Is Agile Overhyped or Misused?
Over the past few years, agile has overtaken the development scene from being a buzzword to being implemented everywhere, or so it seems. Is anyone claiming not to be agile these days?
I believe the benefits of Agile development still stand. Enhanced visibility and adaptability, reduced risks and increased business value, if implemented properly. But the way it’s used in most teams today, it hardly meets any of these criteria.
In the mid 90’s I was implementing Six Sigma which is based on Toyota’s lean manufacturing method, having an engineering background. Kaizen, Just In Time, Standard Work etc. were the buzzwords then, and they worked well for the manufacturing industry. They worked because teams were focused to research their weaknesses and implement their version, their customized workflow implementing their own tools within the Six Sigma framework. After they were clearly defined and documented, the workflow was demanded by management and embraced by workers, with direct and clear benefits on all levels.
Fast forward today, Agile appears to be applied more based on theories, articles, courses and books. Teams are then left with some process that barely scratches any resemblance of Agile, to much frustration of participants. And management is surprised when team members don’t sign off on the so called new, great ways of doing things.
Why not taking a step back and focus on the core values that agile should bring? And then implement one tool first, polish it and make it a habit.
Define root benefits
Instead of trying to blindly implement a full blown Agile revamp, define a benefit outcome and focus on it first. Getting sign off from management, the team and everybody else involved in the process is crucial. It’s important that benefits are clearly defined, documented and visualized. It happens all too often that management agrees to Agile related changes, just to back out when the going gets tough. Phrases like “don’t care, we got to get this out the door” are all too common. But with benefits on the line, there is a better change for leaders to stand down and give it a chance.
Choose one tool
Work with the team to fine mold the process or tool that promises the best outcome of said benefit. Each member that partakes in the process needs to clearly understand what’s at stake and what contributions are necessary. The entire team needs to be convinced about the positive effect the change has. Work out the details that make up the tool or changes in a group setting and document them.
Implement in steps
With all team members sign off on those changes, we can implement the process and measure the resulting outcome. Fine tuning is an ongoing process that takes measured data to adjust in increments. Once the process is engrained in everyone’s daily habits and positive impact is felt, only then should the team move on and focus on the next improvement, starting to repeat previous steps with an additional tool or change.
Much frustration can be avoided by making small changes backed by team members, and realizing that each development team is different and there is no pre-set solution. Learn Agile by it’s benefits, then try to implement tools that has the desired outcome, rather than trying to apply a theory.