TITLE: Discipline Can Be Structural As Well As Personal AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 30, 2013 11:41 AM DESC: ----- BODY: There is a great insight in an old post by Brian Marick, Discipline and Skill, which I re-read this week. The topic sentence asserts:
Discipline can be a personal virtue, but it must also be structural.
Extreme Programming illustrates this claim. It draws its greatest power from the structural discipline it creates for developers. Marick goes on:
For example, one of the reasons to program in pairs is that two people are less likely to skip a test than one is. Removing code ownership makes it more likely someone within glaring distance will see that you didn't leave code as clean as you should have. The business's absolute insistence on getting working -- really working -- software at frequent intervals makes the pain of sloppiness strike home next month instead of next year, stiffening the resolve to do the right thing today.
XP consists of a lot of relatively simple actions, but simple actions can be hard to perform, especially consistently and especially in opposition to deeply ingrained habits. XP practices work together to create structural discipline that helps developers "do the right thing". We see the use of social media playing a similar role these days. Consider diet. People who are trying to lose weight or exercise more have to do some pretty simple things. Unfortunately, those things are not easy to do consistently, and they are opposed by deep personal and cultural habits. In order to address this, digital tool providers like FitBit make it easy for users to sync their data to a social media account and share with others. This is a form of social discipline, supported by tools and practices that give structure to the actions people want to take. Just like XP. Many behaviors in life work this way. (Of course, I'm already on record as saying that XP is a self-help system. I have even fantasized about XP's relationship to self-help in the cinema.) -----