Tuesday 9 May 2017

What is not Agile

The newest old buzzword floating around businesses, making huge impact on either success of a business or sanity of its employers – Agile. Instead of explaining what Agile is, lets show some examples of what it is not.

I encounter all of these examples of misunderstandings on regular basis. Speaking to people from other companies and reading other blogs on the internet, it is more than obvious that these problems are common.

Misuse of the word

People in my surrounding tend to use Agile as description of everything. Agile rooms, Agile tools, Agile talks. I am personally waiting for Agile toilets to make an appearance.

Even though there are tools out there created to be used in Agile software development environment, it gets rather extreme when that is the entire reason behind using them, when it gets forced on people who have no idea what to do with them.

For some reason management believes that it only takes a tool to "be Agile". That you do not need to change anything else, just the tool you use to track your work or distribute tasks in team.

Soccer newbie will not become a pro the moment he buys a pro soccer ball. It is not just about the tool. There is so much more that is needed.

Agile Talks are another great example. If these talks were about Agile methodologies, then maybe. But they are not. They are normal presentations formatted like TED talks. The topics can be anything from generic psychology to specific programming language. And yet they get the Agile label to make them appear more buzzword-ish, more important.

Not to mention that it is not just tools or presentation, it sometimes gets so out of hand that the word Agile becomes a verb or an adjective. In order to describe how this works I will demonstrate it.

Misunderstanding of the principles

Beside just labeling everything as Agile without understanding that the tools do not make people Agile, there is another huge issue. Sets and principles of Agile software development get completely twisted by people on management level.

There are reasons why Agile development has its benefits. It is taking psychology and biology of people into account. It is taking business and users into account. It is tested and it is researched.

There are people who mistake it with the ability to adapt to anything. They completely disregard the positives and do the precise opposite. Let me give you an example:

Developers having just one project can focus better on it than if they had multiple projects and needed to shift their thinking all the time. It is important to focus on one thing and get it done before moving on to something totally different. It is worse to rotate between multiple projects, leaving one just to come back moments later.

What managers like to do is to come and say: "Hey, lets work on this totally new project now." To objection that you already have project you need to finish, they play the "you outta be agile, you outta adapt" card. Which is total nonsense.

Accepting multiple projects and worsening the focus of all people involved goes against the principles of Agile development.

Applying it everywhere

Agile software development. It sounds good, right? Lets apply that to HR department, Finance and Accounting department and also the department filled with advocates.

The real example of taking it into extreme and applying Agile methodologies everywhere. Even in places where it has no purpose or benefit. But hey, you outta be agile, you outta adapt.

But this can truly happen, people can lose the ability to use common sense and start forcing something "new" everywhere without thinking if it is optimal or even possible.

Lack of change

I think the biggest issue comes from the fact nobody wants to change, yet everybody wants a change. Instead of using all the positives, benefits and thought out principles people just prefer to remain the same and pretend they are better.

And what is easier than to just call yourself, your tools, your presentations and your toilet as Agile. It is the problem of today's age, people loath the change, even if it is for the better. So instead of taking the good from Agile and applying to the bad in their companies, they take the bad they do and transform Agile to be as bad as they already are.

It almost starts to feel like a cult. Priests floating in the corridors of huge open offices, preaching their ideas, teaching us prayers we are supposed to repeat. Using the word Agile to get what they want whether it actually makes sense or not.

Shame is that the people who preach it the most know the least about it. And the fact they put Agile everywhere helps in their own personal make-believe that they are the masters of it.

It is more than just a word

The set of values and principles of Agile software development are not about how you write the name of the development method, they are about how to behave, how to act, how to plan, how to work, how to coordinate and so much more.

If you take this huge idea filled with suggestions on how to improve your business, backed by the data showing that it works in situations it is meant for,... Well if you take this and reduce it to one word you are going to repeat over and over, and over again without ever learning what the hell it truly means, then – let me put it in language you might understand – You are not agile.

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