In a recent encounter with agile community, I was asked ‘what agile means to me’. Simple question but difficult to answer provided the nature of question being open ended. This certainly got me thinking. I started skimming through multiple ways I can answer this question. I had to revisit my past and reflect on different phases of my agile journey.
I believe what agile is and what it means to an individual is shaped by how they started their agile journey and what agile culture they’ve grown with. Every company has their own tweaks to agile implementation. Agile anti-patterns are common and even teams who have implemented agile frameworks by the book have struggled to get the real value out of it.
For most agile adopters, Agile could be a process, used to provide repeatable results to your customers. For some organisations it could be a tool to pump more work to developers. I’ve also come across teams where agile is used as an excuse to not document requirements and micro manage development team, which seems to be their interpretation of agile manifesto which states ‘working software over comprehensive documentation’ and ‘responding to change over following a plan’.
Leadership group, specially higher management are known to use agile to optimize costs while agile is a great way of marketing for sales teams.
Well you can see agile can be anything that you interpret it to be. In my years of working with agile, I’ve been guilty of interpreting agile in ways it should not be. I’ve been the scrum police keeping eye on those burn down charts, velocity charts, story points and of course watching the clock during daily stand-ups. More than half a decade later, what agile meant to me has changed.
At the very beginning, I thought Agile was just a reason for company to give me more work. When I was working as a freelancer, it became just a buzz word to show you’re relevant in the market. And it evolved in to a tool to keep the team together as I progressed to be a manager.
For me, agile at this stage is all about people, people and people. So what do I mean by that? Once you progress through your agile adoption journey, you’ll start to realise its more than a framework. Using frameworks might give you 2X better output, but beyond that, frameworks like scrum or kanban don’t scale.
To achieve Nirvana in Agile, you’d have to start understanding people. Its about forging relationships, creating psychologically safe environment where people feel inspired. Work needs to be fun and collaboration should be seamless. As a team you’ll cultivate a culture of kindness, creativity and integrity. Processes and tools will be there to guide you but they won’t be for focus. You’ll have many unwritten rules that becomes part of your belief system resulting in behaviours that result in high performance.
To the colleague of mine who asked what agile is to me, my response was, ‘Agile to me is about people and collaboration. Everything else builds on it’.
What is agile to you?