We Tried Xp And It Failed

I find the statement "We tried XP and it failed" to be a weak criticism, because nearly every time this is stated, the critic either has not actually followed ExtremeProgramming or fails to back up the claim with an account of what they actually did try.

This counter-argument is not a case of MovingGoalPosts, for two reasons:
  1. XP is not unattainable. It has been followed on several projects, two notable ones being ChryslerComprehensiveCompensation and the VcapsProject. Do what they did, and you'll qualify as having 'done XP'.
  2. It is not unreasonable to ask for an account of what exactly occurred on the project to help rule out external factors. This is basic IntellectualHonesty.

See also WhatHappensWhenWeTry, WeTriedXpAndWeFailed, IfYouNameItTheyWillBlameIt


From WhenInDoubtLeaveItOut:

Many critics of XP isolate the individual practices and find their weaknesses, then claim that XP is invalid because each individual practice, on its own, has major flaws, drawbacks, and gotchas. KentBeck, in the original XP book, has already acknowledged that each practice on its own isn't enough. BookXp requires that all practices be performed together so that the weaknesses of one can be covered by the strengths of another. I think the fact that Kent chose to declare this as a requirement was a smart thing to do for the survival of XP. It makes it really hard (but not unreasonably hard; it just takes practice) for someone to claim that they actually do XP. This protects XP from those who half-heartedly try out a couple of practices and then claim WeTriedXpAndItFailed. I think this insulation has been a major factor in XPs success over other AgileProcesses. It's not that the other processes don't work, it's just that with XP you don't get a horde of FalseNegative?s.


No such "protection" exists against people who want to claim that something doesn't work, since the majority of them are not using ScientificMethod to arrive at their conclusions, and neither their conclusions nor their methods are ever reviewed. If I want to proclaim that XP doesn't work, I can adopt any of its practices with arbitrary shallowness and end up in the same place as if I had not adopted a practice. The same thing goes for object orientation, capability maturity model, and any other system of behaviors that is designed to help by changing current habits. Without scrutiny, anything goes. In hoping to solve this problem, the SEI packaged assessments as part of the CMM stuff. Look where that led!

The "protection" aspect can backfire, too. Making adoption of practices an all-or-nothing proposal creates a larger hurdle to get over, giving them another out in the form of "it's too rigid", or perhaps more honestly, "it's too hard".

So, if XP has had better success than other AgileProcesses, it probably has to do with factors not discussed here, such as marketing, or even possibly that practices from XP taken in isolation do in fact give tangible good results.


I kind of see the protection thing as similar to mutation's role in evolution and GeneticAlgorithms. You need mutation to generate variants, but too much mutation and evolution will be disrupted by all the noise. Mechanisms have evolved in life to control mutation rates (DNA over RNA is a good example; DNA is much more stable than RNA) which actually speeds up evolution. 'Protecting' the definition of XP is kind of like controlling the mutation rate, counter-intuitively (to some people perhaps) providing an advantage over more 'flexible' methodologies. A prediction might follow from my claim: RUP, since it is so flexible as to allow just about any reasonable method to conform to it, will eventually die out precisely because it is too flexible. It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be so in the next five years or so. RationalUnifiedProcess certainly has a lot of momentum right now (more than XP, that's for sure). It's possible, some might say probable, that RUP's momentum is too much for XP to overcome. I wonder.

Are you concerned with protecting XP from uncontrolled evolution, or are you concerned with its adoption in its current state? These seem to be different concepts.

Neither actually. The concern I have is the evolution of AgileMethods, XP simply being one of them, unique in its success, and hence worth studying.


Appropriate and Professional Tools are critical to success

The reason methods fail may often be discovered to be due to the fact that complexities of software development are not matched with the complexity of communication between those doing the work and those who design the processes. This is not something that any one person can easily solve. Until ProjectAndDevelopmentTools? are constructed which integrate development with communication and coordination about development together with communication about process and policy constraints (including security and propriety), many will be left to try to work out conflicts and breaks in isolation. Such tools are in process of being built, but until they mature and are released, successes in non-trivial applications and projects will be hard won. So if you say "WeTriedXpAndItFailed", much more of the blame may belong to tools used than to the failure of the process.



Old comments regarding the original content and title of the page (to be refactored)

Comments on page title

The title of this page sounds as if the page will contain testimony to the fact that XP doesn't work, as opposed to mere theories to that effect. It sounds like a place to posit real life case histories of failure with XP, possibly for analysis. Hence, without further context, the page steers the expectant reader in the wrong direction.

Regarding the editorial comment: When I created this page, I intended it as a place to discuss the common sentiment "We tried XP and it failed" in much the same way as IfXpIsntWorkingYoureNotDoingXp. When refactoring, please opt to refactor side-topics out of this page rather than to rename this page to better suit the side-topics. Thanks.

If page titles supported quotation marks, then it would be easy to get your intended meaning across. "We tried XP and it failed" - in quotes - clearly says that the page is focused on the statement, not the fact itself. "If XP isn't working, you're not doing XP" - again, in quotes - clearly leads in to discussion of a statement. Unfortunately, wiki doesn't support quotes in titles. The second example is less a problem than the first, though, because it states a conclusion rather than an observation. Conclusions are always considered suspect (if not downright harmful!).

However, the first paragraph seems to focus the discussion on a different topic, namely "Does all-or-nothing adoption increase the chances of successful adoption?". Do you want the page focused on that topic, or on the more general one of the "sentiment" above?

-- WaldenMathews

It's unfortunate that the original paragraph (which I wrote) stands out so much. I really did mean it to talk about the statement "We tried ...". The first paragraph was just my ramblings on how I interpret XP's rigid definition as a good defense against unfounded criticism like the statement "We tried ...". I didn't have a lot to say at the time, hence the PleaseComment (now removed). I do believe that there deserves to be a page with this title and my first paragraph probably deserves to be a footnote or simply moved to a separate discussion page.

I agree, This is not the first time however that a page has deviated from the intent of the original expression, It seems to me that when deviation from a page title occurs, the original intent should remain, and the material not matching the title should live in its own space and move to a page with content-matching name.

[DeleteMe and more]Right, so we should delete this whole section now. I tried to earlier today, but it got restored. -- wm

Reacting to the title alone. Don't say "We tried XP and it failed." That's not right. Instead say "We tried XP and we failed." Don't think that the methodology was the one driving the project. If you believe that, you will never take control of your own process. -- SunirShah

Yeah: "We tried X, and it failed". Well, no wonder. Psychologists call this sort of thing "ExternalLocusOfControl?", and it's a pretty unhealthy state of affairs. It can lead to learned helplessness, which is the kind of thing Sunir mentions above.

I would agree with Sunir, but as mentioned above, WeTriedXpAndItFailed remains a common critique of XP, hence the page's title.
This page doesn't tell a single story of a real person that's tried XP and failed. I wish the theorists and XP pundits who jump on everything written on wiki would shut up so that people who've really tried it can participate. When a real failure story appears on this page it will start having some value. --
See also IfXpIsntWorkingYoureNotDoingXp, ExtremeProgrammingMyths, ExtremeProgrammingCorePractices, MythsAboutXp.
CategoryXpCritique, CategoryExtremeProgramming

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