The Agile Tribe

Agile without a name – Agile by Stealth?

on December 7, 2009

Author: Andy Marks

When a puppy is brought into a household, it is often blamed for any accidents around the house for some time afterwards. Some of these might be legitimate concerns – chewed slippers, strange puddles, etc. But many times the puppy is blamed for things just because it’s the new variable in the environment (e.g., offensive smells :-)).

I see the same pattern occurring in many organisations adopting Agile for the first time:

  • Drowning in technical debt? Blame Agile because it didn’t tell us to do enough upfront design thinking.
  • BAU team not happy using stories as support documents? Blame Agile because it says not to produce any documentation.
  • Personality issues causing friction in the project team? Blame Agile because we’re being forced to collaborate a lot more than we used to.
  • etc.

Whether or not Agile is really the culprit in these cases (you decide), it’s often the new element in the organisation that is the easiest scapegoat for any new issues. The new kid on the block is often the easiest to attack.

Which is where the notion of “Agile without a name” comes in…

A Melbourne-based organisation has been using Agile “covertly” for many years with some success. By covertly, I mean the practices and principles are never referred to as Agile publicly, just as “the way we do things”. I can see the appeal in this approach as not giving it a name makes it harder for people to pin down and associate blame.

Names provide identity.

Identity can be used to target.

Avoid a name… and reduce the ability to target.

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One response to “Agile without a name – Agile by Stealth?

  1. Peter says:

    You might like to also have a look at this blog by Ian Carroll – http://projectfinishline.blogspot.com/2009/03/agile-by-stealth.html. He lists a wide range of practices (we are probably all familiar with but may be don’t use to their potential) that development teams can introduce from the Agile toolkit without the need for any management approval. It’s an enjoyable read too.

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