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Good Agile — Development Without Deadlines 339

Posted by kdawson
from the crushed-in-a-scrum dept.
BigTom writes, "In a recent blog entry Steve Yegge, a developer at Google, writes a fascinating account of life at possibly the coolest development organization in the world. Steve lays out some of the software development practices that make Google work. Go on, say you are not even a little bit jealous. ;-)" From the article:
  • Developers can switch teams and/or projects any time they want, no questions asked; just say the word and the movers will show up the next day to put you in your new office with your new team.
  • There aren't very many meetings. I'd say an average developer attends perhaps 3 meetings a week.
  • Google has a philosophy of not ever telling developers what to work on, and they take it pretty seriously.
  • Google tends not to pre-announce. They really do understand that you can't rush good cooking, you can't rush babies out, and you can't rush software development.
Yegge also does a fine job of skewering what the author calls "Bad Agile."
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Good Agile — Development Without Deadlines

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  • by TopShelf (92521) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:05AM (#16227651) Homepage Journal
    One thing that helps Google in this regard is that they are insanely profitable, and their software engineers as described in TFA are really more like product development entrepreneurs, so it's easier to set up an incentive-based program like this that puts a huge, juicy carrot in front of the developers to keep them headed in the right direction. I suspect that 99% of the rest of the IT world doesn't have this luxury.

    That said, it's a very interesting example to consider. Within the coming months I'll be forming a new application development group, and the mechanisms of determining what we'll be working on and how it will be prioritized are TBD. Good food for thought, here...
  • by jimstapleton (999106) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:12AM (#16227759) Journal
    yeah.

    Actually it makes me think of the ask.com commercials. Google doesn't have the tools because the developers aren't as motivated to act quickly?

    Still, I use google over ask - all the tools in the world aren't useful if you don't have the right materials to use them on (in this case - a search engine that actually provides relevant, or at least, semi relevant results).
  • Not true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:17AM (#16227841)
    "Developers can switch teams and/or projects any time they want, no questions asked; just say the word and the movers will show up the next day to put you in your new office with your new team."

    I work for Google and I can tell you right now that is total horse shit. Google are not so different than my previous employers, Oracle and Microsoft.

    If anything, working in Google is worse than Oracle/Microsoft due to the people I work with (brainwashed losers.) They are the type of people who want to join a cult.
  • by fitten (521191) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:21AM (#16227903)
    Actually... almost all of Google's software is more research based since they are kind of exploring a new space -- large search engine with ancilliary functionality built around it. Just about everything they do is a research topic and not necessarily a product delivery. They have some competition in the search engine world but their momentum is huge (people just go to Google by default) so they have the luxury to work in this mode. If there were more serious competition and more market striation, they'd (have to) tighten up a bit.

    Basically, they work this way because they can. It's really nice to be able to do so. They can get some great creative thinking going.
  • by OffTheLip (636691) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:29AM (#16228023)
    And the irony is beta Google software is better than production offerings more often than not.
  • Re:GOOG IN MY ASS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Thursday September 28, 2006 @09:39AM (#16228177) Journal

    It sounds more like "have as many / few meetings as it takes to do the job."

    At different points in a project, you need more meetings than at other points (and different types of meetings).

    And yes, I'm jealous, darnit! I've been in places where there is a meeting every day, and nothing gets done (except preparing for meetings), and where there are NO meetings every week, and nothing (at least nothing on target) gets done. Both suck.

  • by richdun (672214) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @10:07AM (#16228661)

    I can teleconference in and get real work done at the same time.

    I've been on those sorts of teleconferences. I think the key is to mute your speaker phone and listen only for your name in the conversation - you'll get tons of real work done that way.

  • Re:Sweet! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by soft_guy (534437) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @10:11AM (#16228721)
    I think a lot of what he had to say in the article is relevant even if you have to have some deadlines and delivery dates. I have been tasked to come up with various plans to improve processes at my company and I tend to have thoughts similar to this author, but also I am aware that my company does have to have some delivery dates. Mostly because we produce software that is non-trivial for our customers to roll out. So, I've been thinking as to how we can have realistic delivery dates that we can meet, have a processes that isn't a bunch of shit, and continue to do cool things. I found this article to be great food for thought.
  • besides search/adds? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RingDev (879105) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @10:19AM (#16228883) Homepage Journal
    Is there any Google app that is truly profitable other than Google Search and Adds?

    As you mentioned, with their huge amount of capital, they can afford highly in-efficient project management. I pity the fool who tries to introduce this management style into a smaller organization with budgetary concerns and uncontrollable deadlines. Not that I wouldn't mind working in their environment one bit. Either as a coder, or as a PM.

    -Rick
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Thursday September 28, 2006 @10:31AM (#16229091) Homepage Journal
    The interview process is likely where they filter out the non-self-starters who would fail to appreciate this apparent "tenure" approach.
    Consider the government as an extreme counter-example.
    The word TFA fails to use: leadership.
    Someone who knew something of the subject, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stockdale [wikipedia.org] described five roles for a leader:
    • moralist
    • jurist
    • philosopher
    • steward
    • teacher
    Note the lack of "programs, process, policy, procedure, and paperwork" in the list.
    While Google may let people shift teams at will, I would be unsurprised to discover that shifts are infrequent.
    Furthermore, by the time people start to abuse the culture, I would be unsurprised to discover that the culture ushes them to the door.
    Have any of the major headz they've hired actually departed the big G?
  • by nuzak (959558) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @11:23AM (#16230091) Journal
    > Google is not a software development firm, but an ad sales firm (check their 10-K if you have any doubts)

    They actually have so much cash in outside investments that the SEC is considering regulating them as a mutual fund.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @11:26AM (#16230139)
    "one of the huge reasons that it works - googles hiring practices."

    Exactly. To take a sports example, look at the West Coast offense in American football. Sure it worked great for San Francisco in the 80's. They had Montana, Rice, Craig, and a stout offensive line. Just about any offensive scheme would've worked for them. For the Lions, West Coast Offense never did work out quite right when the Mooch went there. They utterly lack the personnel. Google is picking up the personnel who will thrive in their environment.
  • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @12:42PM (#16231659)
    "So unless you're referring to the west coast of Ohio, your terminology is terribly wrong."

    No more wrong than the Atlanta Falcons spending years in the NFC West while the Arizona Cardinals were in the NFC East. Terminology gets butchered quite often in the NFL. It seems like you would be used to it by now.

    The offense that Don Coryell used was referred to as "Air Coryell." The term West Coast Offense didn't come until much later. It was a term originally intended to refer to the Coryell offense but due to the similarities 80's 49ers strategy got the name instead and it stuck. And for what it's worth, there's not a whole lot of difference between the Air Coryell offense and the 49ers West Coast offense. However, when you say West Coast Offense, anyone who isn't a Chargers fan is going to identify with Walsh's 49ers.

    "but they can't even master the difference between an end-around, a reverse, and a double reverse."

    And those are clearly defined terms. West Coast Offense has always been a nebulous term, even amongst NFL coaches and analysts.

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