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Agile, Orthodoxy and a Message From God

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Aug 06, 2006 |
The ScrumDevelopment list is a great place to interact with Agile thought leaders, hone ideas and ask questions of committed, active practitioners.  On the menu this week: Is Agile being watered down? Can it remain true to its roots? ...And a message from God to top it all off.

The thread in question is a little hard to follow - it goes through a couple of renamings, but keeps coming back to a single idea: Is there a "next thing" for Agile? After all, it's about embracing change, right?

The controversy seems to have been set off by the phrase "Agile 2.0".  Though it's unclear who coined it, it was spotted on Scott Ambler's AmbySoft site, apparently used to distinguish so-called "next generation" approaches like the Agile Unified Process (AUP), Microsoft Solutions Framework for Agile Software Development (MSF Agile) and Agile Model Driven Development (AMDD) from earlier Agile approaches.

Agile is about incremental and continuous process improvement, starting out with a minimal set of practices (fewer in Crystal and Scrum, more in DSDM and "Agile RUP").  The methodologies teach teams to customize toward an optimal process for their own context and time through a process of reflection, as the they grow to understand their own challenges, constraints and needs.

Can we really hope to jump-start teams by implementing a "right" flavour of "Agile 2.0" for their situation?  Perhaps, but some argue that this only accomplishes the implementation of a set of practices... bypassing the essential first steps by which the team develops the attitudes and skills to continually adjust the process, until they become a high-performing team.  Will teams lose out by skipping over the challenges of the Traditional-to-Agile paradigm shift, going straight to the "right process"? 

Ron Jeffries noted that the 2.0 label may be inevitable, but it's sad: "It's all part of 'crossing the chasm', he conjectured, "everything gets watered down."  An exchange ensued, Scott Ambler stating that "the term agile was watered down long ago by marketing folks at dozens of organizations," which provoked further discussion about whether the "next generation" of Agile is really a step forward... or a step back.

Ken Schwaber, co-creator of Scrum joined the fray, stating that methodologies like AUP, EUP have more to do with making money than improving our profession, making the point that "every step toward commercialization, specialization is a step toward prescription." Predictably, the so-called "certification issue" was also raised - referring to the thousands of Certified Scrum Masters trained since 2003 by Schwaber and his certified trainers.

Round all this off with a dissection of AUP and EUP, a brief detour into the martial arts, a clarification from God on Schwaber's role in the Agile world, and his declaration, "I don’t think there is a next thing. Until we undo the mess of both waterfall and command and control, nothing will work."  (This last was from Schwaber, not God).

Getting back to the starting point, Giora Morein suggested that, perhaps, when someone refers to "Agile 2.0 " or the "Next Generation of Agile" they are referring not to rebranding or reformulation of Agile but instead to the latest wave of Agile adoption, citing a 2005 Forrester report on Agile adoption: "Corporate IT Leads The Second Wave Of Agile Adoption", by Carey Schwaber. 

Morein finishes with "One of the key things I learned at Agile2006 is the following: "The biggest threat to Agile is not the anti-aligist or the pro-waterfaller, it is in fact the poor agilist."

Ambler has since removed the offending phrase from his site - apparently it wasn't central to the points he was making, anyway.

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Agile, Orthodoxy and a Message From God by Ian Shimmings

A good summary of a subject I have seen mentioned frequently recently. I haven't been following ScrumDevelopment recently but I can imagine the shape and size of such a thread - well done on following it all! I agree that the real strength of Agile is teams learning how best to do it which is an almost impossible sell into most corporates - believe me I know! Morein's final comment indicates the real threat and reflects conversations I have had with a number of 'real world' Agilists - a threat I can see no way of effectively countering in most situations.

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