Good vs. Evil
The latest wave started with Agile Manifesto signatory Dave Thomas, with “Agile is dead, long live Agility”. The discussion later continued on Twitter and the XP mailing list under the title “Taking agile back”.
Taking it from whom?
From the evil consultants who are selling “agile” to unsuspecting business managers. Agile was a developer thing, and now it’s out there in the hands of the uninitiated.
However, if the consultants are not so evil (there’s this kind too), It’s a different story. When the word Agile became mainstream, it helped promote the ideas of better development practices.
Both sides are right. I’ve written about it multiple times – Consultants that sell the methodology du jour, and move on to the new hotness, leaving the organization to deal with the aftermath. They do exist, and the current ambassador is SAFe.
But the good consultants exist as well. They make their living by helping organizations. They do that because one VP just heard about agile, and although he heard “faster development”, it was enough to open the door.
Who is right?
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a galaxy far far away, where good and evil roles are pre-defined and there’s a clear-cut difference. Both exist, and the “agile” (much like the Force) is strong in both.
But there’s no taking “agile” back, unfortunately.
Yes, it’s not an English noun. And yes, it is used as one, inappropriately.
We can call it whatever we want, and describe it in different ways, but agile is not a word anymore.
Agile is a brand
The discussion therefore is moot. Once “Agile” has crossed the chasm, replacing it with another word that has another meaning, and pushing it as the “right way” will not work the way you think it is. In fact, what SAFe is doing is just that. If you’re selling it you’re doing a marvelous job. If you want to dissuade people from doing it, you already lost, since you’re using the brand SAFe in that sentence. And it goes back to what people hear, rather than what we want them to understand.
This is the hard part, for us, who want the agile way of old (XP?). Or rather, we want people to understand it the same way we do.
Some people will understand, but they are the minority.
If this new word is to succeeds at all, it needs to follow scrum and SAFe in what they do best: speak the business language, not developish.
If by some miracle it does succeed, we won’t be happy again, because life will repeat itself.
It’s really hard to please us, we agility folk.
It does sound weird, doesn’t it? Let’s stick with agile and try to make the best of it.
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