Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thoughts on Agile, Truthfulness and the Filipino Culture

I was just reading up about Agile methodologies and the word truthfulness came out. Here's a link to the InfoQ article: Agility Means Truthfulness. It quotes a blog entry by Birch a lot. Like this particular set of statements by Birch:

Agile methods are made of processes, principles and tools. But most importantly they are concerned with people. Therefore, Truthfulness is the foundation of success in an Agile organization.

Although Agile cannot force people to be truthful, it reveals the direct consequences of opacity in an organization, confronts it and challenges it to change.

As people have said time and again, in relationships, people have to be truthful to each other and we owe it to each other to tell the truth. But the thing is, truth hurts sometimes and in our culture, it's not easy to speak the truth immediately. There are levels of comfort and there are ways of saying the truth that might come off as negative. We have the "pakisama" factor in our culture so it makes it even harder. If you notice someone's flaws, how do you say it without looking mean or KJ (kill joy)? The person's code may be quite flawed or his/her analysis lacking, so how do you tell it to your teammate? Sometimes if you're comfortable enough, it gets easier to do that. But how comfortable are you with your teammates? Do you have walls between you?

Some teammates might sound like they are always right. Or they'd give you an outright "no" when you're just trying to be honest and truthful about pointing out something. Wouldn't the other person look defensive to you and you're probably thinking of how to get through that person. You know you need to be productive but how could you try to be more subtle about the method of getting your point across? Sometimes you're afraid of coming off as disrespectful and you end up becoming like that in the process. That sucks because if truthfulness is indeed a foundation of Agile, you're stuck.

We all have our flaws. Time and again, I show signs of being a PA - Passive-Aggressive person. This is one thing that I know might hinder me from time to time. But if I do have respect for my teammates, I try to give them a heads up. It's just that sometimes maybe I still don't get through them for some reason I have yet to figure out. Is it because I feel the pressure of "pakikisama" and it's deeply ingrained already? Or is it because I am just afraid of speaking out?

Another dilemma we have with our culture is that we need to show respect/deference to other people especially to our elders, leaders, etc. If we're so used to that, it gets more difficult to say our thoughts right away. So how are we supposed to get over that immediately? Breaking a mentality is difficult to do after all. But I am not saying that Agile is impossible. It's just that it's going to be difficult sometimes, depending on the composition of your team, especially in our culture.

What are possible solutions?

Honestly, I don't know. I suppose we just have to see examples of people speaking the truth all the time might help a lot. Truthful but with prudence. I suppose one can be truthful and show it through their humor too. Although that might not work on everyone. I guess it's easier if we could all try harder each day? And just do our best so that we'd all improve. After all, being truthful is not just crucial for an Agile team but for everyone because of our day to day interactions.

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The Learner

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a crafty cat who loves food, linux, anime and crafting.

business analyst by day, blogger by night. also a frustrated artist.