The “A” Word

I’m often amused when someone says something is “Agile” in the software business. While I’m no expert, if there is such a person, it’s always interesting to see how almost any process can be classified as Agile regardless of how much water you can hear falling in the background. For instance, I recently heard of a new so-called-Agile approach that involved filling out a Word document to propose certain defects be fixed in the product as it neared the end of the release. It was justified the new approach (1) created a new process on the fly to allow change in the product and (2) was promoting change by allowing team members to submit change proposals. On the surface, it seems harmless enough, but for those that can’t read between the lines, this process ultimately creates a nonessential accountability hurdle which will make change much more difficult by requiring a form document.

So, begs the question, when is an appropriate time to throw out the “A” word as justification for a change in process? I would argue it should only be used when the proposed change meets the four tenets of the Agile Manifesto. Unfortunately, this seems like a cliche and/or and easy copout, so how about a few of simple guidelines that might trigger one to double-check the Manifesto. (I would argue these guidelines might be a good test prior to implementing any process in any business, but that off-the-cuff suggestion might be a tad haughty.)

Does the new process:

1) Increase the amount of time needed to make a decision by creating throwaway artifacts?
2) Primarily exist to make someone or some group accountable in the face of failure?
3) Attempt to minimize the amount of live interaction needed between one or more groups?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be a good time to reflect on the change and reconsider the assumption of Agility.

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