But, is it agile?

Posted on November 24th, 2011 in Agile by siddharta || No Comment

Jim Coplein posted on Jeff Sutherland’s blog basically criticising Kanban and trying to put forward a case of why Scrum is closer to Toyota’s principles that Kanban.

I’m not going to comment on the post (not directly anyway), but here is a story:

Five years ago I posted about a trend that was happening then, of asking whether a practice is agile or not. There would be endless debates about whether doing Practice X was big design up front (BDUF) or whether it violated YAGNI and what have you. Sometimes you would come across a post where a person loved a technique, but was afraid that it was big design up front. Just to set the context, in those days XP was the dominant method in the agile space and BDUF and YAGNI were the hot topics of discussion. The bone of contention was with methods like FDD that promoted up-front modeling, and Crystal which encouraged documentation and up-front UX design, and DSDM which many XP thought leaders found to be too heavy.

People essentially stopped asking “is it useful?” and started asking “is it agile?”

As any community forms around an idea, the first few years are open to playing around with it and improving it, but after a point the community attention switches over to protecting the idea from corruption and external forces. This protects the initial idea, but closes it down to growth. A lot of good ideas get discarded, because “it isn’t agile”.

I’ve learnt a lot of good things from reading FDD, and Crystal, and talking to people about CMMI. Its funny how many people in the agile community are happy to bash CMMI without ever talking to someone accomplished in it. To be frank, I was in that camp too, until I had a number of discussions with people who understood CMMI well. It turns out that CMMI has a lot of interesting ideas.

Today, people dont talk too much about XP anymore. Most of the XP thought leaders have moved on, some to the Scrum or Kanban world, others elsewhere. Meanwhile a lot of XP has been absorbed as standard practices that teams pick and choose for their project. Teams no longer talk about “doing XP” (as a package) but more about we’re doing TDD or we’re doing continuous integration.

But history repeats itself, and once again we find the question coming around once again to “is it agile?” instead of “is it useful?”

PS: Agile India 2012 is coming up next year. Be prepared to discuss a number of interesting topics, some of which might fail the “is it agile?” test :) Registrations are open, so what are you waiting for?

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