The Principles of Agile

Why the Agile Manifesto by itself is not enough

Yesterday I attended the UX Camp London (great day, I’ll write a post about it when the slides of the talks will be published).

Anyway, one of the talks was entitled “Four things about Agile”. It was a good speech after all, about why adopting an agile process is better, why it is important to adapt, why information is not knowledge, and why silos are for farmers, not for projects. In short, the same talk we have heard and listened so many times, in the last years. Good, repetita iuvant (repeating does good).

The interesting part of the talk was the discussion that followed. I have to admit it, is now crystal clear to me, and to other participants too, that the main problem the Agile movement have to face now is the blind adoption of the so called Agile methodologies, without  the comprehension of the principles behind them.

“We are Agile”, “we do Scrum”, “we have a Kanban”, “we follow a Lean process”: my impression is that – too often – teams and people start “doing agile” just because everybody does it, today. They just follow the rules, the recipes, the rites of the chosen flavour of Agile methodology. Probably they are very disciplinate and with the best intentions. Good, no harm, right? Well, actually not.

The problem I see is that if you adopt one methodology – one tool, at the end of the day – without understanding the problem that the tool intends to solve (or prevent), you can find up that the tool is not working as expected (try to hammer a nail with a wrench), as advertised, or even worse you are doing the same errors as before, working exactly with the same mind as before, only with a new label: you will end up doing iterations which are never iterations, stand-ups which are simple litanies, sprint reviews at the end of which nothing and nobody changes.

For me it’s like taking a medicine without knowing if you have a disease. Or even worse, why you have a disease, where, and what you can do to prevent it. But like for the active ingredients of a medicine, is not that one size fits all. It could be that you’re taking antibiotics, when one aspirin would be fine. Or that you’re taking an aspirin, when in reality you’d need antibiotics.

And the active ingredients of the Agile Manifesto are the Principles. So please, take five minutes of your time, and have a read to them: you’ll do a favour to you and to the entire Agile community. And every now and then, get back to the page, read it and choose one of them, and repeat it in your mind three or four times. My favourite for example is this one:

Continuous attention to technical excellence 
and good design enhances agility.

Update: apparently I’m not the only one to think that an “iteration” should be done more than once:

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