Empiricism and Transparency

Last post 07:41 pm June 18, 2019
by John McGinty
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06:15 pm June 11, 2019

Can anyone shed some light or draw some references how Empiricism got linked to Transparency? Is this just an Agile/Scrum thing? I am guessing that Empiricism which is critical to scientific inquiry through Experimentation needs Transparency to facilitate peer review and consensus. But Transparency appears to be something distinct and not really related to Empiricism. The Wikipedia page on Empiricism has nothing about Transparency. And if you do a search for Empiricism, all you get are Agile and Scrum pages. It is obvious these are all linked to the Scientific Method and part of Epistemology. 

This is interesting to me because we are facing questions in the wider society about the Freedom of Speech, which is critical for Scientific Inquiry, Truth and Knowledge I often wonder how this plays out in Tech sector whose culture appear to lean more anti-freedom of speech, while this goes against core Agile values of Openness and Transparency. 

08:59 pm June 11, 2019

What might happen if you attempt to inspect an artifact without transparency into its true state?

10:19 pm June 11, 2019

One of the most important concepts in Scrum in empiricism.  If you read the Scrum Guide you will see the reference, as well as the three pillars of transparency, inspection and adaptation.  Empiricism is in the DNA of Scrum.

If you think about each Scrum event, there is inspection and adaptation going on.  For example, in the Daily Scrum the Development Team is inspecting its progress towards the Sprint Goal, and adapting the Sprint Backlog.  Now if a member of the Development Team knew about a critical impediment that no one else knew about, but failed to attend the Daily, might transparency be lost?  

How might the definition of "Done" help with transparency about the state of the product Increment?

11:44 pm June 11, 2019

My Question/Comment might have been ill-conceived. I was under the impression that the Transparency came from  Empiricism, as Empiricism is a foundation element of the scientific method as it is critical for proper peer review. (As  needed by DOD, Inspection of Artifacts). But Transparency might not be part of Empiricism. 

02:00 am June 12, 2019

Transparency comes from many places.  The Product Backlog being available is transparency.  The Sprint Retrospective provides transparency to the team on what is and isn't working.  The Sprint Review provides transparency to the stakeholders, etc.  

08:00 am June 12, 2019

But Transparency might not be part of Empiricism. 

Indeed. Transparancy CAN come form Empiricism, since empiric data can make things very transparent, but that said, Transparency comes from a lot of factors. Like team members fully opening up during Retro, laying their hearts on the table (figure of speech) is Transparency in one of its purest forms

02:14 pm June 18, 2019

I sometimes question how empiricism got linked so neatly to process control. For example, empiricism can be applied in a laboratory setting without seeking to control the wider environment. We often speak of "proving" something under laboratory conditions, and when we do so scientific rigor is implied. The associated variables have been brought under control. Yet when similarly constrained experiments are attempted in agile practice, such that increments are only evaluated in pre-production, we recognize negative implications for validated learning.

05:39 pm June 18, 2019

Like @Wilmart and @Ian, I have wondered how Transparency got linked to Empiricism. I can see how it helps with Transparency but as @Ian points out, it doesn't exactly fit.

I guess this is one of those things I have just accepted as a interpretation because it does make sense in the perspective of agile practices and Scrum foundation. 

07:01 pm June 18, 2019

For me the link is very straight forward. Scrum encourages empirical work where empirical, by definition means

"verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic." So you have to prove the result is verifiable and we do this by making the result visible. Now visible and transparent are clearly not the same thing (one would argue the opposite :) ) but transparent doesn't mean the result is transparent but the method to how you got to the result is " allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen."

When working with teams I point out 2 reasons why their work needs to be transparent

1. To allow inspection - if people can see the way we work they can inspect, approve, and improve the method

2. To allow honesty and trust - if the method and the results are viewable then it forces the notion of sharing and exposure.

Many professional practices do the opposite by promoting closure which prevents failure detection and improvement.

If you want more technical detail empricism comes from the work Schwaber did with Babatunde A. Ogunnaike who was an expert in process control which looks to create stability from unstable systems. This is where Scrum is a little annoying as the Scrum guide refers to "empirical process control theory" which is combination of process theory and control theory two different things but hey.