Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Occupy Agile

I understand that the "Occupy" meme and movement is "so 2011", but after some conversations with friends over the past few days I've begun to realize that I'm not the only person who thinks that the Agile world has been moving further and further away from its origins in the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.

I've had multiple people now say that they were beginning to feel that they no longer want to be associated with the term Agile - they feel ashamed by the behaviour they see in others in the Agile world.  They feel that there were far too many people who were in it just for a buck and really had little or no qualification to be training or coaching teams, and indeed were doing as much or more harm than good.

While I know many very good people in this part of the software industry, I had to agree with my friends.

Back in 2008, I wrote in a post called Disillusionment about another dinner conversation with Scott Ambler in which we commiserated about the state of the Agile world at that time.  I concluded with the suggestion that, as it was currently progressing, Agile was "in danger of becoming the next RUP... or RAD... or (insert favourite acronym here), doomed to relegation to the scrap heap of software processes".  Unfortunately, I can't say that what I see now is any better than in early 2008.  I'd actually say that it's worse.

Where I feel we've been led astray is in the pursuit of money over the delivery of value.  Let's face it - the fact that the CSM program from the Scrum Alliance helped bring Agile to prominence was a side-effect of a scheme to make money.  The jury is out on whether ICAgile is just another group to peddle certifications, and the PMI now has the PMI-ACP program offering certifications in Agile Project Management.  I'm undecided about Lean Kanban University, but you can be sure that there's a business plan behind it.

I'm not at all averse to people making money - I'm as much of a capitalist as anyone else.  The key difference is that I believe that if you deliver value to customers, the money will follow.  If you simply chase money, you lose sight of the value you're trying to deliver because you have to compromise your own values and principles in order to "make the sale".

I don't want to do that anymore, and I'm encouraged that others feel that way.  I'd like to find out how many people feel the same, and perhaps we can Occupy Agile - bring it back to focusing on values and principles and in doing so delivering value.

If you haven't already seen the little poster I created on Twitter and Facebook, here it is:


If you weren't a fan of the X-Files back in the 90's, I apologize for the obscure reference.

6 comments:

James O'Sullivan said...

I feel like we've come a long way in the last decade, but I feel that the Agile manifesto has outlived it's usefulness. I think we've won a lot of battles and people now understand the problems with big upfront design, long feedback cycles, lack of customer engagement, production of buggy software, but the battles we're fighting today aren't necessarily the original problems we were trying to solve. If you're looking for people who are interested in creating effective software teams that produce a quality product, count me in.

George Dinwiddie said...

I still use the Agile Manifesto as an aid to my daily work. People who think it's outlived its usefulness can just stop talking about it. It's still useful to me, and I'm tired of hearing people hang on to its coattails while saying it's obsolete or wrong or should be updated.

Dave, for those of us who didn't watch X-Files, can you explain the poster?

James O'Sullivan said...

George,
I feel like I've offended you with my comment. I'm glad that you still find the agile manifesto useful. I'm not trying to bash the manifesto, it's a great starting point for teams that are in chaos or are coming from a waterfall type environment. Perhaps my comment that it's outlived it's usefulness is a bit strong and I don't believe it needs updating. I think I've just become a little disillusioned due to the infighting within the community as to which framework is best.

Dave Rooney said...

George,

The basic info about The X-File is in the Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_X-Files . In the 'Legacy' section, you'll notice a photo of Mulder's office. The post on his wall with the UFO and caption "I want to believe" was the basis for my picture. :)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/ff/Mulder%C2%B4s_office.jpg

AlanD said...

"if you deliver value to customers, the money will follow. If you simply chase money, you lose sight of the value you're trying to deliver"

Those two excerpted sentence are the core of this blog post and refect my views exactly. Although I work in an Agile/Scrum environment, I am not part of the Agile industry per se (i.e. consulting, coaching etc). But those who are in that line of work are worth every penny of the service fee if they bring real value. And many do. And for those people who do bring this value, I would guess in most cases they view it as a calling, rather than a job, and bring real passion to the game.

Nancy Van Schooenderwoert said...

Hi Dave,
Nice post. I've also had many of the same kind of conversation you describe. I too keyed in on the statement

"if you deliver value to customers, the money will follow. If you simply chase money, you lose sight of the value you're trying to deliver"

There is a corollary to it:

The central paradox of Agile is speed THRU quality - if you aim for extraordinary quality speed will be a side effect; if you aim first for speed, quality will not automatically follow.

American management culture is a fad culture seeking magic solutions. There is little interest in doing the homework to ask why something works, or to build the necessary foundations so that statistics about our work can be understood and thought about. So we are cut off from what fuels other sciences.

When we sell Agile as a fast way to get work done we feed those trolls. The "short-term profits" trolls.

There is a belief in "sheep dip" training - send your team off to a certification course and poof! They're Agile. The certification trend feeds the "credentials are everything" trolls and strengthens them - undermining the original spirit of what we set out to build.

An interesting thing about every genuine "live" movement is that there is to some extent confusion about what completely defines it, who speaks for it, who can bargain on its behalf.

That was true for the civil rights movement, anti-war movement, Agile, and even more so for Occupy. But it does not invalidate them.

Eventually Agile is as Agile does. After some years we won't be able to say anymore that this or that implementation of Agile is not the real thing. When 90% of so-called Agile efforts are tick-box, go-thru-the-motions crap then people will say that is what Agile is and it's time for something new. And they'll be right. That is how a fad culture works - it never faces up to the real issues. Just runs away to a new fad.

- Nancy Van Schooenderwoert, @vanschoo