Happy ending 2013, fuck Agile and be Good

26 12 2013

Sorry Agile about the title. I can’t figure out another way to say it. Time to ditch the concept of Agile and talk about what matters. All we want to do is Good. In projects, organizations, development, business.

I was upset by everyone, and I mean everyone (at least in the IT domain), putting ”Agile” in front of every word related to their work, to make some sort of statement. ”We need to be more agile”, ”you have to make this team agile”, ”Our organization should be more agile”, ”In agile user experience we do this”, ”to have an agile release process you need to..”, ”our marketing department is agile”..  Seriously, what do you mean really?

A friend of mine, @froderik,  suggested we just replace ”agile” with ”good” and it will become more clear.

Try that.

The Agile manifesto did something awesome more than 10 years ago, putting into words something that needed to be put into words. To put attention to something that was not good in the IT business, and could become better.

Now, the Agile manifesto seems to has served it’s purpose and it’s not enough as a guide anymore.  For instance there’s nothing in the Manifesto that says we actually should deliver stuff (product and services). 🙂 You’ll see it if you read it as another friend @NiclasReimertz reminded me of.  It’s fine. It’s just time to take a breath and take the next step on the ladder.

Nowadays, the word Agile is  used in every situation to explain something bad, or good, or middle. It doesn’t mean anything any longer. How many times have you lately heard the word ”agile” used in any kind of setting?

The Agile communities did change my professional world. With the help of Agile people I learned new methods and structures to do better team leadership & development processes and somewhat better services and products.  For these communities, Agile is now more of a brand name. People know who they are by the name. No need to change. But in all other settings Agile is obsolete.

Now, to do seriously good services and products for my customers, there are so many things that need to be considered, known and explored. Business, people, process, user experience, quality, domain, context, learning. Knowledge from the history and science of communication, psychology, engineering, learning, marketing, technology  as well as crazyness, invention, collaboration over great distances, with highly integrated and complicated or complex systems, Agile just don’t have the chance to give an answer any more. Now I just want to do Good.

I get confused and restless when hearing Agile. What do you really really want? I ask.
You want a faster release cadency?
A functioning team?
An innovative product?
A stable environment?
Happy users?
Big sales?

Tell me what you want, and I’ll try to find a Good way to do it for you.

Bye Agile, enter Good.




7 responses

27 12 2013

The problem with just ”Good” is that it means different things for different people. It says nothing at all, explains nothing at all. Agile stands for clear values that could be transferred and translated to most settings in an organization, from HR to marketing and sales, and it comes from clear statements of what to prioritize and what not to prioritize – hence, it’s a useful concept that can be used to support decision making in most businesses that are not predictable and stable (and very few businesses are these days). I don’t see the need to ditch good stuff just because there is a lot of buzz around it. The reason for the buzz is probably because it’s a good thing. But like with all concepts, methods and tools, you need to know what to choose to use and what to leave out, depending on your uniqe situation.

27 12 2013
Ulrika Park

Agile is as Good – it means very different things for different people nowadays. It’s not clear, at least not anymore. Everyone puts ”agile” in front of whatever practice, workflow, tool.. without putting any thought into why.

The good thing with ”Good” is that at least we agree it means different things for different people, while ”Agile” tends to be believed it means the same thing, but it’s not.

The reason I want to ditch ”Agile” is not because it’s a buzzword, it’s because I want to focus on what really matters for the person who asks for or tell about ”agile”. It’s an empty word now. Agile is not an end in itself, which I hear too much. ”We need to get agile” – doesn’t tell me anything what matters for the person who says that. Does he want a well functioning team? A better release process? HIgher quality? What is really important for him? The word ”Agile” doesn’t tell me that, any more.

Therefore I believe it will make conversations much easier and focused if we ditch ”Agile” or replace it with ”good”.

27 12 2013

I don’t agree – for me agile has been and will be a set of clear values and beliefs and it’s not fuzzy or unclear at all – but it seems that we are just chasing concept definitions here. If you replace agile with good, what have you won?

I believe that if we use agile as a concept, it means that we always know what the basic beliefs about humans and processes look like. It is very clear (just as one simple example) that we are focusing on people and interactions rather than on processes and tools. And so on, I am sure you know the basic principles of agile.

But I am interested to find out why you think that agile has become fuzzy and where have you seen it being used in such a manner? The example that you give does not really provide me with the answer – this is just a normal way of drilling down in the requirements chain when somebody has a problem – agile may or may not solve the issue, but we need to continue to ask why to collect enough information about the problem so that we can provide a possible solution to be tried out. This is the core of agile values – we cannot know the answer in advance, but have to use trial and error to get closer to the solution to the presented problem. Sometimes even the problem is not the one that the customer thinks it is – it’s something else and the percieved problem is just a symptom.

That is why we need to take a holistic approach to problem solving and use principles and values as guiding stars rather than perfect solutions.

27 12 2013
Ulrika Park (@ulrikapark)

What I believe we win is another angle of the conversation, with less emotions. ”To have a good release process I suggest we do… ” is much easier for me to understand than ”To have an agile release process I suggest we do… ” – For me, the word ”agile” in the latter statement is just a meaningless word in that context. For you, it bears a meaning. I wonder, do all people around you, who you interact with at work, share that meaning with you?

In my experience, we don’t. I live in a world where people around me have totally, and very emotional different interpretations of Agile, from ”random, unstructured, ad hoc” kind of work, to ”highly disciplined, well focused and often well documented work”.

For many I meet Agile = Jira. Put things in Jira and you’re Agile. Focus on a tool more than people. Right or not, I don’t think it’s worth the fight or effort to ”teach” them what Agile is or should be. Better live it than preach it.
At least for me, that has had more impact.

Funny enough, when it comes to focus on process, I have never met so many people who discuss, evaluates, try to structure and spend time on getting the process to work, as in teams I consider strive to be Agile. And ofthen they put more effort into the process, than getting the trouble of people to work.

I DO have met several organizations who never considered themselves as Agile, who did a much larger effort in getting team spirit good.

Mostly though, most of us all suck when it comes to prioritize the people part. It takes time and focus from the keyboard which is considered bad in most organizations, Agile or not.

I live in a world where people from many different organizations try to work together in some way. A mix of all kinds of methods, beliefs, structures, organization cultures, history of development, people… The concept Agile doesn’t help me here. Maybe you and I just live in different professional worlds and to talk about Agile works in your world. I’m very curious, I’d be happy to hear your story about the people and organizations around you, who they are and how they use the concept Agile.

Another problem I have seen is that when we put ”Agile” in front of everything, we forget that the core of Agile methods and principles is just one little piece in the puzzle of creating, maintaining & enhancing good products and services. There’s a lot more to achieve that. ”Good” is more including, from my perspective.

27 12 2013

I would not use agile in your examle above and probably wouldn’t any of my customers either. I am not an ”IT person” so I have taken the agile values out from IT development and it helped me to improve my decision making and to improve and break up processes that don’t make sense. I have not, from the reasons you are mentioning, always said that ”I used agile values here” – simply because like you say, people have a tendency to don’t understand what it stands for. So in most cases, I have just used the principles and methods without mentioning the word agile.

It does not in any way change the fact that the way I am working and living is (and has always been) agile, even before I had any knowledge of the concept. Everything that is good is not agile and everything that is agile is not good for everybody. Agree that it is better to live it than preach it, but why not do both? Maybe finally people will learn what it stands for. If you stop to talk about it, it will be forgotten and we have lost the best framework for improvement that the world has seen so far. If you combine the values you get an extremely powerful change tool that you can use for whatever challenge you have. Regardless if you call it agile or not. And if people start to talk bad about it (like you do) it will not be easier to improve organizations using that framework.

5 01 2014
Ulrika Park

I’m glad to hear Agile works as a concept in your domain. It used to be a useful concept in IT & software development too. Now it’s meaning have been lost and is used in so many ways, both misinterpreted and often as it was an end itself, which is not. The end, for me at least, is to deliver great products and services, and for that we need to do much more than ”just” to be agile which I wish more people talked about.

I should have emphazised I talked about Agile in IT / Software.

3 01 2014


I have a whole blog devoted to postagilism. Please feel free to visit and make some comments.




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