Agile: Too Good to be True?


As a purveyor of the dark arts we call Agile, I come across many instances where non-agilists scoff albeit at the notion that such a method could help provide. Let’s look at some of the claims:

  • Better Business / IT Alignment

  • Higher Quality Products

  • Better Products to Market Sooner

  • Get the Real Things that Customers Want

Such claims I am told are preposterous. Even among those that have been embodying agile principles sometimes have their doubts when they hear a claim about how good they should be having things because they are not seeing it. Most of this reticent behavior and naysaying hoopla comes as a result of not sticking to the core of what Agile is intended to accomplish.

At its roots, Agile is not a process but a way of thinking and interacting. Let’s look at the Manifesto real quick and extract out why it is that people don’t get what they want out of their Agile practices.

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation

  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation

  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

There is a common theme that everything starts with here and it is something I stress in every class I teach and every discussion I have with someone trying to be more agile. It’s the people and the interactions you have with them. For all the good that can be had with the JIRA’s, Rally’s, VersionOne’s and Trello’s of the world, they are merely tools that help with whatever process you want to follow. The tools don’t fix the problem of interactions that are not happening within your organization. So, if you are looking for a lick ‘em stick ‘em approach, tools get you to some sense of uniformity. But, even dysfunction where uniformly done can seem comforting for a period of time. You have to get to the roots here. The people are the center of everything that goes on with Agile.