Friday, May 11, 2007

Idea Killers

Recently, I've loathed hearing the phrases: "YAGNI" (You Ain't Gonna Need It) and "Is that the simplest possible thing?". My gut becomes knotted and disgusted. It makes me not want to be considered agile anymore. Why you ask? I always saw agile as positive forces in the software industry. I welcomed them with open arms because they were a shot of fresh air and made everyone think about how they did things. But, now the mantras are being used to be idea killers.

The mantras were meant to shake your thinking. How could you do this as simple as possible and still work. A nod to good engineering and design to shake the brain to think of another solution. Or ask questions like "Do you really need that huge framework?" But, lately, these mantras have been having the opposite effect. I've been in meetings where they were used to shoot down good ideas. And they work well. It's hard to argue against. You don't want to be the person that doesn't want the simplest solution right? But, when you are at the phase of generating ideas, these critical phrases kill the creative spirit. I say no more.

I say no more mantras. Let's think. Let's generate ten great ideas and then be judgmental of each one. At the idea phase, all ideas cost the same. Crying "It's not the simplest thing" too soon kills good design thoughts dead before they are allowed to grow. I think these phrases have become too common place. They are used to shut off thought and prove you are right. Besides, it's been a rare event when someone meant truly simple and not easiest. The two are confused frequently. Simplicity takes practice and thought. There's a reason why Einstein said it. It took several rewrites to get Smalltalk to its current state of simplicity.

Think about it. Refuse the use of mantras. And let ideas flourish.

1 comment:

SerraphicZephyr said...

you spoke for me there ! Agile has been hijacked by cynical paper pushers (read - "managers") even more - it has become a part of his or her review process - are you following Agile/Xtreme practises? Are scrums being held regularly. Makes me think of Simon & Garfunkels - The Sounds of Silence lyrics. disgusting & sickening.
PS - maybe u can throw a counter punch cliche right back at the YAGNI spouters - "premature optimization is the root of all ..."