The Collective Agile Discussion
I am both encouraged and disheartened by what I am hearing on the the subject of Agile these days. I got a large dose of the discussion in conversations and lectures at Tech Ed this year, and the blogsphere resonates with it every time you turn around.
Dialog is beginning to focus on Lean and iterative delivery practices. These basic values supported by the Agile manifesto are beginning to receive more attention, much to my pleasure. We are finally getting around to talking about value flow rather than our available hodgepodge of Agile coding techniques. Excellent!
Scrum has finally been recognized as an excellent team management model that supports Agility. It is also prone to fracturing at large scale and must be held together with more pressure at large size. It takes more than Scrum to deliver on the whole promise.
Test Driven Development is a wonderfully Lean practice that has genuinely matured to a standard engineering practice. Who can argue with, “Constant attention to quality?” Now that we can agree this is how to do business, we are simply evolving the technique rather than arguing about whether it has value. Good stuff.
Agile practices and Lean techniques are finding home in even the stodgiest organizations. Few developers would dare admit they aren’t “Agile”. Sometimes it is even true.
The Microsoft team building Rosario is executing their work in a genuinely Agile way. That is, iterative with high visibility and close client involvement. The ASP.Net MVC team is behaving similarly with frequent releases and high bandwidth feedback from the community.
Many people describing their Agile practices center around the common denominator of, “No requirements and we work on the highest priority item.” That’s firefighting. Agile requires the discipline of focus, if only for a single iteration.
Implementing only a few practices that seem easy to accomplish does not make an organization Agile. Yes, iterations are important, but they are not the end game. Steady delivery of genuine value is the end game.
I cannot count the number of times people have represented their practices as “Scrum-like”. I commonly ask, “Did you start with Scrum and modify it to fit your shop?”
“No,” is the common answer. “We read the books and picked the parts that seemed to make sense for us.”
That really bothers me because if there is one thing I have learned in the last 5 years of implementing Agile practices, it is this: Practice the prescriptive Guidance for 3 months before you change anything.
We all think we’re different, but we struggle with the same issues. There are very real recipes for these techniques. Agile is a lot of things, but it isn’t just what you want it to be.