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Preventing Agile Scrum methodology from degrading code quality

"practical advice for avoiding [delivering broken software with Scrum] – whether you’re an Organizer or you’re an Activist Developer"

The key problem identified is that incentive to abandon code quality to meet time/budget and feature goals.

The solution is to, first, not allow tests, in code, automated, or human, and other issues of code quality to be cut off from the features that are being built. Hide the time in the task estimates if absolutely necessary.

But also:

if your Backlog doesn’t highlight that adding items to it knocks items out of the Sprint, do something about it. Make sure that views of the Backlog contain a marker that shows where the team capacity for the Sprint is. Move that marker to reflect the work that can actually be achieved every time new Stories are added to the Sprint.

Essentially: start encouraging your Organizers to confront as early on as possible that the work that needs to get done may not fit in the time available. The sooner that that crops up as an unavoidable issue, the more time there is to find a real solution. The longer everyone ignores the problem, the more likely it is that the closing Sprints will become Developer Death Marches™.

Thirdly, start keeping a note of areas where you've had to sacrifice on code quality, and where you’ve created Technical Debt. Create Technical Debt stories to represent this, and insist they go on the Backlog, even if “they’ll never get done”. Find the person who is pushing Agile in your organization, and if they're even slightly empowered, enlist their help on this. Find the person who has ultimate ownership of the wider codebase, and make sure they have visibility of the Technical Debt you’re creating, and why.

Some level of Technical Debt is acceptable when you have a tight release schedule. But hiding the creation of Technical Debt is criminal. Make sure it’s out in the open for everyone to see.

Fourthly, start and relentlessly pursue a discussion on what Done means to your team. When is a piece of work truly Done? Is an untested feature really Done? Is it really releasable? What are the impacts for the company and customer on releasing code in which you have little confidence? Hammer out a team statement, with as much Organizer and business buy-in as possible (if you don’t have one), and print it out and stick it on your Story Board.


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