Thursday, February 27, 2014

A la Carte Agile

Let’s say you’ve decided that since "agile" means to move fast and quickly adapt, like 72%  of American companies using some version of Agile, you’ll adopt it too…. 

Only it’s too much to commit to preparing stories (can’t we just call them product requirements?) in advance of a sprint because you never know how the market will change or what the vendor will deliver.  And you can’t really fill the three roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Delivery Team) because you have folks who wear a lot of hats, and you don’t have the resources to nail down dedicated teams.  And how is it “agile” to require that the product owner lock down what needs to be done before a sprint?  That doesn’t sound flexible.  The team should be able to change direction at any point in any cycle.  And you really can’t require your developers to spend all that time in these warm, fuzzy meetings that Agile calls, “ceremonies.” That’s a waste of time. And certainly your developers need to put careful thought into building the foundation of the software, so really, sprint cycles should allow for continued work from cycle to cycle without unreasonably requiring folks to deliver end-to-end in two to four week sprints.  Other than that, you are 100% behind whatever those crazy team leads what to do.  By all means, go, agile!  Fast and nimble! 

Hard reality: when you take out any of these factors, you’re not really doing Agile development.  You’re doing some sort of hybrid of Agile and Waterfall, and that can be okay; you certainly may end up making  improvements by implementing some, but not all of the system.  I’ve done it, and it’s the preferred alternative to mayhem. But you’re not making a full paradigm shift to true transformation, and you’ll continue to experience foundational roadblocks. 

People confuse the formal title of the methodology “Agile” with the lower case “a” adjective, “agile.”  While the methodology does allow organizations to be agile, as in nimble, it’s not without structure, and specific process.

Save yourself and your organization unneeded, drawn-out heartache by ripping off the bandage as quickly as possible, adhering to the fundamentals and diving into the benefits right away.