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Are we Agile yet?

What does Agile mean really?  There I’ve said it.

Around half the folks I know and respect are questioning this already.  A lot of folks are even distancing themselves from ‘being Agile’!

With the sudden boom in corporations deciding Agile is the next best thing,  there is a huge increase in demand for ‘Agile Coaches’ and ‘Agile Consultants’.  Where did all of these people come from? Why haven’t I heard of half of them? Why do they not apply the Agile Manifesto, instead coming armed with the ‘right way’ using Scrum or DSDM – when did we get so process driven?

Scrum I can personally live with.  It tends to lend itself well because it is so basic, however when the delivery team (I include developers here) do not achieve self-organisation it’s unlikely to succeed in it’s most basic form – usually ends up propped up by the organisation’s existing governance or standards or so forth.  Problems occur when Agile experts begin to invariably appear within a team – these are often Fake Scrum Masters, of course it distracts them from their task in hand, maybe even coding,  but it also causes problems when they become ‘gatekeepers of the Scrum process’.    I’d say take the basic thing, get it right in terms of producing great software and while you do this have regular retrospectives, fix what isn’t working, add what is truly needed (Scrum doesn’t give you all the answers!) – even if that means deviating from what you are doing now…regardless of what the book may say 🙂

DSDM Atern.  I’m yet to be convinced how this fits into the Agile Manifesto and Principles after reading the manual.  Even some XP practices like pairing – seems to me like process over people.   And worst offenders are the hybrids/fakes – these are where a company takes their existing methods and processes and rewangle them as Agile through the cunning use of some whiteboards, sticky notes and daily meetings – and nothing else!  (We just love making things with paper – we are the Blue Peter generation in the UK remember!)

Not to mention Lean, Kanban, ToC and so forth – I’ve even seen NLP sold under the Agile banner somewhere I’m sure.

If anyone asks me what being Agile truly is I would simply reply use the simplest way to get things right, by letting folks focus on what they do best“.

Thoughts?

Agile games – are they too much fun?

I’m here again, coaching – and trying my best to ensure I meet my commitment of making the transition ‘fun’.   I got to thinking about some of my fellow coaches and Agilist’s and the use of games-like events and realised that often the efforts in setting up and playing such games doesn’t result in any kind of value for the business.  (XP Game excluded of course- this is an essential for delivery teams)

Games are fun and may provide some feeling of Agility however I’m coming to the realisation that my preferred way to coach is by example in a delivery type situation.  I find (as do my clients) excessive games puerile and usually have identified more valuable work I could be doing for my clients where I can make some actual difference to their business vision.

In the past I’ve coached under the guise of Delivery Manager to Lead BA and found that setting examples, doing the job and growing the folks around you is more effective and cost efficient than having a coach sit around, giving advice, sometimes being ignored and in general not really contributing to the production of working software. Perhaps this is because clients often don’t know how to leverage coaching skills and experience, not setting the role or expectations properly within the organisation we are trying to coach?

Also standalone Agile coaching often detracts from delivery – we forget that coaching is not an end unto itself, indeed most clients these days simply want to ‘be Agile’ without fully understanding why, or indeed what it means in terms of commitment to change.

In the future I’m sticking with a real job title and getting rid of ‘Agile Coach’ which has become synonymous with ‘Cheerleader/trainer’ – Pigs Unite!