Mistaking frameworks as toolkits

The other day I was watching Craig Larman discuss the LeSS framework for large scale agile development. In the video he says many prescritive frameworks address compliance by saying it’s just a buffet and you can take what you want. He went on to say that in practice that often doesn’t work, “for whatever reason”. That got me thinking.

Why is it that implementing only parts of a framework, and regarding it like a toolkit, often doesn’t work, even if the framework explicitly allows it? I suspect it’s because most of those frameworks (if not all of them) have some kind of coherence, or overarching principles. Those are built into the whole, and as a result not all the elements of the framework are equal. Some of them act as the glue—or are more glue-like than other elements. Dropping those means the remaining pieces don’t stick together so well. Introducing new elements may make the whole even less coherent. Perhaps those new elements act as subtle “anti-glue” that detracts from the overall coherence and principles.

That’s not to say all toolkits have to be taken as a whole. Sometimes we really do have a miscellaneous collection of ideas and we can pick and choose. But something described as a framework should be something that is designed to fit together. We should tamper with those with care… or simply not pretend we are implementing them.

Photo by Scott Kidder