Understand Principles behind Practices

From WikiContent

(Difference between revisions)
Jump to: navigation, search
Current revision (08:20, 11 July 2009) (edit) (undo)
 
(7 intermediate revisions not shown.)
Line 1: Line 1:
-
To work effectively as part of a team we need to agree to how the team members will interact. Sometimes these guidelines are expressed in terms of a development method such as Scrum, or XP, for example.
+
Development methods and techniques embody principles and practices. Principles describe the underlying ideas and values of the method; practices are what you do to realize them.
-
Development methods have principles and practices. The principles describe the underlying ideas and values of the method. The practices are what you do to realize them.
+
Following practices without deep understanding can allow you to try something new quickly. By forcing yourself to work differently you can change your practices with ease and speed. Being disciplined about changing how you work is essential in overcoming the inertia of your old ways. Practices often come first.
-
Following practices (without deep understanding) allows you to quickly try something new, and in many cases you can be quite effective by following the rules. And when you are learning a new way of working there is a lot of merit in following practices "by the book." Over time you will discover situations where the a practice seems to be getting in your way. An understanding of "why" allows you to make decisions about how to apply a practice: for example, you may come to a different understanding of how to Pair Program if you thought that the reason for Pair Programming was to save money on computers, as opposed to having the benefit of real time code reviews. Test Driven Development is a great idea that can simplify code and make development less expensive over the lifecycle. But writing overly complicated tests can increase the complexity of the code, and increase the cost of the or writing the wrong test because you want to code "test first." Writing detailed tests early about an aspect of the application that you know will change frequently can increase the costs to make a simple change.
+
Over time you will discover situations where a practice seems to be getting in your way. That is the time to consider varying the practices from the canon. You need to be careful to distinguish between cases where the practice is truly not working in your situation, and cases where it feels awkward just because it is different. Don't optimize before you understand why the current way is not working for you. Understanding the underlying principles allows you to make decisions about how to apply a practice. For example, if you thought that the reason for pair programming was to save money on computers, your approach would be quite different than if you looked at pairing for the benefit of real-time code reviews.
-
Being excessively dogmatic about how things are done can also erode innovation. In addition to understanding the principles behind a practice, question whether the principles and practices make sense.
+
Following a practice without understanding can can lead to trouble too. For example, Test-Driven Development can simplify code, enable change, and make development less expensive. But writing overly complicated or inappropriate tests can increase the complexity of the code, increasing the cost of change.
 +
Being excessively dogmatic about how things are done can also erode innovation. In addition to understanding the principles behind a practice, question whether the principles and practices make sense in your context, but be careful: trying to customize a process without understanding how the principles and practices relate to each other can set you up for failure. The clichéd example is "doing XP" by skipping documentation and doing none of the other practices.
-
When adopting a new practice of development method:
+
When trying something new:
-
* Resist the temptation to customize the practice early on; you risk losing the benefits of a new way of working.
+
* Understand what you're trying to accomplish. If you don't have a goal in mind when trying a new process, you won't be able to evaluate your progress meaningfully.
-
* Once you have had some experience evaluate whether your execution of a practice is in line with its principles.
+
* Start by following best practices as close to "the book" as possible. Resist the temptation to customize early; you risk losing the benefits of a new way of working, and of reverting to your old ways under a new name.
-
 
+
* Once you have had some experience, evaluate whether your execution of the practices are in line with their principles and, if they are, adapt the practices to work better in your environment.
-
Following rules dogmatically can be helpful when you are trying something new to force you to change your mindset, and you can get into trouble customizing the rules before you have had a chance to change your mindset. And shared practices and guidelines should be in place to encourage communication and allow you to not worry about tasks that are secondary to your primary goals. But following rules blindly can cause problems too.
+
-
 
+
-
For example, having rules about coding styles are very useful when it comes to allowing others to quickly understand your code, and team members not following agreed upon coding guidelines can cause others to waste time. Yet indenting code is not the highest value activity a programmer can do, so code formatting guidelines that can be automated strike a good balance between team productivity and individual productivity.
+
-
 
+
-
When you are working, periodically take the time to reflect on whether "what has worked in the past" is still the right thing. Whenever you see someone on your team doing the "wrong" thing, take the time to understand the reason behind what they are doing. Sometimes they may be falling off the rails. Sometimes that may be seeing something from a different perspective.
+
-
 
+
By [[Steve Berczuk]]
By [[Steve Berczuk]]

Current revision

Development methods and techniques embody principles and practices. Principles describe the underlying ideas and values of the method; practices are what you do to realize them.

Following practices without deep understanding can allow you to try something new quickly. By forcing yourself to work differently you can change your practices with ease and speed. Being disciplined about changing how you work is essential in overcoming the inertia of your old ways. Practices often come first.

Over time you will discover situations where a practice seems to be getting in your way. That is the time to consider varying the practices from the canon. You need to be careful to distinguish between cases where the practice is truly not working in your situation, and cases where it feels awkward just because it is different. Don't optimize before you understand why the current way is not working for you. Understanding the underlying principles allows you to make decisions about how to apply a practice. For example, if you thought that the reason for pair programming was to save money on computers, your approach would be quite different than if you looked at pairing for the benefit of real-time code reviews.

Following a practice without understanding can can lead to trouble too. For example, Test-Driven Development can simplify code, enable change, and make development less expensive. But writing overly complicated or inappropriate tests can increase the complexity of the code, increasing the cost of change.

Being excessively dogmatic about how things are done can also erode innovation. In addition to understanding the principles behind a practice, question whether the principles and practices make sense in your context, but be careful: trying to customize a process without understanding how the principles and practices relate to each other can set you up for failure. The clichéd example is "doing XP" by skipping documentation and doing none of the other practices.

When trying something new:

  • Understand what you're trying to accomplish. If you don't have a goal in mind when trying a new process, you won't be able to evaluate your progress meaningfully.
  • Start by following best practices as close to "the book" as possible. Resist the temptation to customize early; you risk losing the benefits of a new way of working, and of reverting to your old ways under a new name.
  • Once you have had some experience, evaluate whether your execution of the practices are in line with their principles and, if they are, adapt the practices to work better in your environment.

By Steve Berczuk

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3


Back to 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know home page

Personal tools