Agile and a Cookbook
Agile Day Riga
May 23, 2015
luch @ ldn.lv
Once upon a time
Once upon a time there were ... neither internet and computers ... nor even wheels. Not to
mention agile methodology.
How could it come we got all the stuff we are used to. Let's say books. We are used to books,
Undoubtedly tribes and nations could survive long long time while sharing knowledge orally or
by demonstration. But it is very limited in space and time. Somehow, people naturally got
necessity to share knowledge. And they were using different medias -- rock art, сlay tablets,
bamboo codexes, papyrus, fabric scrolls and many others. And evolution of every civilisation
faces the problem to share knowledge efficiently in many aspects -- material and time costs,
size of audience, etc. This was forcing to enhance knowledge sharing technology. And in 19th
century western civilisation got steam powered printing presses. In 20th century we've got
mass printed books, newspapers and illustrated comics, as well as radio and TV. And recently
we've got wireless and mobile internet full of social networks, etc, etc.
The same was happening all around us. There were times when wheels were not commonly
known to people, and times when wheels were massive and ineffective, and times when
wheels expensive and luxurious. But constant necessity to move ourselves and things around
was forcing us to enhance wheels. So we've got BMWs and Teslas.
We are usually attributing all of these achievements to the Science.
It existed even when there was no the Science itself.
We could name it a common sense, just to remember it is not so common.
It requires keeping focus on the process, being patient and active at the very same moment.
One could say it also requires knowledge and experience to start with.
An objection could be that experience is something you got right after you were in need for
that. And knowledge, often, possesses the same property.
Usually, these two parts of every iteration are called a hypothesis and an experiment!
A hypothesis and an experiment!
Modern science is easy, You see!
The hard candy is to keep attention and patience.
However, the Science. What is it? When did it start?
The man on the slide is Alexander A. Stepanov -- a programmer and a computer scientist. He
is the primary designer and implementer of the C++ Standard Template Library and co-author
of Elements of Programming book, as well as a lector. At present he works for A9.com.
Recently, he was giving a set of courses for his colleagues that he called Four Algorithmic
He states that there are two basic marks of civilized society — taxes and calendar. Quoting
● No taxation — no civilization.
● There is no civilization without mathematics.
Taxes and calendar, both require number system. And, obviously, there is a demand to save
and share calendar and information on taxes. You know, people often complain being asked to
pay taxes twice. But number system determine the way we count, not just how we write
numbers. In other words number systems is a set of algorithms how to count.
I'll follow A.Stepanov with a reference to the Ahmes papyrus dated around 1800 BC.
The most ancient number system we know originated in Egypt. Not a surprise it was sign-
value notation or non-positional notation.
The surprise is that it describes multiplication in a way that nowadays we know as fast
Multiplication is hard, specially when you are not using positional notation. Of course, it is
possible to use multiple additions in place of multiplication, but it is obviously very slow and
produces much more errors. Clearly, there was a demand for a better multiplication algorithm.
Rough periods of european Science
● Ancient Egypt (3100BC — 332BC)
● Ancient Greece (1200BC — 146BC)
● Ancient Rome (753BC — 476AD)
● Modern history
Bits of history
One of most vital sciences to egyptians had been geometry. It was used to keep the land
properties around the Nile river during centuries. Egypt had already existed for around 2000
years and then greeks came to the scene. Greeks were learning from egyptians for centuries,
and superseded them. And long after learning they invaded Egypt.
Greeks achievements are following. They were first who got a concept of a theorem and a
proof. We refer Ancient Greece as a source of modern Science.
The tradition starts with Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) who formulated the first
theorem and a proof. Among other things, he also predicted solar eclipse and discovered
static electricity. Then come Pythagoras of Samos and more of famous greeks
mathematicians. Just to name some of them — Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes of Syracuse,
Euclid of Alexandria and Eratosthenes of Cyrene.
Rome invaded Greeks and then started learning from them. And Rome did not supersede
Greeks, just used their knowledge. Rome built roads, water supplies et cetera. Romans were
engineers, not scientists. They were focused on results, not the way getting them. Notable fact
is that roman copies of greek books had removed the proofs from mathematical books. After
almost a millennium of invading greeks, Roman Empire had broken.
The space on the slide is another millennium called Middle Ages. Among other things, Middle
Ages are famous for Inquisition and Renaissance. Renaissance beginning matches the fall of
Byzantine Empire. It is the time when the Science started to resurrect. It took time. But also
formed the scientific tradition.
384 BC - 322 BC
Sir Francis Bacon
1561 - 1626
Aristotle and Francis Bacon
These are two noble men who formed methods of reasoning behind modern science.
The first one is Aristotle, a greek philosopher. He was studying many things. And among them
was study reasoning as a subject itself. And his work Organon is the earliest study of formal
The other person is Francis Bacon, an english philosopher of the Renaissance. He made work
on heirs of Aristotle and applied it to the Science. He is often considered "the Father of the
Novum Organum (1620)
Bacon Following Aristotle named his work Novum Organum that became a basis for modern
empirical sciences based on experiments at the first place.
The meaning of the word Organon is an instrument, a tool, an organ. Bacon emphasised the
use of artificial experiments as a tool to provide additional observances of a phenomenon. It
resembles what we call now Scientific method.
The scientific method proposed by Francis Bacon starts with an observation.
An observation is a source of interesting questions. Then a hypothesis needs to be formulated
and some predictions on results made.
An experiment is required to check predictions. Core of an experiment is observation, the goal
is gathering data to verify the hypothesis.
Evaluating results of the observation the hypothesis gets verified.
We could find the hypothesis was right or wrong, or the experiment was incorrect. Never the
less, there is no bad outcome. Failure or success, both are a source of knowledge.
One more note. Scientific method is iterative in its core. The verification is a series of
experiments, the goal is a proof. The ultimate goal is evolution of knowledge based on real
The PDCA concept
In early 19th century mass production started spreading around. That resulted in a demand for
relevant management processes. The PDCA concept appeared an application of scientific
method to mass production processes.
In 1931 Dr Walter Shewhart published his work Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured
Product developed PDCA concept. Later, PDCA was promoted by Dr W. Edwards Deming.
He changed Check to Study as it better reflected what he was meaning with it.
PDCA could be regarded as scientific approach for mere humans. Nowadays, we talk about
Agile Methodology and its flavours.
There should be something that makes us think of changes, of using Agile.
The demand is to be more effective and to have competitive advantage in some field. Learning
from own errors give us the advantage.
The other way to get the advantage is to get some knowledge from others. We've got books
We take a book to get introduced.
However, just reading books on medicine will not make you a doctor, books on politics -- a
politician. The same is true for most activities, and Agile as well.
PDCA vs PD
CHECK and ACT look like just PLAN and DO, aren't they similar?
The demand for efficiency comes along with eager to become efficient ASAP. And we forget
the Science took centuries to appear.
When we start with Agile in any flavour we take a book and try to follow literally. It looks like
programming by Google search. We are not interested in some details. There are too much of
them. We get a hangover when we miss some of them. And, eventually, it does not work for
We start to PLAN and DO and forget to CHECK and ACT.
If a scientist gets a hypothesis and makes an experiment, but forgets to make no evaluation,
there is no outcome and, effectively, no the experiment itself. The meaning gets lost along with
Eventually, we reached the point to talk about cookbook.
When we go to a restaurant we are looking for not for a right cooked dinner, but for a tasty
one. Chefs don't use cookbooks.
While books overall are of a great value, what is hard to understand following a book blindly
that being blind is not a wise way to go.
The experience is a kind of personal achievement. Observations require time and attention.
Expertise requires experience, more important — personal experience. Then the knowledge
The scientists and chefs use experience and the Nature to discover something new. This is
natural way for things to come. Books just describe what other people had faced and their
We live in society and work in society.
Team projects are a kind of social activity. Working as a team is a particular kind of
experience. Everyone is unique.
Team works in a context. Every member gets his/her own experience in the project context.
The knowledge and expertise of the team is spread over its members. Everyone has his/her
own values and goals. Everyone sees project goals differently.
That means that teamwork requires communication, but it is a subject for another story.
The good news are that putting attention and right effort on study can lead us to expertise of
an arbitrary level. The more good news is that we have got valuable books among others.
People of expertise are sharing their knowledge. The foreign knowledge gives us some clues
on what we could face and what we should observe and care of at start. But consuming the
foreign knowledge one should not forget about gaining his/her very own experience.
Alexander. A. Stepanow
Four Algorithmic Journeys
Inspiration and help
Wikipedia and the world of internet
For information and the pictures for slides.