There was said a lot in the old rusty discussion on being agile versus doing agile, The Only Right Mindset, etc. Same with lean but on a smaller scale I guess. In all these discussions I always try to be on common sense side.
I mean I somehow missed the moment when agile became a major religion and lean a minor one (for the time being), but evidently it must have happened as I see lots of worshippers around. People who know the one and the only way of doing things. People who believe in this or that method. Me? I don’t buy it.
I will support most agile and lean initiatives I see out there, but it is not because they suit to my perfect picture of the world. It is so because applying Scrum or Kanban, even by the book, is still an improvement for majority of teams. By the way, pardon my “Kanban by the book” as there is no such thing, but definitely there already are beaten paths leading to Kanban adoption so it wasn’t vast oversimplification.
Anyway, whenever I’m talking with a team about methods I don’t object adopting old-school formal waterfall-like approaches, pardon my French. On occasions I may even advise sticking to them.
And if you ask me, this is exactly being agile.
It’s easy to criticize a team which is following a heavy process. The Manifesto says “people over process,” so you’re doing it wrong! But wait, aren’t that people who enforced (or asked for) this process? Are we really that fixed if we can consume changing requirements and still deliver, despite our heavy process? And most of all, isn’t Scrum (to take the example from the top of my head) a pretty formal process as well?
We are far beyond the point where you could get away with simple labels like “Scrum means agile.” We know more, we understand more and most of all we have hell lot of examples of good, bad and ugly things done under the agile banner.
If I see a team that has a very formal process enforced by their client and they are doing very well, yet they still look for occasions to reduce the burden of formalities while sustaining the quality I see agile. I see it even if the only practice from Scrum handbook they follow is daily standup. I see agile even if, at the first look, most of people would rate them “hard-core waterfall.”
On the other hand, when I see a team applying Scrum, Kanban or whatever they believe is the next big thing, and they are doing it blindly, without understanding how the damn thing works, why it works and how it even applies to team’s specific situation I don’t see even a bit of the message which started it all.
You can say that I oversimplify things. Maybe I do. Yet this approach works for me. This is a lesson I got from jumping on Kanban bandwagon. Kanban is vague enough that the simple message that a team is using the method tells you almost nothing. At the same these few simple rules, which come in variety of flavors, usually bring pretty good results. If you understand what you’re doing, that is.
You don’t need strict and specific rules to make it work. You just need understanding of the tool you use.
This is pretty interesting observation as I happen to be part of program board on different agile/lean events and I still see many proposals trying to go through with the message about the ultimate way of doing things. Wake up! We’re past this point for some time already. We don’t need oracles. We need practitioners sharing their ups and downs, successes and failures, and most importantly deep understanding what they are doing, why, and how comes that it happens to work.
And by the way if you happen to suit this picture somehow I encourage you to submit your proposal to the ACE Conference – the event I can honestly recommend. We still look for a handful of speakers to share their knowledge and experience. Besides, Krakow in late spring/early summer is a really nice place to visit.