An Agile Perspective on Things

Photo from London Times (based on article by Lori Borgman, Indianapolis Star)

The term “Agile” gets beat up a lot these days by people who have come to realize that it is really just a subset of a much larger framework called “Common Sense,” and that’s fine; Agile can take it. Even some of the things I have pushed  Agile to be used for would suggest that I don’t care for it much anymore.  That is not the case.  I have tremendous respect for the idea of Agile because one simple fact: simplicity. What I love about it is that it is indeed common sense, and that all of the thought and research and experience that went into developing and growing the framework over decades, work really well together.  It’s a balanced set of ideas that guides teams to deliver value. Anytime someone comes along and tries to shoe-horn something into Agile that doesn’t fit the overall balance, it eventually gets rejected.  (Looking at you ABOK).  Conversely, anytime someone builds off of the Agile values and principles or focuses on one part more than another, it doesn’t reduce the value of Agile. It’s just building on common sense. It doesn’t make one better than the other. Scrum, probably the most widely used Agile methodology is also a bit too prescriptive for some people.  Kanban, for example does away with artificial timeboxes, but it requires a great deal more discipline because of that. DevOps builds off of Agile and puts, quite rightly, a great deal of focus on not just the coordination between Development and Operations but actually treating them as a single unit focused on actually delivering working software. One thing does not have to be torn down for another to exist.

Agile, as I look at it, is a living and growing thing, but it has boundaries and a balance that has to be maintained. I like to think that some of the non-software work I have been doing with it lately in office build-outs would be like pushing an athlete to try new physical activity.  I don’t want to force it to injury, but I do want to see what it can do.  Maybe like asking a baseball player to skip the gym and go dig out a stump.  There are very few similarities at first glance, but shoveling and using chains and levers and fulcrums develops incredible hand strength; lifting with one’s legs and climbing in and out of the trench build leg and back strength; it probably goes without saying what swinging a pick-ax will do for a baseball player. As a coach, I learn a little bit more about my player–his strengths, his weaknesses. We both learn that some of the baseball player’s prowess translates pretty well to certain aspects of stumping.

In the end, the player is probably better off and will likely have a more powerful swing. Hopefully there was a sense of accomplishment. The coach got a stump dug out. Everybody wins.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that with Agile–just like in your own life–try new things; push new boundaries; use common sense–all of it.

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