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Agile in the Age of Hyperspecialization

· Agile Zone

Learn more about how DevOps teams must adopt a more agile development process, working in parallel instead of waiting on other teams to finish their components or for resources to become available, brought to you in partnership with CA Technologies.

Starting the start of the industrial revolution in 18th century, there has been a trend of increasing specialization. Rather than workers being involved in all aspects of creating a product, workers began to produce smaller and smaller subsets of the product. By the time Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, pin-making had become specialized to the point where it could involve eighteen different specialists. Smith wrote that, “One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head…” Cars being assembled

Not only has this trend continued through the present day, it is likely accelerating. A recent article in Harvard Business Review, “The Age of Hyperspecialization”, claims that as work becomes more knowledge-based and as communication technology improves, it is easier to split work into smaller and smaller pieces. The article talks about about a number of companies and business models. But, in particular, presents a site called TopCoder, which allows companies to present development work that needs to be done.

The work is then bid on and completed by hyperspecialists all over the world: a designer in the US, an analyst in Kiev, an architect in Bangalore, a programmer in Beijing, and so on. These individuals do not work together as a team. Rather they have very specific artifacts to produce. The artifacts are defined in a very sequential (“waterfall”) process. It is interesting to think about a grand, sweeping trend like the one toward hyperspecialization in contrast to agile development.

Agile does not at all require individuals to be generalists, but individuals are expected to work together as a team. The handoff-driven model created by hyperspecialization and used on sites like TopCoder are anything but agile. So where does this go? Is agile at odds with a 300-year trend? It could be. Or, perhaps teams will evolve more agile ways of working within the trend toward hyperspcialization.

Discover the warning signs of DevOps Dysfunction and learn how to get back on the right track, brought to you in partnership with CA Technologies.


Published at DZone with permission of Mike Cohn, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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