Agile is Just Fine Thank You Very Much

Sorry Bob, I disagree.  Agile as a phrase isn’t worn out and doesn’t need to die.  The Agile community needs to wake up and start eating it’s own dogfood instead of smoking it’s vapor.

The problem isn’t the word ‘Agile’ and sorry Ron, the problem certainly is not that “people don’t do what we said”  What kind of elitist attitude is that?  The problem is the message coming out of the Agile community isn’t resonating with organizations that want to adopt Agile.  Organizations want to adopt Agile for a reason and most of the time we overlook that reason and jam a bunch of wishy-washy crap and a bunch of practices down their throat all the while wrapped in a message of “gee, you just don’t get it“.    While the Agile community has evolved and matured, “our customers”  largely have not.   The Agile community is full of fantastic forward-thinkers that have made huge strides in spreading Agile practices and I think the pace of that evolution has far exceeded our customers pace of understanding how to apply these concepts to their context.

I talked to a potential client today and asked him why they wanted to “go agile” and he said to do things faster and cheaper.  That’s his perception of the benefits of Agile and that’s ok.  I certainly don’t blame him for his opinion, instead I asked him questions to understand why he felt that way and what problems his organization is facing that led him to the conclusion that Agile was the way to go.   Most importantly I want to understand his situation and help him improve his organization.

When I first got into Agile, my first experience was with a company using Scrum.  A client came to me and said “we need you to build X, Y and Z“.  I thought this was a good opportunity to learn something new.  When I asked our “Scrum guy” how we can approach this project I was met with what I now know to be the usual rhetoric.  Write some stories, build some stuff, get some feedback and repeat until it’s done.

I had asked how we could come up with the time and cost for it so the client could get budget approval and was met with “uh, you just don’t get Agile….it doesn’t work that way“.   Now that’s just dumb.

Agile needs a context to be successful and oddly enough that context came at the same company.  My at-the-time boss had introduced us to the Rockefeller Habits and it immediately resonated with me.  Long story short, we used Scrum to implement the Rockefeller Habits.  The Rockefeller Habits helped set the business context and Agile was the ‘tool’ that got us there.  We used common sense and used the Rockefeller Habits as our guide, not Agile and the results were outstanding.  I recently talked to my former boss and he mentioned that’s just how they work now.  It’s not the Rockefeller Habits or Agile, it’s just how they work because it makes sense for their business and it’s getting results.

That’s what Agile is.  It’s taking data from your system and making smart decisions with that data based on your context.  We had no automated testing, hell, we had no QA people at the time and a bunch of bugs that WE tracked that NEVER generated helpdesk calls so what’s the point of implementing XP practices?  There’d be no value.

We were just a great mix of people with a shared goal, a FANTASTIC leader and we were willing to try shit out and learn.  That’s what it’s all about and not every organization can do that.  Some organizations need metrics or checklists or other ‘non-agile’ stuff and we certainly don’t need to tell them they are stupid for wanting that.  If that’s what their system can support, our message needs to change to adapt to their reality instead of beating them over the head with a bunch of hokey bullshit.

Demand for Agile is exceeding the capacity of those who really understand it so we’re left with people trying to make sure they are doing practice X right (as is evident by the billions of Linked In discussions I participate in).  It’s not their fault, all we can do as a community is adapt to serve our customers better.  That’s Agile.

  • http://Agileconsulting.bloodspot.com Jeff Anderson

    Jason,

    Great post, pragmatic and frank, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Jason

    Thanks Jeff, appreciate the feedback!