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* * *    AGILE IS NOT THE PROBLEM    * * *

For more than a decade, we have heard about “Agile failures”. Sentences such as “Agile is broken,” “Agile sucks,” “Agile is dead,” or “Agile does not work here!” became common at conferences and industry gatherings.

By talking with people who were involved in those failed initiatives –whether they are still there or have left– we can realize the type of story that quickly emerges.

Most of those cases go as follow:

  • The organization starts by setting Agile as the goal –“Agile sounds cool, everyone is talking about it, we want to become Agile in X months or years”.
  • The management team want to follow a recipe, so an “Agile process” is chosen –Scrum is the most common, although larger organizations usually choose an “scaled” framework.
  • Consultants are brought in, internal roles reorganized, and framework-based training takes place.
  • Conversations start focusing on roles, ceremonies and artifacts mentioned in the Scrum Guide –or the “scaled” process.
  • The organization buys tools to track tasks, manage the process and communicate better –so additional training on the new tools takes place.
  • After a few months, people look confused; complaints arise more often and heavy tensions are evident.

Seasoned Agile coaches, highly-skilled Agile practitioners and even proponents of the Agile Manifesto, have repeated over and over again, that Agile is not a step-by-step guide nor a methodology or an out-of-the-box, chart-based process.

Agile is a set of principles, values and practices founded on proven management concepts, psychological frames and team-work theories.

Cooks rely on recipes; car mechanics rely on step-by-step guides; manufacturing relies on processes. However, organizations that produce creative work rely on people.

Each individual is an independent entity; as a whole, individuals make a company a living system. As living entities, each company is radically different from any other one.

If it is true that processes can be replicated, practices can be copied and equipment can be counterfeited, people cannot.

People behaviors are unique. People responses are inimitable. People habits are singular. The dynamic blend of all of them is what we call culture.

The Agile movement started as a way to collect some principles and values that worked, over and over again, across successful software development projects.

Although it has been growing since its inception and quickly extrapolated out of software-based initiatives, the principles and values remained valid and highly effective.

In an unfiltered-content world (the Internet) –plenty of false advertising and alternative facts and immerse in a completely lack of accountability– there is room for deceptive statements and misleading interpretations. However, common sense and experience can show the right path to follow –one which does not relate to big, fixed charts, descriptive guides or the result of two-day fancy training.

In order to take fully advantage of the benefits that Agile brings to the world, it is necessary to understand deeply and master three sets of elements:

  • The foundation of the Agile principles, the reasons behind the Agile values, and the available Agile practices –technical and not technical.
  • The dynamic of specific teams, the culture of the organization, and the state of the industry.
  • The way change realizes in living entities.

Without that understanding, we will continue hearing stories about failure, complains about confusion and re-work, and tales about the second, third or fourth Agile transformation (attempt) inside the same organization.

To help you avoid becoming the subject of one more of those stories, complaints and tales is the ultimate purpose of agile-thoughts.

Ricardo Abella

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