Why are we doing that?

Take anything. Any activity. Any Practice. Any Standard. Any Method. Ask the question “why?” – with fresh eyes, take a long hard look at why we are doing it. Now, ask yourself if the “why” is being accomplished. Ask yourself if you even know how to measure the benefits you originally sought. Ask yourself if all the acitivities, practices, standards, methods and other things we do make sense together.

Dogma is powerful. Questioning is more powerful. Dogma is required like training wheels. We need something to help us get up and rolling. Once we are rolling we need to get rid of the training wheels so we can go fast.

Why are we doing “agile”? Why are we doing Scrum? Why are we doing TDD? Why are we doing Object Oriented? Why are we doing code reviews? Why are we doing the things that we do? Why do we have a daily standup? Why do we do timeboxes/sprints/iterations?

I am not suggesting that all of these things aren’t adding value in your situation. I am merely asking that we all stop taking it on faith that they do.

Why are we doing project management? Why are we doing program management? Why are we doing project portfolio management? Why are we doing software product management?

Again – not suggesting that any of these things aren’t adding value. Just asking what value were we seeking when we invested in them and whether they are realizing that value as implemented?

The harsh reality is this. All of these practices and activities were adopted and invested in, because we believed that through them we would realize a certain value for our enterprise. Often the people who are doing the practices have a tenuous grasp on what value we were expecting to get when we started. They start to value the practice, either for its own sake (practice becomes dogma), or for some other more personal value that they are deriving from the practice. As soon as you create leadership roles around some activity or practice, those individuals occupying those roles immediately start deriving personal value from that practice. They start moving toward priesthood. The high priest will rarely question the value of the religion that is feeding his family.

We, leaders and practitioners, need to continuously ask these three questions for every practice and activity that we invest in:


1) is the value that we originally sought when investing in practice or activity X still valuable?
2) is practice or activity X a sufficient way to get that value?
3) is there some other value that we are deriving from practice or activity X that would commend us to continue it?

These are the questions that keep us from becoming dogmatic. These are the questions of a pragmatist.

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