Blow up agile methodology

In my last surreal list I hid a bonus non-sense: agile methodology. I already referred to it in previous posts, but hearing these words together makes me feel more and more upset. As part of my therapy, I need to exorcise this, so here we are.

Agile, lean, or even Scrum, Kanban, or XP, are not methodologies or processes. By this, I mean that that they are not a predefined set of practices or metrics that you should apply by the book. It may sound like a puny fight about words, but it’s way more important to me. If you consider they are rigid, you will find some flaws for sure.

Agile, lean, you name it, are a set of principles. They can help you point out common problems, and explain their approach on solving them. They often do this by making the traditional software beliefs upside down, by the way. It doesn’t mean they’re not counter-intuitive, because, at least from my stand point, they’re putting back common sense in the loop.

Even if we talk about applications of these principles, we’re still not talking about methodologies. We refer to Scrum, XP, or Kanban, as frameworks. Why is it so?

Because a central aspect of these is Continuous Improvement. How can we improve if our process must be constant. The way we organize, communicate, share, validate, and so on, is a central part of our performance. It must be adaptable to the situation. And guess what: it is!

Scrum talks about retrospectives, but is not precise on its content or outcome. Lean says that “your lean process should be a lean process”. All they say is that even your practices should change regularly. You must introspect, evolve, in all directions, and adapt to your situation.

Some aspects of our work are not explained in detail by these approaches. And your context is different than others for sure. If it’s not new to some extent, it’s useless. Lean comes from manufacture, and can not be applied to software as is. So you must adapt these principles. And adaptation is central to them. The agile manifesto states “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “responding to change over following a plan”. You can’t sacrifice your performance for sticking to an unadapted “process”.

And there’s a great aspect in this. Many things still need to be discovered. By trying, thinking, widening your horizon, you will find some great ideas that serve the whole community. You might even discover a profound flaw in these principles and propose a totally different approach that would be a revolution for the industry. You might invent the new heavy metal or techno and become a rock star. That’s what people did when they proposed the principles we’re working with today. And as odd as it may sound, they are still not perfect. So keep trying, break the walls to make sure you become and remain hyper productive, and share your experience with us.

What’s your opinion?

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