I’m so special, like a snowflake

I’m sure you’ve heard the word “agile” many times (if you didn’t, I’m not really sure what alien moon you’re coming from). I believe that I’ll not be far to guess that this word is starting to make you sick. Everyone is trying to convince you that they are Agile – hiring companies, tools manufacturers, consultants, etc… I believe that most of us have seen this word being gruesomely abused in many contexts and it now starts to bear some negative smell. People are becoming suspicious of it.

In many cases the suspicion is justified – I know that many of us has been burned by consultants selling agile process improvements where they badly mess up the existing properly operating processes. Many companies have been burned by teams claiming to be “agile” and failing to deliver on the promise. On the opposite hand we have a lot of companies claiming to be “agile” but failing to implement it properly and frustrating a lot of employees that eagerly waiting for the change to come and to materialize in some improvements.

So, bottom line, “agile” became a trend and a fashion in our industry. It’s becoming usual and mundane. We all know the saying: “if everyone is special, no one is”. And this fact makes me sad.

I’ve seen over and over that people are getting full buy-in only when they’ve seen real life proof, especially when they’ve seen proof that some methodology can work in their specific case. I hear many times over from the fellow industry peers that “methodology-technology-put-your-name-here sounds definitely great and I really admire it, but, in my-specific-case-slash-company-slash-team doesn’t really work because put-your-excuse-here“. Somehow these teams and companies are so special like the snowflakes.

It makes me sad that this methodology has proven itself over and over many times. For the moment there is not better alternative and, if not properly applied or coached, it brings a lot of failures. It requires a lot of intimate knowledge of different flavors of Agile (Lean, Kanban, Scrum, XP, AUP, ASD, Crystal, etc…) and the company culture and domain to properly choose the one that can fit the company, the team and the process. It requires to be properly nurtured within the company culture and to be custom-fitted to the teams involved. It requires proper handling.

So, enough with the ranting and let’s think about how we can change this current situation.

We can change opinion only through sharing information and use cases. We can share through speaking openly about it (check out DevOps Days) and about both successes and failures. Sharing information is  important and crucial for teaching and spreading the word.

The most important part of being “agile” we should convey to our fellow industry peers is that being “agile” is not about being cool or fast or better. It’s about having different type of philosophy about how the world behaves and how we can better be prepared to such behavior. It’s about how we can be properly positioned to react accordingly to the sudden changes of the reality and perception.

We can clearly see that when we’re admitting that the world is not predictable and uncertain and we’re starting to use this as the basis to our behaviors and assumption, a lot of different behaviors emerge. When a company (or a team) is optimized not to a state of stability, but fully embraces the instability and uncertainty, it can instantly react to the changes of the market and requirements. It can instantly proof or disproof certain assumptions and hypothesis. It can constantly experiment and find the best solution to the current situation and be ready to adjust if and when the conditions will be changed. This new philosophy requires a different view of the world and makes you embrace the real nature of the ever-changing world.

Newly emerged practices like Lean and DevOps are the next steps of “agile” evolution. I like to call them Agile++. They give people new tools for this new view of the world and they give  the industry the next stepping stone. They give you the way to stay sane in the insane circumstances and how to find stability in the instability that surrounds us.


Credit for cartoon: RoysTonCartoons