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Dangers of Agile Adoption

| by Deborah Hartmann Preuss Follow 0 Followers on Sep 26, 2006. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |
Siddharta Govindaraj is a software engineer with a Singapore startup, who has noted how Agile is being adopted by more mainstream enterprises, and has blogged on 5 dangers when adopting agile processes - and what to do about them.  In a separate post, Simon Baker, taking up the theme, relates these dangers to his experience as an independent agile coach and consultant in a large organization.

Agile software development, formerly the "cool new thing," is becoming recognized as a useful tool to help more mainstream businesses reach their goals. Govindaraj notes that "This is great news for agile, but there are some dangers lurking in the background."  He outlines five points that companies need to watch for when adopting agile processes. Here are the hilights... see the article for his full text:
  1. Unfamiliarity:  Mainstream companies are less likely to understand the principles of the process. They've heard about 'this agile thing' and want the same benefits on their projects.

  2. Top-down thinking: Agile processes work bottom-up, where the team is empowered to take many decisions... this can be uncomfortable for many managers.

  3. Culture change:  Agile processes not only demand a change in they way software is developed, but a change in culture.

  4. Incomplete implementation:  Tailoring the process is good if you know what you are doing, but can lead to disaster if it is done just for convenience.

  5. Silver bullet syndrome:  Agile processes will not magically deliver your software, cure all ills and create world peace.  Agile can help with the process, but don't ignore the other components.
Govindaraj goes on to ask: "So what can you do about it?" and offers three ideas to help newcomers get started with Agile:
  • Learn about agile:  Really learn about it, don't just read a single article in a magazine about how Agile is the next big thing.

  • Start small:  Choose a small project as a prototype, and iteratively refine the process. When you are comfortable, move on to another project, then another.

  • Examine the organization culture:  A big stumbling block is reconciling the existing organization culture with the values of Agile processes.
Simon Baker, a Certified Scrum Master, is currently working with a department in a large organisation, on a project that is part of a much larger program of work.  He notes:
Like any work, it has its ups and downs. The ups generally relate to the project, the people I'm working with and not having to compromise on our team's use of Extreme Programming, Scrum and Lean thinking. The downs are moments of annoying frustration when we encounter the wider program and its organisation, bureaucracy and dysfunction.
Baker goes on to relate Govindaraj's "5 dangers" to his own experience in his blog entry: Relating to the dangers when adopting Agile, where he shares some anecdotes that support Govindaraj's observations and suggestions.

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Another danger by Paul Oldfield

The title of the article shows another danger. We should be talking of agile approaches rather than agile processes. Valuing the process over the people or the interactions is explicitly not agile.

Oops! there's another of my touchstones for people who really 'get it' blown (if folk read this, that is...).

Similarly, "Learn about agile"; good advice, but to follow the manifesto, 'doing' is more value than 'learning'.

Similarly "Incomplete Implementation"; tailoring the process is inevitable, because no 'out of the box' approach provides a complete process. This is deliberate; the freedom to choose how we bridge the gap gives us the flexibility that underpins agility.

Don't let these minor criticisms taint the good aspects of the article.

The top piece of good advice is missing - ensure you have some way of finding out rapidly when you go off track (as you will, repeatedly). Advice from a good agilist can help in this; a robust, tight iterative "Inspect and Adapt" cycle coupled with blame-free openness can help. Using both would be good.

the real danger! by Jeff Anderson

the article is okay, but is not really touching on the real problems and dangers of agile...

At a high level I believe agile has some serious consequences including

-a serious impact on the environment
-a threat to world health
-an offense to anybody with any sense of fashion

Feel free to take a look at my rationalization for these comments here.

Sincerest regards
Jeff Anderson
my blog on agile development

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