Craftsmanship and Artful Making

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At Agile2008, in his banquet keynote, [Uncle Bob proposed]( “Uncle Bob proposed” “craftsmanship over execution” be added to the Agile Manifesto as the fifth value statement. I’ve blogged before about the lack of craftsmanship in software development and it continues to concern me.

While in Toronto I was reading Artful Making. The book bored me for the first few chapters but then it quickly became a compelling read. I recommend it. It contains many statements of wisdom. One passage, talking about a stage set designer, resonated with me:

“The designers movements were simple, free of tension. But the control that allowed this simplicity and freedom of movement was sophisticated and hard-won, a consequence of many iterations – individual rigor drawn from
iterative experience yielding great precision.”

For me, the control that allowed this simplicity and freedom of movement was sophisticated and hard-won is called craftsmanship. As a worker practices the
techniques for wielding his tools to work his material, he develops an individual rigor drawn from iterative experience yielding great precision. Repetitive mechanical application teaches disciplined handling of the tools
and also creates recurring opportunity to learn more and gain experience. The practices governing how tools are used, once silently incanted, become inculcated. Contextual awareness develops and a deeper understanding of the principles underlying the techniques is acquired. Intuition develops providing internal guidance to a growing expertise in trade craft.

As I blogged previously, a craftsman’s mastery is borne out of his personal discipline when applying techniques to use his tools, his awareness of what’s going on around him, and his thought processes.

Martha Graham said “technique is the dancer’s freedom”. Well, technique is also the developer’s freedom.

Simon Baker
Simon Baker
Simon Baker is chief swashbuckler at Energized Work, a guerrilla technology lab based onboard HMS President in London. Simon cofounded Energized Work and in 2009 received the Agile Alliance Gordon Pask Award. He speaks internationally about applying agile and lean principles and techniques in business, software development, and information technology. With 22 years experience delivering software in the media, retail, healthcare, financial services and banking sectors, Simon is a leader doing things differently to find out what matters and get the right things done in the right way. He isn't afraid to question conventional thinking and disrupt the status quo. Simon feels strongly that work shouldn't feel like work and he has a track record creating exciting working conditions that help people change the way they deliver software for the better.

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