday, 30th July 2012
A philosopher is a person engaged or learned in the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially as an academic discipline. I have respect for philosophers, but I have a great deal more respect for people who have practical experience. For the rest of this article, I am going to be talking specifically about what I call "The Methodology Philosopher". This is someone who likes to discuss software development methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban without actually working with them on a daily basis. In extreme cases, you'll encounter The Methodology Theologian, which is even worse, but the philosopher is bad enough.
So what's the problem with The Methodology Philosopher? The main problem is that they act as a destructive force in discussions with people who are actually practising the methodology in real life. Good examples can be found on agile forums. Someone introducing Scrum, for example, will ask a question and they will get answers from people who have encountered similar situations. The Methodology Philosopher than appears, with plenty of reading behind them, but no experience of implementing Scrum in real life. They then pick apart all of the answers, attack the exact words that have been used and accuse the people answering of not doing "real Scrum". In the Scrum example, they will very often accuse people of working in silo's or running mini-waterfalls.
The whole mindset of The Methodology Philosopher is not to give the correct answer, but to attempt to elevate their status by making every other answer look incorrect. The problem with this is that there are no right answers, especially in the context of a general forum, because as we all know - "it depends". A wise man regularly reminds me that some things are always true, except when they are not.
I personally find it a bit medieval when people denounce a particular methodology or technique, for example by branding people "Kanbaniacs" if they suggest Kanban to make them sound like crazed fools and undermine their answers. I think it is a shame when idealists demand that people do "Scrum by the book" - especially given that retrospectives should be moulding and changing that very process if something isn't working.
As always, filter responses to ensure the extremists, zealots and trolls don't drown out the practical and moderate and try to spot The Methodology Philosopher before you get dragged into a battle of semantics and mis-interpretations.