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Development in Harmony

When XP practices work in harmony with one another, flow ramps up. Load factor dives. Developers and customers describe a sensation of speed, and the business is challenged to keep up with the project. These experiences will subside again, but as iterations continue, architecture and standards evolve, and rhythm sets in, the frequency of occasions of high flow steadily increases.

A team that flows consistently is in a kind of harmony. This isn't a fleeting moment of balance, but a dynamic equilibrium that accommodates rapid change. Harmony occurs when the elements of the team's practice interlock, anticipate, and reinforce one another.

Harmony doesn't come from knowing everything about XP. In fact, it comes when the team no longer pays any attention to XP, but uses it without thinking. Likewise, treating the experience of harmony as an ideal cannot deliver it. You can't go fast by demanding speed, competing to increase project velocity, aspiring to deliver more user stories faster, or wanting to flow. Harmony occurs with a self-reinforcing "pop" [Cockburn+1999].

When XP pops, team members may begin to feel stressed by the speed of development. In pairing especially, there is little opportunity to spend time surfing, listening to private music, or talking with loved ones on the phone. "Goof-off time" disappears. Work at this pace is exciting but draining, so the Coach must be careful to watch for and alleviate signs of fatigue. This is why working a 40-hour week is an XP practice.

At the same time, development itself becomes tremendous fun. Developers in a harmonious team laugh a lot. They connect in their personal lives. They play games. They learn to anticipate and buoy each other up. Their egos diminish, and their joy in working together swells. They act like this naturally, not by decree. The cyclic nature of XP provides a rhythmic certainty in their work. This is not the homogeny of an army, but the daily routine of a farm.

When a nation ignores flow,
Horses bear soldiers through its streets;
When a nation follows flow,
Horses bear manure through its fields.
[Lao2000]

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