Making Agile a Reality

Recently I started seeing information on the Agile2009 conference.  Imagine my surprise when they picked the tagline “Making Agile a Reality!”  That’s been the tagline of Agile For All since its inception in April 2008.  I wonder whether I’ll get a free entry or a speaking slot out of this 🙂

Actually, I’m not really too concerned with all of that.  I’m just happy that the agile community in general has recognized that it is time to shift from evangelism to actually making agile be a reality for people.  I was starting to grow tired of people saying how great agile is, and then not delivering on the promise.  I really hope this conference creates a seismic shift in priorities for the agile community.  The agile community needs to do several things in order to be more successful (as usual, this is my personal opinion, not necessarily shared by others!):

  1. Start by teaching the principles that drive agile success, rather than the practices that embody the principles.  I say it nearly every time I speak to a group of people “When people know WHY they are doing something, they will do it BETTER!”
  2. Stop assuming the model of using a single agile evangelist to transform a company will work.  While I think the Scrum Alliance is an amazing organization (I am a Certified Scrum Practitioner), I am also concerned that the Certified Scrum Master model has been an agile limitation.  Too often a CSM course is held up as the only thing available to learn Scrum effectively, so a person will go and then try to transform their organization.  This rarely succeeds.
  3. Stop assuming the CSM course is applicable for everyone.  This is the opposite of number 2 above.  In this scenario an entire team will get CSM training and then try to do agile together.  Alan Shalloway, has said, and I agree, does it make sense to send an entire football team to coach school, or would you send the team to football school, and the coach to coaches school?  Sending everyone to CSM class does little to help them work together in the ways required in Scrum or any other agile methodology.
  4. Re-write the agile manifesto or at least stop using it to make arguments about how good agile is.  In my opinion, based on my personal experience of being a VP of Engineering for 10+ years, the agile manifesto does a disservice to the agile community.  When read by an executive or upper level manager it sounds as if it was written by a whiny software engineer.  This was great when agile was growing through a grassroots movement from the software developers up, but that is no longer the case and trying to drive agile adoption from the top down just isn’t being helped by the agile manifesto as it was originally written.
  5. Eat the agile dog food.  Don’t stop getting better.  Learn from others.  Continuously improve.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  When I teach courses or give seminars I read every single evaluation people turn in.  I love to read them.  They make me better.  They challenge my beliefs.  They challenge my thinking.  I don’t just look at the scores like some others do, I read every single comment.  To me that is important.  I believe this type of thing is important for the agile community in general.  As a community we are not perfect.  We don’t even agree on a lot of things (I’m sure my number 4 above is one thing we don’t agree on!), but we have to continue to improve.  Continue to spread good ideas.  We simply cannot afford to try to keep increasing the market share of our consulting businesses, we have to concentrate on making the entire pie a LOT larger, and to do that requires us to work together effectively.  That is why you’ll be seeing a lot more collaboration between Agile For All and other entities in 2009.

I really hope that some or all of these things come true during 2009.  For those of you that are going through, or have been through agile transitions, what do you think?  Feel free to post a comment or email me.  I’d love to discuss it.

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