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The Agile Introduction

When you meet someone new and they ask you what you do, what do you say to them?  Do you have a prepared introduction?  Have you prepared an explanation of your unique qualities?  If you think that is hard enough to communicate to the layman, try explaining Agile.

If someone says “Hi, I’m Bob. I’m a Project Manager”, most people get it.  We’ve all had a generation to get it.  Oh ya, so you manager some one or some thing.  I get it.  Now, when explaining Agile and how it relates to what we do, there is an extra layer of complexity.

For those in the Agile community, you’d be willing to take 10 minutes trying to explain Agile, rather than to be associated with the status quo.

But here is our problem as Agile proponents.  We don’t all agree as to what Agile means.  There’s a bit of a disconnect there.  I’ve heard people basically recite the Agile Manifesto when asked what Agile was.  The Manifesto (for Agile Software Development) hasn’t been around long, being written and signed in February of 2001.  Though the authors signed it, I doubt they would all agree specifically what Agile is.

I’ve heard people describe Agile as “caring, loving, respectful”…  Though I don’t discount you may see people exhibit this behavior, I don’t go that far.  I’m talking Agile here, not my wife!  You see, to some, Agile is a living breathing thing.  But, I’m much more pragmatic.  I’m still passionate about Agile.  But, I’m not going to hold some dudes hand and sing Kumbayah by a campfire.

Let’s get back on point.  The Agile Manifesto originally related to software development.  Some are now applying the 12 principles of the Manifesto and items the authors came to value to areas beyond software development.  This does not make these approaches any less “Agile”.

I read a very interesting comment on the Agile Scout website, where someone explained how they use Agile as a Marathon Training Approach. One of the comments was: I think we are getting a little carried away here with Agile. Some say it is a philosophy (for developing software), but people seem to want to extend it to be a religion almost. I am sure that is not what the writers of the Agile Manifesto had in mind. This is a good way to get a good idea written off as a cult.

My response to this is an analogy.  For those who celebrate Christmas or think they know what Christmas is, ask them “What is Christmas?”  I am sure that is not what the creators of Christmas had in mind.

To summarize, Agile has become something bigger than what anyone could have imagined.  The concepts, approaches, and philosophies associated with it will continue to expand to other verticals as long as the Agile community (as a whole) accepts them.  So, how do I try to explain Agile to someone I just met?  Though I reserve the right to refine my introduction, I believe

I am a Agile Proponent

Agile focuses on the frequent delivery of something that works, by using small collaborative groups of people and small units of time to make sure whatever has the highest value get done first.  As each unit of time progresses, more gets done and more information becomes available to which future work can be done.

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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)

8 Responses to “The Agile Introduction”

  1. December 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Totally agree here. Many different flavors of the same thing. While there may not be a need for an AGILEBOK just yet… I’m sure someone will come along and try to standardize it…
    http://agilescout.com/pmbok-for-agile-is-that-even-agile/

    • Anonymous
      December 14, 2010 at 4:31 am

      I hope if/when an AgileBOK is created, “they” use some common sense. Seriously, if someone finds the need to create one, it could be limited to a few definitions and I would be happy. Its creation could be equivalent to using a slug hammer to kill a fly. Complete overkill.

  2. December 14, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Derek

    I have a couple of small suggestions:

    1. Incorporate the user representative or customer
    2. Highest value is what this customer thinks is the highest value

    Of course, like every generic statement, there is scope for abuse, but we are talking ideal, so this would suffice, I think.

    • Anonymous
      December 14, 2010 at 4:24 am

      I went back and forth on a very generalized statement. Over the weekend, I think I told some friends something like “I help people on projects learn newer ways of getting things done.” after a few previous attempts. I know, pretty sad. But, they seemed to be satisfied with the explanation. Maybe they were just appeasing me.

    • Anonymous
      December 14, 2010 at 4:24 am

      I went back and forth on a very generalized statement. Over the weekend, I think I told some friends something like “I help people on projects learn newer ways of getting things done.” after a few previous attempts. I know, pretty sad. But, they seemed to be satisfied with the explanation. Maybe they were just appeasing me.

  3. December 14, 2010 at 10:54 am

    mine 2ct :)
    for me Agile is ability to adapt and learn in order to gain highest value

    • Anonymous
      December 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm

      I think we all agree there is empowerment, adaptability, and value. Depending on who you are talking to, you could present Agile many different ways. I guess that’s why it works so well. Depending on your customer, you can leverage it many different ways as well.

  4. December 17, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Hi Derek,

    I Iike your summary. The only thing I would add would be that agile enables the early delivery of usable products, therefore enabling business benefits to be realised earlier.

    I also think that agile is the cure for perfectionism and missed deadlines…. http://www.publicsectorpm.com/2010/12/agile-project-management-the-cure-for-perfectionism-and-missed-deadlines/

    Cheers,
    Jon.

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