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Blog Response,Values

March 19, 2014

Agile: there is still Value in the Word

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There is an interesting debate taking place at the moment on the interweb regarding the use of the word Agile.

Dave Thomas blogged Agile Is Dead (Long Leave Agility) about the fact that the word’s meaning power and relevance has been undermined by years of people using it inappropriately to describe things that are not always in accordance with the initial Agile Manifesto. It is clear to me that he is not attacking the potential agile qualities and attributes a team or organisation could reach, but his chosen title certainly gets people juices flowing.

Among the many responses to the above mentioned blog entry, I enjoyed J.B. Rainsberger’s Reports of Agile’s Death, yadda yadda.… The argument is well presented and the content resonates with me much more than Dave’s initial blog.

I invite everyone to read both entries, Dave’s point are interesting and I share is goals of reaching agile behaviours, but I also feel the word Agile still has value.

In addition to what J.B. Rainsberger pointed out, I personally use the word in two ways:

  • when I hear / read it: this is a signal for me to form a set of hypotheses regarding the emitter of the signal. This is useful because the validation observations / experiments are clear to me and can usually be setup and run quickly. Most of these experiments are essentially the observation of agile attributes being there in a team/organisation or not, which is a mixture of them doing “stuff” and getting the expected result from it.
  • when I say / write it: this is me doing the opposite as a way to establish a human transaction context, comprising of a glossary and the underlying idea of Humanity and Trust. People’s reaction to it can be very informative, and allow me to adapt to absence of knowledge and friend or foe during our exchange : )

Finally, I have used the word and keep using it, as well as other new ones that I have added to my vocabulary – all for the same purpose and effects – such as lean, Kanban, lean startup… There is no problem with words in general and none with this one in particular; and there is no problem with other people to hold a bad definition of the word: this is in fact a token for a conversation!

Agile is not dead, some instances still mean great and humane progress, exchange and continuous experimentation and improvements: so how about we keep this in mind and celebrate instead…

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  1. How can agile be dead if agile is neither a noun nor a person, but an adjective?

    Secondly – while we are tearing things apart – the frustration is understandable, and I can see evidence what Dave mentions is partially true, that some consultants live rather on the right than on the left.

    I just coached a company which wants to start carrying projects out agile and the people starting that initiative do not have a clue what to look out for. If the agile manifesto was aimed at developers only, than only a fraction of developers will benefit from it, as most of the developers are embedded into a company which is not agile, never read the agile manifesto nor does it understand its values or will it adjust its processes surrounding that team of developers.

    So in the end, while trying to be more agile the developers will fail. If that company gets a coach in who prepares the values to be digestable by a non technical person, who initiates through continues training, coaching and guidance for developers and their environment change in that organisation it might eventually work for the developers to be/work more agile and even more so, other parts of the organisation as well.

    I sometimes write similar blogposts or comments like Dave. It’s usually when I see how poorly organisations and people adopt agile behaviour. But then I remember that it’s a long journey and it just started.

    Comment by Dennis — March 23, 2014 @ 10:38 am
  2. I agree that some people / managers / companies sometime (often!) use the word to fulfill different goals than the ones stated initially, but that doesn’t mean the word in itself cannot be useful or even that it has become evil. As coaches, we are responsible for saying what we see, and for making sure people understand what it is we saw and why it is not in line with certain words.

    I used to be really upset when I started a gig that didn’t have all the ticks in the box, now I just accept it as a fact of life and do my best to make people’s life better, in a “more fulfilling” kinda way…

    Again, who cares about the word in this context, knowing that the context itself changes all the time : )

    Comment by Oli — March 25, 2014 @ 10:05 am

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