Much like Thai street food, most people have tried Agile and formed an opinion of it. And also, as with Thai food, Agile has been co-opted and messed around with, sometimes with good intentions, and sometimes not.
Sadly, wherever there is a great, simple, elegant idea, there is money to be made, and Agile is no different. Much like you can spend a fortune eating an approximation of Thai food, you can spend fortunes learning the secret ways of Agile.
Experts, coaches, consultants, trainers & speakers have created ceremonies, then certifications, books and courses.
Next, conferences, frameworks, Institutes and Alliances were constructed around this magic word. "Agile" is an industry now, and so the meaning was lost, forgotten by the very people it was going to save - software developers, and their users.
But there is meaning. Some people intentionally got together and came up with it, way back in 2001. It's called the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. I'm going to repeat it here, because it is short:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Responding to change over following a plan.
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
© 2001, the manifesto authors 1 this declaration may be freely copied in any form, but only in its entirety through this notice.
That's it. That is the beautiful, simple meaning of Agile 2.
So. Agile with an A does have meaning, and it's at that website.
Now. You people in the corner of the office standing up awkwardly for 15 minutes every morning to "talk". Go and sit down and just try talking to each other normally, whenever you need to.
You other team, see if you can do without sending every new starter on a £1000 per day "Scaled Agile Scrum Alliance Institute of Mastery" course. See if you need sprints or a kanban board. Burn your burn down chart.
Start with the manifesto and go from there. Adapt it, through experimentation, iteration and regular introspection. Read up on some of the practices, and adapt the ones that sound useful, to work for you.
One more thing. Every time someone talks about "Agile" with pomp and ceremony, gently remind of those beautiful and simple four lines of common sense.
Also you just have to go to Thailand and eat the food.
- To meet the Manifesto copyright obligations I need to say that although my mum is the creator of the best Thai food, she did not write the Manifesto. It was these people: Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, Alistair Cockburn, Ward Cunningham, Martin Fowler, James Grenning, Jim Highsmith, Andrew Hunt, Ron Jeffries, Jon Kern, Brian Marick, Robert C. Martin, Steve Mellor, Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and Dave Thomas↩
- OK, there are also 12 principles, which take minutes to read, but are really useful.↩