Bang bang bang kerching and take your money

Agility was never supposed to come with a price tag

Lucy Carey
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Co-writer of Manifesto for Agile Software Development argues “Agile” has been stripped of any of its original meaning.

Agile, at its core, was devised as an intuitively
simple approach to software development, predicated on a short list
of basic values. Then the marketing and sales people stuck their
heads in and, wouldn’t you know it, all that common sense was
quickly sandwiched together with a lot of nonsense from people
looking to capitalise on the new approach.  

Just to refresh you, here are those original values
from the  Manifesto for Agile Software
Development
:

Individuals and
Interactions
 over Processes and Tools

Working Software over
Comprehensive Documentation

Customer Collaboration over
Contract Negotiation, and

Responding to Change over
Following a Plan

 

What we have today around “Agile” is conferences,
consultants, groups, and big money sales off the back of the
methodology. Things that are, according to Manifesto co-writer
Dave
Thomas
, “not too far removed from having conferences about
ballet dancing.”  As for those groups, he says that, “forming
an industry group around the four values always struck me as
creating a trade union for people who breathe.”

Thomas poured his irritation with the confused
ecosystem that has grown up around the practice in a blog post
titled ‘Agile Is Dead (Long Live Agility).’ He declares: The word
“agile” has been subverted to the point where it is effectively
meaningless, and what passes for an agile community seems to be
largely an arena for consultants and vendors to hawk services and
products.

So I think it is time to retire the word “Agile.”

But he’s not saying we retire the concept – nobody
wants a return to the eighties or nineties development hell – just
the deceptive branding around it.

If you look at those values at the top of the page,
the ones on the left are those that will help developers who favour
the agile approach.

The “consultants and vendors who say they’ll get you
started with [Agile]” on the other hand, are more likely to proffer
 “process and tool heavy” approaches, “with many suggested
work products (consultant-speak for documents to keep managers
happy).”

An adjustment is in order, Thomas argues. If you want
to get back to basics he writes, you can think of “Agile” thought
as thus:

What to do:

 -  Find out where you are

  -  Take a small
step towards your goal 

  -  Adjust your
understanding based on what you learned

 -  Repeat

How to do it:

When faced with two of more alternatives that deliver
roughly the same value, take the path that makes future change
easier.

 

And, if someone “comes up with something bigger or
more complex,” back away, do not let them pass go, and certainly
don’t part with $200.

Ultimately Thomas writes, “We’ve lost the word agile.
Let’s try to hang on to agility. Let’s keep it meaningful, and
let’s protect it from those who would take the soul of our ideas in
order to sell it back to us.”

Of course, it’s a little unfair to say that every
“Agile Consultant” out there is a half-baked bandwagon rider. Nor
are all training courses and meetups lacking in value for companies
looking to adopt agile practices. Sometimes, labels are just
helpful – people like having terms to pivot their plans around. The
important part is remaining mindful that you’re actually engaging
with the ideas behind them, rather than leaning on empty
buzzwords.

Regardless of your opinion on Thomas’ critique,
 it’s definitely worth bearing his words in mind when you’re
perusing what’s being sold to you. Are you getting value, or are
you being told something antithetical to the fundamentals of the
methodology? If it’s the latter, we suggest demonstrating your own
innate agility and running the hell away in the opposite
direction.

Image by Vijay Bandari

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