Why I’m Not In Love With Agile

I don’t love agile. I don’t like agile. I have no agile tattoos. I’ve never named a dog ‘burndown’. I’ve never gotten in a flame-war defending agile. My identity isn’t tied to agile.

These statements may not make sense coming from an agile and leadership coach who coaches, teaches and mentors agile all day. But they are true. I do not love agile.

Before I knew what agile was, I was a software developer. We worked in a traditional/waterfall way where a product person would write a 70 page product spec that I would turn into a 45 page technical spec and work with a group of developers to implement. We were always stressed, we had quality problems and by the time we delivered anything into production, it was a full 18 months after the customer asked for it and (surprise), nobody wanted to use what we’d just built.

It wasn’t fun and we weren’t delivering value.

Then we tried agile (scrum). Very quickly it was fun to come to work and to solve problems. We talked directly to our customers and built things that solved the problems they had right now. We delivered more value faster and had fun doing it.

But I don’t love agile.

I love delivering solutions to problems customers have right now. I love solving problems customers don’t even know they have. I love using our time on this earth to make things better for other humans.

I’m no more in love with agile than I’m in love with the hammer in my toolbox at home. I don’t try to convince people that hammers are the best/only way to get things done. I don’t look down on or say dismissive things about people who are ‘still’ using screwdrivers.

I don’t love agile because agile, by itself, isn’t valuable. A hammer that has never hit a nail has never delivered value. And when it does hit that nail, the value is in what was created, not in the tool, process, framework or philosophy used to get there.

I follow and coach agile principles because they are a better way to deliver value. I’ve not found a more effective way to engage the people doing the work than using an agile mindset. I’ve not found a more effective way to engage customers early and often than using agile principles.

I’m in love with unlocking the potential of individuals and teams to deliver more customer value more frequently.

If agile best helps us get there, that’s what I’ll use. But the second there is a better way to respect individuals and deliver more customer value, that’s what I’ll be using.

And I won’t be in love with whatever that is either…only with what it helps us accomplish.