05 February 2009

Agile Ennui and Egyptian Pyramids

The oldest known Egyptian pyramid is the Pyramid of Djoser.

This rock-solid design has served its intended purpose since the third dynasty. That's roughly 4,620 years of service. Suffice it to say,
That's one lengthy dirt nap for the Product Owner Pharaoh Djoser
It seems the Pharaoh's Scrum team delivered the ever-elusive value in a mere 20 years -- which begs the question:
Who has built software that lasted more than 36 months?

Deftly tapping an ergonomic keyboard is not quite like moving heavy rocks. Is it still possible to equate quality with duration? Today we build beautiful things, then hire demolition experts to strategically place charges to blow them up.

I once spent 18 months on a product that was universally praised, promptly scuttled, and never used.

I’m not a whiner, but does anyone experience existential ennui when they think about how we’re spending our time?

Agile coach David Hussman pointed out that the Egyptians practiced Evolutionary Design (cf. Evolutionary Design - A Conversation with Martin Fowler) with improvements with each iteration. According to David:

"The first pyramids were merely burial mounds. The next version was the step pyramid (Djoser's tomb) and the next version the "bent" pyramid (a design in rock that they had to refactor during construction. These were all the forerunners to the Giza structures. It was a progression of small, simple structures which evolved based on the learning (and failures) from the last iteration."