Friday, October 23, 2015

✡ Agile and Documentation ✡

... Dedicated to Andrei...

- Next week, I am having lunch with a funny redhead that is converting to Judaism.
- Today, in a meeting, I was asked by one of my managers why documentation is less valued in Agile.
- Yesterday, a friend asked me to blog more.

What's the connection? sit back and enjoy a fable...

- Important: this is BY NO MEANS a post about Judaism or religion, though not religious, the belief-set I feel closest to is taoism, so read it as a taoist tale...


Origin: (you can skip it...)
   On another occasion it happened that a certain non-Jew came before Shammai and said to him, “I will convert to Judaism, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away with the builder's tool that was in his hand. He came before Hillel and said to him, "Convert me." Hillel said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.” [AJWS translation] 


So, setting up the premise:
Once upon a time, in the far away land of Israel (or elsewhere), there were two schools of Judaism, with a very different approach:

 - The house of Shammai, a very strict and righteous school, whose center is the head. Guarding Judaism like a precious stone. lots of processes and rituals, and whose default answer to anything is No, unless proven otherwise (Let's call him the house of Control-centered Project-Management...)

 - The house of Hillel, a very promiscuous school, whose center is the heart, one that in case of a doubt says Yes. (Agile, anyone?)


A certain non-jew was curious about the Torah, and wanted to understand what it is about, who knows, perhaps it is a life changer? in which case he was ready for an adventure.

But he doesn't want to study for a lifetime just to find it was a waste of time (would you?)

So, this poor chap searches for someone smart and serious to explain what is this Torah (the documentation of Judaism?), so he understands and can decide what to do...

- He arrives to the house of the distinguishes wise-man Shammai, knocks on the door, and once (grumpy - I guess) Rabbi Shammai himself opens the door, he asks him for something very strange...

"Could you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot?"
(This part always makes me smile - it is like the Koan of the sound of one hand clapping)

And the answer he received is...  He is being chased away with a broom...


This poor chap is quite determined,though.
He doesn't give up, there is another house just around the corner,the house of Hillel.

-Again, a frap on the door, again the door opens,

This time, it is opened by old-Hillel himself..

And again - the Koan is given: "Could you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot?"

--- What happens now never ceases to amaze me ---

He receives a two (I imagine, even, three) part answer:

0. (I imagine) a big reassuring smile.

1. "What you hate being done to you, don't do to your fellow (wo)men"

2. "The rest is just commentary, now go and read it."

- Once you are spoken to with a smile, and once you know what it is about, the rest is 'just' details, enjoy it as you want.

Or, while we value documentation, we value a clear, sincere, and respectful intention more.


I could talk about user-stories, about a company mission-statement, about the value of a smile and a trust, etc. but I'll stop here.

Hope you liked it!  I would love to know what you think! (*)

(*) If you write a comment, note - the google beast sometime swallows it without a trace, like it did to the previous version of this post, please keep it to re-publish...

See-ya Nextime!

Your scrum'em bear!


  1. Nicely said.
    I let it to rest and re-read it tomorrow and the next week. I need to start with this in mind or remember it every time I am in a confrontation or something I do not understand.

    What about the case where you start without something as simple as that standing on one foot explanation? Will you be able to find something like it? I think you can. Then again, how do you know is the true essence? Maybe this is different from one people to another. Or is it?

    More questions than answers now for me.

    1. Short version: there is no 'real absolute truth" a book is just ink on paper, it is the reader who gives it meaning.
      If you read it as a case for kindness, it will be that
      If you read it as a case for strictness, it will be that

  2. I love this connection, never thought of it. The Torah on one foot approach reminds me less of one hand clapping, but more of a *really* focused daily (standup) meeting :)

    1. Hey! there you are!

      - So much to learn from this one, that my neurons just made the connection.... (one of these aha-moments)

      ...Nothing really new under the sun, is it, Agile, Beit Hilel, The book of Dao, are all the same. we should just widen our vision a bit...

    2. And another thing...
      About two years back, I asked the team members to stand on one foot while talking in standup.

  3. I read this many times. I am still anchored in lack of information transfer aka communication problem. This is what is on my mind now. What us The right amount and on what level. What is the relation with your story I do not know, maybe this was on my mind when reading today the article.

    1. Hey my friend, don't be too confused.

      I'll try to re-explain...
      1. I aim to amuse.
      2. Regarding information, the right amount is the amount that serves the reader.
      (Example - my favorite book in the world is very short, yet I never finished reading it)
      3. The effective way to convey information is to start with the WIIFM.
      - Note the the person conveying the information here is Hillel (and Shammai), not the Torah (which has no information, only letters on paper)
      4. The reason Hillel is effective is because his message is focused, and all the rest is centered around it (like in my previous post, about building a vision)

      Hope it is clearer (since, after all, this post is dedicated to you)