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Serve My Agile Like a Fast-Food Burger -- FAST

It's Not Healthy Agile

11/11/2013 by Lizzy Morris

There have been several documentaries done over the past few years about diet -- what we should or should not consume. One that really caused a paradigm shift in America’s eating conscience was the independent film Super Size Me, about one man's 30-day eating journey on fast food only. This film came rushing back to my thoughts when I began my transformation reflections. A repetitive theme came up: "Make us Agile fast." Can Agile be done faster, can you make us what it took you years to become -- in a month? To some this notion would seem preposterous. However, my friends, it was an actual expectation. Sharing with peers informed me that it seemed to be a new customer cry: "Burger my Agile, please!"

All I could think was, "I will take my Agile in a Scrum bun with a slice of Lean." We are being asked to deliver McDonald's Agile. Truth is, it goes against everything we hold dear.

Sustainability (a personal favorite): How can you sustain a microwave-baked cake? After a while it goes rock hard and it's merely a simile of a cake. Although microwaves are something of a necessary evil, they exist because society as we know it chooses to forgo healthy sustenance for fast food, and deal with the effects later. Can we just go along for the ride under the guise that we are giving our customers what they want? Of course. It would mean we can fit more gigs into a year and raise our bottom line just that little bit more. With that thought process we become rather like the fast-food industry, which encourages poor eating choices for its own profit because "it's what the customer wants."

An organization that goes down the fast-food Agile route risks contracting fatal Agile-killing diseases that will lie beneath the surface, attacking the heart of Agile. Once the heart is compromised, it is only a matter of time before the whole body is compromised. Without emergency intervention at the right time, the horrid outcome is fatal: death.

Then what must we do to champion the life of the "Agile heart"? Education, outreach, road shows, blogs, and courage. When asked to microwave Agile for a customer, say no. Don't be rude or abrupt, demonstrate caring, give wise counsel, and explain. Agile is not method. You just can't do Agile; you either heed the values and principles or you don't. It most definitely is not "Do this, do that" and then -- ba-da bing! -- you're Agile. It's about embracing a set of beliefs and values that organically come alive within your consciousness. These beliefs fill you with passion to interact, collaborate, and develop first-class software that delivers measurable value to your customer. The frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, and Lean facilitate your passion in an efficient way that supports your newfound Agile beliefs and values. You keep your Agile body healthy by following these three core exercises: Inspect, adapt, and do. You need as many repetitions as necessary to keep your Agile heart strong and healthy.

I often say to students and clients that Agile is a religion formed by people who wanted something different from the pressured norms of Waterfall. They were technology pilgrims.

I can hear those of you saying we have to meet the demand or become extinct. I say, why not be the Wholefoods or Sprouts, why must we become another McDonald's franchise? I would say that dinosaurs never really disappeared; they merely evolved and adapted to fit their environments. Agile evolution should never take us away from our values. There are still people out there who have healthy, home-cooked meals that include green vegetables that aren't smothered in butter but steamed.

The first part of preparing an organization for embracing an Agile culture demands attention and takes time. Even when a company is ready to embrace it and is excited, they have no idea what is downstream. When it hits, they recoil and often shut down. "Burger my Agile, please!" is not equipped to deal with this.

Working software -- let's say working teams. The team itself has to go through a natural development cycle of "forming, storming, norming." If we, the Agile professionals, are inserted, it is possible to prop them up so they look like they are standing and self-organizing. But once we walk out the door and say, "You have your team follow these steps. Next!" they fall over flat because they have not had the time to form their own roots.

Let's hit the bull's-eye: If your client wants to be "Triple Burger Up-Sized Agile," do you support that mind-set? Do you give it to them, even though you know it's bad for the company's health?

Satisfying the customer is our primary objective? Some of you say, "Yes," others say, "Yes, but. . . ." And then there are those of you who sit at, "Well . . . " with question marks.

Then how do we achieve a balance? If you have fried chicken, you have to have a salad on the side. No cake and ice cream -- have fruit. The answer in the end will lie with each one of us, we who are out there on the road helping clients adopt the Agile frameworks. It will lie with those of us out there teaching the Agile practitioners of tomorrow.

Each in our own good conscience, you and I must determine what our message will be. If you have watched the Super Size Me movie, I think your answer should be, "I will have a fresh, tossed salad, and let me teach you how to eat a healthy, balanced meal."

If not, I guess we will have to find out where you've been and run an emergency intervention, to save that Agile heart from a fatal end.

Healthy, balanced Agile is always best!