Agile or Agility? A Matter of Perspective

I’ve recently encountered an extraordinary and provoking talk with the title: Agile is dead. Surprisingly, the speaker is Dave Thomas, who was one of the creators of the manifesto for agile development. So, what happened since the publishing of the Manifesto? Why did he flip his mind?

Spoiler alert: in this post, I’m sharing my thoughts about Dave’s talk. If you want to listen to this interesting talk then click here, I don’t want to spoil your pleasure, although I must warn you that some parts of the talk are a bit tedious (especially the adjective vs. noun part).

The concepts behind Agile development process

Dave claims the whole agile process is an ongoing iterative one, which is based on four fundamental steps:

  1. Identify: check your state and find out where you are.
  2. Try: take a small step towards your goal.
  3. Adjust: refine or change your understanding based on what you’ve learned.
  4. Repeat: go back to step no. 1.

Dave is an enthusiastic advocate of this agile process, but he claims that along the way these principles were forgotten and drifted into a set of constitutional guidelines, which are far from the original concept that was described in the manifesto.

An agile method is about a try-fail-learn ongoing process that should fit your unique project and needs. Every project is special due to its technology, challenges, problems, customers, stakeholders, staff and the environment. Meaning, finding the exact same project somewhere else is impossible.

Therefore, based on Dave’s lecture, no one can teach you how to implement agile. Only you can infer what are the adequate moves and actions for your project.

The essence

Implementing an agile process shouldn’t be based on strict rules or guidelines, it is an evolving learning process. Getting feedback, refining and repeating are the keys for a successful improving process. That’s the reason, in my view, that retrospective meetings are crucial in implementing Scrum. If you’re adjusting Scrum methodology, do not overlook the importance of this meeting since it is the key factor that will impact a change.

Personally, I think Dave’s statements about agile coaches and trainers are too aggressive. Based on my experience, these experts bring value and improve processes. Having an external professional view can benefit and lead for improvements faster, whereas relying on internal insights may take longer.

Dave’s statement is radical since he wanted to shake beliefs and make you re-assess your methods for implementing the concepts of agility. My two cents are that whatever methodology you use, it must be adapted to your project’s context and not the opposite. When you already have the values, you need to use them to create practices.

Whether you agree with his statements or not, it does stimulate you to think, and that’s the whole purpose. Never stop thinking and checking your processes. That leads to agility.

Agile is not what you do, Agility is how you do it.

Online resources

A link to Dave’s talk:

A link to Dave’s blog post with the same declaration:

Agile is Dead (Long Live Agility)Thirteen years ago, I was among seventeen middle-aged white guys who gathered at Snowbird, Utah. We were there because…pragdave.me

To Recap

Dave provokes our thinking about implementing agility by returning to the basics. It made me contemplating about the development process in my team.

How about you? You’re welcome to share thoughts.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it.

— Lior

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