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In the Name of Agile

18 July 2017

Shane Billings

In the early days of Agile adoption, those who pushed for change had to be careful about how to bring it about. Words such as Agile and Scrum were not received well among managers or individual contributors. Many didn’t understand the concepts and thus feared the radical changes these practices proposed. To others it was a fad, an unproven scam, snake oil, or a distraction. Few believed it would benefit industry, and many believed it would negatively impact efforts. It was not uncommon to whisper Agile and Scrum for fear of reprisal. Instead, people had to be subtle as they established their Agile practices. While words like sprint and retrospective were not safe, code words like development period and improvement meeting were acceptable. To be sure, the evolution of Agile began as a bottom-up business cultural revolution rather than a management-driven change.

Today, the pendulum has swung significantly in the opposite direction. Companies embrace Agile and are striving to become so. With this newfound evolving vigor comes another, more subtle danger. Many people push for personal agenda items that are not Agile, yet they do so in the name of Agile. Often, those who do this do not understand Agile. They broaden the definition to encompass much that simply is not encompassed in the original definition. Without specific training, they assume their proposals are embodied in the Agile mindset and use the popular initiative to give their ideas more backing.

There is nothing inherently wrong with pushing for change, but using Agile as a catchall reason for change will cause ambivalence at best and mistrust at worst. Ambivalence will come as people go through initiative burnout. Those who understand what Agile truly is will mistrust the initiative because it is a misdirection of team or company objectives.

Agile has come to embody a specific and defined set of principles and practices. These are accepted as truth within the Agile community and many businesses. Ideas that do not fall within this mindset must stand on their own merit. Good ideas stand on their own and need no extra backing.

Agile has already been through the fire of skepticism and debate, coming out on the other end victorious. We need not send it back through those confusing and contentious days by enlarging its definition to encompass our own personal initiatives.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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