March 13, 2014

Should the word Agile be banned?

Recently I had friend ask for my thoughts on this blog post by Dave Thomas. Here was my response:

I spent last 10 years in the “Agile” space, starting with XP and Scrum as a full-stack developer, eventually becoming an ScrumMaster and then Agile coach – incorporating many other Agile practices and processes as well as Lean methods into by bags of “better software development” tricks. I worked as a consultant for most of that time at more than 14 companies and organizations – large, small and in between. I understand and agree with the spirit of the article and many of the authors observations. Like most things that humans formalize and then seek profit from, lots of bullshit and snake oil gets added into the mix. Profit tends to corrupt a weak character. As far as the authors proposed “solution” of retiring the word “Agile” – I don’t give it traction (though my English teachers would agree with him on the grammar issue). What I mean by that – changing the name will never change the core issue in this space, which as I see it is getting people to make cultural shifts is how they work and collaborate. People are truly creatures of habit and getting them to changes habits is no small feat. This is because changing habits is really about changing a persons beliefs. One of my jobs as an Agile coach as been about changing folks understanding of what all these various “Agile” terms mean. I have had to redefine, TDD, Pair programming, user stories, etc. You name it and I have worked with a group that did not understand they simple terms they were using. I even had one group thing that Scrum was another work the RallyDev. Good salesman at Rally! For me, words to matter. Etymology matters. All to often we use words we don’t really understand the meaning or history of. For example: AGILE, ORIGIN late Middle English: via French from Latin agilis, from agere ‘do.’ Think about that, all agile ever really meant was “Do” and the guys that created the Agile Manifest simply and passionately wanted to DO software development and do it well.