Inflexible agility

Back in May of 2014, I attended ALM Chicago. I had the privilege of closing out the conference with my "Let's Start an Epidemic" talk. The second speaker of the day was Venkatesh Rao. This was his third time speaking at the conference and I quickly came to understand why they kept inviting him back. His talk was daring, extemporaneous, and insightful. There were many pearls in his presentation, but one thing he said in particular struck me. And it's popped back into my head time and time again since that day:
Yet - this is what we do; the "agile community". We say people over process and talk about nothing but process. We debate the merits of XP, Scrum (ala .org or alliance), kanban, SAFe, and DAD. We debate the value of specific practices. Now and then, you'll even hear someone proclaim, "If you are not doing [insert random practice], then you are not agile."

I find it ironic that so many who claim to be agile are so inflexible in their views.

Let's talk about people more than process. Let's focus on individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and responding to change. Let's figure out how to best achieve these things in our own unique environments. Let's follow the same kind of thinking that lead to these practices so many now hold rigidly to as agile.

The world has changed. The tools have changed. The dynamics have changed. There is more to learn.


  1. I totally agree. From a quality perspective I find it frustrating that when I want to talk about agile testing, the ONLY topic I can engage people on is the tools. What? The tools are useless with no strategy in place. I can hardly stand one more overview on BDD, TDD, or which flavor of validation tools is better. There is no better. This is only what works in practice for a team. The best tools are the tools that your team will use to do work that makes the customer/client/stakeholder happy.

    I say this and the only question asked when hiring testers is still "Do you use (my flavor of automation tool)?" I talk to other testers and out of 8 interviews, ONE question about testing was asked. Why even pretend to be interested in quality if this is where we are? How about I just make a pie chart and stop testing. The worst part? The fact that no one is even ashamed to act this way, nor do they see it as a problem. I feel like the moment I educate one person on this topic, the next 500 step up to ask the same tooling question.

    Then I realize what it is. Everyone who wanted to be agile already is. The only agile work left is crap work. It's the enterprise customers and laggards who are just NOW doing it because they can't hold out any longer and still get new hires. The question to ask yourself is, do I want to work with these people? If there is any hope for them, how can we find it? IS there a viable path to something better that fits, even if it isn't my idea of what Agile is?

    Maybe any iterative improvement is better than none. Calling it agile is odd. I kind of prefer it when people call it something else that has less baggage. A new word would be nice. But Agile is what sells the books. I guess. For now. ;)

  2. But I think we talk about nothing but process because people do whatever they want to do and then say they are Agile. What should be the response be when someone who really gets Agile observes a person claiming to be Agile who is unaware of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto? We talk about what being Agile looks like. What does a person who is really doing Agile do differently from another person who is not Agile but claims to be? That is what we are searching for, and we keep coming back to process. Without the context which makes Agile work, its just a free for all and anyone can do anything and say they are Agile and they are right as long as no one else tries to show them why the activities they are doing are not Agile (i.e. process).