Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Agile by any other name might just be Salvageable

I agree totally with Brad Murphy's fear of the coronation of Agile as "mainstream" by industry analysts and CIO magazine.   I've been working primarily as a consultant over the past decade or so and have been to a lot of organizations.  Sadly, all too often, "Agile" is rolled out as though it were a software package (just like SOA and now Cloud Computing).  They then declare themselves iterative and agile because they've instituted a couple of practices that are associated with "agile" (usually, things like continuous integration and refactoring and far less often things like test driven development and pair programming).

Sometimes an organization actually really does try and do emergent design and truly iterative development but again, far too often, where they've gone this extra mile, they've declared the results a failure and stepped back from the ledge.  Of course, it fails usually because senior management does not also commit to these things and enforce their practices across all the stakeholders involved.  It was always, "Well, QA will still test things at the end."  Or, "we'll still run the project the way we have."  Or, "We'll still do up-front requirements gathering." Or, "production operations folks will still only accept the complete and 'final' version of the software." And almost always, "We already have a deadline and the features committed for that date."  This last is rarely flexible, even when in almost every case, things are delivered late and without all the features anyway.  Still, can't let senior management in on the fact that they've got their heads firmly buried in the sand.

Not all organizations are like this of course.  And not all parts of even large organizations have fallen in this regard.  But a lot have.  And claiming agile is now truly mainstream is simply validating an organization's false understanding of what agile principles truly are.

Perhaps, like SOA, we simply need now to find another name for Agile in order to save it from itself.

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