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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

There Is No Single Flavor of Agile

Agile is such a capacious term. Under the flag of agile we do different things. Scrum is agile. And XP is agile. Scrum-in-the-name-only is also agile. We go with no plan whatsoever and that’s so damn agile is agile too.

Yes, you say the first two are true agile and others are fakes just tainting The Holy Agile Name. That reminds me… wasn’t it exactly the same with waterfall and others bad, bad techniques? Wasn’t they tainted by poor implementations which got everything wrong so we had to come with new better methods? Well, just a food for thought.

Coming back to agile. With all these good and bad implementations I can safely say that there’s no single flavor of agile. There never was. I believe it was never intended to be the only one. I recently read notes on the writing of the agile manifesto by Alistair Cockburn and one thing stuck with me:

I came in through the doorway marked “Efficiency” not the doorway marked “Change” – because my background was in fixed-price fixed-scope projects. (…) Other people came to agile through the doorway marked “Change”, and that’s fine for them.

So although agile gets billed most of time through Kent Beck’s “Embrace Change” moniker, I’m not happy encouraging people to just change stuff all the time – it’s more efficient to think for a while and try to make good decisions early – the world will supply enough change requests without us adding to the list by not thinking.

Different experiences, different projects, different backgrounds. Different accents when talking about the Manifesto. I can’t say I haven’t expected that at all but still. There was never one universal interpretation of agile principles yet we see every now and then people selling the only right and proper method of being agile. How come?

On a side note: I wrote this piece a few days ago. In the meantime The Big Ugly Change came and kicked my ass big time. “The world will supply enough change requests.” Couldn’t agree more these days.

in: project management

3 comments… add one

  • Laurent September 2, 2009, 1:03 pm

    When I was at the university, I took a course in software project management.

    The professor started it by saying "We'll begin with how it was in the 60s, than move on progressively until today, with everything agile, and finish with what will probably come after agile. This way, you'll understand why the decisions were made. You'll also see that a lot of supposedly new ideas are not new at all, they are just renamed."

    He wanted us to understand what the peoples that developed the different methodologies were trying to solve.

    He wanted us to understand the purpose and history of every method, so we could think about them ourself, and decide what's good and bad from every of them, and build from that.

    That was one of the best course I ever had.

  • Pawel Brodzinski September 3, 2009, 12:14 am

    The funny thing I went through similar training but not on the university but during my professional career. As I was changing projects to completely different ones I just had to understand why this method works and that doesn't which brought me to go through a similar course.

    Unfortunately on my university software project management course was one of the worst ones.

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