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Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development

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You will find no books on the bookshelf here that tell you how to start up a new discipline. Software has been seeking its own way as a
relatively young discipline for the past 40 years. Every new discipline struggles to find practices suitable to its survival and growth. Sometimes this struggle is incremental. Sometimes disciplines undergo more substantial shifts in process, structure and values that break more with the past to explore new ground. What Charlie Anderson said above about the Borland Quattro Pro for Windows effort in particular applies to the rhythms of software development in general. Get ready for change, for it will come tomorrow.

The most exciting advances in science go hand in hand with radical social change. The move from classic physics to quantum physics pre cipitated from a crisis in physics. We talk about the software crisis, yet no individual crisis in software — let alone the Software Crisis, whatever that might be — has precipitated the same kinds of change that we associate with great advances in science. Software development has perhaps yet to face its first true crisis that leads to the first true industry-wide systemic change.

But that doesn’t mean that software is static. We can identify different faces of change in software development over the past five decades. Our interest in this book is what software development has learned about itself from an organizational and social perspective. Software development is perhaps working in its fourth social style of system development. Yet what is really interesting about these social styles is their ties to technical advances in the art. The first style of software development goes back to the first computers that were programmed manually with console switches. The second style came with the advent of programming languages that allowed scientists to work individually or in small teams, interacting with the machine through a language. In the third style, what we learned from hardware design and manufacturing carried over into software. Formal processes drove development, management was visible and explicit, and both the system and the organizations that worked on the system were highly hierarchical. Now we are in the fourth style: one that breaks down hierarchy, that features dynamic social structures and communication paths, and that values immediacy. This fourth style often bears the label “agile,” but that is just one of many characterizations of a broad new way of developing software that has emerged over the past decade.
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