And the band played on…

So the proposal for Agile 2009 is not looking good. The open space format is being panned for being too loosely structured and open ended to compete for a 90 minute slot. I gather from the comments that the topic itself is also striking people as less than gripping.

Well, as my ship sinks I send of this waterlogged response:

The session proposed isn’t about open space it is for conversation on professional ethics in an agile context.

As described in the proposal, we would dedicate time at the outset to bring the participants into context on issues and concerns in the industry, the ethical premises of agile development, and to create a safe space in which to have this conversation.

Facilitated open space itself is a highly disciplined framework that differs from the open-ish as much as Scrum differs from Scrum butt. With all due respect, a discussion of real ethical dilemmas no longer belongs in Open Jam then a private and personal conversation belongs in a hallway.

I’ve presented on this topic at Agile and the Scrum Gathering and found the conversation surrounding the presentation more valuable to everyone involved because while the topic is esoteric, the lived reality of our personal values and crises of conscience is visceral. Something practitioners do not often have a chance to discuss with peers who share their point of view but not their co-workers and employer.

I am certainly willing to debate whether there are conflicts over values in an agile workplace, whether we do or should give a damn about the benefit and harm we indirectly propagate but do we have to engage on the premise that a lecture on ethics or role playing games about workplace dilemmas is a better fit for the topic, the Agile conference or the participants?

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.