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When Agile is no longer agile

One of the things I like about Mike Cottmeyer’s blog is he sometimes asks philosophical questions, if he knows it or not.  He posed the question, How agile is Agile?

When I’ve asked vendors if they leverage Agile practices, I’ve discovered many shades of gray.  I’m sorry to say, I’ve seen people pervert the original 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto to the point the mere mention becomes the punchline of jokes. It’s easy for me to become incited, when Agile becomes the scapegoat for poor leadership or process. I still believe the 12 principles are the framework in which we decide if Agile is still agile.  If the Manifesto is no longer the Agile bellwether, perhaps it should be refined?

Agile will stop being agile when we start to detail all possible inputs and outputs and actually believe we can predict or plan our way out of every situation.  I think it will also stop, if the Agile community as a whole, disagrees with the Manifesto.  All laws can come before the U.S. Supreme Court and be argued as to their constitutionality.   Sometimes I wish projects or activities within Agile projects had a measurement of their agility and then blessed by a governing body.  Granted, the Agile Manifesto is not the U.S. Constitution and the Agile community does not need a Supreme Court.

The best measuring device I can rely is my own limbic system; My gut feeling.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  It is not as easy to say something feels Agile as it is to say it does not feel Agile.  When did this all become so overly complicated?

Image Source addogaudium.wordpress.com

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

4 Responses to “When Agile is no longer agile”

  1. May 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Derek,

    “Agile will stop being agile when we start to detail all possible inputs and outputs”

    I loved this statement. So true!!!

    I see too many teams get so stuck in the details of complying with a specific agile practice or process that they sometimes compromise their agility and fail to live by the 12 principles of agile.

    I do believe we need to run our projects based on the guiding principles of Agile set forth by the founding fathers. But if we tailor the agile “practices” and achieve agility, does it matter if we fail the “Agile purity test”. I mean the “Agile purity test” that often measures agility in terms of compliance with specific practices or processes?

    In a recent blog post titled “Agile Practices in Large System Integration Projects”, I argued for the need to customize and tailor agile practices to fit the special needs of these types of projects. I said:

    “In my experience, most (project management) practitioners I know want flexibility to pick and choose which Agile practices to introduce to their organizations and when. We need to be able to selectively adopt, adapt, and apply whatever Agile practices that help us reach the finish line and deliver projects successfully. Insisting that an Agile method (or any method for that matter) must be implemented, exactly as it was originally conceived for all projects, becomes an obstacle to its adoption in many organizations and projects”

    Thanks for sharing this.
    .-= Samad Aidane´s last blog ..Agile Practices in Large System Integration Projects =-.

    • Derek Huether
      May 17, 2010 at 3:21 am

      Samad, I completely agree with you. Agile can NOT detail all possible inputs and outputs. Wouldn’t that be an oxymoron? I think Agile is a framework, not a methodology. People have to have the flexibility to pick what works and what does not, WHILE not forgetting to follow a few basics.

  2. May 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Derek,

    “Agile will stop being agile when we start to detail all possible inputs and outputs”

    I loved this statement. So true!!!

    I see too many teams get so stuck in the details of complying with a specific agile practice or process that they sometimes compromise their agility and fail to live by the 12 principles of agile.

    I do believe we need to run our projects based on the guiding principles of Agile set forth by the founding fathers. But if we tailor the agile “practices” and achieve agility, does it matter if we fail the “Agile purity test”. I mean the “Agile purity test” that often measures agility in terms of compliance with specific practices or processes?

    In a recent blog post titled “Agile Practices in Large System Integration Projects”, I argued for the need to customize and tailor agile practices to fit the special needs of these types of projects. I said:

    “In my experience, most (project management) practitioners I know want flexibility to pick and choose which Agile practices to introduce to their organizations and when. We need to be able to selectively adopt, adapt, and apply whatever Agile practices that help us reach the finish line and deliver projects successfully. Insisting that an Agile method (or any method for that matter) must be implemented, exactly as it was originally conceived for all projects, becomes an obstacle to its adoption in many organizations and projects”

    Thanks for sharing this.
    .-= Samad Aidane´s last blog ..Agile Practices in Large System Integration Projects =-.

    • Derek Huether
      May 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      Samad, I completely agree with you. Agile can NOT detail all possible inputs and outputs. Wouldn’t that be an oxymoron? I think Agile is a framework, not a methodology. People have to have the flexibility to pick what works and what does not, WHILE not forgetting to follow a few basics.

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